Title: The Spell
Author: Nancy J. Hedin
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 12/07/2021
Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Lit, paranormal, lesbian, bisexual, magical realism, humor, painter, magic user, spell, real estate broker, police officer
What if you could enter and roam around in any painting and then return to your own reality—or not? Would you do it? Would you sit in on the Lord’s Supper, snuggle the Mona Lisa, or have a painting made of something—or someone—in your past or future you long to visit?
Waverly Ames is given that ability through a spell book she finds while on vacation. What’s more, her brash, beautiful neighbor, friend, and dog-walker Jewel is a painter who can fulfil any commission. And then there’s Camille, the married woman who captured Waverly’s heart—the woman Waverly can’t get over.
What happens when lust meets magic? What happens when being somewhere, anywhere is as simple as a painting and the artist’s intention behind it? Can you truly have your heart’s desire?
Nancy J. Hedin © 2021
All Rights Reserved
Waverly Ames had regrets, but none bigger than losing her first love, Camille. She wept and petted the thin leather cover of the spell book that was her only remnant of their week-long love affair the year prior. That was, the only remnant if Waverly ignored her ruminations, incessant second-guessing, and full-body ache to be with Camille again. The affair had ended without goodbyes, promises, or any way to contact Camille. They each returned to their own lives: Camille returned to her suburban home with her husband and two daughters, and Waverly returned to…what? Her apartment in a co-op building, her former job in real estate, and her unrealized dream of being a poet. She felt robbed.
She heard a key snick in her front door lock, the door creak open and click closed again. Waverly’s dog, Stella, barked and bounded to the kitchen. Baby talk and padded footfalls in the galley kitchen followed by the rattle of condiments and juice bottles inside the door of her refrigerator as it was opened, robbed, and slammed shut again. She wiped her eyes, dabbed her nose, and hid the spell book under her couch pillow. She didn’t want Jewel to see her being a baby. How could she have any tears left? She’d cried every day since Camille had left her. Waverly had made a resolution to be a grown-up.
She supposed it was time. Hadn’t most people set aside their childish dreams and taken on the mantle of adulthood by age thirty-five? She took back her old job in real estate, which she hated, and she had bought a condo she couldn’t really afford. That was what grown-ups did, she told herself. Grown-ups did not plan to be poets, fall in love with married women, and live in month-to-month apartments based on whether there was a good vibe for writing poetry there. She hadn’t written a single poem since she moved into the place.
The cupboard doors clicked, dishes clinked, and silverware jangled against glassware. The noises used to frighten Waverly, make her hold her breath, look for her phone and a weapon, but over time, she only found the intruder annoying. It was just Jewel.
Jewel Cartwright, beautiful, brash, sinewy, younger than Waverly, on the early rungs of her third decade. Jewel lived in an unusually large studio apartment on the same floor as Waverly. Jewel’s space had no furniture other than a futon on the floor, but the windows were the size of garage doors and looked out on both downtown St. Paul and the bluffs and winding Mississippi River. Jewel was a painter. She sporadically worked a job restoring fine paintings, but mostly, Jewel painted her own work and filled her apartment with her paintings and the copies of other great paintings she replicated. She never grocery shopped and was always hungry. Shortly after Waverly bought her place and only days after she’d met her, Jewel insisted she was the best person to fill the dog-walking job Waverly posted on the co-op message board.
Jewel became Waverly’s official walker for Stella, Waverly’s seventy-pound shepherd-lab mix. From that point on, Jewel had a key to Waverly’s place, but came in at non-dog-walking times—no knock, no advanced warning.
Jewel stepped out from the kitchen and scanned Waverly’s face. “What? What’s that look? You don’t want me, change the locks.” It was complicated. Waverly did want her to walk Stella, so she put up with Jewel coming in at her leisure and often making herself a sandwich or eating Waverly’s leftovers. Stella, too, was eating a giant sandwich but not before she had peed a trickle on the floor in her excitement to see Jewel.
Waverly didn’t want Jewel to see her crying again.
“What’s wrong?” Jewel asked.
“Allergies.” Waverly blew her nose. “Why does my dog like you better than me?”
“Duh, I take her on walks, let her eat whatever she wants, and I tell her adventure stories where she is the femme fatale, the secret agent, the top dog.” Jewel kissed Stella on the head and stared at Waverly. “Don’t tell me you have been crying about Camille again.”
Jewel sat. Stella jumped up on the loveseat beside her as Jewel unloaded her stash. Once her hands were free to rub Stella’s ear, Jewel again talked baby talk to Stella. “Your mom is a silly goose obsessing about that naughty Camille when she could have lovely Jewel.”
Stella’s hair wafted into the air and onto the rug, furniture, and Waverly’s black jeans.
“Stella, tell Jewel to mind her own business.” Waverly sat up straight on the couch, reached back to snag her russet-brown hair, twisted it in a coil on her head, and secured it with a pencil. She took deep breaths. She noticed that Jewel stared at her breasts as she chewed. Waverly took the book out from beneath the pillow and held it in front of her chest. “Are you staring at my tits?”
“Cows have tits. I’m staring at your perfectly lovely breasts. They’re like warm kittens or hamsters under your shirt. Can I touch them?”
“No.” Waverly threw the spell book at Jewel and immediately regretted it. She didn’t want to damage the book, and she didn’t want anyone else touching it.
Jewel ducked. The book hit the wall, ricocheted back, and lay at her feet. She picked it up with her free hand. “Oh, Christ, haven’t you burned this thing yet?” Jewel crammed part of a pastrami and cheddar on sourdough sandwich in her mouth and gave the remainder to the dog. Stella planted herself on the rug like Jewel might change her mind and ask for the sandwich back.
Jewel stood and unloaded some of her plunder onto the coffee table, smearing the latest issue of Architectural Digest. She flopped down again on the love seat and flung her leg over the armrest without any embarrassment that the skirt she wore was entirely too short and she wore no underwear. “I’ll burn it for you. I have a lighter in my pocket. I could torch the thing right on this table.”
“No, you can’t.” Waverly tossed a throw blanket to Jewel. “Cover your junk! I can’t think with genitals in my face.”
“Excuse me, but I have no junk only jewels! Besides, you could use some genitals in your face so you’d stop obsessing about Camille.”
Stella burped. Jewel burped.
“You don’t understand.”
“What’s to understand?”
That was the thing, really. No one seemed to understand how important Waverly’s first real love affair had been. Maybe no one understood because they hadn’t had Waverly’s beginning. They hadn’t been orphaned at age six, shuttled between foster homes until finally, Waverly’s mother’s sister relented and said she would “take the girl.”
Who else knew of the shock of losing parents being compounded by being placed with loud, disinterested foster parents with homes that smelled of urine and Hamburger Helper? After three of these nightmares, Waverly finally landed where her parents had informally and unofficially wanted her to be if, God forbid, anything happened to them. God should have forbidden all of it, starting with the car accident that had killed her birth parents and continuing into Waverly’s school years in the care of cold, withholding, puritanical custodial parents who rationed their affections.
Add to that Waverly wasn’t her aunt and uncle’s birth child, and she didn’t want to be a nurse or schoolteacher. She wanted to be a cowboy briefly, and then she wanted to be a poet. She didn’t want to marry a man. She was attracted to women.
She was an orphaned misfit like an extra piece of hardware in the IKEA box. She didn’t fit anywhere. College was a dream in most respects. She was expected to be independent. In college being queer wasn’t a big deal. It made her almost interesting. She’d had girlfriends before—brief flirtations, one-night stands, and brief stints of cohabitation in college and graduate school that faded like fad diets and new year’s resolutions. Of course, Waverly clung to Camille. Camille was the first woman who had loved her with tender passion. Camille had swaddled Waverly in attention and adoration as Waverly nuzzled in Camille’s arms, drinking her in with her eyes.
Jewel dug a squished package of Little Debbie Swiss Rolls from her tank top. “How many people do you know who can hide chocolate-covered, crème-filled snack cakes in their rack?”
“I don’t know many.” Waverly shook her head. “Don’t give any of that to Stella.”
“I know dogs can’t do chocolate. Anyway—” Jewel licked her fingers. “What’s to understand? You met a woman, a married woman, a straight married woman, I might add…”
“Camille was not straight, I can assure you that.” Waverly’s head bobbled a bit, and she gave an impish grin.
“I know, I know, you made love every day, many times a day. You’ve told me a million times.” Jewel drank milk directly from the carton—Waverly’s carton. “I’m telling you, Waverly, plenty of straight women won’t say no to a week of orgasms independent of some guy slamming against them. But Waves, she went back to her husband and left you with what? A hole in your heart and that dumb book. You need to burn that book and cauterize the hole in your heart so that you can heal. Give the book to Stella as a chew toy. I gave her a Bible and two self-help books. She’ll be shitting psalms, proverbs, and platitudes for days.”
Meet the Author
Nancy Hedin, a Minnesota writer, has been a pastor and bartender (at the same time). She has been a stand-up comic and a mental health crisis worker (at the same time). She wants readers to know that every story she writes begins with her hearing voices.
In 2018 Nancy’s debut novel, Bend was named one of twenty-five books to read for Pride Month Barnes and Noble, and was named Debut Novel of the Year by Golden Crown Literary Society and Foreword Indies Honorable Mention for GLBT Adult Novel of the Year.
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