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Let’s get started! Georgie's story is below. Doni's story is at: http://annertan.com/readers-choice-doni/
P.S. These are rough drafts, so please excuse the typos, grammatical errors, and other rough draft mistakes.
“Most people call or text rather than use a summoning spell when they want to see their children,” Georgie Chan said. Even with her broken magic, she’d felt the compulsion slammed down on her a few hours ago. She had driven nonstop to Enchanted Cove to relieve the nausea and the prickling on her skin.
Mom shrugged and leaned back on her favorite armchair. “I’m not like most mothers.” She flicked her hands and released the summoning spell.
The tightness and tingling sloughed off of Georgie. She shivered and had to bite her lower lip to keep her teeth from clattering. She held still for a moment longer, trying not to throw up on her shoes and pretending to glance around the living room. “It’s been sixteen years, but everything still looks the same.”
The interior of the treehouse that emerged from the side of an ancient redwood was ten times bigger than it appeared on the outside. The decor could be described as grunge cabin chic by the city folks, but in reality, the home hadn’t been updated since her mother was a little girl when the wealth disappeared from the family. The roaring fireplace held a black bubbling cauldron, and the scent it gave off wasn’t beef stew.
Mom gave her a puzzled look. “Has it really been that long?”
Georgie bit off the snarky comment on the tip her tongue. She pulled out her cell phone to glance at the time to hide her thoughts. She was fourteen years old when her mother shipped her off to live with her uncle in San Francisco. Apparently, she was the only one who had been counting.
“Why am I here? I don’t like leaving Dai Baak to manage the herbal shop alone,” she said.
Her sixty-five-year-old uncle shouldn't have to manage the Chan family business alone in Chinatown. Even with Georgie's broken magic, she had been able to ward their premises to keep the triad from hustling small business owners for protection money. Their building was nicknamed the Lucky Stop for a reason.
Mom huffed, managing to look indignant. Her mom had broken several hearts in her lifetime, including Georgie’s. All water under the bridge now…if her mother had left her alone. “It’s been years, Donella. I just want to see you.”
“Georgie, please.” Georgie hated her first name with a passion. Who wanted to be named “the dark-haired one” in a family full of blonde hair and blue eyed children?
“Oh, baby girl.”
Georgie raised an eyebrow. It was bad enough when Mom tried these games on the phone, but it was even worse in person. She crossed her arms and sat back on the sofa. If her mom didn't want to spill it, there was nothing Georgie could do to rush her.
The silence stretched out for several minutes. Mom finally threw her hands in the air. “All right. Your sisters disappeared a month ago. I need you to find them.”
“Both of them?”
“Yes. I was hoping they would come back by now but they haven’t.”
Georgie sat back on the horsehair sofa, shifting to ease the lump off her tail bone. Her mother probably tried a summoning spell on her half-sisters like she did with Georgie. Since her half-sisters were nowhere in sight, they were either dead or hiding from their mother. If they were hiding, they were close enough to deal with the discomfort, which meant they were in town. And if it were the former, there wasn't much Georgie could do to help them.
“You made me drive three hours because my sisters are avoiding you?” Georgie asked, her voice full of incredulity.
Mom blinked as if the thought of inconveniencing her youngest daughter hadn’t occurred to her. “The coven is voting this week. I need them here to support me.”
“I still don’t see how this is my problem.”
“Well, honey, if I don’t get enough votes to side with me, the other witches will seal my magic.”
Georgie fell back on the sofa in shock and jumped when the lump hit her tailbone again. She shifted and returned to matters at hand. “Can they actually do this? Can’t you appeal to MAC for help?”
“MAC says it’s coven business. They won’t interfere on my behalf,” Mom said. She studied her painted nails like she didn't have a care in the world, but Georgie knew her mother. If she wasn't afraid, she would be railing against the governing body.
The Magical Accountability Counsel kept a tight rein on rogue magical activities that could harm a human. If sealing her mother’s magic didn’t qualify as harmful, this meant they probably thought her mother deserved it. What did she do to tick them off this time?
“Why does the coven leader want to seal your magic?” Georgie asked diplomatically. When it came to witches, her mother was a bit of a loose cannon. She drank a little too much of her own moonshine to be considered respectable by the local witches.
Mom turned coy, dropping her eyes to her lap. “She doesn’t like that I have a good time at the Halloween Ball.”
“That’s last week. What did you do? Got drunk and danced on the table with the lampshade on your head?”
“I drank and danced all right. Just not on the table…and not by myself.”
Georgie groaned inwardly. She had a feeling her mother did more than dancing. “Did you put a spell on the wrong person?”
Mom twisted the fringe on her peasant blouse, twirling it around her finger. “You can say that.”
“Mom,” Georgie said, not even bothering to keep the exasperation from her voice.
“I can’t help it if I’m attractive. It’s like telling a rose to stink like a dung pile.”
“What did you do?”
Mom blushed, her cheeks turning into a pretty shade of peach. She batted her large blue eyes. “I might have slept with the coven leader’s husband.”
“You did what!”
“How am I supposed to know who was behind the mask? It was a masquerade ball. And he was more than willing. It’s not my fault their marriage is on the rocks,” Mom said, crossing her arms.
Georgie let the groan escaped this time. At seventy her mother had the sex drive of a teenager. This wasn’t the first time it had gotten her in a bind, but this was the first time the consequences hit home. Without her magic, Mom would finally look her age—wrinkles, warts, and all. The more powerful their magic, the more warts a witch had. While it had been years since Georgie had seen her mother in full living color, the hag look would kill her mother. It would be poetic justice in a sense.
She snickered. And if her mother no longer had access to her magic, then Georgie could return to her life in San Francisco without having to worry about being summoned home again. It would be the perfect solution for everyone.
Mom gave Georgie a sly look as if following her thought process. “Oh, wipe the smirk off your face. Even if the coven seals my magic I can still summon my girls. This mother-daughter bond has nothing to do with magic and more to do with our bloodline.”
Georgie stood. Was her mom a telepath in addition to being a witch? The best she could do was to pretend it didn’t faze her. “I better start talking to people if I were to find my errant sisters.”
Mom held out her hand and a business card appeared in her palm. “First, you need to talk to your grandma’s lawyer.”
“Are you done contesting the will?” Her grandma’s estate had been in probate for the last six years.
Mom frowned, her nose flaring like she smelled an open sewer pipe. “I lost.”
Georgie’s eyes widened at a sudden thought. “When did my sisters got their inheritance?”
“A month ago,” mom said. Her tone was flat.
Georgie sighed. “I need to get back to San Francisco to pack some clothes and feed my pet. It’ll probably take me a couple days to track my sisters down.”
“How come you didn’t pack before coming here?”
“Because you made the compulsion pretty strong. I didn’t have time to stop by my apartment. I did tell my uncle goodbye as I was driving on the highway here.”
Mom shrugged like this wasn't her problem. Of course not, it was Georgie's. Her mom went from relaxed to a stiff board in a nanosecond. Her ashen face swiveled mechanically toward the front door.
Georgie followed her gaze. Through the window cut out, she saw blurred shadows from three people on the other side. “Are you expecting—”
The front door blew inward along with a rush of hot air, slamming into the stone fireplace. Power rushed into the house, lifting her mother into the air and pinning her spread-eagle on the ceiling.
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