I stood in line at Costa and inhaled the rich, sweet aroma of one of my favourite things in the whole world. Coffee. Only two people were before me. Ooh, now it was one.

The blonde woman in front of me with the cute, pink Chanel handbag ordered while her filed-to-points bright-pink nails incessantly tapped the counter: pinky, ring finger, middle finger, pointer finger, repeat. Tap, tap, tap, tap. “I’ll have a regular coconut-milk latte.” Did she realise latte meant milk in Italian? So she’s having a coconut-milk milk. The corners of my mouth twitched. Yes, it didn’t take much to amuse me.

The young woman behind the counter punched the information into the register. “Would you like any food with that?” Her shoulders tensed, and her smile was tentative.

“If I’d wanted food with that, I would’ve said. When have I ever ordered food here? I come in every day and order a beverage. Surely you know what I want by now. And this time, don’t burn my coffee.” She turned to me and shook her head, speaking loud enough that the whole café could hear. “It’s not that complicated, surely? I come in here for a coffee, and I get drama. It would be wonderful if they could employ people with an IQ above one hundred.”

Wow. Someone was looking to get their beverage spat in. “I’m sure they’re doing their best, plus it’s probably the boss’s orders to ask that question.” I risked a smile.

She blinked, her large fake eyelashes slapping together so hard, I almost felt the breeze. An indignant huff was all I got before she turned back around to eyeball the barista. At least the girl behind the register gave me an appreciative smile.

“That’ll be two-ninety-five, please.” Kudos to her for being polite.

Snarky, rich woman handed over a five-pound note, and when she got her change, counted it… twice. She finally moved out of the way, to wait for her coffee.

“Hi.” I smiled. “Can I have a regular skim-milk cappuccino with extra chocolate on top?”

“Sure. And would you like anything to eat?” She grinned, her brown eyes crinkling at the corners.

“I would love something to eat. Thanks for asking.” I made sure my perky response was loud enough to reach the area where people were waiting for their orders. “I’ll have one of those delicious double-chocolate muffins, thanks.”

“Good choice.” 

She rang it up, and I paid. “Thanks for your awesome service.”

“My pleasure. Have a great day!”

“You too.” I was still smiling when I stepped over to the waiting area where werewolf-nails stood. I didn’t get that claw look. Sure, it might be handy in a dark alley at night, but I’d probably need stitches every time I scratched an itch, and, oh my God, what about wiping after going to the toilet? I shuddered.

She gave me a narrowed side-eyes gaze before jutting her chin up and turning the other way. My work here was done, and I didn’t even get stabbed with the shiny, pink talons of death.

Her coffee arrived. She grabbed it and left, taking her negative energy and questionable fashion sense with her.

My coffee arrived, and I found a table near the window. Even though William had given me the coffee maker, I came to Costa every second day. I couldn’t resist a cappuccino made by someone else, plus I loved the ambiance here—the warmth, gorgeous food aromas, plus all the British accents floating around. 

It had been two weeks since my brother, James’s, welcome-home-from-being-kidnapped party, and everything was pretty much back to normal, except that I wasn’t going back to Australia. Angelica had magicked herself to the local public toilet at Cronulla Mall—yes, it’s gross, but it’s a system the witches had set up to have permanent doorways to travel to—then walked to my apartment and sent my clothes to my room at her place. She’d slept for two days afterwards—apparently travelling such great distances took a massive amount of a witch’s energy. Not all witches could travel over large bodies of water either, which was lucky for James, or I would’ve been livid that he hadn’t visited me for a few years.

I sipped my coffee, then took a bite of the muffin. I savoured the chocolate before washing it down with another mouthful of coffee. Heaven. I smiled to myself, then took my Nikon out of my bag. I’d taken a few photos up and down the high street this morning, and I wanted to look through them. Thankfully, I hadn’t picked up on any soon-to-be-dead people or past events. My future-seeing magic only extended to knowing who would die by seeing them through my camera as a ghostly image rather than the solid person they were. Although I hadn’t confirmed it yet. It was still an assumption after one ghostly looking person I’d photographed had died soon after. It wasn’t a nice feeling knowing that person might soon be dead, and what was I supposed to do with the information? How could you tell a stranger they were going to die soon? And since I didn’t know how they would die, what was the point? It’s not like I could stop it from happening. Trust me to have some magic that was useless.

Some of the photos were gorgeous. The quaint architecture had me swooning, and the light this morning had been magical. I couldn’t wait to get these on my laptop and have a better look.

“Excuse me.” 

I looked up. It was the girl from behind the register. Her curly dark hair was in a ponytail, but a tendril had escaped, and she tucked it behind her ear. 

I smiled. “Hi.” 

“Do you have a moment?”

“Yeah, sure.”

She sat opposite me. “I’m just on a break, and I wanted to say thanks for before, with that woman. Her name’s Camilla. She comes in every day, and she’s always rude, but more so with me than anyone else. I can’t understand it. I dread the morning shift because of her.” She frowned and looked down at her hands in her lap.

“Hey, not a problem. Just happy to help. Some people really suck, but don’t let her get you down. She’s obviously a bully; call their bluff, and they usually back off. They love an easy target.”

She looked up at me. “I’ll lose my job if I say anything.”

“Surely your boss doesn’t want the staff to be harassed. What about workplace health and safety?”

She shrugged.

“What’s your name? I’m Lily.”

“Hi, Lily. I’m Olivia.” She smiled and held out her right hand. I shook it.

“Pleased to meet you.”

“Are you from Australia? I love your accent.”

“Yes, and thanks.” I grinned. “Yours is pretty cool too. I haven’t been here long, but it’s awesome, so I’m moving here for good. My brother’s been here for a few years. He married an English girl.”

“Nice.” She looked at my camera. “Oh, are you a photographer?”

“Yep. I mainly did weddings and corporate stuff back home, but now I have to start again. I still have my website, but I’m just adjusting it to reflect my recent move. In the meantime, I’ve been doing the tourist thing and taking photos of the countryside.”

She sat up straight and bit her bottom lip. “Do you do engagements?”

“I sure do.” Hmm, was this going where I thought it was? I would be so happy to get my first paying job in England. That would be cool.

“Do you have a card? I'm having my engagement party in two weeks, and my cousin was going to take the photos, but he’s not a professional. I didn’t want to insult him by getting someone else in, but I can say it’s payback for you helping me.”

I rifled in my bag, skimming my hand through the debris at the bottom. A chewing-gum packet, rogue M&Ms, used tissue, crumpled receipts, and was that sand? Argh, I really needed to clean it out. Phew, there it was. I pulled out a clean, for the most part, card. “Here you go. Check out my website, and if you like my stuff, give me a call. No hard feelings if you decide I’m not right.”

She smiled, her eyes shining with excitement. “I’m sure you’ll be perfect, but I’ll have a look this afternoon.” She stood. “I’ll give you a call, Lily. And thanks again.”

I smiled. “My pleasure. Speak to you soon.”

She gave a little wave and returned to her spot behind the cash register. I finished my muffin and coffee and stood. It was time to return to Angelica’s for our daily magic lesson. Some days were theory, but today she was going to teach me how to relocate stuff. Woohoo! Not having to carry the shopping all the way home was going to rock, and what about when I was out and forgot something? No having to dash home or suffer without it. 

I left the café, hurried up the hill, and then down our lane. I hadn’t tired of the walk yet, and I did it every morning. I’d found a few good routes for jogging, too. When I ran, I soaked in the atmosphere and sights of the pretty town and countryside. Life was good.

Angelica’s three-storey Tudor house sat magnificently amidst a formal garden at the front and a cottage garden at the back. A hedge and magnolia trees bordered one side of the driveway, and jasmine covered the tall brick fence behind them—so English. 

I let myself in the front door—Angelica actually trusted me to have my own key—it even worked on the reception-room door, although I didn’t know how to travel yet. I’d had the key for a week and was still surprised I could come and go as I wished. The first week I was here, I was pretty much imprisoned for a lot of it, and after that, everywhere I went, someone chaperoned me, like I was twelve. Although to be fair to my brother, he’d missed me and wanted to spend as much time as we could together while he was on stress leave after being kidnapped. He and his wife, Millicent, were back at work now, so my time was my own. 

Hmm, chatting came from the living room. I made my way to the cosy space. My brother and Angelica sat next to each other on one of the two Chesterfields that faced each other at one end of the room. 

“Hi. What are you doing here?”

James smiled. “Hey, Lily. Come sit for a sec.”

I sat opposite them on the other Chesterfield and plonked my bag beside me. They both looked at me, assessing. This wasn’t promising. “What? Don’t look at me like that. Do I have chocolate on my face?” I wiped my hand over my cheeks, mouth, forehead—you could never be too careful. Once I had a big glob of chocolate fudge sauce on my forehead at a friend’s wedding, courtesy of a delicious chocolate sundae at the McDonald’s drive-through on the way there. I made the entrance of a lifetime to a ballroom full of people. And there I’d been, thinking they were all staring at me because they were floored by my gorgeousness. I should’ve known better.

Angelica took the lead. “We have a proposition for you.”

“Don’t say no until you’ve heard us out.” James shuffled forward to the edge of his seat.

“When you put it like that, this sounds like an offer I would love to refuse. What do you want me to do? Clean out the cell toilets at the PIB because, you know, they really could do with a thorough going over. The cells really stink. It’s like walking into a men’s urinal.” They both scrunched their faces in an “ew” expression.

“Too much information, Lily.” My brother shook his head.

“Well, you didn’t have to spend time there. I did. And it was gross. But as sad as I am for any future incarcerated, I’m not going there again, not even close. The PIB building is dead to me.” After being arrested and imprisoned by the Paranormal Investigation Bureau, I swore I’d never set foot in there again, and I meant it. That place scared me.

Angelica and James looked at each other. Great. This was something to do with their work at the PIB. 

Angelica ran her palms over her skirt, smoothing it. “Sorry, dear, but we need your help on a case. You’d be paid, of course, and I know you haven’t gotten any work here yet.”

“Well, I might have a job coming up. An engagement party.” I sat up straighter and swallowed. I hated saying no to helping them, but I couldn’t go back there. “Sorry. I can’t. The PIB freaks me out.”

James came and sat next to me. “You probably won’t have to go anywhere near the Bureau. I need you to take some photos. It’s a fraud case. Millions of pounds have been stolen from unsuspecting retirees. We’re getting a warrant to search an investment office. The owner’s a witch, but her employees and victims are non-witches. We’ve got witch insiders in the NCA, and they’ve given this one to us. Once we get enough evidence, we’ll prosecute the witch, and they’ll handle reporting to the victims, most of who don’t even know they’ve been swindled.”

“But what if the witch you’re going after has destroyed the evidence? Will it help if we have photos of it and you can’t produce the real thing?”

Angelica answered. “The court will accept your evidence, Lily. There are ways they can test your photos for authenticity. They can tell the difference between real and fabricated evidence, even when it’s magic.”

James looked at me with his best puppy-dog eyes. “Pleeease. I promise you won’t have to go anywhere near the PIB. You’re also my favourite sister.” He gently shoulder bumped me.

“I’m your only sister.” I laughed and engaged sarcastic mode. “Seriously, you’re trying too hard. I don’t know how I’ll hold back saying yes because of your awesome compliment.”

“If you won’t do it for your favourite brother, at least do it for the old people who’ve lost their life savings.” He tilted his head to the side and pouted.

Argh, he would go and pull that card. Damn him. I took a deep breath. “How much does it pay? Since I’m the only one capable of doing this, I’d imagine it pays well.” The money wouldn’t hurt. I’d started paying for all the groceries and the Internet because I was home the most. Angelica refused board, since the PIB covered the cost of the house as part of her package, but it wasn’t in my nature to freeload, so we’d come to a compromise.

“Fifteen-hundred pounds for each day or part thereof that you’re needed,” Angelica said.

Say what? Nice. “Okay, then, as long as I don’t have to go into the PIB. How many days do you think you’ll need me?”

James shrugged. “Could be one, could be five or more. Who knows? It all depends on the evidence you find or don’t find in the office. We may need to collect evidence from other locations too.”

“You know I can’t always see what I want, right?”

Angelica smiled. “Yes, Lily, we know, but we’re willing to take that chance. You’re our last hope, yet again. You have no idea how valuable your skills are. There’s no one else like you in the witch world.” Sadness seeped into her eyes. She must be thinking of my mother, who’d been her best friend. I’d inherited my past-and-future seeing abilities from my mum, and she’d been the only witch who could see the past or future before me, but she’d disappeared, most likely murdered, because of what she could do. It meant I was in danger, and now I had two PIB agents following me all the time. My brother made sure I was safe. I didn’t like it, but at least the agents stayed hidden most of the time, unless it was his best friends, Beren and William. They tended to keep their distance, but every now and then, they’d say hello.

What was the point of my powers if I couldn’t do good with them? Gah. “Okay, I’m in.” They both smiled. I didn’t share their enthusiasm. “When do you need me?”

James stood. “Now that you’ve agreed, we can serve the warrant whenever we want. Let me get the squad together, and I’ll let you know. Probably this afternoon or tomorrow morning.” He turned to Angelica. “You’ve got lessons with Lily now, don’t you?”

“Yes. We’re going to concentrate on travelling. She has a bit of work to do before she’s ready to do it herself.” A bit translated to a crapload. If you made a mistake while building your doorway, you could chop off a toe or end up somewhere you had no idea how to get back from. Not all doorways led to public toilets—somehow that sounded so wrong…. Some bad witches lay traps for other witches. The non-witch world didn’t have a monopoly on crazy, sadistic psychopaths. One had to be careful.

“Great. Well, you ladies work on that, and when we’re ready to go, I’ll come get you both.” He waved, mumbled a few words, stepped forward, and disappeared. I shook my head. No matter how many times I saw a witch travelling, I’d never get used to it.

“Ready to learn, Lily?”

“As always. Just don’t let me kill myself.”

Angelica laughed. “I’ll do my best.”