A Witch in Time
Cat's Paw Cove, Book 1
Welcome to Cat’s Paw Cove, Florida—an enchanting seaside town and favorite tourist destination. But there’s something unusual about the locals, both human and feline. The popular Shipwreck Museum might just take you back in time, and the historic Sherwood House holds secrets, old and new.
Adopt a furever friend at the Cove Cat Café, treat yourself to a psychic reading at Eye of Newt metaphysical shop, pick up a special trinket from Black Cat Antiquities. And don’t be surprised if you find your heart in the magic of Cat’s Paw Cove.
In a violent storm in 1645, Colin Wilshire’s Barbados-bound ship is swept off course. He’s sure he and his pregnant bride are fated to drown when he’s tossed into the sea. He wakes in a strange land and is saved by a blue-haired angel.
Twenty-first-century witch and cat rescuer Luna Halpern has fallen for more than her share of unsuitable guys—including one with a long-distance fiancé, and another who was more interested in other dudes than in Luna. Finally, a safe, drama-free guy is interested in her, and she’s confident that she’ll muster up an attraction to him. When she stumbles upon a handsome, mysterious man who speaks oddly, seems not to know where he is, or even what century it is, her first instinct is to help him.
Certain he’s either stuck in a crazy dream or in limbo between life and death, Colin stays close to Luna. As his feelings for her grow, he’s forced to choose between his obligations in the past and his hopes for the future.
Read an Excerpt
Colin returned the blue-haired vixen’s glower, even as he fought not to collapse in the sand. His head pounded, and exhaustion weighed upon him like a leaden blanket. What he would give to be able to lie down, close his eyes, and sleep for a while. Even his hard bunk on the ship would be heavenly—although last he remembered, the vessel had hit a reef and had been breaking to pieces.
How then, could he see the Guinevere now, with its posts and sails seemingly intact? The ocean, too, wasn’t churning but calm, as if the tempest hadn’t taken place.
What had happened to him? Had he died? If so, this wasn’t anything like the Heaven he’d expected.
Had he swallowed too much sea water? Had his brain coddled in his skull and he’d gone mad? Fear accompanied a shrill ringing sound in his ears.
“Hey.” Luna touched his arm. “Don’t pass out on me.”
“There’s no way I can drag you down the beach or carry you to the medic station.”
Colin frowned as his gaze raked over her. That, at least, was the truth. She was far too petite to bear his weight. Nicely formed, he’d already noticed, despite her shawl-like covering and odd garments underneath. Such clothing must be the traditional garb worn by colonists in this area.
Still, why would she believe he’d want to be dragged down the beach or carried? Was that customary when folk encountered other people they didn’t know? Perhaps it was required by the officials of the so-called medic station.
The last thing he needed was more sand in his arse, but he didn’t want to cause offense.
“Don’t get upset,” Luna said in a soothing tone. “I really do want to help you.”
God help him, but he wasn’t the only one who needed help. “Evelyn—”
“You can tell the medics what happened to you. They’ll know who to contact,” Luna added. “They might be able to get a search started for her.”
That did, indeed, sound like a good plan.
“Also, see those lights out there?” Luna pointed to the water. “They’re from boats. The folks on one of them might have already found Evelyn.”
His heart leapt, even as he recalled helping Mrs. Harrison onto the makeshift raft before he’d blacked out. “Evelyn’s not the only one. There are others.”
“How many others?”
He tried to recall the faces of the other passengers. “There were at least fifteen of us—men, women, and children—not including the captain and crew. If others survived, they may be injured too.”
Luna studied him. “You were on a fairly large boat, then.”
He gestured to the ship. “That large.”
She exhaled a heavy sigh. “Okay, just so we’re clear…. You’re involved with the local Historical Society, right?”
“What Historical Society?”
“The one that organized the re-enactment of the shipwreck. Isn’t that why you’re in costume?”
Colin nearly choked. “You think I am part of an act?”
Her grip tightened on her shawl. “I’m not sure what to believe. I’d like to understand what’s going on here.”
“As would I.” Impatience gnawed. “I swear, there was a terrible storm. The ship hit a reef. I witnessed the vessel breaking apart, men being washed overboard.” Colin almost couldn’t bear to remember, but he must, in order to get help.
“How did you get from the ocean to this beach?”
An excellent question; one he couldn’t answer. “I’m…not sure. Nor can I explain why the tempest has vanished. But, as far as I know, I’m the only one who reached shore.” He gestured to the water. “The rest must still be out there.”
Luna’s gaze shifted to the calm expanse of sea then back to him. “Colin, I’m going to ask you an important question, and you need to answer me truthfully.”
“I’ve spoken the truth from the moment we met,” he gritted.
Her throat moved with a swallow. “Did you have a few drinks tonight?”
“I drank a lot of seawater—”
“I meant wine. Liquor—”
She hesitated then asked, “Are you and the others you mentioned…illegal aliens?”
What the hell were ayleeuns? Not just any old ayleeuns, but illegal ones?
Colin’s pulse quickened because while he didn’t fully understand her question, he did know what illegal meant. Fleeing England to escape his inherited debts would most certainly be considered illegal. If he was arrested in this foreign land, he might be separated from Evelyn for months or even years. He might even be sent back to England for sentencing.
He wouldn’t be able to protect Evelyn, wouldn’t see his newborn child or be able to help raise it. “I…well….” The ringing noise sounded in his ears again.
Luna squeezed his arm, pulling his focus back to the moonlit beach. “It’s okay. We don’t have to talk about that now.”
Luna sighed again. “Whatever’s happened to you, I am still going to help you. Your wife and the others, too.”
Relief rushed through him. He almost sank to his knees.
“You’ll need to come with me, though. It’s a bit of a walk.”
At least she hadn’t insisted on dragging or carrying him. He nodded, even as he resolved to keep his wits about him. If she’d planned to trick him, or if officials tried to arrest him, he’d be ready.
Luna started walking, and he fell in beside her. He’d lost his boots to the ocean, so sand pushed up between his toes that were already gritty with sand. Now and again, Colin stepped on hard things he couldn’t see—hopefully seashells and not creatures with sharp teeth and pointy spines that would pierce through the soles of his feet and feast on his flesh, or something equally ghastly.
“What land is this, if you don’t mind my asking?” he said.
Luna glanced at him, but didn’t slow her pace. “The United States.”
He’d never heard of such a place.
“You’re from England, right?”
“Aye.” No point denying it. He had an upper-class British accent and wouldn’t be able to convincingly replicate the way she spoke even if he tried.
“I want to take a vacation there someday.” She sounded wistful. “I’ve seen pictures of the landscape and old castles there, and think it must be very picturesque.”
Sadness tugged at his soul as he thought of the estate he’d been forced to abandon. “It is indeed picturesque, especially in winter when the ground and trees are covered with snow.”
She shivered. “I don’t like snow.”
He thought of the afternoon he’d had to help Matthew free his carriage from icy ruts in the dirt road. That incident had sparked ideas for Colin’s latest invention, although he had no idea if his sketches had survived the storm. At some point, he must find out. “Snow does make traveling difficult,” he finally said. “It’s not a good time to visit England now, though. Not with the civil unrest. Our King—”
“You mean Queen.”
A new monarch had claimed the English throne? Being at sea, he hadn’t heard the news.
“Careful. There are steps ahead,” Luna said.
“Right.” Colin looked to where she’d pointed, but bright lights drew his gaze higher.
What in hell…?
Evenly spaced and running in a line, tall metal posts ended in oval-shaped orbs that were larger than his head. There seemed to be other sources of light as well. Some were moving, their lights glaring for a short moment and then fading. There were odd sounds, too, mingled with the noise of crowds of people talking and laughing: honks and rumblings that didn’t sound at all like horse-drawn carriages.
“Come on.” Luna’s footsteps thudded on the wooden stairs up toward the lights.
Panic raced through Colin. For a moment, there were too many strange, new things to think about. He longed to turn and run back down the beach, but he wasn’t a coward. Nor must he delay getting help for Evelyn and the others who’d survived the shipwreck.
He followed Luna up to an open area surrounded by planks and rails. He glanced about, his senses on high-alert. A lot of folk, most in similar garb to Luna, were standing or sitting in the area fringed by shops and, judging by the smell, places to get cooked food.
His gaze fixed on several men walking toward them, and his jaw clenched.
Were they men from the ship the captain had seen before the storm hit?
He grabbed Luna’s arm. “Beware.”
He pulled her in close. “Pirates,” he hissed against her ear. Her hair smelled of flowers. A really nice smell—
“Of course there are pirates.” She faced him, looking bemused. “People are dressed up for the Founders’ Day celebrations, just like you are.”
The buccaneers approached, their carefree, swaggered strides clearly part of a well-rehearsed deception. They wanted their victims to believe they weren’t under any threat, in order to get close and take them hostage. Luna must not be aware of the vile things pirates did to others. Colin’s hand flexed, for he wished he had his sword to wield. He’d send a warning that the bastards shouldn’t come any closer to him or Luna.
One of the men, ginger-haired and with the straightest teeth Colin had ever seen, grinned at her.
“Stop,” she muttered.
“I will not allow them to take you captive.”
“Do you not know how pirates use their female prisoners?”
As the men strode past, Luna rolled her eyes. “Good thing I’m not interested in any of those guys. If I’d hoped for a date with one of them, you ruined my chances.”
Colin snorted. He didn’t quite understand what sweet, oval-shaped dates had to do with her and pirates, but he’d ponder that later. “Is the medic station close by?”
“Yes. This way.”
He walked with her through the crowd, while planning how he’d handle the medical care. If he was taken inside a building, he’d be sure to note the ways out, in case he needed to get away fast. He didn’t have any money on him—all that he’d had was on the storm-battered ship—and there would be a cost to having his injuries tended. No gentleman would allow a woman to pay for him, and he already owed Luna for helping him. Perhaps he could barter for the medical help, or—
He startled at a booming roar followed by a rhythmic thumping and cacophony of sound. He’d never heard such musical instruments before. Through a gap in the crowd, he saw the source of the noise: a shiny, black box on wheels with bright lights on the front. There were boxes of other styles and colors, too, lined up together.
He gestured to the black box, now moving backward. “What’s that?”
“A souped-up Mustang, I think.”
Souped up…? Colin forced down the question. There were other people close by who might overhear and become suspicious of him. Also, the box had moved out of sight, and Luna was heading toward a large tent with a red cross on the side—the medic station.
His strides slowed as he took in the interior of the tent: a chair that was covered in thin, white parchment and looked like it could be adjusted to form a bed; a table with gauze and some odd-looking instruments that reminded him of torture devices.
A woman a little shorter than Luna turned, saw Luna, and they started talking.
Shock and unease gripped him. The woman’s corseted blouse revealed an astonishing amount of cleavage, and her dress….
He blinked. Shook his head.
Luna returned to him. “You okay?”
A muscle ticked in his jaw. He drew Luna to one side so the other woman wouldn’t hear. “What is the meaning of this?” he hissed.
Luna frowned. “I don’t—”
“You bring me to a…a….”
Her brows rose. “A?”
“A pirate wench?”
Luna made a strangled snorting noise. Obviously trying not to laugh, she pressed her hand over her mouth.
“This isn’t funny,” he bit out.
“Oh, yeah, it is.”
“I am most certainly not in the mood to….” Colin waved his hand, lost for words. He’d never imagined discussing fornication with a woman he barely knew.
Luna snorted again. “Why do guys think about sex all the time?”
“Not true.” He didn’t think about it when he was asleep. He hadn’t once thought about it during the tempest. But, that raised another question. “Do your people believe coupling has healing powers? That it can mend wounds?”
Luna squeezed the bridge of her nose and groaned. “Just be quiet for a moment, okay?”
He scowled. He didn’t want to be quiet. He wanted to get his injury tended and find Evelyn. But, he couldn’t do those things without Luna’s help, so he nodded.
“First of all, she’s not a pirate wench or a strumpet. She’s an RN.”
“A registered nurse.”
He grunted. “Registered in torture?”
“What, exactly, does she nurse?”
Luna appeared to be struggling for patience. “She’s here to treat people who get injured during the Founders’ Day festivities. She told me she just finished treating a man who’d sprained his ankle during the Pirate Pub Crawl.”
Pirate Pub Crawl? How many damned pirates were there in this area?
Colin’s gaze slid to the wench, who was standing by the chair and table of torture devices. She smiled at him. A friendly enough smile, but she could well be trying to lure him in.
That ringing noise sounded in his ears again.
“Colin,” Luna said. “I promise, she’ll help you, not hurt you. There might be a bit of discomfort when she cleans your wound—”
“What if I don’t want her help?”
Luna shook her head. “I can deal with cuts and bruises, but a gash to the head? No. And frankly, I don’t want to be responsible for your care when I don’t have the skills.”
A plea shone in Luna’s eyes. It was important to her that he got help from the wench.
“Fine,” he said quietly “But if I sense she’s trying to trick me, I will immediately leave.”
“You’ll also be polite and not once use the word ‘strumpet.’ Agreed?”
He had to trust Luna’s greater experience in such situations. “Agreed.”
Colin walked with Luna into the tent.
“That’s quite a wound.” The wench eyed his brow. “What happened?”
“Shipwreck,” he said.
“Ri-ight.” She winked. “I get it. We’re staying in character.”
“In…?” He glanced at Luna, who shook her head: a silent warning that he should just agree with what had been said.
“Aye,” he said. “Why not? These are the Founders’ Day festivities, after all.”
The woman laughed and motioned him toward the chair.
He squared his shoulders. “First, I must tell you about the others.”
“From the shipwreck.”
The woman’s puzzled gaze shifted to Luna.
“We must rescue them. I know there are boats out on the water, but—”
“Let’s check you over first, okay?” the wench said. “You can’t be of help to anyone else if you’re not in good shape yourself.”
He had no idea how his ‘shape’ was at all relevant, but he reluctantly nodded his agreement and approached the chair. Was he supposed to sit on the parchment? Or was he to write a list of his aches and pains on it? He’d need a quill and ink, but couldn’t see either by the chair or on the table.
“Just have a seat,” the wench instructed.
Colin sat, becoming aware of discomfort in his torso and legs that he hadn’t acknowledged before. Beneath him, the parchment crinkled; a fascinating sound. He shifted to the left and right several times, just to hear the crinkle. Luna shook her head again, more vigorously this time. Why did she look like she wanted to slap him?
The wench handed him a board with more sheets of parchment. These were different than the parchment upon which he sat. Marveling at the smoothness and thinness, he rubbed the pages between his thumb and forefinger.
“You need to fill them out.” The nurse handed him a strange-looking quill. “Name, address, regular doctor’s information and—”
“I don’t have it.” Meeting the nurse’s gaze, he shrugged. “It was on the ship.”
“Oh. I see.” The pirate wench winked again. “I’m guessing you don’t have medical insurance?”
“I’ll pay,” Luna said.
“No. I can’t allow that.” Colin said.
“It’s the way things need to be done,” Luna answered firmly.
Ah. Another thing he’d be wise to just agree to. He nodded, but he’d make sure he repaid her for the cost of his treatment.
The woman picked up a black object from the table. Part of it was bulbous; another part looked like it was meant to wrap around and constrict a limb. Is that what was going to happen?
“I’m going to start by taking your blood pressure,” the wench said, as though aware of his concern. “My digital monitor broke, so I have to do this the old-fashioned way.”
He tensed as she reached for his arm. He didn’t want to look the fool, but he’d never had the pressure of his blood taken before. Did it hurt? Where was she going to put that bulbous thing?
Grinning, the nurse pushed up his damp sleeve. “Don’t worry. If you sit still and behave like a gentleman, I won’t make you walk the plank.”
Luna waited as the medic cleaned Colin’s head wound.
“Well, his neurological responses are fine—vision, hearing, balance, etc.” The woman faced Luna and shrugged. “I don’t think he understands what century he’s in, though.”
Luna nodded. “Could that be from the injury?”
“Maybe. Just to be on the safe side, I’d suggest taking him over to the hospital for a CT scan.” She carefully applied Steri-Strips to the side of Colin’s forehead. “Could just be that the guy is a time traveler from a few hundred years ago. You never know, right?”
Luna chuckled. “Yeah, sure.”
“You’ll want to keep a close eye on him for the next twenty-four hours. Rest is important.”
The medic helped Colin sit up. “Thank you for finally allowing me to treat you.”
He gave the woman a wary frown. “I didn’t know that pirate wenches were so skilled in healing.”
The medic snickered then touched Luna’s arm. “Are you parked nearby, hon?”
“I live close,” Luna assured her as they left the tent. She tried to take Colin’s arm, but he nudged her away. “I must find my ship now, or what’s left of it. Evelyn needs me.” He fell in step with Luna. “Where are you going?”
“First, we have to go to the hospital.” She stepped off the boardwalk and onto the beach. “It’s too far for you to walk, especially in your condition. After we get you checked out, I’ll help you find your wife, okay?”
That seemed to satisfy him for the moment. Until he gasped. “What magic is this?”
Luna followed his gaze to a jet as it flew overhead.
“It’s just an airplane.”
Colin shook his head. “This is a strange land with its moving stars and blinking candles.”
Luna huffed. “Are you for real?”
She folded her arms over her chest. “I get the whole method acting thing, immersing yourself in the role, but you can drop it now. It’s just the two of us.”
Colin furrowed his brow. “My lady, I’m unsure of what you mean. Need I remind you that I am the one who finds myself shipwrecked in this place. I must find my wife. She could be hurt. We have to organize a search party right away.”
For goodness sake. How long was Colin going to stay in character? “So, what year was it when this supposedly happened?”
“1645, of course.”
“Okay,” she said. “Whatever you say. Just to be clear, there was a shipwreck here in 1645. The Guinevere sank near the shore of the largest island in the harbor. But if this Evelyn person was on the ship, I kind of doubt that she’s still out there. It’s been more than three hundred and seventy years since then. There’s nothing that you or a search party can do for her now.”
“Three hundred and seventy years….” His voice trailed off, and he swayed a little, so Luna took hold of his arm. “Are you all right?”
Colin remained silent. He sure didn’t look okay. Even in the dark, she could see that his complexion had paled.
The nurse’s jest replayed in Luna’s mind.
“Could just be that the guy is a time traveler from a few hundred years ago. You never know, right?”
Colin rubbed his eyes. “We were bound for Barbados when the storm hit.” He sighed, and his shoulders sank. “Evelyn hadn’t wanted to leave England.”
Hanging his head, he mumbled something under his breath. “I insisted.”
“Were the two of you traveling alone?”
“Alone? Of course not. There were other families on board—the Bells, the Harrisons….”
The Bells and Harrisons? Luna was quite familiar with those names since they belonged to two of the founding families of the town, and their descendants still lived in Cat’s Paw Cove. “What’s your full name?”
He straightened. “Colin Wilshire.”
Wilshire? Another founding family. Luna’s head buzzed with questions. Could he possibly be for real?
Her heart raced. She recalled the two dreams in which she’d seen him. The ship had been like something out of a pirate movie. What if he really was from the past? How could she know? She racked her brain to think of a way to test him. “Who’s the current British monarch?”
“King Charles, of course.”
Taking out her phone, she Googled her question. Colin was right. King Charles the first had held the throne in 1645. “And who was the king before him?”
“His father, King James. He’d been King James VI of Scotland before he’d inherited the throne of England after Queen Elizabeth died.”
Luna quickly checked the facts. Colin was correct. Either he was a delusional history wiz, or he’d actually lived several centuries ago. The possibility stole her breath away.
Maybe the best thing to do was just take him to the hospital, as the nurse had suggested, and quietly ask the doctor to do a psychological evaluation on him. She set a gentle hand on Colin’s arm. “I’m going to drive you to the hospital.”
His brow furrowed. “The hospital?”
“A bigger medical place than the tent we just left.”
“Absolutely not.” He abruptly stood. “Haven’t you been listening to me? My wife’s situation could be dire. I must find her and the others.”
Luna’s stomach growled. She was hungry and tired. And she didn’t have the energy to continue arguing with him. She had to get him to calm down. “Listen, no one’s going to search in the dark, right?”
After a long hesitation, he loudly exhaled. “I suppose that’s true.”
“I promise you that if anyone washes up on the beach or is found in the water, I’ll hear about it on Facebook in a New York minute. So there’s nothing to do until morning. Why don’t you come to my house and I’ll fix us something to eat.”
His expression relaxed. “I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but I must admit, I am in need of nourishment. I’ll be no good to Evelyn in this state. If you’re sure that we’ll be told any news right away.”
“I am.” Thank heavens. “It’s settled then.”
They walked the rest of the way to Luna’s cottage, with Colin remarking upon everything from the cars to the paved streets. He seemed genuinely completely unfamiliar with so much of the modern world.
Luna had never thought much before about time travel, but Colin was quickly making a believer of her. When they arrived at the cottage, she drew a relieved breath that her brother’s car wasn’t there.
Leo was forever giving her grief about the strays she always brought home—dogs, cats, even the occasional person. Lucky for her, she owned a business with a cat rescue in it, and she knew a couple of local dog rescues as well. As for her human strays, she had to work harder to find them homes, like the down-on-her-luck cocktail waitress from The Tiki Bar, who’d confided in Luna that her boyfriend had been hitting her. Luna had driven the young woman to a shelter in Daytona Beach. And then there was the runaway teenager who’d camped out for several days in the alley behind Cove Cat Café. Luna had let the girl sleep on her sofa for a week until a bed at a nearby runaway shelter became available.
But finding a place for an injured man who might be either delusional or a time traveler would be impossible. The notion of Colin being from another time seemed preposterous, yet so did a lot of things she’d seem in Cat’s Paw Cove.
Luna unlocked the door and went in ahead of Colin. “Here we are.”
When she switched on the overhead light, he gasped. “Forgive me,” he said. “I am unused to such…wondrous feats.”
Hecate, who was curled up on Luna’s sofa, lifted her head for a moment then returned to her cat nap.
Luna hung her keys on the hook by the door and slung her shawl over the back of a chair. “I’ll nuke something up for us to eat.”
Colin gave her a blank stare. In the light, she was reminded just how handsome he was, even in his dirty, tattered clothes.
“I’ll cook dinner,” she clarified. “And I’ll find dry clothes for you.” Hurrying to the guest room, she grabbed a pair of Leo’s jeans, a T-shirt, and some sneakers then returned to the living room.
Colin stood at her altar, his eyes wide. Pointing to the incense burner that was a statue of the maiden, mother, and crone, he shook his head then gestured toward the athame. “Are these tools of witchcraft?”
“They are. But don’t worry. We don’t sacrifice anything unless the moon is full.”
“Kidding,” she said.
Those mahogany eyes blazed. “Do you know what they do to witches where I come from?”
She remembered all too well the history of how witches were tortured and burned alive. Her mouth grew dry. Not that she feared he’d hurt her, she just hated for him to think badly of her. “Witches like me only try to do good in the world. We use herbs, oils, and crystals to bring about positive results.”
“You mean like a magic spell?”
“Exactly.” A little of the tension in her shoulders eased, but Colin looked even warier. “Witchcraft has nothing to do with the devil or with hurting anyone. We’re healers and teachers and nature lovers.”
He backed away from the altar.
“Think of it this way,” Luna continued. “A spell is merely a prayer with props.”
Colin nodded thoughtfully. “I think I understand. You must be careful, though. If anyone sees these trinkets….”
“It’s okay.” She touched his arm and handed him Leo’s clothes. “You’re a little taller than my brother, but these should fit you. I’ll wash the clothes you’re wearing, although I can’t promise you they’ll survive the washing machine.”
“Washing machine?” Colin shook his head, then unlaced his shirt and pulled it off.
Oh, my. She’d had no idea how muscular his shoulders were. She licked her lips. “Um, why don’t you change in the bathroom. This way.”
She led him down the hall and opened the door for him. “Would you like me to run you a bath?”
His gaze darted around the small room. “Aye, that would be good.”
After she’d turned on the faucet and stopped the drain, she grabbed a towel from the shelf and set it on the sink. Standing so close to Colin, heat suffused her cheeks. Which was surely just the steam from the hot water. She shut off the faucet, cleared her throat, and backed toward the doorway. “Um…I’ll be in the kitchen…if you need…anything.”
Outside the room, she cringed. The man was even more unavailable than her past boyfriends had ever been—he was delusional at best, or a married man from the past.