This Librarian is Just Killing Time…Travel. Sophia Marcil loves her grandmother’s twisted tales almost as much as the sapphire ring passed down to her. Wearing it, however, could be her downfall. After slipping the jewel onto her finger she is pushed from a cliff—landing splat in the middle of 19th Century Monaco, where a killer plot to seize the throne could consume her entire future—past and present. Sophia believes she’s being forced into an eccentric millionaire’s dinner theatre but a hidden diary, a secret passage and a whispered conversation reveal to her that the role of a princess is not all fun and games. With the help of a man from outside the palace walls, Sophia undertakes a spellbinding journey straight out of a Grimm tale. Learning the gem’s secrets and the powerful curse behind it are only the beginning. With time and the constant threat of death hanging over her, she must take a page out of her own history to hunt down someone who isn’t killing by the book. Can she do it before she’s checked out for good?
Closing the Book on the Past…Doesn’t Mean It Can’t Be Opened. Between The Mysterious Ink Spot, Sophia O’Kelly’s cozy Dublin bookshop, and her role as mother and wife, she is more apt to exchange books and banter these days than blows with a bad guy. But living in the present has its pains; and Sophia can’t help but wonder if her migraines are connected to her fate. Sixteen years ago it was foretold to her that her daughter would become a dark and powerful witch, and stealing Sophia’s ancient spell book might just be the first step in proving the grim prediction true. Looking for answers and relief from the pain, Sophia agrees to a hypnotic regression. Unfortunately for Sophia, time’s up and she finds herself manipulated, betrayed and imprisoned for witchcraft. Meanwhile, back in Ireland, Sophia’s husband and best friend uncover a painting, offer hope that Sophia could be alive. The answers lie in a fifteenth-century castle—all they have to do is navigate time to get there. Of course, they’re not the only ones searching; Sophia’s daughter is determined to tag along, and she’s leading the traitor right to them. It’s been sixteen years since Sophia O’Kelly closed the book on her past but someone wants revenge and they’re eager to open that particular volume of secrets.
Rachael Stapleton lives in a Second Empire Victorian home with her husband and two children in Ontario, Canada and enjoys writing in the comforts of aged wood and arched dormers.
Getting Cozy in the Bibliophile’s Space Part III
BY: RACHAEL STAPLETON, AUTHOR OF THE TIME TRAVELING BIBLIOPHILE SERIES
Step Inside Storybook Cottage & Meet Villainous Witch, Alexandra Cuza
The wood door of the cottage scraped and moaned as it opened, and revealed a petite woman with shoulder length hair.
Alexandra Cuza, the only other inhabitant picked up a piece of broken mirrored glass from the table and pointed it at the intruder. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
The girl in the open doorway shifted the brown cardboard coffee tray she carried and offered her hand. “I’m no one important, Ms. Cuza, a friend if you’ll accept me. I was hoping you would give me your side of the story now?”
Alexandra Cuza looked down at the mirror and wiped the dirt from it. The circles under her eyes were darkening once again. Beauty spells these days didn’t last but a minute. She was tired—tired of aging—tired of watching everyone around her die. She was even tired of watching the souls she’d curse to reincarnate and suffer.
“You followed me here. I recognize you. You’re that writer wishing to tell my story?”
“I am. You can call me Rae. How are you doing?”
Alexandra squinted her eyes. “Well enough for woman of six hundred years.” Then she lifted her gaze and waved the girl in. “You’re a persistent little thing, Rae, aren’t you?”
“So I’ve been told. Thank you for allowing me in.” The young woman’s flouncy tulle skirt swayed as she walked in the room and Alexandra was reminded of the way girls had dressed over the centuries. Fashion was but a revolving door.
“And what should I call you?” Rae asked. “Alexandra, Gabriella, or do you prefer the Witch of Dunlace?”
“It matters not, Alexandra is my given name. It will due for now. ”
Rae removed one of the coffee cups from the tray and slid it across the table as she took a seat across from the, dark and bruiting Alexandra Cuza. Her gypsy heritage was plain to see.
“Poison?” Alexandra questioned.
“Close, cheap black coffee.” Rae responded, as she unzipped her black leather coat.
Alexandra let a smile slip as she accepted the cup. She liked this feisty little woman. Still, she removed the lid and sniffed the contents before sipping. One could never be too careful.
“So, Alexandra, you’re from Romania circa the fifteenth century. Did you grow up in this cottage, is that why you came here?”
Pain and a twinge of regret twisted in Alexandra’s belly at the thought of the past. She took another sip of her coffee and allowed the memories to wash over her. Remembering the home of her nemesis—the reddish wolf. She could still see the look on her husband, Vilhem Ioan Cuza’s face the night she’d showed up at the door. That had been the catalyst moment that had changed life. She looked back up at the writers face, remembering what was asked of her and decided to be honest. “Once upon a time I lived in a cottage, yes, but it wasn’t this one. My father died when I was young and we moved to Hunedoara castle to be with my mother’s new husband.”
“Your father died. I couldn’t imagine losing my father. That must have been awful.” Rae locked eyes with her.
Alexandra stared back at her for a full minute before replying. “Not really. He was horrible man. My mother killed him.”
“Yet, she was allowed to remarry and move into a castle. How strange.”
“No one knew she killed him. We come from a long line of witches. My mother turned to the dark arts to save us from him. ”
The writer drummed her fingers on the table. Finally, she lifted her gaze to lock with Alexandra’s. “Forgive me for my bluntness, but I understand you cursed the time traveling bibliophile, Sophia Marcil. I’m not here to judge you for it, but tell me, is that why you did it? To be a great and powerful witch like your mother?”
Alexandra’s eyebrows shot up at the question, surprised at the interpretation of her own motives. She shook her head. “Heavens no, I hated my mother.” She tilted her head as she thought about it. “She took my lover from me when I was sixteen and turned him into a raven. It was punishment for disobeying her. I never meant to be like her. I made it my business to learn how to wield the darkness so I could turn him back into a man, unfortunately the transformation is only temporary and he always reverts back to bird form.”
“Did you get revenge on your mother for murdering your lover?”
“I suppose I did. She was ill in 1494, much like the rest of the village at the time and I knew she wasn’t long for the world. So, after I visited her cottage, I set up Elena—the reddish wolf to take the fall. I killed my mother and spread the rumor that Elena was a witch and she had caused the illness that plagued us. Witches weren’t persecuted at the time but my step-father and my lover were not the most tolerant of people, and the villagers were a superstitious lot so it was easy to make them believe. They only needed someone to hang and it didn’t matter who.”
“But you, yourself had magic. So did your mother. Why would your step-father persecute another woman for this? ”
“I hid my magic, of course, as my mother did.”
“After things went bad and my husband and son were taken from me, I grew wild and reckless in my anger. I included my mother in the curse—she reincarnated with the rest of them. Morei O’Kelly suffered greatly when she lost her grandson, Liam. I should clarify though; you have it wrong. I wasn’t out to curse Sophia. The reddish wolf was my target, only Sophia got tangled in the mix. I’ve gotten much revenge over the centuries; sadly it wasn’t everything I imagined. I can see now that I was a bitter, foolish woman. Thankfully my humanity grew watching all of the death and havoc that I caused. In the 20th century, I made up my mind to go straight. I assumed the life of a gypsy and later a psychic. The woman whose identity I assumed, Sandra Brun was a great friend to me and when she passed, I burned her body. That was always the way of it, you see. To stay young I had to perform a blood ritual every hundred years or so and then as time went on more and more often. The spell required the ashes of a burned witch. I no longer have it in me to commit murder so when I used up the last of my ashes this year; I swore I would find a way home. I never meant to send Sophia back during the séance—it was an accident of sorts. We fought and Sophia grabbed the dagger during the spell—she didn’t realize the spell had worked and it was the portal.”
“I see.” The writer bowed her head before lifting her gaze once more. “I know this can’t be easy to discuss, and to be honest, I can’t imagine what it’s like to live for so long. How do you live when everyone else dies? I take it you’re immortal.”
“I am. When I cursed Elena and our family, I made myself immortal so that I could watch the curse play out over and over. I never realized that I wouldn’t enjoy it. My Great-Aunt Lasaya altered my spell. She couldn’t break it because I’d written it in the grimoire, but she made a few alterations, one of them being the aging spell. That’s why I age, despite being immortal.”
“So what happened between you and your husband to cause this curse?”
Alexandra bit her lip, looking past her to stare at the wall. She was unused to talking about this particular subject with strangers. “I…well, he cheated on me. I was unable to bear children and he needed a son. ”
“You didn’t use magic on him—force him into marriage.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“I have my sources.”
Alexandra shook her head, frustrated at being confronted with the truth. “You’re lucky, I’ve changed my ways otherwise you might find yourself in trouble, my dear.”
“I meant no disrespect but I need the truth. I can’t tell your side of the story if you’re not honest with me. As I said, I’m not here to judge.”
“Fine. It all started with a spell I borrowed from my mother. I used the love spell on Vilhem Cuza and we were married, unfortunately, there are consequences to magic and after fourteen years, I had only ten miscarriages to show for it. I begged my Great Aunt—the High Priestess —to use her spell book to help me deliver a healthy child. She refused, stating magic was not to be toyed with, instead she sent Elena Maria Catargiu-Obrenović, claiming she was a great healer who would help me keep my baby. I became pregnant once again, but instead of helping me, that witch, Elena, used her magic to end my pregnancy and she stole my husband’s attention in the process, or so I thought.” She shook her head. “I’m not an idiot. I saw the way my husband looked at her, and I knew it was inevitable that he would cheat on me. I could handle the affair but I couldn’t handle being barren or abandoned. So I proposed a deal—one I have lived to regret every day since.
The writer met her gaze firmly. “She had his baby.”
Alexandra stared at the wall after their gaze broke, swallowing the emotion that was building in her throat. She took a deep breath and returned her look. “She did. I allowed her to sleep with my husband as long as she provided me with a son. Elena agreed with one caveat. I should have known then, that it was all a trick. She demanded she keep the baby if it was a girl. Three months later we were both pregnant. I gave birth to a son, Costin, and she to a girl, Sophia.” She said this with an amused look and a chuckle. “Men always want an heir—a boy to carry on the name but not my husband. I was married to the only man in Romania who valued girls over boys. ”
“I’m sorry.” Rae shook her head. “Rejection is not a nice feeling.
Alexandra made an odd face. “No it’s not. It’s worse when it’s your child. He ignored our son and favored the reddish wolf and her daughter.
The writer raised her brows. “You still hate Elena?”
“I tried to hate her, but she’s only an innocent girl now with no memory of the past.”
“You’ve spoken to her, in this lifetime.”
“I have. She is still a handful but there is no malice in her heart. I don’t’ know if there ever was. I see that now.”
Rae smiled then took another sip of her drink–she’d almost forgotten about the drink. “So, tell me about Costin. Do you have a relationship with him now?”
“His name is Cullen now and no, he doesn’t know I am his true mother, not yet, but I can tell he doesn’t like me very much. He’s always loved Sophia and I’ve always done my best to keep them apart.” Alexandra finished her drink and set the cup to the side. She reached up to unconsciously run a hand through her long dark hair. “No matter what I did, they always had a connection. I’ve…never known connections like that actually happened between people. He followed her everywhere, found her every time.”
“True love, perhaps,” Rae smiled. “I’ve heard rumors that Costin was not your husband’s baby…and I know it’s rude to ask, but who was his father? The raven boy you loved—was it his child?”
Alexandra let out a merry laugh. “I was wondering when you would ask!”
The writer grinned.
“Sadly, Costin was not his son. Despite the fact that I could turn my raven into a man—I could not truly turn him into a man, if you know what I mean. I spent quite a bit of time in despair, and then I was seduced by an older man in the castle—we had an affair.” Alexandra smiled. “But we could never tell anyone.”
“Forbidden love? Did he reincarnate too.”
The witch frowned. “No. You misunderstand, it wasn’t love. I was seduced and eventually I learned to use him to my advantage. I had no use for him later on.” Alexandra looked down at the table. “He was not a good man. I can’t imagine the damage he would have done. My own husband, Vilhem, he was a good man, and just look what the curse did to him—turned him evil. I may have whispered in his ear at times to guide him on his quest for the sapphire, but his eventual mental instabilities took root on their own. In Nico he was ruthless, in Velte he was damaged but by the time he was reborn as Liam, I’d washed my hands of him. His soul was so dark that I barely recognized him.”
Rae nodded then went to take another sip of her drink only to realize it was gone now, so she set it aside. “Okay, so, let me get this straight. Your husband, who you told me earlier loved his daughter fiercely, so much so, that he neglected your son. He was the one who killed Sophia in every life, thereafter.” She observed Alexandra’s face. “Why would he do that?”
“It was how I wrote the curse. I felt he was obsessed with his daughter and so I damned him to true obsession. I didn’t realize what that meant. ” Alexandra brushed a strand of hair from her face and thought about her question. A frown crossed her face as he stared at her, looking her straight in the eye. “Honestly? If I’d known how it would turn out, I would never have designed it that way. I just wanted them all to hurt—the way I was hurting.”
“Not many people can admit their mistakes.” Rae tilted her head to a side before asking her next question, “And what is your next move?”
The question made Alexandra think hard, her brows furrowing in concentration before she answered. “I…well…I’m going to go back again to 1494. The blood moon is tonight. I believe Cullen is going to attempt to open the portal tonight in my old home—the castle of Hunedoara. I’ve followed his daughter, Alana and that meddling friend, Leslie this far and I believe they’ll take me to him. I’m going to go back with them. ”
Rae lifted her brows. “What do you mean? I thought Cullen didn’t like you. Why would he take you back with him?”
“He doesn’t like me, but I think when he hears what I have to tell him, he’ll let me go. At least I hope so.” Alexandra fidgeted in his chair. “I don’t want to hurt any of them, but I will do what I must to get home.”
“Why do you want to get home so badly?” Rae shook her head. “When you are already so regretful about the pain you’ve caused.” She paused, and then furrowed her brows. “Don’t you think there’s at all the chance for you two to reconcile if you don’t upset his plan? Or is that completely off the table?”
Alexandra rolled his eyes, but the hurt still shone there. “Cullen will never forgive me, not with his Sophia missing and he will fail without my help. He is no witch.” She took a deep breath, tapping her foot against the table a little. “Sophia’s only chance is for me to go back and undo it all.”
“You really think that’s possible.” Rae gave him a hopeful smile. “You think you can undo the curse and change history.”
“I hope so.” Alexandra raised her brows, and smiled. Then she happened to catch a glimpse of the clock on the wall and sighed before looked back at Alexandra. “Unfortunately, it’s about time for me to try. There’s a blood moon on the rise.” She rose to her feet, taking her empty cup to throw away.
The writer stood as well, pushing in her chair. She held out her hand to shake. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Alexandra. I hope that we can meet again.”
Alexandra shook her hand and smiled. “That is highly unlikely, unless you wish to visit me in 1494.” With that, she bowed her head respectfully and left the cottage.
Curious to know more about the Time Traveling Bibliophile and her cozy adventures through time check out BOOK ONE Temple of Indra’s Jewel
A draft whistled through the joists, carrying with it a chill. Alexandra Cuza pulled the shawl of her deceased friend tight around her own withering shoulders. The cottage had yet to warm despite the growing flames that licked at the hearth. If she remained much longer the village people would come for her as well.
Time to start over. She drew a deep, cleansing breath as she stripped and crushed herbs, measuring and counting out ingredients, and chanting as the brew began to boil. She was substituting ingredients, but times were scarce and with her friend, Sandy, burned at the stake, she was on her own once again. You’d think after two hundred and eighty-nine years she would have grown used to loss but it still prickled just the same, feeding the bitterness that clawed at her heart.
Her familiar, a black raven, flew in the door; he carried with him the carcass of another small white dove. At least she still had him. She moved quickly, plucking the dove’s pure white feathers and then slicing, cracking and prying it apart. The entire cavity was brimming with blood. Its coppery stench hung heavy in the air. The dark magic felt natural to her. And she supposed it was no wonder.
This was the second time she’d used this spell and it wouldn’t be the last.
The rest of the ingredients waited on the table: talismans consecrated and charged with the New Moon; pentacles, powerful crystals and stones, and a few small totems. Various entrails and the final and most powerful element—the ashes of another witch—that was the only benefit to all of the burnings that used to take place, easy access to her most revered ingredient. She glanced at the other table again, and her chest tightened. She was loathed to admit but she was tired of this. Damn the high priestess for meddling with the perfectly good spell she’d cast. What good was immortality if she was old and decrepit?
Now, upon including everything in the bubbling cauldron, memories washed over her, heightened by the steam of the brew, of the last time she’d been in a witch’s cottage like this one, the catalyst moment in Romania that had changed life as she knew it. She remembered pounding on the door until it finally opened, revealing her husband—Vilhem Ioan Cuza. The bastard had drew her inside and bade her take the seat by the hearth, as if she was a guest in the home of his whore. She could still remember the feel of the course material as she’d whirled and grabbed her husband’s pale, red-haired mistress, gripping the front of her nightgown in white-knuckled fists.
Anger twisted in the old woman’s belly just as it had that night. She hated that woman—the Reddish Wolf—with every fiber of her being, hated the woman’s daughter, and she especially hated her own husband. That bastard had broken her heart. But she had had the last laugh, hadn’t she? She’d cursed them all and now she waited for them to reincarnate. Plenty of time to travel the world sniffing and snuffing them out—Ireland sounded decent enough. She’d liked it there before and not many witches were being killed over there. She’d need to find a new identity, of course, and adjust once again to the accent but that was the easy part. Not long now—maybe another sixty years before they were born. She winked at her good friend, the Raven, and pounded the pestle into the mortar, grinding up the dove’s beak, feeling giddy with excitement. She’d have her revenge.