The Witches of Echo Park: An Echo Park Coven Novel

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9780425282465: The Witches of Echo Park: An Echo Park Coven Novel

First in a “spellbinding”* new series about a coven of witches living in L.A., from Amber Benson, author of the Calliope Reaper-Jones novels.

Unbeknownst to most of humankind, a powerful network of witches thrives within the shadows of society, using magic to keep the world in balance. But the witches are being eliminated—and we will all pay if their power falls...
 
When Lyse MacAllister’s great-aunt Eleanora, the woman who raised her, becomes deathly ill, Lyse puts her life in Georgia on hold to rush back to Los Angeles. And once she returns to Echo Park, Lyse discovers her great-aunt has been keeping extraordinary secrets from her.
 
Not only is Lyse heir to Eleanora’s Victorian house; she is also expected to take her great-aunt’s place in the Echo Park coven of witches. But accepting her destiny means placing herself in deadly peril—for the world of magic is under siege, and the battle the witches now fight may be their last...

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About the Author :

Amber Benson cocreated, cowrote, and directed the animated supernatural Web series Ghosts of Albion with Christopher Golden, which they followed with a series of novels, including Witchery and Accursed, and the novella Astray. Benson and Golden also coauthored the novella The Seven Whistlers. As an actress, she has appeared in dozens of roles in feature films, TV movies, and television series, including the fan-favorite role of Tara Maclay on three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Benson wrote, produced, and directed the feature films Chance and Lovers, Liars and Lunatics. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :

Eleanora

“It’s in the blood.”

Hessika’s voice was low and gravelly as she spoke, her drawn-in Cupid’s-bow lips overenunciating each word.

There was a loud snap as the green pod in Eleanora’s hands split into two, three glistening peas falling into the half-filled orange ceramic bowl cradled in her lap. She sat in a weathered rattan rocking chair, her bare legs and arms sticky with the autumnal California heat, the dark blue chambray shirt and jean shorts she’d put on that morning plastered against her pale, freckled skin. She stopped rocking at those words—It’s in the blood—and turned to look at the woman who was twelve years her elder.

Hessika sat perched on a rocking chair the twin of Eleanora’s, but it looked small and fragile beneath her massive frame. In other, less forgiving times, she would’ve been drummed out of her home and marginalized to the fringes of society for the way she looked, but now she was just a curiosity, an object of intense fascination for the neighborhood children who liked to loiter at the bottom of her lawn and stare at the giantess as she worked in the garden that was her sanctuary.

Standing six feet, eight inches tall in her stocking feet, Hessika was a female oddity of extreme contradictions: She had the posture and grace of a prima ballerina, but one who thought nothing of squatting barefoot in the dirt to pull the hardiest of weeds from her flower beds. Her garden was as close to a shrine or temple as their kind believed in, and Hessika was its rough master, forcing her enormous hands, joints stiff and swollen from arthritis, to do her bidding there. She alleviated the worst of her pain with a homemade stinging nettle tonic she took twice daily—a recipe she swore by but had never written down. Something Eleanora and the others had only realized upon her death.

The first moment Eleanora had laid eyes on the master of the Echo Park coven, she’d known Hessika was a different creature from any other she’d encountered before.

It was an indefinable thing, this differentness, but Eleanora believed it was due to the impenetrable nature of Hessika’s personality. No one would disagree that she was as immovable as a rock when attacked, utterly impervious to the whims or whines or worries of those she did not respect. A true force to be reckoned with, she could bend people to her will with the calming weight of her words and actions but did not manipulate her reality just for the sake of manipulation. As master of their coven, she was also adept at rooting her blood sisters to the earthly plane, reminding them of their obligations to the world they inhabited.

Upon her arrival in Southern California, it was Hessika who’d embraced her like an older sister, hugging Eleanora’s thin frame to her massive bosom, so that, embarrassed, Eleanora had blushed scarlet. Then, her body and mind reeling from days of sitting up to sleep in coach on the train from Boston, she’d gone limp in the strange woman’s arms and cried like a baby while the whole of Union Station watched.

Instead of chiding the younger woman for her weakness, Hessika had spirited Eleanora back to the bungalow on Curran Street overlooking Elysian Park, settling her down in the tiny, womblike second bedroom and petting the girl’s long brown hair until her tears had dried up. Never once did she question Eleanora about the trip, or the heartbreak she’d left behind in Duxbury when she’d hitched a ride into Boston and never looked back—and, for her silent kindness, Eleanora had loved Hessika with a girlish awe that bordered on hero worship.

To that order, it seemed only apropos that Hessika would be the one to foretell her fate.

“The blood?” Eleanora asked, leaning forward in her seat so the rattan bit into the backs of her legs, the bowl suddenly becoming heavier against the tops of her thighs.

“I dreamed of blood,” Hessika said, an almost imperceptible lisp giving her Southern-inflected sibilants a soft, misshapen sound.

Hessika continued to work as she spoke, the cracking and voiding of shells into her bowl a staccato counterpoint to the rhythmic rocking of her chair, its runners seesawing along the thick slats of the wooden porch like a ship pitching back and forth on uncertain seas.

Hessika was a Dream Keeper. It was a gift she traced back to the Old Testament stories of Joseph.

Raised in a Primitive Baptist household in Lower Alabama, where the Old Testament had been her parents’ rod and staff from which they did not deviate, Hessika didn’t subscribe to the tenets of Christianity—though she was not uninterested in its mythologies and practices. The Primitive Baptist predeterminism of her childhood was not unlike her own self-discovered belief that human fate was a tapestry woven long before a person was born: If we were lucky, we might catch a glimpse of the pattern, but we could never change it.

When Hessika spoke of her dreams or interpreted the dreams of others, it was with the authority of someone who was touched by something greater than human knowledge—and those who were targeted in her dream readings quickly learned to listen carefully to her interpolations or else face their futures blind.

It’s in the blood.

Hessika’s words nibbled at Eleanora’s brain, making her heart beat faster as she waited for her friend to say more—but there was only the steady onslaught of peas dropping into a bowl and the creaking of Hessika’s rocking chair biting into the old wooden porch.

Day had long faded into inky twilight, the gloaming having come and gone on tiptoe, so Eleanora only now realized the world was dipped in full-scale night. Like looking into the face of a loved one day after day and missing the imperceptible changes as age crept across their features—the slackening of jowls, the pulling at the labial folds around their mouth, the creping of skin beneath their eyes—Eleanora had missed the shifting of Time.

She blamed Hessika. Time was pliant on her friend’s front porch, stretching out like warm taffy in the hot summer sun. Here, seconds hung like minutes, minutes like hours, hours like days until Time ceased to have any meaning at all. But Hessika’s portent—It’s in the blood—had acted as a catalyst, speeding things up and kicking Eleanora back into the present. She blinked, finding herself aware of her surroundings again, the shrill hum of the nighttime insects like a warm blanket enfolding everything around her.

Then, without warning, Hessika stopped rocking.

With the silence came the irrational fear that her life, barely in its prime, was about to be cut short. Eleanora had turned twenty-four the previous spring and she’d done almost nothing with herself. She’d only been with one man—someone she did not dare to ever think of again—the event traumatizing at best; she’d never traveled to Europe or learned to play the piano . . . and in this age of free love and drugs, she’d never even smoked marijuana. There was so much she wanted to do, so much she wanted to see and experience—she wasn’t ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet.

“You understand that these things are not precise,” Hessika said, snapping another green pod in two and releasing its contents into the bowl.

Eleanora understood better than she wanted to.

“I do.”

Hessika nodded, the moonlight casting a shadow across her angular face, obscuring languid, almond-shaped green eyes wreathed in midnight-black false lashes. She set her bowl of peas aside, making room for it on the small rattan side table by relocating her glass of merlot, then she coaxed a cigarette from a soft pack of Lucky Strikes. She plucked a silver Zippo lighter from her skirt pocket—a gift from a bulldog-faced Marine she’d once bedded—and lit the cigarette.

Eleanora watched as moths dive-bombed the overhead porch light, the frosted-glass globe keeping them from self-immolating against the sixty-watt bulb. She felt like she’d been set adrift upon the ocean, the orange glow from the cigarette’s tip and the pale yellow of the porch light the only illumination in what seemed like a sea of night.

Hessika’s words came out muddled, the cigarette dangling against her lower lip, perverting the sounds into something Eleanora had to translate before she could pick out any meaning from them:

“I dreamt of a dark time. When our coven was the last to stand against something truly evil.”

Hessika paused, the orange coal flaring like fire as she pulled on the cigarette, then removed it from her mouth, cupping it limply in her hand. Around them, the insects wove their songs of longing and attraction like a fine netting, the cacophony of legs rubbing together in a sexual frisson so overpowering it made Eleanora’s head ache.

“In that time I was a ghost—a Dream Walker—invisible to you, but you knew I was there, keeping watch. You were a crone then, ma belle, withered and wasted away—I could smell the blood beneath your skin, blood that was flecked with something black and rank.”

Eleanora kept her mouth shut, choosing not to interrupt the flow of Hessika’s words. Instead, she idly watched the cigarette burn to ash between Hessika’s long fingers.

“There was a girl, she liked to wrap her arms around your shoulders, her hands were always covered in dirt”—she stopped to pull on the cigarette again and then release a long trail of smoke from her lips—“and you were preparing her. She was the next in line—and she would help protect something important. Be the last to stand when all the others had fallen.”

Eleanora froze as Hessika turned to look at her, their eyes locking. Without breaking the connection, Hessika took another drag from the cigarette, the stink of ash and phosphorus making Eleanora’s nostrils itch. There was a softness around Hessika’s eyes—sad eyes, Eleanora had always thought—but the wreath of exhaled smoke around her face made them seem frightening and irisless in the dark.

“She will follow you and you, well . . . it looks as though you’re gonna follow me.”

Eleanora’s throat tightened. She’d been so sure Hessika was about to tell her that she was going to die—it’d happened before, Hessika’s words like a magic noose around some young person’s throat, inching tighter and tighter until they’d choked the life out of what was once young and gay—but this, this was something else entirely.

“A dream of the future coupled with a dream of death, ma belle,” Hessika added as she reached a long arm across the space separating them and grasped Eleanora’s wrist.

Her touch was at once light and reassuring yet burned within the cold fire of empathy. It was an odd sensation, and not one Eleanora hoped to experience again.

“My dreams are never wrong, ma belle,” Hessika continued. “Remember that. Maybe not precise, but never wrong.”

Now all these years later Hessika’s portent had finally come to pass. Eleanora’s blood was black with cancer—and there was only one final task left to complete before Death could finally collect its due:

Prepare the girl. For she was next in line.

Lyse

The staccato cadence of the blond stewardess’s Midwestern twang slammed into Lyse’s head like a sledgehammer, every word a sharpened nail driven into the gray matter of her brain.

Because it was an oversold flight and she’d booked her ticket at the last minute, she hadn’t been able to choose her seat—which meant the airline gave her what was available: a middle seat in between an older grandmotherly type on the aisle and a young Hispanic kid two sizes too big for his window seat. The kid had spent the entire preflight ramp-up arguing with the stewardess over the need for a seat belt extender, and at one point Lyse had almost snapped at the stewardess to leave the poor kid alone. Not just because she agreed with the kid, but because she wanted the stewardess to stop talking.

But she knew she stunk like a distillery and was scared of getting kicked off the flight, so she kept her mouth shut, rejoicing internally when the kid finally relented and, grumbling to hide his embarrassment, took the seat belt extender from the triumphant stewardess, clipping it in place.

Lyse wished there were something she could say to make the kid feel better about being humiliated at the hands of a smug stewardess in a pastel blue uniform, but she decided her continued silence was probably a better balm than any fumbling attempts at commiseration.

As the plane took off, Lyse closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but once they were airborne and the Fasten Seat Belt sign was turned off, she spent most of the flight trekking back and forth to the toilet in order to dry-heave over the commode. She wasn’t sure if the nausea was due to a burgeoning hangover or was just the first sign that she’d given herself a concussion earlier that morning when, in a daring feat of acrobatic prowess, she’d tripped over a barstool and slammed the back of her head into the kitchen countertop, the soft skin of her scalp connecting with the hard stone to elicit a sharp, teeth-grinding thwack.

To her surprise, she’d found herself relatively unscathed after what could’ve been a major trauma: There’d been no blood, no laceration . . . just the budding promise of a painful knot.

After the unexpected call from her great-aunt Eleanora, Lyse had comforted herself by downing most of a bottle of Tito’s vodka and passing out with her face mashed up against the cold granite kitchen island. The alcohol, coupled with the horrible dreams she’d had while she slept—dreams that made sure she got no rest—contributed greatly to the accident.

Then, hours later, she’d been frightened awake by the feel of someone’s eyes on her back. It was unmistakable, the ungodly sense that a stranger was secretly observing her in this vulnerable moment, and fear ran through her body like an electric current.

She’d crawled off the barstool that’d doubled as her bed, hearing the creak of her bones settling back into place after a long night of immobility. She crossed the hardwood floor on bare feet and got as close to the kitchen window as she dared. She’d never bothered with window treatments—the kitchen was in the rear of the house, and the surrounding shrubbery had seemed thick enough to discourage any prying eyes—but as she squinted out into the pitch-black abyss of her backyard, she found herself wishing for heavy damask drapes, or at the very least those ugly poly-fiber blackout curtains.

Of course, no one was out there. The yard was empty and she was alone, but she had a hard time shaking off the creepy feeling someone had been watching her while she slept. Still groggy, she’d turned away from the window, and that was when she’d tripped over the barstool and almost brained herself.

It was that goddamned phone call. It had thrown her whole life off-kilter.

“I should have called you sooner, but I wasn’t sure what to say . . .”

The teasing cadence of Eleanora’s dropped New England r’s as they’d sounded coming through the phone line slipped inside Lyse’s head, a siren’s call to something she did not want to think about.

“They’ve done all the tests, so there’s no reason to get a second opinion.”

Her great-aunt’s words were transient and elliptical, floating in Lyse’s memory like gauzy white light through layers of viscous liquid. She wanted to pummel the memory away, but it wouldn’t go.

“. . . three months, maybe less than that. Cancer. Started in the blood but now it’s everywhere.”

It was like listening to a song played through an aged and crackling phonograph, vowels and consonants blurring together until they lost their meaning.

“Just . . . stop talking for a minute. Let me process this,” L...

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Amber Benson
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ISBN 10 : 0425282465 ISBN 13 : 9780425282465
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Description du livre Ace Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. État : New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. First in a spellbinding * new series about a coven of witches living in L.A., from Amber Benson, author of the Calliope Reaper-Jones novels. Unbeknownst to most of humankind, a powerful network of witches thrives within the shadows of society, using magic to keep the world in balance. But the witches are being eliminated and we will all pay if their power falls When Lyse MacAllister s great-aunt Eleanora, the woman who raised her, becomes deathly ill, Lyse puts her life in Georgia on hold to rush back to Los Angeles. And once she returns to Echo Park, Lyse discovers her great-aunt has been keeping extraordinary secrets from her. Not only is Lyse heir to Eleanora s Victorian house; she is also expected to take her great-aunt s place in the Echo Park coven of witches. But accepting her destiny means placing herself in deadly peril for the world of magic is under siege, and the battle the witches now fight may be their last. N° de réf. du libraire BZV9780425282465

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Description du livre Ace Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. État : New. Language: English . Brand New Book. First in a spellbinding * new series about a coven of witches living in L.A., from Amber Benson, author of the Calliope Reaper-Jones novels. Unbeknownst to most of humankind, a powerful network of witches thrives within the shadows of society, using magic to keep the world in balance. But the witches are being eliminated and we will all pay if their power falls When Lyse MacAllister s great-aunt Eleanora, the woman who raised her, becomes deathly ill, Lyse puts her life in Georgia on hold to rush back to Los Angeles. And once she returns to Echo Park, Lyse discovers her great-aunt has been keeping extraordinary secrets from her. Not only is Lyse heir to Eleanora s Victorian house; she is also expected to take her great-aunt s place in the Echo Park coven of witches. But accepting her destiny means placing herself in deadly peril for the world of magic is under siege, and the battle the witches now fight may be their last. N° de réf. du libraire AAS9780425282465

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