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Protected by Means of Magic

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An Enchanting Victorian Fantasy

In a whirlwind of change, Victoria Haversham plans to leave London behind. Dreaming of a life with her newfound family in paradise. Determined to choose her own future.

A bit worse for wear but healing, Rob McDuff prepares for upheaval of his own. Besides departing Britain for the first time, he faces a reunion he long believed impossible.

But a dangerous enemy they both thought defeated secretly begins his own recovery.

Gathering allies and information that threaten to derail Victoria and Rob's adventures before they begin.

Will Victoria and Rob recognize the danger before they're trapped forever?

The Odd Society: Book Two

An excerpt from Protected by Means of Magic:

Return of a Menace

Sister Amelia was nearly her composed self, though she looked far from happy.

"Father Hall sent me with a most urgent message. For you too, Miss Jean, and I would think Miss Victoria would want to know as well. It seems someone has been asking after you at your boarding house, Mr. McDuff."

Everything in McDuff's body seemed to stop at once, and a clammy chill overtook him. Jean spoke before he could manage to draw his next breath.

"How did he hear of this? Did he say who, or what the person looked like?""Father Hall was strangely shy about that," Sister Amelia said. "He said he'd much prefer to explain it himself, but if you asked I should go ahead. He left word there with a Mrs. Richards?"

McDuff nodded, and his neck creaked with tension.

"She was my landlady there, yes. Father Hall didn't mention leaving word of any kind except that I wouldn't be returning."

"That's what he said, exactly so. And that he should have told you both, but he'd hoped and prayed it would come to nothing. But he did leave word in case anyone ever came round. That happened yesterday evening."

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Chapter 1
Chapter 1 Victoria Jade Haversham worked in her secret room on the third floor of her father’s house in London, wondering if this was the last time she’d ever wield magic there. She hadn’t yet begun the intimidating task of packing up all the tools and objects jammed onto shelves that lined the walls and every spare inch of the hidden space. A small window behind her let in enough gray November light to see how very much work that would be. Row upon row of tiny clockwork toys that had proven so useful to her in the recent past. Delicate white swans that circled a miniature mirrored lake, complete with lily pads and toads. Elaborate clocks no longer than her thumb that displayed all manner of dancing and twirling creatures the size of her smallest fingernail. Small people a couple of inches tall capable of acting out any imaginable human activity, and capable of far more than their designers imagined under her hand. A matched set of blue-clad, club-wielding policemen and the furious criminals they pursued gave her a chill she hadn’t expected when she purchased them from a London factory. Victoria wasn’t sure she’d ever use those, but she hated to throw them out. Interspersed with the toys were supplies in boxes or jars or bags. Gems and rocks, flowers and plants from her own greenhouse, water and sand and various natural substances. Much of it Victoria had gathered herself over the last several years, like the set of tiny and precise jewelers tools laid out on her rough wooden worktable, or the magnifying glasses close by. Some were brought in after she helped carve the secret room out of her beloved nanny’s bedroom. Not long after the Havershams relocated from the Caribbean back to dreary, wet England when she was only thirteen years old. Neither Victoria, her nanny Jaji, or Victoria’s mother had been pleased with the change of climate after their paradise on the island of Enceleas. Now at twenty-two, the plans for independence she’d put into motion years before had accelerated considerably, and in unpredictable ways. Most clearly in the fact that another person occupied her workroom at the moment. The first time anyone else had even cast a glance toward the rolling bookshelf full of hollowed out books in the sleeping area since it was built. Powerful spells left anyone else who passed along the third floor hallway profoundly uninterested in the room, and most never noticed it at all. The Frenchwoman seated across from Victoria contrasted with her in almost every way. Jean Marchér was tall and slender, rather than small and possessed of a most feminine figure. Jean kept her curly black hair cropped short like a man, a style Victoria often envied with her thick brunette waves falling past her waist. Victoria thought she had the better of it with early winter keeping the room well-chilled around them. Her hair kept her warm nearly as much as the multiple layers of stockings she’d pulled on that morning. Victoria wore her favorite sturdy brown woolen work dress over those stockings, with several pockets and narrow sleeves to keep her hands free. Jean had made a rare public outing in her preferred black trousers and man’s shirt and jacket, this shirt as emerald green as her eyes. Victoria was most impressed with Jean’s technique of wearing a light, near-ankle-length coat that flared enough to pass as a gown under her unremarkable man’s greatcoat. Once the two of them ascended the stairs and secluded themselves, Victoria giggled in delight as Jean discarded the coat with a flourish and a smile. The vital way they were well-matched rather than different was their shared fierce curiosity and determination to control their own lives and fates. And in a love of—and carefully developed skill for—all manner of magic. Alongside the silvery tools on the table in front of them, a colorful assortment of vials and droppers and jars of every description awaited filling. One mortar and pestle made of brass, another of smooth white stone. A stack of blank stationery and fountain pens, all designed and infused and ready to carry the will of the writers forward to wherever it was needed most. All vital parts of allowing six people to gracefully—and safely—depart London for new lives in a much kinder climate. “Is your workspace on Enceleas this…efficient?” Jean said, raising one eyebrow behind her round metal glasses. She was carefully making notes of everything Victoria described for the elixirs they were preparing that day. “You mean is it as small and cramped, Jean?” Victoria pronounced the name in the French manner: Zhon. The masculine French name Jean had preferred to her birth name of Jeanne for many years. Victoria still hoped to hear the story of how she’d come to that decision one day. She gazed around the space, memories of studying here with her beloved Jaji swirling warm and bittersweet through her mind. “That’s hard to say, since I was quite a bit smaller the last time I was in the workroom on Enceleas. It’s been converted to a storeroom now, but that’s easily enough fixed. And I didn’t work nearly as often with Jaji before we came back here. Her workroom sat not far from the kitchen, where she supposedly practiced nothing more than advanced herbal medicine. It was much more spacious, yes.” “The time-honored way so many women gained their power. By hiding in plain sight. And you don’t know how much the managers have kept up her plantings over the years?” “I’ve had to be careful how I ask that question and persuade them to answer without raising too much suspicion. It was starting to grow wild last time I was there. The good thing is many of the things I use here came from wild plants there. We may have to transplant, but everything should still be there. A lot of hard work ahead of us.” Jean stood and stretched with her arms over her head, then walked the few paces to the other end of the room. She stood in front of a big painting depicting the Haversham’s house on their plantation island of Enceleas. Victoria remembered several smaller dwellings nearby that the latest manager promised were still intact. But they didn’t have nearly the grace and beauty of the low white house with deep eaves, a wrap-around porch screened-in for sleeping on especially warm nights, and big windows designed to draw in every breeze that passed by. The riot of flowers and vines and trees surrounding the house would provide everything Victoria and her friends needed to establish themselves. “What is it you have hidden behind this lovely painting?” Jean said, hands on her slender hips. “I can feel I shouldn’t be interested in it, and I have the distinct impression I’ll forget all about it as soon as I turn away. Which makes me think it’s there for very good reason.” Victoria rolled her eyes and moved beside her, their shoulders nearly touching in the narrow space. Jean had traveled enough, and studied enough magical practices, that she had an annoying tendency to catch Victoria’s efforts to dissuade her. The ends of the shelves on either side of the painting held clear glass bowls with red and blue flowers floating in water. Water enchanted to produce the effect Jean described. “The whole room is normally protected the same way,” Victoria said. “Anyone I haven’t allowed to pass would walk by without ever seeing the outer door, much less the little bed or the bookshelf. I always light the fire myself. I daresay even my father has quite forgotten this room exists. Since you’re here, and since despite my best efforts you won’t likely forget, it’s a wall safe.” Jean nodded once, and as Victoria expected, she didn’t ask about the contents of the safe. “I hope you will teach me to make these potions, the ones that dissuade attention.” She nudged Victoria’s shoulder. “Do they work for unwanted suitors? Like the merchant who will so kindly provide our passage?” Victoria groaned, retrieved a corked jar full of burgundy dried flower petals from a knee-level shelf, and returned to her worktable. A prospective business partner for her father and herself, Mr. Winston was nowhere near as repulsive as the two wealthy fiancés her father had chosen for her over the past year. If nothing else, he was only about fifteen years older than her, rather than her father’s age or more. Sadly Mr. Winston had surprised her by suggesting they could create more than one sort of partnership. Victoria deeply hoped his interest could be turned aside more gently than the two men who’d seen her as nothing more than a pretty little brood mare. “They didn’t work on either of my fiancés,” she said. “Possibly because it never occurred to them to consider that I might have had worth besides my ability to make more heirs for them once their first wives died of it. Or any sort of ability to think for myself. I think Mr. Winston would make a wonderful match for you, though, with a fleet of ships constantly heading off round the world.” Jean blew out air through her pursed lips as she picked up crude earthenware jars full of soil and sand from Enceleas. “I daresay Mr. Winston is not at all my type. Perhaps someday I’ll be lucky enough to meet my match as you have.” Victoria smiled to herself, not minding the blush she felt climbing her throat. Her association with Rob McDuff—then an inspector for the Metropolitan Police—began with his investigation of her first fiancé’s scandalously inappropriate behavior with Cheryl Mallory. A young girl who had served as nanny to his youngest children. Behavior Victoria now regretted playing a part in, and hoped to make up for over time. Rob then startled her by becoming the first person to catch on to what she was doing. Victoria in turn deeply surprised herself by falling in love with him. “We do seem to be well-matched,” she said, bringing out a deep glass bowl and a set of plain measuring spoons from a shelf under her workbench. “It remains to be seen how well we do away from all of this, and after a long, possibly unpleasant sailing.” “Concern about the ocean sailing I understand. You and I are probably the best-equipped among our Odd Society to withstand our journey. Whatever do you mean, though, away? Away from what?” Victoria turned away, partly to retrieve a small metal bucket she kept tied outside the window to collect rain. Something she would never have gotten away with if the window were on the street-facing side of the house. Partly to try to collect her thoughts and translate them into sensible words. “I suppose I mean away from our ordinary lives, such as they are in London.” She filled the bowl halfway full and sat the bucket on the worktable for later potions. “I wasn’t born here and I’ve never felt like I belong. But I’ve grown used to it. Life in Park Lane, with all its nonsense and distraction. Rob isn’t from London either, but he’s been a policeman for fifteen years. And he didn’t plan to leave his work. At least not the way he did.” Jean turned away herself, gathering jars full of fragrant yellow and blue dried flowers and two different types of seeds. “He knew he’d have to leave his work to go to Enceleas with you,” she said. “He just left with a bit more drama, and several more bruises. You’re more worried about him feeling at odds there where you’ve felt so at home. Maybe a bit about whether you’ll still feel at home there, yes?” Victoria twisted the cork out of one of the jars, counting several wrinkled, brilliant purple seeds into the stone mortar and pestle. She shrugged as she took up the cool, wand-like pestle. Jean did the same with the metal set and the burgundy flower petals. “It’s not going to be the same,” Victoria said. “I was a girl who still very much needed her nanny, and who didn’t understand how different the world could be away from our perfect little island. I hated feeling so desperate and powerless when Father made us leave.” She pushed down on the seeds with a gentle twist, crushing and grinding them. A bright, fresh aroma of pine mixed with citrus rose up, contrasting with the spicy chocolate scent of the flower petals. “Now you will return as the powerful one,” Jean said, “because you worked hard to become so. I wonder if you’re concerned about being the one in charge?” Victoria raised one eyebrow at Jean. “A bit. But not nearly as much as I’m concerned about how Rob will react to my being in charge. Seeing me as the lady of the manor, perhaps.” Jean leaned closer to examine her mortar, then tipped the nearly powdered contents into the bowl. The chocolate smell intensified, and the water took on a noticeable brick red tint. “Are you afraid that will keep him distant from you?” Jean said. “Or perhaps that he will behave so badly you’ll handle the distance yourself?” Victoria laughed, but the undercurrent of worry grew stronger within her. She tilted her mortar, letting the finely-ground seeds collect in her hand before she sprinkled them over the water. The brick color disappeared when she stirred with a glass rod, and she felt the water thicken slightly. It would pour into the row of waiting vials like a clear, thin syrup. Sadly the chocolate aroma dissipated too, leaving the refreshing scent behind. “Possibly,” she said. “I think Rob would feel better if he weren’t…dependent on me may be the right way to say it. If he had his own work. His own responsibilities. Then we’ll have to face the uncomfortable fact that he’d be working for me, of course. I’m sure my parents would say this sort of trouble is one reason they chose the successful, much older men for me. The ones who expected me to be demure and work only at producing children.” “They would likely say this is why one should marry within one’s own class.” Jean rolled her eyes and shook her heard. “I, on the other hand, say where’s the adventure in that? They seem to have accepted Rob as a suitable match for you. Even with your assistance, I must give them credit for that.” “They deserve credit, if nothing else because they understand he’ll keep me safe once he’s able. You’ll be able to judge for yourself at their farewell dinner tonight, don’t forget. They’re both heartbroken Rob can’t attend.” “Familial dinners aren’t my favorite way to spend an evening, with my family or anyone else’s, but I’m curious about this one. Perhaps you should discuss your worries with Rob on the boat, once he’s capable of any sort of discussion. We’ll both likely have our hands full keeping up with all manner of seasickness. Our expectant mother perhaps most of all.” “That’s our next concoction,” Victoria said, smiling. “A strong anti-nausea charm. From what Jaji told me, she kept gallons on hand and travelers paid her whatever she asked for it. We’ll have plenty for Cheryl, though she swears her morning illnesses have passed.” Having the truly innocent victim of Victoria’s efforts to rid herself of her first fiancé agree to accompany them to the Caribbean helped lift Victoria’s guilt considerably. Knowing how relieved and even glad Cheryl’s parents were to see her go hardened Victoria’s feelings toward them every bit as much. “For now,” she said, “You have the words for this one?” Jean held up her notebook with a flourish. “But of course I do, my dear. With our combined efforts, we shall soon have enough calming potion to carry us through the entire voyage. Assuming all goes well.” “Let’s make that assumption, shall we?” Victoria and Jean each placed a hand on the bowl and began to whisper words of quiet power.

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