Home > The Professor Woos The Witch (Nocturne Falls #4)

The Professor Woos The Witch (Nocturne Falls #4)
Author: Kristen Painter

Cole Van Zant’s running shoes pounded the well-maintained sidewalks of his Nocturne Falls neighborhood. Restoring the house he’d just inherited usually gave him plenty of exercise, but tonight, after the blowout with Kaley, he’d needed to run. And think. Things had changed so much so fast.

This was the first September in many years that he wasn’t standing in front of a classroom full of freshmen explaining the intricacies of higher math. Teaching math in some form had been Cole’s life until he’d taken a sabbatical from East State University, but if he was going to restore this house to its maximum resale potential, taking a year off was the only way to do it.

And really, the sale of the house would yield more money than he could ever hope to make teaching for the next few years.

The money that had come with the inheritance of the house was making everything possible, including the temporary move to Nocturne Falls. He’d known he had family in Georgia, but until he’d gotten the news that Ulysses Pilcher, his great-uncle on his mother’s side, had passed and left Cole everything (everything meaning a three-story Victorian-style mansion and a nice chunk of change) Cole hadn’t known this crazy town existed.

The downside was that the chunk of change from the inheritance was probably going to get eaten up making the house saleable.

The upside was that selling the house should net him a decent-size nest egg that’d grow into a huge nest egg for Kaley’s college fund and his retirement years. And seeing as how working construction had been his summer job for more years than he’d been teaching, he could do most of the repairs and restoration himself.

He took the next left, intent on making a wide square around the neighborhood.

Kaley hadn’t wanted to leave North Carolina to come to Georgia, and frankly, Cole hadn’t wanted to bring her with him. He’d already talked to his dad about Kaley staying with him until Cole finished the house, but then she’d Googled the town of Nocturne Falls. After that, her attitude had done a one-eighty, and she’d pitched a bloody fit until he’d agreed to let her come.

He understood that a town where Halloween was celebrated every day must seem like a fun way to live to a kid of thirteen.

He’d explained that moving meant leaving her friends and going to a new school for a year, but she hadn’t cared. Instead, she’d clung to the fact that it was the perfect town for a witch-in-training like herself.

Which was what had started the current and ongoing round of arguments. Cole had stopped trying to explain to his daughter that there were no such things as witches. Sure, there were Wiccans, but not the kinds of witches she was talking about, the kind she saw in movies and on TV, the ones who waved their hands and wiggled their noses and made magic happen. Those did not exist.

Kaley insisted. Cole rebutted her. And so on and so on.

He blamed Lila for that particular issue.

Lila. Just thinking her name made his vision go red around the edges. She was reason enough for a man to never want to be involved with a woman again. Cole concentrated on breathing out when his left foot struck the ground, a technique he’d read about that was supposed to prevent cramping up, and tried to keep his stride easy despite the charge of anger in his system.

Lila hadn’t been in Kaley’s life in a meaningful way for a long time. A once-a-month phone call and the rare, maybe yearly visit didn’t constitute active parenting. But then, Lila wasn’t legally Kaley’s parent anymore. Lila and Cole had been divorced since Kaley was nine, which was when he’d gotten full custody too.

For Lila to just out of the blue drop the kid a letter when she turned thirteen and announce, You’re a witch now!—that was so…Lila.

Sweat trickled down his back. It was one thing for Lila to live under the crazy delusion that she was a master of all things hocus-pocus (which she wasn’t), but to make Kaley think it was somehow her birthright? To tell the kid she’d so casually left behind that any day now Kaley should be coming into her powers was just cruel. Especially when she hadn’t bothered to be in Kaley’s life with any kind of consistency for the last six years.

Cole swore between measured breaths. Maybe his ex-wife was a witch. Once upon a time, she’d certainly charmed him into thinking she was sweet and wonderful. That hadn’t lasted long, though. He’d stayed for Kaley.

The same moody, eye-rolling teen who was currently not speaking to him.

He turned the corner and headed home, slowing down to cool off. The house loomed ahead as twilight fell. Even in this light, the paint looked sad through the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the once impressive property. One more thing to add to his list of jobs.

He jogged through the open gate, past the dumpster in the driveway, already half-full with junk from the house, up the steps of the front porch and stopped for a stretch. He’d check in with Kaley, take a hot shower, heat up some leftovers for dinner and then hit the sack. Tomorrow he hoped to tackle the final cleanout of the first floor. Then maybe he could get started on demolishing the kitchen. It would mean they’d have to rely on takeout for a bit, but Kaley had yet to complain about pizza.

Actually, until Lila’s letter, Kaley had never been much of a complainer. Of course, she was just now hitting the dreaded teen years, so maybe that was all about to change. He sighed and went inside. “Kaley? Sweetheart? I’m back.”

No response. Not that he really expected one. She was probably in her room, earbuds firmly tucked in, tablet on her lap and open to yet another online witch wannabe forum. He sprinted up the steps and knocked at her door. It swung open.

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