Cooking with Ergot [MultiFormat]
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eBook by L. M. Prieto
eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
eBook Description: When kitchen witch Dominic Abernathy learned that a hunter would be on his cooking show, he decided to take a page out of his enemy's cookbook and hunt him. His plan: learn more about Carter Brooks. The result: protecting Carter against the man who'd followed and killed in his stead. Filled with a dark humor only a witch could love, Carter was nothing like Dominic had imagined. He also didn't believe in magic. Dominic must now balance his growing feelings for Carter as well as protect him from the hunter who'd like Carter to join him.
eBook Publisher: MLR Press, LLC/MLR Press, LLC
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2012
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2 Reader Ratings:
To Darian, Loki, and Hobbes. The three greatest cats in the world.
Haunted Gingerbread House
2 sticks butter, room temp. 11/2 tsp baking soda
1 C molasses 1 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp cloves 1 tsp kosher salt
6 C flour 2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground ginger * 2 tsp candied ginger *
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Fight the temptation to just throw all of the ingredients together and stir. Think of this as a spell you're casting. You do not toss the eye of newt into the cauldron without first putting in the bog water.
I'm kidding about the newt and the cauldron.
Mix the butter, baking soda, brown sugar, cloves, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger together in a large bowl.
Add the molasses and eggs slowly.
Add the flour, one cup at a time.
Chill dough for at least three hours. Overnight would be awesome.
Roll out dough into 1/4-inch thickness. Carefully cut out pieces for the house.
You do a template, right?
Go to www.themidnightgourmet.com for a design.
Bake the pieces in a preheated oven at 350 for 20 minutes.
After the pieces have cooled, begin assembling the house.
Fend off Hansel and Gretel (aka the neighbor's kids). Once the polyurethane gets sprayed over the house, no one's touching this fairy tale.
* Yes, I said both the ground and candied ginger. It'll be yummy. Trust me.
* * * *
Dominic Abernathy kept a light current of magic flowing out of him. It moved into the black bowl beside him and stirred the gingerbread batter, keeping the same gentle pressure he was using on the Oreo cookies he crushed.
The black bits spilled free, crumbling across a waiting plate. His haunted gingerbread house was going to have beautiful and tasty soil. With luck, his producer would find someone to come in and destroy it.
The phone rang.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his familiar twitch awake at the end of the oak table.
Dominic released the Oreos. Chunks clung to his fingers. "Can you get that, Blaise?"
"Sure." Red-gold dust shimmered over a two-foot-long stuffed tiger lounging beside the phone. As it passed, the tiger's features became smoother. Alive.
By the third ring, Blaise's once stitched paws stretched into pseudo fingers. He picked up the phone.
"Abernathy Manor," Blaise said. His liquor-smooth voice was soft and held a trace of an English accent, a result of the many Hammer Horror films Dominic had seen as a child.
Blaise's lips curved up. "Hello, Mercedes."
"Has she found someone?" Dominic asked. The first man she'd found to play the gingerbread exorcist/witch hunter had cancelled earlier that afternoon after he learned his appendix needed to come out. Dominic had sent him some gingerbread men spelled with healing magic, but he needed someone to come in and chase his make-believe ghost away.
"Dominic is fine," Blaise said. He glanced at Dominic and twitched his tail, tapping the phone's cradle. It was a quiet admonishment, reminding Dominic that etiquette had to be followed. "He's crushing Oreo cookies for the house. How're you doing?"
"Your youngest won a spelling bee? Brilliance runs in your family, I see."
Dominic sighed. He'd wanted a proper familiar; he'd gotten a proper familiar.
He'd begun gathering the magic for Blaise when he was six. He'd loved the tales of ancient witches and their clever mystical companions.
It took him two years, and when he cast the spell, he concentrated on everything he thought a familiar should have. He wanted it to be as intelligent as Merlin. As courageous as the Scarlet Pimpernel. As cool-sounding as Peter Cushing.
And he wanted it all in the form of his most cherished companion: his stuffed tiger.
Really. What did people expect? He was eight.
Thankfully, Dominic never regretted the decision. Blaise could brush off the facade of stuffing and fur, and he could turn around and fake being inanimate. Hunters looking for a black cat or a raven would be disappointed.
Hunters looking for a ghost in a gingerbread house, though, now that was something entirely different.
Dominic released the Oreo chunks and sent a wisp of magic over his fingers.
The spell whispered over his skin, a light, cool sensation akin to his breath. Oreo bits fell away. A moment later, his hands were clean and, he suspected, smelling of chocolate.
Dominic glanced at the bowl he'd spelled to mix, made sure the wooden spoon was moving at a gentle beat, and then walked around the table.
He'd chosen this two-bedroom, two-bath cottage because of the kitchen; outside of his parents' house, it was the only place he'd seen that had a large brick hearth. String a few ropes of garlic around the high exposed-beam ceiling, set candles into various nooks and crannies, put a cauldron in the hearth, and abracadabra -- a witch lived there.
A witch and his very proper, very friendly familiar.
"No, you should go on the trip," Blaise said. "You and your sister rarely have time to get away and -- Dominic is on his way. It was lovely talking to you."
"Now that you're done being charming, could I trouble you to make the buttercream frosting for the roof?" Dominic asked.
"I'm never done being charming." Blaise offered him the phone and then scampered across the table, coming to sit beside a large bowl. "Would you like me to add a couple drops of black food coloring?"
"Yes. Thank you." Into the phone, Dominic said, "Hello, Mercedes."
His producer chuckled. "Someday, you have to introduce me to the man who plays Blaise."
Someday, she would have to accept that the host of the Midnight Gourmet was the witch he professed to be and that Blaise was in fact a stuffed tiger.
"Have you found someone to play the exorcist/witch hunter?" Dominic asked.
Dominic smiled. Blessed be. He'd begun to worry he'd have to ask his older brother to come in and help. Justin could act, but the man burned macaroni and cheese.
"Carter Brooks will be coming in to play our witch-hating exorcist," Mercedes said.
Dominic's smile died. "Carter Brooks?"
Blaise paused in the middle of stirring. His tail twitched, sending bits of gingerbread castoffs darting to the floor.
"He's seen a few of the episodes," Mercedes said. "We think that, with your divergent styles, you two will really play off one another."
Dominic frowned. On one hand, she was right. Brooks's last release, Cooking with Ergot: The Salem Witch Trials Cookbook, was brilliant. The book combined history and food. It was interesting, filled with mock recipes sure to start up a witch hunt. His being a guest on a show about a food witch would be ironic.
The problem was, when Brooks was in any town promoting his books, witches disappeared.
"Can we get someone else?" Dominic asked.
"Can we get someone else? I could talk to my brother."
"Justin is nice, but he burned my hot dog at that barbecue last month. Besides, Carter's already agreed."
Dominic frowned. He wanted to snap or grumble, but he knew a tirade would just make him look insane.
He scowled at the phone's cradle, the table, the stirring spoon, and finally a small metal grater and a block of milk chocolate.
Oh, shit. He would need that soon.
Dominic cast a light thread of magic out, enchanting the grater and chocolate. They rose, circled one another in a slow dance, and then the shredder leaned close and began attacking the chocolate.
"We can begin filming his scenes on Monday," Mercedes said.
Two days to live. Great.
Dominic couldn't imagine how much filming they'd be doing, though, with Brooks trying to set him on fire or drown him or do any of the other methods he'd recommended in Cooking with Ergot.
"The man's a witch hunter."
"He's no more a hunter than you are a witch."
The spells connected to him followed. The wooden spoon stood over the batter. The grater hovered over the chocolate, catching the afternoon light and glinting silver.
"Now I'm worried about you," Mercedes said.
"Don't be." Dominic lowered his hand. The spoon and grater followed his movement, each lying down on a folded napkin beside their bowls. "I've never hurt anyone."
"Neither has he."
"People tend to disappear when Brooks comes to town."
"Dominic. People disappear, period. They get fed up with their lives and want to start over. Or they're hiding from an abusive lover. Or, yes, someone kidnapped or killed them. It happens in places Carter's been, and it happens in places he's nowhere near."
"In his last book, he offered ergot recipes so other hunters could make them, so if they're caught killing people, they have a ready excuse for their madness."
When Dominic first read those words, he'd been stunned. It was a joke. It had to be. Even Montgomery, his former mentor, agreed. The book was humor at its blackest. It described the burning times as the process people went through when they were first learning how to cook. Brooks made light of unpleasant things, but he meant no ill.
Two years before, Montgomery had been so certain of that. So certain. He'd taken a couple of copies of Cooking with Ergot to a signing to get Carter's autograph.
He hadn't been seen since.
"What if I could get someone else to take his role?" Dominic asked.
"Not Justin." Maybe his cousin. He couldn't cook either, but --
"One," Mercedes said, "I worked really hard to get him."
Not as hard as Dominic was working to get rid of him.
"Two, I don't think you could get someone who's written a book on such short notice."
Dominic frowned. Even with witchcraft, he'd probably need a couple of days to do that.
"Three, he's already in town promoting his latest book, Spice Wars."
"He's here?" Dominic hurried over to the window.
The window revealed ten feet of side yard. Late-afternoon sunlight bled through the canopies of several oaks, a couple of pines, and crawling ivy. Someone could hide out there. If they weren't afraid of spiders, mosquitoes, or the occasional skunk.
Dominic frowned. Located twenty minutes from San Jose, Los Gatos was a great mix of small-town solitude and big-city life. At this moment, the privacy seemed double-edged. The police would respond to calls quickly. Considering how wonderfully the road twisted on its way to his driveway, they might also get lost.
A warm weight leapt onto his right shoulder. A moment later, Blaise leaned forward, studying the outside.
"Dominic, I promise you're going to love him," Mercedes said.
"And if I don't?"
Mercedes released a long breath. "Then if you don't, just follow the script and pretend he's trying to kill you."
Dominic didn't think he'd have to act that hard.
He kept the unpleasant thought quiet. Mercedes had always been a fantastic part of the show. She loved his recipes, his humor, his tiger. When their original exorcist/hunter cancelled that afternoon, she'd immediately begun looking for a replacement.
And if the guy she'd found wasn't rumored to kill witches, Dominic would have made her the red velvet cupcakes she loved and overnighted them to her.
"It's going to be fine," Mercedes said. "I'll give you a call after filming ends on Monday. You'll see. We'll be chuckling about this in a couple days."
Blaise's tail tapped the back of Dominic's head. The touch was soft, a quiet reminder about etiquette.
"Okay. Talk to you then." Dominic clicked the phone off. "Shit."
"I don't see anyone out there," Blaise said. "He might not have found us yet."
"He doesn't have to find us. Mercedes probably gave him the address." He couldn't do his filming in a studio, could he? Oh, no. None of that artificial background for a witch. He'd argued that the kitchen was the soul of the house. His soul would soon have a deadly guest star.
"You're very public," Blaise said. "If you disappear, people will wonder."
"Montgomery was very public."
Dominic stepped away from the window. Sometimes he could go days without thinking about his former mentor. Other times, the wound felt fresh. A few years ago, Montgomery had been a children's show host. Surrounded by sentient dolls and stuffed animals, he told stories and showed cartoons. Montgomery's Neighborhood.
The neighborhood had been quiet for a while now.
"Do you think it's a trap?" Blaise asked.
"Maybe." Dominic had always figured people would think he was kidding about being a witch. Then again, people thought Brooks was kidding about being a hunter.
Blaise's weight shifted on Dominic's shoulder, and then he leapt off. Dominic turned and watched him make his way to the counter, use the cabinet handles to climb up, and then slump beside the knife block.
"Shall we arrange an accident?" Blaise asked.
Dominic was tempted. If the ceiling caved in on Brooks, the supernatural world would certainly be a better place.
Witches did not use their powers to hurt people, though. It was at the core of everything they believed in: harm none. If Brooks attacked him, Dominic was free to fight back, but until then...
"No," Dominic said. It was the responsible answer, but he hated it. If Brooks was after him, he wouldn't wait for Dominic to be aware of him. He'd attack when Dominic's back was turned. Dominic usually was fine with witch codes of conduct, but today the harm none edict seemed to have been written on a bull's eye and taped to his back.
Except...while the edict did not allow for him to kill Brooks, he could defend himself. And if he needed more information, or to find Brooks first so he could see what the man looked like, then it was okay.
Dominic grabbed the box of Saran Wrap and began covering the gingerbread batter. "I'm going out for a bit."
"I'll go with you."
Dominic shook his head. While he wanted his familiar watching his back, right now they couldn't afford to be together. "I need you to guard the house while I'm out."
Blaise's tail flicked. Its movement was sharp, catching the edge of the knife block and turning it a little.
"Where are you going?" Blaise asked.
To Dominic, the question was a quiet concession. Blaise did not like his plan, but he was agreeing.
He wished his answer could comfort his familiar. Dominic was afraid it wouldn't.
"I'm hunting the hunter," Dominic said.