“A wonderful read!”—GoatsLive.com
THERE GOATS THE NEIGHBORHOOD!
Down-to-earth mage Will Schafer has her hands full moving into a new house while keeping her mischievous herd of magical goats in line. Meeting handsome gardener Rickert Nash takes the sting out of moving...until his shadowy past comes roaring back to bite him in the butt.
Now Will and the herd must step in to save their neighbor from getting mulched—but can a girl and her goats defeat a formidable hunter...or are they all about to buy the farm?
She’d picked the land for its weather—all four seasons, and plenty of falling leaves in autumn (the herd loved crispy leaves, snarfed them down like potato chips)—and the village for its lack of development, which meant plenty of browsing and wide-open blue skies.
She was enjoying just such a sky now on the front steps of her new brick home, which she had picked for the acreage. (She’d thought it a little strange the land was all straight out behind the house, like those small-until-you-realized-how-far-back-they-went shops she’d visited in Europe on vacation, but since it wouldn’t bother the herd any, she hadn’t spared another moment’s worry about it.)
The chipped mug of apple cider in her hand steamed, warming her round chin. It was hard to stop smiling. Today the boulders came in; with any luck, she could call the herd over before sundown.READ MORE
Her lips worked inward momentarily. “Luck” and “contractors” did not go together in the same sentence, let alone the same reality. And she hadn’t finished unpacking, so who knew where her luck talisman was hiding. Probably in one of those Trader Joe’s paper sacks she’d used to pack up her staff-care drawer. She’d thrown a lot of sundries from around the house in that paper bag.
Pride in one’s mage staff was emphasized at the University of Rivermoon (waxing), with staff inspections carried out by the TA’s every week, and special staff inspections carried out by the head mages of the department every month (and only once a month, if you’d chosen well; randomly two to three times a month if you’d chosen the wrong major), and a final staff inspection upon graduation by the dean.
But since she’d become a practicing capramancer, she’d found she only brought the staff out twice a year, max, at summer solstice and Easter. And even then, it was mostly for show. She’d attempted to use her mage’s staff—which, of course, had a crook on the end, like any self-respecting shepherd’s staff—to herd the goats only once, because something about the blue glassy stone from which it was made enticed Elvis (the herd’s voice) to try breaking it. Via ricocheting off it. Of course, that had been when she’d first taken in the herd; she and Elvis were cool now, so maybe it’d be different…but Wilhemendra didn’t want to risk it.
So for now her staff hung from a hook on the inside door of the wardrobe with the winter coats and boots. Her hand went to the wardrobe key around her neck, disguised as a dainty bronze choker. Still, she was a mage, and it was her staff, and it did merit some protection. So the wardrobe was kept locked year round.
Will heard the rumble of plastic wheels on pavement. She looked next door to see a man walking his garbage out to the curb. He wore a rugged hat with quite a brim (it reminded her, somehow, of Australia), a long-sleeved shirt in a color she believed they were now calling “greige”, and pants a shade darker. Coyote brown boots completed the ensemble, or so Will thought, until the man turned around to return up the driveway. Then she saw the sturdy yellow gloves tucked into the waistband of his pants. Gardening gloves.
“Morning!” she called, waving her free hand in a wide arc. They may have been next door neighbors, but unlike the tract housing she’d grown up in, their houses weren’t jammed up next to each other like sardines.
The man blinked at her as if he couldn’t quite believe she were there. Then he smiled and walked towards the brown picket fence that delineated his front yard from hers.
Will grabbed the neck of her fuzzy purple bathrobe (she had full-length flannel PJ's on underneath, and the cuffs of her pants were clearly visible beneath the hem of her long robe, but figured it best to keep a tight rein on the girls, lest her new neighbor get the wrong impression) and crossed the damp grass to meet him.
“Hi, I’m Will,” she said, sticking out her hand to shake. “Your new neighbor.”
“Rickert Nash.” He took her hand with one that was rough and dry. Will’s smile widened. His voice was as rough as his hand—but it was coated in one of those buttery English accents that had always made her “wibbley in the knees” as one of her college roommates used to tease. He also wasn’t bad looking, with a few uneven teeth that gave him a cowboy character she liked. Sure, he looked a little older than her…but what was age to a wizard?
Rickert, her neighbor, looked down. “If I’d known you were in your slippers, I would’ve come over there.”
Will shrugged. “They’ll wash. I’ve got a dozen of ‘em.”
Their hands were still clasped. Reluctantly, Will let go, and the man—her neighbor, oh boy—let her hand slip out.COLLAPSE