Home > High Jinx (Cursed Luck #2)

High Jinx (Cursed Luck #2)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

“Ooh, this doll definitely looks cursed,” Hope says from across the shop where she’s glued to my laptop, surfing eBay.

When I don’t respond, she turns the laptop around. “Don’t you think it looks cursed, Kennedy?”

“Bookmark it,” I say. “Right now, I’m a little busy with this mirror, which is definitely cursed.”

We’re in my antiques shop, which has been open for a month. It’s mid-June, and I’m madly preparing for full-blown tourist season in Unstable, the little town where Hope and I live with our older sister, Ani.

Turani, Kennedy and Hope Bennett. Yep, our parents named us after famous curses, fitting for a family of curse weavers. At least half the items in my shop are formerly hexed objects. That’s my specialty. In Boston, I’d hidden the “formerly cursed” part. In Unstable, it’s a selling point.

Right now, I’m trying to get this tabletop mirror uncursed before the shop opens. I’ve already had three people knock on the window. I’m considering investing in drapes. Luckily, in a town like Unstable, nothing intrigues people more than a shrouded store window.

Hope walks up behind me and reaches for the sheet covering the mirror. I catch her hand. “Uh-uh.”

“But I want to see.”

“No.”

“You looked. What did you see?”

I don’t answer. I try to focus on the mirror again, listening for the music of the curse.

“Kennedy?” she says. “What did you see?”

I glower at her.

She sets her hands on her hips. “I don’t see why you’re removing the curse. It’s a great tourist draw. A mirror that emphasizes your greatest flaw.”

“Yeah, and only someone who looks like you wants to see that, Hopeless.”

She rolls her eyes. “I already know what I’d see. My skin. I thought I’d stop getting zits when I turned twenty. No longer a teen, right?”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“Did for you. Oh, wait. You never got zits. Anyway, if I already know my biggest flaw, what’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that there’s a difference between knowing it and seeing it magnified a hundred times. Your skin is fine. The problem is in your head. So now you want to see what’s in your head actually showing on your face? No one needs that. It’s a nasty little hex, and I’m getting rid of it.”

She’s quiet for a moment as she leans against a butler’s desk.

“What did you see?” she asks, her voice softer now, concerned.

Nothing. That’s what I saw.

I imagine telling Hope that. She’d tease me about thinking I’m perfect if I didn’t see any exaggerated flaws. It’s not that. I literally saw nothing. I looked into this cursed mirror, and there was no me, and I’m not sure how to interpret that. I’d panicked, as if I were looking into a scrying ball for my future and seeing none. That isn’t it. That can’t be it. It’s just a hex.

It’s the sort of curse I specialize in—a joker’s jinx—though personally, I’d say this one edges closer to a misanthrope’s malice. I like my jinxes fun. Light-hearted pranks. This one bears the sharp teeth of cruelty, and I have no time for that bullshit.

I keep telling myself that’s why I don’t see my reflection—as a weaver who specializes in the jinx, I see through it. Like on April Fools’ Day, I saw through other kids’ pranks and exposed the cruel ones, and the bullies who liked their jokes nasty stopped trying to play them on me. Pouted and said I was no fun, no fun at all. Which always made my friends laugh. Kennedy Bennett, no fun? There’s a reason I specialize in jinxes. I was the class clown, the carefree girl who adored a good prank, even if it was played on her. I just don’t like cruel jokes, and so maybe this mirror is like those bullies, pouting and refusing to show me anything in its reflective surface.

A good theory. And I don’t believe it for a second.

“I saw your chin on my face.” I shudder as I rise from crouching before the mirror. “The stuff of nightmares.”

“We have the same chin, K.”

“Huh. Really?” I tap mine. “Looks better on me, though.”

She raises a middle finger.

I lift the shrouded mirror. “Open the storage room. This hex is going to take a while to uncurse, and you are not going to let me concentrate.”

She opens the door. “Because I want to see myself in it first.”

I set the mirror inside and shut the door. Then I take the key ring from my pocket and wave it before locking the door. “Good luck with that, kiddo.”

“Spoilsport.”

“I know. I am no fun. No fun at all.” I head for the sales counter. “Now, show me this doll.”

Hope specializes in cursed dolls the way I specialize in cursed antiques. Her actual weaver specialty is the lover’s lament, colloquially known as the ex-hex. As for the dolls, that would be my fault.

Hope is five years younger than me, and as a proper big sister—and a proper middle child—I’d done my best to terrify her. I’d tell her stories about cursed objects, especially dolls. Contrary child that she was, she loved it and now has a room filled with formerly cursed dolls. And I have four of them in my shop.

I’m still not quite sure how that happened. When I’d been low on stock, Hope insisted I take a few of her least favorite dolls on consignment. They’d sold within two days. I’m still half-convinced she hired the buyers. I mean, who the hell walks into an antique shop, sees a creepy old doll with glass eyes that follow you across the room, and says, “I want that in my house!” Apparently, a lot of people, at least the sort who visit Unstable.

So I now have four truly creepy dolls whose eyes follow me everywhere. And I have a summer employee, in my sister, who somehow went from “Can you sell these old dolls of mine on consignment?” to spending her days here, which wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t also expect a paycheck.

When I move to the laptop, I resist the urge to pick up my phone and casually glance at my messages.

Expecting a text, Kennedy?

No, not at all.

Wait, you weren’t checking to see whether Aiden read your last message, were you?

Ha-ha, no. That’s not me. I pop off dozens of texts a day, whether to my sisters or friends or clients, and I never check to see whether they’ve been read unless it’s life-or-death urgent. Yet my fingers itch to pick up my phone, and my pride slinks down into my sneakers.

I don’t want to be this person. Definitely don’t want to be this woman. Connolly and I aren’t dating. We’re friends. Have been for nearly a month. Would I like more? Yep, I won’t deny it. But I’m currently under an unbreakable curse, one that will visit doom and despair on any guy who falsely claims to love me.

That should be a good thing, right? Who doesn’t want a romance lie detector? The problem is that I’m not sure that’s how the curse works. It might also hurt a guy who thinks he’s interested and later realizes otherwise. Or who says he loves me and later realizes he doesn’t. That’s not curseworthy. It’s just part of picking your way through the minefield of romantic love, making mistakes and figuring it out as you go.

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