Title: Wrought Iron Roses
Author: Elizabeth Kirke
Genre: NA Paranormal Romance
Editor: Squid and Ink
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Siren Press
Publication Date: March 21, 2019
Sisters Rachel, Angie, and Jo may have survived their first encounter with a curse, but hundreds more are lurking within their aunt’s antique shop. There’s just one problem: Peter, the apprentice, has no idea how to start teaching two untrained rune-casters and keep them safe at the same time.
It isn’t fair to Jo that she has no magic, but her sisters both do. She feels useless and left out. Worse yet, she knows that she’s a liability. She would leave but something in the shop is calling to her, reaching out … and she won’t leave until she finds it.
Every night, Angie’s dreams are haunted by a man who claims he was cursed, and she’s the only one who can save him. When she starts to get sick, Peter and her sisters are sure the cause is her mysterious dreams. How can they convince her that the person she’s determined to help could be the one killing her?
Rachel never expected to get a magic power and a boyfriend when she inherited the antique shop. Better yet, she’s actually good at curse-breaking. It seems as though she’s found exactly what she was meant to do. But, when a curse strikes two people she cares about, Rachel is faced with the harsh truth that she might only be able to save one.
Elizabeth Kirke wanted to be an author before she even knew what an author was. She used to say that she wanted to be an artist, but that was only because she was too young to write and had to tell stories with pictures instead. She hasn’t stopped writing since she learned how. It wasn’t long before she dreamed of becoming an author and couldn’t be happier now that that dream is a reality.
If she isn’t writing…well, let’s be honest; if she isn’t writing she’s probably on Facebook thinking that she should start writing. But, if she isn’t writing or on Facebook, she’s probably doing something involving books, baking, gardening, or yarn. In an ideal world, she’d be reading and knitting while something from the garden is in the oven. Then again, in an ideal world, she’d have a flock of ducks and a couple of goats.
Like most slightly-nosy, avid readers, Elizabeth can’t resist trying to catch a peek at books she sees people reading when out in public to see if she can figure out what it is. While doing just that one day, she realized that it would probably be the coolest-thing-ever if she caught a complete stranger reading one of her books. That’s her new dream.
The dim, dirty, scattered light bulbs hanging from the ceiling did almost nothing to help illuminate the back rooms of the antique shop. Angie wondered if anyone had ever bothered to try dusting them. Probably not, considering everything was covered in several inches of dust. Then again, the light bulbs probably weren’t cursed, whereas dusting anything else could be dangerous.
Angie made her way to, in her opinion, the creepiest room of the shop. Of course, every room was creepy. Each one was a huge, cavernous space, filled to capacity with piles and piles of antiques. None of the lights reached into the dark corners, which only added to the unnerving factor. The air itself felt stale to Angie, heavy somehow. Oppressive. She wondered if it was the dark magic.
But this room, which Peter jokingly called The Louvre, made Angie uncomfortable even before she’d known everything in it was cursed. Every inch of considerable wall space was covered with paintings, masks, and sconces. The floor was equally packed full of statues and sculptures. Angie could see outdoor furniture and birdbaths too, like some freaky garden supply store. The first time she entered the room it felt like the statues were staring at her. Now she wasn’t entirely sure some of them weren’t.
“Be careful,” Peter warned, as he and Rachel continued through the room. Rachel had volunteered to help him look for something about dreams, even though she wouldn’t have much luck reading the actual tomes.
“We will,” Angie promised. Jo nodded in agreement.
Angie turned her attention to one wall of paintings. She traced the rune ail three times and looked around. Everything had a muted aura with a distinctly pink tinge. It was nothing like the vivid red light of an active curse, but there was no mistaking the malicious magic clinging to everything. Angie suppressed a shiver and began scanning the paintings, hoping to spot one that looked different.
“What are you looking for exactly?” Jo asked.
“I’m not sure,” Angie admitted. “I was hoping ail would show me something, but nothing stands out. I thought maybe the curse affecting Ethan wouldn’t be sealed like the rest of these.”
“Can you tell the difference?”
“I think so. The trunk was bright red when it was cursing Rachel. Everything in here looks pink.”
“I wish I could see it,” Jo said sadly.
Angie knew there was nothing she could say to make her sister feel better. She doubted that pointing out Peter and Rachel didn’t have the same power would help. And even with the danger of being a rune-caster she knew Jo would rather have magic than not.
Instead, she flashed Jo a weak smile and moved closer to the paintings.
Jo followed. “Can I help anyway? Somehow?”
“Actually, yeah,” Angie said. Jo’s eyes lit up eagerly. “Since I don’t see anything different in the magic, I was thinking maybe we could tell which painting it is based on what it looks like.”
Jo caught on immediately. “You mean you think the painting might be of Ethan?”
With a nod, Jo started wandering toward another wall of paintings. “So, we’re looking for portraits, then?”
Angie nodded back and headed to a corner. Slowly, she made her way along the wall, studying each portrait, waiting for the moment she felt a sense of recognition.
“Hey, what about this one?” Jo called.
“What does he look like?” Even as she asked, Angie realized she couldn’t quite recall him. Her gut told her blond.
“It’s hard to say. It’s a big farmhouse, but there’s a guy standing in the doorway.”
Angie wrinkled her nose. “That’s not a portrait.”
“I know! I was thinking of that book we read when we were little. Remember? There was a girl who went missing and her parents found her in a painting and she kept moving around it?”
The plot sounded familiar. “That’s right… damn that means he could be in any of these that have people.” Angie went back to the corner and started over again, squinting at each tiny figure. And then, up high, she spotted one that caught her eye. She had dismissed it before for not being a portrait. It was a man sitting in a chair in a room. But something about him seemed strange. Almost like he was trapped there. She stretched up on her tiptoes trying to get a good look.
“Yeah?” she said.
“What if these are all people?”
Angie frowned in the direction of her sister’s voice. “They’re not all people!” She looked back at the wall and pointed, even though Jo couldn’t see. “This one is a basket of fruit.”
“No, I mean these are all cursed, right? What if there’s a person trapped like Ethan in every one.”
The thought made Angie step back from the wall in alarm. Her eyes roved over every painting, taking it in. What if Jo was right? “That’s… horrible. There must be a hundred.”
“I’ve seen more in other rooms.”
Angie sighed. This was going to be a nightmare. And if people were somehow trapped in them all… “We’ll have to ask Peter. Maybe we need to start breaking the curses on these as soon as possible.”
Angie backed up a few more steps, craning her neck at the highest paintings. Why even hang them so high? It’s not as if they were on display for anything or anyone. It would have been easier to just stack them all together somewhere. She bumped into something and jumped. After turning to see what it was, she nearly jumped again. It was one of the statues.
She started to turn away, but paused and studied the statue. It was a young, handsome man. He had a sad expression and Angie decided it was exactly what she was looking for in a painting. The statue no longer had arms, and Angie wondered how old it was and what it had looked like in its prime. Something drew her eyes to its face again and she frowned. She reminded herself it was cursed, and forced herself to turn away.
Right next to it was a chair. In fact, it was a sturdy, metal garden chair and Angie was confident it would hold her weight. Giving the statue a wide berth, she made her way over to the chair, dragged it to the wall and climbed up, face to face with the painting of the man in the room.
Up close, it was clear he was in distress. His face and his posture screamed for help. And yet, Angie could just feel that he didn’t look like Ethan.
She climbed down with a sigh and moved on to examine more paintings. Eventually she made her way to the far corner, so dark that Jo was shining her phone flashlight up at the paintings.
“Nothing. Not that I know what he looks like. You?”
Angie shook her head. “I found one that looked weird, but up close I don’t think it was him.”
“There’s a stack over there,” Jo pointed. “But I wasn’t sure if we can touch them.”
“As long as we’re careful not to cut ourselves, Peter said we’re okay,” Angie said. “But if you feel funny or anything, let me know and we’ll set aside the last one you touched.”
Jo nodded. “Same to you.”
They turned their attention to the stack of paintings leaning up against the wall. After only a few, Angie heaved a sigh.
“You okay?” Jo asked.
Her sister nodded, but blew out another heavy breath. “I’m starting to feel a little light-headed.”
Jo immediately cast a worried glance at the paintings. “Light-headed or… cursed?”
“I’m… not sure.”
“Let’s go get Peter.”
Angie nodded in agreement. The two carefully separated the last painting they examined from the pile and headed out of the room. An uneasy feeling crept over Angie as she followed her sister out. She paused in the doorway and looked back, reluctant to leave.