A Wicked Affair
A Paranormal Romance Boxed Set of Short Stories Featuring Witches, Vampires, Shifters, Ghosts, and More…
A set of short story paranormal romances centered on All Hallow’s Eve. Be thrilled and chilled by these tales set in Salem—the ultimate city for witchy and shape-shifting fun. Each story features sexy heroes and spellbinding characters. Salem has never been so hot!
All stories are complete in themselves with a beginning, a middle and end…no cliffhangers! These short stories are an introduction to the longer books in the companion box set, A Wicked Halloween.
A Wicked Affair: A Paranormal Romance Boxed Set of Short Stories Featuring Witches, Vampires, Shifters, Ghosts, and More…
First Edition September 2016
Published by Naughty Nights Press, LLC
Copyright © Naughty Nights Press 2016:
Gwen Knight – Debbie Herbert – Erzabet Bishop – C.E. Black – Angelica Dawson – Kiki Howell – Gina Kincade – Phoenix Johnson – Elizabeth A Reeves – Hope Welsh
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Table of Contents
A WICKED AFFAIR
MASKED AND BEAUTIFUL BY GWEN KNIGHT
LOVE IN THE STACKS BY DEBBIE HERBERT
MAP OF BONES BY ERZABET BISHOP
A WITCH’S DESIRE BY C.E. BLACK
INTO THE ETHER BY ANGELICA DAWSON
CAUGHT UNDER THE OCTOBER MOON BY KIKI HOWELL & GINA KINCADE
SO IT BEGINS (SO MOTE IT BE: A PREQUEL) BY PHOENIX JOHNSON
SWEET FOR SALEM BY ELIZABETH A REEVES
SWEET FOR SALEM BY ELIZABETH A. REEVES
PANDEMONIUM’S KEEPER BY HOPE WELSH
Note To Our Readers
Two words that can send tingles down your spine. Throw in a full moon, an assortment of witches and supernatural beings, and then be prepared to sit back and lose yourself in these spectacular short paranormal tales. Each short story is original and all are a prelude to the full-length books in the second part of the series, A Wicked Halloween. Don’t forget to grab your copy on October 4th!
We had so much fun writing these stories and hope you enjoy each and every one of them.
All The Best,
The Authors of A Wicked Affair Boxed Set
A Wicked Affair
A Paranormal Romance Boxed Set of Short Stories Featuring Witches, Vampires, Shifters, Ghosts, and More…
Gwen Knight – Debbie Herbert – Erzabet Bishop – C.E. Black – Angelica Dawson – Kiki Howell – Gina Kincade – Phoenix Johnson – Elizabeth A Reeves – Hope Welsh
Naughty Nights Press ● Canada
Masked and Beautiful
by Gwen Knight
A STORM LOOMED on the horizon.
Lexi Henderson eyed the bruised clouds that rolled across the dusky sky. This year’s fall had been particularly nippy…not to mention grisly. With the recent string of murders and the wretched weather, it truly felt like Halloween.
“Is she here?”
Lexi watched as Riley, dazzling in her slinky, cream-colored, floor-length dress with its illusion bodice, stepped up onto the curve next to her. Only someone with her figure—tall and breathtakingly thin—could have pulled that look off.
“She’s here,” Lexi responded.
A thread of anxiety tugged at her core. Wincing, Lexi ran her hands over her bare arms. It wasn’t her feeling anxious, but rather Riley. Unfortunately, as an empath, Lexi felt everyone’s emotions. One day, she knew it would drive her batty, as it had her great-grandmother. Somehow the talent had skipped her grandmother and mother. But genetics were a bitch that way. Skipped two generations only to slap her with the empathy stick. Thanks Gigi.
“It’ll be fine,” Lexi commented. “We’ll find Autumn, and you two can make things right.”
Riley blew out a heavy breath. “She’s just so frustrating.”
Sardonic laughter slipped past Lexi’s lips. For twenty-two years, their sisterly rivalry had been the bane of her existence. Tonight’s fiasco was all thanks to a wardrobe misfire.
As one of three local necromancers, and the only one willing to work with the police, Autumn’s timetable was often jam-packed with investigations and interrogations. The most recent of which had denied Autumn the opportunity to shop for her own gown for the annual Halloween Ball. So, she’d asked her sister to do it, and Riley had chosen a rather…unconventional dress. Not that Riley’s was any better. But Autumn was here on business, contracted out by the hosts of tonight’s event to work the party. And nothing about that dress said business.
An hour ago, the two sisters had shared in a particularly terse phone call that had resulted in the exchange of some angry words and hurt feelings. Autumn had apparently chosen to attend the ball alone rather than wait for Riley and Lexi as originally planned.
Personally, Lexi didn’t mind. On Autumn’s itinerary were séances and aura readings, which Lexi avoided like the plague. She’d enough issues with the living without tossing the dead in for good measure. This was supposed to be a fun night out for her—something she didn’t get to do often. Being dragged into the middle of the sisters’ next battle was hardly fun.
Glancing up at the clouds once again, Lexi gestured toward the entryway. “Shall we go in? I’d rather not be out here when it starts raining.”
Riley followed her gaze and nodded, her oxblood lips pursed in a severe frown. Thanks to the intricately painted butterfly mask hiding most of her face, it was all Lexi could see.
Gathering her own glittering skirt in hand, Lexi approached the door and slipped inside when a young gentleman held it open. Of course, it was the beautiful brunette next to her who held his attention, rather than the midget with the vibrant blue and purple hair. But hey, the midget could still accept the offer with grace and charm.
Lexi’s mouth curled into a pleased smile the moment she caught sight of the Hawthorne Hotel’s interior, decorated as it was in an array of colors and ornaments. Every year they outdid themselves, and this year’s Masquerade theme was no exception.
“You ready?” Lexi asked.
Turning, Lexi sighed when she caught sight of Riley standing off to the side of the room, flirting with some masked gentleman. Some things never changed. But, inside, Lexi knew the truth. Though Riley held every male’s gaze in the room, her heart belonged to one person. It was just ironic that the man she cared for hardly noticed her while every other Y chromosome did.
“Lexi!” a cheerful voice called from the ballroom doors.
Speaking of which…
With a smile, she drank in the sight of Dawson Hayes, Salem Police Department’s most dedicated lieutenant—and the man Riley was head over heels in love with. He strode toward her, tall and proud in his uniform. Quite a few officers would be on hand tonight, to ensure the festivities weren’t too rowdy. Seemed Dawson was one of the lucky few.
“Hey Dawson.” Lexi reached up and rearranged her mask. “How’d you know it was me?”
“Not many ladies I know would sport a multicolored Mohawk to a ball.”
She couldn’t help but laugh. She’d opted for a classic Venetian look, but had styled her hair with a feathered Mohawk that blended with the violet mask.
“Guess I don’t exactly blend in, hey?”
“You never do, but that’s what we love about you. You here with Riles?”
She bobbed her head, then jerked a thumb back over her shoulder. “She’s charming some poor schlep.”
Even if she weren’t empathic, Lexi would have known the moment he caught sight of Riley. The poor boy’s eyes shot wide and his heart sputtered in his chest. She felt her own respond in kind.
Touching a hand to her stomach, she studied him from beneath her thick fringe. Could it be? Had he finally been gobsmacked by Riley? It’d only taken their entire lives…
Dawson had been a part of the Kane sisters’ lives long before Lexi had joined the fray, which said a lot considering Lexi had met them when they were eight. But throughout their entire life, Riley had been nothing more than a little sister to him, even while she shamelessly flirted and fawned over him.
Tonight, however, something had shifted.
A strange sensation took wing in her chest, as though her heart had sprouted wings. Lexi choked down a stuttered breath. Every inch of her had come alive. Blood flooded her cheeks, her breath quickened. Hell, even her fingers tingled.
“Dawson?” she forced out.
“I gotta go.”
With visible effort, he wrenched his gaze away from Riley and stormed back into the ballroom, leaving Lexi to catch her breath. She was no stranger to the strong emotions lust evoked. But this went beyond that. Poor Dawson was downright terrified. She’d never seen him like that. And rather than do anything about it, it seemed he was bound bent and determined to ignore the attraction.
Shrugging off his emotions, Lexi straightened her mask and started for the ballroom herself. Tonight was supposed to be her night off. A difficult challenge when assailed by the emotions of other’s, but she was just as determined to relax and have a grand time.
Dawson’s and Riley’s problems could wait another day.
She eased into the ballroom and perused the festivities before venturing over to the hors d’oeurves and fancying herself a plate. The cheeseball made up to look like a jack-o’-lantern, in particular, caught her attention. Chuckling at the black, triangle nachos that made up the thing’s eyes, she snapped one in half and dug into the spread.
“Oh, the humanity!” a deep voice chimed next to her.
Lexi shied away, her hand cupped beneath her mouth to keep from spilling crumbs. Only when she’d finished chewing did she glance up and blink.
My, my. Hello tall, dark, and gorgeous.
Not that she could actually see his face, hidden as it was by a labyrinth of silver vines and swirls, culminating in two elegant griffons. Still, the espresso-colored eyes peering out from within the mask rendered her speechless, as did the full-bodied mouth that tipped up at the corners.
Clearing her throat, she brushed her hands off. “The humanity?”
“You just ate his eye,” he stated, a sparkle twinkling in the depths of his gaze. “Worse. You knowingly did it. I don’t think Jack of the Lantern, here, appreciated that.”
Lexi blinked, unsure what to make of the man. “And you are?”
“Call me Jack.”
“Like the cheeseball?” she asked, glancing back at the pumpkin shaped snack.
“Sure. Why not?”
“That’s not your real name.”
“Says who? Isn’t the point of the evening not to reveal yourself?” With a broad grin, he jutted his hand forward in introduction. “Jack of the Lantern at your service. And you would be?”
Lexi chuckled, then slid her palm over his. The moment their hands connected, the entire ballroom vanished. For a brief moment, there was nothing but him and her. Her heartbeat surged against her ribs, her pulse roared in her head. Lexi sucked in a sharp breath and swayed against him.
“Whoa there,” he murmured, his other hand bracing her elbow. “Are you all right?”
Cursing quietly, Lexi wrenched away from Jack and stumbled back into the table.
“Leave me alone,” she hissed, her gaze flicking around the room in search of Dawson.
This wasn’t happening. This wasn’t happening! Not tonight. Not ever.
She shook her head, then raked a hand through her hair. Air. She needed air. And space. And…just away from him.
“Did I do something wrong?”
Her attention darted back to him, and her discomfort waned at the look of utter devastation lining his face. He truly had no idea. Lucky bastard. But she did. Of course she did. Because her Gigi had cursed her with this ability to feel everything.
When she’d set out for a night of fun and relaxation, the very last thing she’d intended was to stumble across him.
Her Gigi had once told her that the moment she’d first touched her husband, she’d known. A sensation had swept through her, the sands in the hourglass froze, that sort of rubbish. But her Gigi had known right then and there that the man she’d touched was her true love.
Lexi had asked her once how she’d known. And Gigi had simply smiled, patted her hand, and said ‘You’ll see’. Shaking her head, Lexi reached out and gripped the table for support. Oh, she’d seen it all right. The moment Lexi had slipped her hand into Jack’s, she’d known. Exactly as Gigi had said.
He was the one.
“Miss?” He took a step toward her, his hand once again on her elbow.
Lexi sagged backward, her lashes fanning her cheek as she railed tooth and nail against the sensations pummelling her. What she’d felt from Dawson was nothing compared to this.
And she hated it.
Cupping the back of her neck, she took a second to gather her thoughts. “Sorry. A…uh…sudden headache.”
He studied her with an inquisitive stare, his concern for her almost overwhelming. “Do you need to sit down? I can get you some water.”
She shook her head. “No. I’m, uh, feeling a lot better now.”
Which was a downright lie. Where the hell was Riley when Lexi needed her?
“If you’re sure?”
“Thank goodness. Because I actually came over here to ask you to dance.”
Lexi’s wide gaze cut to the dance floor. Oh, hell no. Maybe others were interested in finding their one true love, but she wasn’t. Her Gigi and Papa might have made it work, but love was different these days. It was volatile and mind-numbing. Day in and day out, she was hounded by everyone’s emotions. Her heart had shattered alongside Autumn’s when she’d divorced her husband. Nothing was sacred, not to her. That was when she’d promised herself it would never be her. Even if she experienced the moment, as Gigi had called it, she wouldn’t succumb. She was an empath. Surely, she could control her own emotions.
“May I have the honor?” Jack extended a hand, once again.
Worse, every inch of her longed to take it. She curled her fingers into a tight fist to keep herself from doing just that.
“I—I’m sorry,” she stammered. “I can’t.”
“You can’t dance?”
She shook her head, her eyes slipping closed for a moment as she mustered up the courage to say what needed to be said. “I can’t dance with you. I’m sorry. I—I need to go.”
Without another word, she swept up her skirts and practically ran from the room.
Don’t look back. Don’t look back.
She repeated the dark mantra in her head all the way out. If she looked back, she’d cave.
Loving someone was dangerous. Just ask her friends. She had no problems helping them find their way and their true loves.
But she refused to become another statistic.
Gwen Knight is a Canadian girl currently living in Edmonton, AB with her husband, rough collie, and black cat. She graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a degree in Archaeology and Geography. Her interests consist of playing in the dirt, designing elaborate snow forts, boating, and archery.
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Love in the Stacks
by Debbie Herbert
“You’re lucky we aren’t expelling you from school,” Dean Rushmore thundered, his heavy, gray brows twitching. “Here at the Women’s College of Salem, we expect a higher standard of behavior than what you displayed this past Halloween night.”
Priscilla cringed, hunching in her shoulders and wishing she could curl into a tiny, invisible ball of nothing. Shame twisted her gut into knots. She stared down at her trembling hands, not daring to defend what she’d done. It was beyond the pale.
“Well? Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“I-I’m sorry,” she whispered. “It won’t ever happen again.”
The dean stood. “Your next transgression, however slight, will result in immediate expulsion. I don’t care if your mother was one of our most distinguished graduates. And I don’t care if your parents make another substantial donation to WCS or not. One more scandal, and you’re out.”
She scrambled to her feet. “Thank you,” she mumbled, eyes on the plush, green carpeting. Her feet made no sound on the expensive flooring as she beat a hasty exit. She closed the heavy, mahogany door behind her, still blinking back tears.
She had yet to walk the gauntlet, a hallway lined with administrative staff at their desks. Priscilla stiffened her shoulders and breathed in deeply. Best to get it over with and walk down the hall of shame. Once out of the building, she could let the tears flow. Not now. Eyes focused straight ahead, she strode past the workers, chin held high.
Would this stigma follow her the rest of her college years? Bad enough that she was plain, currently friendless, and socially awkward. No, that wasn’t torture enough. Now she was also the idiot who almost got sucked under the spell of a crazy girl.
At last, she made it to the elevator. But that escape route wasn’t near fast enough. Instead, Priscilla opened a side door and bolted down the empty stairwell. Her eyes swam and the concrete steps blurred. She clutched the steel railing to keep her balance and descended one step at a time.
Outside, the cold November air slapped her face and sent her long, frizzy hair whipping in the wind. The tears on her cheeks burned like icicles. A few students scurried past, shooting her curious looks. Sunglasses could hide her red, puffy eyes from further scrutiny. She stopped abruptly and fumbled with the clasp on her purse.
A heavy weight slammed into her back and she stumbled on the icy sidewalk. Warm, strong hands clamped onto her elbow.
“Sorry. You okay?’ came a deep, baritone voice.
Oh, hell. She knew that voice. Breck Thayer, the quiet, yet hot, librarian that she’d been crushing on for weeks. His magic was strong, it pulsed through the thick layer of her wool coat. Not surprising. Every time she neared him, his aura crackled with energy. Though she didn’t possess any magic, she sensed it in others. Fat lot of good that did if she couldn’t also discern if the power was black or white.
“I’m fine,” she muttered, pulling away from his support and avoiding eye contact.
There was no hope for it. She’d have to face him with red eyes, blotchy skin and a wild tangle of hair. This was so not her day.
She pasted on a fake grin and met his gaze. “Hi Breck. Thanks for saving me from a fall.”
“I’m the one who knocked you off balance,” he said drily. He narrowed gray eyes that were smoky and sexy. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Allergies…” she answered with a vague swipe of her hand.
“You’ve been crying.”
“No. I wasn’t… I’m not…” a betraying hiccup hitched her breath.
“That does it.” He took her arm and scanned the school courtyard. “This way,” he said, guiding her toward a bench.
It was located between two buildings, blocking the strong wind gusts. Not comfortable, but tolerable. She let him lead her to it then sat beside him. Breck’s tall, lean body was warm and sheltering.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” he demanded.
“I’ve been in a bit of trouble,” she mumbled into the collar of her wool coat.
“So I’ve heard.”
Her head snapped up. “You have?”
His mouth twisted and the smoky eyes hardened like chips of ice. “That Bridget and Rebecca clique got you in trouble.”
She shouldn’t be surprised he’d caught wind of the scandal. “Dean Rushmore just dragged me through the coals. Said that next offense, I’m out of here. Expelled.”
“There won’t be a next time,” Breck said confidently. “Those other girls were a bad influence. You were too good for them. I couldn’t help but notice the way they put you down all the time. They treated you like crap.”
“I see that now,” she said softly. “I was a fool. So desperate to be their friend that I went along with… everything.”
“But you stopped. You drew a line. And in the end, you did the right thing.”
His kindness undid her and hot tears flowed like lava over her cheeks. Who could have known that their coven leader was secretly a nut job? She’d been tagging along with the coven, as usual, when the Halloween circle meet in the woods had turned disastrous. And her hot librarian dream guy knew all about the mess.
“Hey.” He cupped her chin with his palm. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“You’re so kind,” she blurted. “And the only one that’s been nice to me at this place.”
He never made her feel ugly or stupid like everyone else, especially her former coven mates. Wrong coven, wrong friends.
“Anyone that loves the Romantic period poets can’t be all bad.”
Priscilla blushed, remembering the first time they’d met. She’d checked out a book on Lord Byron and when he’d seen the title at the circulation desk, his eyes had lit with interest. “For a term paper?” he’d asked, lifting a brow.
“No, I just love his poems.”
The slow smile he gave her was anything but reserved and bookish. Ever since, she’d made a point of going to the library once a week to check out Romantic period poets—Lord Tennyson, Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley.
“Thank you,” she said, swiping away her tears.
“I think you need a hot lunch and a friend to talk to,” he said. “Everything’s better after a good meal and good conversation. Let’s go to a deli in town.”
“No.” She shook her head vigorously back and forth. Any other time she’d have jumped on the offer, but not now. “I’m a mess.”
He canted his head to the side. “Tell you what. If you don’t mind something simple like bread and beef stew, we can eat at my apartment.”
Priscilla hesitated. She’d been longing for an opportunity to get to know Breck, but her emotions were all over the place and she was conscious of her red eyes and nose and messy hair. Hardly the way she’d have prepared for a first date.
“C’mon.” He stood and held out a hand. “It’ll make you feel better. I promise.”
As if she could say no. Breck wasn’t the kind of guy that other girls would swoon over, but there was a sexy intentness and mysterious aura about him that drew Priscilla. And he’d never looked more irresistible to her than this very moment.
She took his hand.
His modest apartment downtown was above a tarot reading shop. She followed him up the stairs and entered Breck’s place, curious what it would reveal about him.
A large open room with wooden floors and tall windows created a loft vibe. A shabby oriental rug anchored the space, and large wooden bookcases lined both side walls. The leather furniture was worn, but looked comfortable.
“I love all the books!” Priscilla went to one of the bookcases and walked along the side of the room, her left index finger skimming titles.
“Knew you would,” he said. “Kick back while I warm up the bread and stew.”
She slipped out of her shoes and stood by one of the windows, watching the snow fall. Soon, the scent of soup wafted toward her. It felt damn good to be here, away from prying eyes, and in a place that felt like a real home—so different from the noisy, crowded dorm. Priscilla closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against the cool windowpane.
He returned from the kitchen and stood beside her, watching as Salem became blanketed with a fresh layer of snow.
Priscilla slipped him a covert glance. The sudden intimacy between them set her skin tingling. Magical, yes. But some of it was due to the way he set her hormones into overdrive. Okay, a lot of it.
“Better check the stew and start the bread,” he said abruptly. “Be back in a minute.”
Priscilla went to the den, intending to look at more of his books. She passed by his desk, walked a few feet and then abruptly stopped. An awareness niggled at the back of her mind. Something on his desk had looked familiar…
Small strips of notebook paper in a bold, dramatic handwriting littered the desk’s surface.
Her own handwriting.
Priscilla leaned in closer. Love will find a way where wolves fear to prey, she read on the first slip. Her heart skittered. Breck had found the messages she’d tucked into the college’s library books. For the past few weeks, she’d written down bits and pieces of her favorite lines from Lord Byron and left them in some of the Romantic Poetry tomes. She’d had some fanciful notion of finding someone who shared her sentiments.
“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life,” she read aloud. The evening beam…”
“—that smiles the clouds away and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray,” Breck said, coming up behind her.
She whirled around to face him, her face scarlet. How had he known?
“You are the one who wrote these quotes, right?” he asked, a teasing smile in his pewter eyes.
“Would you believe me if I said no?” she asked hopefully.
“Not at all.”
She put her hands to her face. “You must think I’m a nitwit.”
Breck’s warm breath fanned heat at the top of her scalp and she was pulled into his warm embrace.
“I think you’re romantic and sweet.”
His lips found hers. The kiss was slow and tender—until it wasn’t. Until their tongues danced and the taste and heat of his mouth wiped out all remembrance of her unhappiness at school. Until all thought was consumed by an aching need to feel Breck’s body against her own.
He pulled away and cupped her face in his hands. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered.
No one had ever told her that before. She hadn’t even known how much she’d craved to hear the words. But a sudden worry assailed her. Was he planning to use her like the girls at school had done? Like every other guy who’d ever made advances at her?
“Why would you say that?” she asked coldly. Don’t be stupid. Again. This could all be a ruse, a spell, a bewitchment of sorts.
He quirked a brow. “Because you love poetry and because you seem to believe the best of people until they prove you wrong.” He brushed a lock of hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear. “How’s that for starters?”
“That sounds about perfect,” she breathed. Too perfect? She hesitated, torn between suspicion and the desire to again taste his kiss. Passion trumped logic and she stepped back into his embrace. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his.
Again, Breck pulled away.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Had he sensed her confusion?
“I think I need to take you home immediately after lunch.” His voice was gruff as he set her aside.
“Was it something I said?”
Surprise widened his eyes. “Of course not. It’s just…you’re special, Priscilla. Only you don’t realize it yet.” He took her hand and kissed it. “All of this,” he said, waving a finger between their bodies, “can wait.”
Breck bent his head and leaned into her. Their foreheads rested against one another, their breaths mingling.
A phone trilled from behind, shattering her absorption in the moment, buzzing on a wooden shelf like an angry hornet preparing to sting. Gingerly, she picked it up to give Breck.
Salem Psychiatric Hospital flashed on the screen.
Chill bumps prickled her arms and her throat constricted. No! That’s where she had been sent. The high priestess with the low magic—born by fire in the hell of madness.
Guilt glimmered in his eyes. Magic crackled like a thunder between them.
“You know her.” Priscilla sidestepped out of his reach. “You’re connected to the coven.”
Breck shut off the phone and tossed it on the sofa. “There is no more coven. It’s over.”
The hell it was. Would she never be free of her past?
“Who are you, really?” she demanded.
All the sweet words, the flattery, the poetic claptrap, the kisses and touching concern—all burned off in the haze of an unanswered call.
“She’s my sister,” he admitted. “My disturbed, sick, crazy little sister.”
The air pressed in around her and Priscilla rubbed her temples to clear her mind. Get out. Get away from Breck.
She grabbed her purse and scrambled to the door, desperate to feel the cold air on her face, a bracing wind to waken her from an ever-recurring nightmare.
“Wait,” he called out. “It’s not what you think.”
Breck caught up to her, tugged at her arm. Priscilla jerked it back to her side. “Stay away from me.”
“I mean you no harm.”
“As if you, your sister, or anyone else in that coven ever obeyed the creed of as long as ye harm none.” She bit down on the inside of her mouth. “I bet you and the others had a good time laughing at me over the poetry notes. Poor, pitiful, gullible Priscilla. Always good for a laugh.”
“They know nothing about it. That’s between you and me.”
Priscilla grabbed her coat and shoved her arms into it. “Leave me alone. I mean it.”
Breck grudgingly took a step back and raised his hands, palms in the air. “Let me at least give you a ride home.”
“I’ll get a cab.” With that she jerked open the front door and hurried back down the steps and into the crisp air.
People scurried in and out of the many occult shops, snow dusting their hair and shoulders. The Halloween tourist rush was over. Thank the goddess for that. But Samhain was permanently ruined for her. She could only hope the horror over the last Halloween would ease to a mere dull throb over the years. Because she would never, ever forget what she’d been caught up in.
Mindlessly, she roamed Derby Square, idly glancing in psychic shop windows lit with candles. A few radiated magic through the frozen window panes. Most did not.
She walked until her legs ached and her mind calmed. A bitter smile tugged the corners of her mouth. Figures I’d fall for the wrong guy. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
It’s not what you think. His voice echoed in her mind. What if Breck was the real deal? He wasn’t his sister’s keeper, just as she was nothing like her haughty parents who thought money solved all problems.
A lone, white feather danced in the snowflakes, spiraling down to the tip of her brown boots. Reverently, she bent to pick it up and examined it at eye level.
“Well, what do you know?” she whispered in awe.
Magic swirled over her body, snapping and crackling like an electrical current. Did it signal trouble or a blessing? Priscilla slowly turned. “Following me?”
Breck shrugged. “So shoot me. Just wanted to make sure you were okay.” He nodded at the feather. “A good omen, right?”
She twirled it between her fingers and softly blew on it, like a child playing with a pinwheel. The feathers ripped delicately from her warm breath. Good, indeed. It represented protection and hope—a blessing from the moon.
“I’m ready to talk now,” she conceded.
“Thank you,” he said, holding out a hand.
For the second time today, she took it.
Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She is traditionally published through Harlequin, as well as Indie published. Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team (Roll Tide!). Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling and jet skiing with her husband. She has two grown sons and the oldest has autism. Characters with autism frequently land in her works, even when she doesn’t plan on it!
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Map of Bones by Erzabet Bishop
A Curse Worker Short
Something’s written in the bones…
Merryn is a student at the Montelier College of Witchcraft and Arcane Sciences. Struggling to balance her course load and her part time job, she almost forgets her notes in the lab. But, wandering the halls after hours may hold some unforeseen consequences. Only the wicked walk the streets of Salem after dark, and Merryn might find more than she ever suspected.
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder…
Damien is a lust demon caught in a dilemma. His favor is being called in and he’s trapped in Broomstix with the sexiest bookworm alive. When she flees into his arms after a terrible scare, can he make her see him and not the demon inside? There is a lesson to be learned and he is just the one to teach her that life isn’t just lived by books alone.
Map of Bones by Erzabet Bishop
A Curse Worker Short
“You know, if you stay like that long enough, one of the boys is going to think you’re one of the mail room owls.” Cynthia twirled her long black hair around her finger and smirked. She smoothed her hands down her sweater and snagged her tablet off the desk.
Merryn ruffled her feathers and transformed back to human form, a scowl on her lips. “Bitch. This isn’t Hogwarts.”
Cynthia shrugged, picking up her books. “I only speak the truth. Come on. Professor Jenkins doesn’t care if you transform twenty times. If you can’t do it in front of the class next Tuesday for the exam, you’re toast.”
“I know…” Merryn sighed. “Why didn’t I go to a college with a normal curriculum? What’s so bad about accounting? Or even a business class?”
A corner of Cynthia’s mouth twitched. “Um. Let’s see. You’re a witch, maybe? And why would you ever want to? Montelier is a good school. Hell, it’s the only school on the east coast. You should be happy.”
Merryn picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. “I just want a normal life. A job. You know…”
“Normal is boring. And no, you don’t. What about that weird class you’re taking? The one you talked about yesterday. The freaky medical one you said you actually liked?”
“Yeah,” Merryn grimaced. “Alchemy of forensic osteology.”
“That’s a mouthful.”
“I know. Oh, damn.”
“I have to run by the lab and grab my notes. We’re studying one of the recent deaths in the shifter stalker case, and I was supposed to have a report in two days.”
“You have to go now? Why don’t you come with me to the bar first? I bet we can pick up a couple of guys and make a night of it.”
“Says you who never failed at anything in her whole undead life,” Merryn snorted. “No. I’m behind already. If I don’t get this paper turned in I’m toast.”
“Huh. I beg to differ. I can’t cast a spell for shit and you know it. I’m just taking this class for the credits.” She gave her a lopsided grin and waggled her eyebrows suggestively. “And the hot teacher.”
“But it’s fun. It keeps me busy and, most importantly, out of Roark’s grand designs of vampire matchmaking.”
“Is he still doing that? How does a Master vampire have the time?”
Cynthia’s nose crinkled. “He never quits. It’s all for the good of the family. Blah, blah, blah. I’m trying to convince Mari to come back. It’s been a few months since the attack.”
Merryn paused. “Wait. Was she the girl that got mauled outside the Copper Kettle a while back?”
“Yup, and now that she’s sort of dating Roark’s bestie, he’s fuming and has relaxed with pawning her off on pimply faced assholes like Jared.”
Merryn paused, a frown spreading across her face. “You mean that guy from Vampire Studies?”
“Unfortunately,” Cynthia replied, her lips curling up into a wicked smile. “Word has it she left him tied up with a pair of her panties in the garden.”
“Oh my God. I wish I could have seen that.”
“You’d have to actually go someplace that isn’t work or school.”
“Did you go?”
“Did you see anything?”
“No. I was too busy talking with the girls and missed it. But, damn, that would have been funny.”
“Yeah.” Merryn followed Cynthia into the hall. The last class of the day was over almost an hour ago and the hallways were a ghost town. Most students would be in Salem proper, getting ready for the Halloween festivities. Except her.
“Are you going down to the Psychic Fair?”
“Naw. I thought I’d head over to the library before I go to Broomstix. Well, after I grab my notes anyway.”
“You have to work tonight?”
Merryn shook her head. “I wasn’t supposed to, but Bridget left me a message to drop by before I went home.”
Cynthia brightened. “Maybe she got in some of those cool new witch hats.”
“Leave it to a vampire to say that. I’ll tell her you’re in the market for one. See you later.”
“Ha ha owl girl. Be careful going home.”
Rolling her eyes, Merryn shuffled down the dark hallway, relieved that most of the other students had gone their own way. Built in an old castle, the school was a labyrinthine maze of corridors and classrooms. October was the only time of year it was ever this deserted as most of the students preferred to stay in their paranormal comfort zone and away from the human population. Mostly.
It was forbidden to cross the line and reveal any part of their world to humans. The repercussions were drilled into them since day one in grade school. Which is why Merryn was confused as to the source of the murders.
“Damn it.” Merryn clutched at the pile of spell books perched in her arms and not for the first time that night wished she’d thought to buy a heartier back pack. The strap broke about a third of the way into her day and by the time she reached her potions class, she was wishing she’d paid more attention in Magical Phrases and Incantations. If she had, she might have been able to fix the thing and she wouldn’t be struggling to keep her shit from coming apart all over the hallway.
“Great job, klutz.” She muttered to herself as she knelt down and stuffed a chart of elemental correlations back inside what was left of the bag. Merryn cinched it shut and grumbled, snapping her mouth shut when she heard the scuffle of hard soled shoes just ahead.
“It doesn’t make sense. What reason would there be for the markings to be there?” Professor Wexler hissed to an unseen person in a long dark cloak. “We have to go to the Protectorate with this at once.”
“No.” The voice boomed through the abandoned corridor. “I want more tests. Inconclusive information will bring every paranormal house down on us like a pack of jackals. We must use caution.”
Their voices drifted away and Merryn swallowed, thankful they hadn’t seen her in the shadowy hall. One step in the opposite direction and would have exposed her. To be found wandering the corridor without a good reason after hours wouldn’t get her in good graces with Professor Wexler. Not at all.
Merryn got to her feet, scurrying to the door of the classroom. She flew inside and shut the door behind her, locking it instantly. The lab was deserted, stainless steel tables covered in white sheets just where the class left them. Which one were they looking at?
Everything looked the same. Merryn meandered among the tables trying to tell which sheet had been displaced. At the far and of the classroom she found her answer. The sheet was rumbled, some of the bones carelessly exposed. Merryn approached the table, and nibbled on her bottom lip. She wiped her hands on her jeans, the knot in her stomach growing with each step.
She started to touch the sheet, but instead whipped out her phone, aiming her camera at the mussed covering. It wouldn’t do for them to know she’d been here. At least this way she could get everything back in order before they got back.
Merryn laid her phone down, wiped her palms on her jeans and swallowed.
With careful fingertips, she peeled back the covering, gazing down at the selection of bleached bones. They were laid out much as a body would be, matched and documented by number on the paper tray laid out beneath them. A clipboard sat on the corner of the table and they left without putting the specimen back like they were supposed to.
What were they talking about? Why were they so upset?
God. Were they coming back?
Merryn moved down just a little bit more, her hands shaking. She couldn’t be caught here. If she was smart, she’d grab her notes and go. But then something caught her eye.
“What the hell?”
She gazed down at the bones and the bird beneath her skin began to tremble and claw at the skin of her underbelly. The owl hooted, sending a tremor through her body. Her people knew bones. Owls could read the message in the remains of what had been left behind. It was one of the reasons her parents had pushed her into something other than direct forensic science. How did you explain to a lab full of humans what you could tell just by looking? That mark was made by a tooth? Or that singe mark on the back side of a dog was a Perinium spell gone horribly wrong.
Being in class was one thing. Plastic gloves and eyes watching her every move. She hated that. It was better to work alone. To feel what the remains were telling her. And these bones… They spoke to her now, and it was a heady experience.
Without thinking, she reached for the table to steady herself, but instead came into close proximity with several of the bones. She shifted her grip, her hands connecting fully. She wasn’t supposed to touch them except with gloved hands, but as her flesh came into contact with the surface, she felt the uneven texture beneath her fingertips.
Merryn peered down at the bone beneath her fingertips and her nose wrinkled in distaste.
“What is that?”
It was etching. Or writing. Nothing like she’d ever seen but something arcane that made her fingers tingle. Merryn pulled her hand away, grabbed for her phone and snapped a couple more photos, drilling down close to get whatever inscriptions were hidden amongst the rest of the bones.
A few more shots and she put the phone in her back pocket. She started to step away but her owl screeched.
Wrong. Something’s wrong.
Against her better judgement, Merryn held up her hands and placed them on the bones once more, the images of what happened to the person they belonged to flooding into her.
She couldn’t unsee it. The horror of what the girl had gone through, and the depths of depravity within the witch who had done this, made her want to heave her guts up on the floor.
Merryn staggered backwards without bothering to put the sheet back. The clipboard clattered to the floor as she tried to steady her breathing and remember what it was she came here for in the first place.
Her notes. She had to get her notes. Merryn scrambled back toward her workstation, reaching under the table to the small desk area and grabbed at them, stuffing the pages into her broken backpack.
Not looking back, she hurried from the lab, getting as far away from the desecrated bones as she could. Merryn made her way quickly down the shadowy passage and out the door to the parking lot where her beat up ancient Volkswagen bug waited.
Merryn unlocked the trunk with shaking hands, tossed her books in and slammed it shut. Without thinking, she lurched toward the driver’s door, fiddling with the lock and wrenching the door open. She swung behind the wheel of the car and stared at herself in the mirror. Her glasses were askew, her dirty blond hair mussed and she looked like she’d seen a ghost.
She started it up and put the car into gear—she had to get to Broomstix and talk to Bridget. She’d know what to do.
Winding her way through traffic during the Halloween rush was less than fun, but after an hour she reached her apartment parking lot. She parked and leapt from the car, leaving her books in the trunk. Hot footing it toward the shop, she maneuvered through partygoers and revelers, intent on her destination. Soon, she broke off from the more touristy areas and veered off from the crowd.
Someone was behind her. Merryn’s heart beat louder and her eyes darted down the shadowy streets. Salem was laden with tourists this close to Halloween and she shouldn’t have had anything to fear. But she did.
Just a couple nights ago they’d found the pixie girl murdered at one of the festival areas off the main drag; and now she’d seen what was written on the dead girl’s bones. A shiver overtook her and Merryn hurried forward. She could hear the din of the crowd from the Psychic Fair up ahead. She could go there or head straight to Broomstix on the chance that her boss, Bridget, would still be there.
A gust of wind brought the scent of wet dog to her nose and, working purely on instinct, Merryn shifted, moving from human to owl form in zero to ten seconds flat. Her great wings spread and she glided upwards, searching the ground below.
Angry red eyes watched as she crested high and perched on a large oak, the two wolves staring at her with hate in their eyes.
One wolf shifted from animal to human form, a leering smile on his too handsome face. “Here, little birdy… why don’t you come down and play?”
Merryn screeched and flapped her wings, her claws itching to gouge a hole in the smug prick’s face.
Just then, a band of costumed humans trudged down the street, their laughter just the distraction she needed to take flight and break away. A few streets over, she shifted back. No sign of the wolves, but she realized they had to be lurking. How foolhardy they were to chance being seen by humans was hardly a question. She knew about the girl Mari. Just a human girl studying at the university in Salem; and then one night, after her shift at the bar she worked at… Pow. Wolf bait. Merryn didn’t plan on sitting still long enough to be their newest chew toy.
The shop windows were dark but Merryn approached, knowing someone would likely be inside. She rattled the door handle and it gave. Pulse beating erratically, Merryn slipped inside locking it behind her. She took a ragged breath and swallowed, the reality of what could have happened spelled out like the pictures in her phone. For a quick, panicked moment, she felt around her back pocket, relieved that the phone had made it with the rest of her clothes when she shifted.
Stupid. Taking a chance like that, but what choice did she have?
Merryn peered out into the waiting night knowing full well the wolves who’d been chasing her were still out there. She turned and walked into the semi-darkness of the shop. Everything appeared to be in order. The wall display of herbs, the crystals and divination in the front window space with a selection of tarot cards. The soft glow from a reading lamp lit the library area, but as she ventured toward the counter she caught a hint of movement in the doorway beyond.
“Hello is there anyone here? Bridget?”
Damien peeked out from behind the curtain, a set of earbuds dangling around his neck. His brows and dark eyes were startling against his fair skin and light hair, and his firm mouth always looked as if he were on the edge of laughter. His muscular frame filled out the black sweater he wore and, as he stood up from the chair to greet her, she got a look at the rest of the package.
Why did he have to be so damned amazing? For a moment she was so distracted, she forgot to be afraid.
“Hey there, hot stuff.”
Just like that her stomach clenched and her breath caught in her throat. The object of her lust stood there, looking cool and collected, while her world was being torn apart.
Merryn nervously moistened her dry lips and walked toward him.
Damien gazed at Merryn and grinned. Nobody did the sexy librarian look better than she did, and the more she gave him the cold shoulder, the more he wanted her. He coughed and adjusted himself, trying to think of something to get his body’s automatic response toned down a few pegs.
Bridget had mentioned she’d be coming in sometime during the evening and he was to wait for her.
“Why? Doesn’t she have a set of keys?”
“No, you idiot. She’s part time.” Bridget looked down her nose at him, her long brown hair drawn up in an elaborate twist giving even more visibility to the tattoos snaking up and down her arm. She was dressed in a slim fitting black evening gown, no doubt attending one of Salem’s many witchy events of the season.
“Fine. I’ll wait. Want me to dust your curio cabinets while you’re gone?”
“No. I want you to work on the books like you always do.” Bridget cocked her head and stared out the front windows into the night. “Something’s up. You owe me for taking the heat on that little matter with the mayor’s daughter three months ago.”
“But… she started it. Grabby, that one.”
Bridget brought her chin up and her mouth set in a hard line. “No buts. Besides, I thought you liked Merryn.”
“I do.” His jaw tightened and he tried not to think about how much he liked her. Or the endless rebuffs she’d sent his way and the fantasies he had about her spanking him with a ruler. Or him spanking her, that round ass pink under his ministrations.
Bridget gave him a stern glare. “Cut it out, Damien.”
“What?” He asked, all innocence, pulling his jacket from the chair and holding it in front of him. Bridget didn’t need to know about his affliction. He would do as she asked and go home to a lonely bed. Despite what she thought, he hadn’t been able to entertain the idea of taking on another female when all he wanted to do was pluck the glasses from the bookish girl’s face and kiss her soundly. She really didn’t realize just how appealing she was, and he intended to prove it to her. Starting tonight.
“Are you listening?”
“Huh?” Damien met her scrutiny with a smile, thankful his inner bubble of thoughts wasn’t floating over his head.
“Yeah. Okay. I don’t want to know. I’ll be back in three hours.” With that Bridget gave him a dirty look and sashayed out the door in heels tall enough to cause a nose bleed, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
That was a bad idea.
He didn’t have long to wait. Plugging in Nine Inch Nails, he dove into the accounting pages and the stack of receipts Bridget had left for him. She knew he loved doing it too. A lust demon who was fixated on math. Go figure.
It was finite. It had rules. Not like the rest of his world that lived under the perpetual strain of multiple shades of gray.
He didn’t hear her at first, but when he caught a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, he angled out of his chair and found her staring at him with undisguised hostility.
“Your glasses are crooked.” He reached over and set the pencil down on the desk.
Merryn’s hands fluttered nervously at her sides and she unconsciously straightened the spectacles. “Where’s Bridget?”
“Not sure. She just asked me to wait for you, and said she’d be back in a few hours.” He pushed up from the chair, noticing for the first time that she appeared even more nervous than usual.
“I was a little later than I was supposed to be…”
“Noth… nothing,” she stammered, looking anywhere but in his direction.
Damian sighed. “Look, I know I’m not the person you were expecting, but I won’t eat you, okay? Why don’t you sit, and I’ll find you a soda or something?”
“It’s not you.” Merryn paled, a noise toward the front of the shop startling her. She let out a cry and moved toward him. “Oh, God. They’re still out there.”
Damien narrowed his eyes. “Who’s out there? Are you okay, kitten?”
“I’m not your kitten. And no, I’m not okay. Those wolves, they came for me. I had to shift…” Her voice broke, and he could see she was struggling to get a grip on her emotions.
“Whoa. Slow down. What happened?”
“I was at the University. I went to the lab to get my notes and I overheard a couple of professors talking.” She started to say something and shook her head, her lips pressed together in a hard line. “It doesn’t matter what about, but I went to the lab and… crap. I have to talk to Bridget. When is she coming back?”
“She said about three hours.” He glanced at his watch. “Two hours, now. Give or take. Why don’t you sit?”
Merryn nodded, lowering herself into the chair he just vacated.
Damien went to the mini fridge under the desk and pulled out a can of cola. “Here. You need some sugar.” He popped the top and handed it to her, watching as she took a swig.
“No problem.” A sound met his ears and he felt the wards on the building twinge. He glanced out the front window and found two pairs of red eyes observing him through the glass.
“Well, hell’s bells.”
“What?” Merryn set the can down and stood, joining him in the doorway.
“They’re here.” She stepped back and stumbled into his arms, her face pressed against his chest. She stayed that way, and he held her, cursing inwardly at whatever was making her afraid. His eyes burned and he shook his head, clearing his focus. He had to take care of her now. If they tried to get inside, he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions. He pulled her into the back room and moved the curtain out of the way, locking the door behind them.
“The wards will hold.”
“What if they break the glass?”
“They won’t. Anyone eyes as gorgeous as yours should never be afraid.” He pulled her glasses off and set them on the counter. He had to get her mind on something else.
Merryn squirmed out of his arms, nervously brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes. “You don’t need to do whatever this is. I’ll be fine.”
“Whatever this is?” He raised an eyebrow, the smile falling from his face. “I know pretty when I see it.”
“I’m not pretty, and don’t you dare try to distract me with… Oh, hell. Fine. I don’t want your pity just because I’m freaked out, okay?” She crossed her arms and turned her back to him, but not before he could see the hurt on her face.
Shit. He did that.
Damn it to hell.
“What?” She turned to face him, tears shimmering in her eyes. “It’s been a tough night, okay? Just leave me alone.”
“No. You’ve been avoiding me since the first day I walked in here. Why?”
“You’re a lust demon.” Merryn looked away, a flush creeping up her cheeks.
“And you’re a witch. I’ve been trying to ask you out and every time I try to strike up a conversation with you I get the icicle treatment.”
“I’m not going to be a notch on your bedpost,” she snapped, shoving at his chest. “I’ve seen how you flirt with every girl who walks in here. I’m not stupid.”
Good. She wasn’t afraid anymore. That was a start. He preferred her angry. That frightened look on her face tore at his heart.
“Yes you are.” He caught her hands before she could pull back. “I’ve been needling you for months, trying to get your attention. Now, why do you think that is?”
Merryn tugged, trying to break free. “You’re a pain in the ass? And I am not stupid.”
“You’re book smart. There’s a difference. But I’m thinking of giving you some extracurricular pointers.” Damien crushed his lips to hers, forcing her mouth apart, teasing her with his tongue. Damien backed her up to the counter, the hardness of his body pressed against the softness of hers. His cock strained against his zipper and he was fairly sure it was going to leave an imprint in his flesh. He feathered kisses down the side of her face and groaned into her hair.
She pulled away, blinking her eyes.
“What are you doing?” She asked breathlessly, her lips swollen from his kisses. “Your eyes are glowing.”
“Making my point. I’m sure they are.” He stepped back and let her see the effect she had on him. “This. This is what you do to me.”
Merryn stared at him, every inch of her body on fire. Incredulous, she shook her head. “But you’re you and I’m me.” His eyes burned with savage fire, and the erection pressing against his jeans illustrated the point he was so eloquently trying to make.
“I want you. I have from the first moment I met you.”
“Exactly.” Damien tugged her forward and ran his fingers down the side of her face. “So sexy…” He kissed her, his hand reaching up to cup her breast.
Merryn groaned, giving in to the warmth enveloping her. His nearness was overwhelming and what he was doing to her with his hands, magic. She was shocked at her own response to his kisses but powerless to resist.
She tingled as he whispered her name, easing her back against the counter. In a blur her sweater was over her head and her bra joined it. She felt the snap on her jeans give and he eased the denim down her legs, her panties following soon after.
How could he possibly think that? Her curves had been nothing but a problem from day one.
Her mouth dry, she watched as he unfastened the top snap on his jeans and slowly lowered the zipper, releasing his cock.
“I can’t wait any more. Come here.”
He grasped her hand and tugged her forward, her bare skin against the warmth of him. “Never doubt how gorgeous you are.” He claimed her lips in a raw act of possession, his eyes meeting hers.
Damien’s hands roamed her body and he knelt down pressing his lips against her stomach, trailing kisses down to her mound. “Let me love you.”
“Yes,” she whispered, leaning back against the counter. She didn’t want to fight it anymore. Hypnotized by his touch, she all but sizzled beneath his fingertips.
He stood and moved between her thighs, his cock edging at her entrance. In one swift movement he was inside of her and his lips found hers again, hard and searching.
“Goddess,” she hissed.
“Come with me.” He pulled her to the edge of the counter and began to thrust.
The musky scent of him as he held her close drove Merryn wild and she nipped at his neck, spurring him onward.
“So my little bookworm has some bite after all.”
Damien picked her up, sliding deeper inside and carried her into Bridget’s inner sanctum. He tenderly laid her down on the couch and his hand brushed her hardened nipples. He bent over Merryn, his hips moving with a primal energy, passion climbing, her need for him overpowering everything else.
Waves of ecstasy filtered through her and she dimly wondered if he was stealing part of her soul. Then she decided it was worth it as her body exploded into a million bursts of star fire. Electric shocks thrummed through her and she couldn’t control her cries of delight as she soared upward into a shuddering bout of bliss.
He groaned against her, his own release upon him as the hot tide of their hunger burned through them both, leaving her gasping in his arms as they came down together.
Damien looked down at her and she smiled lazily, meeting his eyes for the first time that night. “We’re going to do that again. In a bed.”
“I hope so. I think I have a book shoved under my backside.” Merryn giggled as he reached down to kiss her nose.
The sound of the door to the back offices being unlocked, and a host of unladylike cursing, met their ears as Bridget came through, her eyes blazing fire.
“Alright… who’s idea was it to lock the…” She stopped, opened her mouth and shut it. “I’ll be out front.”
A flustered grin covered Damien’s face as he righted himself and helped her up. “I think we surprised her.”
“Um. Yeah.” A giggle escaped and Merryn reached over and kissed him.
“What was that for?”
Damien knelt down and plucked her clothes from the floor. “Your panties, milady.”
“Thanks.” Merryn grinned, slipping her legs into the pant legs of her jeans. “They’re coming off again as soon as we talk to Bridget.” Her smile slipped a bit when she thought about what they needed to talk about, but the calm his touch had instilled in her made her fall for him just a little bit more.
“Deal.” He helped her up and pressed a kiss to her lips. “My bed, or yours?”
Read the Curse Workers Series
0.1 Sanguine Shadows (Vampire Bites Box Set)
0.5 Map of Bones (A Wicked Affair Box Set)
1.0 Malediction (A Wicked Halloween Box Set)
Stay tuned for more…
Erzabet Bishop is an award winning and bestselling author. She is the author of Crave, Wicked for You, Heart’s Protector, Spirit Board, Sigil Fire and Black Magic Café among others. She lives in Texas with her husband and furry children.
Find more of Erzabet on or or sign up for her .
A Witch’s Desire
by C.E. Black
Copyright © 2016 C.E. Black
All rights reserved.
A Witch’s Desire
by C.E. Black
A spell to look more attractive wouldn’t be manipulative, would it?
No. Of course not. Just don’t think about him while you do it.
Right. I shook my head lightly and took a deep breath. I just needed a little sparkle. A little something extra to get a second glance. And if a certain someone was the one doing the looking, then all the better. Oh, how I wished he would. I wished it more than anything.
There I went, thinking about him when I’d just told myself not to. If a single thought about James crossed my mind while I did this spell, it would be a disaster. Though it was hard to erase the image of his long, lean frame and mop of dirty blond hair, his shy smile or baby blue eyes hidden behind those cute gold-rimmed glasses. Eyes closed, I reveled in the picture my mind created, of him walking into the store, taking one look at me, desire flaring in his gaze before he wrapped me in his arms and told me how much he wanted me.
My wistful sigh was loud in the quiet shop. I really had to stop fantasizing about him. If it hadn’t happened already, then it probably never would. But I just wasn’t ready to give up.
James joined our Coven seventeen months ago. And I’d been half in love with him for most of those seventeen months. Completely in love with him for the rest. The shy, handsome man had caught my attention from the beginning, but he’d kept his distance. And being a timid woman myself, I didn’t know how to garner his attention.
James had a gift for giving great financial advice, and when he’d offered to work with me at my candy shop, Enchanted, I hadn’t hesitated to say yes. Now, I wondered what the heck I’d been thinking. Seeing him so often, sometimes four or five days a week, had become too much. I wanted him, but didn’t know how to make the first move.
I groaned, swiping the image of him away with a flick of my wrist. I couldn’t think about him while I did this spell. If he ever did take me into his arms, I would never know if it had been truly by his own will.
“Enough, Shell,” I whispered to myself before taking a deep, cleansing breath. I centered myself, removing all outside thoughts and distractions. I’d lit a single candle next to me, more for a little ambient light in the dark kitchen than for the spell. The shop had closed over an hour ago, and everyone had gone home for the day. As soon as I finished this quick ritual, I would be heading home myself to a hot bubble bath followed by a much needed night’s rest.
Speaking of tonight’s plans, I was ready to get this show on the road. Picking up a single plump strawberry, I placed it in a small mixing bowl, then began to mash it gently with a fork. As the metal tines sliced into the red berry, I closed my eyes and envisioned people looking twice at me, giving me compliments on my hair or clothing, chatting with me as I smiled and returned their greetings. I had confidence and charm. I felt… alluring. Desirable.
Placing the fork on the counter next tot he bowl, I dipped a finger, coating it with the sweet smelling pulp. Then I softly spread it over my lips, careful not to lick any off before beginning the chant of increasing my attraction.
Power flowed over my skin like a light electrical current. It tickled, yet warmed me from the inside out, letting me know the spell was working. When the chant ended, the charge in the air stopped its crescendo, leaving a light hum in the air.
I licked my lips, savoring the tart sweetness of the berry and dipping my finger back into the bowl for another sensual taste. I moaned, rubbing the tiny seeds between my tongue and the roof of my mouth before swallowing with a sigh. Without looking, I went for another taste. My body flushed all over, and I amended my plan for the evening. My bubble bath would be getting a bit warmer than I’d previously planned.
Another moan. Another lick. The berry tasted like sex, like love and attraction. Exactly what I was looking for. And I couldn’t get enough.
I went for another dip, opening my mouth to receive. The finger slid over my tongue, the cold, sweet pulp of the berry shocking against the warm, salty digit. A digit that was calloused and larger than my own. My lips had automatically closed over the finger, sucking lightly, eliciting a moan from its owner, but my eyes popped open wide. Then widened still when they landed on the darkening gaze of the man I loved.
Frozen, I stared at James, his finger still in my mouth, my own finger dripping pulp onto the white tile below. I reflexively swallowed, causing an automatic sucking sensation that had him letting loose a low groan as he moved closer.
Pulling back slowly, I released him from my mouth to catch my breath. “What are you doing here, James?” My tongue darted out to lick my lips, catching his gaze.
Instead of answering, he reached for my dripping finger, slowing bringing it to his own mouth. His blue eyes locked onto mine as he wrapped his lips around the lucky digit and sucked lightly. The wet slide of his tongue on my skin caused my trembling knees to almost give out on me.
James wrapped one arm around my waist, pulling me into him as he continued to assault my finger with his tongue. My lips parted as he licked his way to the next finger, then flicked his tongue at the flesh in between. I pressed closer, whimpering.
“I came to check on you.” He kissed my finger tip before bringing my hand down to rest on his chest. “The light was on, and I was worried. You never stay this late.”
“I had some, um, stuff to do,” I replied.
As I spoke, he reached up to pull on my my pony tail holder, releasing the band to allow my messy, auburn curls to fall around my face. “That’s better,” he whispered. His eyes glittered in the candlelight as they roamed over my flushed face. My chest rose and fell rapidly; my heart pounded. I’d never been this close to James before, and all I could think about was getting closer.
“You are so beautiful,” he said. “I can’t do this anymore.”
“What?” My forehead wrinkled as I tried to process his words.
“I have to. I’m sorry.” Then his lips were on mine, kissing me with abandon.
I gripped his shoulders with both hands just to hold on as my knees wobbled. I’d never been kissed quite like this before. The way he titled his head to line up our mouths just right, how his tongue delved deep to caress mine, and his moan of utter pleasure sent my senses into a whole new dimension. A dimension where there was nothing but sensation, desire, lust… Pleasure.
My backside hit the top of the counter seconds before I even realized I’d been lifted. I opened my legs for James to step into them, then he pressed against me, rubbing the evidence of his arousal against my hot center. The knowledge that he was hard for me, aroused and wanting me, sent bliss singing through my veins. I smiled into his kisses, then dropped my head back, allowing his lips to move across my neck and over my collarbone.
When he sucked on a spot somewhere between my neck and shoulder, I snapped. My hands flew over his chest, popping buttons to get to the warm flesh beneath. Once he was shirtless, I worked on his jeans. They were unbuttoned, unzipped, and sliding over his hips in record time. I scraped my nails over his chest, biting my lip to keep from devouring him right there and then.
His hands had become just as busy, and I found myself naked and wanting, ass on the cold stainless steel counter, legs spread and ready for him. I was more than ready. I’d been ready for James for months… Years even. I couldn’t even remember wanting anyone as much as I wanted him.
Lips, tongues, hands, and bodies collided as we touched, caressed, and tasted one another for the first time. He nibbled the skin around my belly button, before pushing my legs further apart and going right for it. Thank God! I couldn’t wait any longer.
My back met the counter, then arched sharply as he hit just the right spot. “Oh, God, James! Yes, oh, yes! Gah! Don’t stop. No, no! Stop! Inside me… Inside me, now. Please, James, God! I want you.”
He must have understood at least half of my gibberish, because he stood, quickly conjuring a condom out of thin air, or so it seemed in my half-dazed state, before he was leaning over me, his hips pushing my thighs wider apart.
“Hmm, Shell,” he murmured in my ear, just as his cock found my entrance. His lips pressed to mine, his hips pushed forward, and his eyes stayed wide open, watching my reaction as he entered me.
I hissed from the pure pleasure of being stretched and filled, until he seated himself fully inside of me.
“God, Shell. You’re so tight. So hot,” he mumbled as he pulled out, then hurriedly pushed back in.
My hips eagerly lifted to meet each of his thrusts, urging him to increase his speed. His pelvis rubbed hypnotically against my clit, bringing me closer and closer to the precipice. We fit. We fit like two perfect puzzle pieces, all the right parts moving in sync, heightening the pleasure.
My neck arched in that moment of suspension where it felt so good, the anticipation of the climax almost painful. And then his teeth tugged on a nipple, and I broke apart in his arms, screaming for all of Salem to hear how good James made me feel.
Magical. It was the only way I could describe it.
“So good!” I called out. “So good.”
“Shell,” he moaned, his thrusts becoming short and fast as he sped towards his own release. With a long, deep groan, his teeth latched onto my shoulder, holding me in place as he slammed into me once more and held, emptying inside of me.
After a quiet moment of harsh breathing and rapid fire heartbeats, James leaned in for a soft, languid kiss that had my toes curling and my insides heating once again. When he finally pulled back, we were both breathing hard. But as he looked at me, I noticed for the first time that he still had his glasses on. The lenses were smudged and they sat crooked on his nose, causing me to snort out a chuckled.
“What?” He smiled at me, then nuzzled under my chin to kiss my throat.
“Your glasses are messed up.” I laughed.
“Hmm?” He looked up, and I burst out laughing. His glasses were barely hanging off one ear. I could tell he’d done it on purpose, the way his smile teased at me. He had such a charming smile, too. My besotted expression couldn’t be helped.
Then the smile slowly vanished as his gaze became serious. “You are so beautiful, Shell,” he whispered.
It hadn’t been the first time he’d said those words that night, but as he repeated them, my stomach twisted in dismay.
“What’s wrong?” Seeing my horror struck expression, James lowered his brows.
I shook my head, hardly able to keep my tears in check. “I made a horrible mistake,” I whispered. Sitting up, I pushed away from James and reached for my clothes.
“Wait. Just wait, Shell.” James gently took my upper arm in his grasp to turn me around. I allowed him to do so, but kept my head down, so utterly embarrassed and horrified at what I’d done.
“What is this?” he asked. “Do you regret making love with me?”
At the anger and hurt lacing his words, my chin lifted and met his steely blue gaze. “I’m so sorry, James.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I… I don’t know…” My head fell into my open palms as I held back sobs. What had I done?
“Shell,” James said softly, wrapping a comforting arm around my shoulders. “Tell me what’s the matter.”
Taking a couple of deep breaths, I swallowed before forcing myself to face the music. “James,” I looked up, my sorrowful gaze meeting his confused one, “you didn’t really want to be here with me tonight.”
“What? That’s ridiculous, Shell. I came here to see you. Admittedly, I didn’t expect all of this, but I’m glad”
“Exactly,” I cut him off. “You didn’t expect this, because it shouldn’t have happened. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done that spell.”
James leaned away from me, but not far enough to remove his arm. His lips pressed together, his eyes moving back and forth as he looked at me closely. “What spell?”
Blowing out a breath, I waved at the mess next to us. What was left of the strawberry pulp dripped out of the overturned bowl onto the counter. “I was just finishing the spell when you arrived,” I whispered. “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.”
His gaze shifted between the bowl and the fork, then he dragged his finger into what was left of the strawberry. I jerked in surprise as he brought the sweet juice to my lips. His own lips were lifted in one corner, his eyes soft as he watched me.
He cut me off with a gently kiss. “An attraction spell, am I right?” he asked.
I nodded numbly, still reeling from his kiss and the taste of tart berry on my tongue.
“Were you thinking of me as you said the spell?”
No,” I replied. “But I had been thinking of you before I began.”
“That doesn’t count.” He smiled. “Anyway, it wouldn’t have mattered.”
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because, there is no attraction or love spell that would work on me.”
“Oh.” My shoulders slumped.
“It can’t work on someone who’s already attracted, fascinated… Borderline obsessed.”
He pushed an auburn tendril behind my ear as I stared, speechless.
“Attracted,” he continued slowly, “to the one he’s head over heels in love with. Shell, I’ve been in love with you for longer than I can remember. From the moment I saw you, I wanted you.”
I gasped. “Why didn’t’ you say something?”
“I hadn’t made a move in all this time because I didn’t think you were interested.”
He smiled shyly and ran a hand through his messy hair. “I guess I missed all the signs. Until tonight.” He licked his lips and moved closer, his expression becoming darker, full of lust, and my body responded with a sensual shiver.
“When I walked in, you were lapping up that strawberry. So sensual, so sexy the way you sucked on your finger, enjoying it so much. I couldn’t control myself. Then you looked at me with as much heat and desire as I felt, and I was lost.”
Pressing his forehead to mine, he took a deep breath through his nose and exhaled. “I love you, Shell. I’m hoping you feel the same way? Or at least close?”
“I do.” I nodded eagerly, unable to believe all my dreams were finally coming true. “I love you so much.”
“Then let’s not waste another minute,” he said. “We’ve wasted too much time as it is. Be with me, Shell?”
“Yes,” I hiccuped a laugh as tears trailed down my cheeks. “Thank God for that spell then.”
James grinned so wide little lines deepened around his eyes. “If I’d know that’s all it would take to get you in my arms, I would have suggested a spell a long time ago.”
As he pulled me into said arms and kissed me breathless, I couldn’t keep the silly grin off my face. I was finally exactly where I’d always wanted to be.
C.E. Black self-published her first book in 2011 and has since published several novels, novellas, and short stories. Though she began her writing career in the Paranormal Romance genre, she found her niche in erotic PNR/Fantasy with her breakout novel, Shifted Temptations. What started out as a standalone romance, became the Amazon best selling Alpha Division series. Though steamy romance, hunky heroes, and feisty heroines are C.E.’s specialty, she enjoys surprising her readers with action-filled plots and exciting twists that makes for a fast-paced read.
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Into The Ether
by Angelica Dawson
Geoffrey ran his thumb along the edge of his small blade and grinned at the resulting drop of blood. It was very sharp and should be perfect for his plans. He tucked it back in its sheath and returned to his chore.
Luke and Clarice were lovely people, but Geoffrey couldn’t completely overcome his resentment. Why had they come back? Luke had been sent back to England after his father died when he was only ten. This wasn’t his house, it was Mary’s. Although young enough to be Luke’s brother, Geoffrey had fallen in love with his mother. She’d never really returned his affection, but it didn’t matter.
He would have worn her down, won her over, but the village took Mary from him, burning her at the stake for the very things she had done to save his life.
Now, she was gone and the Parker family was growing. They needed more room. It was Geoffrey’s task to dismantle the old house while Luke and his eldest son used bricks and mortar to build a new one.
Every nail, every board set aside felt like another cut, severing him from his memory of Mary. She was here, he knew that. Her spirit had spoken to him before, and he could almost hear her now.
“We had another place. I will dance for you.”
He closed his eyes and remembered. She’d danced in the moonlight, wearing only her hair and undergarments. Graceful and lithe, she twirled and stretched, her skin white like milk, her brown hair flaring out from her triumphant face. He knew where she would be.
“Mister Geoffrey? Would you like some water?” The eldest Parker girl, only six, came with a bucket and dipper.
“Yes, thank you, Margaret.” He slurped the mouthful and wiped with the back of his hand.
“You are strong.”
Geoffrey blinked, staring down at the small female that suddenly seemed too familiar.
“Father is strong too. He says grandmother was the strong one, after grandfather died.”
That was it. She looked like Mary. Luke had a few of her features, but more of them graced little Margaret.
“She was. She was the strongest person I know. You grow up to be strong like her.”
She grinned, her tiny even baby teeth making a perfect smile. “I will, Mister Geoffrey.”
As the sun set, Geoffrey dug down along one of the beams then kicked at it. It was part of the frame of the old house. Most of the beams would be used in the new structure, but this one would be in the middle of a room. Luke helped and they pushed it back and forth until they could work it free.
Luke dusted his hands. “I think that’s all of it. Thank you again for your help, Geoffrey. I know our settling in would have been much more difficult if not for you.” He extended his dirty hand to Geoffrey, who shook it with one just as soiled.
“It is nothing. Your mother was a wonderful woman, and I’m happy to help her family. But you need to eat as do I. Goodnight, Luke.”
Geoffrey didn’t go home to the dinner his mother had made. He went to the meadow, and arrived after the sun set, the moon casting a pale light across the grass and wildflowers. There in the middle of it stood Mary.
He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and blinked again. He hadn’t seen her in five years. She didn’t look a day older. She wasn’t in her shift, as he’d hoped, but that didn’t detract from his elation at seeing her. Rather than dancing, she looked like she’d just completed a heavy chore, bracing her hands on her knees.
“Mary?” Was she well?
She straightened and smiled at him. “I’m sorry I can’t dance for you.”
“Mary. Mary, you can’t know how hard it has been.” He ran across the grass to her, desperate to touch her again. His hands scooped through her and he held nothing. What curse was this? To have her so near and not be able to touch her.
She was gone. There was only one way he could join her. He pulled his tiny knife from its sheath. “I decided that without you, your house, your magic, I had no purpose. And seeing you like this has made me more determined.”
She was a ghost, so naturally, the way to be with her was to become a ghost himself. “I’m coming to join you, Mary. Tonight.” It was the middle of summer. She’d told him she would consider his proposal in the summer. Perhaps this would be their marriage. “I’ll marry my soul to yours.”
Mary screamed at him, but he stabbed the knife into his leg. He’d seen how quickly an animal bled out from there. It should be the same for him, and it was. He fell to the grass but couldn’t bear to listen to Mary cry, so he opened another cut at his wrist, his neck. He didn’t want to wait for death and lost strength quickly. He stared at Mary until his eyes went dark and the world became cold.
Geoffrey turned to see a woman walking in the door of the house. He frowned, unsure how he had gotten here. A moment ago he was in the field with Mary, he should be with her now. Examining the door and wall more closely, he recognized them. This was Luke’s house, finished. He looked up at the second floor. It was much bigger than he had known.
The girl at the door took off her raincoat and he made to grab her. “Mary!”
Just as in the meadow, he cursed his inability to touch her.
Mary climbed the stairs and he followed, curious if he could make her hear him as he had heard Mary.
“Mary!” He tried shouting, banging objects, slamming doors. His hands went through everything.
Frustrated, he stopped to really look at her. She was dressed like a man, and yet she appeared very feminine, with hips and breasts that didn’t hide under shirt and trousers. When she rose and looked out the window, he felt ashamed for staring but couldn’t avoid admiring her round bottom. In her dresses, he had never seen it so clearly.
She spun and looked right at him.
“Mary? Mary!” He took a step toward her at the same time she approached him. She walked through him to look into the closet. After that, she left.
He looked through the house, the first floor matching what Luke had planned. The second floor must have been added later. So many things were different. An outhouse in the house? A tub without feet? Finally, he went into the backyard and relaxed. This had changed very little. The beds he’d built were still there. However, it was obvious they had been left untended for a very long time.
He heard Mary return and hurried to see her. She had brought food, although it was only the bread that told him what it was. Everything was cut or in boxes or other containers. Some she put in a special closet, others went into the cupboards. He gave up trying to understand it. None of that mattered. He had to get Mary to see him, to notice him.
She went up the stairs and began to undress. That was too much for him. He’d never seen her naked before and the last thing he wanted was to see her bare and be unable to touch her. Instead, he lingered outside the door until the sound of rustling cloth ended. Returning, walking through the door, he found her in a shift, albeit a very short one, and climbing under the covers.
He watched her, tracing her features, her unruly brown hair that he’d only seen once before. The rise and fall of her chest, the proof she was alive, fascinated him.
“Who’s there?” She looked angry, offended.
“I’ll go.” He thought his heart was breaking. Rather than walking through the door, his hand pushed it open slightly.
He’d killed himself to be with her and they still couldn’t touch one another. Fate was so cruel.
Angelica Dawson, best selling Naughty Nights Press author, has been writing for several years and having sex a lot longer than that. Her love of plants and the outdoors is not diminished by the bloodsucking hoards—mosquitoes and black flies, not vampires.
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Caught Under the October Moon
by Kiki Howell & Gina Kincade
The meshing colors of the fallen autumn leaves crackled under the weight of her bare feet, similar in sound to the fire that burgeoned around the stack of dry logs before her. Once the heat infiltrated her body, she shed her deep burgundy, velvet cloak, watching as it flowed to the ground like pouring wine. Turning, she lit the red candles along with the incense of spicy cinnamon and ginger on her makeshift altar. The small flames threw flickers of light that danced upon the various fruits and vegetables decorating the tree stump. Under the light of the October Blood Moon coming through the thinning canopies of the treetops, lost in her ritual, she neglected to hear the sound of footsteps signaling a warning. The final shift of the brush startled her, its branches parting to admit a man into the clearing.
She turned to face her visitor, forgetting for a moment that she stood there fully exposed, and stared into the eyes of Mitch, a friend from her apartment building two floors up and one door over. Despite the fact she had developed many friendships, no one there knew she was a witch.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, as she followed his gaze down over the erect nipples of her breasts to the small patch of hair nestled at the juncture of her thighs. Unable to avoid turning to get her robe, she was forced to display her backside to him as well.
“I saw a cloaked figure enter the woods and debated about checking it out until I saw the flickers of light through the trees.” He blushed as he stumbled over the words. “I couldn’t sleep. What are you doing out here at three o’clock in the morning?”
Thoughts rushed through her mind, wondering if he would approve or disapprove of her Wiccan ways. She momentarily felt like a trapped animal as he took a few steps toward her to get closer to the fire. His baggy, wrinkled sweatshirt didn’t prevent her from being distracted by the memories of him shirtless this summer.
“Listen, Brianna, you don’t have to be afraid to tell me. I won’t judge you. You know I’m not like that.” He turned to face her, and then took hold of the front of her robe, fondling the crushed velvet between his fingers. “Would you feel better if I confess something first?”
“I don’t know.” Her voice sounded strange even to her as apprehension and excitement mingled making her insides tremble.
The scent of him drifted through the inches left between them, and she closed her eyes as she absorbed his masculine smell. She could never deny to herself the attraction she had to him, but he’d never made any advances before to show her that he could possibly return the obsession.
“Then, here goes.” He stepped in, still holding the edges of her robe, but pressing his hands against her abs.
Still holding her robe protectively closed, his movement caused her to push the backs of her hands into his hard chest, making her skin tingle at the heated contact.
“I’ve wanted to be alone with you since the first time I met you, so I could see how you would react if I did this…”
The warmth of his breath brushed over her face before the fullness of his lips pressed against hers. He brought his hands up into her hair, and the chill of his fingertips felt like pure magical energy.
Mitch brushed his lips her cheek, and then whispered in her ear, “Relax, Brianna. I won’t do anything you don’t want me to.”
“Somehow that doesn’t make me feel better,” she stated, becoming acutely aware again of her nakedness under her robe as heat pulsed through her core, moistening her with desire.
“Now, why are you out in the woods in the middle of the night buck naked? I can’t get that image of you out of my mind,” he said, sucking in his next breath with a hiss as he pulled her more firmly against his hard chest.
She forced her pinned arms to her sides, allowing his jean-covered hardness to touch the skin of her stomach where her robe now parted slightly.
“I’m Wiccan, and I’m celebrating the Esbat of the October full moon,” she declared as she dared to shift her hands onto his hips as she spoke. She liked the way they felt against one another, bodies touching intimately in several curves and crevices.
“I like holding you, and I’m thrilled that you’re not pulling away,” he confessed.
“Then it doesn’t matter to you that—”
He pressed his lips to hers, his kiss interrupting her question. He penetrated her lips with his tongue and swept it over hers, tasting her and sending a chill racing down her spine.
“That you are a witch? No, you can explain more about that later. All I can think about now is getting my hands under your robe.”
She smiled, elation spreading all through her body.
“Then touch me,” she said, withdrawing from his embrace. She stepped backward, bringing her hands up to grasp the edges of the robe, pausing only for a single breath before she slid the material off her shoulders let her robe cascade to the ground again in a dark puddle at her feet.
He didn’t immediately come to her. First, he slowly unclothed himself, barely taking his eyes from her body as he toed off his shoes, slipped his shirt over his head, and then carefully worked his pants down over his thighs.
She gave into the heady sensation of being exposed to him. The thoughts she’d secretly had of them together over these past months welled up within her as he stepped close and brought his palms to cup her breasts, caressing her erect nipples with his thumbs. He kissed her briefly again before cradling her body to his and guiding her down to the ground to rest upon their discarded clothing. Leaves crunched and slim branches cracked beneath them as he spread her thighs apart with his knee and settled himself between them.
“I feared this moment would never happen,” he gasped just before his thickness entered her.
“Anything can happen under the full moon,” she breathed out on a sigh as he buried himself deep within her heated core.
Ever since she was young, Kiki Howell has loved to listen to a well-woven tale with real characters, inspired plots, and delightful resolutions. Kiki could spend hours lost in a book, and soon she knew that creating lives, loves, and losses with just words had to be the greatest thing that she could do.
Kiki has had over fifty stories published with three novels hitting Amazon Bestsellers lists in categories like Paranormal, Suspense, Occult Horror and Witch & Wizard Thrillers. She’s won awards like being chosen as an Ohioana Book Festival author along with having several shorts win writing contests.
Connect with Kiki on or sign up for her
Ms. Gina Kincade has been penning sensual stories since she was seventeen years old. Her first and second traditional publications were erotic short stories in a well-respected men’s magazine under an alternate pseudonym.
She writes everything from contemporary mainstream romance, to high heat M/F, M/M, Ménage, BDSM, and fetish. Her evil little vampires and were-creatures will rip out your heart without thinking twice and then engage in steamy, explicit sex scenes.
Gina writes under a total of five pseudonyms to-date in other genres, including YA and children’s.
A busy mom to three children, she lives in her wild household of two rambunctious dogs, a devoted, loving cat who believes herself to be royalty, and twelve crazy little chickens. She loves healthy home cooking, gardening, warm beaches, fast cars, and horseback riding.
Gina is also the C.E.O of Naughty Nights Press, a quality publisher of erotica, contemporary romance, and paranormal fiction.
Ms. Kincade’s life is full, time is never on her side, and she wouldn’t change a moment of it!
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So It Begins
by Phoenix Johnson
Caleb walked the familiar route delivering letters and parcels, whistling a jaunty tune and waving at people as he passed them by. His song wavered and his step faltered for a moment as he glanced at the house he now stood in front of. Hilana Moriarty had recently moved to Salem and took an instant liking to him. He had gently turned down her advances, but the strong willed woman wouldn’t take no for an answer. A few weeks after fending her off, he was now hesitant to linger by her mailbox lest she notice him.
He’d heard the rumors about her. This was Salem, after all, in a time where, thankfully, witches were more accepted in the community. His mother, Lenora, had been a powerful witch, second in charge of the local coven, though she had recently passed away. Caleb himself had a natural gift with foodstuff, as well as detecting power within people, both gifts he attributed to Lenora’s side of the family. But this young woman didn’t feel like the women from his Mama’s coven. There was a dark, oily feel to her aura. And even if there wasn’t something sinister about her, there was only one woman he had his eyes on.
Oh, he was too shy to act on his feelings. Morgan was set to be elected as the new leader of the Coven, while he was simply a mailman who had a way in the kitchen. He wasn’t good enough for her. No, he was satisfied to just deliver her mail and chat inanely about the weather and glean what tips he could about basic magic, mostly to enjoy the spark in her eyes as she openly discussed her craft. She was beautiful when she talked about magic. He was lost in a spell of his own heart, completely enamored by the powerful witch who only saw him as a friend.
Movement behind a curtain caught his attention, and he hurriedly stuffed the letters in the mailbox before moving to the next house, hoping Mrs. Laskin was out in her front garden so he’d have a reason to ignore Halina. Just as he knew what good witches were capable, so too did he know what evil they could conjure if they were crossed.
Caleb heaved a sigh and smiled as the old woman waved at him from her porch. Relief washed through him like a cold wave. He threw a glance over his shoulder and noticed Halina’s face in the window. Her brow was furrowed in a deep frown. He simply tapped the brim of his hat in greeting as he moved along, continuing along his route.
Hilana glared as Caleb scurried away, not giving her a chance to call out. She would make him hers, or make sure no one else would ever want him. They were in Salem, mecca for witches in North America. The very air was saturated with power, augmenting her own magic until she was buzzing.
Caleb had caught her eye only a few days after she had moved in. He was young and handsome, shy yet not awkwardly so, with a cheerful smile and gentle charm that captivated the elderly women on the street. At first, she had only watched him, the cogs in her head turning as she devised how best to approach seducing him. While he had no real social status within town, there was an aura about him that called to the witch within the woman. She hungered for him, almost to the point of a physical, painful need.
When she had finally made the approach, his quiet demeanor only stirred the flames of her desire, a heat that soon turned to scalding anger as he gently turned her down. Hilana had played it cool, not wanting to scare him off. Caleb had only said he was unable to show her around town right now. So she spent a couple weeks of meeting him at the mail box where she’d flirt mercilessly, weaving tendrils of pheromones and suggestion around her words. Somehow, when other men would have fallen at her feet, begging to be hers, Caleb simply shifted his weight, clearly eager to move along.
She was infuriated. The more he resisted, the more she needed to dominate him, make him crawl for her and lick her boots. He was simply a man, a tool for her to use as she sought dominion over the town, and, by extension, the coven of witches she had yet to muscle in on. They would all bow to her and call her Queen. This she vowed once more as she watched Caleb continue on down the street. He would be the first. She just needed a different approach.
A couple mornings later, as Caleb awoke from a fitful night’s sleep, something felt wrong. He couldn’t quite place what was amiss, and the elusive answer had him short of breath as panic took hold, his heart pounding in his chest. Caleb’s body jumped to the flight instinct, but his mind could not decipher why, cobwebs seeming to fill his head, slowing his wits and focus.
Chilly air brushed his bare torso, sending goosebumps racing across his skin. With a shiver, Caleb put the oddness down to an oncoming cold. Winter was still a couple months away, but the bite in the wind seemed to suggest it would be here early.
A peculiar smell drifted to him from across the room. It had strong scents of lemon and vinegar, and undertones he couldn’t quite name. It struck a chord of memory, buried deep within his muddled mind, but for the life of him he could not remember why it was familiar. It did draw his attention to the window, however, which was open a fraction. He could have sworn he’d shut and latched it last night before he climbed into bed. Caleb shook his head as he stood to cross the room. Peeking out of the curtains, the front yard and street looked normal. Nothing was out of place out there. The normalcy of the world, while something within him just felt wrong, sent chills down his spine. There was foul play of the magical sort, he just didn’t know how it would manifest itself.
A week had passed since he had woken to the scent of lemon and vinegar drifting from his open window. Nothing overly untoward had happened, except for a few missing letters and parcels. It happened occasionally, so he hadn’t given it any mind until he noticed how light today’s mailbag was. As he approached Hilana’s street, however, he noticed a group of residents gathered in Mrs. Laskin’s front yard. Caleb frowned as a sense of dread settled in his belly. There was no mail for the first few houses, nothing for Hilana, so he approached the crowd. A couple of people were casting glances over their shoulders as they all whispered and murmured to each other. A growing unease within him caused Caleb’s step to falter, and he stopped altogether when Mr. Lewis from across the street pointed at him and call out.
“Here he comes, now’s our chance.”
Part of him wanted to run, though where to he didn’t know. He briefly considered hiding at Morgan’s house one street over. The instinct to run wasn’t a strong enough one, however, so he continued on towards the mob. He studied the faces before him, all angry, and noticed everyone on the street was here, everyone except one, who was conspicuous in her absence. He glanced over his shoulder at the imposing house expecting to see a flutter of curtain giving away Hilana’s position, but he was disappointed. Suspicion raised its ugly head, and he began to ponder on everything that had happened over the past week. Was it all minor occurrences, or was there something sinister at work, something involving the woman who had failed to gain his attention?
By now, he was in among the angry residents, and noticed Octavia, the current leader of the local coven. She was an extremely powerful witch, terrifyingly so, yet she was the kindest, sweetest person he had ever met, besides Morgan. With her was her young daughter, Siobahn, an adorable little girl who looked little like her mother, but instead got her fiery red hair and emerald green eyes from her Irish father, rest his soul. Octavia gave him an encouraging smile, while Siobahn serenely dipped her head in acknowledgement. It always unnerved him how she seemed so much older. There was a well of power behind those young eyes, deeper than any witch he’d ever met had possessed. She would either make a great leader, or a terrifying threat, when she came of age.
Even with that thought in mind, however, knowing he had the quiet support of these two witches, he felt calm as he approached the center of the gathered people. He didn’t know why they were gathered, but he knew he soon would.
“What do you have to say for yourself, son?” Mr. Lewis had clearly been appointed voice of the crowd.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what is going on?”
Heated murmurs resumed behind his back until Mr. Lewis raised his hand, gesturing for them to hush.
“You mean to say you’ve no idea why, for the past week, mail has gone missing? Why, what is delivered has symbols of evil on the envelopes?”
Caleb frowned as the man continued.
“Is this some kind of joke, or are you lashing out in mourning for your mother? We all know she was of Wiccan faith. We never harassed her, despite the troubled history Salem has had regarding witches.”
His face flushed hot as anger rose within him. Caleb cast a glance at Octavia. He knew the coven was careful, not practicing actual magic around non-witches, so he hoped she could give him an answer for what was happening. All she did, however, was minutely shake her head. She either didn’t know, or couldn’t speak about it here.
“I honestly don’t know what is going on, sir. I haven’t defaced mail, and I didn’t think there was that much of a slump in letters and parcels. Not until today, my mailbag was almost empty when I picked it up this morning.”
Caleb noticed the glances some people were giving each other. It was his word against overwhelming evidence. This didn’t look good for him at all.
Mr. Lewis stepped up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Look, Caleb, we know it can’t be easy to lose your only living family member. But if you were having a hard time, you should have taken time off. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to mention this to your boss.”
“There’s nothing I can say to change your mind? I swear I didn’t have any hand in whatever is going on.”
The older man sighed. “If it was a simple matter of a misplaced letter here or there, we could brush it off as usual mailing error. But with so many missing, and the presence of those symbols, when no other postman has such issues…”
Caleb shook his head. He had no idea what was going on, except that this stunt was going to get him fired. His boss had always had it in for him, ever since he had found out Caleb’s mother was who she was. He was an astoundingly conservative man, one who frowned upon anything out of his ideals, and Lenora’s Wiccan faith, as well as her raising Caleb as Wiccan, made the man turn purple. Discrimination laws meant he couldn’t fire Caleb simply because the man didn’t like Lenora, but he’d been trying to cause trouble ever since. Now, he would finally get his chance.
Nausea swept over him as he faced defeat. Caleb hung his head and quietly walked out of the crowd. He knew he should finish his route, but he didn’t see any point when faced with so much anger and distrust from the people. As he once again passed Hilana’s house, he heard her call out from her porch, asking what she had missed. He didn’t even look up, just kept walking.
When he heard footsteps on the pavement behind him, hot anger filled him again. He was certain Hilana was the one behind it, though he had no way to prove it without risking the coven. Caleb didn’t want to be the reason they faced persecution again. So, once the footsteps sounded close enough, he swung around as words of venom sprung to his lips. The appearance of young Siobahn shocked him out of his rage.
“Mamma knows it’s the new bitch witch behind your bad luck, Caleb. The coven is going to confront her tonight, and I’m to tell you to stop by the bakery once you’ve taken your bag back to the post office.”
The young girl’s gaze held him still, quiet. She laid her hand upon his arm, and an overwhelming calm washed through him. Yes, she would either be a great leader for the coven, or a terrifying enemy. But he couldn’t care about that right now.
“I don’t need bread, so I don’t know why-“
“Don’t argue, Caleb. Just do as you’re told.” Siobahn smiled at him, her eyes twinkling. Before he could respond, she turned around and ran back to Octavia, standing away from the crowd now, watching him. Once Siobahn reached her, the coven’s matriarch lifted one hand just enough for him to see, before grabbing her daughter’s hand and walking across the street to their home.
She was sound asleep, dreaming of Caleb, when a powerful presence snapped her awake. There was someone here, waiting; someone with an immense magic that made her stomach quiver and her skin crawl. If she’d been less attuned, she would have naively hungered for that power, but there was a taste there she couldn’t ignore. A taste of fury held back, a tempest waiting to be unleashed. Hilana gathered her bedsheets around her as she brought her knees up to her chin. The presence was in her room, and she feared speaking, lest it attack.
Silence stretched on for so long, she wondered if whatever it had been had, in fact, left. Hilana shifted to switch on the lamp when a somber voice startled her.
“I don’t know what you planned for Caleb. Just know that, while you’re in my town, you have to answer to me and the coven. No one wields power in Salem without us finding out, and no one strikes against one of mine, witch or otherwise, without punishment.”
“I-I,” she stammered, trying to defend herself, but to no avail. She was struck mute with a flash of yellow light.
“Hecate is our Goddess, and she does not take kindly to anyone thinking themselves as above her or us, her acolytes. You are welcome to stay in town, but you are to stay clear of Caleb. He is a gentle soul, not deserving of your revenge spell.
“Besides,” the disembodied voice wavered, as though laughing at her expense, “it backfired on you. While you clearly intended for it to push him towards a sympathetic ear once he was fired, my own and I were able to usher him straight into something more suitable for him. You ended up doing him a favor, and losing any chance with him in one fell swoop.”
Silence stretched once more, and just when she thought she was alone, the voice sounded by her ear, though she knew there was no one next to her.
“Think twice before messing with me or mine again, witchling. We’re not a coven to be trifled with. And you’d do best to go elsewhere for your bread. You’re not welcome at the bakery, or anywhere else Caleb is. Move against us again and you’ll feel what real power is like.
“As I will, so mote it be.”
Hilana couldn’t go back to sleep that night. She remained curled up, frozen from fear, until the morning sun. It would take her years, she knew this, but she would get her revenge. That witch thought she was all that, and could threaten her. Well, she had another thing coming. She’d make them kneel before her yet.
Phoenix Johnson is an award winning, bestselling, multi-published Australian author with a real passion for all things paranormal, dark and weird. A hot romance is also nice to really heat things up.
Find more of Phoenix on her
Sweet for Salem
by Elizabeth A Reeves
Copyright © 2016 Elizabeth A Reeves
All rights reserved.
Editing by Evil Plotter Author Services
If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to an online retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity between actual persons living and dead is purely coincidental. Any uses of locales, establishments, or events are used fictitiously.
All writers are ghosts in all worlds but those of their own making.
Sweet for Salem
by Elizabeth A. Reeves
The café was busy tonight, Luisa Miller saw with satisfaction. Maybe tonight would be the night that she would be able to add the rest of the money she needed to her account. She had been saving for so long, and now her dream was nearly within her grasp.
Luisa had never been a small woman. She was abundant in every way, with wide hips and a generous bosom. Her hair had added some salt and pepper now, though in her youth it had been black—black as the night sky, as her beloved husband of twenty years, Simon, used to say. Simon had been dead these past five years. Not a day went by that Luisa didn’t miss him.
Strangely, it was the arguing that she missed the most. Simon had been a stubborn man, Luisa remembered fondly. He’d get an idea in his head, and nothing could shake it loose.
Not that Luisa was any less stubborn, herself.
Luisa hummed to herself as she wrapped a large apron around her waist and tied the strings neatly in front. She scrubbed her hands at the sink, but her mind, her heart, was always flooded with music.
Her grandmother, a woman as broad as Luisa, though blond in the way of her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, had been the one to discover Luisa’s gift for music. She had, Oma used to say, sung sweetly, even in her cradle.
Luisa smiled in memory as she launched into one of her favorite songs—an Irish ditty that Martin, one of her regular customers, had taught her. Martin was something of a scholar, though it wasn’t apparent exactly what kind of scholar he might be. Every night he carried in one of his big books and devoured it—his mind hungrier, at times, than his stomach.
Luisa shook her head to herself. There was no other man in the world like Martin, she was sure. She could already hear his voice from the dining room, regaling anyone who would listen with one of his fantastic stories.
Luisa shivered slightly, though the cook top was already bringing beads of sweat out on her forehead and upper lip. Martin’s stories were just a little too uncanny, she thought. He spoke as if he knew that they were absolutely true. And some of them, Luisa was quite sure, had never come out of a book.
Luisa rarely wondered what her customers did when they weren’t waiting for her to feed them. She wasn’t the type to speculate about other people’s lives. She had enough of her own life to worry about, without borrowing trouble.
One of her troubles, her granddaughter Marta, poked her head into the kitchen. “Hi, Oma,” she said cheerfully. “Sorry I’m late.”
Luisa narrowed her eyes at the clock on the wall. One of these days she was going to have to give in and get glasses. She shook her head, never interrupting her singing.
Marta winced. “I’ll stay late to make up for it,” she promised.
Luisa watched her bounce out of the kitchen again. Marta was just like her mother—lovely, energetic, and happy. She also had less sense than God gave chickens, at least when it came to the men she liked to date. The last one had been a complete brute.
Luisa, devoutly pragmatic, had even found herself wondering if he was human.
The café was decorated with all this witchy and kitchy—from antique brooms, to the cackling laugh that sounded every time someone opened the door. It had been Luisa’s idea, cashing in on Salem’s spotty history. However, that didn’t mean she actually believed in magic or hocus pocus of any sort stronger than the homey magic that turned ingredients into meals.
Lena, one of the waitresses, poked her head into the kitchen with a shy smile. “Martin is asking if you have a moment for him.”
Luisa sighed deeply. She would never admit it, but she was secretly pleased that Martin always wanted to talk to her at some point of the night. “When it slows down,” she said, breaking out of song. “If he wants to talk, he can wait.”
Lena flashed a grin and disappeared.
Luisa shook her head. Oh, those young girls. Young girls only had one thing on their minds. It was like young men, but different facets of the same coin. All young women could think about was love and romance.
Things hadn’t changed much since she was a young girl, herself. Hadn’t Simon swept her right off of her feet, with those trips to the opera, always bringing her flowers and writing love notes to her whenever they were apart for even a day?
Luisa smiled at the memories.
They just didn’t make romance the way they used to.
Luisa had been married at eighteen. She’d become a grandmother at thirty-four. Sometimes it felt like she had become Oma before she was even used to being a Mama.
Luisa shook her head and focused on making scrapple for her customers. Her menu was strongly influenced by that Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother—from scrapple to apple dumplings and shoo-fly pie. The menu also offered classics like oyster stew and other local recipes, but the heart and soul of the place was firmly Pennsylvania Dutch, despite its location in the heart of Salem, Massachusetts.
She burst into one of her favorite songs, ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles. It suited the mood she was in tonight.
What was it about this night that filled the air with nostalgia?
Maybe it was because Halloween was drawing close. Simon had loved Halloween with all the fervor of a young child. He had played pranks with full abandon—nobody was safe once he got started. Halloween had been a time for laughter, a time for family—the one holiday that never ended up with someone screaming at someone else and doors being slammed from every corner of the house.
Yes, Luisa thought. That was probably it.
She hadn’t told anybody yet, but this was going to be her last Halloween at the café. It was time to pass it on to the next generation.
Luisa had dreamed of traveling her entire life. She wanted to understand it all—to see it with her own eyes. She wanted to touch the stones that ancient people had touched. She wanted to walk down the paths that those people in Martin’s books had walked.
She’d been saving every penny she could, for so many years. Now, the dream was almost at the door.
There were so many reasons why she shouldn’t go, but she was determined. She needed to do this for herself. She didn’t want to die young, and with regrets like Simon had. He had raged those last few days of life. Simon had always raged when he felt something wasn’t right. And dying was the biggest affront of them all. He’d been so bitter, so furious that he had never gotten around to doing any of the thing he had dreamed of doing.
It was a terrible thing, Luisa thought, to see Death standing in the doorway and be unable to do anything to stop it. When her own time came, she hoped that it was fast. She didn’t want to see that skeletal mask hovering over her for days, weeks, or months. Simon’s death had taught her that.
Simon had been ten years her senior. He’d been only five years older than Luisa was now, when he had lost his battle with Death.
Luisa was all-too aware that life could be senselessly cut short.
There was a lull in tickets coming from the dining room. Luisa washed her hands and dried them on her apron. She sang a soft aria as she inspected her pies.
Pies were Luisa’s specialty. Like music, it was an area of her life where she let inspiration take flight. Tonight she had cranberry meringue pie—a new treat sitting among the old favorites. She’d give Martin a slice of that, she decided, and a slice of her spiced apple pie. He always enjoyed that, when she topped it with her cinnamon-dusted hand-made whipped cream.
She carried her treasures into the dining room. She didn’t even have to look to know that Martin was sitting in his usual spot at the counter. He smiled and put down his book when he saw her coming.
“Magnificent,” he declared, as she slid the pies in front of him. “Luisa, love, you are as talented as you are beautiful.”
Luisa felt her cheeks turn red. She was too old for such nonsense, but somehow Martin always managed to make her blush like a giddy young thing. She leaned against the counter as Martin slid his fork through the fluffy meringue, and down into the brilliant ruby of the cranberry curd interior. He studied the forkful with his full attention—as if he was tasting a new, expensive wine, not a slice of pie from a little café. He slid it into his mouth and closed his eyes, chewing slowly. A smile crossed her face. He nodded and opened his twinkling eyes. “Lovely,” he murmured. “Just lovely.”
Another blush stained Luisa’s cheeks. She tried to hide her embarrassment by sliding the apple pie in front of him.
“What are you reading tonight?” she asked.
“Ah.” Martin looked down at the slim volume. “An old favorite of mine. Plutarch. I find his ‘Parallel Lives’ to be a fascinating study of morality and philosophy.” He shook his head. “But, tonight, I find him to be a little dry. I would much rather enjoy your superb pie and talk with you.”
Luisa glanced around the dining room. There was no real reason why she couldn’t spend a few minutes chatting with Martin. If another group of customers came in the door, she could always just head back to the kitchen.
“That sounds fine,” she agreed. She tilted her head, watching him eat. “All these books you read, they’re from all over the world, aren’t they?”
“Do you ever go to the places you read about?” Luisa asked. “Or are the books enough.”
Martin chuckled. “I’ve always been a bit of a traveler,” he said. “I enjoy visiting the worlds that I read about. What was Charlemagne really like? Did anyone actually expect the Spanish Inquisition?”
Luisa laughed. “It seems like you are here every night. How can you travel so much, and still manage to be a regular at my café?”
Martin’s expression turned serious. He studied her face. “I could show you,” he said softly. “Could we meet later? Maybe tonight, after you close?”
Luisa hesitated for only a moment. This was Martin. She knew in her gut that he meant her no harm, no matter how mysterious he might be acting at the moment.
“That sounds fine,” she said.
Martin grinned. “Excellent! Now, tell me, dear lady. What are the places that you have always wanted to explore?”
Luisa had never been so eager for closing time to arrive. She hurried the wait staff out of the door and cleaned her kitchen in record time. Perhaps it was a little haphazard, but she could do a better job in the morning, she decided.
The idea of seeing Martin outside of the café was both terrifying and titillating. She couldn’t be sure if her heart was pounding with excitement or nerves.
She popped into the bathroom and pulled her hair out of her customary fifties-style beehive. It was the best way to keep her hair out of her face when she was cooking, but she rarely wore it that way outside of the café. Her hair was thick, long, and wavy. She quickly gathered it into a braid.
She didn’t want to keep Martin waiting.
What if he grew impatient and left?
Luisa hurried through the front door and locked it behind her.
She turned around and Martin was waiting for her.
“Would you like to go for a walk?” he asked.
Luisa nodded. She could feel a smile spreading across her face. He had waited for her.
Martin held his hand out to her. She took it, feeling the same electric shock she had felt all those years ago, when she had first held hands with a young man.
They were no longer young, either of them, but the magic was still there.
They walked along the sidewalk towards the little stretch of woods that everyone called the Park. The trees there had seen countless love stories acted out under their branches. And, Luisa knew, at least one terrible tragedy.
It was not far from here that the little waitress, Lena, had seen her mother murdered.
Luisa shivered and drew closer to Martin. She was a curvy woman, and he was a slight man, but she felt immediately safer, with him beside her.
They turned off the path and into the woods.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
Martin turned to her, his face serious, though his eyes sparkled with excitement. “You know that I would never lie to you, Luisa?”
Did she? After a brief moment of consideration, Luisa nodded. She was surprised to realize just how much she trusted this man.
“I will not lie to you,” he said gently. “But, you will think that I am. Please, try to believe what I say.”
Luisa nodded steadily. She had decided to trust Martin. She wasn’t going to back down now.
“There are places,” Martin said, “where times overlap. And there are people—travelers—who can cross through those places.”
Luisa stared at him silently.
“I am one of those travelers,” Martin said. “You have known others. I suspect Lena is one, though I doubt she knows that herself.”
Luisa shivered slightly, but she didn’t speak.
Martin stepped closer to her, still holding her hand in his. “I want to take you with me,” he said. “I want to explore the world by your side. I want to show you the wonders of this world, not in the places that only echo with memories, but when they were still alive.”
Luisa drew in a sharp breath.
“Will you come with me?” Martin asked softly.
Even in the dark, his eyes were alive. Luisa gazed into them, trying to read his soul.
“Yes,” she said. Her voice was barely more than a breathless whisper.
Martin grinned. “Well, then… where do you want to go first?”
Elizabeth A Reeves is a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, and a writer. She tries to balance all the aspects of her life. She is the author of Adrift (The Last Selkie), Running, and the Cindy Eller Cupcakes series. She is also the author of the Goldie Locke and the Were Bear series
She is a very prolific author and has nearly twenty titles under her belt at this point—with up to six titles per year currently being released.
You can reach her at the following links:
by Hope Welsh
Copyright 2016 © Hope Welsh
Editing by The Evil Plotter Author Services
To all those that love magick—and those that believe in love over all else.
by Hope Welsh
300 years ago…
Micah Reynard sat with Elizabeth, smiling at the woman who would soon be his wife. It was nearly impossible to believe that she had consented to become betrothed to him.
Elizabeth was the most beautiful of women. She also was one of the most powerful witches in the Coven. Her magick was only rivaled by his own. Together, they would have children more powerful than any magickal couple he knew.
“What are you thinking, my lord?” she asked him, a dimple showing in her cheek.
Micah smiled indulgently. “Just how lucky I am, my love. I find it nearly unbelievable that we are to marry on the morrow.”
Elizabeth flushed prettily. “I would kiss you, my lord.”
He grinned. “Would you, now?”
She flushed a deeper read which made him chuckle. “Oh, my sweet. I forget how innocent you are at times. There is no reason why you cannot kiss your betrothed,” he assured her. “After all, we are here at your home with plenty of chaperones around.”
Elizabeth leaned over and gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek. “Only one more night.”
“Yes, just one more night. Will your brother return in time for the nuptials?”
A cloud crossed her features. “I’m not sure, Micah. My father told me that he should have returned to the manor yesterday.”
Micah frowned at that. Her brother, Devon, was the one in the Coven who kept watch on the portals. His job was to insure that no demons found their way into the earthly realm. “Your father has not sent anyone to check on him?”
“Nay, Micah. He does not worry—it seems just I am concerned,” she said, her voice soft. “I thought to ride out and check on him myself.”
Micah was surprised. “You cannot ride out there alone, my love. It is not safe!”
“Oh, please,” she scoffed. “Who would dare attack me?”
If only she knew how dangerous times were here. Her father had done her a disservice by keeping her so sheltered. She had no idea the perils that could serve to destroy their happiness. At twenty and one, she was too young, her father felt, to involve in Coven business.
Micah was more forward thinking. He felt she should know of some of the dangers. Still, until they were wed, Micah had no choice but to keep with her father’s wishes. “No matter. I am sure he will arrive on time. If you’d like, I, myself, will go check on your brother.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “Nay. I am sure you are correct. He will be home in time.”
Still, Micah had a sudden feeling of foreboding. Something was brewing, and it terrified him.
Micah wasn’t sure what awakened him, but he woke fully alert. Something was wrong. He was sure of it.
His first thought was to check on Elizabeth. It was still fully dark outside. He lit a candle and quickly made his way from his room.
He found Elizabeth’s maid in her chamber, sleeping in the room that adjoined Elizabeth’s. “Where is your mistress?” he demanded.
“My lord? You cannot be in here! It is the middle of the night!” the maid said, scandalized.
“Where is your mistress?” he asked again.
“Why, I believe her to be asleep, my lord.”
Micah was tempted to question the young girl further, but realized that it would do no good. He had a very bad feeling that Elizabeth had taken it upon herself to go after her brother on her own—despite him telling her to do no such thing.
He should have gone and brought Devon back himself. But, it would do no good to concern himself with what he should have done.
His only concern now was finding Elizabeth before she was hurt.
He ran from the room, yelling for the young maid to be sure a horse was saddled for him. He’d have to make haste to find her.
After running back to his room, he dressed quickly, then ran down the stairs. He didn’t bother awakening her parents. He’d send for her father if he was unable to find Elizabeth and bring her safely home on his own.
He knew it was several hours until daylight. With a curse he rarely used, he hopped on the horse the tired stable boy had readied for him. “Tell your master I went after Elizabeth and her brother should I not return by daybreak,” he ordered tersely.
“Y-yes, my lord,” the boy stammered as he jumped back to avoid being run over.
With a kick of his heels, Micah as off. It took him only an hour to ride to the closest portal—where he prayed he’d find Elizabeth and her brother.
He sensed the demon presence minutes before he reached the portal. Obviously, the portal was open and Devon was doing his best to fight them off on his own. Devon was a capable witch, but not yet seasoned enough to fight off a full-scale demon attack.
Micah cursed himself as he pulled to a stop. Elizabeth’s mare was tied to a tree, and he saw Devon’s horse as well.
He leapt from his own horse and ran to the portal, where he found magick flowing back and forth. The demons were using their limited magick to try and escape, while Devon and Elizabeth fought to keep them from fully exiting the portal.
He cursed again and, using his own magick, forced the demons back through the portal before turning to glare at his fiancé and her brother. “What were you thinking?”
“I-I was called to come help him,” Elizabeth said, her face pale. “An angel sent me.”
Micah didn’t believe in angels. He believed in what he could see himself. Demons he could see. Demons he believed in. “Did you not once stop to think that it might well be a demon that summoned you?” he roared. “If you were already my wife, I would turn you across my knee!”
Elizabeth took a step back. “I did what I had to do.”
Micah went to her and pulled her into his arms. “You scared ten years off my life, love. Are you injured?”
Before she could answer him, Micah saw a white light shimmering just over Elizabeth’s head. He pulled her against him, terrified.
“Who are you?” Micah asked as the figure shimmered only a moment longer, before standing before him.
“I am Michael. I am here to take the new Keepers of Pandemonium.”
Micah looked at the being and realized that just perhaps angels did exist after all. Because, if he wasn’t wrong, this being was certainly an angel. He was at least six foot tall or more. He wore old clothes—clothes that reminded him of pictures he’d seen in books of Roman soldiers. The man carried a large sword in his right hand.
“I am to be a Keeper?” Micah asked, confused.
“Nay, Elizabeth is to be the Keeper. That is why I summoned her.”
Micah turned white. He knew that the Keepers had once been mortal beings, but once they went to Pandemonium, they became demons. “Nay, she is no demon!” He drew his own sword.
Elizabeth pulled away from him. “Micah, if it is my destiny, I will do as I am bidden.”
He shook his head. “No, Elizabeth. Take your brother and go home.”
Michael looked at Micah with his head tilted, as if he were pondering a decision. “You would go in her place, witch?”
“I would,” Micah said at once. He’d do anything to keep Elizabeth from that fate. A Keeper’s life was a lonely one. He didn’t know much about their lives, but he knew that much. A Keeper remained in charge of the Pandemonium portals at all times. Only rarely did one leave for any reason.
Some, he knew, could no longer tolerate the loneliness and begged to be allowed to die instead of remain in the hopeless realm. Micah would not allow that to become Elizabeth’s fate. Not if he could help it.
“So it shall be,” Michael said. “Micah, for your valor, you are to become Keeper of Pandemonium in Salem.” He turned to Devon. “And you, you will be the Keeper in Karma.”
Micah looked at Devon. “But why? Why would you wish to take two from the same family?”
The angel apparently took pity on Micah, because normally, none would dare challenge the orders of an angel. “We would not, young Micah, but Devon has been taken over by a demon. We can assure he lives—and that his own spirit has control—but only if he is in Pandemonium.”
Micah felt a wave of sadness. Those possessed were killed on sight. At least this way, Devon wouldn’t die. Though, he’d miss his friend.
“I am ready,” Devon said quietly. “Please tell our parents I love them.”
Elizabeth had tears streaming down her cheeks. “Please, sir, might I go with Micah?”
Michael shook his head. “Do not worry, Elizabeth. You will not remember this night, nor what you have lost.”
Micah felt his heart lurch. That was for the best. He had no desire to see Elizabeth pining away for him.
She’d survive the loss of her brother—but he didn’t know if she was strong enough to also survive the loss of her fiancé, all in the same night.
Micah walked to Elizabeth and kissed her gently on the lips. “You will have a long and happy life, my love. Promise me.”
Elizabeth’s eyes filled with tears, but she nodded. “I will do as you ask, Micah,” she promised. “You will not forget me?”
“Never,” he promised. “I will always watch over you, my love.” His voice broke and he forced a smile.
Michael looked at the pair of them. “Have no worry, Keeper. She will live a long, happy life.”
Micah could only nod, afraid his voice would break if he spoke.
After running over and hugging her brother and kissing his cheek, Elizabeth walked to her horse as if in a daze.
Micah knew that the angel had kept his promise, as she rode away without a backward glance.
“She won’t remember me,” Micah had to ask.
“She will not,” Michael agreed. “At least not that you two were in love. She will marry and have many descendants. It was not her brother’s destiny to become a Keeper, and her family will be rewarded with long, happy lives.”
Devon looked at his sister as she rode away. “Why do I not feel a demon inside me?”
Michael gave his attention to Devon. “Because I have given your spirit dominion over the demons. You will have the powers of the demons—but none of their weaknesses.”
Micah looked at Devon and felt another surge of pain. Two lives destroyed this night. He wondered if he’d ever see his friend again as he suddenly disappeared in a whirl of bright light.
“Will I ever see him again?” Micah wondered aloud.
“You will—if you are destined to. You, Micah, are different. You have no demon inside you. Our gift to you is that you will live for as long as you remain the Keeper of Pandemonium. You will have dominion over the demons there.”
“But I can never see Elizabeth again,” he said dully.
“No, you cannot. Would you want her to pine for you?” Michael asked.
“Of course not,” he admitted. “I would wish her happiness.”
“And you have my word she shall have it,” Michael promised. He pulled out a short staff and held it out to Micah.
“What is it?” he asked, staring at the short glass staff.
“It is a Keeper’s Staff,” Michael explained. “With it, you can force any demon to do your bidding. You can also use it to enhance your magick.”
“So I am to remain human?” he asked, not really caring. He was losing everyone he loved anyway.
“Yes, you will remain human. You are the first and only Keeper to ever be a mortal, Micah. Be faithful, and you will be rewarded when it is time.”
Micah heard the words, but they didn’t mean much to him. He simply closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he was in a large open area very similar to the one he’d just left. Only the difference in sky told him that he was no longer where he’d been.
No, he was now in Pandemonium. He looked toward the town proper and with a sigh, walked toward it.
He’d do the job he’d sworn to do—and never would he allow himself to love again.
Pandemonium Unleashed, which is included in A Wicked Halloween, is the continuation of Micah’s story. Pandemonium: Demons of Karma is Devon’s story.
Hope Welsh has always been addicted to stories with a happy ending. Whether she is writing fantasy, romantic suspense, paranormal or urban fantasy, her books will always have that Happily Ever After.
She’s been writing as long as she can remember, and wrote her first play in the third grade. Her school put it on at Christmas time. She was furious with her sister for getting married that night. Hope missed her own play.
Over the course of time, She’s worked in several careers. She was a police officer, an EMT, and a teacher. She even worked as a journalist/photographer for a small-town newspaper.
Hope has lived all over the US and Canada. She’s a born wanderer. When she can’t travel in real life, she travels in her books. She hopes you enjoy the trip.
Hope’s website has links to her other books that are currently out. More to come. Hope would like to invite you to sign up for her monthly newsletter; on her website. You can also reach me at any of the below sites:
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