Holiday Magic is a special edition Spellbound story about love, forgiveness and second chances.
(Recommended after reading the Spellbound Trilogy, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.)
Start book one, Entangled, FREE.
Entangled (Sepllbound #1)
When it comes to music, fashion, and friends, twin witches Graylee and Charlene Perez have nothing in common. Following a tragic accident, their lives become inexplicably entangled.
Raj McKenna is a screw up. A delinquent. A coven reject. It’s no wonder Gray questions his motives when he offers to help free her from Charlene.
Sparks fly between the unlikely pair, but as time runs out love might not be enough to prevent Gray from fading away forever.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.
Copyright © 2014 Nikki Jefford
Cover Design: © Once Upon a Time Covers
All rights reserved
For magic lovers of all ages.
The airport security line folded in on itself like an accordion. By now, the line should have been shrinking, but it only seemed to expand.
Lee sighed. “Tis the season.”
Beside her, Raj raised one dark eyebrow. “To be waiting?”
She snorted in answer.
The two young sisters poking each other in front of her weren’t helping Lee relax.
“Okay, you two,” their mother said. “Grab your packs, we’re moving forward.”
Forward one foot.
Lee and Raj followed a step behind.
“Excited about your first trip abroad?” Raj asked.
“I suppose it beats going home for the holidays and having to pretend to be Mr. Morehouse’s daughter.”
Actually, Lee would have rather spent Christmas in Spain, but Gray had settled down with Adrian in Paris.
Adrian and Paris… now there were two things Lee had trouble believing her duplicate could come to love. Perhaps the love whammy Gray fell into had lingering effects. Anyone who originated from Lee would snap her way as far from Montez the Magician—The Avenger—as quickly as she could.
Gray assured her Adrian retired from the business of avenging. No more sleazy set-ups to break couples apart, balding spells or body transfers. No more hexing for hire.
They were performers now—magicians and illusionists. Yet another tidbit Lee had a difficult time taking seriously.
Lee’s vision blurred the more she thought about it. The travelers surrounding her became smudges of color against the terminal’s bright lights. Their conversations turned to din.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Raj said beside her ear.
His grinning lips came into focus.
Lee narrowed her eyes. “Are you reading my mind?”
Raj’s smile widened. “I don’t have to. I know you, Lee. I understand your doubts. Believe me, I had them, too, but Adrian seems to really care about Gray and I think they’re happy together.”
Why didn’t Lee find that reassuring? Maybe because she’d never seen them together. Raj had when he rushed off to Paris over the summer, thinking he was rescuing Gray from Adrian’s evil clutches.
It turned out Gray had an actual thing for the big bad warlock. Or so everyone said. Lee wasn’t convinced.
The line moved another foot.
“Are we sure that love spell actually broke?” Lee asked. “She could still be under his influence and not even realize.”
“Lee,” Raj said.
Lee turned to him. “What?”
The line moved another two feet. Lee’s shoulders were beginning to ache from the weight of her backpack.
“We may not understand or even agree with her choices, but they’re hers to make. The important thing is we survived our first semester of college and we’re spending Christmas together… in Paris.”
It was nearly impossible not to smile back at Raj when he looked at Lee with such open adoration. Plus, he was a hot half Indian who had his mother’s bronzed skin and lush dark hair. From his father, he’d inherited a set of startling green eyes more arresting than emeralds. Lee had always had a thing for the unique—from fashion to magic to men, she found herself drawn to the extraordinary.
Raj McKenna was no longer the delinquent she’d avoided and tried to resist junior year of high school. She didn’t have to worry about him snapping off a professor’s blouse for humiliating her in front of the class. Those actions might have endeared him to her on a primal level, but she liked the mature and studious Raj. She appreciated how responsible he’d become. How she could count on him. If anything, she loved him even more.
That’s what Lee ought to be thinking about, not festering over Gray and Adrian. Love like Raj’s was a gift to be cherished.
As Lee relaxed, the line seemed to speed up. Soon she and Raj were handing over their passports and boarding tickets at the first security check. The TSA worker leaned against his podium, looking over their IDs. He opened and closed Raj’s quickly. When he got to Lee’s photo, he kept staring then looked up as though noticing her for the first time.
Lee frowned as his eyes lingered over hers.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. This body was gorgeous. Long blond hair, vibrant blue eyes, size zero, tall with perky size C cups. It had belonged to McKinley High socialite Stacey Lee Morehouse before Charlene had caused an accident that put Stacey into a permanent coma. Raj had used his mind healing powers to try and help Stacey, only to find she was no longer there.
But she had been present when Lee drifted along as a spirit in need of a body. By that time, Stacey was ready to go, but it still didn’t sit right with Lee. How could she ever be comfortable in her own skin when it wasn’t her skin at all?
The TSA guard finally handed back their passports and boarding passes.
Lee and Raj joined the line for the X-Ray.
While the mother in front of them bent down helping her girls take off their shoes, Raj snapped his fingers. An instant later, his sneakers appeared in one of the plastic security bins.
Lee bent down to remove her own by hand.
Raj’s smile quickly faded. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
Lee had given up her powers to save her duplicate Gray from certain death. Magic could never be simple, could it? When The Contact had come after Gray and started sucking away her life force, it was like watching her own death.
Lee had acted on instinct. She couldn’t allow her duplicate to die.
But now she was powerless and tired of the guilty look Raj got on his face whenever he used his abilities in front of her.
She didn’t want Raj to apologize for using magic.
It was his birthright.
She worried that being with her was holding him back.
Lee plopped her shoes into a bin and set her backpack inside another one. Once the family in front of them had sent their shoes and bags down the belt to the X-Ray, Lee pushed her items along. Raj set his messenger bag and shoes on the belt behind her things.
Lee walked through. Another TSA worker openly stared at her. She passed by him and snatched up her shoes once they cleared the X-Ray. While she bent over to put them back on, the conveyer belt stopped.
“Sir, is that your bag?” the woman operating the X-Ray asked Raj.
Raj frowned. “Yes.”
The woman turned to a TSA guard behind her. A moment later, the belt started back up, sending Raj’s messenger bag out of the machine. The TSA guard grabbed it.
“Come with me,” he said.
Raj and Lee looked at each other. She slung her backpack over her shoulder and followed him over to the table where the guard waited with Raj’s bag. Raj turned to her and said, “Can you wait for me?” He inclined his head toward a set of vinyl chairs beside a trash bin just outside the security area.
“Sure,” Lee said.
He smiled in gratitude and hurried over to the guard.
Lee stood in place a moment wondering what the heck it was he didn’t want her to see inside his bag.
Her jaw dropped as wedding bells rang inside her head. He wouldn’t dare. Lee quickly closed her mouth and took a seat. She tapped her foot as she waited.
It wasn’t long before Raj walked over; bag slung over one shoulder, and grinned. “All clear.”
Lee cocked her head to one side, taking a good look at him. Raj slipped his fingers inside the front pockets of his faded blue jeans. He wore a navy and red flannel shirt that Lee had wrapped her arms around many times over the course of the semester. He was one of a kind; her one and only, but that didn’t mean she wanted to settle down.
Raj raised his eyebrows. “You have a peculiar look on your face,” he said.
Lee stood up and wagged a finger at him. “There better not be an engagement ring in there, buddy. I’m only eighteen.”
Raj shot her a megawatt smile. “But Paris would be such a romantic place to propose.”
“Raj,” Lee said in a warning voice.
“Kidding,” Raj said. “I figured you’d want to finish college before you started having my babies.”
Lee smacked his arm.
“Kidding again.” Raj rubbed his shoulder where she’d cuffed him.
“So what was with the bag search?” Lee asked.
“I must have been lucky number a hundred and one or something.”
“Uh-huh. And why didn’t you want me to see what’s in your bag?”
Raj’s grin widened. “It’s a surprise.”
“I don’t like surprises.”
“Trust me, you’ll like this one.”
Lee did trust Raj—more than any other living soul on the planet—but she still wasn’t fond of surprises. She had enough excitement to get through while spending Christmas with Gray and Adrian.
The taxi ride into Paris didn’t take half as long as the line to actually obtain a cab. This was the first time Lee had traveled during the holidays and she was impressed by the mass of humanity all inching forward on their journey back to family and friends. It didn’t matter what country it was. People wanted to be together for the holidays.
A sharp pang stabbed at Lee’s heart as she thought about her mother. This would be their first Christmas apart.
She could have gone home, but Gray had sounded so hopeful over the phone when she called to invite her and Raj to spend Christmas and New Year’s in Paris. With Lee and Raj attending college on the East Coast, it didn’t take any longer to go to Europe than to get back home to Washington State. Besides, she wanted to check in on her duplicate and see how she was really doing. Gray had been through a lot and although she wasn’t a sister, she was family. Just like Raj and even Mr. Morehouse. Supernatural forces had brought them together, and they were all bound for life.
Lee continued to shift her gaze from the cab’s running meter to the scenery outside. The sky was overcast, but the roads were dry.
For some reason, Lee expected to see great big fountains, cathedrals, statues and gargoyles on the drive to Adrian’s apartment. Gray had told her they lived around all the best attractions. This was Europe. Where were the castles? Not in the middle of the city, of course, but it would have been cool to pass one on the way in.
So far, all Lee had seen was a lot of traffic. The cars were smaller and the license plates thinner and longer, but other than that it reminded her of the congestion around Seattle.
Once they entered the city itself, the buildings took on an old world charm with their stone facades, columns and wrought iron cresting.
Eventually the cab driver pulled over in front of a set of double doors outside a large stone building. Lee pulled her wallet out of her purse and handed the cabby Euros with extra for tip. He thanked her and went round back to take their luggage out of the trunk and set it on the curb.
“Here we are,” Lee said, standing on the Paris sidewalk, looking up at the building.
A hollow ache filled her chest.
At least she had Raj. She didn’t wasn’t sure how she felt about shacking up with Gray and Adrian.
Raj charged ahead, apparently immune to the holiday blues, and hit the buzzer outside the glass doors.
The outer intercom crackled.
“Oui?” a woman said.
Her voice sounded a lot like Lee’s old voice, but it was hard to tell with all static interference.
Raj leaned into the intercom. “Gray?”
“Yeah. Lee and I made it.”
“Oh my god!” Gray cried. “Come on up.”
There was a loud click and the intercom went silent. Raj looked at Lee and grinned. He reached out for the door’s handle and pulled back.
“Ready to do this?” he asked.
Lee lifted her chin. “Oui,” she said, mimicking Gray. “See? I can speak French.”
He chuckled as he followed Lee into the lobby. “I really should have brought an engagement ring so you could tell me yes in French.”
Lee snorted. “You’re beginning to worry me, McKenna.”
He smiled. “Don’t worry. I got you something way better than a ring.”
“Oh really?” Lee asked, smiling back. If it were alarming enough to warrant a bag search, it must be good. And Raj gave the most touching gifts.
“But you have to wait until Christmas,” he said.
“Tease.” Lee grinned back.
She scanned the lobby. There didn’t appear to be an elevator so Lee went for the stairwell, Raj right behind her.
Maybe Christmas wouldn’t be a bust, after all. Not if Raj had something special he planned on presenting to Lee. She’d been crazy about the luck amulet he’d gifted her in high school.
Along with her powers, Lee had passed it on to Gray. She’d looked so sad after Raj chose Lee as the true Graylee Perez, keeper of his heart. Lee figured Gray could use a bit of comfort and luck during her trip to Barcelona seven months ago.
But Adrian had managed to curse the amulet, as well. Now it was somewhere at the bottom of the Seine. It had been the only way to break the love spell Adrian’s grandmother placed over the object, and effectively Gray.
So everyone said.
Lee would be the judge of that soon enough.
A blond head popped into the dimly lit corridor when they reached Gray’s floor.
“Lee! Raj!” She exclaimed. As soon as they reached her, Gray rushed up to Lee and kissed her on each cheek then moved to Raj and repeated the gesture.
“Happy holidays,” Raj said, grinning.
“Joyeux Noël,” Gray returned. “Well, in a couple days, anyway. Come in and make yourselves comfortable.”
Raj inclined his head for Lee to step inside first. She entered a high ceilinged entryway lit by a modern silver chrome chandelier. About six feet ahead, a wide opening led into the main room. The doors, paneling, frames and even curtains were bluish-gray, appearing bold against the white walls and ceiling above.
Adrian appeared from around a wall, his footsteps creaking over the oak floors. His smile always reminded Lee too much of a smirk. Thick, fashionably disheveled brown hair framed Adrian’s face. Dark stubble covered his jawline and chin.
It wasn’t even Adrian’s body originally. Talk about vain. Though, according to Gray, he’d fallen off a building as a boy and broken his original body beyond repair. Gray claimed Adrian’s grandmother performed a body transfer against his will.
Right, like anything ever happened against Adrian’s will. If Lee still had her powers, she’d snap the smug right off Adrian’s face.
“Hello, Lee,” Adrian said. “Let me get that for you.” He reached for Lee’s suitcase. She quickly dropped the handle to prevent their fingers from touching.
At least he hadn’t tried to kiss her on the cheeks. That would have been pushing it considering the magical warfare that had erupted inside his magic shop back home. The whole thing suddenly seemed ludicrous—Adrian, Raj, Gray and Lee spending the holiday together as though everything was all eggnog and reindeer.
The very last time Lee had seen him, Adrian went after Gray with a frying pan. Now, present day Gray joined his side and pressed against him. Adrian snaked his free arm around her waist.
“We are so happy to have you here spending Christmas with us,” Gray said cheerfully.
Right. Gray was definitely still under a spell.
“We have you all set up in the guest bedroom,” Adrian said, pulling Gray to him for a kiss on the cheek before breaking away.
Lee glanced at Raj, wondering if he was as disturbed by the PDA as she. He smiled good-naturedly. Either he was an exceptionally good fake, or he didn’t see what was going on.
Adrian led them past a fireplace and glass dining table into a small bedroom. He set Lee’s suitcase against the wall.
“This is where Adrian’s nan stays when she’s with us,” Gray said. “She’s spending the holiday back home.”
Lee could only assume that meant Washington. Adrian probably didn’t have that option. The state’s coven leaders would be after him faster than a fire-breathing dragon if he ever showed his face anywhere near Kent again. Not after he’d temporarily sabotaged every witch and warlock in the area by making their magic backfire.
Was Lee the only one who hadn’t forgotten these not-so-minor details about Adrian Montez?
“Make yourselves at home, and if you need anything just ask,” Gray said.
She led them back into the main living quarters. White lights and pastel ornaments decorated a five-foot fir tree in the corner. It was the first time Lee had been taller than a Christmas tree.
Gray pointed to the window.
“Look, Lee, you can see the Eiffel Tower from our living room.”
Lee walked up to the window and stared at the towering structure across the city. That was pretty dang cool. Too bad Gray wouldn’t get to enjoy it much longer.
Paris: City of love and deception.
Lee and Gray might not share DNA, but they shared the same mind. Life and experience inevitably reshaped their thoughts and values, but that didn’t change their origins, and Lee wasn’t about to stand back and let Adrian take advantage of Gray.
The last traces of daylight seeped out of the sky. Above Paris, the December skies turned a deep cobalt. Below, the city lit up—including the Eiffel Tower, which illuminated with a rainbow of changing color that moved up and down the tower in constant motion.
A champagne cork popped in the background.
Lee stood in front of the window keeping her back to the activity—i.e., Adrian—in the kitchen.
Gray joined her, holding two champagne flutes filled with bubbling red alcohol. Her smile widened when Lee looked at her.
“One for you and one for me,” Gray said merrily.
Lee took the flute. “Thanks.”
“It’s called a kir royale,” Gray said. “Champagne and crème de cassis. It’s yummy. You’ll love it.”
Gray would know.
“The French like to drink an aperitif before dinner,” Gray continued.
Lee eyed the flute. She needed to keep her wits about her. Then again, the trip over had left her exhausted. Damage control could wait until the morning. One more night wasn’t going to make a difference.
Lee lifted her flute. “Cheers.”
“A santé,” Gray said. “It means wishing you good health.”
They clinked glasses and tilted them back nearly in sync. Lee swallowed. A delicious crisp, bubbly berry flavor slid down her throat.
“That’s tasty,” she said.
“I knew you’d love it,” Gray said, her grin widening.
Raj joined them at the window with what looked like a rum and coke in his hand.
“No bubbly?” Lee teased.
Raj shook his head. “Not my taste. But I did want to say cheers to a successful first semester.”
For a moment, Lee forgot Gray and Adrian. There was only Raj standing beside her, green eyes bright against his naturally tan skin.
Lee lifted her flute. “To our first semester of college.”
“How do you like college?” Gray asked.
“So far so good,” Lee said.
Actually she loved it. She loved the independence and higher learning. She was making lifelong friendships and she got to see Raj every day. Attending university was a dream come true, which was why she didn’t want to elaborate over much with Gray—she knew that had been her duplicate’s dream, too.
“That’s wonderful,” Gray said. “Do you still plan on doing a semester abroad?”
Lee kept forgetting how easily Gray could get inside her head. She didn’t require mind magic for that.
Lee had always wanted to visit Spain and try out her Spanish speaking skills. Gray had gotten that chance when she took off to Barcelona that past summer, but she hadn’t finished out the season thanks to Adrian.
How could she trust a man who had gone out of his way to perform in the same city Gray had fled to in order to get away from people like him?
Adrian just couldn’t resist appearing at a theater in Barcelona, waving around his magic wand and stirring up all kinds of trouble. Everyone claimed it was his nan, and not him, who put the love spell on Gray, but did it really matter? If not performed by him, then on his behalf. Same difference as far as Lee was concerned.
“Say, Raj, could I get a hand with something?” Adrian asked.
Raj turned slowly from the window. “Sure.”
He joined Adrian in the kitchen where they whispered before walking out and disappearing into another room.
“What are they doing?” Lee asked. She didn’t trust Adrian with Gray and she sure as hell didn’t trust him with Raj.
Gray shrugged. “Beats me.”
Lee turned suddenly to Gray. Raj could take care of himself. She ought to take advantage of her momentary privacy with Gray.
“So how are you really doing?” Lee asked.
Gray’s smile reached nearly to her eyes. “Lee, I never would have believed it was possible six months ago, but I am simply bursting with happiness. Isn’t it crazy? Me and Adrian—living together, performing together in France. I’m learning French. Hard to believe.”
That was just the thing. Lee really couldn’t believe it. “Bursting with happiness”? Hello? Red flag!
She drank down the rest of her flavored champagne.
“What is it about Adrian that makes you happy?”
“For one thing, he respects me.” She smiled. “Notice I said respect before love?” Gray pointed from her forehead to Lee’s. “One mind, remember?”
Lee set her empty champagne flute on an end table and folded her arms. “Do you respect him?”
Not possible. As Gray said, one mind.
“Very much so,” Gray said without hesitation. “He’s an incredible performer and you should see him around kids—what a softie. Who would have known? He always has my best interests at heart and he’d do anything for me.”
“Is that what you want?” Lee asked. “For him to do anything for you even if it means hurting someone else?”
Gray’s forehead wrinkled. “Of course not. Adrian would never hurt anyone. I already told you on the phone, he’s changed his ways.”
Lee raised one eyebrow. “And you believe that?”
“Yeah,” Gray said voice rising as though answering a challenge.
Lee shook her head. “I don’t see how you can trust him.”
Lee and Gray stood face to face, eyes locked—the seconds ticking by in silence. Suddenly, Gray’s shoulders relaxed.
“You know, I almost forgot how I used to feel about him. I’m glad you’re here because now you’ll get a chance to see for yourself how sweet Adrian really is.” Gray waved her hand in the air as though the matter was settled. “Want another drink?”
Lee shook her head. “I’m good.”
“Come on,” Gray said, nudging her shoulder. “You’re on holiday break.”
“I guess. If you’re having one.”
“Heck, yeah. I could drink these every day.”
By the time they’d finished their second kir royale—in front of the window, a view wasn’t something to be wasted, after all—Adrian and Raj reemerged.
Lee gave Adrian a good long stare. He entered the room with a self-satisfied smirk and scratched the scruff on his chin.
Nope, she still saw him as naughty, not nice. Maybe it wasn’t a love spell at all, but the champagne Gray kept drinking. A guy could look really good with enough bubbly.
Adrian set two empty glasses inside the kitchen sink. He kept his distance as though sensing Lee’s hostility the way Raj could read a person’s aura.
“Where should we dine?” he asked.
Gray clapped her hands lightly. “The pizzeria on Saint Denis. You know how Lee and I love pizza.”
Adrian smirked. “It’s Lee’s first night in Paris and you want her to eat pizza?” He made a show of considering the request, twisting his lips to the side, tapping his lower lip. “Comme tu veux, mon amour,” he said. “As you said, I know how much you two love pizza.”
Lee hated that Adrian knew so much about not just Gray, but by default, her. She had to disentangle Gray from the sneaky warlock before she and Raj left France.
Despite her misgivings, Lee had to admit the pizzeria Gray chose was adorable. Each table had a light bulb dangling above with a cheese grater acting as a lampshade. The tables were tucked into little nooks and crannies. Super cozy. And the pizza was the thin crisp kind Gray and Lee were crazy about. They devoured their pies at nearly the same rate.
Adrian chuckled from across the table. “Is one enough?”
Gray leaned back in her chair. “I could have eaten another slice.”
“Allow me.” Adrian snapped and a large slice of pizza appeared on her plate.
Gray’s jaw dropped. She elbowed Adrian. “You promised to behave.”
“I also promised to make you happy. Food makes you happy.”
Gray laughed instantly. “You’re too much.”
“You don’t want the extra slice?” Adrian asked, arching a brow.
“Of course I want the slice. What about you? Your cocktail looks a bit low. Let me fix that for you.”
Gray snapped her fingers. Adrian’s glass filled so suddenly it spilled over. His face dropped and his hands jerked forward in an attempt to stop the spillage.
Raj cleared his throat.
Gray stopped laughing abruptly. Her eyes darted toward Lee then away. “Oh, right. Sorry.”
“Raj,” Lee said. “It’s fine.”
But it wasn’t. She wished her mom would have joined them in Europe for the holiday. Then they could be normal together. Mrs. Perez had also given up her powers to save Gray—to save Lee. She hadn’t realized the full extent of that sacrifice until she followed in her mother’s footsteps.
Losing her magic sucked, plain and simple. Somehow the holidays made it worse. More likely, Adrian and Gray made her feel worse with their playful use of power.
Once upon a time, Lee had loved performing magic more than anything. Now she was normal. Just another college girl who had to get up and dress herself in the morning. She used to be able to snap her clothes on and off. It was practically Magic 101. And she could do much more, even turn herself invisible. Now here she was for the world to see—nothing special or extraordinary. No longer Graylee. Simply Lee.
Back at the apartment, Gray asked if they wanted anything else before bed. Adrian had disappeared into his bedroom and Lee was eager to escape to her own.
“We’re fine,” Lee answered quickly. She couldn’t wait to be alone with Raj.
“Okay. I’m so happy you’re here. Bonne nuit.” Gray gave Lee a quick hug.
After mumbling “good night” to Gray, Lee hurried to the guest room, shutting herself inside with Raj. He bent over to unzip his suitcase, rummage around, then straightened up.
“Well?” Raj asked. “What’s your first impressions of Paris?”
Paris?! Lee didn’t want to discuss Paris. She wanted to formulate a plan to free Gray from Adrian’s spell.
Raj’s fingers caressed the buttons on his shirt. Lee focused on each one as he freed them from their fabric holes. She tilted her head, wishing he’d snap the shirt off already.
It had been sexy when he used to do that. Lee was getting fed up with the walking on eggshells routine Raj did around her.
“I thought you said the love spell was broken,” Lee said.
Raj’s shoulders slumped. “It is. Why do you say that?”
Lee threw her arm out toward the door. “Obviously Gray’s still under a spell.”
“Lee, Gray’s not under any magical spell.”
How could Raj be so sure? Lee frowned. “Then why is she acting all gooey around that jackass?”
A smile spread over Raj’s lips. He made his way over to Lee carefully and reached out his hand, cupping her chin delicately.
“It’s called being in love.”
Lee grimaced and took a step back.
Raj’s smile fell. “Lee, are we good?”
The hurt on his face stabbed at Lee’s heart. She loved Raj beyond words, but sometimes she worried that she wasn’t the woman he’d fallen for. She didn’t look a thing like her original self, and she’d lost her powers. How could she forget the reason she caught Raj’s eye in the first place? By sneaking into class late as Invisa-Girl then reappearing before his eyes.
Most women would kill to have a body like the one she now possessed, but Lee had appreciated having her own unique look and style.
Gray had never been one of those girls who wished she belonged to the popular crowd. She’d certainly never looked at Stacey Lee Morehouse and wished for even a second she was her.
Lee considered herself the real Graylee Perez. Her duplicate hadn’t been awakened until nearly a year later, yet she got to look like herself and perform magic. But those were the simple facts. Lee had come to terms with it. What irked her now was that after everything they’d been through together back home, Gray had chosen to fling herself into the arms of Adrian Montez.
How could Gray love someone Lee loathed?
They liked the same food, the same beverages, the same clothes… at one time, the same men. Gray had kissed Raj behind Lee’s back. She was happy her duplicate had moved on. She just wished it had been with anyone other than Adrian.
Raj stood still watching her.
“Of course we’re good,” Lee said. “It’s just hard being here, pretending like everything’s great after what Adrian did to all of us.”
Raj’s shoulders relaxed slightly. “I understand more than anyone. The first time I came here it was to help take him down. But a man can change.”
“Can he?” Lee asked, arching her brows.
“I did,” Raj said.
Lee stepped up to Raj and slid her arms around his neck, suddenly tired of the arguing. They were standing inside their own private bedroom—something they’d never had before. No sneaking into dorm rooms.
“I’m not so sure, McKenna,” Lee said, lowering her voice. “Are you telling me there isn’t some old part of you who would like to snap my clothes off?”
Raj stared at her lips as she spoke. His eyes blazed with supernatural brilliance the way they did whenever he was turned on. Lee untangled her arms from around his neck and took a step back then another until she was nearly against the edge of the bed.
Raj’s gaze drifted down her body and back up. “You’re playing with fire, Lee,” he warned.
Lee bit down playfully on her lower lip. “Then why don’t you light me up?”
Raj’s lips lifted into a grin that appeared more devious than playful. His hand rose slowly. His fingers rubbed together in a leisurely caress before he snapped.
“Happy Christmas Eve,” Gray called out when Lee emerged from the guest room the next morning.
Her duplicate stood in the kitchen wearing a gray tank top over pink, white and gray pajama pants with little white poodles printed all around.
“Cute PJs,” Lee said as she walked up to a barstool in front of a counter opposite the kitchen. She’d dressed in skinny jeans and a fuzzy pink sweater before coming out of the guest room. She didn’t feel at home enough to lounge around in her pajamas.
“Thanks,” Gray said. “There’s a lingerie shop on practically every street corner of Paris, but you know us…”
“We like our comforts,” Gray and Lee said in unison.
Lee broke out into a grin and they laughed. Gray turned to the stovetop.
“I’m heating some milk to make us mochas.”
“Oh my god, I love you,” Lee said.
Gray chuckled. “Told you we’d have a great Christmas together.” Gray measured some brown powder from a tin into the pan and started whisking.
“Can I do anything?” Lee asked.
“Nope, it’s almost ready.”
Less than a minute later, Gray had the steaming beverage poured into two mugs and set one in front of Lee.
Gray drank hers standing, or slouching rather, against the counter.
“Did you sleep okay?”
“Fine,” Lee replied quickly, feeling a blush coming on.
“It’s wonderful seeing you and Raj so happy together. He’s a great guy.”
Lee nodded and took another sip of mocha. She got the feeling Gray was fishing for a return compliment, but she wasn’t biting. She wouldn’t lie to her own duplicate.
Gray watched her a moment before lifting her mug to her lips. She set it back on the counter.
“There’s so much I want you to see while you’re here, but a lot of the attractions are closed today and tomorrow so we’ll have to wait until after Christmas. Adrian thought you might enjoy walking along the Champs-Élysées to see the beautiful holiday decorations.”
“Sounds good,” Lee said.
“Then it’s a plan… as soon as the guys get their lazy asses out of bed.” Gray laughed before returning to her mocha.
When it came to holiday décor, Paris went all out. Little white Christmas lights glittered off every tree along the avenue of the [*Champs-Élysées all the way down to the Arc de Triomphe. Shimmering decorative balls circling soft blue glowing orbs lit up the parks between shops. Lee felt as though she were walking through one very lavish winter wonderland. *]It was nothing short of dazzling. Best of all, it put Lee into the holiday spirit.
She gave Raj’s hand a squeeze. He looked over with a grin and squeezed back.
“Mulled cider, anyone?” Adrian asked, nodding toward a cart along the curb.
“Yes, please,” Gray said, rubbing her hands together.
“Not for me,” Raj said. “But I’m sure Lee would like one.”
“Sure,” Lee said in the friendliest voice she could muster, which wasn’t particularly friendly.
While Adrian and Gray were at the cart ordering, Raj turned to Lee with a frown.
“What?” Lee asked.
Raj took a deep breath before speaking. “Adrian’s trying. You’re not.”
Lee frowned. Since when did Raj play nice with Adrian? Those two had as much bad blood between them as Adrian and Lee, if not more. If Raj could move on, perhaps Lee ought to make an effort. What better time than Christmas?
Lee sighed. “Okay, I’ll ease up, but you can’t expect me to feel warm and fuzzy around the guy.”
“You and me both,” Raj said. He gave Lee a quick kiss on the lips.
She smiled back before joining Adrian and Gray at the cart.
“Thank you, Adrian,” Lee said.
His eyebrows shot up as though startled to see her beside him.
“You’re welcome,” he said, handing her a steaming Styrofoam cup.
Lee took it and moved away. Okay, pleasantries over. She sipped delicately at the spiced wine to avoid burning her tongue. Drinking alcohol at eighteen in public was yet another novelty of Europe.
Gray joined her side.
“Thanks for bringing us here,” Lee said. “It’s nice to see all the decorations.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed them. We should probably head back soon. Charlene’s coming over for dinner.”
“Charlene?” Lee asked, nearly spilling the hot wine. “Why would you invite Charlene over?”
“Because it’s Christmas Eve and she’s our sister.”
“She killed us.” Not that Gray required reminding.
“Lee, there isn’t anything that can make that right. All we can do is move on.”
“I did move on,” Lee said. “You know how I did that? By cutting her out of my life.”
Lee steadied her hand to keep from crushing the Styrofoam cup in her fingers. She took one last sip before tossing the rest of the beverage into the nearest trash bin. Suddenly the mulled wine tasted too sicky sweet.
Aside from the fact that Charlene had killed her—accident or not—what made it especially unforgivable was her attitude about it when Lee was brought back from the dead. No trace of remorse. Not even a thimble.
What the hell kind of holiday was this?
First Gray expected Lee to make peace with Adrian, now Charlene? It would take a Christmas miracle for that to happen.
“You can’t hide in this room all night,” Raj said.
Lee hugged her arms around her narrow waist. She sat on top of the guest bed, her back against the wall.
“I suppose I should count myself lucky she has to spend Christmas with her fake family tomorrow,” Lee said. “This just isn’t how I pictured our European holiday together. When I’m around her I’m filled with bitterness. I don’t want to feel that way, but I can’t control it.” Lee shook her head. “I can’t control anything anymore.”
Raj frowned. “I’m sorry. I had no idea they would invite her over.” He straightened his shoulders. “Hey, why don’t we sneak out for dinner, just you and me? There’s got to be at least one restaurant open on Christmas Eve and if not… we shack up together in here.”
“No,” Lee said, shaking her head. “You’re right. I’m not going to hide from my own twin.” She loosened her arms and swung her legs off the bed.
Raj coughed into his hand. “About that. You two definitely look nothing alike anymore.”
“All the better,” Lee said, lifting her chin. She had to admit, she was curious to see Charlene in her new boy body. While drifting around Paris in search of a body, she’d come across some poor shmuck in the hospital about to die. John Luc. His body lived on with Charlene Perez at the controls.
Lee pulled the fuzzy sweater over her head and tossed it onto the bed. Raj suddenly became very quiet. She leaned over her suitcase in her bra, digging around until she found her pink party dress. If she had to hang out with Charlene, she was doing it in style. From the corner of her eye, she caught Raj staring transfixed. Taking clothes on and off by hand still had its advantages. Lee smiled to herself.
Once changed, she turned and said, “Let’s get this party started.”
Facing Charlene wasn’t what Lee had expected. Not only did she look like a man and speak like a man, but she did so with a French accent. Raj lingered several feet away. Lee had told him she wanted to face her man-sister for the first time on her own.
“Graylee the second,” Charlene called out when Lee walked into the living room. “Live in the flesh.”
“Hello, Charlene,” Lee said evenly. She joined her twin reluctantly in front of the Christmas tree.
“It’s John Luc now,” Charlene said running a hand down her perfectly sculpted torso. “Pseudonym—you’re familiar with those, aren’t you Stacey?” Charlene looked Lee up and down. “I see you’ve developed some better fashion sense to go along with the new bod. Men appreciate that sort of thing.”
“You would know,” Lee said.
Raj stepped over and whispered quickly beside her ear. “I need to speak with Adrian real quick. I’ll just be in the other room.” He reached down and squeezed her hand before heading toward the small group in the kitchen.
Before Lee could wonder what he was up to, Charlene cut in.
“Raj McKenna obviously likes what he sees. You’re still together?”
“One year and eight months,” Lee said, lifting her head.
Charlene made a sound of disgust deep in the back of her throat. “Hot new bod and that’s the best you can do? You should live it up. You could score. Big time.”
Lee’s lips curled back in outrage.
Don’t let her get under your skin, she reminded herself quickly. The best way to handle her twin was to react with composure.
Lee played with a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I already scored the best prize of all.” Lee dropped her hand and placed it on her hip. “Besides, getting a guy is easy. It’s the keeping him part that’s the real challenge. But you already know all about that, don’t you, Charlene?”
Charlene’s glower looked especially menacing on the face of John Luc. Her eyebrows slanted into dark streaks over her eyes. Her jaw tightened.
Maybe Lee was stooping to Charlene’s level—if such a thing were possible—by getting in a jab. But it was her and Blake’s breakup that had set off the whole unfortunate chain of events.
Charlene’s fingers, which had balled into a fist, slowly uncurled. Her shoulders relaxed and a smug smile replaced the scowl.
Charlene might look like a man, but Lee knew her twin and she could tell whenever Charlene had decided to match Lee’s cool with her own.
“Well, that is unfortunate because I could have hooked you up with the hottest hotties in all of Paris. Rich, too. You could’ve been drinking champagne and eating caviar every night.”
Lee scrunched up her nose. “I hate caviar.”
“But, nooooo. You and your double are practically married—committed to boys from back home. No sense of adventure.” It was Charlene’s turn to wrinkle her nose. “You two really are just alike.”
“Unlike Gray and me, we never shared the same tastes. Nothing new there.”
Charlene lowered her chin. “I guess things don’t change, no matter how much time passes.”
“Lots has changed,” Lee reminded her twin.
Charlene lifted a muscular arm and touched her man chest. “Well, that’s true. I’m loaded now, in case you hadn’t heard.”
Good for you, Lee thought with annoyance. Fat lot of good karma did to scoundrels like Adrian and Charlene.
Charlene looked her over with a grimace. “Fate’s been kind to us all. Though I do hate seeing you this way.”
“You mean you hate facing the girl you killed?”
“Did not. You’re the one who shoved Stacey out of her body.”
“After you shoved me out of yours.”
“Yeah, my body,” Charlene said looking over her shoulder into the kitchen where Gray stood talking with a dark-haired woman wearing a short, black cocktail dress. “Which, as you can see, you shoved me back out of.” Charlene turned back to Lee. “Look, we’ve all done the switch-a-roo. I already had this conversation with your double. The important thing is we made it out alive. I think we all just need to move on.”
Lee was about to answer when the woman from the kitchen came over and handed Charlene a drink. She sidled up next to her. As far as height and weight went, this woman had even Lee beat. The chick could wear a bracelet as a belt.
Charlene slung an arm around the woman. “This is Veronique.”
“Salut,” the woman said before stepping forward, lips puckering in the direction of Lee’s cheek.
Lee inched back as the woman air kissed her.
“Don’t mind Lee,” Charlene said. “This is her first time in France.”
“Ah, oui?” Veronique perked up. “Beinvenue.”
“It means welcome,” Gray said, joining the party.
“Thanks,” Lee said. “How long have you and John Luc been together?”
She wasn’t even sure the woman understood or spoke English. She had her answer soon enough.
“Three weeks this Sunday,” Veronique answered, turning to beam at Charlene.
Watching a woman fawn over Lee’s formerly boy crazy sister was beyond wacky. She glanced at Gray who whispered, “You get used to it.”
“I was at a fête with friends when I first saw John Luc,” Veronique said.
She continued with the story, which Lee stopped listening to. She had no desire to hear about Charlene living it up as John Luc. Raj had promised not to leave her alone with Charlene for long, but he and Adrian were still hidden away somewhere. What were those two up to?
As though hearing her silent call, Raj emerged a few seconds later and joined their group. Adrian was right behind him. He snuck up behind Gray, wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against his chest. Gray squealed.
Raj rubbed his thumb across the back of Lee’s hand. She wanted to enjoy it, but this wasn’t exactly the feel good crowd. Charlene had turned to Veronique and started French kissing her as though trying to one up Adrian.
“You okay, Lee?” Raj asked, frowning slightly.
“Yeah, really enjoying the yuletide cheer,” she answered.
Charlene broke away from Veronique. “Where’s the music?” she asked. “Feliz Navidad and all that holiday jazz?”
“Oh,” Gray said, lifting her head off Adrian’s chest. “Well, the Grinch here hates Christmas music, but I suppose he can suffer for one night.”
“Thanks a lot,” Adrian said as Gray broke away from him.
“Where are you going?” Charlene asked.
Gray paused on her way toward the kitchen. “To cue up one of the online Christmas radio stations on my lap top.”
“Don’t be silly,” Charlene said. “I’ll have it playing in a sec.” She snapped her fingers and Jingle Bell Rock blared throughout the apartment.
Veronique clapped her hands. “What else can you do, John Luc?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Charlene answered huskily.
“Um,” Gray said with a frown. “So Veronique knows what you are?”
“John Luc is a powerful wizard,” Veronique said. “He confided in me this morning. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”
Lee noticed she wasn’t the only one staring at her with an open mouth. Raj and Adrian glared at Charlene.
Veronique glanced around and when no one offered comment, shrugged and announced she was using the toilet.
Once she walked away, Gray smacked Charlene on the shoulder. “You can’t go around telling all your girlfriends about us.”
“Gray’s right,” Adrian said. “What happens when the two of you break up or she catches you with another woman? Why would she feel any need to keep your secret?”
Charlene rolled her eyes. “Relax, already. This isn’t the first time I’ve told her. I’ll perform a memory wipe on her later. Works like a charm every time.”
“You can’t do that!” Lee cried. A burning anger seared through her veins. “You can’t mess with peoples’ minds that way.”
“Of course I can,” Charlene said. “I’m a witch.”
“You don’t deserve to be,” Lee said.
Charlene looked Lee up and down her man-lips pursed. “You’re just jealous because now you’re normal. I feel sorry for you, Lee, but don’t take your frustration out on me.”
Lee had personal experience with memory loss. Adrian had wiped a small chunk of Lee’s mind back in Washington. She still had no idea what had happened during that time. It was the worst kind of violation.
Now Charlene was doing the same thing.
Lee’s rage felt like it would scorch her from the inside out. Coming to Paris had been a huge mistake.
She turned on her heel and stormed away from the group, past the kitchen, down the hall and out the front door in a flurry of pink chiffon.
She’d rather spend the holiday alone on the street than in such wicked company.
Lee stormed down the dark sidewalk. She was still too angry to feel the cold, but she would soon. In the heat of the moment, she’d left behind her jacket. It wasn’t as though she could snap into it from the street as Charlene had so graciously reminded everyone.
Lee’s breath puffed out in vaporous clouds. Goosebumps jumped across her arms and legs.
What exactly was her plan? To run around Paris in a pink dress all night?
Storming out felt good in the moment, but there was nowhere to go. Lee paced the sidewalk. She’d give herself a few minutes to calm down then resign herself to going back up to the party.
Raj’s voice broke through the cold night. It had never filled her with such relief—such warmth and love—as it did now. He’d come after her. She wasn’t alone.
When Lee turned she saw that he held her jacket in her hands. He jogged up to her with it.
Who needed magic when she had a guy like this?
Raj held the coat up as Lee slipped her arms inside. Once zipped up, she took a deep breath.
“Sorry, I lost it back there.”
“I don’t blame you,” Raj said. “Your sister was rotten when she was a woman and she’s no better as a man. No offense.”
Lee smiled and shook her head. Raj had never cared for Charlene. It was a nice reminder knowing he was and always would be on Lee’s side.
Tears swarmed Lee’s eyes. She blinked rapidly. “Some holiday, huh?”
Raj crossed his arms over his chest. He’d been trying to get close to her all day, but Lee kept pushing him away. Here he was spending his holiday with her and her messed up family rather than his mom and little sister and Lee couldn’t even remember the last time she’d hugged him. It made her want to cry.
“What’s going on, Lee?” Raj asked. “This isn’t really about Adrian and Charlene, is it?”
Lee choked back a sob. “They abuse magic, yet I’m the one who lost her powers.”
“You’re right,” Raj said. “It’s not fair, but the fact that you did that for Gray makes me love you even more.”
Lee sniffed. “It does?”
“Any witch can perform magic, but making the kind of sacrifice that you did takes true strength of character. You’re one in a million Lee, and I couldn’t love anyone else.”
Lee dabbed at her eyes. “Okay, don’t go all sappy on me, McKenna.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Raj threaded his fingers through hers.
“Do we have to go back?”
Raj thought a moment. “Nah.”
“As much as it sucks spending Christmas at Adrian’s I think a hotel would be even more depressing,” Lee said.
“Who said anything about a hotel,” Raj said.
Lee raised a brow. “What did you have in mind?”
Raj grinned mischievously. “How many spots in Paris do you think we can kiss in front of before the night is out? Mistletoe or not, I want to kiss you beneath the Eiffel Tower.”
Lee smiled slowly. “Kiss-mass in Paris. Very well, McKenna, you’ve got yourself a date.”
“I’ll send Gray a quick text telling her not to wait up.” Raj winked.
“Good idea,” Lee said. She was mad, but she didn’t want them to worry, least of all Gray, especially not on Christmas.
Raj let go of her hand to dig out his phone. As promised, he was quick to type out a message before turning it off and shoving it inside his pocket.
“Now where were we?” he asked. “Oh, right, off to make out beneath the Eiffel Tower. That’s what they built it for, you know?”
Lee chuckled. “Did not.”
“Well, whatever the reason, you better French me when we get there because I’m going to need more than this coat to keep me warm.”
Raj smirked. “You’re asking for it now, Lee.”
“There’s only one thing missing.”
Raj inclined his head.
“It doesn’t feel like Christmas without snow.”
“I can fix that,” Raj said.
“So fix it.”
He smiled slowly. “Your wish is my command.”
Raj snapped his fingers. Lee looked up. A flurry of soft white snowflakes descended over Paris. She grinned up at the sky as they landed on her eyelashes.
Lee may have given up her powers, but she didn’t have to live a life without magic. Not when she was with one of the sweetest warlocks to walk the earth.
Peace, love and joy.
Raj McKenna made every day of her life magical.
By the time they made it back to the apartment, Lee was half frozen, but it was worth it.
She’d seen the Eiffel Tower from afar, but standing below it as multicolored lights shimmered up the steel tower had been magical in a purely whimsical sense.
They made out in front of Notre Dame—where Lee finally did get to see gargoyles—and they kissed pressed against the stone railing along the Seine too many times to count.
By the end of the night, she realized if Gray could move on with her life, Lee could, too. Besides, Paris wasn’t such a bad place to settle down. Raj had shown her that.
They returned to the apartment with a few hours left to sleep before daybreak.
Lee woke before Raj and was careful to get out of bed without disturbing him. She clutched the gifts she’d brought from the States to her chest, and snuck out of the guest room, closing the door gently behind her.
As she padded toward the tree, a male voice startled her from the kitchen.
“Merry Christmas,” Adrian said.
Lee nearly dropped the presents. She turned slowly until she faced him. Adrian stood beside the counter in a black robe. It was open, revealing a solid, sculpted six-pack. Lee’s gaze traveled down his stomach and rested on the band of his red boxers.
Lee swallowed. “Merry Christmas,” she said. “What are you doing up so early?”
He nodded his head. “Baking cinnamon rolls.”
A tray of sugared dough balls on the counter caught Lee’s eye. She pressed her lips together to prevent herself from gushing about how much she loved anything baked with sugar. Adrian already knew that.
Adrian folded his arms over his chest. “I’m glad you’re up first.”
“Why’s that?” Lee asked, at a loss for what he thought he could possibly say to her.
Adrian tightened the belt around his robe. “I know you don’t like me, and I know you think I don’t deserve Gray, but I love her and I will continue to love her and treat her right for the remainder of my life.”
Lee considered his words. They sounded all fine and well, but she still couldn’t bring herself to trust him. “I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, I really do, but I can’t. Not when you performed a memory wipe on me. I tried to regain those memories with the help of friends, but we couldn’t. What did you to do me that was so horrible you had to erase it from my mind?” Lee’s fingers balled into fists.
“You really want to know?” Adrian asked.
“You destroyed my magic shop, that’s what happened.”
Lee tilted her head “What?”
Adrian lifted his chin. “Yeah, you, Lee. You were onto me before everyone else. Followed me from the graveyard to my shop and pretended to be a customer. You even figured out I was the one making everyone’s magic backfire. I couldn’t have you running off to Raj, spoiling my fun.” Adrian lifted his hands in the air. “Old me, remember? I’m out of the avenging business.”
“So Gray informed me,” Lee said rolling her eyes. At the moment she was more interested in hearing what had happened to that missing chunk of her memory than debating whether Adrian had gone legit or not.
“It’s not something I’m proud of,” Adrian continued. “But you knew too much.”
“That’s it?” Lee asked. “You didn’t want me tattling on you so you erased my memory and let me go on my merry way.”
Adrian pursed his lips. “If it makes you feel any better you destroyed my shop first. Shattered fixtures and figurines. Broke out the front window, too. Cost me a bundle. I don’t know any spells for repairing broken glass.”
Lee fought back a chuckle. These were her stolen memories they were talking about, and she wouldn’t give Adrian the satisfaction of a smile.
“I imagine that made you angry.”
Adrian straightened. “It did.”
“What did you do after I broke out your window?”
“I drove you home.”
Adrian nodded his head. “Seriously. What? You sound disappointed. I suggested a tryst, but you weren’t interested. No, you were too in love with Raj.”
Lee folded her arms slowly over her chest. “You didn’t try anything?”
Adrian raised an eyebrow. “Even a warlock’s got his pride.”
Lee looked Adrian over carefully. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Adrian repeated. “That’s it?”
“Okay, I believe you, but I still think you’re a jackass.”
Adrian snorted then began laughing. Soon Lee was laughing, too.
Once Adrian regained his composure he smiled and asked, “Truce?”
Lee shrugged “Why not? It’s Christmas.” And those cinnamon rolls looked way too good to pass up.
“Thank you,” Adrian said. “For saving Gray’s life. It… means the world to me.” Adrian’s voice cracked the slightest. It was so quick, Lee nearly didn’t catch it.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I’m beginning to think you’re the one who really saved it.”
Maybe it was a trick of the eye, but Lee could have sworn she saw Adrian’s eyes moisten. He blinked before she had a chance to tell for sure.
“Thank you,” Adrian said softly.
Once everyone was up and the cinnamon rolls devoured—hey, calories didn’t count on Christmas—Raj, Lee, Adrian and Gray gathered round the tree.
Gray was the first to rip into the package from Lee and Raj. Her face lit up as she removed the lid of the box and looked in. She squealed, lifting up a pair of flower print clogs a second later.
“Oh my god! I love them!” Gray cried.
Lee grinned. “I knew you would.”
Raj reached over and squeezed her hand. She turned and smiled
Adrian opened his package next… and promptly laughed.
“What is it?” Gray asked.
Adrian shook his head and lifted the first of the items, a pack of trick cards. “A box full of magic tricks.”
Gray laughed. “Too perfect.”
“You next,” Raj said to Lee, excitement in his voice. He launched himself off the couch and grabbed a small square box from under the tree.
“Raj…” Lee said in a warning tone, her heart suddenly fluttering nervously.
After assuring her he wouldn’t, he better not be proposing after all. He better not make her refuse him in front of Adrian and Gray—on Christmas! Lee loved him, but she wasn’t ready for marriage.
“Just open it,” Raj said, setting the box in her lap.
She made the first rip in the wrapping.
Adrian and Gray leaned forward. They’d become awfully quiet all of a sudden.
Unable to take the suspense any longer, Lee ripped the rest of the wrapping and pulled the lid off the box. Inside, she saw a vibrant purple stone smoothed into an oval that reflected the overhead lights. She pulled it out and let it dangle from a silver chain.
“Raj, it’s gorgeous! What is it?” Lee looked up. “A luck amulet?”
Raj’s grin split his face. “Better.”
Lee waited. “Well?”
“It’s sugilite. On its own it doesn’t do much, but with the right spell, the wearer of the stone can perform magic.”
Lee’s jaw dropped. “Don’t mess with me, McKenna.”
Raj chuckled. “It’s real. I found the stone; Adrian found the spell.”
Lee looked from Raj to Adrian. Adrian grinned big as Raj.
“It’s true. Go ahead, put it on and see for yourself.”
Dare she dream?
Lee lowered the stone by the chain into her palm and held it a moment, wishing with all her might for it to be true.
“Allow me,” Raj said reaching out for the pendant.
Lee handed it over and stood up. She turned around and lifted her hair over her head so Raj could fasten the pendant around her neck.
Lee’s fingers twitched with excitement.
“Well?” Adrian said, raising both eyebrows. “What are you going to try first?”
“I know,” Gray said, clapping her hands together. “Get the Christmas music going.”
It made Lee laugh. “No,” she said. “I’ve decided to have mercy on Adrian.”
“Oh, did you?” Gray asked, sounding pleased. “Very good.”
“Go on, Lee,” Raj said. “Whatever you want.”
Lee twisted her lips, thinking back to the first time she turned invisible—to the rush of power she’d experienced through her entire body. Invisibility was advanced magic, not easily pulled off even by a seasoned witch.
Raj had desperately wanted that power back when they were juniors at McKinley High.
It had taken time and practice, but eventually Lee taught Raj how to erase himself.
Imagine how much easier it would be to sneak inside Raj’s dorm room at night if she could go Invisa-Girl? Imagine sneaking him a kiss right now without anyone knowing?
Lee smiled to herself and closed her eyes. She envisioned herself dissolving like a drawing on an Etch A Sketch shaken from the screen. She visualized herself pixelating into tiny fragments and fading from sight. Over and over again, she saw herself disappear.
The room around seemed to buzz.
Lee felt her body hum with energy, most strongly below her throat where the stone rested.
It was as though she turned to static.
“She’s gone,” Adrian said.
Lee opened her eyes. Everyone looked around the room. They stared right through her.
Could it be?
“Oh my god. She teleported.” Gray covered her mouth.
Raj stood up, green eyes shining. “I think she’s right where she was a moment ago.”
He took tentative steps to where Lee stood. Raj couldn’t see it, but she had a huge grin over her lips.
“Lee?” he asked quietly.
He cocked his head to the side, looking unsure. But he’d done it! Raj had given Lee her powers back.
Lee grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him to her. Adrian and Gray had been all kissy since they got there. Well, it was her turn.
“I love you, Raj McKenna” Lee said loud and clear.
She kissed him on the lips. Hard.
They might not be able to see her, but everyone could hear, and declaring her love felt better than any gift she could possibly give Raj.
He kissed her back. Their lips devouring one another’s hungrily.
“Get a room already,” Gray said, laughing. “Just because we can’t see you doesn’t mean we can’t hear.”
Lee filled herself in and looked over her shoulder at Gray. “Better?”
Lee didn’t’ wait for her duplicate’s answer. She turned her attention immediately back to Raj. He gazed into her eyes, his lips swollen like hers from a night of kissing all over Paris.
“I love you,” Lee repeated.
Raj touched his forehead to hers. “I love you more.”
From behind her shoulder, Lee heard Adrian tell Gray he loved her. He could say whatever he wanted. This moment was for Lee and Raj.
Gray jumped up and rushed to the kitchen. “This calls for a toast.” She dove into the fridge and pulled out a bottle of champagne and orange juice. “Adrian, get over here and help me.”
Adrian smirked. “Yes, dear.”
With his help, they had four bubbling mimosas in no time. Gray handed one to Lee as Adrian handed one to Raj.
“A toast to the return of Lee’s powers, and spending the holidays together in Paris,” Gray said, raising her glass.
Raj held out his flute. “To love.”
“To redemption and forgiveness,” Adrian said, glancing from Gray to Lee with a warm smile.
Lee lifted her glass, highest of all. “To the most magical holiday ever.”
Wishing you good health, happiness, peace, love and joy.
And magic. Always.
- Nikki and the Spellbound Gang
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Thank you to my holiday helpers for dropping everything to beta read HOLIDAY MAGIC in time for a Christmas 2014/New Year’s 2015 release: S.M. Boyce, K.A. Last, Janice Pia and Danielle Young.
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For more paranormal romance and heart-pounding action, check out the following scene from Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter by Nikki Jefford. Book one is now free at all major online eBook retailers.
Volleyball had been replaced by badminton while I was in the hospital. Mr. Mooney let me get away with sitting out class the first two days, but by the third he decided to diagnose me as fit for participation.
“Sky, ready to jump back in?”
I paused on my way to the bleachers. “I’m not dressed.”
Besides, everyone was already paired up.
“Fane!” Mr. Mooney called. “Get out here. You can be Aurora’s partner.”
I tried not to flinch or show signs of distress. My last memory of Fane involved his tongue tracing his upper lip in lewd gesture.
Fane stood up and gave Mr. Mooney a glare so dark it sent a shiver down my spine. It was the first real sensation I’d experienced since the accident. When his eyes moved to me I momentarily forgot to breathe.
Fane held my gaze a moment longer then slipped out of his leather jacket. I watched, transfixed. This was history in the making. Fane Donado taking off his coat.
All of his imperfections breezed out the door as soon as I got my first look at the six-pack straining against his cotton tee. My eyes must have been playing tricks on me. For a guy with such a slender build, Fane was surprisingly muscled.
Fane took deliberate steps down the aisle of the bench, straight to the edge. He jumped from the bleachers, causing them to rock in his wake.
I swore I felt a [_thud _]inside the pit of my stomach when he landed.
Mr. Mooney nodded at Fane. “You two are playing Clayton and Tyler.”
Fane walked past me and took two rackets off the floor. He handed me one. I took it from his outstretched hand then followed several steps behind.
Part of me was relieved he didn’t say anything. All I could think about was the obscene gesture he’d made right before my world turned up-side-down. I hardly noticed his hair. I was too distracted by his lips. And now his abs. Luckily, I wouldn’t have to look at either while we played side by side.
At the far court, Clayton and Tyler bounced birdies up and down on the strings of their rackets.
Clayton nudged Tyler as we approached. “Oh great. Goth boy and zombie girl. This should be fun.”
I took my place beside Fane. He held his racket loose and lazy. I barely held mine at all. Clayton pelted the birdie at me. I tried to shield my face and ended up dropping my racket.
“Oh, come on!” Clayton shouted.
I picked up the birdie and threw it over the net.
Clayton served the birdie to Fane, who smacked it over the net with the flick of a wrist. Tyler launched the birdie at me. It hit me on the shoulder, but I swung anyway as it bounced to the floor.
“Hello? Earth to Aurora,” Tyler called across the net.
“I think she’s still in a coma,” Clayton said.
“That’s game,” Tyler said. “Your serve.”
I picked up the birdie and handed it to Fane. It’s a good thing it wasn’t a real bird. Fane crushed it in his hand. Only for a moment. Only I saw. He relaxed and looked across the net. I felt that odd shiver return.
Fane smacked the birdie as though it were a fly. He walloped it right between Tyler and Clayton so fast neither boy had time to react. When they did manage a return hit, Fane gracefully flicked away any stray birds that came at me. I watched in fascination, fully engaged for the first time since the accident.
The boys tried to hit the birdie back. Fane had them racing across every corner of their court. By the end of the period they were out of breath. They took off without a backwards glance when Mr. Mooney blew his whistle signaling the end of gym.
As I walked past Fane I felt a twitch. Not my own. I felt the twitch of his hand wanting to stop me.
“Hey, you. Are you okay?”
If I had any emotion left I’d laugh. He didn’t even know my name—that or it wasn’t worth saying.
He studied me carefully. “I’ve seen that look before.”
Now I was curious.
Valerie jumped down from the bleachers. “Fane!”
He didn’t pay attention to her. I held my breath waiting for him to tell me what he saw.
Valerie sashayed her way over to Fane, red hair blazing down her shoulders. She held out his jacket. “I’m ready to blow this joint. Let’s get a bite.”
Her last words grabbed his attention, and he forgot me completely. Valerie looped her arm around Fane’s and they walked toward the double doors. I was right behind them, silent as a ghost. When I reached the hall entrance leading to the locker rooms I stopped. I saw his head start to turn. I knew he was going to look back, but by the time he did I’d be gone.
Every day is a gift worth celebrating—especially when you’ve died not once, but twice. Ever since giving up her powers, Lee has had to adjust to life without magic. It’s never been harder than when she and boyfriend Raj McKenna travel to Paris to spend winter break with Lee’s duplicate, Gray, and her boyfriend, Adrian Montez. Celebrating the holidays with the shifty warlock isn’t Lee’s idea of a holly jolly good time, but she fears poor Gray is still under the influence of a love spell. Why else would she settle down with the brute? It’s up to Lee to make sure her duplicate isn’t being duped. Holiday Magic is a special edition Spellbound story about love, forgiveness and second chances. (Recommended after reading the Spellbound Trilogy, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story. Entangled, book one, is free for download.)