There’s something about a book character named George. they can be one of 3 things: all somewhat charming in their own way.
a small grubby full of questions and questioning boy;
a scruffy mongrel dog inevitably rolling in whatever smelt the worst;
an Englishman. recognizable by leather elbow patches, cricket flannels too baggy. a domineering mother. a loser group of friends. and a loser girlfriend with a lack lustre love life.
Guess which George we had here. And no, he didn’t wear flannels and elbow patches but close!
Amusing story here as George clearly had no idea what he was about and how to deal with strange arrival in his life. But a happy ending and all was well through a series of amusing episodes. Nicely written and full of expectations fulfilled.
A pair of guards opened the giant doors, bowing at Thomas as he guided me through. It was an actual struggle not to freeze at the entrance and stare. But man, did I want to. This place—while definitely what I would consider on-brand for a vamp nest—was one of the most magnificent buildings I’d ever been in. I wasn’t particularly interested in other churches, but this cathedral was just a beauty. A gallery of pews sat to the left and right of a wide aisle that led to a raised dais. Vampires filled the seats, dressed similarly to Thomas and me, their voices a low buzz of conversation. More people were sitting in the upper gallery, their opulent gowns and sharp tuxedos a happy reminder that Thomas had my back. Had I walked in here with leather pants and a whip on my hip, I had a feeling I would have been just a touch out of place.
Thomas continued his leading, guiding me down the aisle toward a stunningly severe woman sitting on what appeared to be a throne. Skin paler than death, eyes vamped out in a way that seemed permanent, and painted lips the color of blood, she was the most beautiful and yet most frightening woman I’d ever seen. Dark hair was piled on her head in purposefully haphazard curls, a few tendrils snaking out of the complicated up-do to artfully caress her neck. She wore a brilliant green gown that was so simple, and yet so achingly complex, it had to have cost a fortune.
We reached the end of the aisle, and Thomas bowed his head slightly. I copied him, wishing I would have received an etiquette lesson on the hour-long drive here. All I’d gotten was Thomas’ clenched jaw and silence.
“You have some nerve,” a woman growled, drawing my gaze from what had to be the queen of this nest to her right.
I quickly realized that the voice did not belong to a woman at all but a child. Pale-blonde hair and blue eyes were set in an elfin face of a vampire who had likely been no more than ten when she was turned. And that had to have been centuries ago. This little whisp of a “girl”—and I use that word lightly—had the look of a being older than dirt. Dressed in a black lace confection appropriate for a child beauty queen, she stood from her chair.
She then launched herself at Thomas.
I couldn’t exactly say why I did it. I mean, she had me by centuries, and Thomas could take care of himself. But as soon as her feet left the dais, I had the knife Clem had given me yanked from its sheath and was in front of the man in an instant.
Thomas owed me, not the other way around, but he’d been kind to me when I’d needed it, and I wouldn’t let him get attacked. No way, no how.
It was as if everyone froze. Conversations halted, guards stood stock-still, and even this slip of a thing stood arrested at the end of my blade, which was poised at her throat.
To this tiny—but by no means less deadly—vampire at the point of my knife, I said, “Settle down there, Blondie, or we’re going to have a problem.”
I had a feeling we probably already had one.
“Haunting rooftops again, I see,” Bastian called from behind me, startling me out of my intense stare-down of an inanimate object, namely, a door.
The only thing special about this door was that behind it lay a raging arcane club. The music radiated up from the ground, through the building, rattling my bones even from across the street, but that door was nothing more than a metal barrier to the world beyond. I’d always wondered what went on in clubs like those. Would it be sex and alcohol and dancing bodies—which wasn’t much different from a human club in that scenario—or would it be darker? Blood and death and all the dark things about the arcane world that I hated? I was smart enough to know that the human world had its darkness, too, but it seemed the more I lived in this world, the more I realized that what I thought was evil didn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
“It’s a hobby,” I muttered, shaking my head to clear the dark thoughts as I stretched from my crouch, my joints protesting loudly. One thing about this life that was the same were the aches and pains. I’d sat in one spot too long, staring at that stupid metal door to that stupid arcane club that wouldn’t provide any more answers than the last one had.
My search so far had given me one dead end after the other, and after two straight months of nothing, I was starting to get annoyed. It was bad enough that I had the habit of haunting rooftops before the man who’d killed my parents left a note on my pillow.
Now, it was an obsession.
In the last two months—in between bounties and training—I’d been scouring every nook and cranny of Ascension. And my questioning methods hadn’t exactly been in line with what I would call pleasant.
Bloody would be a better descriptor.
Hopping off the ledge, I knocked the dark hood from my white hair, letting the spring air cool me down. Sweltering under my lightweight jacket, I yanked it off, trying not to rip the fabric. Clem would be pissed if I ripped another one, and as the house’s weapons keeper and person in charge of my solid food intake, pissing her off would not be a smart move on my part. Plus, if Bastian found me, there would be no more sleuthing tonight, and the need to hide my beacon of a hair color was no longer necessary.
I’d need to pick harder to find locations if I wanted him off my ass. Well… I kind of wanted him on my ass, just not while I was in the middle of my special project. I stared down at the skull don’t-find-me ring I’d conned Simon into making for me. Leave it to Bastian to find a way to work around Simon’s magic.
Bastian stood in the darkness, the faint light barely kissing the high points of his face and leaving the rest in shadow. To everyone else, he was a bruiser with his heavy dark brow and bulking frame. To me, he seemed akin to a big teddy bear—a giant, angry teddy bear, but one, nonetheless.
Even if he was spoiling my stakeout.
“Some hobby,” he groused, snagging my hand and reeling me in. “You know, instead of skulking around, you could actually go inside one of those clubs. Take a night off from your ‘creature of the dark’ persona and actually have fun.”
Fun. It was a struggle not to audibly scoff and even harder not to show the derision on my face. I hadn’t had fun in ages. Hell, I didn’t even know what that word meant anymore. And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d taken a night off—definitely pre-orphanhood, for sure.
“‘Creature of the dark?’ What am I, a Batman villain? Do I get a cool costume? Is there a car in this deal?”
Bastian’s smile gave me legit butterflies, the wide, white pull of his full lips making me all giddy.
Annie Anderson is a military wife and United States Air Force veteran. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she is a southern girl at heart, but has lived all over the US and abroad. As soon as the military stops moving her family around, she’ll settle on a state, but for now she enjoys being a nomad with her husband, two daughters, an old man of a dog, and a young pup that makes life… interesting.
Ghosts, corpses and four hot men—what’s a girl to do?
@jaycecarterauthor is back with a new PNR reverse harem series, and book 1 s out NOW! Get your copy of Grave Robbing and Other Hobbies today ➞ https://amzn.to/2RXeGET
Hunter didn’t remove his hand from my mouth. It made me realize he was also entirely pressed against me, and despite it not being possible, he felt better than he’d looked. His skin was warm, even through my robe.
He took his hand off my mouth but didn’t move away. “Stay still,” he whispered against my ear.
“Why? Is it coming back?”
“No. I just really like looking down your robe.”
As soon as his words sank in, when I moved past the adrenaline and the purr of his voice, I realized that yes, my robe had bagged open and he had a perfect view down the front.
I elbowed him, but he didn’t seem to even feel it. He released me, though the way he did it implied my little move hadn’t meant a thing.
“I am so tired of people breaking into my house,” I said.
“You aren’t human, and you don’t have any wards. That’s the same as a ‘come on in’ sign in our world.”
“I am human.”
“Sure, shadow-girl.” He sent me a conspiratorial wink, as if we were on the joke together.
“No, I actually am. No funky teeth, no freaky eyes. Human.” I pointed at my face as though that drove the point home.
He waved at himself. “No funky teeth, no freaky eyes. Very much not human. Sure, though, if you want to pretend, I’m not one to turn down a bit of good roleplay. You want to be innocent Little Red Riding Hood? I’ll play the wolf.”
His suggestion derailed me. How could it not? Any girl who claimed she hadn’t had entirely inappropriate dreams about the wolf in that story was a damned liar. Once I’d reached a certain age, ‘all the better to eat you with’ had taken on a very different meaning.
I pictured a dark, heavily wooded forest as I ran, something on my heels, gaining ground. His warm breath on my neck when he caught me…
Suddenly I didn’t care what he’d said, why he was there or what exactly he meant by him ‘not being human’.
Until I recalled he’d broken in, and clearly him showing up at my office wasn’t a coincidence.
He snorted. “I liked where your mind was going before.”
“What are you doing here? And what was that thing?”
“Don’t we have better things to discuss? Or we can do away with talking all together.”
“I don’t sleep with people who might kill me, but thanks.”
“If someone might not kill you, are they even worth sleeping with in the first place?”
I nodded, then handed the ice pack back to him. When he took it, he frowned at a red mark that remained on the white pack.
“Sorry.” I turned my hand over, the one Grant had cut, to find that sure enough, I’d managed to tear open the scab.
“Grant needed my blood for the wards.”
He frowned, as though he disliked the idea. “He could have done less damage.”
“That’s what I said, but he said it was about the sacrifice of the action.”
Kase lifted his thumb to his mouth and pressed it against the tip of his fang. He didn’t grimace, didn’t show any reaction to the wound.
Blood welled at the top, a red so dark it was almost purple.
Which sent me bolting. I jumped to my feet, wanting that blood nowhere near me.
Kase didn’t grab me—and I knew damn well he could have, because vampires were terrifyingly fast—but he stared. “Really?”
“I may not always love my life, but I do love being alive. No thanks to that.” I waved at his thumb.
“How can you be so ignorant of our world? You can’t be turned into a vampire from a little blood.”
“That sounds like men who say a girl can’t get knocked up because it’s just the tip.”
“I am sterile, so that isn’t an issue I deal with.” Kase spoke with such flatness of his voice, I almost missed that he’d made a joke, even more so because he so quickly moved on from it. “To be changed from mortal, a person has to die. My blood will help to heal you, but it won’t change you since I, again, don’t plan on killing you.”
I pressed my lips together, then responded slowly. “You know, I normally don’t spend so much time around people who have to keep telling me they don’t plan on killing me.”
What’s a witch to do when her magic’s been hacked and her tongue wickedly cursed! No matter how hard Eloise Redd concentrates on keeping her thoughts to herself, she blurts them. The only option is to lie low and wait for the hacker’s ransom note —and hope the demands aren’t too steep. In the meantime, she hides out in a haunted town as a palm reader. What could possibly go wrong reading palms?
Jeffrey Bales, Chief Operating Officer of Think Tank Innovations, is excellent at peopling. What he’s not good at is fending off a multitude of women convinced he’s their souls’ missing puzzle piece. This thanks to the town’s magical palm reader. A woman whose mouth should come with a hazard warning. He has no choice but to turn his charms on her to silence those wayward words. Just a tiny, fake relationship should work…
Unless it takes place under the roof of a bewitched house. One determined to bind them together eternally. That ransom demand can’t arrive soon enough.
What if this is forever?
“Welcome to Hand Picked.” Eloise struck a pose at the top of her stairs and spoke to the gentleman who stood in her doorway, looking very much like a shabby prince with his stiff stance and sexy-as-hell five o’clock shadow. Was he her three o’clock?
If so, she now wished she’d reapplied her Rouge Louboutin Velvet Matte lipstick after her cup of tea. Perhaps living in Knotty would be more than bores and snores after all. A little hot weekend sex would make the months go by faster.
“Thank you,” he said.
About to take a step forward, she paused, left foot dangling above the stair. Hmmm.What do we have here? His voice sounded familiar. She tilted her head to the left and tried to get a look at his profile. Nope. His face, what she could see of it in the shadows, didn’t ring any bells. Perhaps she’d overheard him talking while she’d explored the town last weekend. “Have you come to have your palm read?”
Not waiting for his response, she lifted her floral, floor-length, multi-ruffled skirt and glided down the stairs, aiming to appear like a royal subject entering a magical ball being held in her honor. Not to impress the man. Not much anyway. But mostly because presentation mattered when one read palms for a living. With her skirt, she wore a black long sleeve bodysuit and a headscarf that had beads that dangled over her forehead.
She’d been just as meticulous regarding her appearance when she had practiced law. Only then, instead of every aspect of her projecting flamboyant exuberance, she’d projected the appropriate image of strength and intelligence and the ability to cut your throat in a courtroom without leaving any traces of blood on her Louboutin heels.
At the bottom of the stairs, she got her first shadow-free view of her latest customer. A view that caused her world to tumble and land ass up. Balls. Balls. Balls.
Eloise stood outside Jeff’s house and waited for the lovely old Victorian to welcome her and her cat inside. Charm, the moodiest cat ever, had been MIA ever since she’d been forced to move to Knotty with Eloise.
“Who are you?” the house barked in a voice gruff with age. Not even a hint of the English accent Eloise had expected.
“Eloise Redd, of the Salem Redds. And you are?” Eloise stood straight and unafraid. This was not her first conversation with a house.
“Gwinifer. You may call me Ms. Gwinifer. And the feline?”
Eloise held her cage out in front of her so Gwinifer could get a good look. “Charm. Of the Salem Charms.”
“I’m not particularly fond of cats,” Gwinifer said.
Charm’s back arched. “Hiiiiissssss.”
“Neither am I.” Eloise gave Charm a behave-yourself look and sat the cage on the ground. “But I’m a witch. They’re required. Along with a cauldron, but I left that in the trunk of the car.”
A nose appeared on the front of the house and it sniffed the air around Eloise. “I can’t say I’m fond of witches either.”
“Neither am I. But, as they say, one doesn’t get to pick their birth family.” Was Jeff inside watching her talk to his house? If so, why hadn’t he come outside and made proper introductions, instead of forcing Eloise to announce herself like a commoner? Surely, if the house was talking to her, it had also spoken to Jeff on his move-in day. Who was she kidding? If the guy was skeptical about palm readers, there’s no way he had ever admitted to himself he heard a house talking. He had probably blamed whatever he had heard from Gwinifer on the wind whistling through tree branches and playing tricks on his ears.
She glanced away from the nose and admired the house. She didn’t want Gwinifer to feel rushed into making a decision. A house that felt forced into welcoming a guest could be quite abusive to said guest. Cold showers. Creaking floorboards. Drafty rooms. Dead mouse smells.
On the outside, Gwinifer was a sassy lady. Her colorful eclecticism and intricate excess so fit the town itself. Her facade had an elaborately decorated gable and off to one side, a round tower. Her steeply pitched and complex roof perched like a jaunty hat, giving her further style. It was in the window of her dormer that Eloise got a nod of approval. A wink.
“You’ll do,” Gwinifer said in a haughty tone.
Eloise could practically here the house’s eyes rolling. She smiled and gave a curtsy. “Thank you.”
“Don’t make me regret allowing a witch inside my sanctuary,” Gwinifer snapped. “I have a temper. The last time I got mad at a witch, a tornado took out the town.”
Lisa Wells writes romantic comedy with enough steam to fog your eyeglasses, your brain, and sometimes your Kindle screen. On the other hands, her eighty-year-old mother-in-law has read Lisa’s steamiest book and lived to offer her commentary. Which went something like this: You used words I’ve never heard of…
She lives in Missouri with her husband and slightly-chunky rescue dog. Lisa loves dark chocolate, red wine, and those rare mornings when her skinny jeans fit. Which isn’t often, considering the first two entries on her love-it list.
Well well, Sheffield has certainly changed since I lived there..
We left many years back when the River Don was still a nasty smelling sewer full of chemicals and not a place to sit by.. The steel industry went into decline and Sheffield suffered badly, but seems to have pulled itself back up with a lot of Yorkshire grit no doubt.
We liked being so close to the moors but not above the snow line – you needed to watch out for that – the closer to the moors, the higher you were and the colder it got.. and we are forever grateful that we were outbid on the house with best view ever! The art in this story made the telling even better for me, as I also love Turner and the Romantics and the Arts and Crafts movement. we go to as many exhibitions as we can here in London, which is such a joy for us, and we are so looking forward to going to the galleries again – Covid permitting. we buy local original art when we can afford it – we have a wall or two full of it and always complaining we have no more room but always finding room for yet more… we don’t like prints but do like the work our friends produce!