Suspenseful, Sexy, Spellbinding!
Coming in April from City Owl Press
DANGER AND DESIRE COLLIDE
While trying to escape from her sordid past, kick-ass witch Willow McCray dispenses her own brand of justice swiftly and without mercy, until she crosses paths with sexy Magickal Bureau of Investigations Agent, Alex Denopoulos. Now, she must use her powers for good if she wants to stay out of Hellios, a mage prison for those who have broken the Wiccan Rede of ‘Harm ye None.’
AN UNLIKELY ALLIANCE
Alex will stop at nothing to catch a killer, including recruit notorious felon, Willow McCray to work for the agency. While under his guard, the lines between duty and passion become blurred the more time he spends with the red-haired beauty. His penchant for justice and deep-seated hatred of witches make a future together seem impossible. But he’s not ready to let her go. Now he’ll risk more than his badge to keep her alive.
If only Willow can vanquish the evil surrounding them and give Alex what he wants—before she loses her heart and maybe her very soul in the process.
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A ball of dread unfurled in Willow McCray’s stomach and pricked along her skin. The sensation confirmed her earlier premonition of death.
Willow trolled through Fusion, the dimly lit heavy metal bar, while all around her a colorful mix of otherworldly beings gyrated to the thump of the seductive beat. Emotions of the crowd swam high and swirled through her head in a sea of lust and euphoria.
Tonight she came here with three objectives: find her best friend, get the Bloodstone amulet and walk out the door alive. She tried to scope out the place for her quarry, affectionately known as Maeve the Metallurgist.
She shielded her eyes from a strobe light as she pushed her way through the mass of sweaty bodies. Willow scanned the room, but she couldn’t spot her elusive friend anywhere. She glanced at her watch and frowned. It was already past midnight and there was still no sign of her. As much as she appreciated Maeve’s ability to work under pressure, Willow didn’t have time to screw around.
Her hand shook as she pulled out her cell and dialed Maeve’s number. No service. She moved past the dance floor toward the line of barstools, and something crunched under her boot. She glanced at the floor and noticed a broken syringe. Wincing, she swallowed hard and kept on walking.
Considering her choice of meeting spots, apparently Maeve still liked to party, hard. She claimed smak took the edge off the brutal confines of her job. Forging charmed metal in dark, sweltering conditions couldn’t exactly be a picnic. But did she have to turn to drugs? They’d agreed to meet here, but from the loud buzzing in her ears, Willow sensed trouble was on its way. She’d been calling and texting Maeve all day, and she still couldn’t get a hold of her.
Guilt tightened around Willow’s gut like an iron fist. When this mess was over, she vowed to get Maeve clean. Even if Maeve refused, she would haul her ass back to rehab. Not that Willow was one to talk. She’d never touched a drug in her life, and yet she’d done plenty to regret. In fact, she feared the darkness she may have permanently etched on her soul. If I can save Maeve, maybe I can save myself.
When Willow opened her mind to the crowd around her, the hairs on the back of her neck prickled. A ball of heat circled her head and tingled down her spine as her magick responded to the crowd.
The vision of a tall, dark-haired man with a strip of gold around his wrist swam in her head. She blinked and the image disappeared. Could he be one of the demons trying to kill me?
She pushed the vision to the back of mind and glanced across the bar at a group of gorgeous incubi huddled together. Sex incarnate was all her mind could register as her gaze locked on the tallest of the three. He flashed a sultry smile, the promise of sin written all over his chiseled face. According to legend, incubi magick, if wielded at full force, was like catnip to most women and could enslave even the strongest female with sex. He waved and she caught a glimpse of a gold string around his wrist.
Hmm. She usually gave their kind a wide berth, but in this case, she’d make an exception. She plastered a smile on her face and waved back. The male tilted his head to the side and his red, watery eyes zeroed in on her boobs. She’d raided a bag of Maeve’s old clothes and managed to squish her breasts into a black leather bustier—at least two sizes too small. She sucked air in through her nose finding it hard to breathe. She just hoped she didn’t pass out before closing. Willow pushed out her chest as he sauntered over to her side of the bar. Showtime.
The acrid stench of sweat clung to his clothing, along with a hint of ether, which usually came from cooking meth. “What’s up, beautiful? Why don’t you have a drink with us?” he slurred and motioned to his spot at the bar.
She moved a little closer to him and purposely let her fingers graze the string at his wrist so she could peek inside his head. Even if he didn’t recall what he’d done five minutes ago, he might have a clue about Maeve stored somewhere in his junkie brain. Nothing. “Thanks anyway, but I’m meeting someone.”
As she turned to walk away, he caught her by the arm and pulled. His thoughts screamed, Screw you, bitch.
Her hands balled into fists. She drew up her other arm, ready to counter with a thrust to his chin, when a deep male voice as smooth as single malt scotch, murmured, “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
The incubus let go of her and she spun around. A towering figure stood next to her. The stilettos she wore added four inches to her already tall frame, and she still craned her neck to gaze up at his face.
Eyes the color of obsidian locked on hers. His lush, dark hair matched the color of his eyes and a short-cropped beard accentuated the hard planes of his face. He wasn’t only classically gorgeous, but his features were undeniably unique. “You looked as if you might need some backup,” he murmured close to her ear.
“Thanks, but I’m a lady who can handle herself.” Maybe a bit of an understatement.She let her gaze trail over his wide, muscled chest. His black suit jacket hugged tightly to his broad shoulders. She pegged it for Armani.
In a sleazy place like this, he was either a dealer or a demon. Both were notorious show-offs. Either way, she wanted to check him out and not just for his looks. She hadn’t come here to flirt, but she’d play her part to the hilt if it meant getting info.
The stranger slid onto a barstool and arched his eyebrow. “I don’t doubt it. But from what I’ve heard, their kind doesn’t understand the meaning of the word no.”
She glanced over her shoulder at the incubus. He scowled at her before skulking back to his place at the bar. “I think he finally got the hint. They must be slumming tonight. This isn’t their typical hangout.”
“Nor mine. Were you just trying to get away from that guy or are you really meeting someone? In which case, I’d be seriously disappointed.” Heat flared in his eyes and she sensed the passion burning beneath the surface.
“Oh? And here I thought you were being a Good Samaritan,” she said in her best seductive voice.
His big, dark eyes trailed over her like a soft caress and lingered on the swell of her breasts crushed against the top of her bustier.“Maybe I have an ulterior motive.” He leaned into her, his voice low near her ear. “I’m in Jersey for business and I don’t know anyone in Raven’s Hollow. Would you consider showing me around town?”
“Are you propositioning me? Maybe you’re one of those guys into the whole damsel in distress thing.” Antsy, she glanced at the door again and her gut tightened. There was still no sign of Maeve. Without the amulet, Willow was as good as dead. Now she was forced to use a glamour to fake out her enemy, but the magick wouldn’t last long, less than twenty-four hours at best.
Her light-green eyes were now a deep chocolate-brown and her wavy, auburn hair was blue-black and flowed down her back like a waterfall. At least her black leather trench added some coverage. Not that it protected her from the frigid temperatures outside, but it matched the outfit and concealed the two-foot long, solid steel, twin athames sheathed in her hip belt. A metal choker completed the ensemble.
He glanced at her collar. “The only distress you look like you’re into makes me think of whips and chains. His eyes were dark and edgy, full of sinful promises. “I’m Alexandros. Call me Alex.”
Most demons don’t have names like Alexandros or dark, golden tans in the dead of winter for that matter, reddish skin and horns were pretty much the norm. Although some, rare breeds, like the Hymara, appeared to be human, but were no less deadly than their full-blood counterparts.
Under the lights, Alex’s skin glowed to a warm, toasty brown and reminded her of hot buttered rum.“I’m Willow.” He offered his hand to shake and her heart spiked when she caught a glimpse of his gold Patek Phillippe watch. Could he be the man from her vision? The moment her hand slid into his, she opened herself to his emotions. Turmoil and anger swirled all around him. She suppressed a shiver and hoped her expression didn’t make him suspicious.
“A pleasure.” The deep, sensual way he said the word pleasure made her shiver
“Well, maybe if you buy me a drink I might forget who I was supposed to meet.” She held onto his hand and zeroed in on his thoughts, but he kept his mind shut tighter than the zipper on Maeve’s leather pants—now digging into her skin. Apparently Alex could block a mind probe. Intrigued, she released his hand and plastered a smile on her face.
If he was sent to kill her, she didn’t want to risk getting jumped the moment she tried to walk out the door. She’d stall him in the meantime and try to figure out a way to get the upper hand.
His smile revealed a flash of straight white teeth. “I wouldn’t want to get accused of plying you with alcohol and piss off the guy who shows up. He might try to kick my ass.”
“Why? You look like you can handle yourself.” Willow licked her lips and let her gaze trail over two hundred plus pounds of muscle. “Besides, how do you know I’m meeting a guy?”
His slack-jawed response made her chuckle. Some witches loved the idea of threesomes, choosing polyamorous relationships over monogamous ones. She just wasn’t one of them. The more she pushed Alex off kilter, the better. Maybe he might even let his shields down. Most males toyed with some sort of twisted lesbian fantasy. She’d have to find a way to get him to talk. Not that she’d act on the fantasy, but who knows, if he thought there was even a remote chance it might get him to talk.
He leaned in to her and whispered close to ear, “Since he, or she, isn’t here and you are, I guess it’s their loss.” Willow caught a whiff of his clean, male scent and fought the urge to sigh. The man oozed sexual prowess. Funny, the only males she attracted always ended up turning into major losers. After the last one, she’d sworn off men for good.
Her gaze rested on his face. She’d imprint every gorgeous inch of him to memory and burn out the batteries in her vibrator later. Then she realized she was fantasizing about someone who might be trying to kill her. What does that say about the state of my personal life? She seriously needed to get laid. “About that drink—”
“What will the lady have?” He waved his hand in the air, flashing his expensive watch, and the bartender appeared. Alex turned back to face her and smiled, a sensual curve of his lips.
“Patrón margarita on the rocks.” At least the good stuff didn’t give her a hangover. She tossed her small black clutch on the bar and leaned her hip against the hard, cold edge.
She glanced over at the bartender, a rangy werewolf with black, beady eyes. She couldn’t question him about Maeve, not with Alex by her side. She cringed as he poured a generous amount of Cuervo into her glass, and then added a shot on the side. She didn’t plan on getting hammered during this little foray. Her telepathy worked better without the fog from booze, but what choice did she have?
“I’ll have a Glenfiddich neat,” Alex said, taking a seat on a barstool. A moment later, the bartender placed their drinks on the bar along with the shot, a slice of lemon and a salt shaker. Alex touched his glass to hers and smiled. “To welcome surprises.”
“To welcome surprises.”If he was sent by the Agares he was about to get one he’d never forget. She tried checking him out more closely over the rim of her glass. But with his mass of dark, wavy hair, she couldn’t make out even the slightest hint of horns. The way he mysteriously showed up here tonight and sought her out couldn’t be a coincidence. Even more reason to think the Agares sent him.
When he set his drink on the bar, she contemplated slipping a potion into his glass. She kept one in the pocket of her trench, a special concoction made from licorice root and wolfsbane. The potion acted like a truth serum. A couple of drops and Alex would be forced to reveal his deepest, darkest secrets in a heartbeat. But his steady gaze never left hers.
“That’s an interesting tattoo.” He reached for her hand, and caressed her pentagram with his thumb. Heat emanated off him like the flame of a match. She suppressed a shiver. Alex’s touch contrasted with his size and dangerous looks. The man could just be a player, a master seducer lulling her into a sexual trance with his sexy voice and pillow-soft touch before he attacked.
“It’s a pentagram, a sacred Wiccan symbol, and these,” she said, touching each one of the five points, “represent the elements and the spirit.” She shrugged, hoping to sound noncommittal. She didn’t want to get into the differences between Wicca, an earth-based religion, and hereditary witchcraft. “The guy at the tattoo shop had it in his book. He rambled on about it while he inked me. I was pretty wasted at the time.”
His dark eyes lingered on her mouth as she lifted the glass to her lips.She took a sip of her margarita and glanced down at his big hands, tanned and sprinkled with a smattering of hair. Funny, she never found a man’s hands sexy. Suddenly her mind filled with images of Alex trailing those big, masculine hands over her body. She wondered if he fit the stereotype. Big hands, big…
“Are you considering taking me up on my offer?” The deep timbre of his voice pulled her from a host of fantasies. Willow dug her nails into her palm to get her head back in the game. She shouldn’t be thinking about this man in such a raw, sexual way.
“Why not? My car’s parked in the back.” She probed through the nearby crowd to check if Alex came here with bodyguards. A virtual cacophony of conversations invaded her thoughts, but nothing about protection for Alex. Once she got him alone, she’d take her chances and pray she wouldn’t be outnumbered.
“Then let’s get out of here, unless I’ve got some competition.” He motioned over her shoulder to the incubus whose head now lolled forward over the bar.
“I think you’re flying solo.” She’d set her trap and let the consequences be damned. Willow rubbed her finger along the rim of the glass and licked off the salt.
She was savoring the tangy flavor of margarita mix along with the zing of tequila as it slid down her throat. Headrush. No surprise there, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept or eaten in the past forty-eight hours, existing on a combination of raw nerves and pure adrenaline.
“You missed a spot.” He ran his thumb along the seam of her lip. He put it to his mouth and licked. “Mmm, sweet.” Her plan didn’t involve foreplay…but damn he was hot. In another time and another place she’d be seriously into this guy. Too bad I might have to kill him.
“I do like my tequila, but every now and then a girl needs something a little stronger.”
“Oh? What did you have in mind?”
Now she had his attention. Willow decided to play it up for the final coup de grâce and offered the bait. She leaned over, allowing him to get a glimpse of the rolled-up wad of hundreds, a bonus from her last job, now tucked in her cleavage, and held by her black, strapless demibra. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” she purred.
From the way his eyes widened with a mixture of shock and pure lust as they locked on her breasts, he clearly liked the view. Good. She’d be sure to use it to her advantage. “What are we waiting for?” When Alex reached into his pocket to pull out his cash, a pack of matches slipped out and fell on the floor. He shoved some bills at the bartender and waited for his change. Willow bent to pick up the matchbook, ready to hand it back, but when her fingers closed over the cover, she caught a glimpse of Maeve’s face contorted in pain.
The image changed like a haze of smoke. Crouched next to Maeve’s lifeless body, a shadow of a man hovered nearby. Willow’s heart thudded in her chest as the shadow turned into form.
Breath whooshed from her lips. The matches slipped from her grasp onto the floor. No wonder Maeve never showed up.
“Hey, are you okay? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.” Alex placed a hand on her shoulder.
Goddess, she hoped not. “F-fine,” she lied.
The bartender appeared and Alex made small talk with him as he cleared their glasses off the bar.At least it gave her a moment to think. If Alex was the one following her, maybe he’d been following Maeve as well. Panic edged around her throat and made a tight fist in her stomach. What if he tried to sell Maeve a bad batch of heroin to get her to talk, then left her to OD?
She gritted her teeth and forced her fear into cold resolve. After years of practice, she’d become adept at pushing through her pain. Shaking, she picked up her drink to take a sip and calm her nerves, when she noticed her white-knuckled grip around the glass. Don’t break it. Don’t break it. A moment later, it shattered in her hands.
“Damn,” she groaned as a broken piece sank into her index finger. Blood gushed from her hand and dripped onto the bar.
“Shit. You’re bleeding.” Alex grabbed a handful of bar napkins, wrapped them around her finger and squeezed. “Hold on. Let me try to find a real bandage.” He signaled the bartender as she squeezed at her makeshift bandage until the bleeding stopped.
When Alex turned back to face her, he removed the napkin and ripped open the wrapper of a bandage with his teeth. “I would never peg such a slender lady like yourself for crushing a bar glass. Remind me not to piss you off.”
Too late. “I can’t believe how clumsy I am sometimes.” She couldn’t deny a part of her was attracted to him. But if Alex had harmed Maeve in any way, tonight he’d pay for his sins. Did he take advantage of the situation by playing on her weakness? “It’s not fair, a man as attractive as you who’s also funny.” He lifted her hand to kiss her bandaged finger, and she forced herself not to cringe.
“Ready to get out of here?”
“Absolutely.” Through the corner of her eye, she noticed Alex glance across the bar at a hulking male nursing a beer by himself. She sucked in a breath when she caught a glimpse of the holstered side arm under his suit jacket. Hmm, demon bodyguard?
Alex inclined his head toward him and winked. Did he actually think he’d make a sale and get laid? A real multitasking, drug-dealing sleaze bag. There could be no witnesses for what she had in mind. He wrapped his arm around her waist. “I’ll follow you.”
“Good, because I like to take the lead.” She grabbed his hand and guided him to the side entrance of the club, used for delivery only. Once they were outside, no one would notice them, not at this time of night. They passed through the crowd to the other side of the bar, and exited the building.
The moment the heavy door closed behind them, she froze. She stared over the railing to the ten foot drop below and her stomach dipped. Goddess, she hated heights.
Her mind reeled as she peered out into the darkness in search of stairs or something to grab onto, but only found a steep ramp covered in ice and snow. Her heart pounded in her ears…in her throat.
“Willow?” Alex’s voice whispered to her from somewhere far away.
The urge to throw herself flush against the building and squeeze her eyes shut became overwhelming. Get it together. She bit down hard on her lip instead and forced her legs down the ramp. When her boots touched the sidewalk, she breathed a sigh of relief. “S-sorry, I forgot where I parked.” She waited until his footsteps crunched behind her, then spun around.
A flicker of moonlight danced across his handsome face. Cold air filled her lungs and pebbled along her skin. “First, I’d like to get a taste of what you’re offering.” Willow took a step closer to him. Puffs of icy breath slipped from her lips like white smoke in the frigid night air.
“Willow, wait. There’s something you should know.”
“Later,” she murmured and grabbed him by his collar. She tilted her head to the side and opened her mouth. She cracked an eye open and waited for him to lean into her, close enough to catch a whiff of scotch and peppermint on his warm breath, then she head-butted him.
Alex howled in pain and stumbled backward. Willow didn’t give him time to right himself. Instead, she thrust out her leg to the side and hit him with a roundhouse kick under the chin. His head smashed onto the pavement with a sickening thud. Pity, the big ones always did go down hard.
She glanced at his crumbled body,and then pressed her boot to his neck. At least the stilettos had come in handy.
His eyes widened in shock. A gurgling sound erupted from his throat. She pulled one of her athames from her hip belt and pointed it straight at his groin. “Tell me, Alex,” she said with a smile. “Are you fond of your dick?”