WITCHES GET STITCHES: Prologue-Ch. 2
“Okay, Violet’s turn!” Clara squealed, bouncing excitedly beside me. Aunt Beryl had just done her reading using the divining bowl.
This was our 16th birthday present. My twin sister scooted over in the grass so that I could take the spot directly across from Aunt Beryl for my reading. I leaned forward to get a better look in the bowl, hemmed in with wild-growing flowers and herbs that had been manicured to look like an English garden in Aunt Beryl’s backyard.
“I’m a Seer, too, you know.” I swatted a piece of grass off my bare knee. “I could’ve done this myself.”
Aunt Beryl, our mother’s best friend who practically raised us alongside her, was one of my favorite people in the world. Not simply because she was cool as hell, but because she was outspoken enough to put people in their place and made no apologies for it.
“You’re only sixteen.” She arched a superior eyebrow. “Like a newborn babe in diapers when it comes to your magic.”
See what I mean? I smiled. “I’ve read Jules’s fortune with my new Tarot cards Mom gave me. Said she would be head of New Orleans one day. Mom said that was definitely true, so I’d say not too bad.”
She rolled her eyes and tilted her head, her long dreads sliding over one shoulder. “Or you have common sense and a lick of intelligence in that head of yours.” She reached over the divining bowl and tapped me on the forehead. “Anyone could tell you that Jules will lead the coven one day.” She put both palms on the outside of the wooden bowl filled with water from the first rain this spring. “Now, hush up and focus on your future. Never smart for a Seer to divine for herself anyway.”
Placing my palms on my bare kneecaps, I settled into a relaxed pose and closed my eyes. “Why not?”
“Too close to it. Some Seers, no matter how tight their psychic line is with others, can’t see properly when it comes to themselves.”
“Shh!” she snapped.
So I shushed. I felt Clara wriggling next to me, but she was better about obeying orders than I was, already quiet so Aunt Beryl could concentrate. The sharp snap of her magic swirled between us, tugging at my chest with a wash of sizzling energy. I loved Aunt Beryl’s magic. It felt like a cool, comforting breeze on a summer’s day.
“Hmm.” Aunt Beryl’s quiet contemplation sparked a little anxiety.
“What?” My eyes snapped open as I peered forward, unable to make out the blurry images of witch sign floating in the divining bowl.
Aunt Beryl’s hands glowed white where she hovered them over the water before she placed them in her lap and stared down, her brow pinched.
“What do you see?” I asked, more eager than I thought I’d be.
“Shocking,” whispered Clara with a soft snort. I elbowed her sitting next to me.
Our styles were already diverging. Where I wore torn jeans and rock-n-roll T-shirts, she wore willowy dresses that accentuated our elfin features, looking like a fairy stepping into the world of humans.
“Your dream career will take some time, but it will come. I see success. Struggle there, but also success.”
“Awesome. Would love to know what that dream career is, by the way.”
She gave me a withering look. “That’s not how divination works.”
“And what about her one true love?” asked Clara excitedly, the only thing she was really interested in.
Aunt Beryl whispered something under her breath and waved a palm over the divining bowl, the water swirling faster at her verbal command. I tried to pretend I wasn’t that interested in knowing about my one true love as Clara liked to put it, but the truth was that I was a sappy romantic beneath my gruff exterior. I leaned forward anxiously.
“Oh.” Aunt Beryl sat back, frowning down at the bowl.
“Well, that doesn’t sound good. Can you elaborate please?”
She hit me with a sharp look. “Your true love is broken inside. Like all of his kin.” She glanced back down at the bowl.
Of all the men in the world, that’s the true love I would get. Still, my heart leaped at the realization Aunt Beryl saw anyone at all.
“But Violet can heal him?” Clara frowned down at the bowl.
“Maybe,” said Aunt Beryl. “Wait, yes. You can. If you think with your heart, not your head.”
Something more aligned to Clara, not me.
“How will I know him?” I asked, anxious about this new revelation in my future.
“By his eyes.”
“That doesn’t tell me anything, Aunt Beryl. What color will those eyes be? What is so special about them? Is he short? Tall? Blond or brown hair?” I scoffed in teenage frustration at her cryptic response.
She simply smiled in that knowing sort of way then used her maternal, hear-my-words-you-silly-child voice. “You’ll know by his eyes.”
“A little lower.”
I pulled both sleeves of my loose-fitting tank-top down to my elbows so he had better access.
“Lean forward more.” Zaire eased closer behind me, his long legs straddling the short stool I sat on.
“I feel like we’re about to have sex.”
He chuckled. “Are you too cold out here?”
I glanced down at my black bikini top. I’d worn it since it tied around my neck and would keep all straps out of Zaire’s way while he worked.
“I’m currently sporting nip-cicles, but no pain, no gain, as they say. Besides, I promised a favor for a favor, so keep going.”
“Don’t make me laugh unless you want this tattoo all fucked up.” The rhythmic vibration of the tattoo needle settled into my skin, a welcome pain. “The favor was just to let me put this tattoo on you, not to put on a show for every male in the bar.”
“You did want new business, right? What better way to attract business than to tattoo a witch in a bikini top in thirty-degree weather on New Year’s Eve?”
I was a little numb from the cold by now, even with the outdoor space heater radiating warmth sitting next to us. Besides the needle was giving me a heady buzz of pleasure-pain. He’d already outlined the orchid on my shoulder on my last visit and was now adding the blue shading tonight, which would advertise his artistic skill best. It was that exact skill I’d been practicing as his apprentice with the intent of opening my own shop in the future. Hopefully, the near future.
I’d met Zaire at last year’s Witch Coven Summit here in Austin, Texas. He didn’t normally attend those things, but since his grandmother was a high-ranking witch in the local coven, she forced him to go to find himself a good witchy wife. Unfortunately, he just found me, a fellow Divine Seer, also wishing she was anywhere else besides the witch marriage market.
A friendship sparked immediately. It was his scowling face and broody manners that had me zero in on him from the second I’d walked in the door. A kindred spirit. But it was the full sleeve tattoos on his dark skin that had me bee-lining toward him at the bar. I was an ink whore and could never help myself from checking out other people’s tattoos. I should’ve known then that my love of the artform would eventually lead me to become a tattoo artist myself.
Supernaturals strolled through the rooftop door. The beefy bouncer nodded them through as they flashed their wrists, signaling they’d been approved and stamped downstairs.
I winced as Zaire’s needle stung the edge of my shoulder blade, the skin thin there. “Does giving a tattoo give your magic a buzz?”
He shifted closer, his long fingers curling over the outer curve of my shoulder as he worked the needle lower. A few party-goers filtered around our quiet corner of the roof-top bar, Mickey’s. It was closed to the public for New Year’s Eve so the witch who owned it could open it to supernaturals, invite-only.
Since Zaire was trying to build up his own clientele, he was using me as a walking advertisement at the party. I readily agreed as part of the exchange for tattoo lessons.
“What kind of buzz?”
“You know. Like a tapping on your line.”
I’d always felt like there was a direct link, like an electrical circuit, that lit up inside supernaturals when their magic woke up for whatever reason. Whether we called it forward or it turned on all by itself. Whenever I tattooed someone while apprenticing for Zaire, my body hummed with magical energy.
“No,” he finally answered. “I’ve never had that happen.” He lifted the tattoo needle away from my skin. “Have you?”
“All the time,” I answered honestly, now frowning since Zaire didn’t experience this same sensation.
“Doesn’t surprise me. You’ve got more magic in your little pinky than any Seer I’ve ever met.”
“Stop it.” I batted my eyelashes then turned serious. “Even your grandmother?”
“Don’t you dare tell her I said so.”
“Wow,” I whispered all sultry. “Is this some witchy ploy to seduce me?”
He gave me that rock-star smile before settling back to work. “Tempting, but no.”
“Do tell.” I loved flirting with Zaire. I’ll admit I’d thought more than once about crossing that friends-only line, but he was smarter than me and never let it happen.
“Not on your life.”
See? Party pooper.
“I want to keep you as a friend,” he added. “I’ve seen the broken hearts you leave in your wake.”
“You say the sweetest things.”
“That last kid. What was his name?”
“No.” He lifted the needle from my skin again. “How many guys have you dated this year?”
“Exactly. So, no. As tempting as it is, we will not be leaving the friendzone, Ms. Savoie.”
“You’re smarter than me, so I’ll agree with you.”
I glanced around at the young people of Austin, drinking and carrying on. An indie band—two vampires and a grim reaper—had started up about an hour ago, their cool vibe setting the scene for a good time.
“Hmph,” Zaire grunted.
“What was that noise for?”
“Was just thinking about something my grandmother said when I first told her I was going to use my art degree to become a tattoo artist.”
“She didn’t like that idea?”
“The opposite, kind of. Said a lot of witches and warlocks were called to it.”
“Because of our ancient ties to enchanted tattoos.”
A zap of electricity surged through my veins. I sat up straighter. “How do you mean?”
“Something about the ancient druids and shamans… In the early days, some of the witches and warlocks used their magic to permanently spell supernaturals.”
“Wow,” I breathed airily, wondering at the sudden hum of magic just beneath my skin at Zaire’s mention of enchanted tattoos. I could actually feel my psychic line tapping me on the shoulder. It was a light premonition, a sign for me to look and listen. I was so attuned to my magic as a Seer that I knew what each surge of power meant. My ability made itself known on a giant sliding scale. Everything from full-on visions of the future to tiny tap, tap, taps on the psychic line telling me to pay attention. Like right now.
“So when are you going to do it?” Zaire wiped the excess ink from my tattoo before settling in again.
“What’s that?” I asked, having drifted far away for a minute.
“Open your own shop.”
“Oh, I’m not ready yet. I started saving, picking up extra shifts at the Cauldron and stuff. And I’ve been apprenticing with a local artist though he’s not as good as you, of course.”
“Of course,” he agreed smugly.
“But I need to find the right place and the right people. Make sure everything is just right.”
A skinny warlock and two witches strolled up to watch. Zaire was chit-chatting with them when the energy on the rooftop bar suddenly shifted. For most supernaturals, magic pinged along our radar with various degrees of energy. Depending on whether it was a witch of significant power or a vampire with very little, the pulse of magic varied. For me, it was different. I couldn’t just feel magic; I could taste it. And right now, danger was settling evenly on my tongue.
The ones giving me the vibes were the four men walking onto the rooftop. Werewolves, actually. Hot as fuck werewolves to be super specific.
The two in front, easy smiles and younger than the two behind them, strode straight for the bar. The other pair eased in with more awareness, more experience. Werewolves weren’t always welcome, you see. Their volatile reputation made them pariahs among most supernaturals. But the bouncer at the door had just fist-bumped the tallest of the four and let them on through.
The tallest one was a smoking hot, five-alarm fire. His black hair and bronzed skin were a turn-on, but it was more about the way he moved and assessed the place with predatory stealth that sent a delightful shiver along my skin. All the same, there was a sensitivity and gentleness in the lines of his face. I could taste his dominance from here, and yet he was also giving off cinnamon-roll vibes. What a paradox this werewolf was.
Though quite chilly up here, the long sleeves of his button-down were rolled up, revealing intricate black tattoos extending down to his wrists on both arms. That alone piqued my interest.
“Don’t even think about it,” Zaire whispered close behind me.
“Why not? Out-of-town hook-ups are the best. No strings attached.”
“Not that one.”
“You know him?”
“A friend of mine does his ink. That’s Nico Cruz, a member of the Blood Moon pack.”
“Oooo. He’s in a werewolf gang. Delicious.”
“Your sister Jules would kick your ass if she were here.”
He’d lifted the needle from my skin to wipe my shoulder again. I made a show of looking around the bar. “Hmm, don’t see Jules anywhere, do you?”
“Sit back, smartass.”
“Seems harmless enough to me.” I kept my voice low. The gaggle of witches were still watching, sipping their beers and chatting while leaning against his display table where Zaire had set out photographs of his work.
Zaire huffed a laugh. “There was rumor he lost it one night,” he whispered low. “Clawed the hell out of a sixteen-year-old. One of his own pack.”
“Ouch.” The tall one, Nico, stood off to the side of the bar, waiting on the others, watching the party scene with a kind of wary calm. “Did the boy recover?”
“Don’t know. Never got the details. Best to stay away, Vi.”
“That may be kind of hard, Z.”
“He’s coming this way.”
Zaire heaved out a sigh, continuing to work on the tattoo as he mumbled, “Leave it to you to draw the most dangerous super in the room.”
“I’m gifted like that.”
Nico and his friend strode over at a leisurely gait. A casual, indifferent amble. All the same, the flash of electric green in his eyes made me fully aware his wolf was present, front and center. Those watchful, hypnotic eyes checked me out while I noted the cut of his sharp jaw angling toward a beautiful mouth.
He carried a bottled import in one hand, his other tucked into his pocket. I loved it when werewolves tried to look tame. I might’ve laughed if Zaire hadn’t just warned me about this one.
“Zaire. Doing some moonlighting?”
Oh my. His voice was the perfect combination of raspy and warm.
“Nico.” I couldn’t see him, but he must’ve done that head-chin-lift thing guys do in greeting.
“Damn,” said the other guy, a handsome, brown-eyed blond, coming around close to my left shoulder. “Nice ink.”
Werewolves were always pushing into people’s space. This one was no exception. If you ever meet a close-talker, they’re probably a werewolf. They just can’t help but push boundaries. Maybe that’s why I liked them despite the fact my sister Jules had told us our whole lives to stay away from them. Also, rebellion was stamped into my DNA.
Nico edged closer in front of me, watching Zaire work. Now I could see that his eyes were a deep green, the tiniest starburst of gold ringing his pupil, which flared the slightest bit when he settled his heated gaze on me.
“The blue orchid. That’s interesting.”
“How so?” I quirked a brow. “Do you even know what it means?”
His sensual mouth quirked up on one side. Coupled with the hot look he was aiming at me, I would have known this one was trouble without Zaire’s warning.
“I do,” was all he said, still giving me that devastating, crooked smile.
“What? I don’t look like the spiritual, deep-thinking kind of girl?” Because that’s basically what the blue orchid meant—the deep thinker. Though I was aware that I was an over-thinker, I really chose it because it was just so damn pretty, and blue was my favorite color.
The big, bad werewolf moved even closer, tilting his head down. He whispered almost intimately, “The blue orchid is also the rarest of them all.” His gaze narrowed, smile widening. “I’ll bet you’re a one-of-a-kind witch, aren’t you?”
While holding his intense gaze, I didn’t miss the widening of the gold starburst in his eyes—a sure sign his wolf was sniffing around at the surface. I was about to make some snappy comeback if I could get my mouth to work when Zaire interrupted our little flirty exchange.
“All done.” Zaire turned off his cordless tattoo machine. “Wanna look?”
Blinking away the intimate connection, I glanced over my shoulder. Zaire handed me a handheld mirror while holding his own so that I got a reflection of the reflection.
I was well aware that my tank-top hung half off. The girls were fully covered in the bikini top, but I was showing quite a bit of skin for a rooftop party in winter rather than sunning on the beach. Still, I was getting a kick out of Nico’s mixed expression of shock and arousal.
I took a good look, completely spellbound for a moment, forgetting where I was. “Damn, Zaire. Your skill is so amazing. Sure you don’t want to move to New Orleans?”
I caught his bright smile in the mirror and gave him a wink.
“Glad you like it.” He went to work with the final ministrations of wiping the excess ink, cleaning with antiseptic, then spreading the transparent, waterproof tape to cover it all. He didn’t bother to answer me for the hundredth time that he wasn’t moving. But a girl had to try.
“Same price as last time?” I asked, scooping my tank-top back up onto my shoulders. “Two blow jobs and a steak dinner?”
Blondie coughed out a laugh where he was leaning against the table. The witches giggled. I swear I heard a deep-throated growl from the big werewolf still standing in my private bubble. Zaire arched a brow at me and shook his head.
“You know what the payment is.”
“One BJ and dinner?”
“Jesus, Violet. Stop it.” He looked at the two werewolves, shaking his head and chuckling. “She’s joking. That’s just her way.”
“Oh, look.” I nodded toward the door. “You have impeccable timing, Zaire. Josie’s here.”
The petite witch with a pixie cut and hair dyed every color of the rainbow practically skipped toward our little corner. I was experimental with my hair color—currently a peacock blue—but Josie took it to the next level. She was his second walking advertisement for the night.
“Can I buy you a drink?” Nico hadn’t moved from my personal space the whole time I’d lifted my gray jacket from my lap and slipped it on.
“Sure thing.” I tucked my hands in my pockets and glanced over my shoulder, winking at Zaire’s scowling face. Since he would be busy for a while, I saw no problem in hanging with the werewolf till he was done.
This guy wasn’t dangerous. I mean, he certainly wasn’t the loose cannon Zaire had heard from his little witch sewing circle. My magic was strongly attuned to warning me of danger. Okay, maybe he was putting off the bad-boy vibes when he walked in, but up close I knew there was no sign of danger danger. And my, how I enjoyed this close-up view of his pretty face.
We found two stools at one of the bars, of which there were three spread out over the rooftop. Trellises with fairy lights set the ambiance and, in this lighting, his face looked like it was cut out of a magazine.
“What is it?” he asked, a small smile teasing his lips, which only drew my attention back to them.
“You’ve got an awfully pretty mouth.”
He laughed, then surprised me with his next question, “Zaire didn’t scare you off?”
“How do you mean?” Though I knew exactly what he meant. I was just caught off guard at him going straight for the sensitive topics.
“Surely, he told you stories about me.”
“Singular. One story.”
“Mm.” He nodded, wide mouth quirking on one side.
“Is there any truth to the story?”
“Don’t know what he told you.”
“That you lost control. Went wild wolf on a sixteen-year-old and hurt him.”
He swallowed visibly, his Adam’s apple bobbing once, but he didn’t wince or look away. No. He held my gaze, as if transfixed.
“There’s truth to it. It was an accident.”
“Honest. Wow. That’s interesting.”
“You thought I’d lie?”
“No. But I thought you might evade, since I’m pretty sure you’re trying to impress me.”
“You’re wrong. I’m not trying to impress you. I want you to see me.”
“Why?” I reached out with my magical senses. “We just met.”
“And when we did, the earth opened up beneath my feet.”
That’s when I tasted a shift of energy, my psychic line tapping into his emotions. I wasn’t as adept at reading emotion as Clara—my twin who was an Aura and could read feelings like words on a page—but I still could catch a whiff on the air. Like a passing breeze. And a magical wind had just wafted waves and waves of sincerity through me. It was heady. And aggressive. I’d even say seductive.
This werewolf was unique.
“So he didn’t scare you off then,” he stated as a challenge more than a question.
“I’m still here, aren’t I?” That earned me a great big smile. “My, what big teeth you have.”
He stared at me a few seconds before asking, “So, what do you do?”
“No, no, no.” I shook my head, my blue hair brushing over my shoulders. “Let’s not do that. That’s boring.”
“Okay.” He grinned wider. “Tell me what we should talk about.”
I exhaled a deep breath and rolled my eyes. “Entertain me, wolfie.”
That all-observant gaze flared for one second before his brows shot up and he recited in a rather formal voice, “There once was a werewolf from Kent, whose cock was so long it bent. So he found him a witch, to scratch his big itch, and with a great howl, he spent.”
I tossed my head back and burst out in throaty laughter.
“Your turn,” he said after a soft chuckle.
“We’re having a limerick war?”
“You started it.” He held up two fingers to the bartender and pointed to the whiskey. “If you can’t think of one in ten seconds then I win.”
Shit! He was good. Naughty wolfie.
Clearing my throat, I sat up straight and, with a haughty air, did my best. “There once was a grim from Liverpool, who was caught playing with his tool.” I paused. Nico arched a superior brow, which made me laugh before saying, “But then he met Paul, who played with his balls…aaaand they both went to ball-juggling school?”
“Are you asking me if they went to ball-juggling school?”
“No!” I swatted him on the bicep. Ooo, nice. “It just came out that way.”
“Oh, sweet Violet,” he said with a playfully condescending air. “I think you just lost.”
“What are you talking about? That was a perfectly good limerick.”
“Actually, it was near-rhyme only with Paul and balls, not exact rhyme. So, not a perfectly good limerick. You obviously aren’t as expert at this as I am.”
“Fine, fine. If you can come up with a next-level limerick, better than mine—”
“Shouldn’t be hard.”
“Shut up. As I said, better than mine, then you win.”
“I want a prize when I win.”
“If you win. Presumptuous much?”
“Confident.” He tilted his head to the side, cocky smirk on his lovely face. “And werewolves like tangible prizes for their achievements. We’re visceral creatures.”
I ignored the rumble of his words on that last part. “I’d hardly call creating a dirty rhyme an achievement.”
“You haven’t heard it yet,” he challenged as the bartender set two whiskeys on ice in front of us.
“And what makes you think I like whiskey?” Pushy bastard, this one. I liked him.
“Am I wrong?”
“No, dammit.” I took the glass and knocked back a swallow. “I know you already have something in mind, so what do you want if you win?”
I huffed a laugh. “I don’t even know you.” Not that that’s ever mattered.
“You know me enough.”
We’d literally just met within the last half hour, but somehow he was completely right. I felt like I knew him well enough for a little tongue-tangling.
“Fine. I’ll give you a full minute to think one up because this has to be super epic.” And I was hoping he’d win so I could give him that prize. “And just so there’s no question about it, we’ll have a guest judge alongside me, of course.”
When I waved at the bartender and she came over, I explained our need for an unbiased judge. “I’ll be glad to help,” she said, setting both forearms on the bar top.
“Nervous?” I asked, because he suddenly looked that way.
Then he didn’t, his superior expression returning ten-fold.
I pulled out my phone from my jacket pocket and found the timer. “Your minute starts now.”
After I clicked the start button, only five seconds passed before he said, “There once was a wolf from the city, who met a witch who was stunning and witty.” His voice was low and luscious and gruff. “She charmed him at a glance, making him wish he had a chance, to kiss her sweet lips and her kitty.”
Most girls might slap a guy for being so bold, for saying exactly what they were thinking. Specifically that he wanted to eat her out, even if he did say it with pretty words. All I could do was bite my lip and shake my head, recognizing my equal.
“Well, fuck,” I muttered under my breath.
“Yep, he won,” said the waitress before sauntering off.
“What do you say, Violet? Do I get my prize?”
Before I could launch myself into his lap, a guy I’d seen with the band earlier approached and tapped Nico on the shoulder. “They’re ready for you, man.”
His smoldering expression evaporated as he glanced over his shoulder. “Shit, I forgot.”
“You forgot?” asked the guy. “Isn’t that the reason you came?” Then the guy looked at me, realization dawning on his face. “Oh, right. Well, you still comin’?”
The music died down to just the vampire on vocals speaking into the mic. “I have a special guest here tonight. You guys have surely seen him around town. Please welcome Nico Cruz to the stage for a few songs.”
Nico gripped my hand in his as he slid off the stool. He gave my hand a good squeeze, the sensation pinging down to my lady bits. He leaned forward close to my ear. “Don’t go anywhere.” He leaned back a few inches, catching my gaze. “Please.” Then he grinned wider. “I want my prize.”
As he followed the other guy through the crowd toward the stage, I got a good look at his fantastic ass. “I do, too,” I murmured to myself while sipping my whiskey.
I leaned back against the bar, ordered an Old-Fashioned for my second round and enjoyed the show. This werewolf was full of surprises. Nico didn’t do any grandstanding or make any cute, quippy remarks into the mic, he just picked up a guitar, slung the strap over his shoulder, and began to play. And sing.
Fucking hell. His voice. Rough and smooth and smoky with a direct line to my pussy.
He played “Feel Like I’m Drowning” by Two Feet, then some Kaleo and some indie song I’d never heard. But when he sang his own masculine rendition of Skylar Grey’s “I Know You,” his attention riveted on me, I actually started to shake. Me! Shivering on that fucking stool.
Here’s the thing about werewolves. Once upon a time, a seriously pissed-off witch cursed a man who became the first werewolf. The curse divided him in half. Gifted him with the most sublime magic of creativity and cursed him to become a beast upon the full moon. So when a werewolf created art, there was magic in it. And when Nico sang to me, he sang to me.
My heart pumped faster, blood rushing to tantalizing places, and his voice vibrated straight to my bones, keeping my ass on that stool and my eyes on the sexy-as-fuck man serenading me from the stage, breath frosting the air.
When he poured the last lines of the song out in a desperate plea, directed at me, the vampire singer stepped up beside him. Nico pulled back from the mic and lifted the guitar away as the guy said, “Let’s give Nico a big round of applause!” And so they did. “Almost to countdown time, everybody.”
While the vampire roused the crowd, Nico stepped off the stage and headed toward me with fire blazing in his eyes.
I knew that look. And I was one-hundred percent ready for it. I popped off the stool right as he made it to me. He grabbed my hand and laced our fingers, then tugged me away from the crowd. I didn’t ask where we were going. I didn’t give a damn. As long as he put his mouth on me.
He hauled me behind the bar where there was a thin partition between the back-door entrance and the area for customers. Cases of beer were stacked in rows, leaving a tiny corner vacant in the shadows. He backed me into the corner and pushed his fingers into my hair, tightening his fist before his mouth crashed onto mine.
He parted my lips with deft precision and a bit of desperation. When his tongue touched mine, I couldn’t help but rock my hips up, bending one leg to wrap at his hip.
His deep groan was heavenly rumbling against my chest. “Fuck, you’re so fine, Violet,” he whispered against my mouth before he bit my lip with a little sting and thrust his hard cock between my legs. The friction was divine.
“Keep talking, wolfie”—I leaned up and bit his neck—“or put that mouth to better use.”
He froze. His otherworldly gaze was locked on mine, a question hanging in the air. Holding his focus, I started unsnapping and unzipping my jeans to answer it, not giving a damn that anyone could walk up on us.
Needing no more encouragement than that, he was on his knees, curling his long fingers into the sides of my jeans and panties and dragging them down my legs. He pulled off the sneaker on my left foot then freed my leg of clothes and draped it over his shoulder.
I might’ve whimpered when I combed my fingers into the black waves of his hair, fisting my hand to give him a little of the pleasure-pain he’d given me.
His wolf-green eyes flickered up at me as he eased forward, sliding the tip of his middle finger along my slit.
He nuzzled my inner thigh with his nose. “I want to drown in your scent,” he said, voice having dropped several octaves.
“Be my guest.”
So he did. He gave me one long slide of his hot tongue, while holding my gaze. My fingers clenched tighter in his hair on instinct, dragging a growl from deep in his throat. I whimpered as he went to work. Lapping at me with fierce licks and sucks, driving me like a freight train on fire toward climax.
“I don’t know where you learned to use your tongue like that,” I panted, riding his mouth with feverish agony.
I couldn’t even finish my sentence, forgetting what I was about to say. I had to get there, and I needed him and only him to do it. This semi-stranger werewolf with a poet in his voice and a devil in his tongue.
The distant laughter and raucous cheers of the crowd skirted the periphery of my focus. The in-unison countdown began—ten, nine, eight, seven!
Then Nico slid two fingers inside me and pumped hard and fast, playing my clit like he played that guitar.
Six, five, four!
“Damn, you’re so good,” I mumbled.
His answering growl vibrated against my clit before he curled his fingers slightly as he stroked out, hitting my G-spot and sending me over the edge.
Fireworks went off in the distance with a loud, modern chorus of Auld Lang Syne as I came on Nico’s mouth, my head back against the partition wall, staring up at the night sky. He continued to lick with leisurely strokes and a satisfied hum, lapping all of me up. The cold night air, his hot mouth, the skyrocketing endorphins and ecstasy-like orgasm wouldn’t be something I’d soon forget.
Slowly, I came back to myself, vaguely aware of Nico slipping my leg back into my panties and jeans, zipping and snapping them.
He stood, wrapped his fingers around my nape, and pressed a soft, slow kiss to my mouth, letting me taste our mingling scents together before he pulled apart, green eyes fiery and smoldering.
“Happy New Year, Violet.”
I didn’t respond other than to give him one last, lingering kiss. Because I knew what would happen next. I’d hurry a goodbye then duck out the door and haul ass back to New Orleans as fast as possible. Because whatever this werewolf was, it was my brand of addiction. Zaire wasn’t wrong when he said my sister Jules would kick my ass.
Lucky for me, I’d never see this werewolf again.
10 months later…
For the first time since New Year’s Eve, my wolf had chilled the fuck out. My body was at ease. Not because I’d done gigs like this a hundred times before, but because she was in the room. Muscles relaxed, breathing steady, I watched her greet her first table as I slipped the strap of the guitar over my head.
She frowned, sensing a new supernatural in the pub. I stared, enjoying my fill of her, as I strummed a few chords. It had been too long since I’d soaked her in, enjoyed her stark beauty. Her gaze swept to me, widened in surprise then narrowed. That only made me smile as I leaned close to the mic.
“Good evening, everyone. I’m new here to New Orleans, so I hope you’ll be gentle with me tonight.”
“Come over here! I’ll be gentle!” called one of the young women at a high-top table with her friends closer to the stage.
I gave her a smile then glanced down at my guitar, adjusting a string before strumming again.
“Thank you.” I nodded at the table of ladies, playing to my small audience. “I heard that New Orleans had fantastic hospitality. Glad to see that was true.” A few whistles and a sputtering round of applause from the Cauldron’s customers. “Well then, my first song goes out to a girl who took my breath away the first night I met her.” More whistles. “Then she bailed on me.”
“I wouldn’t do that to you, baby,” said the brazen woman at the high-top.
With a low chuckle, I played the first chords of “Ain’t No Sunshine,” glancing over at Violet now at the bar where she stood there slack-jawed and staring. I couldn’t help but grin wider, then I started singing. She carried on with her business, throwing me not-so-pleasant glares as she served her customers, a pretty blush high on her cheeks.
After several songs where Violet tried to pretend I wasn’t in the room, walking with undisguised hostility, I was positive she’d thought she’d never see me again. I had no problem with hard-to-get. I was a patient man. And my wolf, he’d have no other, so she was in for a rude awakening.
I wasn’t going anywhere, and I wasn’t going to give up until I got what I wanted. Her.
After ending my current song, I slipped the strap of my guitar off my shoulder. “Taking a five-minute break, guys. Be right back.”
I set my guitar on its stand then meandered through the tables. The place was pretty packed. Stopping at the end of the bar, I nodded to the beefy bartender JJ at the other end. He waved as he took the order of the woman in front of him. I’d met him when Violet’s older sister Jules gave me a brief tour right before the dinner rush. I’d been elated to discover that Violet would be waiting tables on my first night.
I’d been pleasantly surprised that her sister, the Enforcer and head of all supernaturals in New Orleans, had given me the time of day, much less given me a weekly spot at her family’s restaurant and pub. I wasn’t surprised she’d asked if I knew anyone in town.
When I’d said that my cousin, Mateo Cruz, lived here, she’d taken all of five seconds to hire me. That was this morning, and I hadn’t had time to even text Mateo yet. I was too busy shopping for a place to live and dealing with a real estate agent.
A fantastic house with a business attached caught my eye. It was at the end of a dead-end street a few blocks from here. I didn’t have need of commercial space, but the fact that it was so private appealed to me, especially in a busy city. No one would hear and complain if they heard animalistic growls and howls if I lost control of my wolf.
The image of Ty’s anguished—and scarred—face flashed to mind again, piercing me with a sharp sting of bitter and painful regret. Yes, a large lot with secluded privacy was just what I needed.
I closed on the property tomorrow, then I’d be a permanent resident of the city where Violet lived, whether she liked it or not. Right now, it looked a lot like not.
“What’ll you have?” asked JJ.
“Killian’s Red.” I pulled out my wallet.
“Nah. On the house.” He pulled a longneck from the cooler and popped it open for me.
“You want a mug?”
A shake of the head. “This is good.”
“You know what isn’t good?” asked Violet, suddenly there beside me, her scent snatching my senses captive with unnatural speed. “This werewolf who’s stalking me.”
Smiling, I tipped the beer bottle back and took a swallow, noticing her noticing me. “Stalking?” I swept the room as if looking for the culprit. “That does sound like a problem.”
JJ gave us both a quizzical look then sauntered off down the bar to another customer.
“Don’t play with me, Nico. Why are you here?”
“Well, you see, my mom and dad met and fell in love. Then they got married and fucked each other and—”
Unamused, she interrupted, “You think you’re funny, don’t you?”
“Just stating facts.”
“The fact I want to know is why you’re here”—she pointed at her feet—“in my city, in the Cauldron.”
“You own this city? Had no idea.”
“Stop playing.” She tilted her head, hair still a vibrant blue as it slid over her bare shoulder, her tank top exposing the blue orchid, reminding me yet again of the electric night we met.
“Thought it was pretty obvious.” I glanced at the stage. “I moved here. Got a job.”
Those sapphire eyes assessed my expression, looking for lies. There wasn’t one there. That was all true.
“Why New Orleans?”
“Why not?” Leaning forward into her space, I inhaled a divine whiff of her scent as I growled, “I have a better question. Why’d you bail on me five minutes after I made you come on the rooftop in Austin?”
All her bravado vanished behind wide eyes while I took a casual sip of my beer. I practically purred at the sight of her surprised and sputtering for an answer.
She crossed her arms. Defensive move. “I had somewhere to be.”
Biting my bottom lip, I let her squirm uncomfortably beneath my gaze before I said, “That was rude.”
She winced. “I know.”
“Pretty immature, too.”
“Look, I know. You’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Are you? Or sorry that I showed up to remind you of it?”
She actually did look fairly remorseful.
“Forget about it,” I said. “Listen, I was looking for different scenery. Austin was getting too crowded.” And hostile. “So I decided to move. My cousin lives here in town, and I thought New Orleans seemed as good a place as any.”
She tensed a little, a frown puckering between her brows. “Your cousin? What’s his name?”
“Mateo Cruz. Know him?”
Since her sisters were the head witch coven in New Orleans, they’d likely know most of the supernaturals in the city, personally or not.
“Yeah.” She nodded her head, seeming disappointed. “My sister Evie and him are friends.” She gestured toward the young woman swishing out of the kitchen, her ponytail swinging.
Violet blew out a heavy breath, lifting a strand of blue hair. I wondered what her natural color was. “I really am sorry for bailing on you that night.” She closed her eyes in misery for a second. “That was seriously shitty of me.” She then lifted her gaze to me with a questioning look.
“I’m not going to argue,” I said playfully but meaning it.
And I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell her how it had left me in agony for months. Not because of the blue balls she’d given me, but because I knew the second I kissed her what she was to me. One taste had sealed her into my flesh and bones.
She glanced over at her tables before she straightened and flashed me a small smile. “I’ve gotta get back to work.”
“How about a drink later? After I finish?”
She eyed me warily, and I wasn’t sure where that was coming from. She didn’t seem to have had a thing against werewolves on New Year’s Eve. But then I hadn’t known her intentions were to have a little fun then vanish into thin air. Maybe werewolves were only good enough to toy with. Not date.
“Not tonight,” she said with no further explanation. “I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
Then she turned on her heels and returned to her tables.
I was suddenly relieved I’d already found a place and was putting down some long-term roots because, apparently, this conquest was going to take some time.
I tried to pretend that Nico’s presence in the Cauldron didn’t rattle the living shit out of me. But it so did. That werewolf was fine as fuck, and it would take a freaking miracle for me to keep my ass out of his bed. Especially after I knew how talented the man was with his tongue.
My psychic magic had flat-out given me a vision of Evie and Mateo living blissfully together one day, whether they knew it or not, which also told me I needed to keep my thirsty thoughts off of Nico Cruz.
I’d done a reading on Evie privately and was well aware that she and Mateo would be together forever. But it was better she didn’t know right away. Not that she’d rebel and toss the guy before their romance ever took place, but sometimes interference from a Seer could muck things up. So I typically only interfered when necessary.
What that did mean was that Nico was a permanent fixture in our lives. And my usual MO of love-em-and-leave-em wasn’t going to go over well with Nico. Unless…?
I stopped at a table where my customers had just left. After pocketing the tip, I slowly bussed the table, stacking empty glasses and plates onto my tray while watching Nico croon an old Nirvana song. His smooth but smoky voice did things to my insides. Melty, wonderful things. He’d been singing with his eyes closed. When they opened, his burning gaze landed directly on me.
Ever heard that phrase when time stood still? I’d never felt it myself, until that moment. His eyes locked on me, paralyzing me on the spot. A feverish frenzy of adrenaline flushed through my blood. Magic tingled along my skin. A bare caress of it lifted the hairs on my arms.
Was he the one?
Swallowing hard against the exhilarating possibility that the man of my dreams could very well be the devastatingly handsome werewolf singing a soft ballad with a sexy voice and staring at me with those hypnotic eyes, I got my ass to the kitchen. Then I kept myself busy all night.
Mateo and Evie had shown up at some point. I sneakily watched Mateo talking to Nico on another break later in the night. Then I smiled to myself when Evie danced with Mateo before the two of them disappeared down the hallway to the storage room.
All that did was draw my attention back to Nico. I needed to know. Before my shift was quite over, I asked the other waitress Belinda if I could take off a little early. The pub had died down enough that she could handle it.
I slipped through the back door then headed down the short alley between the Cauldron and our metaphysical shop, Mystic Maybelle’s. Clara had closed it up hours ago, so the place was full dark. I made the short walk down the side street to our two-story bungalow, up the driveway, and to the stairs leading to the carriage house loft where Clara and I lived.
We still hung out in the main house, but we had two bedrooms and a small kitchenette and living room of our own in the carriage house. Clara wasn’t home and must’ve been in the main house. Good. Because I didn’t want to explain to her why I was doing a late-night reading.
“Okay, okay.” I shook out my arms, the adrenaline shooting like wildfire through my veins. “Calm down.”
Easier said than done. I rummaged in my desk drawer for my oldest deck of Tarot cards, the one Mom had given me when I was sixteen, the same year Aunt Beryl gave me the premonition about my one true love.
I’d pretended that her words hadn’t sunk in. That her psychic vision hadn’t jarred something loose inside me and had realigned the way I moved about in my adult life. It was no secret that I enjoyed the hell out of men. But if I didn’t get the sense that they could be the one, I’d moved on pretty damn quickly. To be honest, I hadn’t thought about it in a long-ass time. Not until tonight when Nico looked at me in a way that turned my legs to pudding.
After finding my well-worn deck in shades of cream and gold, I sat cross-legged in the middle of my bed and blew out a shaky breath.
“Ten of Cups, ten of Cups,” I chanted, closing my eyes and hoping like hell.
Ten of Cups was the epic happily-ever-after card. It meant divine love, blissful relationships, harmony, alignment. That was the card I longed for when I’d done this reading in the past.
I’d only done a reading about this twice before now. For Paul, my first college romance that went nowhere. However, when we first met, I’d been dazzled by his striking blue eyes, which immediately made me think of Aunt Beryl’s vision.
I’d also done a reading for Hayden, this warlock who sat in my section at the Cauldron three days a week till he finally asked me out. There hadn’t been anything special about his eyes or the way he looked at me or the way I felt when he looked at me, but I really liked him for a while there and thought what the hell. Of course, the reading didn’t give me the Ten of Cups because here I sat. Single as ever.
Inhaling a deep breath then exhaling slowly, I spread the cards out on my mattress face down, conjuring my magic as I mixed them up. When I felt that certain rightness, my magic in sync with my mind and body, I sat straight and whispered into the room what I asked for. A three-card spread would be more thorough.
“First card is for me.”
I hovered my palm over the cards, then flipped the one that spoke the most to me.
Death stared back, smiling from a death’s head. The most prevalent meaning of the Death card was endings.
“Fuck.” I pushed down the anxiety, remembering that maybe it was the ending of my single life. “That could be it,” I muttered, hoping for the best. “Okay, the second card is for Nico.”
My hand snatched a card quickly, almost as if it was someone else’s.
“Are you kidding me?”
The Three of Swords. I stared at the card with the bleeding heart stabbed through with three sharp swords, making my chest ache. It meant heartbreak.
Great. So Nico is going to bring me heartbreak and emotional pain?
“Last one. Third card is for our relationship.”
I flipped over the last card and laughed bitterly at the Tower card, a crumbling one with flames shooting out of the windows and the spire. It meant upheaval and chaos.
“Definitely not the Ten of Cups.”
My chest pinched with disappointment. Especially when I remembered the way the man could make me feel with one glance of those deep green eyes.
If Aunt Beryl was right—and Aunt Beryl was always right—he wasn’t the one.
“Ah, hell,” I mumbled, flipping over the cards and mixing them up again.
One more time.
I repeated what I wanted before I flipped over three cards in quick succession. Again, in that order, came Death, Three of Swords, the Tower.
Leaving the cards on the bed, I cursed my way through a hot shower, then came back to them and tried again. The same three cards stared back at me. The skeleton of Death seemed to grin wider.
Finally, I gathered the cards and put them away, accepting that I’d been wrong. Wasn’t the first or the last time. But it was more than apparent that endings, heartbreak, and chaos were not the cards that would lead to my happily-ever-after.
I stretched out on my bed and sighed at the ceiling, lamenting that Nico wasn’t the one. And knowing he was Mateo’s cousin and now employed at the Cauldron, that put him firmly in the friend zone.
No matter how badly my libido told my brain to fuck off, I wouldn’t put myself through all that turmoil. Nor would I put him through it. And if those green eyes made me weak again, I’d just think of burning, crumbling towers, three sharp swords stabbing my heart, and that wicked fiend Death grinning back at me.
“Sorry, Nico.” And sorry, self. “Friends it is.”
AM UK: https://amzn.to/3xbm8M0
AM AU: https://amzn.to/3vayGll
AM CA: https://amzn.to/2SqMScp