White magic. Gray magic. Black magic. A witch is a witch. Right? Samantha never meant to cross the line. Hell, she didn’t even know a line existed. All she wanted to do was make sure John noticed her. Dabbling with the herbal magic her grandmother taught her doesn’t seem wrong. Especially when it produces results.
Of course, for those walking in the mystical ways, Samantha’s dabbling is anything but innocent. And for those who’ve long since crossed to the dark side, she’s a downright delectable bit of flesh. But though black magic and its wielders may be able to blind a woman, they’ll never be able to fully control her actions.
Pierce My Heart
Shakespeare’s Hamlet had it more right than he knew. Hierarchies of angels, deities and demons walk among us, mostly unnoticed. But every now and again, Fate steps into a person’s life to bitch-slap some sense into them.
Jessie is one of those “blessed” people. Sissy, a.k.a. Lachesis, an aspect of Fate, is on a mission, and she has angels Michael and Deacon at her disposal. Combining a Virtue and Power creates some potent mojo all on its own, but adding a lonely human woman to the mix is a sure way to shake loose the knots in the weave of life. Here’s hoping Jessie’s thread is strong enough to take it.
Type: Novel/Short Story Anthology
Genre: Dark Fantasy Anthology
Company: Ellora’s Cave Publishing
“I’m looking for something containing a subtle form of cyanide. Lacking that, any other innocuous-looking but highly poisonous plant will do.”
Samantha peered over the counter, the package she was wrapping forgotten on her lap. “Excuse me?”
A familiar chuckle both eased and thrummed her nerves.
She studied his clean-cut jawline through her lashes, her heart fluttering. “Mr. DuBois, what are you up to?”
“Alarmed you, didn’t I?”
She cocked her head. “For a moment,” she admitted. For the last three years John DuBois had stopped in at Lydia’s little Door County shop, Aromatic Answers, at least once a month on his way up to his cottage. She’d substituted John into every erotic novel she’d read ever since. Alarmed? Hardly. Turned on beyond belief? Check.
“You did something different.” He waggled his finger alongside his head. “Your hair. Sexy but still innocent. Nice.”
Yeah, she’d quit trying to make her thin black Asian locks curl and finally left them alone. Easier to maintain and her only concession to her father’s heritage. Why couldn’t she have inherited her mom’s thick blonde hair and big breasts? The feathery wisps framing her face did make her look younger, though she wasn’t sure if that equaled sex appeal or just catered to men with daddy-daughter fantasies.
Lydia, her boss, wandered out of the backroom, all legs and slingback heels. Her mass of auburn curls were wound up and secured with a clip, giving her an I-recently-ate-a-man look and revealing the pale, perfect expanse of her neck. Samantha wished she could ooze that kind of sex appeal. “John, are you hitting on my employee again?”
He grinned. “Always.”
“What can we do for you? Looking for a special gift?” Lydia lowered her voice. “I just received a package of herbal honeys.” She closed her eyes and pursed her lips, hinting at what such a honey could inspire a woman to do with her lips. Her eyes opened. “Sinfully delicious,” she purred.
His smile didn’t waver. “I’m looking for Achillea millefolium. Fresh if you have it. Dried if you don’t.”
“Yarrow,” Samantha supplied when Lydia glanced at her with a blank look.
“Of course.” Lydia laid her hand on John’s arm, gently steering him toward their dried products. “Why don’t you start here? I’ll have Samantha check the garden. How much are you looking for?”
Their voices faded, Lydia’s rich throaty laugh occasionally traveling to the front of the shop. Samantha frowned at her package, automatically arranging the raffia into a pleasing shape. Lydia could and often did have any man she chose. Why did she have to go and pick John DuBois, the one man Samantha actually wanted? Lydia knew nothing about him other than he was a good customer and his credit and clothing taste were impeccable. She took a deep breath, exhaling though her nose. She, however, knew his actual credit rating score, as well as his company’s. In fact, she knew everything about his company, from the color of the carpeting in the reception area—onyx with white sparkles, like a rhinestone-studded leather collar—to the simple company motto John displayed behind his desk: What I desire, I make mine.
She tapped her nails on the countertop. A second set of fingers echoed her. “Contemplating the manner of my death?” Lydia murmured.
Samantha’s head jerked up. She wiped all expression off her face.
Lydia grinned. “Whatever you do, make it dramatic.”
“I didn’t—I wouldn’t—”
She waved her ringed hand. “He wants it fresh. See what you can find.”
She knew she could obtain an abundance of the feathery herb in the shop garden. Not only did she work too many hours here but she rented the apartment above the building. She considered the shop garden hers, even going so far as to tuck a couple tomato plants discreetly behind the lavender rows. Lydia didn’t often venture off the gravel paths.
Picking up her wicker gathering basket, she hurried to the door.
“Samantha?” Lydia called softly.
She paused by the door, hand on the latch.
“I would never deliberately hurt you.”
She ducked her head and scooted out the door. Bitch.
Pierce My Heart
“Jessie, smell this.” Celena held out her arm.
Jessie eyed her warily. “Is that your sniffing arm or your licking arm?” She couldn’t remember how her now very drunk friend had talked her into coming to a sex toy party. She was sure Celena had good intentions. It wasn’t healthy for her to sit alone in her empty house.
“Sniffing arm of course, silly.” One arm was reserved for smelling body lotions, the other for adding flavor to the skin, assuming there was a partner ready to nibble the flesh.
“Then why is it wet?” Jessie pointed out.
Celena frowned. “Oops.” She held out her other arm.
“It’s wet too.”
“Party pooper.” She flopped back in her chair, her frizzy mop top of brown hair bouncing with her.
“Why don’t I get you a washcloth and you can start over with a fresh sniffing arm?”
Celena’s smile lit up the room. She hugged Jessie. “That’s a great idea. You’re so smart. I have such a super friend.” She slurred her “S”es. Jessie was glad she’d chosen to be the designated driver.
She stood. “Be right back.”
Celena grabbed her arm. “You’re having a good time, aren’t you?”
“A blast,” Jessie lied.
“I’m glad. Life’s short. I hate seeing you miserable.” She wrapped both hands around the wine goblet and slurped its contents.
Because she didn’t know how to respond to emotions laid so bare, Jessie pulled away. “I’ll be right back.” She headed toward the kitchen. Margaret, Celena’s friend and party host, was also plastered. Jessie suspected she and the toy demonstrator were the only sober occupants in the house.
The paper towel holder was empty as well as the napkin rack. Jessie glanced under the sink. She hated to rummage through an acquaintance’s cupboards. Maybe Margaret had extra supplies stashed in the pantry.
With a sigh, she took a moment to trace the elaborate P in the etched glass of the pantry door. What was she doing here? Celena was trying so hard to cheer her up. The more Celena tried, the more Jessie withdrew. She’d let her life end the day her husband’s did. She knew it was wrong, knew deep down she should fight her way out of the hole she’d fallen in. But most mornings it took all her willpower just to get out of bed, let alone spend time on herself.
Shaking herself out of her funk, she opened the pantry door and paused, confused. There were no shelves inside. Instead it opened to a sunroom washed in silver shades of moonlight.
She started to back out.
A shadow shifted, rearranging itself. “Hello,” a woman’s voice said.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude. I was only looking for a washcloth or some paper towels…” She trailed off. “This isn’t the pantry, is it?”
The woman laughed. “Yes and no. Come in. Come in.”
She was drawn to the sound of the woman’s pleasant voice, the soothing silence and the sheer magic of the moon-washed room. The pantry door shut with a click behind her.
“I shouldn’t disturb you.”
“Nonsense.” The woman waved her hand. “Have a seat.” A padded white patio chair disentangled itself from the shadows.
Jessie sat facing the woman. Once her eyes adjusted to the natural light she found she could see her more clearly. The moonlight was kind to her unexpected companion. Deep chocolate-brown hair, silver threads running generously through the mix, was wound in an elegant bun at the nape of her neck. Her forehead was smooth and unlined but there were creases at the corners of her eyes and lips. Overall it was a rather nondescript face, easy to look at but just as easily forgotten. Her gray silk shirt was a shade lighter than her eyes, her dark pants a black divided skirt with wide legs.
Jessie fumbled for her words. Socialite she was not. “Do you live here too? Margaret has a gorgeous home.”
The stranger crossed one leg over the other, revealing a sensible black flat. “Ach, where are my manners? No, I’m just visiting.” She held out a manicured hand. “Call me Sissy.”
This elegant woman before her didn’t look like a Sissy. Maybe a Victoria or an Elizabeth, something more regal. “Jessie Arrows.” She shook her hand.
“I know.” She glanced up, the glass ceiling revealing the evening sky. “Beautiful, isn’t it? Why aren’t you enjoying yourself?” The stars twinkled above them, diamonds against black velvet.
“Umm.” How did the woman know her? And wasn’t it a bit rude to be so forward? But Celena was exactly like that as well. That was one of the reasons Jessie loved her so. “Is it obvious?”
“You are the only sober one.”
“Perhaps I don’t drink.”
“You have too many lines on your face for one so young.”
That stung. The sudden pulse of emotion surprised her.
Sissy laughed, a tinkling sound. “I see I’ve offended you.”
“No,” Jessie said stiffly.
“I mean only to say you look worn, like a neglected Oriental rug. The colors and intricate patterns are still there, but sullied.”
And that’s more polite? Jessie sighed, looking away from Sissy. “I should get back to the party.” And away from this sharp-eyed woman.
But it was quiet here, the shadows soothing. She relaxed against the back of the marshmallow-soft chair. She closed her eyes. If a complete stranger could see how miserable she was, what about her friends?
“Have you ever wondered what your subconscious might say to you if it could speak? If you listened with your whole soul instead of that very practical head of yours?”