When she opened her door, she found Ian on her bedroom floor reading, much as he’d been the night before. Only this time he wasn’t reading her Book of Shadows or her Grimoire, he was engrossed in an erotic novel she’d had hidden behind her spell books. Several more volumes were stacked at his side.
“Your sister left to go shopping with Rowan,” he said, never looking up from the story.
“Okay.” She turned away to hide the bright red flush creeping over her cheeks. Keeping her back to him, she pulled a pair of underwear from the drawer and hastily put them on. She grabbed a bra and, suddenly shy, cast a quick glance at him.
He watched her intently, blue eyes dark with arousal, a noticeable bulge in his jeans. “You won’t be needing that, love,” he said firmly.
“Beg your pardon?” she managed to choke out.
His eyes shone with wicked excitement. “I’ve discovered something important in these books.”
She eyed the titles on the floor. She knew exactly what was in those books, and she sure as hell didn’t like where this was going.
He pushed to his feet and crossed the room to stand before her, his gaze holding hers the entire time. Drawing a finger down the center of her chest, he slowly separated the robe. It parted like wet paper, barely resisting when he tugged at the loose knot holding her sash together. The fabric opened, and a rush of cool air tightened her nipples against the material that scarcely covered them.
Ian’s breath caught as his finger continued its downward trek to stop at the edge of her panties. Her pussy moistened in anticipation, and she couldn’t help but wonder if he could smell her arousal. He ran his finger along the edge of the silky, purple fabric. Goose bumps followed in the wake of his touch, spreading across her skin like a trail of need. He snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her flush against his body. His rock-hard erection pressed into her softness, making her ache.
“You’re so beautiful,” he breathed as he lowered his head to claim her mouth. He coaxed her lips apart, nibbling at her, stroking with his tongue as he deepened the kiss. She was vaguely aware of him walking her backward, but she was still startled when her knees hit the back of the bed.
Gently, he toppled her backwards, following her down onto the mattress. He raised his head and stared into her eyes. “Aren’t you curious about what I discovered?”
She swallowed hard but couldn’t respond.
“Shall I tell you, then?” Without waiting for her to answer, he slid his hand over her stomach, the muscles trembling and jumping beneath his touch. “I realized that all of those books naturally fell open to a specific part in the story as if they’d been read repeatedly. And all of those sections had one thing in common.”
She closed her eyes in embarrassment. She’d never shared her fantasies with anyone else, and Ian managed to stumble across them on accident.
He traced the outer edge of her lips with his fingertip. “In each story,” he continued, his voice rough and his brogue more apparent, “the woman’s lover ties her up and fucks her.”
She gasped, unable to keep the sound from escaping.
“Have you ever let anyone take you like that?” he asked as he nuzzled the underside of her breast.
Speech had deserted her completely. She shook her head. She’d never trusted a lover enough to tell him about her secret desires let alone act on them.
Sheer male satisfaction glowed in his eyes. He tugged the belt from her robe, then straddling her body, rapidly bound her wrists and secured them to the headboard. She tugged at the binding, finding herself immobilized. A hungry throb started deep in her pussy, and she squirmed beneath him. A fresh rush of moisture dampened her panties as Ian sat back on his heels and surveyed her. He pushed open her robe, completely baring her breasts. Her aching nipples stabbed upward into the chilly, morning air. Tight and swollen, they begged for the touch of his fingers, his mouth.
Reaching out, he rolled each one between his thumb and his forefinger—pinching and tugging—making her cry out. With her hands bound, it was nearly impossible to muffle her sounds. He bent over her and drew a swollen peak into his mouth. She arched off the bed, trying to get him to take more. She groaned as he switched to the other nipple while tormenting the damp one with his fingers. The harder he sucked, the more she wanted. She lifted her hips, repeatedly trying to make some kind of contact with his body. She’d never felt so needy in her life.
Ian climbed off the bed to stand at the foot end. He watched her through desire-darkened eyes. “Spread your legs,” he commanded. “I want to see how wet this makes you.”
“As I will it, so mote it be.” Rowan Spencer’s words hung in white puffs of breath in the chilly, late spring air as she released energy into the ground beneath her. A ripple of power spread through last autumn’s leaves and fallen twigs, churning the dirt below as though it were water. The lines of the circle she’d cast glowed faintly blue-white underneath the shifting leaves, disrupting the near darkness surrounding her.
Nervously, she knelt outside the circle and watched as the light brightened, searing the damp leaves and grass with its heat. Usually when the energy left her body, it slowly dissipated until it was gone, but this seemed to be increasing with every passing second. She only hoped that meant the spell would be successful. It needed to be successful.
The earth suddenly roiled below her, and she stumbled to her feet, unable to tear her eyes from the ever-brightening circle. She glanced around hoping no one was nearby to notice the otherworldly glow shining through the trees. The ground rumbled as if something huge fought its way to the surface.
Her heart leapt into her throat. This wasn’t right. Simple protection spells didn’t involve burning leaves or miniature earthquakes. What had she done? And more importantly, how the hell was she supposed to stop it?
She dropped to her knees, laid her hands on the trembling earth and tried to call back the energy she’d sent forth. It didn’t work. A startling shock traveled up her arms and into her chest before she could pull her hands away. It reminded her of touching her grandparents’ electrified fence as a child. She’d wandered around for the rest of the day convinced that she’d drop dead at any moment because she’d disobeyed and snuck into the cow pasture. Now, like then, she wasn’t sure if she’d survive the consequences of what she’d done.
Roots and vines crawled toward the center of the circle, pulsing and rising from the earth—coalescing into a mound at least half a foot taller than her. As she watched in growing horror, the vines continued moving of their own volition, and a definite shape began to form. Discernable arms and legs appeared along with a head and wide shoulders.
Terror dried her mouth as she tried to convince her body to move, to run away and never to return to this place, but apparently, her body had zero interest in listening to her. It remained as firmly rooted to the ground as this humanoid figure seemed to be.
She wished Meaghan or Emma were here. Hell, both of them. They’d always had far better control of their powers than she’d ever had. She was an idiot to have attempted this on her own. No. That wasn’t true; she’d done tons of protection spells over the years. Granted, none of them on as large a scale as this one, but the area of effect shouldn’t matter. But somehow it did. Or, she’d really screwed up something. Something major.
A sudden breeze blew past her, whipping her hair into her eyes and causing them to tear. The breeze picked up the dead leaves that carpeted the orchard floor, drawing them like a cloak around the figure. They clung to the shape, forming a sort of skin over the vines.
Again, she tried to force herself to run, but she remained frozen in place—no more able to leave than the trees surrounding her. Her breath caught in her throat as a faint glow pulsed in the chest cavity of the figure. With every passing second, it grew stronger and more vibrant until it expanded and radiated through the entire body, bright as the noonday sun. She closed her eyes against the intense glare.
When she opened them again, the light was gone, but the figure wasn’t. Blinking around the floating black spots marring her sight, she stared in jaw-dropping awe at the man in front of her. Golden skin covered perfectly shaped muscles and wide, well-formed shoulders. Light brown hair dusted an equally broad chest and narrowed over tightly delineated stomach muscles, before thickening as it extended lower. Catching sight of a huge cock, she lifted her gaze sharply upward, meeting the brightest green eyes she’d ever seen.
He held her gaze for several long, terrifying moments before glancing around the grove of trees. “You have summoned me, but I see no sacrifice.”
Rowan couldn’t force her voice to work any more than she’d been able to force her limbs to move. His words were heavily accented, sounding vaguely British.
“I require an answer.” His voice was rough as though he rarely spoke, and it sent shivers sliding down her spine, but at the moment, she couldn’t decide if that was a positive experience or not.
She swallowed several times, trying to form words. “I think there’s been a mistake.”
He shifted and stared at her. With his hands on his hips and an eyebrow raised, he should have looked silly. Instead, he looked intimidating and downright scary. What had she done?
“There is no mistake. You summoned me. I answered.”
She shook her head from side to side and opened her mouth, but no words came out.
He took a step forward. Then another and another until he stood at the edge of the still glowing circle she’d cast. She glanced at the ground, at his bare feet. Would he be able to cross? Circles were meant to keep in the power that had been raised. And entities, too. She’d been with Meaghan often enough when they’d secured spirits in a circle to help them cross to the other side. But whatever this guy was, he was no spirit.
He followed her gaze to the illuminated line and swept his hand through it, eradicating it.
Finally freed from her stasis, she took several steps backward. “Who are you? What are you?”
The hint of a smile curled his firmly sculpted lips. “I think you know who I am. Why would you summon me if you did not?”
“I didn’t mean—” She couldn’t force herself to finish the sentence. Instead, fear got the best of her, and she turned and ran.
She made the mistake of looking back at him. His gaze had narrowed, and a frown marred his face. Her chest constricted in terror, and she tried to run faster.
She heard a rustling along the ground, but she ignored it and dodged a fallen log. Something brushed against her ankle, tickling her bare flesh.
“You will not run from me.”
“The hell I won’t, b—” The rest of the sentence was swallowed by her squeal as something wrapped tightly around her ankle, yanking her to the ground. Rolling over, she sat up and tugged at the vine in which she’d managed to entangle herself. As she pulled futilely at the growth, more vines crept across the ground. Toward her. Her heart slammed wildly against her ribs as she attempted to rip the foliage from her body.
More tendrils wrapped her other ankle, holding her snugly, while additional plants encircled her wrists. She tried to free herself to no avail. The man stood over her, and with a wave of his hand, all of the vines pulled tight, pinning her spread eagle to the loamy earth. So quickly, she didn’t even see him move, he suddenly loomed over her, his arms extended and caging her beneath him.
His chestnut-colored hair hung down, forming a silky curtain around their faces, and his breath drifted across her lips. It was surprisingly warm and sweet for someone who was formed entirely of vegetation.
“Why did you call me forth?” he asked, holding her gaze in the near darkness. His eyes searched hers before drifting lower to her mouth.
He hungrily followed the swipe of her tongue as she tried to moisten her suddenly parched lips. “I didn’t. I didn’t mean to, anyway.”
Gwydion frowned as he watched the comely lass sink her teeth into her soft, lower lip. “Explain yourself.”
She glanced from side to side. “This land we’re on is going to be destroyed soon.”
“What do you mean?”
“A developer is scheduled to come in and raze all of the trees and the old school house across the way to build cookie-cutter McMansions all over the place. The habitat will be destroyed, and the last thing this state needs is more subdivisions full of ridiculously overpriced homes.”
He frowned. He’d only understood every fourth word she uttered, but it was clear she was passionate in her defense of the land and the creatures that inhabited it.
“Anyway, I was just trying to cast a protection spell to keep the land from being destroyed, and instead, I got…you.”
He studied her wide, fear-filled blue eyes.
“Please don’t hurt me,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to summon you. Honestly, I don’t even know who you are.” She tugged at the vines that held her. “If you let me go, we can both just get out of here and go our separate ways.”
At the moment, he wasn’t particularly interested in being separated from her. It had been centuries since he’d spent any time in his human form, and he didn’t intend to let it end so soon. Certainly not before he’d sampled her lush curves.
“I don’t think so,” he murmured, enjoying the sensation of her full breasts brushing his chest with every rapid breath she took. “There’s still the question of my sacrifice.”
Her face paled, and she struggled harder.
“Look, I’m sorry that spell went wrong, but I’m not about to let you cut me up because of it.”
“Why would you think I want to harm you?”
“Uh…sacrifice? Sound familiar?”
He traced the line of her trembling lips. “Not all sacrifices need to be blood.”
Her breath caught in her throat, and she swallowed audibly.
“Oh.” Her gaze searched his, dropping to his lips and moving back up again. She shook her head. “I’m not about to whore myself out. I’ll figure out how to protect this place without you. Without magic. You need to just go back to wherever you came from.” She glanced at her wrist. “And take your vines with you.”
“I don’t think so.”
Eli Jones watched as Kevin, one of the day shift cops, peered in Meaghan’s open window and chatted with her for a few minutes before taking her license and registration. Eli wondered if she recognized him, but he doubted it. Hell, and why would she? He’d moved from Spring Grove before he’d even graduated, and it wasn’t as if they’d been friends while they were in high school. She’d been a theater kid; he’d been a math geek. Sure, he’d been her Algebra tutor for a semester, but she’d been decidedly uninterested in math. And he’d never managed to work up the nerve to talk to her about anything other than equations. Back then, he’d always thought she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. The last ten years hadn’t done a thing to change that. If anything, he found her more attractive than ever.
At first, he’d been so annoyed by the accident that he hadn’t recognized her, but as soon as she’d snapped at him, he’d known exactly who she was. Her glossy dark hair had been pulled into a loose ponytail and her dark eyes had flashed in irritation as she’d glared at him. He’d stared at her waiting for her to recognize him, but he was fairly certain she hadn’t. It had been impossible to keep his gaze from running over her body, though he’d tried. He didn’t want to be a complete letch or make her feel threatened while they were on a deserted stretch of road.
As Kevin walked back to his cruiser to run Meaghan’s information, he smirked at Eli, and Eli discreetly flipped off his friend then slumped back in his seat. He was ninety-nine percent sure Kevin would give him the ticket. Hell, it’s what he’d do if the situation was reversed. And by the time Eli got to work tonight, the chief would already know about it, and he’d be pissed—one of the joys of working for a small-town police department. Eli had already gotten a speeding ticket last month. Too many more points and he’d be stuck on desk detail instead of out on patrol.
As expected, Kevin reappeared at his window with a ticket pad. “Sorry, man,” he said as he passed the slip to Eli. “I’d like to let it slide, but I can’t.”
Eli shrugged. “No worries.”
As soon as Kevin had returned Meaghan’s information and walked back to his cruiser, she was out of her vehicle and headed in Eli’s direction. She stopped and stared up at him. For a moment, her teeth worried her full lower lip, and she watched him somewhat warily. Her large, deep brown eyes slightly narrowed as she shifted her weight and cocked her generously curved hip to the side. He dragged his gaze back to her face. She stared at him, one eyebrow arched and the wariness gone from her expression.
She cleared her throat. “I just wanted to suggest that we split the ticket since technically we’re both at fault.”
Of all the things he might have thought she was about to say, that hadn’t even occurred to him. “What?”
“I think we should split the ticket. Halvesies. You and me. Sharing and stuff.”
“I have a better idea,” he heard himself say. “How about if instead, you let me take you out to dinner?” He’d surprised himself as it was coming out of his mouth, but once the words were hanging in the air between them, he was glad he’d spoken. There was something about her. Something that intrigued him, and he couldn’t help but want to spend a little more time with her.
Her brow furrowed as she stared at him. Her mouth opened then closed again. He suspected she was as startled by the invitation as he’d been at first. Her gaze darted from his eyes to the door to the steering wheel before settling back on his face. It was as if she wasn’t sure where to look.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Her voice seemed less sure than it had a moment ago.
He leaned toward the open window. Toward her. “Why not?”
“I just don’t think it is.”
Her hesitation vanished as if it had never been there, and a smile curved her soft, pink lips—lips he found himself desperately wanting to kiss.
“Look, you seem like a really nice guy.”
“I am.” He stared at her, waiting for the rest. “But…” he prompted.
“But I’m not looking for a nice guy,” she finished breezily.
There were a million things he wanted to say, but he managed to stifle all of them. Suggesting that what she needed was a good spanking was probably not the best way to convince her to go out with him. “What are you looking for?”
She opened her mouth but closed it just as quickly. “Last chance to split the ticket, Boy Scout.”
“Nope. But thanks.”
A slight scowl creased her brow.
“Sure you won’t reconsider dinner?” he asked.
Uncertainty flashed in her dark eyes then vanished as her scowl deepened. “Nope. But thanks,” she echoed. Her frown faded, and she stared at him for a moment more before shaking her head. “See you around, Boy Scout.”
Eli watched the gentle sway of her hips as she walked away. He wasn’t a huge proponent of premonitions or even faith, but as sure as he knew that the chief was going would bitch him out, he knew he’d see Meaghan again. And next time she wouldn’t be walking away. Not if he could help it.