Okay, well, Blogger won't let me upload my cover image, but Eighth Wand is releaed today at Ellora's Cave!
Buy it here.
The tarot card Prudence finds at a Wiccan Beltane festival promises passion, travel, and the end of a stagnant, dull situation. She has no idea that the card's prediction is about to come true in the form of Royd, a warrior of the Fae on Earth to retrieve the eighth wand of his people's lands, stolen from them by Prudence's grandmother.
Royd wants only to take the wand back home, until he sees Prudence and is instantly captivated by her vibrancy and life. Together they must fight to send him safely back with his prize, but perhaps in Prudence he's found something just as valuable…and just as hard to lose.
The problem with the women of the Bright Moon coven was that they insisted on doing outdoor rituals without shoes on. Prudence knew it could be worse. The thought of going skyclad—naked—filled her with horror.
But now the circle had ended and Prudence, unable to find her sandals, was picking her way through the woods to find fuel for the bonfire while pebbles and sticks scraped and poked her feet.
Good thing it was Beltane and almost summer. She couldn’t imagine doing this at Samhain in the October chill. They better have the fire ready before the ritual then. If she was still in the coven.
Ignoring the large logs she couldn’t easily carry, Pru filled her arms with smaller sticks. One load down. She’d head back, drop these off and—
“Where is it?”
Pru gasped and spun around, dropping the sticks. One of them landed squarely on her poor bare foot.
“Ouch! Damn it, shit!” She stepped forward with her good leg, reaching down to hold her injured foot, and fell over. Something sharp stabbed her in the shoulder. “Ow!” Struggling to sit, she glared at the man standing a few feet away. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“Enough games. Where is it?”
“Excuse me?” The sun had almost set. All Pru could see of the stranger was his shadowy outline, large and solid. Blue-black highlights shone in his hair where the last rays of light came through the trees.
She’d thought he was one of the men from the ritual. It seemed she was wrong. She would have remembered those broad shoulders and that thick, long hair.
“Where is the wand?”
Those rays highlighted the clear lines of some impressive muscles as well. Prudence rose from the ground, her fingers curled around one of the thickest of the fallen sticks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Hey! Who do you think you are?” Brandishing the stick, Pru started inching her way backward, feeling carefully with her toes to make sure she didn’t trip. “If you want a wand so bad, you should have come in time for the festival and bought one. All the booths are closed now, it’s time for the bonfire.”
Something else flitted through her mind, but she ignored it. So she’d found a tarot card earlier, so what? The eight of wands didn’t mean anything to anyone, really. Of course, it had meanings—travel, all-consuming passion, freedom from a stagnant situation—but finding the card meant nothing. The man couldn’t possibly be talking about that.
“But you have been near it,” he said. “I see it in your aura.”
“Don’t look at my aura, that’s private.” Had she ever uttered a stupider sentence? Probably not. Not even “Of course I can eat a whole gallon of ice cream at once”.
At least she’d stumped him. He stood there staring at her—she could feel his gaze on her skin—for so long she almost managed to edge all the way out of the clearing before he moved.
He must have moved, anyway. One minute he stood opposite her, the next—the next he loomed over her, his chest only inches from her nose. Damn, he was tall.
And just as well-built as he’d appeared at first. Slim, but defined. An intricate black tattoo decorated his entire chest, snaking over the expanse of muscles, hiding his nipples. She couldn’t make out the pattern—wings? A chalice of some kind?—but she could smell the earthy scent of his skin and see the thin leather cord wrapped around his upper arm.
Heart pounding, she forced herself to look up. A brave woman, a strong woman, would look him in the eyes, and brave and strong was what Prudence knew deep down she could be.
So she met his eyes, those black holes set deep in the man’s sharp-boned face. Her mouth fell open. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew the brave and strong woman didn’t gape at men like she’d never seen one before, but it was impossible to stop herself, not when her entire body leaned forward as if she could climb into him and never leave.
It wasn’t simply how handsome he was, although she could honestly say she’d never seen a man as striking. Something in his eyes…called her. Promised her something. She couldn’t explain it any better than that, even to herself.
“Your aura cannot hide, even if your words try to,” he said, and his voice poured over her like spiced wine. “Where have you hidden it? If you give it to me now, my people may not seek revenge. If you delay—”
“I told you, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She yanked herself away, struggling as if he held her physically. “Leave me—”
He grabbed her. Despite the warmth of the evening, goose bumps erupted on her skin. He might as well have given her an electric shock. His sharp intake of breath echoed in her ears. He tilted his head. “Beltane.”
“Sex crawls across your skin. You have not had a man in a long time. Too long.”
“Now that’s none of your business! How dare you—”
He ignored her, instead loosening his grip on her arm and sliding his hands up her skin, so lightly it almost tickled. He’d spoken of her aura. Now she could almost see it too, as if he touched it and not her skin. Despite her anger and irritation, she shivered. Her nipples, bare under her loose gown, hardened and poked against the thin fabric. She was certain he could see it, even if he somehow couldn’t read her reaction in the way her breath caught in her throat.
Dear Goddess, what was happening here? Why weren’t any of the other coven members coming to find her? The sun was only a thin, bright line of gold on the horizon, barely visible through the trees. Darkness wrapped around them, darkness and the stillness of a forest on the edge of night. Didn’t they notice she wasn’t there?
Hell, didn’t they at least need the wood she carried?
She swallowed. “How dare you speak to me like that.” She’d meant to sound forceful. Instead the words came out in a rush of breath. She sounded like a young girl trying to talk to her first crush.
“I propose a trade,” he said. “I need the wand. You need a man. Why not allow me to pleasure you in exchange?”