Oct 27

Could It Be Magic – Chapter 2

Here’s a new chapter of Book 5 in The Land of Enchantment series. Click here to read Chapter 1.

Santa Fe

Amethyst’s relationship was Jas wasn’t, as she’d told Mama, strictly a professional one. But it sure wasn’t a romantic one, either. She was morbidly curious to find out what a real, live, official date with him would be like after…whatever it was they had.

She stood in front of her closet, flipping through hangers. Jas had said they were going to Santa Fe for the day, which left a lot of room for clothing options. The disgusting thing was that she was actually agonizing over what to wear.

“What do you think, Caramela?” She glanced over her shoulder at her caramel-colored pit bull, who lay on the bed in the middle of a scattering of skirts and slacks, shells and camisoles and cardigans.

“Do I go with don’t-give-a-damn jeans and a sweatshirt?”

Caramela just looked up from where her chin rested on her paws and whapped her tail on the comforter.

“You’re right,” Amethyst said. “Since I’m agonizing, I must give a damn.”

She picked up a silk cami top she’d found on Etsy dyed in garnet and gold and indigo, something that actually looked good on her—well, the polite term would be slim or lean—but in plainer words, her flat-chested figure. Or lack of figure, as she tended to think of it.

“On the other hand,” she said to Caramela, “I don’t want to make it look like I’m trying to impress him. That would send exactly the wrong message.”

She stroked the camisole’s cool, vivid silk with the backs of her fingers. It wasn’t the kind of thing she got to wear very often.

“Oh, hell,” she said and snagged a pair of nice jeans from the mess on the bed.

Jeans would dress the cami down. A black cardigan and boots, and she’d look like she only gave half a damn.

She wasn’t much into makeup and hair anyway, so she just put on a little mascara and some tinted lip gloss, caught her dark hair back in a beaded barrette she’d found at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and called it good.

She was dithering over whether or not she should wear something else after all when the doorbell rang. Caramela launched herself off the bed and thundered down the hall with her smoker’s-voice barks. Amethyst took one last, doubtful look at herself in her closet mirror, sighed and followed Caramela to the front door.

Jas waited outside. His usual charming smile faded. He blinked, looked her up and down and said, “Good morning, Amethyst.”

He didn’t say it caressingly. Not quite.

“Um, hi,” she said. “Come on in. I’ll get my coat and Caramela settled for the day.”

Caramela gave Jas a thorough sniffing-over. The stiff wag of her tail said, Okay, Mom’s talking to you, but I still don’t trust you. And she was keeping Jas’ attention on her instead of Amethyst. Good dog.

That helpful little diversion fell apart when Jas took Amethyst’s coat and held it for her.

Damn. Suggestive Jas she could handle. Gentleman Jas was harder to resist. She avoided his eye as she slipped into the coat, then made a business of giving Caramela a goodbye kiss on top of the head and locking the door, even though technically, she really didn’t need to lock it. The wards on her house did a much better job of protection than any lock.

Jas’ emerald green Infiniti IPL looked as incongruous parked on her cracked driveway as a coach-and-four. At least she’d been able to replace the old garage door and the single-paned windows with insulated vinyl ones, as well as put in some nice xeric landscaping recently. Now her house looked cute, not just old. Jas circled around to the passenger side and opened the car door.

“Thanks,” she muttered, ignoring the fluttering taking place in her middle.

She’d known the man for, what, something like two years now? Subtracting the year or so she’d spent pretending he didn’t exist. You’d think she’d be past falling for his gentlemanly wiles. Apparently not.

He twisted the key and the Infiniti purred like a waking tiger. Turning and hooking an arm around the back of her seat, he backed down the driveway and swung into the street. At the bottom of the hill, he slid the car into a break in traffic on Eubank.

“Not fair,” he said. “Wearing something that begs to be touched, when anywhere I touch it will get me in trouble.”

She tugged her cardigan closed, trying—and failing—not to think of him stroking the silk of her cami. This was not a good beginning.

“I knew I should’ve worn a sweatshirt.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ll be good.”

Although that sidelong, crinkle-eyed smile said exactly the opposite. Or maybe not. It depended on what he meant by ‘good.’

Driving along I-40, the silence was positively painful. They passed Uptown, the Magus Building reflecting the mall, the freeway, the surrounding buildings in its 25 stories of green glass.

“So,” she said. “Any new magical incursions on the business?”

“No, we are not talking shop today. This is our chance to get to know one another better.”

“We do know each other better,” she muttered.

“In certain contexts.”

“Yeah. Crises.”

He grinned. “You can always pretend this is one.”

That got her to laugh. “Okay, how’s this? This is exactly why I hate dating.” She waved her hands. “Doing this getting-to-know-you thing without coming across like a complete dweeb.”

“There’s a way around that. You could marry me.”

She folded her arms and glared at him.

“What?” he said, all innocence.

“You know what.”

“It wasn’t a proposal. Only an observation.”

Of course it was.”

He gave an enigmatic smile. She would not ask what that was all about.

The usual string of slowpokes was absent, so he was able to take the flyover between I-40 and northbound I-25 with enough speed to induce G-forces. Amethyst hung on and enjoyed it.

“Hey,” she said. “If you really want to win my heart, you could let me drive this someday.”

He threaded through traffic and punched it. The Infiniti gave a muted howl and zipped past the surrounding cars.

“There, you see?” he said. “I’ve just learned you love fine cars. Was that so bad?”

“Huh. Most guys would consider that an example of dweebishness.”

“I’m not ‘most guys,’ and I don’t.”

She glanced at him, surprised. It was ridiculous how such a simple statement could spark such a warm, friendly glow.

“Oh,” she said. “That’s…good.”

“I’m encouraged,” he said. “You do care what I think of you. I’ll press my advantage, then. As soon as we’re out of town, I’ll pull over and let you drive the rest of the way to Santa Fe.”

Daring her to say no, damn him. “Okay. But you’d better know I was exaggerating when I said you’d win my heart.”

He slid her another smile. “I have other plans for that.”

* * *

Driving over 100 MPH, it took substantially less than the usual hour-plus to get to Santa Fe. No need to worry about crashes or traffic tickets with a pair of wizards in the car. Wards kept any accidents at bay, a shield of fizzy power foiled radar and cameras, and illusion changed the car’s appearance every few minutes. They took turns deciding what it looked like.

Amethyst started with a black 2012 Mustang Mach I.

“Why am I not surprised?” Jas said and followed that up with a jacked-up, tricked-out, fire-engine red Dodge shortbed pickup.

“You know what they say about guys who drive oversized pickup trucks,” she said.

He raised his brows in a question.

She smirked. “Never mind.”

“Amethyst—” he began, warning.

“Smart Car!” she said and worked the illusion.

It went downhill from there. Jas conjured an illusion of a Ford Pinto, so Amethyst called up an old Volkswagen bus.

She was laughing hard by then.

“Have you ever actually driven one of those?” Jas said. “You might as well make us look like a UFO. The state police will believe that before a Volkswagen bus going over a hundred.”

“As if a Pinto could. Besides, you were the one who started it with the minivan. You want to put illusions like that on your car, wait ‘til you’re driving. Better yet, wait ‘til you’re by yourself.”

Sometimes being a wizard could be fun. Being with another wizard could even be fun. Although if you’d told her that last year, Amethyst would’ve said you were crazy.

When she downshifted to climb the grade up La Bajada’s basalt cliffs, the section of I-25 that carried traffic out of the Rio Grande Valley and onto the mesas southwest of Santa Fe, Amethyst decided she might’ve been lying when she told Jas that driving the Infiniti wouldn’t win her heart.

She dropped out of hyperdrive not long after they passed the Santa Fe Relief Route a few miles outside of town.

“I see you enjoyed that,” Jas said.

“I did,” she said and sighed. “Thank you.”

Keeping to the 65 MPH speed limit felt like driving with the brakes locked up.

“Did you have any destinations in mind?” she said. “Or do I get a vote?”

Jas waved a hand. “You’re in the driver’s seat. What do you want to see?”

“I got to drive a fast car fast. Now I want…” Amethyst closed her eyes, relying on the car’s wards for a moment. “Chocolate.”

He made a noise in his throat. “First the silk top, now you use a voice like that,” he said. “I never took you for the vengeful type.”

She grinned and took the St. Francis exit.

Santa Fe Style was part of the building code here. Flat-roofed buildings with earth-toned stucco exteriors to match the historic adobe architecture lined the streets, whether it was a McDonalds or a Whole Foods or a government complex. Northern New Mexico style popped up just for variety, with pitched metal roofs instead of the flat ones.

Santa Fe wasn’t an easy town to get around in. The streets went every which way, and the closer you got to Old Town, the narrower and more unpredictable they became, like the donkey trails they’d once been. It was an old town.

She wended her way to a small, pueblo-style building with turquoise trim and parked.

“Kakawa Chocolate House.” She unbuckled her seatbelt. “I can get my own door.”

She snagged her purse from the passenger floorboard and got out of the car.

Jas climbed out, too. “My keys?”

She cocked her head. “I’m thinking of kidnapping your car.” His eyes got a wicked glitter and he opened his mouth to say something, but she held up a hand. “Do not say I could drive it all I wanted if I married you.”

“I was going to say I’d buy you one of your own if you married me.”

“Not. Another. Word.” She tossed him the keys across the roof. “And this is my treat.”

That was the nice thing about working for Magus Corporation. It paid its consultants really, really well. She no longer had to pinch pennies until they screamed for mercy.

The aroma of chocolate enfolded them when they stepped into the shop. Small, round, leather-topped tables dotted a low-ceilinged dining area. At the end of the room stood a large case full of chocolate truffles. A small kitchen stretched behind it. As usual, most of the tables were occupied and a line of people three deep waited to order.

Jas stood looking up at the chalkboard menu. “What do you recommend?”

“Hmm.” She studied the menu, trying to keep the idea that was forming from showing on her face. “Well, you can’t come to Kakawa without getting a hot chocolate. You might want to give the Aztec Warrior a try.”

He nodded. “I’ll get us a table.”

She smiled and thanked him, then placed the order.

Amethyst brought the tray of tiny cups of chocolate elixir to the table and placed Jas’ cup of Aztec Warrior in front of him. Taking her own cup of caramely Tzul, she took a sip. Jas sipped at his cup.

His eyes went wide.

She put on a concerned face. It was all she could do to keep it there. “What’s the matter?”

He put down his cup. “Amethyst!”

“What?” she said but ruined the effect by dissolving into laughter.

“That’s stronger than espresso!”

“What, you were expecting Swiss Miss? Oh, well, I’ll drink it if you can’t.”

He picked up his cup, met her eyes across the rim and drank.

“I always add a little sugar to mine,” she said, deadpan.

He swallowed, cleared his throat and said in a strained voice, “I’ll bet you do.”

“I’ll get us some ice cream when we’re finished. I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry.”

“I’ll choose my own flavor, if you don’t mind.” He took a tiny sip of chocolate. “I don’t trust you any longer.”

“That’s because you know me better now.”

He made a disgusted noise, but his eyes were sparkling.

* * *

As long as Amethyst didn’t let herself remember that this was a date, she was having fun. Jas was enjoyable company—once he got past the offhand marriage proposals.

After Kakawa, they hit the Canyon Road galleries. Jas had told her when they first met that art was his hobby. She would’ve decided that was all part of his plot to lure a certain stained glass artist into his clutches, except for the art displayed all over the Magus Building, from the sculptures in the lobby to the paintings on the walls to the pottery in his office.

As they walked up the narrow sidewalks of Canyon Road, Jas pointed out various old adobe buildings. This one had been the ceramicist Frank Applegate’s home, that one the home of Olive Rush, the illustrator and muralist. Another had been bought and remodeled by the architect Alice Clark Myers. Amethyst, who had an MA in Fine Arts, was a little chagrined that she didn’t know a lot of the names he mentioned.

They walked in and out of galleries, then Amethyst led him along an alley to the wind sculpture garden.

They walked along gravel paths that wound among wind sculptures of every size and shape. Welded metal helixes spun, double flowers whirled, tulips twirled. Amethyst wandered among them, stopping to admire the shape and motion. One of these days, she’d have enough money to buy a small one for her backyard.

“You, my dear Amethyst,” Jas said, “have expensive taste.”

She winced. Maybe she shouldn’t have been quite so enthusiastic. Next would come the inevitable, If you marry me

“Me?” she said. “I just admire the craftsmanship. Can you imagine what it must take to balance these things?”

“Ah,” was all he said. “Ready for some lunch?”

She was surprised at the spurt of gratitude that went through her that he hadn’t dropped the marriage bomb.

No trip to Santa Fe was complete without a visit to the Plaza. Jas helped her on with her coat when they got out of the car. If she wanted to be perfectly honest with herself, she enjoyed the attention a lot more than she should.

As a friend, he was fine. He actually made a good, reliable one, and there was just enough distance for comfort. But she couldn’t, couldn’t afford to let him past her defenses again. It had hurt too much for far too long, realizing that all the attention he’d lavished on her in the beginning had only been to beguile her, to persuade her to lower her guard. He’d expressed remorse for that damned binding. He flat out told her he’d made a mistake. But—

Maybe the problem was her. He’d caught her by surprise and betrayed her, and maybe no matter what he did, she’d never trust him again. Still, she liked him. She had from the start. Sometimes she wondered if she more than liked him. But—

Always but. That was the problem.

“What’s that face?” Jas said. “You look like you’re gnawing on a particularly unpleasant problem.”

She came back to the present with a start. Tourists crowded the sidewalks surrounding the Plaza. A police officer with a Belgian Malinois stood between two parked cars talking to a couple and their young son. Half a block up, a busker played an accordion.


“What is it?”

He stopped and steered her into the alcove for the entrance into an African art shop. Behind the plate glass, masks and sculptures stared open-mouthed at them.

“This isn’t—” going to work. She couldn’t get the rest out.

Shielding her from the flow of people along the sidewalk behind him, he studied her. “Are you not enjoying yourself? Would you rather do something else?”

“No,” she said. “No, I’m having a great time.”

“Since you don’t look happy about it, I assume there’s another problem.”

She glanced away.

He moved closer, slid his hand up her arm. “There’s nothing wrong with having a good time, Amethyst. Just enjoy this day. It’s enough.”

He could be right. Maybe it was enough to just have fun, even if it was with slippery, shifty Jas.

Finally, she puffed out a breath. “Okay.”

“All right now?”

She nodded.

He stepped out onto the sidewalk again, drawing her with him. They continued toward the Plaza.

Still troubled, she glanced at Jas. “Are you laughing at me?”

“Good God, no. I’d never dare.”

“Then what’re you so tickled about?”

The smile that had been playing at the corners of his mouth sat down and made itself comfortable there. “I’ll let you work it out for yourself.”

“That’s not nice.”

“It might not be nice,” he said. “But at the moment, it’s safer.”

She frowned at him, but oddly enough, the conflict that had been churning in her ebbed.

At 7,000 feet altitude, Santa Fe was quite a bit colder than mile-high Albuquerque. Though the day was lovely, the Plaza’s bare trees weaving a filigree tracery against a snapping, humming blue sky, Amethyst snugged her coat around her. The vendors at the Indian Market along the front of the Palace of the Governors sat bundled in puffy insulted jackets and scarves.

Jas right behind her, she wove in and out of the throngs of tourists inspecting blanket after blanket covered with silver and turquoise jewelry, Pueblo pottery, fancy beadwork. She stopped to buy a pair of inlaid turquoise hoop earrings from a Navajo silversmith, then they continued on up Palace Avenue, past old adobe buildings with courtyards beyond open gates.

One of those courtyards was the entrance to The Shed, one of Amethyst’s go-to New Mexican restaurants when in Santa Fe. It was also the go-to restaurant for about half the tourists there. People filled the brick-paved courtyard under a ramada netted with now-bare wisteria vines.

Amethyst groaned. “We should’ve put our names on the waiting list before we walked around the Plaza.”

“It might not be as bad as it looks,” Jas said. “Let me go check.”

He sidled through the waiting groups and disappeared through the door. A moment later, he reappeared.

“Ten or fifteen minutes,” he said.

Amethyst’s brows climbed. “A crowd like this, on a weekend? Usually it’s an hour, hour and a half.”

He only shrugged.

Sure enough, the red lights on the pager he held started blinking a few minutes later. The waiter ushered them to a cozy table at the back of the restaurant. After Jas pulled out her chair then took his own seat across the table, the waiter hovered, unusually attentive.

She took her menu, giving Jas a suspicious look over the top. She ordered a white sparkling wine, Jas a Sangre de Cristo margarita.

When the waiter left to fill their drink orders, she leaned across the table. “What did you do?” She waggled her fingers, miming casting a spell.

“Don’t worry, nothing like that.” He raised his menu to study it.

He’d sure done something. The manager, a trim, middle-aged Spanish woman, brought an order of chips, salsa and guacamole ‘on the house.’ Their drinks were on the house, too.

Amethyst stared at the tray of red, white and blue tortilla chips in consternation, then gave in and scooped up a bite of creamy, spicy guacamole.

On the one hand, it was all very flattering. On the other…

Well, she couldn’t think what was on the other hand. Just that she had a strong hunch Jas had slipped someone a Benjamin at some point.

He sipped his margarita, licked a few crumbs of salt from his upper lip. A sudden, disconcerting thought of doing that for him intruded.

Not going there, she told herself. No way, never, ever, ever. Don’t even think it.

She kept her mind firmly on lunch after that.

“My treat this time,” he said when the check came. Fortunately, he paid with a card, so she didn’t have to see how big a tip he left. Judging from the warm smiles and heartfelt thank-you’s the staff offered on the way out, it was a big one.

On the brick-paved sidewalk out front, Jas took her hand.

“Let me show you something,” he said.

It seemed like an appropriate moment for a smart remark, but something about the way he said it kept her quiet.

He drew her up the street and around a corner. A parking lot took up much of one block, and little farther on was the back of a building that looked like it had been built in the 1940’s or ’50’s. He turned another corner, this one lined with newer buildings. Tucked between two of them was an adobe wall with a green-painted gate. He touched the latch. The magic stirred and the gate swung open under his hand.

A courtyard like so many of the old adobe houses boasted opened ahead. A huge tree stump about four or five feet high rose in the middle of a stretch of gravel. Winter-killed hollyhocks stood in front of the mullioned windows and doors with raised sills that opened onto the courtyard. It would’ve been sad and forlorn if not for the rosemary filling the stump’s rotted-out center and spilling down the trunk. And the faint, ringing tickle of spells of protection and preservation.

Rosemary for remembrance. The phrase popped unbidden into her mind.

Jas still held her hand, warm against the winter air. “This was my home, once.”

She turned to him, surprised. He was looking up into the vanished branches of the tree.

“When I hosted parties, I had pierced tin lanterns hung in this tree,” he said. “There were hollyhocks then, too, and a goldfish pond over there, in the corner—no koi back in those days. Everyone came—the governor, artists, local landowners.”

All she knew about his past was that he’d come to New Mexico in the 1920’s. She perked up, bubbling with curiosity.

“What kind of business were you in then?”

“I backed some mines,” he said. “I still do. But most people knew me as a patron of the arts, a man who’d made his fortune in the stock market and had spare cash to spread around. I put it about that I’d left a disinterested wife behind back east—that kept the women from expecting marriage.”

Kept the women from expecting marriage? Hmm.

“Do you have kids?” she said. Damn. Most kids born in the ’20’s would probably be dead by now. “Um, grandkids.” Even the grandkids would be middle-aged.

He shook his head. “After I realized someone was hunting wizards, I made sure I didn’t have any more children. I’d already lost a son to that—” He swallowed what clearly would’ve been a curse word. “I didn’t intend to lose any more.”

“Oh.” It came out in a whisper.

When she was thirteen, she’d lost her Nani, her great-grandmother, to the same predator. The only good thing was that the power vampire would never hunt again.

A new thought occurred to her. “If you were living here, in Sante Fe… You might’ve known my great-grandmother. Or heard of her?”

He plucked a seed husk from one of the withered hollyhocks. “I knew someone up north was using magic. I could sense it, the way I sensed it when you first started using it.” He quirked a rueful smile. “But an Anglo poking around, asking questions in Spanish villages… Let’s just say I got more than my fair share of shrugs and Yo no sé.”

“You’d probably get the same thing now. You should’ve said you had consumption or something. They might’ve been less suspicious of an Anglo looking for a curandera. Lots did.”

“I would have, if I’d known I was looking for a healer.” He crumbled the hollyhock pod between his fingers. “Even if I’d known I was looking for a woman. Women’s power tends to express itself in healing and making things grow. Sometimes in foreknowledge. Our sort of wizardry is unusual in a woman.”

Ah-ha, she thought uncharitably. The marriage proposals were making more and more sense. Turning so he couldn’t see her face, she blew on the fingers of her free hand as if cold—which she actually was.

He placed his hand on the small of her back. “Come on. It’s too cold to stand still.”

He walked with her out of the courtyard, locked the gate behind them once more.

She didn’t want to continue along the turn her thoughts had taken. Plus she wasn’t sure she could keep them off her face. Questions seemed the best distraction.

“It sounds like you had a good life here. Important rich guy surrounded by boho women who weren’t expecting anything permanent. Why leave Santa Fe?”

He shrugged. “It was time to move on. Time to reinvent myself again.”

He sounded so lonely and resigned. Living for centuries sounded pretty good until she thought about the reality of it.

Without deciding to, she took his hand and squeezed it. He glanced aside at her in surprise, then gave a quick squeeze in return.

“So you died.” She made air quotes.

“Aneurysm,” he said. “I drifted for a few years. When it became apparent that computers were going to be important, I started putting out feelers. I met a young fellow named Bill Gates when he opened a small business called Microsoft in Albuquerque.”

She stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. Since they hadn’t reached the Plaza yet, she didn’t have to worry about creating a traffic jam.

“Holy crap. You know Bill Gates?”

“I’ve finally impressed you. You’ve made my day.”

She rolled her eyes. “But that was in the Seventies, wasn’t it? If you were talking to Bill Gates then, by now you’d have to seem, what? Seventy-something years old?”

That was a weird thought. To all outward appearances, Jas looked somewhere in his mid- to late-thirties.

“My grandfather…” He made the air quotes this time. “…was the one who had dealings with Microsoft. I inherited and started Magus Corporation.”

She started walking again. “For a guy who hasn’t had kids in the last hundred years or so, there must’ve been an awful lot of logistics involved to make that work.”

“There were.”

“This longevity stuff is going to be a real pain in the butt, isn’t it?”

He sputtered a surprised laugh. “Most people wouldn’t think of it that way, but yes. It can be. Especially since the advent of computers.”


“Not to worry, though. I have an in with a computer firm that has access to databases all over the world.”

She walked beside him in silence a while. “When did that become a comforting thought?”

He took her hand again. “That’s something else I’ll let you work out for yourself.”

* * *

It wasn’t late when Jas pulled off the freeway and turned onto Eubank, but this time of year, it was already getting dark. Amethyst watched the taillights in front of them. They passed the Owl Café, circles of red neon outlining the eyes of the owl on the building’s roof, then the pet store on the corner with the huge chameleon crawling across the top of the sign. The next turn was Flint, her street, then he’d pull up to her house, and then—

Her mouth went dry. She hadn’t thought about this part of the date.

She would not be nervous. She was thirty years old, for godsake. It wasn’t like any of this was a mystery.

And maybe that was exactly the problem.

The Infiniti purred up the little hill on Flint and finally swung into her driveway. Jas turned off the key. The headlights winked out and the engine fell silent.

She fought the impulse to snatch up her coat and purse and bolt for the front door. Unfortunately, trying to be cool and casual about it also gave Jas time to get out and come around to her side of the car.

She climbed out, hooking her purse over her shoulder and hugging her coat to her chest.

Putting on a smile she fervently hoped looked sincere, she said, “Thanks, Jas. It was a great day. I had fun.”

He took her elbow and walked her to the door. Damn.

“My pleasure. I hope we’ll be doing it again soon.”

They stopped on the porch. She started to reach for her purse, for the keys inside. Jas’ hand slid up her arm. His other hand rose, maybe to go around her, maybe to cup her face.

Her mouth was still dry, and now her heart lurched into overdrive. Real fear sank cold claws into her chest, clamped its jaws on her throat. Every instinct screamed to grab the magic and fling up a shield, a fending, anything.

She took half a step back, caught herself, then held up her forefingers in a cross, making a joke of it. “Uh-uh. Not after what you did the last time you kissed me.”

His dark eyes were serious. “Never again, Amethyst,” he said quietly.

Shivers ran through her. Even her breath shook. God. How humiliating. She swallowed, breathed deep, catching the desert scent of his cologne.

“I know.” She touched his hand where he’d dropped it to his side once more. “The problem is convincing the emotional brain. Just…not yet. Okay?”

He nodded. “Rain check?”

Her pulse was still pounding in throat and lips and fingertips, though it was beginning to slow. “Well, it’s on backorder. I’m not sure how long it’ll take to come in.”

He laughed softly. “I’ll wait,” he said and touched her cheek.

Thank god she didn’t flinch.

Click here to read Chapter 3

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