From the Author
She sat cross-legged on a thick pillow on the floor. "Sure. All the time."
He opted for the sofa. An overweight white cat with an orange tail and black around its eyes hopped onto the couch cushion next to him. "Like on people? To make them do things they might not otherwise do?"
Stevie snorted a laugh. "Not at all. A spell is merely...a prayer with props." She gestured toward the feline. "That's Bandit, by the way, your aunt's cat."
He drank more of her brew and realized that his eyes no longer stung. "Did you cast a spell on me, or put one in this tea?"
Another laugh and her eyes lit up the most dazzling shade, like sparkling amber. "Why would you think so?"
He drew a deep breath through his nose. "Allergy symptoms are gone."
A mischievous grin settled on her lips. "I know a little about herbs--which ones help allergies, and which ones turn a landlord into a field mouse."
"To get snatched up by a cat, hmm?" No doubt that she was the most disarming witch he'd ever met, albeit the first. Or at least the only one who admitted that she was one.
The reminder that she might be evicted when he sold the houses settled on his shoulders like heavy stones. Despite the fact that he'd only just met her, and hardly knew her at all, he liked her. Which was going to make selling her house a little more difficult. Griffin could barely keep from staring at her flawless skin, and glossy, pink lips. But he couldn't let himself be distracted from his mission, no matter how pretty Stevie was, or how enticing her lavender scent. He had to remember that although her cottage wasn't the derelict sort that he'd assumed it to be when he'd first seen the yard, Stevie was walking a thin legal line by holding classes there, and having a makeshift cat shelter on the premises.
Could she be trying to charm him into ignoring the fact that she was running more than one business out of the house? Would she do the same to any prospective landlord? There was no telling how many guys had been captivated by her cat-shaped eyes, or her long, slender neck.
In his job as a code enforcement officer, he'd encountered loads of people who'd attempted to befriend him in hopes of convincing him to look the other way when he found violations at their property. Certainly, he barely knew her, but it seemed far-fetched that she'd be that deceptive.
Namaste jumped up to the sofa and head-butted his arm. He petted the cat's silky fur then waited to see if the allergy symptoms returned. They didn't. After he finished the rest of the tea, he set the cup down and glanced at the table in the far corner that held all of those strange, witchy objects.
He cleared his throat. "Did you and my aunt do any spells together?"
Stevie dropped his gaze. "That's not really the sort of thing I discuss outside of my inner circle."
Like a secret society. "I get it. So covens, or whatever you call them, are akin to AA meetings, huh?"
Her brows angled downward toward her nose. "We keep each other's confidences, but I'd hardly compare being a witch to having an addiction you need to recover from."
An image of his mother flashed in his mind. According to his father, his mom had had an addiction--to witchcraft, one he couldn't abide. If it wasn't an addiction, why would she have left them?
Left her only child.
"I think it's a perfect comparison," he said. "Just like addicts, witches apparently keep secrets, and by your own admission, manipulate people. Like turning someone into a toad." He laughed at his own comment. He couldn't help himself. There was so much about her that made him think about his mother, and it brought out the worst in him.
Her nostrils flared. Gone was the serene expression that had been there only a few minutes earlier. "You're twisting my words. I said that we manipulate energy, not people."
"Semantics." He didn't want to believe Stevie was a bad person, but his mother was, and she was also a witch. She'd abandoned him, and had then managed to get arrested and thrown in prison. All the pain of losing his mom--growing up without her, with his tyrant of a father instead--welled up inside him. She'd chosen witchcraft over her own son. Shards of pain stabbed at his temples.
Stevie stood, eyes blazing, jaw tight. "Energy, not people. Those are two completely different things." She swept a hand through the air, and a powerful breeze blew through the room. "Energy."
Whoa. He gasped at the display.
Suddenly a funnel of dust and cat hair rose from the floor, surrounding him. His heart pounded. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. The burning sensation returned to his eyes. His nose itched with the need to sneeze. And he did--again and again and again.
This was crazy. How could she have done this? Could she really be magic?