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Authors: Anya Bast

Witch Fire

BOOK: Witch Fire
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Escape Interrupted

She was just working the top lock and swearing a blue streak when he reached her. He pressed his body against hers and covered her hand with his own. She stilled immediately and shivered a little.

Jack tried hard not to enjoy the feeling of her pressed against him, but he couldn't help it. The sound of her breathing, harsh in the quiet air, made his libido twitch with interest. It made him think of other situations when she might be pressed against him, her breathing ragged. A situation in which they'd be wearing far less clothing and Mira would be feeling far friendlier toward him. It was natural, he told himself, the natural attraction of fire to air.

But give him time and he could seduce her. He knew how to touch her to make her want him…beg for him. Even though he shouldn't, he could tempt her into his bed.

The faint scent of her rose perfume teased his nose as he leaned down and placed his mouth close to her ear. “You're incredibly predictable, Mira. Even if you'd gotten out the front door, you never would've been able to call the elevator without my security code.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean my apartment is the only one on this floor. I mean I have the elevator on security mode. You can't access it without my code. No one comes up or goes down without it. No one even stops at this floor without my direct permission. You're a prisoner here.” He paused. “A princess in a tower,” he breathed silkily into her ear.

She shivered against him…

W
ITCH
F
IRE
ANYA BAST

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0745, Auckland, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

WITCH FIRE

A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2007 by Anya Bast.

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

ISBN: 978-1-1012-0604-1

BERKLEY SENSATION
®
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY SENSATION is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Dedicated to my husband,
who is the inspiration for every hero I write.
The fire has never gone out, baby.
I love you.

Also to all my loop-dwelling friends,
both writers and readers,
you make the Internet worthwhile.
Thanks for the laughter, the information,
and sometimes the commiseration.
You guys rock.

To all the writers who are still trying, write on.
No matter what happens, write on.

Acknowledgments

This book could not have been written without the critiquing attention of Lauren Dane (aka “Scissors”), Megan Hart (aka “Sparkles”), Brent Kellmer, Cathy Pegau, and Jody Wallace, not to mention the wonderful and ever-supportive 3J Crit Group. Thank you all so very much.

An extra thanks to Brenda M. and Lauren Dane for patiently listening to me prattle on while I brainstorm at them. Thank you for your friendship.

Very special thanks to the awesome Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency for believing in me. Thanks to Cindy Hwang for letting me share this book with the world.

Last but certainly not least, thanks to my family and friends for their steadfast support.

ONE

H
E LOOKED LIKE SIN AND SEEMED LIKE SALVATION.
Salvation for her sluggish libido, anyway.

Seriously preoccupied by the man sitting at table eight, Mira slung plates of liver and onions, the special of the day. She couldn't remember the last time a man had distracted her this way, made her feel like a clumsy fifteen-year-old again. She couldn't remember the last time she'd looked at a man and had an instant, primal reaction. Hell, she'd begun to think she'd completely lost her sex drive.

It was still alive and well.

She tucked her pen behind her ear as she finished taking an order and glanced at the man. He sat at a booth in the corner, sipping black coffee and reading the
Star Tribune
. He'd been there for close to two hours and hadn't wanted any food. Normally that would annoy her, especially since he was taking up prime real estate during the busiest time of the day, but she was prepared to forgive him. Eye candy like him tended to be rare in Mike's Diner. He was so gorgeous she felt like throwing herself at the poor guy, but her boss frowned on scaring the customers. Anyway, recently divorced, grease-stained waitresses probably weren't this man's normal fare.

It wasn't just his physical appearance that made him so attractive. It was his attitude and his mannerisms. It was the way he held himself so confidently. He was one of those men to whom women had a deep, instinctive reaction, a response that harkened back to caveman days when females were most attracted to the biggest, baddest male around.

At least six foot three and powerfully built, the man seemed to walk and breathe sex. Like he'd protect a woman from any threat and take really good care of her body while he did it.

Of course, that was probably just her fevered, undersexed imagination working overtime. That doubtless happened when one unexpectedly rediscovered one's libido.

As a result, she was having sexual fantasies about a stranger during the busiest part of her shift. Instead of worrying if the salt and pepper shakers were filled, she wondered what his hands would feel like on her body, imagined his hard chest rubbing against her bare breasts.

As Mira took care of a table, refilling drinks and making sure the patrons had everything they needed, she glanced at the man again from under her lashes. She felt the need to commit him to memory so he could star in her fantasies later. During the last few months, her vibrator had gathered dust in the bottom drawer of her night table. Now she had a reason to pull it out again.

He was broad-shouldered and leanly muscled. His golden, sun-kissed skin seemed to defy the Minnesota winter and made Mira want to run her lips and hands over it. Silky black hair framed a chiseled, interesting face with black slashes for eyebrows and a sexy dusting of a beard on a sculpted jaw. He was attractive, yet he wasn't a pretty boy. This man had a face that could either freeze someone solid or turn a woman's bones to warm honey, depending on his expression.

The man was sex on legs, but it was his mouth and eyes that really did it for Mira. Long, dark lashes fringed his light blue eyes. They seemed cold at first glance, but when he'd smiled at her, the look in those eyes had made her knees go weak. And he had a positively indecent mouth. The slight curve of his full, sensual lips brought to mind all sorts of tempting images—skin moving on skin, limbs entangled, ragged breathing, mouths and tongues working as two bodies fused amid twisted sheets….

“Hey, watch it!” a customer complained when she nearly plowed him over after clearing off a table.

“Sorry.” She pasted on a smile and apologized. She was really off her stride this afternoon. Blowing an errant strand of dark hair out of her face, she carted the tub to the back for the dishwasher. As she passed nearby, she stole her thousandth glance at him.

He wore a pair of close-fitting jeans, a gray turtleneck sweater, a long black coat, and black boots. His dress was casual, but he reeked of money. The whiff she'd gotten of his expensive cologne and the silver Mercedes he'd parked outside were enough to tell her he had lots of that.

Nope.
Definitely not her type.

In any case, she'd made a promise to herself to avoid any new relationships for at least a year. She owed it to herself to keep that promise.

Not that he'd want her anyway.

She headed back to the kitchen, hooking a loose hank of hair behind her ear as she went, and placed the order she'd just taken. It was lunchtime, and the diner was crowded with downtowners grabbing a quick bite before they headed back to the office. Nobody wanted to go very far in February; Mike's Downtown Diner was good enough in this kind of Minnesota cold. The sounds of conversation and clattering silverware nearly drowned out the piped-in music, and it felt hot in the small restaurant.

Normally, when she wasn't so distracted, this was the time of day when she hit her groove. Her whole reality became the synchronization of taking orders, serving food, and refilling drinks. The time went fast and smooth. The rhythm of lunchtime at the diner was like the clackety-clack of well-oiled train wheels speeding down a track.

She was good at her job, able to sense people's needs with a natural intuitiveness that she'd had her whole life. Her regular customers always commented on how she'd show up right as they were thinking about ordering a side of fries or a slice of blueberry pie. Okay, so she wasn't curing cancer, but at least she was being a productive member of society. Plus, the tips weren't bad. Mira was saving up to go back to school and finish her degree in psychology. She had no intention of being a professional waitress for the rest of her life.

“Mira, order up!” Mike called from the kitchen.

She picked up her order and headed out to deliver it, making her way through the crowded diner toward table seven. It was right next to table eight where Mr. Gorgeous still nursed his coffee. She painted on a wide give-me-a-good-tip smile and served the man at table seven his meal. He looked like some middle-management guy struggling his way up the corporate ladder. After working at the diner for the last six months, she'd gotten a good feel for the lunchtime crowd.

“Can I get you anything else right now, sir?” she asked brightly.

The man looked up from his plate and focused on her necklace. “You some kinda Satanist?”

Her smile collapsed and shock rippled through her at the angry tone of the man's voice. Her hand flew to the pentagram around her neck. Damn, she'd forgotten to take it off before her shift.

Scorn followed the shock. This guy never would've said anything if she'd been wearing a crucifix. People instantly equated the pentagram with Satanism, even though it had nothing to do with it. Normally, she'd give him a lesson in religious sensitivity, but this wasn't the time or the place.

“No,” she answered coldly. “I'm not a Satanist. Can I get you anything else, sir?”

“So, what? Is it some kinda Goth thing, then?”

“No, it's not a
Goth thing
. Do you want another Coke?”

“Why wear that damned thing around? It offends people.”

“Leave the waitress alone.”

Her head snapped up. It was Mr. Gorgeous. He hadn't even raised his head from his paper. His deep, resonating voice commanded authority even without his direct attention. “She doesn't want to explain her jewelry preferences. She just wants to know if you want a drink refill.”

Middle Management seemed instantly cowed by the note of aggression in Mr. Gorgeous's voice. That's why he probably wouldn't make it very far up the corporate ladder, Mira thought with satisfaction.

“I'm fine,” Middle Management answered her, looking down at his plate. “Sorry.”

“No problem,” she said, turning away.

She glanced at Mr. Gorgeous. He looked up from his paper, and their gazes met for a moment. His mouth curved in a little smile before he turned his attention back to the
Tribune
. She imagined those full lips kissing between her breasts and down her stomach. The image of his dark head working between her thighs as he licked away her deep sexual ache filled her mind.

A baby squalled a couple booths over, breaking her pleasant thoughts. Mira wished she wasn't working and could be home wallowing in her fantasies of this man.

Since she had a little lull, Mira ducked into the break room to remove her necklace and put it in her locker. On her way out, she picked up a pot of coffee and walked back to Mr. Gorgeous's table.

He looked up at her as she approached. “Would you like another cup of coffee?” She held the pot and tipped her head to the side in question.

He shook his head. “The check.”

She put the pot down, dug in her apron pocket for his bill, and laid it on the table. “Thanks,” she said quietly. “I mean, for saying what you did.”

“Are you Wiccan?” he asked while he fished his billfold out and extracted a twenty.

She nodded. “I was raised Wiccan, but I don't practice magick or anything crazy like that. Wicca is my religion. I was raised on it.” She snapped her mouth shut so she wouldn't babble on. The man made her feel vulnerable and awkward. Not to mention…not many people would instantly take her for Wiccan at the sight of her pentagram.

He threw the twenty on the table and stood. The faint scent of his cologne—spicy, a bit woody—assaulted her senses. He glanced at her necklace-free throat. “Too bad you have to hide it because of the ignorance of others.”

Oh.
She was in love.

Rendered momentarily speechless, she looked down at his bill. “Uh, let me get your change—”

“No, keep it.” He turned and left.

She picked up the twenty and his bill. His coffee with free refills had only been a buck twenty-five.

J
ACK
M
C
A
LLISTER CLOSED THE CAR DOOR BEHIND
him and focused past the falling snowflakes and the plate glass window of the diner to watch Mira Hoskins consider the tip he'd left her. She glanced out the window, stuffed the twenty and his bill into her apron pocket, and then leaned over the table to take his empty coffee cup and discarded newspaper. Her skirt rode up in the back, revealing the sweet curve of her calf, a little of the creamy skin of her thigh, the tender back of her knee. It was such a sensitive place on most women.

He groaned. The woman had a nice pair of legs, legs he'd imagined wrapped around his waist more than once since he'd been tasked with watching over her. Her hair was long and thick, a rich chocolate brown. Jack had imagined it spilling over the side of his mattress while he sank his cock inside her. He'd imagined fisting it in his hands while he spread her facedown on his bed and took her from behind with long, driving strokes into her wet heat. Jack would make her claw the sheets, make her go slack-jawed and helpless with lust, make her forget everything but the way he possessed her body.

He bet she made the sweetest sounds when she came.

Jack cursed and looked away. He'd known when he accepted the assignment that fire and air had a natural attraction, but he'd underestimated the strength of the magickal affinity. Jack had a huge sexual appetite; however, he'd thought he could resist this woman. She wasn't for him, not on any level. Consciously, he knew that. His cock seemed to have different ideas, however.

He couldn't help thinking about her lush, soft curves and how she'd feel under his hands. Wanting her was powerful, primal—an instinctive response of his magick to hers. Nothing more. All the same, he was lusting hard after the one woman he knew he shouldn't want.

On every other level but the magickal one, she wasn't his type. Mira Hoskins wasn't a woman you fucked and left. This was a woman you kept. One you loved. One you tucked into your life forever.

He watched her gather up the cup and his discarded napkin and head back to the kitchen. She seemed utterly unaware of her beauty. Men noticed her constantly, but she seemed oblivious. She kept her hair natural, long and straight. She never wore much makeup. That unconsciousness about her appearance made her even more attractive.

Jack swore again and started the engine.

Mira was a nice woman, and that meant she wasn't his kind of woman. He usually bedded women who were married and wanting short affairs on the side, or unattached women who were in it for a no-strings-attached good time. Jack stayed away from women like Mira Hoskins.

Especially Mira Hoskins.

He'd taken this job to discharge the debt he owed her. It had to stay professional.

Anyway, she was his boss's cousin. Monahan would have Jack's head off for seducing her, and maybe not the one on his shoulders.

M
IRA STEPPED OUT THE BACK DOOR OF THE DINER
after closing time. The cold night air snatched her breath away instantly, forcing her to pull the edges of her coat tighter. Mike's was located right in the middle of Minneapolis, making the wind that raced through the corridor of buildings extra frigid. It whipped her skirt around her nylon-clad legs and numbed her calves. All the same, it was invigorating. She'd always loved the wind, even when it snatched the warmth from her lungs.

BOOK: Witch Fire
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