Keep reading for a quick peek at the beginning of the Lucky Magic paranormal romance series!
PROLOGUE: In Which Our Warlock is (un)Justly Punished
“For your crimes, I sentence you to ten years.” Baba Yaga’s pronouncement filtered through the purple smoke, the flashing disco lights, and the snuffling coughs of her gaggle of warlock minions to finally penetrate Jackson’s brain.
Wait, what? Suddenly the towel around his waist felt inadequate. If he’d known he was going to be ambushed in his own apartment, he’d have thrown on a robe when he’d hopped out of the shower.
“Ten years? For—” Jackson inhaled. For being a warlock. He’d almost said it. Because, really, what had he done that every other warlock didn’t do routinely? He’d had some sex. A lot of sex. With a lot of women. What was the harm?
“For breaking the heart of an innocent girl.” Baba Yaga gave him a hard look, daring him to contradict her.
If he didn’t know exactly how powerful she was, her off-the-shoulder neon-green sweatshirt and bouncy ponytail would have made him laugh. Only the most powerful of witches—and an incredibly hot woman—could pull off leg warmers and jelly bracelets. He didn’t know whether to be appalled by her clothes or turned on by her bare shoulders and barely-there skirt. Common sense mixed with terror cut that thought short.
He cleared his throat. “I’ve apologized. I didn’t mean…” To screw her brains out? Because he definitely had. To leave her after one romp-filled, multi-orgasmic night? Because he’d meant to do that, too.
“Yes?” Baba Yaga was practically shooting icicles from her eyeballs.
Light reflected off the giant disco ball hanging from his living room ceiling and blinded him. It was like an interrogation, but with a bizarre disco flavor. He blinked and held his hand up to shield his eyes.
“I am sorry.” He infused the words with as much genuine feeling as he could muster.
She crossed her arms. “That you’re being made to pay for your choices.”
He hated to piss her off further, but he also didn’t want to go to prison for ten years. “Can you send me to prison for sleeping with your great-niece five times removed? I don’t think that’s technically a crime.”
“My favorite great-niece five times removed. And who said anything about prison?” She smiled with feline glee.
One of the minions giggled.
“I don’t understand.” He clutched the slipping towel around his waist tighter. Normally he’d be comfortable naked in front of a beautiful woman. But not when that same woman was a powerful witch who not only looked like the ’80s had thrown up on her but also happened to hold his magical life in her hands.
“It’s simple. Ten years—with no magic. You’ll live as a mortal, among mortals, with a mortal job. I’ve arranged a position for you…in tech support.”
A startled laugh escaped him. “Wait. What? Are you kidding? All I did was—” He clenched his jaw. He’d have to be an idiot not to see that minimizing his supposed infraction wouldn’t help his case. And what was tech support?
“All you did was tear a young girl’s heart from her chest and pulverize it.”
Tanya might have cried a few weepy tears, but he’d swear it was more about length, girth, and stamina than about him as a person. She barely knew him. And young? Tanya was two hundred if she was a day. “Have you actually talked to Tanya?”
Baba Yaga’s eyes turned glacial again.
“Sorry—you’re right. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” Except he totally would. Good sex was one of the few pleasures in his very long life.
“Ten years,” she said, “and then I’ll reevaluate.”
She lifted her hand, ready to transport herself and her entourage away.
“Wait!” Jackson grabbed at the towel around his waist a split second before it fell to the ground. “What does that mean? Reevaluate? Are you saying there could be more?”
“Make an effort, Jackson, or you’ll end up no better than an impotent shadow of your current self. We’re done here.” She snapped her fingers.
And then they were gone. Baba Yaga, her warlock minions, even the flashing lights.
A faint purple haze and a forlorn, slowly spinning disco ball remained.
“Make an effort? What kind of effort? What does that even mean?” He didn’t give voice to his other fear—that impotence wasn’t only a reference to his magical prowess. He couldn’t go there.
He turned to the mirrored ball, taunting him from the center of the room, and yelled, “And what is tech support?”
CHAPTER ONE: In Which Our Heroine Reveals a Secret
About Ten Years Later
“That is one hot guy.”
I pulled the bag of ice cream, cookies, and beer out of the trunk of Annabeth’s Corolla. “Yep.”
“Livy,” she said. “Come on; you didn’t even look.”
I nudged the trunk shut. “Don’t need to. That’s Jackson.” But I couldn’t resist a glance over my shoulder. I swallowed a sigh.
He was mowing his grass…shirtless. Thank you, ninety-degree Texas heat, because the man had a fine chest. And biceps. And ass. I huffed out an annoyed breath. There wasn’t anything about Jackson that wasn’t fine, and I’d seen most of him. I hadn’t seen everything. It wasn’t like he ran down the street stark naked every Tuesday morning. But a girl could always hope—a little puff of air escaped my lips—and dream.
It would be truly criminal if that was the man’s one disappointing feature.
“Yum. What a treat,” Annabeth said, still staring. “How do I not know about this man? Especially if he’s out mowing his lawn half-naked with any regularity.”
Jackson looked up and saw Annabeth and me staring—great—and he waved. Of course he did. In addition to his gorgeous bod, he was also the nicest guy ever. I waved back, and then turned to go inside.
“And you know him? How have I not heard about this guy?” Then she squealed. “I have! It’s him, isn’t it? The computer nerd? That’s him! Wait, I thought you said he was chubby?”
I kicked Annabeth in the tush and headed for the front door. “Could you holler any louder? Get your rear inside. And he used to be a little squishy, back when he moved in. I never called him chubby; that’s your word.”
“Squishy, chubby, a few extra pounds, whatever—he’s delicious now.” Finally, she turned to follow me.
I wasn’t saying it out loud, because Annabeth didn’t need any encouragement, but Jackson had always been delicious. I tilted my head toward the door. “Grab the door for me. The pizza guy should be here in five minutes, and we need to unpack the groceries first.”
Granted, the chances of our ice cream melting into a gooey mess were slim to none, because—when it came to the little things in life—I had the luck of the Irish. Well, the luck of the Irish-American branch of a fae family. We might get mixed publicity—that Lucky Charms guy hadn’t done my family any favors—but we did usually have a bit of luck on our side.
“How could you keep that man’s divine body a secret? That’s downright selfish of you. When I think of all the man-candy eyeballing I’ve missed…” Annabeth smirked as she opened the front door for me. “But if you want him all to yourself, I suppose I understand.”
“I kept him to myself because you’d have camped out on my front lawn and stalked him—for yourself or to hook him up with me, depending on the day. Besides, I think he has a girlfriend.”
Romance was the one area of my life where magical luck consistently deserted me. So, naturally, the fabulous, not-single Jackson was my current (two years running) crush.
“And a girlfriend matters how? Touching is great, but I’d be good with looking. To start.” Annabeth winked at me then propped a hip against the kitchen counter.
Since she wasn’t too concerned with the perishables, I unpacked the groceries. After everything was put away, I looked up to find her watching me with her arms crossed.
“What?” But I knew exactly what.
“Why haven’t you gone out with him? You said this computer nerd was a friend of yours.”
“Jackson is a friend, and he’s very tech-savvy.” I pointed a finger at her. “I’ve never called him a computer nerd. That’s all you and your assumptions.”
“You also never said he was so hot.” She uncrossed her arms and grinned. “You’re not lusting after him; you like him.”
I stood up a little straighter. “Of course I do. He’s my friend.”
“No. You like like him. You have a crush.” When I still didn’t answer, she squealed. “Ohmygod! You’re in loooove.”
I took a breath, preparing to defend myself—and then the doorbell rang. A little Irish luck? Good thing, since Annabeth could be persistent when it came to satisfying her curiosity. Bulldog-like, actually.
Thank the Goddess for the pizza guy. I practically threw the door open.
Except it wasn’t the pizza guy. I took a deep breath and smiled at the hunky guy on my front porch. “Hey, Jackson. How’s it going?”
“Good.” He paused and gave me a curious look. “I saw that you had a friend over and thought I’d stop by and introduce myself. We keep saying we need to meet each other’s friends.” He gave me another look, then said, “So here I am.”
Worlds. Colliding. Not good, very bad. Every instinct said that Jackson—deliciously scrumptious and yet still amazingly nice—and Annabeth—dangerously gorgeous and always on the prowl—should not meet. Exactly this was why we usually had girls’ night at Annabeth’s. Where was that dang leprechaun luck when I needed it?
I tried to come up with some reason, any reason, that he should leave right away.
“Hi,” Annabeth chirped in her flirty voice from over my shoulder.
CHAPTER TWO: In Which Our Hero Meets a Heroine (Not Ours)
Jackson’s smile spread wide, showcasing white, even teeth. How could he have such gorgeous teeth? And who thought about teeth in a moment like this?
He reached out a hand, and I scooted to the side so that he and Annabeth could exchange greetings. I would never hear the end of it. Annabeth was all about hands, and what they said about a man. Jackson had large hands—I knew exactly what she’d say about that—and he also had some callouses, because he did things like mow his own lawn, fix his own fence, plant his own trees. The guy had manly hands. I’d never hear the end of it now; she’d be completely smitten with Jackson and his fine body and his manly hands.
I closed my eyes. Annabeth had probably started plotting her girlfriend takeover before they’d finished the introductions.
Oops—which they just had.
I opened my eyes to find them both looking at me. Jackson still looked curious, but Annabeth had a cat-in-cream look on her face. The only question was whether she had devious plans to steal Jackson away from his girlfriend…or set him up with me. And I wasn’t sure which was worse; both were so terrible in different ways.
And that was when the pizza guy really did come to my rescue. His car pulled up to the curb, and I pointed and said, “Money. Be right back.” Then disappeared into the kitchen to retrieve my wallet.
By the time I came back, a pimply teen was standing in Jackson’s place, gazing with adoration at Annabeth. Leggy, tall, delicately curvaceous, and blonde, she tended to have that effect on men. A pubescent teen didn’t have a chance.
“Hey, kid,” I said, sounding more peeved than I’d intended. “How much do I owe you?”
He unstuck his eyeballs from Annabeth’s plunging neckline, and turned to look at me blankly.
Annabeth grabbed my wallet and gave the kid two twenties, took the pizza, and shut the door in his face. Granted, she did say “Thank you” and “goodbye” first, but I had no doubt he didn’t hear a word.
“Forty bucks for a large pizza?”
She shrugged, handing me the box. “He earned it and then some. I thought you were going to freak when Jackson and I met. It’s that worlds colliding thing you have, isn’t it?”
I nodded. Although usually when I was giving that excuse, it had to with my family, who were leprechauns. I hated that term, because of the little green-jacketed, bearded-man stereotype—but that was what we were.
When I was younger, I thought of myself as a sprite. Mainly because sprites lacked most of the cultural baggage leprechauns toted around. And I technically was a sprite. But calling me a sprite was a lot like calling a vehicle a car: broadly accurate but missing the important details. Just like some varieties of mushroom were deadly while others were relatively harmless, so too was the variance between sprites.
Yeah, sprite didn’t quite cut it; I was a leprechaun.
All the more reason that Annabeth and the magical mess that was my family could not collide. I liked living like a (mostly) normal person. And even without the magic, my family was not normal. I sighed. With magic, my family was chaos mixed with mischief, with a dash of juvenile self-interest thrown in for fun.
“Hey, anyone home in there? Daydream much?” Annabeth bit off the tip of the drooping slice of pizza she’d grabbed from the box. As she chewed, waiting for me to respond, there was an intent look of interest that made me nervous.
“Sorry. I…” But I couldn’t think of what to say. If I was honest with myself, I was tired of hiding the truth from my closest friend. “Whoa, watch it.” I pointed at the sliding cheese about to splat onto my hallway floor.
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