Home > Beguiled (Betwixt & Between #3)

Beguiled (Betwixt & Between #3)
Author: Darynda Jones

 

One

 

 

What doesn’t kill you gives you a lot of unhealthy

coping mechanisms and a really dark sense of humor.

—Meme

 

 

Anticipation—or possibly terror—washed over me in unrelenting waves. Whatever the emotion, it caused my stomach to clench. My pulse to quicken. My lungs to seize. The man walking up the stairs toward my bedroom was the sexiest thing I’d seen since first discovering boys in kindergarten. I was an early bloomer. The fact that this particular boy lived in my basement was a definite plus. But at the moment, the heavy footsteps treading purposefully toward my door caused a flush of warmth to spread throughout my chest. And my nether regions.

Mostly my nether regions.

Wearing only a T-shirt that proclaimed Witches do it on the fly, I curled my fingers into the sheets on either side of me and held my breath.

He knocked softly before easing the door open, and the man standing at the threshold took my breath away. He crossed his arms over a wide chest—thankfully it was his—and leaned against the frame. Auburn hair streaked with gold brushed the tops of his shoulders. Olive irises canopied with thick lashes shimmered in the low light as they studied me. A full, sculped mouth held steady even as his strong jaw flexed.

And the kilt.

He wore a dark leather kilt, a khaki T-shirt, and heavy work boots. With his hair, his build, and the tattoo ink lacing over his forearms and up one side of his neck, he defined that rare quality known as panty-melting sex appeal.

“Ms. Dayne,” he said, his voice smooth, deep, and intoxicating.

“You heard me?” I asked, both surprised and impressed. I’d barely whispered the words that summoned him here. And he’d been downstairs, probably in his basement-level apartment.

“I heard,” he confirmed. “And the answer is very.”

I blinked, trying to get past the fact that he literally dripped sensuality. “Very?”

“You asked how well I hear.”

My fingers twisted further into the sheets beneath me. “Yes, but I barely whispered it.”

“Thus the very.”

I untangled my fingers and scooted up until I sat against my headboard, my legs stretched out before me, my T-shirt suddenly way shorter than I remembered. I tugged at the hem self-consciously.

He dropped his gaze to watch me tug and my hands froze. The question now became: Could I get off the bed without exposing the jay-jay? Not that he hadn’t already seen all that I had to offer. We’d had an amazing encounter where I’d reached a level of euphoria I hadn’t known existed, but we had yet to seal the deal. And it was a deal I most definitely wanted to seal.

I couldn’t stop thinking about his mouth when he kissed me. His tongue when he brushed it over the most sensitive parts of my body. His long fingers when they slid inside. Yet he stayed glued to the spot.

Fine. If he wouldn’t come to me, I had no problem going to him. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood.

He pushed off the doorframe and walked closer, only to walk past me and head toward the bottle of Patrón I had on my nightstand. The one I’d bought on a whim since I didn’t drink tequila. He took it to a small side table between the two floor-to-ceiling windows the massive room boasted, now black with the darkness of a moonless night, and poured us both a drink.

Okay. This could work. I was a little wound up with all the happenings of late. I could use a drink after the most eventful times I’d ever had in my life.

The last six months had turned my world upside down. First, I’d been bequeathed a house by a total stranger. A stranger who turned out to be a powerful witch. And my biological grandmother. And no longer dead.

Long story.

And the house turned out to be inhabited by my biological grandfather, who’d died at the hands of said grandmother—at his behest. Then I learned I was also a witch. But not just any witch. A charmling. One of only three in the entire world. So there was that. Then I accidentally brought my grandmother out of the veil, fell into a state of suspended animation for six months, and turned my best friend into a bird.

It had been a strange few days. For me anyway. While I’d taken possession of the house—aka Percival—six months ago, I’d only been conscious for a few days during those six months. The months of respite and the new powers I’d acquired had discombobulated me. On one hand, I felt like I’d only been in Salem for about a week. On the other, I felt like I’d been here my entire life. Like I belonged here, in this very cool town famous for its witch trials and in this very cool house covered in vines and black roses.

Roane handed me a drink, then waited. But I wasn’t born yesterday. When he didn’t drink from his own tumbler, I narrowed my eyes and sloshed the clear liquid in my tumbler in front of his face. “Is this poisoned?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Are you trying to kill me?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Would you tell me if it were?”

“I’d like to think so.” One corner of his exquisite mouth tilted up, and I had to give praise to whoever invented the lopsided grin. They deserved a Nobel Prize in chemistry for creating more covalent bonds than all the oceans combined.

Despite his affirmations, I still wasn’t totally convinced, so I traded glasses with him.

He laughed softly and took a sip, leaving me to wonder if he hadn’t poisoned his own glass in anticipation of my figuring out his devious plan with my keen intellect and expected me to switch glasses all along. If only I’d spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder. Then I might have a chance.

“My grandmother was poisoned right under two perfect noses, yours and Percy’s.” I leaned closer and poked him in his chest. “Mighty convenient if you ask me. Not that anyone ever does.” I lifted the glass to my lips and said “No idea why” into the tumbler before downing the entire contents in one huge gulp.

My chest exploded. The combustible liquid scorched my throat, set my esophagus on fire, and doubled me over. Coughs wracked my body for a good five minutes along with a couple of gags and an occasional horrifying sound similar to someone trying to start a chainsaw. Humiliation surged through me as I tried not to barf on my grandmother’s Persian rug.

After an eternity of hacking while trying to retain a matching set of lungs, I took several deep breaths, straightened, held out my tumbler, and said, “That was good. Can I have another?” My voice was a little strained, but I thought I pulled the whole thing off rather well.

He stood there, a humor-filled grin on his face, and took my glass before granting me an unequivocal “no.”

“Really?” I feigned disappointment. “It’s so… smooth.” Clearly, I needed to drink more.

After setting the glass on the table, he turned back to me. “I thought you drank Patrón.”

“No, I bought it in celebration of my divorce being finalized about a year ago because that was my ex’s favorite. I’m not a big drinker.”

That lopsided grin reemerged. “I would never have guessed.”

“I like wine,” I said in my defense. “And champagne. And mudslides because chocolate.”

He nodded and went to sit in one of two chairs covered in clothes, one chair holding the freshly washed selection and the other displaying the only-worn-a-day options.

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