Witch Fire

Witch FireBerkley Sensation
Elemental Witches 1
ISBN-10: 0425216144
ISBN-13: 978-0425216149
Release Date: June 2007

Read an Excerpt

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“Deliciously sexy and intriguingly original.”
—USA Today Bestselling Author Angela Knight

“Sizzling suspense and sexy magic are sure to propel this hot new series onto the charts. Bast is a talent to watch, and her magical world is one to revisit.”
Romantic Times

Mira Hoskins doesn’t know she’s a natural born witch who possesses the rare—and powerful—element of air. She also never expected to find herself tied to a mahogany bed frame, captive to a man who aches to fulfill her every desire and let loose the magick that dwells inside her…

Heat emanates from elemental fire witch Jack McAllister. The Coven, a governing authority of witches, has sent him to protect Mira from a band of warlocks who drain witches of power… and life. Long ago, he saw Mira’s parents murdered by this same dark magick. He’d like to quell his guilt and offer her everything she deserves. But she’s the long-lost cousin of his boss—making seduction off-limits.

With Jack’s strong guidance, Mira is luring forth her inner magick. But his sense of duty is quickly swelling into insatiable hunger. They warned him about the natural attraction between air and fire. Now he risks being consumed by the woman he shouldn’t want—but can’t stay away from …

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Excerpt
Chapter One

He 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 onion, 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 knew his way around a woman and would deliver one hundred percent satisfaction. 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, under-sexed 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 his 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 was 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 mayo 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?” he asked.

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 kind a 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’ 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 a little in a smile before he turned his attention back to his paper. 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’ 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. His hands and wrists, she noted, looked strong and capable. A little shiver went through her.

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.

* * * * *

Jack McAllister 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’ cousin. Monahan would have Jack’s head off for seducing her, and maybe not the one on his shoulders.

* * * * *

Mira 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.

She picked her way over the icy parking lot toward her beat-up Honda Accord and got in. The cold seat numbed her ass on contact and made Mira gasp. All she wanted was to get home, shower the greasy stink off her skin and settle down with a TV dinner. She stuck the key in the ignition. She’d break out her vibrator tonight, too. Mr. Gorgeous had inspired her.

The car took several tries to start, but soon the tires were crunching their way over the icy pavement, out onto the street and toward home.

All the way to her apartment, the sense of being watched niggled at her. It was silly. She was in her car alone, after all. Unless the feeling came from being followed. She turned the radio up and tried to ignore her inexplicable paranoia, brushing it off as just her imagination, but that didn’t stop her from checking her rearview mirror every five seconds.

She’d been having this feeling on and off for last couple weeks. It was ridiculous, of course. Nobody would be stalking her, nobody but Ben, maybe. But Ben probably didn’t care enough about her to invest that much time. After all, Ben had moved on to greener pastures and forgotten her. He was far too busy banging his new blonde, buxom girlfriend, Trixie, to bother with her anymore.

Who the hell was named Trixie, anyway? It sounded like the name of a stripper, though Trixie was actually a physical therapist who’d moved down from Duluth a couple years ago. When Ben had hurt his knee last year, Trixie had spent a little “overtime” helping him recuperate. The poor baby had required extra TLC, it seemed.

Mira blew out a hard breath that clouded white in the still cold car. She wished Trixie better luck with Ben than she’d had. Ben wasn’t the type to stay faithful for long. She almost felt sorry for the other woman.

But not too sorry.

She murmured the twenty-fifth couplet of the Wiccan Rede to her empty car. “True in love forever be, lest thy lover’s false to thee.” Mira sighed. Ben had been incredibly false.

She pulled into a spot not far from the entrance of her building on Randolph Avenue in nearby St. Paul. In order to feed her new fear, she made sure no other cars had pulled in behind her before she gathered her purse and made her way in, picking carefully over the barely cleared snow-covered sidewalk.

She headed through the front door of the old building and down a short flight of stairs. There were only two apartments in the basement and very little luxury. The stairs and walls were all made of unadorned concrete blocks and it smelled a bit musty. A sole light bulb hung from a chain above her head, casting shadows, as she unlocked her apartment door.

Once inside, she took off her coat and kicked the heat up a notch. Walking into the kitchen, she reached into her apron pocket, scooped out a wad of one-dollar bills and stuffed them into the pink pig cookie jar on her counter. She was that much closer to night school now. It felt good to have a goal. It gave her life purpose.

Standing in the middle of her kitchen, she smiled. Be it ever so humble. Her apartment consisted of one tiny bedroom, an infinitesimal bathroom, a miniscule kitchen with no dishwasher, and a teeny weeny living room. The place was dark and decorated with mismatched secondhand furniture.

It was a dump.

But it was her dump. Her smile widened. For once in her life she had a place that was all hers. It might not be much, but it was freedom.

The message light on the recorder blinked at her. She walked over and hit play.

“Mira,” came Ben’s voice. “I want my stereo. I’ve told you a hundred times, that’s my—” She hit delete. The bastard had cheated on her non-stop during their marriage. When she’d found out, she’d been forced to have a check up for STDs. STDs! She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling that familiar mixture of betrayal and shame.

She was keeping the damn stereo.

Mira had met Ben in college. He’d been nearly finished with his law degree and once he’d graduated, they’d married. Ben had somehow convinced her to quit pursuing her degree in psychology to try and get pregnant. He was making enough money to support them both and he’d professed to really want children. He’d landed a job at a local law firm and, while they hadn’t been well off, they’d been able to make ends meet in those early years.

Luckily, she’d never managed to conceive. Mira did want kids, but not while Ben had been off trying to make babies with half the female population of Minnesota. Once she’d discovered Ben’s numerous affairs and all his lies, she’d confronted him and demanded a divorce that very same day.

She had been heartbroken, but any remaining love she’d had for Ben had evaporated in the ensuing divorce proceedings. Ben had fought her every step of the way. Mira was still paying legal fees, but she’d managed to get some spousal maintenance out of him, at least for the time it took her to finish up her psychology degree.

Anger rose up in her for moment so severe it nearly choked her. Ben had lied to her continuously. She’d given him years of her life, her trust and her love, and he’d treated the feelings she had for him like trash. Treated her like trash.

She’d been so stupid to quit school and rely on him financially. At the time she’d been so in love with him she could never have imagined Ben would be unfaithful. She thought her life would be like the lives of her friends. Even if she didn’t have a career, she’d have kids, a great marriage, be happy.

Obviously such things weren’t meant for her.

He’d taken the house in Eden Prairie. She hadn’t wanted it. She’d wanted her own place, free of memories and flush with the promise of a fresh start. Besides the temporary spousal support, she’d taken very little from her old residence in a bid to create a new life for herself.

Tears burned her eyes and she blinked them away. Wallowing in self-pity was the least productive thing she could do. Anyway, she’d been free of Ben and his lies for six months and every day her life got better.

Mira glanced around her apartment a little less certainly than she had a moment before.

Right?

She chased away the flicker of doubt with a shake of her head and hit the button to play the next message. The creepy sound of a man breathing filled the apartment. No words, no voice, just the strangely threatening sound of breathing.

Mira shuddered. After feeling like being watched, she really didn’t need prank calls like that. She hit delete and stepped away from the recorder, feeling every hair on her body rise. Normally she’d laugh it off, but not tonight. Tonight it made dread curl in the pit of her stomach.

Someone knocked on her door—hard. Startled, Mira jumped three feet in the air.

“Mira Hoskins?” The man’s voice sounded muffled through the door. “We need to talk to you.”

We?

She didn’t move, didn’t breathe. The voice was unfamiliar. There was no conceivable reason anyone should be knocking on her door at eleven at night. Her godmother’s voice entered her mind…the Boston Strangler never had to break a lock, you know.

Bang! Bang! Bang! “Miss Hoskins, we know you’re in there. Open up. We just want to talk.”

No way was she opening that door.

Silence. She stood rooted in place, hoping they’d go away.

“Miss Hoskins,” the voice said softly after a few moments, “let’s do this the easy way, shall we?”

Mira’s blood ran cold and her heart rate ratcheted up. That definitely sounded like a threat. She grabbed the phone to call 911…dead. No dial tone. “Oh shit,” she breathed. They’d cut her phone line. How the hell had they cut her phone line?

She glanced around at the windows. Tiny basement-level windows, all of them. Almost too small to allow air through, much less a normal-sized woman.

No flight. That meant fight.

Panic making her heart pound and her hands shake, she went to a kitchen drawer, got out a knife and tiptoed down the short hallway, toward the door, in order to peer out the peek hole.

The sound of splintering wood filled her ears and the door came flying open. It caught her square in the forehead. Blinding pain exploded through her head for a moment, then she felt herself falling backward into darkness.

“A sensual feast sure to sate even the most finicky of palates. Richly drawn, dynamic characters dictate the direction of this fascinating story. You can’t miss with Anya.”
A Romance Review

“Fast-paced, edgy suspense…The paranormal elements are fresh and original. This reader was immediately drawn into the story from the opening abduction, and obsessively read straight through to the dramatic final altercation. Bravo, Ms. Bast; Witch Fire is sure to be a fan favorite.”
Paranormal Romance Reviews

“A fabulously written ultimate romance. Anya Bast tells a really passionate story and leaves you wanting more….the elemental witch series will be a fantastic read.”
The Romance Reader’s Connection

“A terrific romantic fantasy starring two volatile lead characters…the relationship between fire and air that makes the tale a blast to read.”
—The Best Reviews