Love sucks. Just when you think you’ve got control of your heart, wham! A crystal vase filled with ruby red roses and purple dahlias—your favorite flowers—shows up on your doorstep.
Or in this case, at your ice cream shop.
Tucked inside the center of each gorgeous flower is a perfect Dove dark chocolate square.
Which reminds you that your boyfriend, who recently stomped on your heart, is really a very considerate fellow. He knows your likes and dislikes. He knows your weaknesses, but doesn’t judge them. He wants to make amends for not showing up to your Witches Anonymous six-month magic-free anniversary celebration.
So your heart melts a little.
But then there’s the other guy. Your ex.
He’s seated in a corner booth wearing a black t-shirt and worn jeans, talking to his brother while he ignores you. He laughs and your skin tingles. He thumps the table with a fist and you jump. He slides over to lean his back against the wall and puts his feet on the booth seat, and instead of yelling at him to get his black boots off the red vinyl, you think how damn sexy he looks in all that black and break into a sweat.
I mean, really, who wears black when it’s ninety degrees outside?
Someone who’s used to the heat, that’s who. Heat is one of the things my ex revels in.
Oh, and his gift of the day? A dirty banana-split bowl left on the edge of the table waiting for me to clean up.
Like I said—love sucks.
Noise from a kid’s birthday party jangled my already taut nerves as I stared at Luc’s dirty bowl. A dozen six-year-olds ran helter-skelter through the shop with only the birthday boy’s parents trying to corral them. Mr. and Mrs. Duncan had pretty much given up thirty seconds into the party, though, so crowd control was officially AWOL. I’d given up in five, so I had to hand it to them for hanging in there that long.
Birthday parties were the latest installment in my brand new business plan to bring more customers to Evie’s Ice Cream Shop. The economy sucked as bad as my love life and the first thing to go from most people’s budgets seemed to be ice cream. Kids, however, didn’t stop having birthdays when the economy went south, and parents would drain a vein in order to make Suzie or Bobby’s day special. Hence, my genius idea to rent out the shop for parties, complete with ice cream cake and a magician to perform tricks.
Having been in Witches Anonymous for nearly eight months, I wasn’t the one doling out the magic, however. I’d blackmailed Keisha, my best friend and the shop’s manager, into that duty.
Evil of me, you say? Yep, that’s me. Evil ex-witch trying to stick to her magic-free oath and make a living at the same time.
“Dark moon sure has everybody stirred up,” Keisha said, eyeing the chaotic kids. Kinky tendrils of hair formed a copper-streaked halo around her head. A complimentary bright orange dress hugged her bodacious curves, over which she’d added a pretty white linen apron.
Behind the counter, I cringed as the children’s shouts reached a crescendo. Even then, with all that high-pitched noise, Luc’s low, seductive laughter wove its way through the din as if my ears were especially tuned to its erotic sound. I ignored the gooseflesh rising on my skin and gave Keisha a hip bump. “Magic time. Go get ’em, tiger.”
She arched a brow and placed a hand on her orange-clad hip. The other hand squeezed a cotton dishtowel she’d been using to wipe down tables. Squeezing it so hard, her knuckles turned white. Reflected in her eyes was my neck under her fingers. “Amy Atwood, you may be my boss, but I’m not a common magician.”
I gave her my most sincere, take one for the team smile. “Of course not. You’re an extraordinary voodoo priestess, who could turn all those little kids into toads. But instead of using your powers for evil, you’re using them for good today, and saving your best friend’s sanity while also saving your own job.”
Her lips crooked to one side as she considered the underlying warning. No magic show and we could kiss half the party fee goodbye. That fee was going to pay the electric bill, which for an ice cream shop in June is substantial. No electricity equaled the unemployment line for both of us.
“I do this and I get a bonus.”
“Cash?” I shook my head. “I’m allowing your boyfriend to live in the back of the shop and sponge off me. That’s part of the reason Evie’s is going under. He eats ice cream like Adam’s extended-cab truck guzzles gas, and since revenue is so low right now, that’s the only bonus I can offer.”
Her gaze slid to Gabriel who was still entertaining Luc in the corner booth. Gabe waved his hands in the air and yelled something in Latin, and Lucifer—yes, that Lucifer, Gabe’s fallen-angel brother and my ex-boyfriend—wiped tears from the corners of his eyes, his body shaking with mirth.
They looked so happy, both of them, reunited again after Gabe took a walk on the wild side and ended up here on Earth with the rest of us. Practically inseparable for the past two months, he’d spent his time bringing Luc up to speed on the goings on in Heaven and Luc helped Gabe blend in with us Earthlings. Hiding angel wings is no small feat, much less trying to merge a seven-foot tall, curly blond-haired guy with an attitude to match the width of his wings, into the normal citizenship of the town of Eden.
Keisha’s shoulders, stiff with indignation, softened. The irritation left her face. Gabe had never had a girlfriend, and Keisha was way outside the lines of normal, so they’d logged some quality supernatural weirdness time with each other.
But who was I to talk? My ex was the Devil and my current boyfriend was the original Adam sent back to Earth for a redo. So while I was determined to stay magic-free and act like a human instead of a wicked, bad-to-the-bone witch, I was having a hard time coloring inside the lines of normal myself.
The one thing I was good at was using Gabe as a tool to manipulate Keisha into performing magic tricks at birthday parties.
What? I told you I was bad. And I couldn’t stand the thought of losing my shop. It had been in my family for generations. I’d never known my father’s side of the family, and this ice cream shop and my sister Emilia were all I had left of my mother’s side. Well, my mother was still out there somewhere. I just didn’t know where. She’d left me and Em with our aunt before I turned five years old and neither of us had seen her since. A part of me believed she was dead. Another part hoped she was alive and safe, even if she had provided us with prescription-grade abandonment issues.
“Fine.” Keisha threw down the dishtowel and stomped around the end of the display freezer. She held up her hands in front of the rugrats, called for attention, and got nowhere. The kids didn’t even glance her way.
She hooked a glare at me over her shoulder, her skeleton earrings swinging wildly. What do I do now?
I gave her an encouraging nod and made meaningless hand motions in an effort to get her to try again. She gave me a flippant eye roll and shook her head. Screw this.
Sighing, I inserted my pinkie and index fingers into the corners of my mouth and pierced the birthday party noise with a sharp whistle. Everyone, including Gabe and Lucifer, whipped their heads around to look at me.
Ahhh, utter silence. Much better.
Birthday boy had frozen with a spoonful of ice cream cake halfway to his mouth. “Whoa. Cool!” He’d destroyed several napkin holders and broken the leg off one of the chairs. A mental tab ran in the back of my mind to add to the party fee.
Leaving the security of the freezer, I sidled up next to Keisha and floated my hands around her, doing my best Vanna White impression. “And now munchkins, focus your eyes on the spectacular…on the amazing…on the magical…Voudini!”
A deep line appeared on Keisha’s forehead. In the back of my mind, I heard her say, Voudini? Seriously? That’s the best you got?
Cut me some slack, already. I was working on the spur of the moment and Voudini had a magic-y ring to it. Besides the fact, she was a voodoo priestess. It all worked together in my mind.
I clapped my hands at her. “Chop, chop, Amazing Voudini. Wow us with your spectacular magic show.”
She narrowed her dark eyes at me and I swear I saw impending death reflected in them. There’d be hell to pay later, but I’d gladly pay if it meant shutting up the children for five minutes. Not that I don’t like kids. I don’t have any, so I can’t be sure, but I think I like them. Just not a herd of them hopped up on sugar in my ice cream shop breaking things. My new business plan obviously needed tweaking.
Luc and Gabe were still staring at me, so I used the moment to my advantage. I strolled over to the vase of flowers, sniffed a rose with relish and took my time unwrapping one of the Dove chocolates before slipping it into my mouth. A round of oohs and aahhs rose from the kids as Keisha snapped her fingers and produced a baby chicken in the palm of one hand.
Voodoo witches and their chickens. Yeesh.
I smiled at Luc, picked up the vase, and made a show of carrying the flowers back to my office, swaying my hips just enough to feel his power rising around me as I walked away.
Passing Keisha, I gave her a sharp reminder. “No animals, Amazing Voudini. Health department rules.”
The chicken disappeared to a second round of oohs and ahhs. Satisfied I wouldn’t be undergoing another run-in with the health inspector any time soon, and with the fact I could still snag Luc’s attention, I continued the hip-swaying foray toward my office. Once there, I opened the door and stopped dead in my tracks, nearly dropping the vase.
Waiting for me on the other side of my desk was an angel I thought I’d never see again.
Hoped I’d never see again.
Cephiel rose from the desk chair and held out his hands as if to embrace me. “Amy, my dear. How are you?”