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Sex and the Single Witch

(Excerpt)

Ariel took another bite of the moist chocolate cake. The rich, velvety frosting clung to her fork, and she licked it off slowly, reveling in its intense flavor. Though Ariel’s three-year-old niece was ordinarily a chatterbox, she didn’t use words to ask for another bite. Since she had been a baby, she had made a hand sign using the index and middle fingers of her right hand tapping against the palm of her left hand to indicate she wanted more. Ariel wasn’t sure if this was a sign of precociousness or if it made her niece the next Coco the Gorilla. Probably, like her Aunt Ariel, Rhiannon’s love for food was such that she didn’t want to have to stop chewing to speak. Using sign language meant she could keep stuffing her face without pause.

Ariel fed her niece another bite of cake. Rhiannon squealed with delight, her blond curls bouncing, her cheeks as pink as peonies.

Ariel used the bottom of her fork to press down on the last bits of cake, creating a bond that lifted the crumbs from the plate so she could lick them off the fork in a civilized manner rather than giving the plate a tongue bath as she would have done in the privacy of her home. Ariel closed her eyes and savored the last little bite of the soft, spongy cake. It tasted like heaven. The setting of the rapturous delight was less than celestial, however—they sat in the middle of an old-school diner with worn black-and-black checkered floors, Formica tables, and battered red stools. The smell of grease hung thickly in the room.

“Rhiannon, try to get the plate to come to you without using your hands,” Ariel coaxed. She hoped to see some signs of magical talent in Rhiannon. Ariel didn’t want to be the last witch in the Merrill family clan, and Rhiannon was her last hope. Rhiannon’s mother, Faith, showed no inclination toward witchcraft whatsoever. Neither did Faith’s oldest daughter, Penny. With all the inter-marrying, the family knack for magic had become more and more diluted with each generation. Even Ariel’s abilities were weak, despite her best efforts to strengthen them. She wanted to train her niece from a young age to help her grow into her full witch potential.

Rhiannon looked at her aunt with her face scrunched in confusion. She reached for the plate.

“No, don’t use your hands. Just think about how you want the plate to come to you.”

Rhiannon made an adorable expression, a face that asked, what does this crazy lady want with me? But then she stared at the plate for a moment, clearly lost in thought. Ariel watched the plate hopefully. It was trembling, wasn’t it? Maybe? Maybe? Maybe not. Damn.

Ariel sighed and wiped the tell-tale crumbs from her niece’s mouth. Faith would not appreciate that Ariel had fed Rhiannon chocolate for dinner, but Ariel was doing her sister a favor by babysitting, after all, and anyway it really wasn’t her fault. She always got severe chocolate cravings before an art opening. Her third show was coming up, and her nerves were thoroughly rattled. She had never sold a piece of her work, and if she didn’t sell something soon, she wasn’t sure a gallery owner would give her another opportunity to display her work. This could be her last chance.

Ariel nodded at the waitress when she dropped off the bill. Ariel reached for her wallet to pay, and that’s when she saw him.

He was gorgeous, with dark brown eyes and thick dark hair. There was something about his eyes and expression that Ariel found captivating. His appeal wasn’t a tingly, tear-the-clothes-off-my-body-and-do-me now feeling. It wasn’t simply about lust, it was about being instantly drawn to him, overwhelmingly intrigued to get to know him better.

It took her a moment to realize that she was staring. Her entire body was frozen with a powerful electric surge of desire. She forced herself to look away and peel a five-dollar bill from her wallet. Casually, she glanced back at him again, unable to stop herself. He was sitting with another man. Whatever they were talking about must have been funny, because Hunk kept smiling a heart-meltingly sexy smile.

You should go introduce yourself. You’re a witch. Witches aren’t passive. They go after what they want. They make things happen.

She considered ways to get him to notice her. He was only a few tables away. Maybe she could create a minor windstorm from her table to his, gusting napkins in his direction so he’d be distracted from his conversation and look her way. Ariel strained her memory to recall the spell to conjure the wind. How did that go again? She remembered the words “gale” and “sail” and “commence”—she just needed to remember how to string them together in the proper phrases. After reviewing the spell in her mind a couple times, she closed her eyes and in a quiet voice said, “Attention northern gale, kick up your sluggish sail. I bid you come hence, with forceful currents do now commence.”

Immediately the door to the restaurant thundered open and careened with a loud crash into the wall as a veritable tornado of wind blustered through the dining area. The wind was far stronger than Ariel had intended. Oops. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to say “forceful”? What was the correct word? Damn! She couldn’t remember. She gripped the table with one hand so she didn’t go flying away and hugged her frightened niece to her side as chairs went toppling over, dishes became airborne, and the plate from Ariel’s cake went tumbling through the air—landing on Hunk’s head.

Just as abruptly the wind stopped when a quick-thinking waitress managed to shut the door. Ariel watched in mortified horror as Hunk peeled the plate from his head, cake crumbs and sticky remnants of icing clotting in clumps in his otherwise gorgeous hair.

Ariel leapt up, holding her niece to her side like a koala bear clinging to its mother. She took a moment to sooth down her hair that had been whipped up into something resembling a wind-blown haystack. She straightened out her tight red button-up shirt and rushed to his table.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

Hunk, looking a little stunned for a moment, smiled, then chuckled lightly. “I’m fine. What was that?”

“That was the weirdest thing,” Hunk’s friend said.

“Yeah, huh,” Ariel said, with less poetry than she would have liked. “I’m so sorry about your hair. That’s our plate that landed on your head.”

“No problem. That’s what shampoo is for,” he said, fishing out little pieces of cake and icing with his fingers. “Anyway, it’s not like it’s your fault.”

Ariel didn’t say anything for a moment. Then, remembering herself, she said, “Right. Well, I’m glad you’re okay. My name is Ariel Merrill, by the way. This is my niece Rhiannon.”

Hunk nodded distractedly at her—he was busy trying to extricate the icing from his cranium.

“I wish there was a way I could make it up to you. Maybe . . . do you like wine?” she said.

“Huh?” Hunk asked.

“Wine, the drink, do you like it?”

“Yeah, sure, of course,” Hunk said, confused.

“Me too,” Friend of Hunk said.

“I’m an artist and I’m having an art opening on Friday night at the MacLean Gallery. They’ll be free wine and cheese, so it’s kind of fun if you don’t have anything else to do. Both of you are welcome to come.”

Hunk smiled at her. “That sounds like it could be cool.”

“Art?” Friend of Hunk asked, looking at Ariel askance, as if trying to determine if she’d suffered a head injury of some sort.

Hunk seemed amused by her. Amused wouldn’t do. She wanted him to be insane with lust for her, or at least interested enough to come to her art opening and get to know her better. She had to think of a love spell or a charm to cast on him, but right now her mind was completely blank. Damn her pathetic short-term memory! Ariel closed her eyes for a moment, deep in concentration, trying to will the words to the spell from the deepest recesses of her memory.

When she opened her eyes, Ariel looked from Hunk to Friend of Hunk, noticing that they were both staring at her chest. She looked down to see that the top two buttons on her blouse had come undone, and her entire right breast was exposed for the world to see.

“Boobie,” Rhiannon announced sagely as she poked her fingers into Ariel’s breast, pointing to her find like an archaeologist would display a prize dinosaur bone he’d excavated. Quickly Ariel pulled her shirt closed and tried to re-button it one-handed at the same time she was busy dying of shame.

She was mortified. On the upside, maybe this meant her niece did have magical abilities—Rhiannon had made her aunt’s blouse almost disappear, after all.

“Right then. Maybe I’ll see you Friday. I’m going to go die of humiliation now.” Ariel gave a weak smile and carried her niece out of the restaurant as fast as she could walk without actually breaking into a full-blown sprint.

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