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Dunning Manor, Book 1
Under His Wing
She had to convince him to meet her at the site in the woods that they’d set up – the sooner, the better.
“Wait,” Thomas said when she reached for the car door. “I have something for you.” He pulled a large tiger-eye pendant out of a pocket, hanging from a thick dark silver chain.
“Wear this. It will protect you when I can’t.” He held the chain in both hands and she ducked her head so he could put it on. She felt the weight of the stone settle over her heart, and an almost electric buzz settled under her skin, like a force field of sorts.
“It tingles,” she said, rubbing the smooth stone between her fingers as she held it up for a closer look.
He nodded. “Druid magic. You have the instructions for him?”
“Right here.” She retrieved the piece of paper from her purse and waved it at him.
“Then go. Call out if you need me, and I’ll get to you as fast as I can. The amulet will protect you until then.”
She opened the car door, and then at the last minute turned back and grabbed the collar of Thomas’s shirt, pulling him in for a quick, hard kiss. Surprised as he was, he kissed her back, and she smiled as she pulled away.
“For luck,” she murmured, and then got out of the car and strode toward the garage, hoping she looked more confident than she felt.
The bell above the door rang loud as she let herself in, and she could see Peter bent under an open hood in the first bay of the work space. Her skin crawled as she approached him, and the amulet grew warmer against her heart, a reassuring sensation.
Peter stood, a grin spreading across his lips as he recognized her, and he wiped ineffectively at the grease on his hands with a red rag.
“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in. Need a lube job, sweetheart? You know I’m happy to service you for free anytime.”
Katie fought back the gag reflex and tried to stay focused on the reason she’d come.
“Are you still interested in using me for your artwork?” She cocked her head to the side, doing her best to look curious rather than repulsed. Holding out the piece of paper, she watched the interest flare in his eyes as he took it from her.
“What’s this?” He opened it and scanned the contents, then met her gaze again. “Directions?”
She nodded. “I have something set up for us there. A gift, of sorts. Will you meet me later tonight?”
Peter frowned. “What about your new boy-toy? He doesn’t seem to like me much…”
Katie shrugged. “He’s out of the picture. This is just…us. Will you come?”
Peter chuckled. “Sure. But if you want to make art, darlin’, we don’t have to wait. In fact, let me show you something over here.” He moved away, deeper into the double bay of the garage, and she followed, keeping her distance from him. When he stopped next to one of the oil pumps, she stayed back several feet, knowing it was folly to trust him.
Holding the pump in one hand, he took a lighter out of his pocket with the other, and smiled, wiggling his eyebrows.
Squeezing the handle, he started dispensing oil onto the cement floor between them, and then he flicked the lighter to life, setting the oil stream on fire.
The burst was so hot it forced Katie backwards, and she teetered on the edge of the second work pit before catching her balance as Peter laughed. He swirled the oil-fed flames around in patterns, looking as comfortable as a gymnast with a ribbon as Katie slowly backed toward the exit.
“Leaving so soon, Katie-girl? But we’re only getting started!”
“Meet me tonight,” she called out above the roar of the flames. And then she pushed out the door and ran all the way back to the car.
Sweating from heat and nerves, she slid behind the wheel and peeled away from the curb, needing to put as much distance between that monster and herself as quickly as possible. She could feel Thomas staring.
“Is he coming tonight?” Thomas asked, the calm tone of his voice helping to calm her own nerves.
She nodded. “He’ll be there.”