As soon as Marrok sees Olivia Gray's dark windswept hair and burning violet eyes, he's sure they've met in eons past. He's felt her soft gentle curves writhing in pleasure beneath his own hard powerful body...Morganna! For centuries, towering Marrok, once the mightiest of King Arthur's warriors, has endured a terrible curse cast upon him when he spurned the witch.
She's a modern woman about to discover ancient magic....
Olivia shares a mystical -- and irresistible -- connection with brooding Marrok. Soon after the sexy warrior appears in her erotic dreams, he abducts her, demanding she uncurse him. Their intense passion is more powerful -- and intimate -- than either of them has ever known. Olivia may be the key to unlocking the diary that will break Morganna's hold on his life. But in the wrong hands, the book also holds the power to destroy all magickind. As they search for answers, a ruthless wizard returned from exile is building an army of evil. When he discovers Marrok and Olivia have the diary, only their love -- with the help of a powerful group of magical Brethren -- can save them.
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PRESENT DAY ENGLAND
Beside the lush banks of a pond, a woman beckoned, familiar. Yet Marrok of Cadbury had never seen her face in his life.
Vivid grass and multicolored flowers rioted around her. A cityscape towered in the background. None of that held his gaze rapt. Her bare-to-the-skin nakedness and dangerous beauty did.
The woman's sable hair swept over one pale shoulder, curling under the swell of a generous breast topped by a berry nipple -- and framing a birthmark he knew well.
She no longer possessed the platinum tresses into which he'd once thrust his hands. Her new face was delicate -- higher cheekbones, pert nose, pillowy mouth -- but the siren could not disguise herself from him. Black lashes fluttered over violet eyes that had long haunted his nightmares.
Lust crashed into him, a battering ram to the gut. Need stiffened his cock. He wanted her as he never had, with a frightening desperation. Bollocks! Was he daft enough to let her lure him to further doom?
Acid hatred mixed with clawing desire. He tried to look away, but his gaze caressed her small waist, her curved hips, the moist flesh between her thighs glistening. Luminous, her smile coaxed him to touch her, challenged him to walk away.
Marrok didn't -- couldn't -- do either.
Morganna bewitched him more now than she had on their wind-drenched night of shared pleasure an eon ago. The strawberry mark low between her breasts brought back memories of pale moonlight surrounding them as he'd succumbed to temptation and tupped her senseless. For that mistake, he'd paid dearly.
With the last fifteen centuries.
Mist swirled around her like the mystical fog of legend, as if caressing her. Though she was deadly, Morganna in this new form captivated him. Today, society had clinical terms for his obsession. He cared not. Getting the treacherous bitch to release him from his hell...nothing else mattered.
With an alluring curl of her fingers, she summoned him. Marrok gritted his teeth. To yield would only mean further torture. But his body betrayed him, inching closer, his cock swelling painfully. Cursing, he closed his eyes.
If he must resist her to be free, he feared he was doomed.
Marrok opened his eyes as a fresh rush of desire slammed him. Want was a luxury; this woman he needed. The feeling was as new as a baby's first breath...and as welcome as the plague. And likely illusory, merely one of Morganna's tricks.
Though he dug his fingers into his thighs, her haunting eyes pleaded with him. Marrok very nearly surrendered to the urge to touch her.
Then she waved her hand. Suddenly, she clutched to her naked breasts the ornate red book he knew meant the difference between his life and death, and she backed away.
Marrok launched himself at her. They fell to the ground in a tangle of breaths, arms, and legs. The book fell beside them, its maddening lock still firmly closed.
Before he could grab it, she latched slender arms around his neck and arched, distracting him with her lush curves.
"Marrok, love me."
Her plea spiked his fevered lust. He ached to sink deep into her. But he had to resist this fatal woman. Somehow.
"Release me," he growled.
She clung tighter, then writhed against his erection. By God, she was wet. He was on fire for her. A heartbeat from explosion. A mere moment from forgetting how treacherous she was.
"Open the book!"
"You want me." Her whisper made him shiver.
Why deny that? A waste of time and breath.
As she wriggled under him, lightning chased across his skin. Like a fool, he thrust against her and groaned. The need to utterly possess her screamed through him. Later, he'd remember all the reasons he could not.
Marrok dropped his hands to her thighs and pried them wider. "If you tempt me thus, you will take what I give you. All I give you."
Morganna's nipples burned his chest as he lifted her legs over his arms. From one instant to the next, his clothes melted away and he poised himself at her entrance.
Groaning, he buried his face in her fragrant neck. Incredible. Inevitable. More intoxicating than ever. Marrok had sworn never to touch Morganna again -- a promise he had kept for centuries -- but now...he had to be inside her.
"Everything..." she encouraged.
As he surged forward, Morganna grabbed the book. Desire chained him; he could not move, not even to snatch it from her grasp.
With a wave of her pale hand, Morganna unlocked the volume. The cover fell open, revealing a hint of its pages, as she faded away.
"Give it to me!"
He shouted at fog. She -- and the book -- were gone.
Again, she'd used her power against him. Desire sizzled deep but he was, as ever, cursed. Desolation slashed him, leaving his soul to bleed.
His anguish made no sense. He'd never mourn Morganna's loss. He would, in fact, spit on her grave if she had one.
"I am the key." Her soft entreaty swept through the wind. "Find me."
Marrok dragged himself to his feet, suppressing a primal scream. He must hunt her. That cityscape behind the pond he recognized as London. There, he could find her. His torment would never end without that book -- and without a taste of her flesh.
Around him, something rattled. Marrok sat up with a startled gasp, his bed rumpled, eyes wide. Panting, he scanned his surroundings. Bare walls, carved bed. A sword beside his hand. Glock under his pillow.
His cottage, not a mist-draped clearing. No Morganna.
The book! Marrok whipped his gaze around. On his bedside table rested the leather-bound tome. The vehicle of his never-ending torment, the key to his freedom, was still here and still locked.
It had been but a dream.
Or perhaps a message? Though it had been centuries, Morganna had once enjoyed reaching from her exile to taunt him in sleep. He dared not disregard the message -- she had returned to this mortal realm as an ethereal brunette, able to unlock the volume and intent on thieving it.
He rose, determined to find the sorceress in her new disguise. She alone could end the torture of his ages-old existence. Shadow and torment her he would, until she granted him what he wanted most in life.
A sharp rap against the cottage's front window startled Marrok -- the same sound that had awakened him. He hadn't had a visitor in a decade, and preferred it that way. Guests were both unexpected and unwelcome.
Marrok slid the book into the safe hidden beneath loose floorboards in his bedroom, then took up his sword and stalked down the hall. As he slid around the corner, his heart raced with the anticipation of impending battle. Morning sunlight seeped through the window, illuminating dust motes and casting a human shadow onto the gleaming wooden floor.
If someone had come to take the book from him, he would greet them with bloodshed.
Marrok crept forward, crouched for attack. The shadow disappeared. A faint crunch of footsteps outside replaced the silhouette. He slipped toward the door silently, weapon in hand.
"Hey, freak of nature," a familiar male voice called from outside, punctuated by another knock. "Are you in there?"
Heaving an annoyed sigh, Marrok yanked the door open to find a nightmare nearly as bad as the one that had awakened him. Golden hair spiked above sleek brows and wicked blue eyes. A glittery Hollywood smile belied the gifted wizard's immense power. Bram Rion. Marrok groaned. Now he would never have any peace.
"Are you calling me a freak of nature? Coming from you, that is rich."
"If today is your day to conduct beheadings, count me out." Bram flashed the million-dollar smile that had seduced magickind into seeing things his way for four hundred years.
Marrok frowned and propped his sword against a nearby wall.
Bram paused outside. "Are you going to invite me past the magic circle guarding your place, or must I continue to stand on the mat?"
"If I do not?" Marrok challenged, raising a dark brow. He was heartily tempted not to. The magical coxcomb amused him at times...but Marrok didn't dare trust him.
"If you don't let me past, I can't tell you something juicy..."
Bram would not go away until he spilled his secret, though Marrok cared little what the wizard had to say. He must find Morganna in her new guise, then force, coerce, or beg her into unlocking that accursed book and setting him free.
"Enter," he huffed.
Bram stepped inside and shut the door behind him. "You look like hell. Did you sleep in yesterday's trousers?"
Marrok stared at his rumpled chinos. "Did you come all this way to be my mum?"
"If you need one...'' Bram shrugged, mischief lurking in his eyes.
"What the hell do you want? Say it and be gone," Marrok demanded, striding to his room to snatch a fresh T-shirt and old jeans out of a drawer. Then he trekked across the hall to his bathroom.
Bram followed, lingering outside after Marrok slammed the door in his face.
After donning fresh clothes, he turned to a mirror and slid a brush through his dark hair. Ancient eyes stared back at him, filled with misery, anger, and thwarted lust. He did look like hell.
"To talk to you," Bram said through the door. "You know that only something gravely important could bring me to the Creepified Forest."
"Important to magickind." Not necessarily important to him.
"Since I'm the only friend you have, it's important to you, as well."
"I have no friends." Marrok pictured Bram gritting his teeth. He smiled.
"All right, then. I am the only living being who knows of your immortality and still speaks to you."
Marrok grunted and reached for his toothbrush. "I am not interested. I must hunt."
"The local market too civilized for your Dark Ages upbringing?"
Marrok wrenched open the bathroom door, staring at Bram as if he were a bloodsucking insect. "Is magickind so starved for a comedian that you suffice?"
Bram sighed. "I really have come for a reason."
Though the wizard loved to antagonize him, Marrok knew the darling of magickind would not visit without cause.
"You will only pester me until I give in. Why are you here?"
"Because I've had a vision."
Vision. Being in the same room with anything or anyone magical was enough to give him hives. Having Bram around was like a permanent case of leprosy. "Why tell me? You must have a magical healer for this sort of thing."
"Because when it comes true, it will involve you."
"I involve myself in nothing." He shouldered past Bram and headed for the kitchen.
"And all of magickind knows it. Ever heard of the Book of Doomsday?"
"It's also called the Doomsday Diary."
His uninvited guest placed his hand on Marrok's shoulder. Immediately, he sensed a tightening under his forehead, then between the temples. Bloody hell, the bastard was trying to sneak into his thoughts. Marrok jerked away and slammed a mental door between them.
Bram reared back in surprise, speculation on his face. Clearly, humans were often unable to block him from their minds. But Marrok hadn't survived half of forever without learning a few tricks.
"Never have I heard of the accursed book by either name. Do not touch me or attempt to invade my head again, or I will slice you in two."
"It would be amusing for you to try, human." The wizard snorted. "You've never seen the book? It's red with gilt inlays, and is small, ornate, and very old."
That sounded like...Marrok shoved the thought away, lest Bram read it. No reason to add fuel to his fire.
"You do know something." Excitement revved up Bram's face. "All magickind knows of the Book of Doomsday. It's part of our folklore. I thought you might know of the book because it was created by my grandfather's nemesis."
"I did not know Merlin well. Why should I know of his enemies?"
"Well, Morganna was your lover."
Marrok grimaced. "You have confused a one-time sating of lust with a real bond."
"She's the reason you're immortal. She cursed you with the book, didn't she?"
By hell's fire, how could Bram know that? "I know naught of it."
"Shove off!" Marrok stomped to the door, opened it, and gestured with a wave.
"A moment more..." The wizard sent him a sober stare. "I want to share my vision with you."
"The future. Watch."
"Keep your visions to yourself, you droning codpiece."
Bram ignored him, grabbed his arm, and waved a hand in front of his face. A picture appeared before Marrok's eyes. He fell into it, unable to back away.
Nighttime. A darkened home, once sprawling and lovely, now decayed. A small mass of people walked toward it. Some were clad in gray robes trimmed in red. Others wore normal dress and oddly vacant stares.
Intrigued against his will, Marrok peered closer, then reeled back in shock. The people in robes dragged the others toward the house with ropes about their necks. The air of excitement surrounding the berobed was palpable.
"Who are the people dressed like friars?" he asked.
"Definitely not clergy. They're part of the Anarki."
Marrok flinched. Even in his isolation, he'd known of the chaos and fear they created in their rise to power two centuries ago.
Once inside the run-down manor, a man in robes waited in an empty room, surrounded by a circle of flickering candles. His face obscured, he hovered over the still body of a naked man who, if human, looked to be about thirty.
"Who lies there?" Marrok asked Bram.
Even a seasoned warrior like Marrok shuddered at the name. Mathias was the magical equivalent of Genghis Khan, Caligula, Vlad Dracula, and Hannibal Lecter rolled into one. Cruel, clever, hedonistic, rapacious. Brilliantly evil. A wizard of great power and no conscience, Mathias wouldn't be happy until everyone in his path was either enslaved or dead.
"What are the Anarki about?" Marrok hissed.
As the group entered the shadowed room, they formed a circle around the candles, pushing some of the entranced people inside, closer to Mathias, who lay still as death.
The robed wizard who had been waiting stood at Mathias's head and raised his arms. "We, the Deprived, have waited centuries for this night. The Privileged will hear our thunder and feel only terror until they give us all they've denied our kind. Until the 'Social Order' laws prohibiting any with 'undesirable' traits and bloodlines from holding vital positions are dissolved, they will know war and pain and death. They do not know that we, the faithful, have waited for salvation. Tonight, our patience will be rewarded."
A cheer went up from those in robes. The others were silent.
From a distant part of the house, a clock chimed low and loud, gong, gong, gong...Twelve times. The room seemed to hold its collective breath. Then silence.
Mathias's eyes opened wide.
Around him, the candles flickered. His followers gasped. The ceremony leader knelt, then whispered reverently, "You've returned!"
"My faithful Anarki..." Mathias's voice was thin and strained. "My sleeping draught fooled the Brethren but you believed in me. They thought me dead?"
"Very much so," the first replied.
"Excellent. Did they all pass into their nextlife?"
"Within days of your sleep."
"Your father served me well." Mathias smiled. "You have brought me what I need?"
Zain nodded eagerly, then stepped around the circle, wending through the unresponsive bodies in street clothes. Finally, he grabbed a paunchy, middle-aged man and a young woman with blond ringlets in a cotton dressing gown and thrust them forward.
"Lovely. MacKinnetts?" Mathias asked.
"Yes. The Council member's brother and his untransitioned daughter. You must be starved."
Mathias nodded. "Indeed. Take the woman to my chamber. I will see to her very soon."
A robed servant did so. Marrok, watching, held his breath.
Groaning and straining, Mathias rolled to one side, facing the older man. Reaching for the center of his chest, Mathias snapped. The man blinked and gasped, then opened alert eyes.
"Oh good God!" He tried to scramble back. "You!"
"Me." Mathias smiled weakly.
Two others in robes caught the old man.
"Shall we hold him?" one asked, his voice shaking with enthusiasm to serve.
"Yes. We must prove that the order of magickind is changing."
The MacKinnett continued to resist as Mathias struggled to his feet, then gripped the man's throat.
"No. No!" The man scratched out. "Please..."
"Shut up! Were I not so starved for energy, I would draw out your punishment. Your anger and fear will provide me a bit. Your niece, with her young, ripe body, will provide me much more. Delicious."
"Please, no," MacKinnett babbled. "Auropha is a sweet girl with her whole life ahead of her. She knows nothing of peril or pain -- "
"Then I'd best see to her education."
Beside him, Mathias peered at the MacKinnett lord. With a feral grin, he laid a hand across the man's chest.
Immediately, MacKinnett started screaming. A film of blood oozed from his pores, seeping through his yellow shirt. He turned white, kicking and flailing. Then his eyes rolled to the back of his head. He slumped over, dead.
With a wave, Zain removed the older man's shirt, and Mathias's mark spread across his entire chest like a series of infected boils.
"A job well done," Mathias said to Zain. Now I will adjourn upstairs and restore myself fully with the girl. Her fear and rage will intoxicate me with power."
"Dear God, he's going to kill the girl as he did her uncle?" Marrok asked, appalled.
"A death like her uncle's would be kindness. What she will endure will be worse. Much worse."
Marrok looked at all the berobed followers standing about. "Will no one help her?"
"Who? The Deprived of magickind are 'punishing her' because she is Privileged. Mathias will use her to re-energize his magic and make an example of her."
Recoiling, Marrok reached for his sword. He had never condoned the rape and torture of innocents in battle. Mathias must be stopped. But when he rose to his feet, Bram pulled him back down.
"You can't race into my vision. It hasn't happened yet. Watch. There's more to see."
"The MacKinnett chit is a spitfire," Zain said to Mathias. "She will give you a great deal of energy."
"Excellent. Tomorrow, send the dead to their family. It's time for the Privileged to know their worst nightmare has returned."
"I will see to it."
"And the other matter?"
"We're still looking."
"I must have that book. With it, what I can do is nearly limitless."
"The Anarki will do whatever it takes. I vow it."
The vision turned black. Bram released Marrok slowly. He blinked, returning to the here and now.
Then he glared at Bram. "Bloody hell! You say that has not yet come to pass?"
Marrok released a relieved breath. "Then it may not.You have no proof."
"Except the fact I've never been wrong in my life."
Marrok prayed that was an overconfident boast and resented the horror Bram had made him feel for the brutalized MacKinnetts. "Why do you imagine I care?"
"This problem is going to knock on your door. Soon."
"Because Mathias seeks this Doomsday Diary, which you think I possess?"
"Yes. No other book would give him half so much power. With it, all he must do is write his destructive wishes on a blank page to bring about any tragedy he wants -- even Doomsday itself."
Perhaps Bram told the truth...and perhaps he'd created the horrific scene to manipulate Marrok into releasing the book so he could use it for his own ends. Everyone knew Bram was an ambitious knave. Mathias would first have to unlock the book to be able to use it...but as magical as he was, maybe he could.
"Certainly you can see that finding and safeguarding the book is imperative," Bram went on. "Will you help me?"
"Mathias is magical, as are you. Cast a spell to ensure he can do no harm."
"Nice thought, but magic doesn't work like that. Mathias is born of a powerful bloodline with a strong tendency to produce sociopaths. As you saw, he gorges on others' pain and terror -- even forced pleasure. Those facts make him very strong. And if he returns, he has magical defenses we can only guess at. Please. Give me the book."
Marrok grabbed him by his prissy Ralph Lauren collar and shoved him against the wall.
He did not trust the wizard for an instant. As Merlin's grandson, he was packed with powerfully magical genes. Marrok did not subscribe to the theory that his enemy's enemy was his friend. "Speak no more of the book to me or you will feel my blade in your belly!"
Bram shrugged out of his hold and straightened his shirt, clearly undeterred.
"I'll take that as a no. Pity. A lot of people are going to die. But then, you see death as a blessing, don't you?"
"Even if the book were within my grasp, why would I give it to you?"
"Because it will save you pain. Mathias will come for you once he realizes you possess it." Bram crossed into the living area, where he sank into an overstuffed chair, propping booted feet on the table.
Marrok clenched his jaw. "I know naught."
"Play dumb if you want, then." Bram flashed a brittle smile. "But I have another reason for coming here. There's someone I want you to meet, the owner of a new art gallery."
Socializing was the last thing he had time for with Morganna returned from exile. "Nay."
"This is a stellar opportunity. The place is called A Touch of Magic." Swinging his feet to the ground, he leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees. "It's very fresh, and recently opened -- "
"Naught you say of that interests me. I need a ride to London."
"You? Facing civilization? Willingly?" Bram's jaw hit his chest.
"I seek a woman."
"Planning to test the limits of your curse again?"
How did Bram know of that? Nosy coxcomb. Marrok resisted the urge to tear the wizard's head off -- barely. "Shut your mouth before I shut it for you."
Bram laughed. "The last woman you took to your bed disappeared for two days. That was a decade ago, wasn't it?"
"Not another word."
Crossing his arms over his chest again, Bram smiled. "I hear you astound humans and put even magical men to shame. But you're never quite...satisfied, are you?"
Marrok refused to admit to Bram that he could not find satisfaction in sex, no matter how many women he bedded, how many orgasms he gave, or how close he came to achieving his own release. It would only give the wizard something new with which to torment him.
"When you meet the gallery's owner, you may want to try your luck again. Olivia Gray already loves your carvings and she is quite dishy. Her magical signature is...interesting."
"She's one of your kind? Absolutely not! I seek one woman in particular."
"Oh, this is intriguing. You actually know a woman? You haven't left this place in years. Did you meet her in a 'hot babes' chat room?"
Again, Bram clapped him on the shoulder, and Marrok felt the wizard trying to steal into his thoughts. Wrenching away, he marched to the sword, lifted the weapon and whipped it through the air with a menacing whoosh. "Cease your infernal invasion!"
Bram inched back. "Tell me about this woman. Maybe I can help."
The only help Bram would ever give him was a push into hell. "I know what she looks like, if not the name she uses now. I will find her."
"Hmm. Old flame?"
Old flame, old enemy. "Take me to London."
"I'll take you wherever you wish to go." Bram paused. "After you meet Olivia. She's very interested in your art, and I promised her an introduction."
Marrok reined in his frustration, wishing Bram would choose another day to be difficult. Or better yet, another target. His dream, the omen that could set him free, had finally arrived. Morganna was running loose somewhere in London. He would make the witch release him from hell.
"Antagonizing me amuses you, but I will not play today."
"That's my offer. Take it or leave it." Bram shrugged, looking totally unapologetic. "Unless you want to hand over the book?"
Gripping the sword tighter, Marrok arched a brow. The damn Book of Doomsday wasn't leaving his possession until he discerned exactly how he must use it to end his curse. There was just one way, according to Morganna, and he would find it.
Besides, putting the bloody thing in the hands of someone magical was putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.
"Guess not." Bram smiled tightly. "In that case, I hope you enjoy meeting Ms. Gray. I've shown her a few pictures of the pieces you sold in the past. She's very impressed. I've already arranged a meeting for you two this morning. Won't take long. Then the rest of the day is yours." When Marrok resisted, Bram added, "Come now, you must have pieces to sell."
Aye. In the last three months, he'd carved his best work ever. Marrok's gaze cut across the room to rest on a three-foot rendering of King Arthur and his enemy Mordred locked in mortal combat. Merlin and Morganna each hovered behind their champions, spinning magic to help their knights win.
Crossing the floor to the sculpture, Marrok stared at the angles of Morganna's wooden likeness. Fear, fury, and a flash of desire tightened his gut. How could he have been so foolish as to tangle with that magical bitch?
Soon it would end. Today, he would hunt her down and demand answers, even if he had to wring them from her pretty neck. He was unsure where to begin the search, but somehow he knew this feeling, her looming presence, would guide him.
Prying his gaze from the carving, he turned to the door. "Fifteen minutes. No more."
"Smashing. But until you give me the Doomsday Diary..." Bram grinned, "I'm your new best friend."
As soon as Bram parked three blocks off of Oxford Street, Marrok bolted from the hated automobile's small confines. Warriors did not travel in motorized death traps, by God.
They trekked through the gloom of London's gray morning to a narrow little shop, where a purple sign flashed A Touch of Magic. With a cynical grunt, Marrok stared through the picture window. A clay rendering of Pegasus took up most of the display space. He studied the piece critically. The sculpture had symmetry, but lacked life and movement.
As Bram opened the door, an electronic chime heralded their arrival. Two steps later, a wave of musky incense slammed his senses. That and the strains of a passionate ballad surged through him. Across his skin awarness burned and tingled.
A woman had recently stood here. An enticing mix of light perfume over natural scent told him thus. He inhaled peaches and vanilla.
The clatter of beads in a doorway at the back of the store brought his gaze across the room. A woman emerged, carrying an armload of boxes. He caught a glimpse of windswept dark hair and a fragile profile before she turned to deposit the load on the counter along the back wall.
Familiar movements seized his breath.
Marrok willed the woman to face him. Instead, she unpacked, swaying in time with the Celtic tune piping through the room. A dangerous slash of desire sliced his gut.
"Olivia?" Bram called above the music.
She turned and smiled at the wizard.
The sight was an invisible fist slamming into Marrok.
"Bram, thanks for coming by." Her distinctly American voice rang in Marrok's head as she shut off the music. "I know you're busy. Did you get my message last week?"
"I did. Sorry. I haven't heard anything more about your father. I'll ask again. Nothing new from the investigator?"
Her shoulders slumped. "No, just an address for a crazy man who claims to be nearly five hundred years old. I'll keep looking. I moved here to find him, and I'm not giving up."
As if just realizing they weren't alone, Olivia peeked around Bram at Marrok. The welcome on her face faltered, fell. She covered lush lips with her hand and stared as if the sight of him shocked her.
He could hardly be more shocked himself. Delicate cheeks, a slightly pointed chin, and those bloody haunting eyes.
Morganna's eyes in the face from this morning's dream. Recognition jolted his every nerve.
She looked back at Bram. "Is this...?"
"Of course. I told you I'd deliver."
Bram shoved him toward her. Normally, he'd growl at the wizard for touching him. Today, his attention was fixed on Olivia.
Or rather, Morganna. The one woman who could end his curse.
He had not believed she could make herself as beautiful as the woman in his dream. He had underestimated his opponent. That alone made her more deadly, to say nothing of the power she had surely gathered over the centuries. She looked so young, barely twenty. Though her youth was an illusion, she made him feel ancient.
Bram turned to him. "Marrok, this is Olivia Gray."
She paused. Her hand dropped from her mouth, and she bit her bottom lip. For such calculated hesitation, the gesture looked natural. But Morganna never displayed vulnerability without a trap looming close behind.
Finally, she extended her hand to him. Marrok stared, wanting nothing less than to touch her -- and nothing more. A film of sweat broke out across his skin. Oh, how she must be laughing.
But the centuries had taught Marrok to play her game.
Pasting on a shark's smile, he enfolded her hand in his. Electricity shot across his palm, up his arm, rocking him to his soul. In that instant, his cock hardened. Blast it all, with one small touch she bewitched him, exactly like his dream...
Olivia's eyes widened. Grim satisfaction seeped through him.
She quickly withdrew her hand. "I -- it's nice to meet you. Bram has told me about you. Actually, about your talent," she clarified. "The pictures I've seen are very impressive."
Morganna had never cared about his carving, only for his reputation on the battlefield and in the bedroom. This pretense of interest infuriated him. What game did the witch play?
Looking flustered, she glanced Bram's way.
"Where is that piece you brought?" Bram asked him.
He'd been so focused on Morganna, he had forgotten it. "In your car."
Bram's gaze bounced from Marrok to Olivia, then back again.
"Well, then, I'll...go get it. You two get acquainted."
The door chime signaling Bram's departure sounded loudly in the room's silence. But Olivia never looked away from Marrok. Her heart zoomed into hyperspeed.
He stared as if he knew her, could see inside her. As if he were utterly aware that, just that morning, she had dreamed of being naked and wet for him, begging for his touch.
When his sharp perusal swept down her body, she had the distinct impression Marrok knew he'd starred in her erotic fantasy. His scrutiny didn't seem sexual...exactly. Still, she flushed and tingled in some interesting places.
He didn't return the interest, of course. Most men weren't aroused by an odd-looking woman with nearly-black hair and purple eyes who resembled an extra from an Elvira Halloween spectacular. Doutful that a prime male like Marrok would be enticed by her.
He stood at least six feet four. His door-frame-wide shoulders bulged, straining the seams of his black T-shirt. The fists bunched at his sides were huge. A shaggy mane of dark hair framed his haunted, hollow-cheeked face, accented by a neatly-trimmed goatee and unfathomable blue-gray eyes. His mouth twisted in a mysterious smile, as if he knew he made her nervous.
Olivia restrained the urge to toy with the bangles on her wrist. Marrok was a temperamental artist. Period. She owned an art gallery, her dream since she'd been a moody teenager living a nomadic life with her cold, overprotective mother. If she wanted to keep this place afloat, she'd better stop mooning and do business.
"I'd like to carry your carvings here," she said. "I think you have a great deal of talent. I could help you make a tidy sum."
He raised a dark, disquieting brow. "Money does not interest me."
Really? "Prestige, then? Recognition. Is that what you want?"
He stepped closer, loomed above her. If his aim was to intimidate her with his sheer size...score. One of his biceps was as thick as her thigh.
"I do not seek recognition." His tone was dangerous and rough.
She'd never been so aware of being alone with a man. Of course, she'd never dreamed of being naked and aching for a major hunk, then meeting him in the flesh. But they were here for business; she had to concentrate.
Suppressing a shiver, she squared her shoulders. "You must want something in exchange for your work. Tell me what, and I'll -- "
"You know what I want."
He clamped large, heated fingers around her hips. An unexpected rush of energy burst through her, like she'd been jolted with a live wire. Scary. Sexual. He couldn't mean it to be.
Her head snapped back. Those pale eyes, framed by thick black lashes, drew her without mercy. His scent, woodsy and wild, went straight to her knees.
Damn it, she didn't know him, and he was touching her. Why wasn't she afraid? Or at least annoyed by the one-sided lust she felt?
"No, I don't."
His fingers tightened, and he brought her closer. Their bodies brushed, his heat crashing into her. Was he...? Yes, erect. Oh God.
Maybe the lust wasn't one-sided...Shocked to her toes, she raised a shaking hand to his chest to ward him off. He was like living, breathing stone. Everywhere.
"Stop," she breathed.
His mouth sharpened into a dangerous slash. "Stop what?"
"Touching me." Confusing me. "Don't."
Marrok released her. Almost magically, the spell over her senses lifted. Energy seeped from her body in a rush. Common sense and anger returned.
"We're discussing business." She tried for hard-nosed professional, not trembling virgin. "I'm offering to sell your work and give you half the profits. But that does not give you the right to put your hands on me."
Frankly, she was stunned that he wanted to.
Crossing his arms over his massive chest, Marrok sent her a contemplative stare. "Touching you was a mistake."
Of course it had been.
The door chime sounded, startling Olivia. She jerked her gaze around as Bram entered, silently damning the fact he'd returned sixty seconds too late.
"Found the carving," Bram called victoriously, gripping a wooden statue Olivia couldn't see around his big hands. "Looked all over the car, forgetting we'd stashed it in the boot."
Neither responded to Bram. Olivia knew she should reach for the carving, but she watched Marrok warily. His eyes were riveted on her, blazing. Anger, and something else -- lust? -- bled from him. The combination was bleak, powerful, inexplicable, impossible...She stepped back.
"Now that you've heard my offer, shall we do business?" Olivia asked.
Marrok leaned close once more. "I would rather bed down with the devil. I trust him more."
Turning on one heel, he crossed the room and flung the door open. The chime sounded, drowned out by the door crashing against the wall. Olivia jumped as Marrok stalked outside.
She frowned. Had he been shafted by a gallery owner before? Or did he resent the fact that, for a moment he'd found the unusal woman arousing? That possibility shouldn't hurt anymore...but it did.
"That's bloody odd," Bram exclaimed. "What did you argue about?"
"I don't know."
Bram frowned, handing her the carving. "Here, take this. I'll have a chat with him. No worries."
Olivia started to tell Bram not to bother. Then she looked at the carving in her hand. A fawn. She could swear that, at any moment, she would see its legs wobble as it learned to walk. Its soulful eyes amazed her. Marrok's talent...wow. And this was just a tiny slice of it. She closed her mouth.
He would thrill art lovers. It didn't matter if she disquieted him. Thankfully, she was used to artists' quirks. She'd place his work on her shelves...or her business would soon go under. She needed that money to stay in England, to pay the detective and find the father she'd never met. Once she discovered what motivated Marrok, she'd work with him -- no matter how difficult.
"Perfect. I want to see him again, as soon as possible."
Copyright © 2008 by Shelley Bradley LLC
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Hot and sexy! Great story. Full of magical adventure, humor and out of this world sex! Too bad, there isn't any fifteenth century warriors or wizards around. Youza...baby!
This was so hot & sensual. The story line was so easy to follow & I could not help myself but keep reading it. I get so sad when it is over. lol Absolutely loved it.
I've got a library full of her books. When you think hot, sexual, sensual, romantic, thrilling, etc. Shelley Bradley/Shayla Black books come to mind!
Great follow up to 50 Shades. Really enjoyed it!
Book was awesome, characters fantastic. Couldn't put it down! I have read two more books by Shayla Black, highly recommended
While I have enjoyed her other books, both those written under the name Shelley Bradley and Shayla Black, this one disappoints. You will definitely enjoy this book if you have short-term memory loss or if you just adore shows like CSI, where they must assume the viewers are too stupid to follow along. Just like CSI or any "reality" show, this book will sum up what just happened in the paragraph or chapter before. And the author keeps doing it. Yes, it is an interesting premise that the protagonist is a descendant of Morgan le Fay. Yes, it is interesting that the man she is romantically interested in was cursed by Morgan le Fay. But do you need to be reminded of that every few pages? There exists a book full of spells that will possibly undo this curse. I understood that the first time I read it. The twentieth time I read it, it was just annoying. It is as though the author had an interesting story idea, but was required to fill a certain number of pages, so she repeated herself, to the detriment of the story. Read every other page and you will completely understand the story and perhaps, even, enjoy it.
Enjoyable premise for a series. This is the first book by this author and book 1 in her Doomsday Brethren series. I enjoyed the magic, Merlin, Morganna le Fey connection. The hero was a dark and scarred man who didn't trust anything magic related and that included descendants of Morganna. Olivia is also scarred, raised by a mother who never let her forget that she was a duty and wasn't truly loved. Olivia moves to London to find her father after her mother dies and meets Marrok. From the get go, they have trust issues to deal with and their unintentional mating doesn't help the situation. In fact, it makes everything worse. For the majority of the book, they fight doubts about the other. Will she betray him like Morganna did? Can he truly love someone like her or is he using her to break his curse so he can die? While they deal with that emotional back and forth, they must fight an evil that has resurfaced and band Magickind together so they can succeed. Battles ensue, zombies appear, passions flair, friendships are made, and the villains are revealed. I enjoyed it. At times her internal struggle to trust Marrok's reasons of being with her got exhausting. She needed to flat out lay her cards down and ask him: do you still want to die and is that the only reason you remain with me. If she had they could have cut the emotional seesaw in half. Now I understand why it wasn't done sooner. He needed to be forced to see that he loved her but I would have liked a little bit more communication between them. The villain is horrible, Black does a great job making him reprehensible and evil to the core, which makes the conflict stronger and more unbelievable. The conflict and plot are steady. I enjoyed the story overall and will continue with the series but I did at times get bored with it. On a side note, I was dealing with Hurricane Matthew the last several days and all that goes along with dealing with a large storm, so that could have colored my ability to get truly engrossed with this story. My family and I are good, no serious damage. We lost power for about 36 hours but that was the worst of it, besides the stress building up to and then dealing with it hitting the coast of Florida.
A great book. :)
Enjoyed the love story & liked olivias character. recommend