She found the phone on one of the end tables, not far from where they’d been sitting on the floor. She dialed the number, knowing Grammy would somehow be expecting her call. Grammy could be a little weird that way. She always seemed to know when one of her grandchildren needed her.

 

She wasn’t wrong. “Hello, Alannah.”

 

She couldn’t help but smile. “Hi, Grammy. Do you know anything about a wizard family named Beckett?” Grammy’s gasp was answer enough. The smile fled from Lana’s face. “Am I in danger?”

 

“No! Don’t…don’t leave. You’re safe where you are.”

 

Lana pulled the phone away from her ear and studied it. Huh. Grammy sounds almost excited. “Grams. He’s a wizard.”

 

“Sweetheart, trust me. No one will protect you better than…what did you say his name was?”

 

“Christopher.”

 

“Christopher Beckett.”

 

“Yes. Gram, somehow I knew his name. How could I know his name?”

 

“I knew this day would come, just not exactly when. You see, you answered the call.”

 

“What call?”

 

“He’s coming back. Hang up the phone and settle down. Call me in the morning.” And Grammy hung up, leaving Lana more confused than ever.

 

Lana hung up the phone and settled down in front of the fireplace, her mind reeling. Why was Christopher Beckett so much more trustworthy than any other wizard? And why had Grammy sounded happy that she’d fallen into wizard hands?

 

No. Not wizard hands. Beckett hands.

 

She watched him stroll into the room, two mugs cradled in his hands, and damn near whimpered. She’d never thought a man’s walk could be an act of seduction before. Christopher’s seemed designed to remind her of what lay under those jeans.

 

Like she needed reminding. The sight was forever burned into her retinas. She had the feeling her last words on this earth would be something along the lines of “Ooh, naked.”

 

“Here you are.” He handed her a mug before settling down right next to her.

 

Sneaky dog. “Thank you.” She took a sip and nearly orgasmed on the spot. “Holy mama.”

 

His smile was smug. “Good?”

 

“What did you put in here, liquid sex?”

 

He sputtered, hot chocolate spraying all over his hands.

 

She pounded on his back, trying to ease him through the coughing fit. “Sorry.”

 

“No, it’s all right. It was just the image of how I would accomplish that.” He shook his head, picking up his discarded towel and beginning the process of cleaning up the spilled chocolate. “You have to be one of the most unusual females I’ve ever met.”

 

“Yeah, well, I’m not the one who howls at the full moon, buster.” She put the mug down and hugged the blanket closer around her body. “Speaking of which, you were going to explain it to me?”

 

He finished wiping his hands off on the towel. “Yes, I was.”

 

She waved her hand at him. “So? Spill.” Give me a reason to trust you other than Grammy.

 

“I think we’ve had enough spills tonight.”

 

“Har har. Funny man.”

 

He sighed. “Long ago, Andrew Beckett, my ancestor, managed to piss off a witch.”

 

Uh-oh.

 

“The long story short? He’d agreed to marry her, then changed his mind when another, more ‘suitable’ woman appeared.” The way his fingers made little air quotations was kind of cute. “The witch, angry over being jilted, cursed the entire Beckett family.”

 

“Why?” His story sounded sort of familiar. Where had she heard it before?

 

“Who knows why witches do anything? She chose to curse the entire line, and to this day, Becketts turn into the wolf.”

 

“It doesn’t seem like much of a curse to me.” She took another sip of chocolate.

 

“Andrew ate his bride six months after she gave birth to their son.”

 

She made a disgusted face. “Ew.”

 

“His son, knowing what had happened, tried to break the curse.”

 

“And?”

 

Christopher shuddered. “Let’s just say we’re lucky he procreated first since the counter–spell, instead of tearing the wolf from him, sort of tore his insides from his outsides.”

 

“Double ew.”

 

His son was determined to find a way to live with the beast. He discovered that, under the right circumstances, he could control the change. Gradually, with each generation, the curse became something different until we could live together with the wolf in peace.”

 

“So the curse became a blessing.”

 

“But not without a price.”

 

“What kind of price?” She yawned, the warmth of the fire and the decadence of the chocolate lulling her. Even the storm, so loud an hour ago, had subsided to a pounding rain, soothing her senses.

 

He took the mug from her hand. “Sleep. Perhaps in the morning you’ll be ready to hear the remainder of the story.”

 

Sleep sounds…good…

 

 

 

Christopher caught her before her head hit the carpet. A simple sleeping draught mixed with the late hour and the strain she’d been under had done its work. It would be morning before she could leave his side. He just hoped whoever she called was willing to leave her in his care.

 

He couldn’t let her go. Not yet. Not until he’d made her his. Definitely not before he’d dealt with the threat Cole represented. He barely knew her and already he would sacrifice his own life to keep her safe. She would learn that she could trust him with her very soul.

 

He picked her up, marveling at the warm weight of the woman in his arms. The scent of apples was now mixed enticingly with the scent of the chocolate, calling to him, seducing him more thoroughly than he’d ever been seduced by the practiced wiles of other women.

 

He carried her up the stairs, laying her in his bed, careful not to wake her. The last thing he wanted was her fear. He covered her with the blanket, kissing her forehead before heading out of the room and downstairs to where she’d left her wet clothing. He picked up her jeans, poncho and shirt, planning on washing them for her. She’d need something to wear in the morning.

 

And that reminded him. He went upstairs again and stripped the still wet underwear from her body, glad for the darkness. He wasn’t ready yet to see her completely bared for him in full light, or even pale moonlight. He wasn’t certain he’d be able to stop himself from taking her if he did. He carried them downstairs and threw them in the wash with the rest of her clothes. He leaned against the washing machine and hoped he’d done the right thing. She’d been shaking with more than cold; what he’d thought might be arousal was actually fatigue. She needed rest after her scare in the woods, and he was determined she was going to get it.

 

He got her purse from by the glass door and carried it into the great room. Opening it he dug out her wallet, determined to know the name of the woman fate had decreed should be his.

 

Alannah Evans.

 

The name shot through him with the force of an electrical shock.

 

It couldn’t be. It shouldn’t be.

 

But there it was in black and white. Evans. Everything she’d said about wizards suddenly clicked into place.

 

He picked up the phone and dialed.

 

“’Lo?”

 

The sleepy voice on the other end reminded him how late it was, but this was too important to let go. He had to know if he was right. “Gareth?”

 

“Do you know what fucking time it is, fucktard?”

 

Christopher sighed. “Alannah Evans.”

 

There was silence for a moment. “What about Alannah Evans?”

 

The wary caution in Gareth Beckett’s now very awake voice was enough to drive Christopher to his feet. “I need to know if she’s a member of the Evans family.”

 

“Give me a sec.” He could hear sheets rustling, knew his brother was climbing out of bed. “Right. According to The Registry, Evans…where’s she from?”

 

He checked her driver’s license. “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

 

There was the sound of rustling pages, then the creak of an office chair. “Dude. The Evans family practically rules Philadelphia.”

 

Christopher groaned. “Wonderful.”

 

“Hey, at least she’s not a warlock.”

 

“Right. I need a mate who distrusts my kind, not a mate who tries to feed me to demons.”

 

There was a pregnant pause. “Did you say mate?”

 

Christopher gritted his teeth, cursing himself silently for the slip of his tongue. “Yes.”

 

“A witch.”

 

“Gareth.”

 

“You? You mated a witch?”

 

Christopher hung up the phone. Gareth could laugh his ass off all by himself, thank you very much.

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Dana Marie Bell.

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