Book three of The Witches' Rede series
He wants her ring. She wants his promise.
Ancient evils will be damned if they get either.
Following a hellish six months apart, Maeve MacKenna and Rafaele Forino are fleeing Arizona Territory-and their criminal pasts. When Rafaele gets a tip on Maeve's stolen engagement ring, their journey west takes an unexpected turn.
Tailed through the wilderness by the god of death over what Maeve believes to be a case of mistaken identity, and among a throng of inexperienced and unfriendly travelers, emotions run high, sleep runs short, and already hot tempers flare.
The lovers' future is jeopardized when they are tasked with killing a legendary monster of southwest lore. But if the ravenous beast doesn't prevail, it could be God or the devil to tear them apart.
Enjoy an excerpt:
Rafaele approached the front desk at the hotel, a tenuous grip on his temper as he rehearsed lines he knew well would be forgotten as soon as he opened his mouth.
“How may I help you?” the clerk greeted him.
“You have a gentleman by name of Eric Strajean staying here. If you would, please send for him. I need to speak with him right away.”
“Who may I ask is calling?”
Rafaele couldn’t remember any fake name he’d provided recently if his life depended on it. With a swallowed sigh, he said, “Forino,” praying he wouldn’t regret the honesty.
There was a lengthy hesitation before the clerk reviewed his ledger, retreated from the desk, up the stairway, and disappeared around the corner.
Rafaele paced in front of the desk before standing impatient vigil by the door leading outside.
Probably Eric knew why he was there and if the man had a single wit about him, he’d be running for his life. Rafaele was determined to catch him before he could get too far.
“Forino!” Eric said as he descended the stairs from on high, the clerk trailing several steps behind him. “How—” his voice faltered at Rafaele’s stony stare. “—expected.”
All the rehearsed words, as anticipated, were gone. Rafaele was damn near Neanderthalic in his eloquence at the mere sight of Eric. “Outside,” he grunted.
Eric assessed Rafaele. He must’ve believed he could hold his own or maybe even win a scrap with a man who was at least fifty pounds more muscular; rather than fleeing, Eric led the way.
Shock at Eric’s confidence washed briefly over Rafaele before he followed.
“It’s a nice evening to bed your bride,” Eric remarked casually, his dark eyes skyward turned. “Shame you’re wasting it with me.”
His gaze dropped to Rafaele’s face, then further down. “Unless—”
Rafaele grabbed him by the arms before any further remark could be made—insinuation or otherwise—and shoved him against the stucco outer wall of the hotel, expecting the physical threat of being beaten halfway or wholly to death would do something more than elicit the chuckle that it did.
“I like it rough. The missus does, too, no doubt. Ever smack her luscious little rump to see how ripe she gets?”
“I know you have it, Strajean,” roared Rafaele, his hand going to Eric’s throat. “Keep saying such horrible things about Maeve. I dare you!”
“Oh, you’ve spanked her.” He nodded in appreciation. “Palm or paddle? She like it? Did it make her squeal and co—”
Rafaele’s hand tightened around Eric’s throat. “Where the hell is it!”
Unruffled, Eric replied, “What do you think I have, you misguided brute?”
“Where’s her ring, Maeve’s opal ring, the one I proposed to her with,” he bellowed. “You bought it from Rosenzweig in Redington and don’t delude yourself into believing your life is of any consequence to me if I have to kill you to get it back!”
“Oh, is that what this is all about? I purchased it squarely.” Eric’s cool demeanor remained unchanged. “You don’t deserve it. You haven’t earned it. I know its material value, and moreover, I know its sentimental worth. It’s priceless to you.” His smile grew as greasy as they came, cool bleeding into positively calculating. “You’ll never be able to afford it.”
“You think so? Mark my words, you human ball of slime: I’ll get it from you one way or another,” Rafaele scowled.
“You can have it when you pry it from my lifeless hands,” Eric said through his laughter. “I should give you fair warning: neither your desire nor your anger can change the fact that it’s nowhere you can reach it.”
It had to be on Eric’s body or in his room, and if it was, Rafaele could find it. Something didn’t just vanish from existence simply because a spindly jerk with a filthy mouth claimed otherwise. I gave up killing, not hurting, Rafaele reminded himself before landing a punch against Eric’s temple with the intention of knocking him out.
Eric neither collapsed nor even did he flinch. Instead he flashed a defiant grin.
So Rafaele went after him with his prosthetic fist.
“I’ve had gnats land on me with more force,” Eric laughed. “I can take whatever you can dole so you might as well conserve your energy for more worthwhile pursuits. I suspect you’ve missed an excellent climax tonight attempting to knock me out, instead.”
Rafaele released him with a scowl and a threat: “Watch your back, Strajean. Lent has only so many days.”