Home > Don't Hex and Drive (Stay a Spell #2)

Don't Hex and Drive (Stay a Spell #2)
Author: Juliette Cross

Chapter 1

~ISADORA~

I was thinking about purple pansies when it happened.

Just bumping along on my bicycle, down the narrow street that paralleled Magazine, while daydreaming of this particular little flower. It was right after sundown, which was my favorite part of the day to ponder things. I was a deep ponderer. Not deep thinker, mind you, because that would imply that I mused about profound, earth-shaking things. Nope. Mostly plants and flowers. And dogs. Sometimes cats. Or a more efficient way to organize our inventory at Mystic Maybelle’s. But really, mostly flowers.

Did you know that pansies, especially when infused with my special brand of magic, can be brewed in teas to heal skin rashes, reduce fevers, and even help with high blood pressure? Pansies! Shocking, right?

Tia liked to tease me—and by that, I mean aggravate—by reminding me that it’s also highly effective in love potions. Ancient Greeks used pansies for love potions, giving it the nickname heart’s ease.

“Maybe you can whip up a batch and find Mr. Right,” she’d said with a cheeky grin this afternoon at her house.

To that, I’d rolled my eyes and waved goodbye, carrying my precious bundle like a newborn babe right out the door. This particular pot of pansies had been dug up in the Meteora region of Greece where they’d been growing wild and untouched for centuries. Every witch knew, especially Conduits like myself and Tia, that the most powerful of plants were cultivated by mother earth, not human hands.

“Almost home, my sweet angel,” I whispered down to the basket attached to my handlebars.

Yes, I talked to my plants. Research proved they responded well to human speech and song. You can Google it.

Okay, fine. I just liked talking to them. Plants and animals never judged you. Not for what you looked like, what you wore or didn’t wear, what you said or didn’t say, what you believed or didn’t believe, or even that you preferred to travel by bicycle as opposed to car.

So that’s what I was thinking about when my world turned upside down. Literally.

I didn’t even hear him until it was too late. The sudden screech of tires and whip of the headlights hit me a split second before his car did. The bump against my back tire was hard enough to send me, my favorite handbag, and my sweet pot of pansies flying into the air. I was so shocked I didn’t even cushion my fall with telekinesis because, unfortunately, I needed a little warning and preparation before I used that kind of magic. How fast had this idiot been driving, anyway?

Landing in a tumble of limbs, my ankle twisted painfully on the fall. “Ow!”

The simultaneous crack of pottery twisted my heart and hurt even more. The headlights of the jerk’s car shone on the devasting sight of my pansies limp on their side. The terra cotta pot was shattered, the soil spilled, her roots exposed like some horrific murder victim.

“Nooo.”

A gust of wind, then, “Hey bhagwan! Are you hurt?”

It had been no more than three seconds since his car had hit my bicycle before the man’s large hand gripped the curve of my shoulder. No, not a man. Not a human one anyway. Only one supernatural could move that fast. And carried that kind of potent signature. It hit me almost as hard as his car did, punching the breath right out of my lungs.

Before I could even get a good look at him, he was hovering over my feet where my knee was bent and I was holding my ankle. He lifted my injured foot gently and slipped off my flat. His long black hair fell in waves over his crisp white button-down, well past his shoulders. I tried but couldn’t see his face hidden by that fall of hair. Then I became distracted by his deeply bronzed hands. Long fingers brushed lightly over my ankle.

“Are you a doctor?” I winced, tugging at my foot. One, because it hurt. And two, because I didn’t like strangers touching me. For that matter, I was pretty protective of my personal space even with friends. “Do you even know what you’re doing?”

He ignored my questions, holding firm. “Try to point your toes.”

Aggravated, I pointed them anyway before biting my lip on a whimper.

“Not broken then.” He slipped my shoe back on, his fingers sliding over the injury before giving me a light squeeze.

Pulling my foot out of his hands, I accused as calmly as possible, “You’re not a doctor.”

When he finally looked at me, I wasn’t surprised by his striking beauty. So typical. His heavy lashes framed whiskey-warm brown eyes. His perfectly square jaw and well-defined cheekbones were all ridiculously symmetrical. What did I expect from a vampire? An old one, at that. His magic hummed in the air, tinged with power and control and the trait I hated most about his kind. Seduction. They all wore it like a coat, parading it around like proud peacocks. So annoying. But this one? It sealed his aura of magic like a second skin. Like it wasn’t a secondary trait at all, but a natural birthright.

Wait. Not perfect, actually. His left brow was bisected by a thin white scar that disappeared into his hairline. It was hard to see at first in the dim light. So he didn’t use glamour to mask his flaws? Interesting.

His concerned expression shifted, his mouth quirking up with one of those smirky smiles that cocky guys flashed when they thought they could charm their way out of a situation. Uh, no. I don’t think so.

“Aren’t vampires supposed to have superhuman eyesight? Say, to avoid hitting an innocent traveler on the road?”

His nostrils flared as he inhaled a deep breath. Recognition shone in his eyes. His charming smile slipped, his expression changing to…amused interest? “Aren’t witches supposed to have telekinetic powers? Say, to avoid being hit by cars?”

For a moment, I was completely distracted by the smooth, deep timbre of his voice and his subtle accent. Indian, definitely, but something more. The slow, intentional care of each word reminded me of a professor from Russia I had in college. His accent was strong and soft at the same time. This vampire’s was similar, liquid and lilting with an undercurrent of firm control. Casual dominance. If there was such a thing.

His gaze traveled down my body, taking in my forest green Boho skirt and navy blue top. “And why are you riding a bike at night wearing such dark colors, Mistress Witch?”

Unbelievable! He was blaming me for hitting me with his stupid car? The reason I wasn’t wearing bright-colored clothes, which I did if I rode at night, was because I hadn’t planned on staying at Tia’s past our lunch date. But lunch turned into afternoon tea, then we’d gotten into a heated discussion about night-blooming medicinal plants, and I left too late. But this dumb vampire didn’t deserve an explanation.

“Here, let me help you up.” He leaned forward and grabbed me by the forearm, which I quickly wrenched away.

“No, thank you. I’m fine.”

He eased back onto his heels and raised his palms up in a hands-off gesture, his dark eyes shimmering silver for a second. Freaking, nervy vampires. Driving around like bats out of hell. Thinking they owned the world.

Ignoring him, I reached for the strap of my canvas handbag and looped it over my head to cross my chest. I flattened my palms on the concrete and pushed up, hissing in a breath. I’d scraped my palms on the fall.

“Let me—“

“No,” I snapped, avoiding his gaze when he made a frustrated noise in his throat.

Managing to stand all on my own, ungracefully, but still on my own, I took a step toward the front of the car and whimpered at the sharp pain. My leg crumpled, but before I hit the pavement—again—the vampire reached over to steady me with an arm around my waist.

“Do you mind?” I wriggled and batted at his hand to get him off.

He released me. “Look,” he said, seeming to force himself to keep calm, “I’m just trying to help.”

“Where’s my phone?” I muttered, digging through my bag while leaning all of my weight on my uninjured leg. I could call Jules to come get me. “Dammit, where is it?”

The vampire walked away, leaned over to the pavement, and then returned with his palm out to me. He was holding my phone, fully cracked glass and the screen frozen on the weather app for some odd reason.

“Just great!” I snatched it from him and tapped the screen, knowing I’d get nothing.

“I’m seriously sorry about this. Why don’t you let me drop you off at home at least? I’ll fix your bike. I’ll replace your phone. I promise.”

I glared at him like he’d lost his damn mind. “I’m not getting in the car with you. Are you crazy? And, yes, you are paying for my bicycle.” I shoved the useless cellphone in my handbag. “But I have phone insurance.”

He propped both hands on his hips and looked up the street, his crisp white shirt glowing under the streetlight, stretching across his broad chest. “You can’t live far. Let me give you a ride home.”

“After witnessing your excellent driving skills? Um, no, thank you. And I don’t know you. Ever heard of stranger danger?”

Plus there was the whole issue of those college girls going missing. I wasn’t an idiot. Actually, I’d never seen him around this neighborhood before and suddenly eyed him with renewed suspicion. “Who are you anyway?”

His attention swiveled back to me, and then he frowned down at the ground at my foot as I wobbled.

“My name is Devraj Kumar.”

“I’ve never seen you around here.”

“I’ve just arrived in town. I’m a friend of Ruben Dubois. Surely, you know him if you’re a local witch.”

Ruben Dubois? The overlord of vampires in New Orleans? Uh, yeah, I knew him.

“You know Ruben?”

He pulled out his cell from his back pocket and dialed a number, holding the phone up to his ear. Within three seconds, he said, “Yeah, I had an incident.” His dark eyes fixed on me. “An accident, actually. My fault. I hit a witch on her bike.” He pivoted away so I couldn’t see his face. “Shut up, man. No, she’s fine. Well, except for her ankle. Will you tell her I won’t kidnap or kill her so she’ll let me take her home?”

   
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