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Hidden gifts, p.24

Hidden Gifts, page 24


Hidden Gifts

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  “No.” I swallowed some beer, barely wincing this time. That was better.

  “What happened?”

  “He — ” I couldn’t quite force the words out, even though I knew I had to. “He called it off. Of course, it might have been better if he’d done that before I was standing there right at the frigging altar, but better late than never, I guess.”

  “Jesus.” Simon passed a hand through his hair. “I’m so sorry, Miranda. But any guy who would do that kind of thing doesn’t deserve you.”

  I tipped more beer into my mouth. “I don’t really need the pity pep talk, Simon.”

  His eyes narrowed. “It’s not pity, and it’s not a pep talk. I mean, you’re beautiful and you’re smart and strong. If this jerk can’t appreciate you, then he really doesn’t deserve you. You can do better.”

  “Oh?” I asked. “Do better with whom? You?”

  “Maybe. Yeah.”

  I stared up at him. “You’re serious?”

  He didn’t reply, but instead came over and sat down on the couch next to me. For one frightening second, I thought he was going to lean in and kiss me, and I didn’t know how the hell I was going to deal with that. However, he didn’t kiss me, but instead reached over and took the hand that wasn’t holding the beer bottle. His fingers were warm and strong, thinner and longer than Rafe’s.

  I wanted to shake my head to rid itself of that thought. I didn’t need to be thinking about Rafe. He had brutally dumped me in the worst way possible. He could go straight to hell.

  “I am serious,” Simon said. “But you’ve just been through a horrible experience. I’m not going to push you. I only want you to know that you have someone who wants to be there for you.”

  His touch shouldn’t have reassured me. I should have pulled my hand away. I didn’t, though, because I liked the sensation of his fingers brushing against mine. Maybe it was only because I needed that human touch, needed to know I wasn’t alone in the howling wilderness that my life seemed to have become.

  “After all,” he continued. “You must have felt that way, too, or you wouldn’t be here. Why come to my apartment, and not back to where you’re staying, or even to the train station, if you wanted to be away from this guy, away from Santa Fe?”

  “I — I don’t know,” I replied, the words barely a murmur. And the truth was, I really didn’t know. I only knew that something kept drawing me back to Simon. Jerk that he was, even Rafe had recognized that fact. He hadn’t been happy at all when I’d expressed my wish to keep Simon as a friend.

  How that apparent jealousy was supposed to line up with his unceremonious dumping of me in front of three hundred witnesses, I wasn’t sure. Then again, I didn’t know why I should expect consistency from someone who acted as if he was falling in love with me one day and then threw me out of his life the next. As far as I was concerned, that kind of behavior indicated some serious mental issues.

  Simon’s fingers tightened on mine. Not in a bad way, but more as though he wanted to emphasize what he was saying. I knew if I’d tried to pull away, he would have let me.

  “You’re here,” he said. “You came here, to me. That has to mean something.”

  “As I pointed out the other day, you’re the only person I know in Santa Fe who isn’t a — who isn’t part of the family I’m trying to avoid.” I didn’t say this in a snarky way, only to remind him of a fact he might have forgotten.

  “I know that. Still.” He paused, then gently let go of my hand. “Miranda, I know there’s a reason why you were drawn here. And — and I need to tell you something.”

  “Tell me what?” I asked, praying he wasn’t going to take this moment to inform me of his undying love. While such words might have been balm to my wounded ego and aching heart, I didn’t want to go there. Not now, not soon after what Rafe had done to me.

  Not so soon after he’d kissed me.

  “I might not have been entirely truthful with you,” Simon said.

  Oh, wonderful. Was it too much to ask of the universe to have a man in my life who didn’t lie to me, who didn’t make me think one thing in one moment and another in the next? I pulled in a breath, bracing myself for whatever revelation was yet to come. “About what?”

  “This,” he said quietly.

  He didn’t move, or do anything I could see. But I felt it then, felt the little tingle at the back of my neck that told me I was in the presence of a warlock, someone of witch-kind.

  I stared at him, my heart thudding heavily in my chest. “You’re a warlock?”

  Those dark eyes caught mine and held. I didn’t think I could have looked away even if I wanted to. “Yes.”

  “But…how? You didn’t feel like a warlock.” I realized how that sounded as soon as the words left my mouth. Fighting to hold back an embarrassed flush, I added, “I mean, I always get a tingle when I meet someone of witch-kind for the first time, but I didn’t get that from you.”

  “I hid it,” he said simply.

  “‘Hid it’?” I repeated. “How?”

  “It’s one of my talents.”

  “One? How many do you have?”

  “A few.”

  I stared at him in consternation. It wasn’t normal for a witch or warlock to have more than one or two inborn gifts, along with the minor talents for opening locks and lighting fires that we all possessed. I’d heard whispers that my late uncle had been able to command all sorts of magic, but it wasn’t the sort of thing my parents wanted to talk about, since he’d delved into fields of study that had been forbidden for centuries and had lost his life because of it.

  “Why would you hide that from me?” I whispered. “Especially since you had to have known I was a witch, if a pretty crappy one.”

  “You’re not a crappy witch.” He reached out and took my hand again, twining his fingers with mine. I almost fancied I could feel that tingle again, although I couldn’t be completely certain. “An unusual one, sure. Anyway, I wasn’t hiding my nature from you — I was hiding it from the Castillos.”

  “So you’re not a Castillo?” He didn’t really look like any of the Castillos I’d met so far, but that didn’t mean much. In a family as large as theirs, and one that covered so much territory, there was bound to be a lot of variation.


  “Where are you from, then?”

  “From Tucson.”

  Which meant he was a de la Paz. I’d never heard anyone mention his name, but again, that didn’t surprise me. The de la Pazes were a big clan, with branches in the Phoenix area and down in Tucson and through most of the southern part of Arizona, all the way down to the Mexico border. I’d met some of them, but only the ones who had a direct connection to the McAllisters, like Ali and Matthew, my cousin Caitlin’s children. She was married to a de la Paz warlock and lived in Tucson. But there were hundreds, if not thousands, of de la Pazes whose names I didn’t even know.

  “What are you doing in Santa Fe?” I asked, genuinely curious. It took a lot of balls to come uninvited to another clan’s territory, even if you possessed a talent like Simon’s, one that would conceal you from other witches and warlocks.

  “Following you,” he replied, still with his eyes locked with mine.

  I swallowed against the sudden dryness in my throat. “Following me?” It took a lot of effort to hold back the nervous giggle I felt rising in me, or to keep myself from pulling my hands away. “Why?”

  “I knew there was more to you than meets the eye, Miranda McAllister. I didn’t think it was possible that someone whose parents were so powerful would have no magical talents of her own. And I thought that if I came here, maybe I could help you.”

  “Help me how?”

  His fingers tightened on mine. “Like I said, I have a lot of gifts. I suppose I thought that I might be able to share them with you.”

  “It doesn’t work that way,” I protested. Very gently, I pulled my hand from his. To my relief, he let go, although he remained sitting where he was, still with t
hose night-dark eyes boring into mine.

  “That you know of,” he replied. “When I heard about you, heard you were a nunca — ”

  I flinched, even though I didn’t want to. Too many years of hearing that hated word, although it was never said directly to my face.

  Either Simon didn’t notice my reaction, or he decided it was better not to call attention to it. He went on, “My clan has records that go way, way back. Long before we were even settled in Arizona, back when we still lived in Sonora. I found some accounts that made me think I might be able to help you.”

  I did my best to ignore the stirring of hope within me. While I couldn’t dispute my waking powers, the way they’d seemed to come to life only after I met Simon, I still wasn’t sure he could do very much to help me control them. So he’d read a few stories about people like me. He was still just a kid, probably my own age. He couldn’t have any real experience with this sort of thing.

  “If you thought that, why didn’t you go to my parents and tell them? I’m sure they would have listened to you.”

  “By the time I’d found out anything useful, it was too close to your twenty-first birthday. I knew you’d be coming to Santa Fe, because you were promised to Rafael Castillo.” Simon paused there, his mouth thinning in dislike. Clearly, he didn’t have much love for Rafe.

  Well, that was one thing we had in common.

  “Which was why you decided to follow me.”

  “Exactly. I thought I could still try to help. I came without asking for permission — I knew I wouldn’t get it, not from Zoe Sandoval, my clan’s prima, or from the Castillos.” His tone turned pleading. “But I’m asking for permission from you, Miranda. Please let me help you.”

  I swallowed. My throat was dry, but I didn’t want to reach for my half-drunk beer. “What would this ‘help’ entail?”

  “I’d train you. We can leave this place, go someplace quiet where you can learn without interruption.”

  Did I like the sound of that? I wasn’t sure. It sounded like a ploy to get me alone, away from anyone who could help me. Then again, I wasn’t even sure the Castillos would want to help. They had to have sided with Rafe, even though his actions in the cathedral had been beyond the pale.

  “Back to Arizona?” I asked.

  “No,” Simon replied at once. “Too much risk of running into someone who knows you, or who knows me. It’s better to stay in New Mexico. Once you’ve learned to really work with your powers, then you can decide where you want to go.”

  I fell silent. So many questions ran through my head, I didn’t know which one to ask first. However, I had to ask something. “Why didn’t my parents try to help me?”

  “They couldn’t have known. I don’t think anyone even in the de la Paz clan really knows about this sort of thing — I was looking in some really old, obscure records.” He glanced toward the window, where I glimpsed the full moon, white and ghostly, then looked back at me. “I guess it depends on what you want from your life, Miranda. Do you want to always feel like an outcast, an outlier in a community of outliers? Or do you want me to help you claim your powers, become the witch you were meant to be?”

  Once again I was quiet. I thought of that cold, strange glitter in Rafe’s eyes as he stared down at me, as though I was some insect who’d had the temerity to crawl across his shoe. I thought of Cat’s friendly smile, and Genoveva’s haughty air of disapproval. How much did I really owe these people? I’d come here in good faith, to fulfill the bargain my parents had made before I was even born, and as far as I could tell, they’d thrown that good faith in my face.

  And while I loved my mother and father, and knew they’d done their best to raise me without bias, to treat me just like another member of the clan, it had hurt them to see their own daughter without powers, when she should have been one of the strongest in the clan. I wanted to make them proud, make them happy that I finally could be equal to my brother and sister in terms of the talents I could control.

  When I thought of it that way….

  I pulled in a breath, then reached out and took Simon’s hand.

  “Tell me what I have to do.”

  The Witches of Canyon Road will continue with Darker Paths, releasing in May 2018.

  Also by Christine Pope


  (Paranormal Romance)

  Hidden Gifts

  Darker Paths (May 2018)

  Mysterious Ways (July 2018)


  (Paranormal Romance)

  Stolen (April 2018)

  Forgotten (June 2018)

  Driven (August 2018)


  (Paranormal Romance)




  Sympathetic Magic



  A Cleopatra Hill Christmas

  Impractical Magic

  Strange Magic

  The Arrangement


  Bad Blood

  Deep Magic


  Books 1-3 and Books 4-6 of this series are also available in two separate omnibus editions at special boxed set prices. Chronicles of Cleopatra Hill includes the series’ two “back in time” novellas, Bad Blood and The Arrangement.


  (Paranormal Romance)









  The first three books of this series are also available in an omnibus edition at a special low price!


  (Paranormal Romance)

  Falling Dark

  Dead of Night

  Rising Dawn


  (Paranormal Romance)

  Bad Vibrations

  Desert Hearts

  Angel Fire

  Star Crossed

  Falling Angels

  Enemy Mine

  The first three books of this series are also available in an omnibus edition at a special low price!


  (Fantasy Romance)

  All Fall Down

  Dragon Rose

  Binding Spell

  Ashes of Roses

  One Thousand Nights

  Threads of Gold

  The Wolf of Harrow Hall

  Moon Dance

  The Song of the Thrush

  Books 1-3 and Books 4-6 of this series are also available in two separate omnibus editions at special boxed set prices.


  (Science Fiction Romance)

  Blood Will Tell

  Breath of Life

  The Gaia Gambit

  The Mandala Maneuver

  The Titan Trap

  The Zhore Deception

  * Indicates a completed series

  About the Author

  Christine Pope has been writing stories ever since she commandeered her family’s Smith-Corona typewriter back in the sixth grade. Her work includes paranormal romance, fantasy romance, and science fiction/space opera romance. She fell under the Land of Enchantment’s spell while researching her Djinn Wars series and now makes her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

  Sign up for Christine Pope’s newsletter and get an exclusive Witches of Cleopatra Hill prequel short story!

  * * *

  Christine Pope on the Web:



  Christine Pope, Hidden Gifts



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