Magic, New Mexico: Taste of Wicked (Kindle Worlds Novella), page 1
Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by S.E. Smith. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Magic, New Mexico remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of S.E. Smith, or their affiliates or licensors.
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Taste of Wicked
Magic, New Mexico
By Michelle Howard
Published by Michelle Howard
Special Thanks to SE Smith for letting me play in her sandbox.
This is for the real life Antonia who has been a great cheerleader and fan.
Toni couldn’t contain her excitement. It wasn’t just that she would be enjoying a vacation in New Mexico for the first time ever but she would also get the chance to meet a man she’d fantasized about for far too many nights. Juggling her luggage and her phone, she managed to squeeze out a small space in the airport to call her friend.
Chrissy answered right away. “Are you there?”
Toni couldn’t help smiling. “I’m here and I haven’t left the airport but already I’m in love with the place.”
The view from the windows of the plane had been amazing, sending Toni’s heart soaring. Photographs online didn’t do justice to the reddish-brown landscape broken by jagged peaks of mountain ridges. The sight alone had her sighing. Everything looked so relaxing and calm. This was the perfect way to spend her vacation from her job at the University and to give things at home a chance to cool off.
“I wish I had the time from work to join you.” Excitement replaced Chrissy’s brief disappointed tone. “Enough about me. How are you going to find him?”
“I’ll message him once I get settled. We both decided if our schedules allowed that we’d meet in person.” Toni leaned against the wall near the ladies room thrilled for this opportunity to meet her dream man for the first time.
Friendly by nature it still took a lot for Toni to work up the nerve to invite her online friend to look her up once she discovered they’d be in Magic, New Mexico at the same time. Much to her surprise and pleasure he hadn’t hesitated to agree.
Toni shivered and bit her bottom lip. First meetings often came with the awkward discomfort and fear of meeting a new person but for some reason she didn’t think she’d have that issue. How many late night chats had they shared over the last few months? Too many to count and with the exchange of information she felt certain they’d hit it off.
“I checked that place out and it has a quirky reputation.” Chrissy was all about internet research.
“I think that’s part of why the town is called Magic.” Toni sighed and smiled dreamily. “Something magical could happen while I’m here, Chrissy.”
Chrissy’s laugh flowed easily across the line. “Awww. Listen to you.”
Toni didn’t let the humor bother her. Chrissy was even more of a romantic than her. She pretended to be tough and covered her insecurities with off the cuff humor. Deep inside she was a nice girl with a big heart. Of course, she also scared away a lot of dates with her internet scrutiny of their lives prior to meeting them.
“Well, I’m here and I’m safe so I fulfilled my promise to you.” Toni straightened and gathered the handle of her roll on luggage. “I’ll check in with you later.”
“Take care, sweetie.”
Toni dropped her phone into her purse and tried not to let her happiness get out of control. Meeting someone from the internet was becoming more and more common. People formed lifelong friendships with people they never met in person all the time and every day someone announced their engagement to a person from social media.
Proof of that came in the form of the two bridal showers she had to attend this summer for coworkers marrying their dream men from the web. Not that Toni expected the same to happen to her. She nibbled her bottom lip. Okay, maybe a small part of her hoped for something similar. What was life without a little hope?
And she couldn’t control her dreams. Her subconscious clearly had a mega-size crush on a man who came across as witty, challenging and quite sexy during their chats. Toni straightened her shoulders and followed the signs for ground transportation.
Nothing wrong with dreams at all.
Drake hefted the duffle bag higher on his shoulder as the shuttle bus trailed away, leaving bursts of red dust behind. A quick glance around let him know he was in the right place. Magic, New Mexico. He grunted and headed down the sidewalk.
It would have been easier to take his private jet and have a car drop him off where he needed to go but that would have defeated his purpose in remaining as anonymous as possible. He’d hopped a flight, sitting coach next to a crying baby and a coughing man then taken the shuttle into town. The less attention he attracted the better but Drake wasn’t sure he was eager to repeat the process ever again. He shuddered, not even for the return flight home. He’d have his pilot pick him up.
A burst of laughter came from the store to his right. He glanced up at the sign which read The Witches Brew. Not where he was headed though the draw to peer inside tugged at him.
Drake tamped down his curiosity and continued on. He didn’t need to check the address on the crumpled paper in the front pocket of his jeans. He’d memorized it the moment he received the life saving email.
It helped that Simon Draycott’s message coincided with another one he’d received. The thought of the second email had a grin curving Drake’s lips. Antonia would be here. Beautiful, I refuse to post a picture of myself, Antonia. His grin widened.
Receiving the message that his online friend would be vacationing in Magic solidified Drake’s reason for coming here. Initially, when Simon extended the offer after Drake shared his problem, he’d wanted to refuse. But on the heels of the repeated invite came Antonia’s chat message that she would love to meet if his travels would permit. She’d followed the invite with another sent directly to a personal email account he’d set up just for her.
The separate account allowed Drake to receive her messages without them being screened by his assistants or possibly being deleted among the hundreds of other emails flowing from various people in his organization.
His answer to her had been a resounding yes. The opportunity to meet the mysterious Antonia after six months of ‘talking’ online was too great an allure to resist. The added benefit of seeing Simon, his wife Tory and their kids aligned perfectly with Drake’s needs.
The phone in his back pocket buzzed and Drake stiffened. He considered ignoring the insistent vibration but his therapist would surely say that would contribute to his growing problem. Drake did not need that happening. He whipped the slim line device from his pocket without glancing at the display. “Winston.”
“Drake, I take it you arrived in no man’s land safely.” His personal assistant’s voice contained a hint of mirth.
“I’m here.” Drake paused outside the doors of a coffee shop. The smell of caffeine battered at his attempts to quit.
“Are you ready to head back?” This time Ben let a snicker escape.
Heaving a sigh, Drake leaned a shoulder against the brick exterior of the shop and propped a booted foot behind him. “No.”
Pedestrians glanced at him, curiosity blazing but none stopped to speak merely giving him a congenial head nod.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Believe it,” Drake mumbled, his gaze caught on a couple walking hand in hand. There was an intimacy in the way their hips brushed, heads tilted together as they moved along. Both seemed completely immersed in the other. When was the last time he held a woman’s hand for the simple pleasure of it?
“Really?” His assistant snorted loudly.
Ben’s humor and doubt matched Drake’s therapist’s thoughts exactly. Neither believed that a week long stay in Magic, New Mexico would do anything to alleviate the issue he’d recently developed. In addition, the week long jaunt would play havoc with the extreme schedule he usually maintained. While Drake didn’t ever think he’d complain about the millions he made, it certainly didn’t allow for down time.
But, and it was a big but—Drake needed a break. If he didn’t find a way to decompress soon, more than his inherit magic would be at a loss. He simply couldn’t go on at the pace he’d set a century ago when he was in his late twenties. Something had to give and this trip to New Mexico along with a visit from Antonia Hendricks might be the perfect solution.
“I don’t think you’ll survive more than 48 hours,” Ben continued, oblivious to Drake’s thoughts. “Kent and I have bets started in the office.”
The corporate office in New York no doubt. Those employees tended to be a little more lax because Drake buried himself in his suite while there. When he visited his other entities across the US, his staff jumped and trembled in his presence as if he planned to terminate them any moment.
Although, he’d only done that once when he learned his entire finance department in DC worked together to embezzle a large portion of the company’s profits. Drake had arrived in a rare temper and removed the staff from the lowly clerk to the director at the top of the chain. Not a good day. His fury at their audacity still simmered when he let himself remember.
The door beside him jingled as a woman exited while juggling a white paper cup with steam rising from the top. Drake’s mouth watered as he straightened. “I’ll check in later, Ben. The whole point of this get away is for me to rest and unwind. Try not to call if you don’t have to.”
Ben huffed. “What if something comes up?”
Drake fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Then you and Kent can handle it. That is why I have two assistants.”
The brothers were Berserkers and handled Drake’s hectic work schedule like it was a battle of the old days to be conquered.
“Do you at least have means to wi-fi there?”
Another patron came out with an even larger cup.
“Goodbye, Ben.” Drake disconnected the call and caught the door before it could fully close.
This time the young teenager popping gum offered up a smile but never paused in her rapid texting. Drake walked in and inhaled deeply. This was his version of heaven. Coffee. His own personal fuel source.
The store had a quaint feel to it and was as far removed from the upscale place he visited at home as possible. Music with a driving beat played overhead and the muted chatter of voices blended together. Tables were scattered around with no true pattern and intermixed with sagging sofas and scarred wooden floors. Two teen boys huddled in front of an antique upright arcade game. Occasional beeps and whistles from the dinosaur to video gaming accompanied their cheers.
In the past such disjointed noises and the ill thought out floor plan would have sent him back out the door. Instead it created a surprisingly soothing effect for its direct opposition to his personal life. Drake’s shoulders unconsciously eased as he made his way to the counter.
“Let me guess.” The girl behind the plain cash register didn’t look old enough to drive. She studied him and offered a brisk nod, brown pony tail swaying. “You need a large in today’s special.”
“Today’s special,” he repeated as he scanned the backboard mounted to the wall behind her. The choices were written in brightly colored chalk with hearts and flowers encircling the prices.
“Yep.” Then she walked away without bothering to take his order and began flipping switches on the machine and grabbing a white cup with swirled blue and pink designs across the middle.
“Aren’t you going to take my order?” He asked.
She didn’t glance up from her mixing and stirring. “Nope.”
For a moment tension edged up his spine, a vein in his temple throbbed and his hands curled into fists. The words to a familiar spell were on the tip of his tongue but he froze. He couldn’t say them and no matter how hard he tried, the memory of what the spell would actually do slipped his mind. Frustration built and the new awareness of what he’d lost once more pushed at his control. When the duffle almost slid off his shoulder, Drake shook his head and focused back on the here and now.
‘Lose the stress and anger, Winston or you may never recover your magic.’
His therapist’s words played in his head. The very possibility that he wouldn’t get back something as intrinsic as his abilities frightened Drake and for a man in his position, it didn’t pay to be frightened.
“Here you are.” Jessie, per her name tag, set a large steaming cup of black liquid in front of Drake. “That’s three fifty.”
He reached for his wallet to pay and was half-way to one of the high-top tables before he realized what he’d done. He’d ceded control of his morning beverage option to a stranger who probably wasn’t even born when he made his first million. Such a simple action but for Drake it was tremendous.
He glanced over his shoulder back toward the counter where Jessie waited on the next customer. Her pony tail bopped with her movements and one of the teenage boys from the arcade looked love struck as he leaned a jean clad hip against the shelved display of desserts. The two engaged in a conversation that left both of them grinning.
Another deep inhale and Drake blew out a breath. Relax, just relax, he counseled himself and scanned the crowded space for a seat. He spotted a vacant table off to the corner beside a rack with battered paperbacks and a handmade sign which stated in bright red marker: take one.
Ignoring the offer to read what looked like superhero stories and romance, Drake sat at the round top table. With the first sip of his drink, taste exploded on his tongue. His eyes closed and he gulped the second and third swallow. He didn’t care what today’s special was but he’d never tasted anything better than the rich brew sliding down his throat.
After another appreciative sip, Drake tossed his duffle on the empty seat next to him. The coffee started its job and he found himself looking around with interest instead of his typical bland regard for his surroundings. There was a mixture of young and old hanging about. The young lounged on worn velvet sofas and the old preferred the tables. All held steaming cups of coffee in tight grips. He wondered if they’d been allowed to select their own drinks or forcibly served the much to be appreciated special.
He was heavy into the mundane contemplation when his phone chose that moment to trill. Drake jerked upright and answered instinctively. “Winston.”
There was a problem with his Hong Kong suppliers, then another with his plant under renovation. And so it went for the next hour as he drained his no longer hot coffee. Text messages, emails and phone calls poured in until he found himself hunched at the table and working feverishly.
The instant message scrolling across his screen acted as a timely interruption.
‘Are u still coming to Magic?’
Drake’s smile was unexpected. He abruptly ceased what he was working on as his fingers flew in response. ‘Yes.’
Three smiley face emojis appeared next to the blinking cursor.
He laughed outright. Only she brought out this response in him. And more than ever he wanted to meet his secret chat buddy.
‘I’m having coffee at the only coffee place in town as we speak. When do I get to meet you? Dinner is my treat.’
‘Sooner rather than later.’ Came the mysterious answer.
His phone dinged, interrupting the byplay and Drake reluctantly returned to the informatio
The tentative voice pulled his attention away from the latest contract on the small screen in his hand. A dark haired woman stood to his right with a huge smile on her face.
“Yes?” He slid his phone beside his empty cup then rose to his feet in politeness.
“It’s me, Toni!”
Before he could answer, she launched herself at him and hugged tight. Drake didn’t do hugs and he certainly didn’t do blatant displays of affection in public but his arms curved around her in reflex.
Full breasts pressed into his chest, rounded hips aligned with his and soft lips brushed his throat as he adjusted his stance. His response was instant and his jeans tightened across an unexpected, intense hard on. He pulled back to look at her closer. Recognition slowly set in. She was cute, curvy and nothing like he imagined. Black hair was pulled back and left to flow about her rounded shoulders. Eyes a rich amethyst reminded him of his favorite stone for casting spells.
And she was taller than he expected. At least 5’10. In heels, depending on how bold she chose to be, he bet they would fit perfectly and he wouldn’t overshadow her at all with his own 6’4 frame.
Pleasure replaced his annoyance at the interruption. He breathed in the scent of peaches. “Antonia?”
“In the flesh.” A becoming blush stained her round cheeks as she took the empty seat across from him.
Drake sat, unable to take his gaze away from her. They’d met on a forum for gamers of all places. The site allowed his inner geek to play freely and talk with those of like interest without worry about his corporate image as CEO.
A random debate about RPG’s led to them messaging each other every day for the last six months and an unlikely friendship he valued highly took root. In terms of real life identities they’d exchanged first names only.
MICHELLE HOWARD SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Torkel's Chosen: A World Beyond Book 1Wicked Lover (Magical Lovers Book 2)Jaron's Promise (A World Beyond Book 6)Wired For LoveRise of the Shadow Warriors: #3 WarlordRydak's Fall (A World Beyond Book 5)Unexpected Bride (Warlord Series Book 6)Love Like No Other
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