Megan’s eyes widened as she rubbed her pulsing temples, shook her head vehemently. “You did what?” she shriked, shoving hard at his chest with both fists.

Zack, about to become her ex-boyfriend smirked. “I didn’t think it was any big a deal. Several of my friends frequent the club with their significate others, even swap ‘em,” he admitted. “It’s kinda fun experiencing different partners, with no responsibility.” The man paused, digging the toe of his running shoe into the dirt. “I guess I should have told you sooner, but figured I’d ease you into the experience.” The corner of Zack’s mouth turned up in a half smile. “Just try it — who knows — you might like it. If not, we can always attempt to …” He sucked in a breath and took a couple quick steps backward.

The blood rushed to her face as her temper roared. Hell no…no…no. Join him at a BDSM club where he’s shared several sexual partners. Insane…he was…“ She tried hard to keep her arms stick straight at her sides. Magic wasn’t the answer… forbidden…

That was her last thought, an elemental witch, she balled up her fist and raised her arm to the heavens. Out of the clear predawn sky, dark clouds swirled, thunder crashed, lightning streaked across the now darkened sky and struck within a foot of Zack, he collapsed to the ground curled into a fetal position.

This was the last time he’d belittle, embarrass or cheat on her. In no way did his good looks compensate for his reckless behavior by putting her at risk for goddess only knows what. She’d give him his freedom, among other things. He’d regret those numerous partners. She blinked and drew in a long breath. That’s it, no more men. They were nothing but trouble.

At last able to rein in her temper, she waved her arm to enact a drying spell, a spot of sunshine surrounded only her, leaving him soaking wet, and shivering by the isolated park bench, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Thank goodness it was so early, the sun just peaked at the edge of the mountains. They were the only inhabitants in the little park.

The late spring morning still held a chill in the mountain town. She couldn’t help herself and conjured a few leaches, flicked them toward him, waited to make sure they hit the mark intended, smiled then sprinted off down the path. He wasn’t even that good in bed.

Her anger subsided during the long run that brought her right back where she started. Water still pooled below the bench, where she plopped down and tears trickled down her cheeks. Suddenly, like being hit by a wrecking ball, she realized Zack had seen her magic. Oh shit, I’ll be in so much trouble with the Witch’s Council. She hung her head, arms limp at her side, legs weak and shaky. Think before you act, the words reverberated through her mind. A mantra her mother insisted would keep her from serious trouble. But through out her life spontaneity was her down fall.

On top of that, the rotten mortal bastard had driven them to the park nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She shoved up from the bench and cursed, beginning the long walk home. Worse, she’d been in denial about a relationship that was rocky at best. She should have broken it off earlier. But sneaking off to a BDSM club? With his lack of sexual prowess? Really? The corner of her mouth turned up in a half smile, then the other corner joined in and she smiled wide.


Braiden Ross opened his eyes and blinked at the bright sunshine streaming through the gap where the curtains were mismatched. Another day, a new beginning, what bullshit. He took a few minutes to struggle to a sitting position, less time than yesterday, so he considered that progress. He winced as he swung his legs over the side of the bed, his toes touching the cold, hardwood floor. A stream of curses flew out of his mouth as he got to his feet and shuffled to the bathroom. Four months out of rehab and it still took him more than an hour to get ready for his day. There was a time when only seconds from waking to full alert and combat ready meant the difference between life and death.

After his shower, he wiped the clouded mirror, bright blue/green eyes stared back as he reached for his razor to clear his face of two days of sandy beard, a strand of blond hair fell over his brow. Showered and shaved, he returned to the bedroom, pulled on worn jeans and inhaled the mouth-watering aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafteing through the house. Thank God for the automatic coffee maker. Barefoot, he navigated to the kitchen and poured the steaming liquid into a mug, took a sip then glanced out the window. Great day for a walk. He pulled on a black t-shirt, sat down and tugged on running shoes, then snatched the leash and knocked his keys off the counter. A big, black, furry dog ambled over.

“No, I got ’em, but thanks.” Braiden ran a hand over the dog’s head, hooked the leash to his collar, straightened and pocketed the keys. “Come on boy, let’s go for a walk.” On his way out the door, he yanked at the jacket hung over the chair. The jacket’s arm caught on the back and the chair crashed to the floor. Going to be one of those damn days. He huffed out a breath, righted the chair and shoved it under the kitchen table. The door slammed behind him.

At the park, the sun’s warmth felt good on his body, as he stopped to stretch out his complaining back. “Come on boy.” The dog cocked his head, ears up and paced his owner. At the end of the route, Braiden noticed a woman sitting alone on the park bench where he normally regrouped before returning home. One corner of his lip kicked up as he took in the tall, willowy red head, dressed in tight lilac running gear as she pushed up from the bench. “Good morning.”

She jerked, glanced in his direction and forced a smile. “Morning.”

Braiden didn’t remember seeing her there before and he knew most the regulars. “Braiden Ross.” He extended his hand. “Come here often?”

“Not anymore,” she said sharply and grasped his outstretched hand. “Sorry, having a bad day.” She peered at the ground then brought her gaze to his. “Megan O’Mera.”

He was stuck by the sadness in her eyes, the slump of her shoulders.”Nice to meet you Megan. Know that feeling. Hope it gets better.” He eased down on the bench beside her.

“Thanks.” She stood, straightened her shoulders and gave a little wave.

He watched her disappear out of sight, admiring her curves and saucy walk.

Due to the demands of his job and lengthy overseas assignments, he’d remained single. But everything changed when his luck ran out after 15 years in the special forces and no amount of training could compensate. The blast happened so damn fast, no time to react, no reason to suspect. The bomb exploded next to the common wall in a warehouse adjacent to the little pub where his unit had eaten after a briefing on the next assignment. The sole survivor, he still asked why…him. Shaking off the depression that threatened, he shoved up from the bench and his thoughts turned to the beautiful woman he’d just met. There was something unique but unsettling about her.

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