The book fell, quite literally, into Emily’s hands. Bound in blackened ancient leather, the slim volume included a title visible more from the indentation on the leather than by surviving lettering. Spells and Incantations, it said.
Then the man appeared.
She had no idea.
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The party was one of those open air events at somebody’s farm where crowds of people milled around a bonfire or hovered at one of the keg stations. She felt horribly self-conscious in the extravagant dress. Heads turned as she walked from the parking area and kept turning no matter where she went. She cringed as she caught people looking at her, expecting that at any moment, someone would come out with some cutting remark and everyone within earshot would laugh.
No. She would not let herself cower. She looked good in this dress. In fact, she wasn’t sure she had ever looked better. She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. Besides, she was wearing a mask.
“Glad we ate in town,” Sarah said, her voice rising over the music blasting from big speakers. A local band had set up on a makeshift stage area and cranked out hard rock. A few people danced. Food on two long tables included a massive array of chip bags, mostly empty dip containers, and a few scraped-clean casserole dishes.
“Yeah,” Emily said. “I’m not hungry anyway. How long to do you want to stay?”
Sarah glanced at her, her blue eyes wide with excitement. “Are you kidding? It’s Halloween. We have to stay until midnight. That’s when the witches come out.”
“That’s a kid’s game,” Emily said, smiling at memories of leaping out from behind bushes at her screaming little friends and siblings. “What’s the point?”
Sarah shrugged and tossed the red boa over her shoulder. “I just think we should. Who knows, maybe your Prince Charming will show up. If he sees you in that dress…” Her eyes shot up as she ogled Emily’s cleavage. “Jesus, girl, that’s sexy as fuck.”
Emily blushed, resisting the urge to grab the two sides of the neckline and pull it together. Where was the bravado she was feeling just moments ago? “I feel naked.”
“Yeah, well the dress is perfect. Did you see that guy over there? He can’t take his eyes off you.” Sarah grabbed her arm. “No, hell, don’t look. Let him make his move.”
“Excuse me,” a deep and somewhat familiar baritone voice said.
Emily jumped and turned. A man with dark hair stood beside her, appearing as if out of thin air. She glanced at Sarah, whose eyes inside her glittering red mask had widened even more as her gaze riveted on the man.
He wore a long black cape which only emphasized his masculine stature. His other garments also were black except for an elaborate vest with bizarre geometric markings that seemed to glow in the dark and move of their own accord in the reflected light of the bonfire. Faintly, she wondered if he found the vest in the same vintage shop.
His mouth reminded her of the man today in the bookstore. Her startled gaze returned to his face where a teasing smile lingered along his sensual lips. If the black mask covering his upper face were gone, would he…