I leaned back against the bar, closing my eyes for a brief moment. Just the briefest. The scent of freshly ground coffee beans floats around me. It mixes with too many other scents. Cinnamon, milk, vanilla, leather.

Leather? I snapped my eyes open to find the hottest man I’ve ever seen waiting patiently at the register.

“Oh!” I yelped. “Sorry, didn’t hear you come.”

He smiled and my heart clenched right along with my nether regions. Nether regions? Yes, I said it. That’s what I’ve been reduced to as I stare at Mr. Adonis. Tom Hardy and Chris Hemsworth’s lovechild.

“Halloween?” His voice is as you’d expect. Perfect. Deep and sensuous. Like I was suddenly wrapped in a velvet cloak.

“Huh?” I asked, glancing around the little café. There WERE Halloween decorations everywhere. Was he confirming it was indeed October?

“It has you jumpy. Halloween?” And his smile deepened as he watched me blink like a moron at him.

“Oh!” I giggled. Yep. Me, Rhiannon McKinsey, has turned into a giggling girl that thinks ‘nether regions.’ “Yes, sorry, it’s just been a long day.”

“Maybe you need a coffee,” he quipped and I melted further.

“No drinking on the job,” I snarked back with a wink. I’d recovered a bit but my flirt game had also been cranked to eleven. “What can I get you?” I finally asked, letting my eyes dart down his body and then back up to his face. He was at least 6’3″ and his leather jacket couldn’t hide his muscled arms and chest. Or his accent. I couldn’t place the subtle lilt, something from across the sea. British, Irish…Scottish!? Scottish guys were my kryptonite.

He still smiled, his dark blue eyes narrowing slightly as he considered me as well. The moment stretched just a bit too long as we appraised each other. Yep, he liked my boobs. I could tell.

“Espresso con panna, please.” He paused, leaned in slightly and I blushed as he boldly stared at my boobs. “Rhiannon,” he read from my nametag.

Heat screamed up into my cheeks as he glanced back up with a smile. Of course he wasn’t just staring at my boobs… “Rhia,” I hiccuped out to cover my embarrassment. “I go by Rhia, actually.” I laughed weakly as I flicked the nametag. “My mom had a thing for Fleetwood Mac, she fancied herself a witch.”

“How fitting,” he said as he handed me his card.

“It got old,” I said as I rang up his drink. “Every Halloween I had to be a witch. Even when I was going through my princess faze. We compromised with a crown on my witch’s hat.”

He threw back his head with a loud laugh and I quickly glanced down to read his card. It was one of those weirdly heavy, pure black cards. ‘Alric Conall’ it read. Hot name. I glanced back up to Alric, his head was still thrown back and his muscled throat moved temptingly as he laughed.

Dumbly, I held the card out as he lowered his head to meet my eyes. If he knew I’d spent the last two seconds memorizing his name and the shape of his Adam’s apple, he gave no sign. “I think you’d look cute in a witch’s hat. Crown or no,” he chuckled as he took the card.

Holy shit. He was flirting back. If my cheeks could go redder, they would have. But they couldn’t. I already felt the boiling flush I was famous in my friend circle for. My best friend, Sylvia, always joked that we could never play poker, you had only to glance at my cheeks to know my exact thoughts.

I swallowed, hoping he’d think my flush was just from the hot espresso machine next to me. “Thanks.” I rolled my eyes at him as I moved to make his drink.

I felt his eyes still on me as I packed the fine grounds. I wracked my brain for some other sarcastic quip to keep the conversation going. But his dark eyes seemed to drill into my brain, pluck any and all cleverness away. I was left a giggling idiot with moist nether regions.

I set the tiny cup of espresso on the bar and grabbed up the whipped cream from the mini fridge. Still he watched me, a slow smirk settling on his handsome face. “Con panna,” I said, trying my best for an Italian accent. “You have a sweet tooth,” I added with what I hoped was a shy smile.

“I do,” he nodded. And then his eyes again slid down. I felt them like a brand. Down my neck, pausing for a moment at my full breasts in my tight black polo. Down further to my hand that now trembled as I held a dollop of whipped cream poised over the espresso cup. His eyes flicked back up, found me staring dumbly at him. Another slow smile pulled at his lips, though his lovely blue eyes had darkened. Another long moment stretched as we stared at each other. And then the whipped cream dropped with a PLOP into the cup.

“Enjoy,” I trilled, much too high, and turned away. I busied myself cleaning the espresso machine and then hurried into the back room, needing to hide.

I leaned back against the walk-in fridge door. The cool metal brought a TINY bit of my mind back to me. I listened. No ring from the door as he left. Instead, I heard the scrape of one of the chairs. I glanced to the clock. Nearly closing time. Licking my lips, my mind fluttered over the possibilities. He was definitely flirting. Should I ask him out. Would he ask ME out?

I straightened. He couldn’t ask me out if I hid back here. I hurried to the little mirror over the desk. As I’d known, my cheeks were crimson apples. I smoothed my pale blond hair, debating about undoing it from its high pony. No, that was against the rules. I wasn’t getting written up just to flirt with sexy Alric. Hurrying to the sink, I ran some cold water and splashed it against my face, praying I could calm my heated cheeks. At least a bit.

As I debated about rummaging in my purse for my tiny bottle of perfume, I heard the little bell on the door ring. FUCK! Had I lost my chance with Adonis? Er, Alric? I hurried to the front just in time to see his back retreating through the door. Strong, beautiful broad shoulders filled out his leather jacket. I watched him swing a leg over a motorcycle–of course–and then he was gone. The sexiest man to ever flirt with me and he was gone. He hadn’t looked like a biker with his tidy gray button up shirt and black jeans, but the retro bike looked plucked straight from a movie from the 50s so somehow seemed just right.

Disappointment settled into my gut as I watched him ride away. Probably off to fuck his classy, old money girlfriend. She probably only let him fuck her in missionary. Probably complained when she sucked his dick and didn’t even swallow. Probably…My eyes fell on a slip of paper left under the espresso cup on a table by the door.

I pushed down the hope that surged in my chest as I stepped around the bar. I couldn’t bear another disappointment tonight. I slowly walked to the table and plucked up the paper. It looked to be ripped from a book. Had he been carrying a book?

‘Rhia, if you’re not busy with your witching duties tonight, come to my Halloween party. -A’ I flipped the paper over to find an address quickly scrawled across the back. I recognized the neighborhood instantly. It sat up in the hills above the city. The RICH area of town. I blinked as I stared at the note.

My nether regions roared in excitement.




One minute before eight I locked up the little coffee shop’s door, my mind already back at home and tearing my closet apart for something to wear. Doubt warred with excitement. Should I actually go? What if handsome Alric was a serial killer. Accepting a strangers invite to his house on Halloween seemed unwise…but I hadn’t gotten any bad vibes from him. And I couldn’t get his chiseled face out of my head. I chewed my lip as I tugged my cardigan around my shoulders and hurried to my car. Maybe he was just being nice? Then would I look pathetic showing up to his swanky party in my discount high heels?

I pulled out my phone and to text Sylvia.

Me: hey girl hey…I know we were just going to stay in and watch movies…but what do you think of going to a party?

The little white dots appeared instantly as Sylvia typed.

Sylvia: but Hocus Pocus… 🙁

Me: I know…but I was just invited by the hottest man alive to a party. In Pacific Heights.

Sylvia’s little typing bubbles started. Stopped. Started Again. Stopped.

Me: Please Sylvie…it might be true love

Sylvia: well if it’s true love how can I say no?

I chuckled as I started my shitty car. Racing home I tried to think what in my closet I could wear for a costume. Something sexy, but not slutty. If only I had a spare ballgown laying around… I glanced at the note for the millionth time, annoyed that he hadn’t left his number. Probably a good thing though. I’d scared off one two many guys by my over-eager texting…

Rocketing into my front door, I smelled popcorn first. Next the sounds of Sylvia’s Halloween playlist assaulted my ears. Rihanna’s warbling voice pounded around me. Am I scaring you tonight? she sang. I tossed my purse on the couch and followed the music upstairs to find Sylvia in front of my closet. Several dresses, old feather boas from Pride Week, and other assorted costume components lay scattered on the floor.

“So what were you thinking?” she asked. She had a pair of dainty horns I’d worn when I dressed as a deer for Halloween a few years back on her head. Yeah, I know it was a stupid costume. I also know female deer don’t have horns. I was twenty-two, give me a break.

I danced across the room to her and shoved a handful of popcorn in my mouth as I surveyed the mess. My eyes fell on the flowy white dress I’d gotten for a weekend in Santa Cruz. I grabbed up the dress and several feather hair extensions. (Don’t ask me why I have those. It was a phase.)

“Forest witch,” I breathed.

Sylvie nodded, her eyes brightening with the idea. “Weyward sisters.” She grinned as she grabbed up a black, slinky dress and a leather corset. “You be light, I’ll be dark.”

I helped style Syvlia’s thick, curling black hair, working to set the cute horns. Dark, makeup, thick lines like war paint down her chin and across her forehead. Adding in some leather boots and a fur shawl and quiet little Sylvie turned into a fierce shaman warrior.

When it was my turn, Sylvie quickly braided a dozen of the feathers into my long, pale hair. I stared in the mirror at the thick tumble of hair and feathers over my shoulders. The dress was quite modest, with long, gauzy lace sleeves. But then the neck plunged in a deep V. I considered my boobs. Alric hadn’t seemed to mind them though I’d always worried they were too small. Barely a B cup. But at least it meant I didn’t have to wear a bra with the dress.

I slid a few wrist cuffs on my arms as Sylvia worked on my makeup. I stood half a foot taller than the curvy Sylvie. We’d always joked we couldn’t be more opposite. My skin was like cream, hers like a triple shot mocha–extra chocolate. Her large dark eyes peered into mine as she finished up the gentle dusting of pink makeup on my face.

“You look practically virginal,” Sylvie said as she stepped back to admire her work.

“Oh shit, I wouldn’t want to false advertise…” I chuckled as I leaned in to check the makeup. My blue eyes–frankly my best feature–shown bright against the white of my outfit and pale skin. I turned in the mirror, admiring how the gauzy dress flowed, but still somehow clung to my curves. Yes, I have some curves, not a lot, but some. I’m what you’d described as willowy, if you insisted on describing my body. A willow curves sometimes, right?

“So when are we supposed to arrive?” Sylvia asked as she turned in the mirror as well to examine her outfit.

“Oh…I’m not sure. He just gave me the address.”

Syvlia stilled and turned to face me, her eyes skeptical. “Mmhm.” She nodded. “And what’s this guy’s name?”

“Alric. And he’s not a murderer.” I said quickly as I saw her mind begin to go there.

Sylvia sighed. “Okay, give me the address, I’m looking this up before we go.”

I chewed on my lip, only now considering the practicalities. Was I really doing this? Going to some random hotty’s house after speaking with him for five minutes? I hurried down the stairs and pulled the note from my purse. Alric’s neatly scrawled note sent a shiver through me. He wouldn’t have left it if he really didn’t want to see me again…

I handed the paper to Sylvia. Her lips pursed as she read it quickly then flipped it over. She squinted as she read the address. Then read something else on the paper. “This is ripped from Macbeth,” she murmured. “‘Fair is foul, and foul is fair.'”

“What?” I exclaimed and snatched the page from her. In my hurry I hadn’t gotten a chance to check it over but now read through the first scene from Macbeth. My heart thrummed giddily. His joke about witches. It was out first inside joke. I grinned. “It’s our thing, witches,” I giggled at Sylvie as I dropped onto the couch.

She snorted as she moved to her laptop and quickly typed in the address. Google maps popped up and Sylvie zoomed in on the satellite view of Alric’s house. We both sucked in a breath. It sat at the height of Pacific Heights, looking like it took up half a block. “Holy shit, Rhia. Did you really up your flirt game?” She cocked her head. “Or your espresso making game?”

I barked a laugh and hit her with the pillow. Glancing to the time on her computer my stomach began to roil. Nearly ten. The party had to be in full swing by now. “Okay, so we can go?” I asked her, letting a bit of pleading enter my voice as she still studied the map.

“Yes, we can go. But remember the rules. We don’t leave each other. If I get murdered tonight, I’m blaming you,” she warned.


We arrived at Alric’s imposing house in the hills just after ten. After handing my embarrassing car off to a black suited parking attendant, we stood gaping at the house. The curtains were all closed but the soft light from inside glowed at their edges. I strained, hoping to hear a boisterous party in full swing and could just make out the sound of soft music. Violins and piano wafted classily through the air and I spared Sylvia with a skeptical look. Her face matched mine.

“We’re going to look trashy aren’t we?” she asked.

I glanced down to my dress. I thought I looked pretty, but I was envisioning sleek women in ballgowns and elaborate costumes within. I set my mouth.

“You look badass,” I said. Sylvia did. A fierce little woods witch that would take no shit. “Come on.”

I stepped towards the large doubledoors and slammed the gargoyle knocker quickly a couple times. Only a breath passed before the door was swung open by another black suited man. He was older and swept his eyes over us quickly. Then he bowed and motioned us inside.

Blinking in surprise I stepped passed the man. Butler? Did Alric have a butler? Was that even a job these days? Sylvia grabbed my hand as we stepped into the large entryway. There were costumed people chatting in the foyer with two doors leading to the left and right. I peeked through one to find a smoke-filled sitting room. Several men reclined on wingback chairs and leather couches. I instantly noticed a theme in the costumes and relief flooded me right down to my toes. They looked like they could be extras from Game of Thrones or Vikings. Rustic armor, swords, leather, furs.

“Oh my god,” Sylvia whispered next to me. “We fit right in.”

I giggled nervously as she spoke my mind. “I don’t see Alric in there, let’s check the other room.”

We turned from the smoking room and tried the other doorway across the foyer. Within this one was a library. Again, mostly men filled the room, but a few woman were scattered at the tables playing some sort of card game. My eyes darted over the costumed people, none were Alric. I studied the woman. Some wore similar armor to the men, shieldmaidens, while others wore more simple medieval type dresses.

“Not in here either,” I murmured to Sylvia.

A roar of laughter rose from further within the house. Still holding Sylvia’s hand, I eased into the room, skirting past the tables. I felt the eyes on me then. Normally, I’d be in heaven with the amount of eager eyed men that watched us. The heady scent of tobacco smoke and leather and teakwood filled the library lounge, but I pushed through, not allowing myself to be distracted by the handsome men.

The library opened up into a long dining room. I gaped at the spread on the table.

“I’m in heaven,” Sylvia laughed as she stepped towards the table and plucked a tartlet up.

“Don’t get distracted,” I warned.

“Too late,” an accented voice rumbled from behind us.

I whipped around to find an immense, red bearded man staring down at Sylvia and me. He grinned, his eyes twinkling as he unapologetically looked us over. If I wasn’t Alric hunting, he’d have been like catnip to me. Like I said, rugged, accented men were my kryptonite.

“Too late?” I asked him, raising an eyebrow.

He chuckled. “I’m thoroughly distracted by the sun and the moon.”

Sylvia joined me in raising an eyebrow, though I could see the amusement in her eyes as she looked over Redbeard the Viking. “Do you use that line on every witch you encounter?” Sylvia asked, her voice dipping sensuously low.

“Only the sisters of light and dark. The most beautiful ones.” His grin deepened, crinkling his bright blue eyes. Again his eyes swept down us and I felt every inch of his appraisal. A thrill raced up and down my spine, there was admiration, that first spark of lust in his expression. Well, if Alric did happen to have a girlfriend then it looked like I had a back-up.

“We’ve just arrived, do you know where Alric is?” I asked.

His gaze snapped back up to my face as his expression fell a bit. He nodded. “Aye, he’s on the back terrace.” Suddenly his huge arms were wrapping around my and Sylvia’s shoulders and he was leading us from the dining room towards the back of the house. “Come, wouldn’t want Alric’s lass to get lost.”

Sylvia and I shared a look, but let Redbeard lead us towards the back of the house. Other guests, all wearing similar styled costumes moved out of our way though I still felt their eyes. Gentle Celtic music thrummed through the gathering, punctuated here and there by an uproar of more laughter. And I began keeping track of the man to woman ratio. There were easily four times as many men as women, so I began to understand the curious eyes that followed us.

Large French doors were thrown open to a back garden. It seemed this was where the real party was. Dozens more Vikings and extras from Lord of the Rings filled the terrace and garden. A five-person band was the source of the music in one corner and the space in front of them was filled with swaying bodies. I swallowed as I registered only perhaps five women in the press of bodies. They moved sensually to the music. One woman with a mass of curling red hair was surrounded by several men. She laughed, her eyes closed as she threw her head back and was spun around the group. As she leaned into one man, pressing herself against his armored chest, another moved behind her to cup her swaying ass.

I paled, worried for a moment she was being harassed, but then she again laughed loudly as another man grabbed her waist to lift her in the air. I realized we paused to watch, Redbeard’s heavy arm was still draped over my shoulder.

“You like to dance?” he asked.

“I love it,” Sylvia breathed.

I stiffened, shrugging his arm off me as I remembered myself. Now that we were out on the terrace, I let my eyes drift from the dancers to search out Alric. There were pockets of guests reclining all along the shadowed garden. I began to chew my lip, imagining Alric entwined with his girlfriend on one of the lounges. Though it was dark, there was a large firepit in the center of the space and a few torches scattered. I suddenly felt hot, nervous and regretting even coming in the first place. This was so far out of my depth, I felt like an idiot…