Spell of the Highlander

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9780385339148: Spell of the Highlander

Powerful. Sensual. Seductive. He is all that is shamelessly erotic in a man. In her sexiest Highlander novel yet, New York Times bestselling author Karen Moning stirs up a sizzling brew of ancient mystery and modern passion as she brings together a devilishly handsome Celtic warrior trapped in time . . . and the woman who’s about to pay the ultimate price for freeing him. Age-old secrets haunt them. Deadly danger and irresistible desire shadow their every move. It’s a relationship for the ages. And all that separates them is a mere thirteen hundred years. . . .

Jessi St. James has got to get a life. Too many hours studying ancient artifacts has given the hardworking archaeology student a bad case of sex on the brain. So she figures she must be dreaming when she spies a gorgeous half-naked man staring out at her from inside the silvery glass of an ancient mirror. But when a split-second decision saves her from a terrifying attempt on her life, Jessi suddenly finds herself confronting six and a half feet of smoldering, insatiable alpha male.

Heir to the arcane magic of his Druid ancestors, eleven centuries ago Cian MacKeltar was trapped inside the Dark Glass, one of four coveted Unseelie Hallows, objects of unspeakable power. When the Dark Glass is stolen, an ancient enemy will stop at nothing to reclaim it, destroying everything in his path–including the one woman who may just hold the key to breaking the ninth-century Highlander’s dark spell. For Jessi, the muscle-bound sex god in the mirror is not only tantalizingly real, he’s offering his protection–from exactly what, Jessi doesn’t know. And all he wants in exchange is the exquisite pleasure of sharing her bed.

Yet even as Cian’s insatiable hunger begins to work its dark magic on Jessi, his ancient enemy is about to obtain the final and most dangerous of the Unseelie Hallows–and the ninth-century Highlander must stop him from getting it. Nothing less than the very fabric of the universe and two passionately entwined lives are at stake–as Cian and Jessi fight to claim the kind of love that comes along but once in an ice age. . . .

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About the Author:

Karen Marie Moning graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in Society & Law. Her novels have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists and have won numerous awards, including the prestigious RITA Award.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

Friday, October 6th

The call that changed the entire course of Jessi St. James’s life came on an utterly unremarkable, dateless Friday night that differed in no particularly significant way from any other unremarkable, dateless Friday night in her all-too-predictable life, which—she was in no hurry to discuss—were a lot of Friday nights.

She was sitting in the dark on the fire escape outside the kitchen window of her third-floor apartment at 222 Elizabeth Street, enjoying an unseasonably warm autumn evening. She was being a shameless voyeur, peeping around the corner of the brownstone to watch a crowd of people that, unlike her, had time to have a life, and were talking and laughing out on the sidewalk in front of the nightclub across the street.

For the past few minutes she’d been riveted by a leggy redhead and her boyfriend—a dark-haired, sun-bronzed, muscled hottie in jeans and a white T-shirt. He kept backing his girlfriend up against the wall, stretching her hands above her head, and kissing her like there was no tomorrow, getting into it with his whole gorgeous, rippling body. (And would you just look at that hip action? The way he was grinding against her—they might as well be doing it right there in the street!)

Jessi sucked in a sharp breath.

God, had she ever been kissed like that? Like the man couldn’t wait to get inside her? Like he wanted to devour her, maybe crawl right inside her skin?

The redhead’s hands slipped free, down to the hottie’s ass, fingers curving into his muscled butt, and Jessi’s hands curled into fists.

When the hottie’s hands skimmed up the redhead’s breasts, his thumbs braising her nipples, Jessi’s own went hard as little pearls. She could almost imagine she was the one he was kissing, that she was the one he was about to have hot, animalistic—

Why can’t I have a life like that? she thought.

You can, an inner voice reminded—after your PhD.

The reminder wasn’t nearly as effective as it had been years ago as an undergrad. She was sick of being in school, sick of being broke, sick of constantly racing from her classes to her full-time job as Professor Keene’s assistant, then home to study, or if she was really lucky, snatching a whopping four or five hours of sleep before getting up to do it all over again.

Her demanding, tightly organized schedule left no time for a social life. And lately she’d been feeling downright sulky about it. Everywhere she turned lately there were couples, and they were busy coupling and having a wonderfully couplelicious time of it.

But not her. There was no time for coupling in her life. She wasn’t one of the lucky ones that had a free ride through school. She had to scrimp and save and make every moment and penny count. In addition to working full-time and taking a full load of classes, she taught classes too. It barely left her time to eat, shower, and sleep.

On the infrequent occasions she’d tried to date, the guys had gotten so fed up with how seldom she could see them and how low on her list of priorities they seemed to be and how unwilling she was to fall right in bed with them (most college guys seemed to think if they didn’t score by the third date there was something wrong with the woman—puh-leeze), that they’d soon sought greener pastures.

Still, it would all be worth it soon. Although some people didn’t seem to think being an archaeologist and playing with old, dusty, or, frequently, dead things for the rest of one’s life was a particularly exciting thing to do (like her mom, who hated Jessi’s choice of major and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t married and blissfully popping out babies like her sisters), Jessi couldn’t imagine a more thrilling career. It might not top other people’s lists of dreams, but it was hers.

Dr. Jessica St. James. She was so close she could taste it. Another year and a half and she’d be done with her course work for her PhD.

Then she might date like the Energizer Bunny, making up for lost time. But right now, she’d not worked so hard and gone into so much debt to go screwing everything up just because she seemed to be stuck in some kind of hormonal overdrive.

In a few years, she consoled herself, staring down at the busy street, the people hanging out at that club would probably still be hanging out at that club, their lives completely unchanged, while she would be traveling to far-off places, digging up remnants of the past, and having grand adventures.

And who knew, maybe Mr. Right would be waiting for her out there at some future dig site. Maybe her life just wasn’t scheduled to take off as fast as everyone else’s. Maybe she was just a late bloomer.

Holy cow—the hottie was slipping his hand inside the redhead’s jeans. And her hand was on his—oh! Right there in front of God and everybody!

Behind her, somewhere in the cramped and crowded apartment that desperately needed to be cleaned and have the trash taken out, the phone began to ring.

Jessi rolled her eyes. The mundaneness of her existence always chose the most inconvenient moments to intrude.

Ring! Ring!

She gulped another fascinated look at the unabashed display of sex-on-the-sidewalk, then reluctantly boosted herself inside the kitchen window. She shook her head in a vain attempt to clear it, then pulled down the shade. What she couldn’t see, couldn’t torture her. At least not much, anyway.

Riiiiing!

Where was that blasted phone?

She finally spied it on the sofa, nearly buried beneath pillows, candy wrappers, and a pizza box that contained—eew—something fuzzy and phosphorescent green. As she gingerly pushed aside the box, she hesitated, hand suspended in midair above the phone.

For a moment—the briefest, most peculiar of interludes—she suffered the inexplicable, intense feeling that she shouldn’t pick it up.

That she should just let it ring and ring.

Maybe let it ring all weekend.

Later, Jessi would recall that feeling.

Time itself seemed to stand still for that odd, pregnant slice of time, and she had the weirdest sensation that the universe itself had stopped breathing and was waiting to see what she would do next.

She wrinkled her nose at the ridiculous, egocentric thought.

As if the universe ever even noticed Jessi St. James.

She picked up the phone.

Lucan Myrddin Trevayne paced before the fire.

When employing a sorcerer’s spell to conceal his true appearance—which he did whenever he wasn’t completely alone—he was tall, in his early forties, handsome, powerfully built, his thick black hair dashed at the temples with silver. He was a man who turned women’s heads, and made men take an instinctive step back when he walked by. His mien said one thing: Power—I have it, you don’t. And if you think you do—try me. His features were Old World, his eyes cold gray as a loch beneath a stormy sky. His true appearance was far less appealing.

He’d amassed tremendous wealth and power in his lifetime, which had been considerably longer than most. He held controlling interest in many and varied enterprises, from banks to media to oil. He kept residences in a dozen cities. He retained a select group of uniquely trained men and the occasional woman to handle his most private affairs.

To his left, seated in a deep armchair, one of those men waited tensely.

“This is absurd, Roman,” Lucan growled. “What the hell’s taking so long?”

Roman shifted defensively in his chair. He was aptly named, his features as classically handsome as those on an ancient coin, his hair long and blond. “I’ve got men on it, Mr. Trevayne,” he said with the trace of a Russian accent. “The best men we’ve got. The problem is, they went in a dozen different directions. They were sold on the black market. No one has names. It’s going to take time—”

“Time is the one thing I don’t have,” Lucan cut him off sharply. “Every hour, every moment that passes, makes it less likely they’ll be recovered. Those damned things must be found.”

“Those damned things” were the Dark or “Unseelie” Hallows of the Tuatha Dé Danaan—artifacts of immense power created by an ancient civilization that had passed, centuries ago and quite erroneously, into Man’s history books as a mythical race: the Daoine Sidhe or the Fae.

Lucan had believed there was no better place to safekeep his prized treasures than in his well-warded private residence in London.

He’d been wrong.

Critically wrong.

He wasn’t certain what had happened a few months ago while he’d been out of the country pursuing a lead on the Dark Book, the final and most powerful of the four Unseelie Hallows, but something had transpired somewhere in London—its epicenter in the east side, he could feel the lingering traces of power—that had reverberated through all of England. An immense and ancient power had risen for a brief time, so strong that it had neutralized all other magic in Britain.

Which he wouldn’t have cared about since whatever it was had departed as swiftly as it had come, except for the fact that its rising had shattered formidable, allegedly unbreakable wards that protected his most prized possessions. Protected them so well that he’d found the notion of a modern-day security system laughable.

Not so laughable now.

He&#...

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