August 5, 2014
Grand Central Publishing/ Forever Yours
A GIFT AND A CURSE
A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH
Landry has sacrificed everything to protect Mala. A near-death experience changes him forever, and now he, too, possesses supernatural powers he doesn't understand. Mala and Landry must band together to defeat the dark forces—both human and otherworldly—who would use their abilities for evil. Even as they fall for each other, they must prepare to battle for their very souls . . .
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On Saturdays, the local farmers set up a market in Paradise Park. I plan to do my veggie shopping there since I didn’t get my garden planted this year. The streets bordering the park are packed. I’m lucky to find a spot in the parking lot of First National Bank kitty-corner from the Memorial Rose Garden. Colorful tents are lined up in orderly rows in the square. Each section is separated, with the organic foods in one row and regular folk who want to sell extra produce in the other. Local shops also set up booths selling everything from pastries, coffee and tea, handmade clothing and soaps, fresh eggs, organic meat, and toys and games. A freaktastic clown stands on the street corner with a tank of helium and a gaggle of kids around him. I’m tempted to buy Landry a balloon to cheer him up.
The passenger door slams shut as soon as I shut off the engine. Landry wastes no time coming around to open my door and lift me to the ground before I can squawk in protest. He strides off while I grab my cloth shopping bag, leaving me to stare after his retreating back in shock. When he’s halfway across the street, he pauses and turns around.
“This is your idea. Hurry,” he yells.
“I’m coming.” I shut the door and run to catch up. When I reach him, he moves around me until I’m on his blind side. He starts forward again, but slows his steps so they match mine. If I didn’t know him so well, I’d think he didn’t have a care in the world, but I do. He walks like he did in jail—shoulders back and tight, chest slightly raised. He scans the area, alert for a threat.
I take his hand, squeezing when he tries to pull away.
We blend into the crowd, strolling up and down the rows. It’s a mix of people of all ages. A few people say “hi.” Most don’t. A large percentage of them stare. I feel like I’m at the mercy of paparazzi.
“Smile and wave,” I mutter from the corner of my mouth, jabbing Landry in the side with my elbow.
“You’re acting like you’ve done something wrong, but you haven’t. Don’t let these fools see you sweat. Weakness breeds violence. Like a silverback gorilla in the jungle, you need to beat your chest and fling your poop at someone.”
His snort-laugh doubles him over, and I pat him on the back. “That’s perfect,” I say. “No worries.”
He turns and lifts me into a breath-stealing hug. “Thanks,” he whispers in my ear and presses a brotherly kiss to my forehead. Wish he’d move his lips a little lower. Would a few inches kill him?
My voice comes a little thick and raspy too, and I cough to clear my throat. “No problem.”
How long has he been standing here holding me? We have an even larger audience than before. Now we really are the object of paparazzi-like behavior as people snap pictures of our embrace with their phones. I wrap my arms around his neck and press my cheek against his. “Cheese,” I say, grinning for the cameras.
A couple of high school kids start to laugh.
One yells, “Give her another kiss, Landry.”
“Yeah, Landry. Give me a kiss.” I bat my eyelashes, whispering in his ear, “I swear if you drop me on my ass in public—”
I don’t have to finish the threat.
His mouth steals across mine.
I lean into him, head tilting. My arms tighten around his neck. His lips are soft and juicy, like peaches. Yum. My thoughts scatter and swirl, leaving only the sensation of his mouth on mine.
He breaks free first and lowers me to my feet. He avoids my gaze. “Did it work?” he asks, running his fingers through his black hair so it falls forward to shield his eye again. He shifts from his forward foot to his back which somehow puts distance between us without him having to move.
I laugh, playing off the hurt. “Yeah, we gave our fans a titillating bit of new gossip to take the place of the old. Rumors about our relationship will be flying through town before lunch.” I glance around to be sure. The crowd drifts away, realizing there’s nothing more to see. Even better, nobody hurls insults or throws dead animals at our heads. “Let’s go.”
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