Big, Bad Red
Red shooed the last drinker out the front door of Granny’s Pub, turned the deadbolt and flipped the open-for-business sign to closed as the streetlights outside blinked on. She’d already sent the staff home early and told them not to come back until tomorrow morning. Right now she had more important things to worry about than filling pints and cleaning up after drunken hipsters who’d tossed their organic hemp cookies in the bathroom.
Liam sat in a corner booth, crunching his was through his second bowl of peanuts, watching her every move. She didn’t have to look over her shoulder to confirm his presence. One of the spell’s side effects was a psychic string tethering them together, giving her a pinpoint of the tattooed werewolf’s location, like a beacon blinking in the darkness.
Lucky me, I’m the proud owner of an internal lust radar.
She refused to say the other L word, even in her own head.
Turning, Red felt the invisible string tugging her left, toward Liam and his drool-worthy bod. Really, it wasn’t fair. He had a model’s face, a bad boy’s body and enough swagger to melt her panties. The combination was frying her brain like an egg.
She locked her feet in place, refusing to go one more step toward her magically intended. If she was going to reverse this spell, she couldn’t give an inch—not a single one.
Looking around the dim interior, she spotted Derry sitting at the bar, his oversized shoulders hunched and a pint of stout sitting untouched near his left hand. He’d been gone for hours looking for a way to break the spell, since Red couldn’t go anywhere without Liam unless she wanted her head to feel as though it was going to explode. With any luck, Derry had found out something. Forcing herself to take the direction her body did not want her to go, she made walked away from the wolf she wanted and over to the bar, where she sat down on the stool next to her number two.
“Back from your fact-finding mission?” she asked.
Nervous energy poured off Derry in tidal waves. The thunk-thunk-thunk of his oversized thumb drumming against the oak bar was nearly enough to crack the wood. “I’m sorry, boss. I know I shouldn’t have gone into the treasure room. I was just worried when no one could find you. If you want to fire me, I totally understand.”
Guilt pinged the spot where he heart was supposed to be and she threw him a verbal bone. “Your heart was in the right place.” He’d been loyal to a fault and she’d taken him for granted. Maybe she really should think about making him a partner.
His shoulders straightened and he perked up. “Thanks, boss!”
“Don’t look too happy, you’ll ruin my reputation as a ball-breaker.” She nudged him with her elbow. “So what did you find out?”
“The good news is, there is a reversal spell.”
Sending up a silent hallelujah to anyone listening, Red closed her eyes and experienced the first bit of relief since Liam had walked into her pub and wound her up tighter than a propeller on a kid’s balsa wood airplane. “Score one for us. Who gave you the intel?”
Derry kept his gaze averted, grabbed his pint and took a deep drink. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, clearing away the beer’s tan foam. “The Fairy Godmother.”
Beautiful, powerful and greedy, the Fairy Godmother wasn’t to be messed with. Being indebted to her ranked about as high on Red’s to-do list as putting on the red ballet shoes and dancing until her feet fell off—literally. “She can’t be trusted.”
“Not normally, but she’s my cousin’s stepbrother’s wife’s aunt, so we’re like this.” He held up two sausage-thick fingers wrapped around each other. “She knew all about the sword. Do you know how much it’s worth?”
As if. “Why do you think I got it off the muffin man when the divorce went down? The man needed a lot of cash to keep his ass out of the fire with his wife’s attorney, but not as much as I knew I could get for the Caladbolg on the black market.”
Derry grinned and shook his head. “You never miss a trick, do you?”
That nameless sixth sense tingled across her skin on the back of her neck, corkscrewing her already tightly curled hair. She slid her gaze across the pub to the bad boy in leather in the corner booth waiting for her. He flashed her a grin that straddled the fine line between predatory and playful. Desire, hot and needy, settled low in her stomach and her nipples peaked, pushing against her lace bra. Red gripped the bar tight enough that the woodgrain was going to leave an imprint on her palms. It was the only way to stop herself from sashaying her sweet ass over to Liam and dragging him to her office before she fucked him right there in the booth.
If there was any other way, she’d tell the Fairy Godmother thanks but no thanks. “What do we have to do to break it?”
“She needs the sword and a lock of each of your hair.”
Glancing back over in Liam’s direction, it took everything she had to keep her attention focused on the sword’s velvet carrying case on the table in front of him. The hair was no problem, but the idea of letting the sword out of her sight made her twitchy. “Why the sword?”
Derry looked up at the pub’s tin ceiling as if remembering facts for a test. “She said she needs it because it’s what started the whole thing.”
“Can she do it here?” She lost the battle and her focus flicked up to Liam. It was just for a second, but it was enough to get her heart to shutter to a stop before revving back up to warp speed.
“Nope.” Derry shook his shaggy head of hair. “She said she needs her potions and she won’t know exactly what else she’ll need to reverse the spell until she’s in the middle of everything. No one has tried to reverse a Caladbolg sword love spell in centuries and she doesn’t want to mess it up.”
Forget twitchy, this whole situation checked off every do-not-do item in the how-to-survive-on-the-magical-mean-streets-of-Dublin manual. “I don’t like this.”
Derry shrugged and jerked his dimpled chin toward Liam. “I suppose he wouldn’t be that bad of a husband. He’s rich. You’d probably have to give up the business, but you’d be a billionaire’s wife and could spend your days going out to lunch, playing tennis and shopping.”
That sounded about as fun as sticking a fork in her eye. Granny’s Pub was her place. She was a scrapper off the streets. Becoming a lady who lunches was the last thing she wanted to do with her life.
Ignoring any misgivings, she made her decision. “Okay, so let’s do this.”
“He’s not going to like it,” Derry grumbled.
“Not our problem.” Now it was her turn to shrug. “Anyway, we’re not going to tell him.”
“You don’t trust him?”
Not even when the sight of Liam’s hard body and panty-melting smirk made her want to tie him up to her bed and have her wicked way with him for the next twenty years. The truth was, she trusted only one person in the world and Granny wasn’t in a position to help right now. With the love spell tying her to Liam under the pain of a thousand nails jabbing into her brain, she couldn’t leave him to take the sword to the Fairy Godmother. Judging by Liam’s speech that they had to get married, there was no way he’d come along and sit quietly while the spell disintigrated. There really wasn’t a choice to make. She could either trust Derry to get the spell reversed or stay shackled to Liam. Reaching up, she plucked several strands of course hair from her head and handed them to Derry.
“Come on.” She slid off the bar stool and started across the pub, ready to do whatever it took to break this spell before there was no turning back.
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