Craved (Gwen Sparks #1)(8) by Stephanie Nelson

“What’s the condition?” I asked with caution.

“Say you’re mine and only mine. Tell me that I’m the only man who can taste you.”

His words only turned me on more, was that his plan?

I took too long to answer so he stripped off all of his clothes in record time and I gasped at seeing him completely naked. His length was impressive and had me second guessing why I wanted to stop, Fiona wouldn’t hear us if we continued, right?

He grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet, causing our na**d bodies to press against each other, so that his massive erection teased my stomach.

“Aiden,” I said in warning.

He turned me around so that my back was pressed against his chest and reached a hand around to slip his fingers under my panties, as he played with the dark curls.

“Stop, Aiden,” I told him, but my tone lacked conviction.

“Say it, Gwen and I’ll stop, or perhaps you don’t want me to?”

If I said it then he’d win, he would get me to admit that we were actually a couple and I was his. Being very competitive, I had trouble with losing. But if he kept playing between my legs, I wasn’t going to be able to stop this and I could hear Fiona in the bathroom, which meant she would be able to hear us. Call me crazy, but I don’t like witnesses when I am intimate with a guy.

“Very well,” Aiden said as he ripped my panties in two. They fell to the floor as if they were leaves falling from an autumn branch. I gasped when I felt the tip of his hardness edge closer between my legs.

“Okay, you‘re right,” I shrieked, but he didn’t stop.

“Say it, Gwen, say you’re mine!” His lips were very close to my ear and I could feel the dominance in his tone as he pushed himself closer to my center. My head and my libido were at war with each other, as they contemplated what we really wanted. It would be so easy to let him take me right there and worry about the jabs Fiona would send my way later, but the humiliation wasn’t really worth it, was it?

“I’m yours, Aiden and no one else’s,” I reluctantly admitted.

“And I’m the only one who can taste you?”

“Yes.”

“The only one who will touch you?”

“YES!” I shrieked in annoyance.

Aiden laughed and stopped his interrogation, “Okay, okay, you don’t have to yell.”

“You are such an ass**le,” I told him with a frustrated smile.

“Yes, but I’m your ass**le,” he said, sending me a wink.

“You weren’t really going to keep going if I didn’t say it, were you?”

“Of course not. I’m not a monster, Gwen,” he laughed in victory and pressed a kiss to my lips before retrieving my bathrobe and placing it over my shoulders. “Such a shame to cover a canvas as beautiful as yours,” he said with a headshake.

“Right back at cha,” I said as I held his boxers out to him. I had literally just started seeing Aiden, but I felt really comfortable around him, even butt naked. We’d been friends for two years sure, but I’d never moved this fast with a guy before. He was vexatious, egotistical, and a smart ass; but for some unknown reason, it only made him more attractive in my eyes. Of course, his romantic side didn’t hurt either.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. I have to check in with Vain,” he said.

“Has your friend sent you a sample of brew yet?” Just saying that word was like a punch in the gut. I knew vampires drank blood, but when they took it as far as killing, especially witches, then I took it personally. I wondered why Aiden even knew someone like that, but I was afraid to ask, afraid of what I’d find out.

“Not yet, you’ll be the first person to know as soon as the shipment comes.”

I nodded my head, hoping the shipment never came. I’d have to ask Micah and Wyatt if they knew of any witches being murdered in Chicago since the vampires up there were obviously brew addicts. If they weren’t stopped soon, we’d have a big problem on our hands. I didn’t want to have to watch over my shoulder for potential witch poachers.

“Get some sleep, Gwen,” Aiden said, kissing me softly on the lips.

Aura jumped onto the bed once Aiden left and I intertwined my fingers into her long, dark fur. Having her beside me put me at ease, as if she were the missing puzzle piece that I was lacking. The last thing I remember was the rumbling of her purring reverberating against my hand, and then I was out like a light.

8

My morning had been nothing but hectic since I set foot out of my apartment. Tourists were arriving so the streets were flooded with humans pointing cameras at everything and everyone.

I hadn’t spent a lot of time at Broomsticks since I’d been helping the FPD, so some of my inventory was still unpacked and in cardboard boxes. I had at least fifteen people browsing my shop and Penny was running late.

A girl accidentally broke a potion vial and was engulfed in dark purple clouds. Her mother screamed and tried to vigorously fan the clouds away, but they didn’t budge. Coming around the counter quickly, I picked up the broken vial and the label read, Old Bitty. I breathed a sigh of relief, this spell was easily countered.

“Ma’am, everything is going to be fine. She isn’t in danger,” I told the hysterical mother. When the eggplant colored clouds dispersed, the girl who was only twelve now looked to be seventy. Her long strawberry blonde hair had been replaced in a waterfall of gray. Her flawless young skin now had deep, wrinkled valleys and her blue eyes held wisdom she had yet to learn.

“Oh my God!” The mother shrieked. Everyone in the store had formed a circle around the mother and daughter and gasped at the change in the young girl’s appearance.

“It’s a simple age manipulation spell. Have your daughter drink this,” I handed her a bright yellow liquid that she took with uncertainty. “It’s the counter to that spell; she’ll be as good as new within five minutes.”

“Take a picture first, Mom,” the young girl said. Her mother looked at her like she’d lost her mind but pulled out a small digital camera and snapped a picture.

The girl poured the yellow potion into her mouth. We watched as yellow smoke twirled around her small frame. Although I knew everything would be all right, I felt horrible for the mother. I could see she was afraid for her daughter’s safety. I produced a tissue magically and handed it to the distraught woman.

Within seconds, the smoke faded to reveal the young girl back to normal. Her mother enveloped her in a hug and the surrounding witnesses all clapped.

“Please feel free to pick something out, it’s on the house,” I told her. Luckily after her daughter was safe, the woman was fine and held no animosity toward witches, or me in general. There are people who would have wanted to burn me at the stake over something like that.

Penny showed up an hour later, allowing me to take a moment to actually breathe. I could see a significant difference to the shelves, a lot emptier than when I opened in the morning, and it was only noon.

“I’m sorry I was late, Gwen. I just found out a friend of mine died,” Penny said. I had been so busy that when I stopped to look at her, I noticed her eyes were red and puffy.

“Oh Penny, I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you just call in? I would have understood.”

“I need to stay busy and you need the help,” she said.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I can’t be at home right now. All everyone is talking about there is Bridget’s murder.”

My mouth dropped open and I stared wide-eyed at Penny. Bridget wasn’t a common name. It had to have been the same Bridget that Wyatt and Micah found in the park.

“Bridget Downing?” I asked.

Penny gave me a strange look and said, “Yeah. How’d you know? It’s not in the newspapers yet.”

How was I supposed to tell her that I had seen where her friend’s body had been dumped and that I had seen her final memories? The FPD didn’t want anyone to know about brew and if I told Penny that I was working with the police then she’d want to know why, after all, I’m just a shop owner. I don’t advertise my rare gift.

“My ex-boyfriend works for the FPD; he mentioned it last night,” I said, not lying completely. “He wanted to know if I knew who she was but I hadn’t heard of her, was she from Flora?”

Penny relaxed slightly. “Yeah, she was my babysitter when I was younger and I always thought of her as a sister. I can’t believe what happened to her.”

My motivation to find the sicko responsible for the murders just skyrocketed. Of course, it was horrible that two witches had been drained, but finding out that one of them was close to someone I knew, really jumpstarted my anger.

I wondered why this hadn’t gotten out to the otherworldly public yet. Brew is addictive, according to the FPD, so why weren’t hundreds of witches turning up dead? Hopefully we’d find some answers tonight in Hemlock. Fiona still didn’t know that Micah would be going with us. She planned on tonight being a girls’ night out; how was I supposed to tell her that I had to investigate?

****************

Five hours later, and I was happily closing the shop for the night. I loved all of the business but was too anxious for tonight to really concentrate with the chatty humans that swarmed my store.

Before stopping home, I swung by Andy’s shop to pick up Fiona’s dress, as her voicemail had so eagerly demanded that I do. I had to park a million miles away because the streets were lined with cars that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Tourists still strolled the sidewalks, looking in shop windows and snapping pictures of Flora’s residents. I shook my head in annoyance and pushed through the crowd.

Andy’s shop, Fairy Fabulous, was desolate compared to Broomsticks. I guess the tourists didn’t need new digs as much as they needed frivolous potions and enchanted items.

I’d been in Andy’s shop a handful of times but was always shocked at how beautiful it was. The floors were covered in rich hardwood, the walls painted a deep purple with copper damask stenciling. He had installed three crystal chandeliers that hung by chocolate brown velvet ropes.

Forget the run-of-the-mill racks that you find in every other store, Andy displayed all of his gowns on mannequins. Somehow he had positioned a mannequin so that it looked like she was coming through a mural on the wall of an eighteenth century bedchamber. She wore a long, midnight blue gown, made of some sort of sateen fabric and her long blonde hair was intricately braided.

The floor was set up as if a masquerade ball was occurring. Plastic dummies looped arms and because of their beauty, they almost looked real. The women wore breathtaking gowns, (that was Andy’s niche), while the males wore tuxedoes.

“Ah, Gwen. So nice to see you,” Andy said, noticing me gawking in awe at the masterpiece that was his store. He was a good looking guy, blonde hair that looked like it was bleached by the sun, violet eyes, and cheekbones that would’ve made even the Roman gods envious. He stood around my height, five foot nine, and was dressed to impress, as usual.

“Hey Andy. Your store amazes me every time I see it; it’s absolutely beautiful.” Fairies were good at everything when it came to creativity, whether it was folding napkins, or creating clothes so beautiful, they made royalty jealous.

Looking at him, most would assume he were g*y. He’s not, just metro sexual. He once said that the reason he was so good at what he did was because he appreciated the female body so much. It made me blush at the time, but maybe he had a point.

“The only beauty I see is before me,” Andy said. He could smooth talk practically anyone out of their panties. Except me.

We had gone on a date once and, although he’s beautiful and charming, I could see right through his web of charisma. I’m convinced that the phrase player was specifically named after him.

“I’m here to pick up Fiona’s dress,” I told him, ignoring his compliment.

“Of course,” he said with a head nod. Andy went into the back of the store to retrieve Fiona’s dress while I walked through the maze of lifelike mannequins, running my fingertips along the exquisite fabric.

My phone rang, echoing Paramore’s “Heart” through the empty store.

“Hello?”

“Don’t forget to pick up my dress,” Fiona’s overly excited voice said.

“On it.”

“Awesome! Now maybe you can tell me why Micah is standing in our kitchen waiting for you?”

I bit my lip at her displeased tone. “There is someone in Hemlock we need to talk to who might have known Amy Harper.”

Silence.

“I told him I’d contact the guy myself, but he insists on coming along. Plus we think Rush might serve…might hold some answers to our many questions.”

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