Magic week has been grand, but now it is finished. To celebrate, I’m posting below an excerpt from Island Magic. Island Magic, book three of my Sleight of Hand series, won’t be released until October 31, but if you want more than the prologue posted below, leave me a comment. One lucky winner will receive an autographed advance copy of Island Magic!
Night fell slowly in the Caribbean, and when it came, it was complete. Especially in the little bar on the beach that Logan loved. Even the tiki torches on the boardwalk only spread small radii of flickering glow around their poles. The rest was a dark, secret haven.
From his lighted oasis beneath the thatch-roofed bar, he watched the patrons of the resort milling around, coming in from the dark beach, usually hand-in-hand with someone else. Occasionally a group of young men would collide with a group of young women and soon they would pair off and head into dark corners. All Logan had to do was make their drinks and chat. No interference required on his part. He was like a voyeuristic benefactor, watching them leave with nothing but good feelings.
When he first spotted Rachel in the bar, then lost sight of her in a crowd of college kids, he thought he must be mistaken. He frowned, craning his neck. It certainly had looked like Rachel. Nora’s best friend, the maid of honor at his wedding to a woman who was now dead. But what would Rachel be doing there? He hadn’t seen her in years, but he didn’t believe in coincidence. Magic, but not coincidence.
He recognized the long, luxurious hair and the lovely features, even though they had a hard edge he didn’t recall. And what was up with the slinky dress? Rachel had always seemed so strait-laced he’d figured she would be a suburban soccer mom by now. This was no soccer mom. This wasn’t even the beautiful, gentle woman Nora had known in the years after their marriage.
She sat at a table not far from the bar. She was alone, but everything about her said she had no intention of remaining that way. Logan noticed several men glancing her way. He couldn’t blame them. Her raven hair fell over one bare shoulder, her sleeveless red sundress setting off her tan. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and he shouldn’t be looking at Rachel that way. Not Nora’s best friend.
When the waitress took her order for a frozen margarita with salt, Logan intercepted it from Ramon. “Sorry, man.” He grinned at his friend and fellow bartender. “I’m gonna deliver this one personally.”
Ramon gave him a mock growl. “Earn me a good tip if you’re gonna pull rank on me, amigo.”
Logan flashed him a smile and vaulted the bar neatly, landing on the other side to appreciative looks from a group of young women. He saluted them, picked up the margarita and crossed to the table. “Your margarita, señorita.”
She raised beautiful dark eyes to meet his. The raw sensuality in that gaze left him breathless. She smiled, playing along as if she had no idea who he was. “Muchas gracias, señor. To what do I owe the special delivery?”
He glanced left and right, then sat across from her, leaning over the table as if to keep their conversation covert. “Between you and me, I’ve been told I’m overly concerned with our guests’ satisfaction.”
The curve of her lips deepened and he knew she’d sensed a double entendre in his words. He wanted to laugh but didn’t give in to the impulse. He wasn’t even certain he’d meant to flirt with her, but it had come out that way. He’d spent so many years on stage, his career so dependent on reading his audience, yet he couldn’t seem to see through Rachel’s carefully guarded exterior. She was so unlike the woman he remembered, it worried him. Enough so he stepped over a boundary he hadn’t crossed in years.
He beckoned her closer. When she obliged, her expression highly amused, he said quietly, “Do you believe in magic?”
The light touch of his breath on her ear sent a pleasant tingle of electricity through Rachel’s body. Maybe it was the way he pretended not to know her instead of demanding instantly what she was doing there and why she looked the way she did. He’d have every right, of course. She probably shouldn’t have just shown up this way. Why the hell did I? There are thousands of resorts in Cancun, but here I am on his island, a hundred miles away from those resorts and reachable only by plane. I might as well be on Fantasy Island.
The idea of this exceptionally tall, dark-skinned, very handsome man as a modern-day Mr. Roark was close enough to the truth of what Rachel knew she’d come searching for so she shied away from it. Magic wouldn’t help her now. Even if she did believe in it.
But maybe it had been what had brought her here to Isla Foriscura with her life in shambles around her. She’d told herself she wanted nothing but fun and a chance to spend her alimony, but in her broken heart, she knew the truth lay in the question the widower husband of her dead best friend had just asked her.
Do you believe in magic?
To the best of her knowledge he hadn’t performed magic since Nora died. Since he’d retired to his private island turned reclusive resort in the Caribbean. But she had no intention of asking him about it because that would break the little spell of pretense between them.
Instead she sipped the margarita, enjoying the tangy drink mixed with the salt from the rim. She let her lips part a little just before answering, noticed the way he focused on her mouth. “Should I?”
“Maybe.” He snagged an empty glass from a passing waitress and set it on the table in front of her.
She frowned. “Am I supposed to do something with that?” She glanced around, noticing that a little crowd of interested onlookers had gathered, including the waitresses. Did they know something she didn’t?
He shook his head, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. “Not that.” He twirled her around so she stood with her back to his chest, one of his hands on her waist. She wasn’t a short woman and she was wearing heels, but Logan was exceptionally tall. Over six feet tall and well built, he dwarfed her, but he adjusted his stance so his head was just over her shoulder.
She could feel the heat of his breath on her neck and she closed her eyes. If he weren’t Ian Logan—if she really didn’t know him—she would have enjoyed this. She would have let her body mold against his, felt his response, reveled in the feel of his firm body…
She forced herself to open her eyes, maintain her distance. Dear God, how had she forgotten what a sexy man he was? Ian Logan had everything. Money, talent, looks, confidence…and a broken heart the last time she saw him. Still, she wondered what it would be like spending the night in his arms. Would it be different from all the other nights? She remembered Kevin and her heart shuddered. Her voice came out sounding slightly more acidic than she’d intended. “What, then?”
Unperturbed by her change of tone, he raised his free arm and pointed at the stars. “Those.”
She frowned. “I beg your pardon?”
“Just one?” His gentle mysterious tone intrigued her, but she couldn’t help mocking him a little bit.
He laughed. “Just one. I can only catch one at a time.”
“Oh, you can catch one, can you?” She snorted, scanned the skies and decided to play along. Obviously she’d been wrong about him not practicing magic. He had a little bar trick he used to amuse the crowd and probably to pick up women. Well, it wouldn’t work well on her unless she wanted it to. She chose a bright star low on the horizon. “That one.”
“Perfect.” He moved away, leaving her bare back surprisingly cool in the evening breeze. He handed her the glass. “Hold that.” He gazed into the distance for a moment, then reached out as if plucking something from the air in front of him. It reminded her of the days when she used to catch fireflies as a child and she fended off the jolt of nostalgia with difficulty.
He turned back, his hand closed and a mischievous expression playing on his features. She’d forgotten the other people clustered around them. She’d almost forgotten that she knew Logan and he knew her. They were two strangers in a bar and she wanted to believe the expression in his warm brown eyes was just for her. That he wasn’t still a showman and that all of this was for her benefit alone.
He raised one eyebrow, holding his hand close to his face. “You didn’t answer my question earlier.
Do you believe in magic?”
She thought of everything that had brought her to this point, everything that had gone wrong in her life and what she’d lost. How could she believe in magic now? Without pausing to doctor her answer, she replied honestly. “No. Not anymore.”
His smile faded, but not as if he’d lost confidence. More as if he felt her pain. She looked away, uncomfortable, wishing he hadn’t spotted her. Or maybe that she hadn’t come. He didn’t falter, however. Instead he placed his closed hand over the glass and took her free hand, placing it on top of his. In a swift, practiced movement, he opened his hand and pulled it away, pushing hers down on top of the glass. “Do you believe now?”
She gasped, looking at the blue-white light hovering in the glass. What could it be but the star she’d requested? She turned the glass in her hands as the little crowd applauded and he bowed. No matter which way she turned the glass, the light shimmered back at her. She stared in amazement, barely feeling it when he led her back to the table and helped her put the glass down without taking her hand away.
She tore her eyes away from the glimmering light, trying to focus on him. “This is a trick, right?”
“The best magic always leaves you wondering.” He smiled a little, but she could see the shadow of sorrow still hovering in his eyes.
“What happens if I move my hand?” She glanced back at the glass.
“The light goes out.” He shrugged. “You can’t keep a star captive forever.”
“No. You can’t.” His words filled her with sadness and she knew why she’d come there. To his island. To him. Because of all people, Ian Logan knew that nothing lasted forever. Love, life, stars. She gave the light in the jar a final look of regret before taking her hand away from the top. It flickered and died. She raised her eyes to Logan’s. “It’s a neat trick, Logan. And thanks, but I stopped believing in magic a long time ago.”
Summoning a flirtatious smile and a little wiggle into her hips, she moved out of the circle of light around the bar, feeling the darkness descend in a wave of welcome obscurity. She knew another bar down the beach where the young men were sexy and ready to get laid and didn’t bother making her feel like she mattered to do it.