© 2011 N.J. Walters
Almost against her will, she was drawn to her purse. She opened the bag, reached in her hand and touched the smooth wax of the candle. The scent of rose oil tickled her nostrils, reminding her once again of the ritual she and her friends had performed earlier this evening. Maggie had planned to leave her candle at Rhiannon’s, but had been unable to abandon it.
She closed her fingers around the candle and held it tight in her left hand as she climbed the stairs. Her right hand slid up the smooth banister, guiding her as she made her way upstairs. She walked across the old oak flooring and into her bedroom, drawing comfort from the familiar creaks in the wood. Flicking on the Tiffany lamp she’d bought at an estate sale, she looked around the room.
The furniture had belonged to her grandmother. It was old, handcrafted more than a hundred and fifty years ago out of solid oak. Maggie loved the bed, with its intricately carved headboard and footboard of Celtic knot work. The tall armoire, which sat against one wall, and the pair of nightstands flanking the bed were also adorned with the same carvings. A large, freestanding mirror sat in one corner of the room, roses carved into the heavy frame.
Maggie had repainted the room a cheerful yellow and bought gauzy white drapes for the two windows that faced the ocean. The oak floor was softened with an area rug done in a design of yellows, browns and greens. The comforter was also new. It was a profusion of colorful flowers, which made the room cheerful and bright.
The room was hers in every way. She’d put her stamp on it, doing it to please no one but herself. Placing the candle on the bedside table, she stared at it for one long moment. “It’s just a candle,” she muttered.
And truly, that’s all it was. The spell they’d cast was nothing more than words. It had no power, no magick. The wind chose that moment to whip up and beat at the closed window. Maggie shivered, but briskly turned away and began to pull off her clothing.
Gathering the discarded garments, she made her way to the bathroom and dumped them into the laundry hamper. It didn’t take her long to wash her face and brush out her waist-length hair. She tossed her brush onto the bathroom vanity and reached for her nightgown that was hanging from a hook on the back of the door.
She paused, looking at her reflection in the mirror. Green eyes peered back at her. It wasn’t a bad face, just not an overly beautiful one. Like the rest of her, her face was a bit too rounded. With a smattering of freckles covering her nose and cheeks, she looked more like the girl next door than a sexy siren. She’d always felt so out of place in California among the tall, thin blonds. With her curvy body and her long red hair, she’d always stood out, and not in a good way.
Sighing, she slipped the nightgown over her head. The silky fabric slid over her body, leaving goose bumps in its wake. All that talk of sex tonight over at Rhiannon’s had reminded her of how long it had been since she’d had any. Six months since she’d tossed her ring back at her ex-fiancé, and even before that, it had been several months. That should have been her first clue that something wasn’t right in their relationship.
She’d been so busy at her job with a large advertising firm and planning the wedding that she hadn’t questioned the lack of passion in her relationship too deeply. Mostly, she hadn’t wanted to see the truth about Mitchell Michaels, the third.
She’d settled because she hadn’t wanted to be alone and because she hadn’t thought she’d get another proposal. She’d ignored his veiled hints that she should lose weight and think about dyeing her hair, or at least cutting it. She’d ignored the fact that it didn’t seem to bother either her or Mitchell that they hadn’t slept together in months. She was thirty years old and it was time to get married. God, she’d been so pathetic.
But those days were over. It had taken her long, hard months to get past the pain of the betrayal. Not only had Mitchell and Barbara betrayed her, she’d betrayed herself by settling. No more. She’d rather be alone than live with a man who didn’t love her for who she was.
And sex. Well, she was quite capable of taking care of her needs herself.
Hurrying back to her bedroom, she tugged back the covers and climbed into bed. She turned off the light and lay there listening to the creaks and groans of the house as it settled for the night. Rolling onto her side, she peered out the closest window. The stars twinkled against the inky curtain of the night like her own personal nightlight.
A sense of restlessness possessed her. It was all that talk about sex tonight. This was all Rhiannon’s fault.
Flopping over onto her back, Maggie closed her eyes and sighed. What she needed was a lover. A dream lover. A man who came to her bed at night and loved her until she was breathless and sated. A man whose touch ignited flames under her skin, whose voice made her shiver with longing.
An image of a man popped into her head—Jed Bearson.