I had the great pleasure to be invited by the Thornes to their house for breakfast. As I arrived, a toe-curling whiff of cinnamon-y goodness shot straight up my nose and into the addiction center of my brain the second Summer Thorne opened the massive mahogany door Preston Thorne had found during his travels some years ago.
“Dear GAWD, woman! Is that smell what I think it is?” I blurted.
Her light laughter rang out, and she gave me the hug of an old friend. Perhaps she recognized I’m spastic and had an ingrained love of everything with fur.
Summer gestured for me to kick my shoes off in the foyer and follow her. Yep! Winnie made her cinnamon rolls for the occasion.”
“Can I live here? Pretty please with frosting on top? I promise I won’t take up much space.”
Again, she laughed. “Come meet the family.”
I’d pictured the Thornes a million times in my mind, but none of my imaginings could do justice to the group.
Summer was fresh, bright, and caring.
Winnie, the homebody of the family, moved around the kitchen with the grace a style of a ballroom dancer; light-footed, yet quick with her hands fluttering about.
Spring, who had already been sitting at the table, looked at me with a curious but shrewd gaze.
I glanced around the small kitchen to appease my own curiosity. While it had an element of old world charm with the rustic cabinets, the appliances were all top of the line. I eyed the double oven with envy. Oh, the croissants I could bake in those bad boys!
“In the attic, spying on Holly and Quentin. She views the scrying mirror as her own personal Hallmark channel.” Winnie’s dry tone wasn’t lost on me. I knew enough about Autumn to know her snarky, rough persona covered a die-hard romantic.
“Will they be joining us?” I was only human and wanted to catch a glimpse of the drool-worthy Quentin Buchanan.
Spring shot me a knowing smile and shook her head. “I’m afraid not today.”
“Knox?” I asked, hopefully.
Her musical laugher rang out. I took that as a no. Damn.
Less than a minute later, Winnie set a dinner-plate-sized cinnamon roll in front of me, and I forgot all about my obsession with their men. “Holy shitballs! Is this all for me?”
I may have had to wipe a little spittle from the side of my mouth when I saw the icing ooze over the golden sides.
“All yours,” Winnie confirmed with a soft smile.
Right before I made a glutton of myself, I had to ask, “Is there a chance Alastair will be dropping by?” I didn’t want to take the risk of him seeing me at my worst and shoving my face into this carb-loaded piece of heaven.
“I don’t think so.” Summer reached around me to rip off a section of the roll for herself. I curbed my desire to stab her with a fork and growl like a wolf over its fresh kill. “He’s meddling into Holly’s and Quentin’s relationship. That mess is going to require all his attention for the time being.”
I loved her honesty. I knew a little about their aborted romance and rocky relationship. “Should I ask my questions now or wait until after we’ve pigged out?”
“Go ahead and ask away.” Winnie joined us at the table and picked up her tea cup.
But I couldn’t, because the first taste of her baking hit my tongue and my eyes rolled so far back in my head, I’m sure I saw my own brain matter. “Fuck me, this is good!”
All three women laughed, and Summer reached forward again.
I arched a brow in her direction. “Uh, not to be ungrateful or split hairs, but didn’t she say this was all mine?”
“Hush, or I’ll set Saul and Rocco on your butt.”
At the threat of the squirrel mafia, my own wicked sense of humor kicked in. “Did Coop really overhear them planning to castrate Eddie?”
“You should’ve seen him. He was practically green when he saw Saul with that razor knife.”
Of course, I had to know, “Do things like that happen often in the animal barn?”
“With Saul and Eddie, anything is possible.” Summer snitched another piece of what had now become the community cinnamon roll. “When it isn’t them, it’s Morty.”
Because I’m in love with the idea of pet chimpanzee, I asked, “Do I get to meet the infamous Sir Mortimer in person?”
“Sure, if you don’t mind teleporting to my North Carolina residence.”
The idea of teleporting was both terrifying and cool at the same time. “As long as I’m home by dinner.”
Again, the three women laughed.
I glanced down at my notebook and skimmed through the questions I’d meant to ask. One caught my eye. “One sister married, one engaged, both with babies on the way, what about you and Spring?” I asked Summer.
Spring smiled mysteriously and allowed Summer to field the question. “Pfft. Coop and I would need to settle on which location we intend to live at first. He’s already breaking the Sheriff’s Office rules by living out of state.”
I paused with another piece of cinnamon roll halfway to my mouth. “Coop, breaking the rules? I don’t believe it.”
“Believe it. Since he’s come into his powers, he…” she trailed off and blushed.
“Well, now you have to spill,” I told her.
Summer cast a look between her sisters, her face flaming brighter. “He likes sex in public.”
We all stared in shock.
“But with a cloaking spell in place!” she was quick to add.
I couldn’t hold back my amusement. “That dirty dog! Well, that’s one way to spice things up.”
“Oh, it doesn’t need spicing.” The snarky tone signaled the entry of fourth person in the sisterly quartet. “Coop and Summer nearly set the barn on fire more times than I can count.”
I could feel the heat coming off of Summer’s skin from where she sat next to me.
She glared at Autumn. “Shut it! We have company.”
Autumn gave a careless shrug and strode to the coffee pot. “It’s just Tara. It’s not like she doesn’t know how we are.”
I widened my eyes and made a face. She wasn’t wrong. This family lived inside my head 24/7. I had a good idea of what went on in their lives. It was the downtime I wanted to know about. “A few of my readers are curious about your lives. Mind if I get down to the Q&A business?”
Autumn waved a hand for me to proceed. It was easy to see why she always appeared to be in charge. She had a fiery, larger-than-life air about her. I liked her immediately. I could see us hanging over a pitcher of margaritas and trading good-natured insults.
“Okay, question one: What is your greatest fear?”
Autumn’s eyes took on a haunted look as she glanced at Spring. “Loss of family.”
The soft commiserating smile, Spring sent her in return said it all. Of course, I knew what she referred to, but I had to agree, losing family was the worst sort of pain. “I think we can all agree. But next to that?”
They all shrugged and remained silent.
“I guess when you are a badass witch, you don’t fear much?”
Laughter rumbled around the table.
“Okay, question two: Which living person do you most admire?”
“Alastair.” Three out of the four chorused, with Summer nodding her agreement.
“I know he’s my favorite, but I wasn’t sure how you all felt,” I said, not looking up from where I was jotting my notes.
“I’m flattered.” The deep, amused voice from somewhere behind me startled me so badly, I jerked my pen across my notebook and fumbled my cup of tea. I’d never even felt the air shift or heard the crackle in the atmosphere that the witches seemed to take for granted when someone teleports in.
“OHMYGOD! Alastair Thorne!”
He was even more delicious in person. He wore his arrogance around him like a cloak. But what was more, what I had always suspected, was the wicked humor that shone brightly from his blue eyes. Eyes that penetrated right into my very soul. Eyes that saw everything. I shivered and swallowed hard.
Please, please, please don’t let him be able to read my mind, I prayed to the Goddess, Universe, or whatever other entity might be tuned in. If he could, I was done for. I’d never live through the embarrassment.
He unfolded his arms, and my gaze locked onto his chest. He wasn’t big or bulky, but the definition of muscle definitely resided under that form fitting T-shirt. I frowned in my confusion. Since when did Alastair wear a T-shirt and jeans? I opened my mouth to ask, but by then he was filling the space between me and Summer to snag a piece of the cinnamon roll. A thin thread of icing trailed over his fingers, and my desire to lick it off was overpowering. I was forced to look away.
His soft chuckle warmed my insides, and I’m sure I was as red as Summer had been minutes before when she confessed about Coop’s sexual proclivities.
“Back to my interview.” If my voice was a wee bit higher than normal, no one said, although there were a few amused glances passed about. “Which living person do you most despise?”
“I’d think that would be obvious,” Alastair snorted as he took a chair at the head of the table. “Zhu Lin.”
I shot a quick glance in Spring’s direction.
“It’s okay,” she told me with a half-smile. “It doesn’t bother me. I think you have a good idea what I’ve done.”
“You were tame in comparison to me,” I assured her.
Alastair’s delighted grin brought more color to my cheeks. “That’s why we all adore you, Tara.”
I was surprised he used my first name and hadn’t called me “child” as he was want to do. Maybe he reserved that for his family, or perhaps he viewed me as something other than a child. I could work with that. Or at least I could if I wasn’t married and he wasn’t in love with Aurora Gillespie-Thorne.
“This question is for Alastair; what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?”
His eyes warmed considerably as they settled on Summer. “My children. Although to be honest, I had no real hand in raising any of them. But I’d like to think good genetics had something to do with their turning out to be intelligent, accomplished individuals.”