A Snippet of The Lost Dragon for you!
A curl of smoke spiraled up behind a copse of birch and pine. This was it.
Drake pulled his Hummer up to the cabin. It was small, but well-built and attractive. Potted plants dotted the shaded porch, and a well-tended vegetable and herb garden sported clumps of rosemary, pumpkins and cabbage. It all seemed so . . . cozy.
He exited the Hummer, squaring his shoulders. He was here on a mission to find Daphne and bring her home before some gold-digging con artist ruined her life. His personal feelings about Tansy be damned. In the last couple of decades, she’d probably aged considerably, as humans did. He must be prepared for wrinkles, a thickened waist, and a sensible bobbed haircut. Quickly, he tamped down an image of a twenty-two-year-old Tansy, her wild black hair framing a white pillow as he poised above her, ready to claim the naked body that writhed beneath him, begging for release.
Hot damn. This wouldn’t do at all. Drake used his considerable power of self-restraint to instead picture his runaway daughter, hell-bent on throwing her life away, falling for some scheming bastard who would use her and break her heart. He marched up the porch steps, impatient to get on with the awkward meeting. A few uncomfortable moments, and then they could keep matters on a professional level. He’d pay her well for her services and then, hopefully, never see her again.
He lifted a hand to knock, but the door creaked open a microsecond before his fist landed.
Tansy stood before him, looking as delectable as she had when they were young adults just discovering their sexuality. Her figure was slim, her hair longer than he’d remembered, and the slight crinkling at the edge of her eyes only lent her a more striking beauty.
“Drake,” she said flatly. “Never expected to see you again.”
Did he imagine it, or did her blue eyes darken in a way he well remembered as a sign of passion? In a flash, the deep hue disappeared, and her mouth slightly compressed into a pinched line.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“You don’t know? Shouldn’t you be able to detect the reason without me having to spell it out? I thought that’s what witches did.” The bitter dig escaped his lips, bypassing the careful barriers he normally used to shield his emotions.
“Same old Drake. Charming as always.”
He hadn’t meant to antagonize Tansy. Truth was, he needed her.
“Let’s start over, shall we?” he said. “I’m in need of your tracking expertise. I’ll pay you well for your time, of course.”
To his astonishment, the door snapped shut. How rude. He wasn’t used to such abrupt refusals. Normally, people clamored to do business with him and curried to his every whim in order to gain favor. But then again, he’d never before needed to hire a witch. They were a whole different breed. He’d do well to remember that fact.
Undeterred by her rudeness, he banged sharply on the door again. Silence echoed back, seemingly mocking his efforts.
The witch would listen to reason. If Tansy located Daphne, he’d pay more than she’d ever earned doing piddly spell work for her coven and any other mountain folk brave enough to venture to her cabin. He’d bet the cops didn’t pay her at all when she assisted on missing persons cases. Tansy had developed quite a reputation helping the police. The news media always referred to Tansy as a psychic, but those closer to her knew she practiced witchcraft. It was surprisingly accepted, as most had a granny or aunt versed in Appalachian folk magic.
Drake straightened his shoulders. The key was to be firm, but polite. He’d handled thousands of business deals with this approach—negotiation was his strong suit.
“Tansy?” He twisted the doorknob and stuck his head inside. It smelled earthy, like dried herbs. She stood across the foyer at the kitchen stove, her back to him. “Tansy, I need to speak with you.”
Her sigh traveled the distance between them, gusty in her exasperation. She turned and gazed stonily at him, hands on her hips. “I told you I was busy.”
“Just hear me out. All I ask is a minute of your time.” Surely, once she learned a teenage girl was lost, she’d soften. At least, that’s what the old Tansy he’d known would have done.
“State your business.”
He stepped into the foyer and closed the door behind him. “I want to hire you to cast a locator spell. My sixteen-year-old daughter, Daphne, is missing. I’ll pay you three times your normal rate.”
“A teenager, you say?” A spark of the woman he remembered showed in the softening of her set features.
“Sixteen. And making the biggest mistake of her young life.”
“She’s run away, then.”
“Yes.” He withdrew Daphne’s note and crossed into the kitchen, holding it out for Tansy to read.
After a moment’s hesitation, she took the note and silently read it before meeting his gaze again. “Headstrong. And a foolish thing to do.” Tansy handed him back the slip of paper. “My bet is that your daughter returns home in a couple days, hanging her head low and begging your forgiveness.”
“You can’t know that. She might have been forced to write this note and leave with this character. He means to use her, I’m sure of it. Adam Wingate’s been working in our home as a security guard for the last three months. My guess is that he hired on with the intent to extort money from my corporation. In Daphne, he found an opportunity. What better way to get to me than to prey on the emotions of my vulnerable daughter?”
Indecision wavered in Tansy’s eyes. Time to thrust in one last jab at her sympathy. This wasn’t easy for him. Drake drew a deep breath.