Winter Magic Sampler

As Zane Carlyle rolled off of her and patted her leg, Winnie Thorne experienced a keen sense of disappointment. The sex between them had been godawful. The guy possessed nine inches of what should be a pure-pleasure stick, yet he didn’t know how to wield it.

“Was it good for you, Win?” he asked with the cockiness of a well-endowed twenty-one-year-old. Apparently, one who thought he was a sex god because of what he’d been blessed with.

“Not so much,” she muttered.

His sandy-blond head whipped up from the grassy bed it had been resting on. “What?”

“Not so much.” Winnie was nothing if not honest. “I’m damned disappointed if you want the truth. All that bragging and that glorious glimpse I had when—well, never mind about that—but still, total disappointment, dude.”

“Are you kidding me right now?” he demanded, rolling away and yanking on his jeans.

“Zane, don’t take this the wrong way, but you couldn’t find a g-spot if you had a map.” Laughter bubbled up, and she swallowed a giggle at his outrage. “And for future reference, you might want to make sure your partner gets off. First would be nice, but women are happy to get off in general.”

His pale-faced shock gave her a twinge of remorse for her brutal honesty. Perhaps she should have tempered it. Guys had delicate egos. She laid a comforting hand on his arm only to have him jerk out of her reach.

“I’m not trying to hurt your feelings. I’m only trying to give you a heads up for the next time you have sex,” she said.

“I can’t believe this!” Zane pulled his shirt over his hard, muscular chest in quick, spastic movements.

Covering up all that beauty was a shame. From the time Winnie was old enough to have such thoughts, she’d always admired his physique.

He’d topped six feet back in high school and seemed to still be gaining ground. Currently standing at about six-three, Zane was imposing in height and build. Hours of farm work and physical exertion—lifting hay and bags of feed, exercising horses in addition to his spot as captain of his college swim team—had built muscle upon muscle.

“You’re the only woman who’s ever complained. Perhaps you’re the terrible lay,” he sneered.

She winced then sighed in resignation. Yep, it was always the woman’s fault when a guy didn’t know the intricacies of good sex, never mind great sex, which was rare with any guy in general to her understanding. Other women talked. And based on her limited knowledge, it was an extraordinary man who took time to learn erogenous zones and put that knowledge to good use in fantastic foreplay.

“Yeah, that’s it. I’m the terrible lay. It’s all on me.” She snorted and rolled her eyes. “Sorry you drew the short straw.”

“I should’ve remembered your only goal in life is to be a ball-buster to every guy you meet.”

She frowned. Where the hell had that come from? Since when was she a ball-buster? “Now that’s just a blatant lie. Almost as blatant as the lie where you claimed this was going to be the best night of my life.”

His scowl darkened considerably.

She could almost feel the black rage radiating off him. Winnie took a step back, worried he might strike her. After all, she didn’t really know him other than by reputation and a sprinkling of dates.

“Christ, this was the biggest mistake of my life. I wish I’d never asked you out. If I could go back to the second before I bumped into you in the grocery store, I’d go down a different aisle.”

She hadn’t expected his words to cut so deeply. Perhaps because she’d been dreaming about doing the deed with Zane since high school when she’d cloaked herself in magic and snuck into the locker room to watch him shower. Never had there been a more erotic sight. The water had glided over every sinewy plane of his body that she’d longed to follow with her hands. Since that day, he’d been her secret fantasy. But wasn’t that the problem with fantasies and daydreams? The reality was always worse.

“And tell me, how much experience do you have anyway? Must be quite a lot to compare to if you thought what we did was so terrible.” His tone was as ugly as his words.

And the insults kept coming. Not immune to hurt, Winnie struggled to remember that he lashed out because she’d disparaged his prowess.

“To think, I’ve always thought you might be the normal sister,” he said with a scornful look.

Her back went up.

People could say what they wanted about her, but her family was off limits.

Her rage fueled the magical power contained within her body. The nucleus of her cells fired up, making her insides feel like a volcano ready to blow. How she contained her desire to turn him into a slug was beyond her own comprehension.

“You wish we’d never gotten together?” she asked with cold fury.

“Yes,” he spat.

She stepped up to where he stood. “Done,” she snarled.

Hands shaking, Winnie fastened the buttons of her blouse as she left the clearing and headed through the woods, toward her home. Today had been a massive mistake, but she intended to rectify that as soon as she got to the attic of their house. There had to be a spell in the family grimoire to wipe this day from existence.

“And, Win?” Zane called.

She spun back to glare at him across the distance. “What?”

“When you realize what you could’ve had, don’t bother calling me. I won’t pick up.”

Without bothering to answer, she fled. As she ran through the woods, a sob caught in her throat. Goddess, if there was a way to make him forget, she’d make it happen.

Once she’d reached home, she jogged up the steps and headed straight for the Thorne spell book. As she thumbed through the pages, she happened upon what she’d been looking for and tapped the page. “This should work nicely.”

“What should?” A statuesque blonde woman appeared in the doorway and caused Winnie to scream. “Why are you so jumpy, child? Are you up to no good?”

“No, Aunt GiGi. I… well, you…” Winnie detected amusement in the other woman’s bright violet-blue eyes. “Okay, I was up to no good.”

“Wonderful!” GiGi clapped her hands. “How can I help?”

“I thought we weren’t supposed to do things for personal gain? Why would you want to help me?”

“Are you gaining anything from the spell you’re intending to cast?”

“Not me personally. I was going to wipe Zane’s memory.”

Perfectly arched brows shot up, and her aunt silently studied her.

Sweat pooled under Winnie’s breasts and in the small of her back. No way she could bluff her way out of this one. She went with the truth. “Zane said he wished he’d never asked me out.”

“You’ve only been out four times. It’s a little early for a lover’s spat.”

“We, um, we… today, we decided to… um…”

“Are you trying to find a way to say you had sex with the boy?”

“Yes,” she expelled on an exhaled breath.

GiGi smoothed a hand over Winnie’s hair. “While young, you are both consenting adults.”

Winnie screwed up her face.

Tone hard, GiGi asked, “It was consensual, correct?”

“I didn’t put a spell on him to do me if that’s what you’re asking!” Winnie retorted.

GiGi lost the cool composure she’d always worn like a cloak about her. Tears streamed from eyes crinkled with laughter. The sound of her merriment echoed off the wooden rafters. When she could finally draw a breath, she said, “I was talking about him forcing you, child. Not the other way around.

Heat flooded Winnie’s face, and she ducked her head. Uh, yeah, maybe her mind had gone there because plenty of times over the last four years she’d thought of conjuring a spell to attract Zane’s notice.

“You liked this boy, didn’t you?” GiGi asked. The humor was replaced by a gentle understanding.

Tears stung Winnie’s eyes. “I thought I loved him. But he wasn’t who I thought he was.”

Her aunt heaved a heavy sigh full of understanding. “They never are, dear. Show me the spell you intend to use to wipe his memory.”

* * *

Zane continued to pace the clearing long after Winnie ran away. Man, he’d screwed up. Because he cared what she thought, because he’d wanted the sex between them to be off the charts, he’d had an adverse reaction to her honesty.

The act itself had been sadly lacking on his part. He couldn’t hold on once inside her warm, tight passage. As a result, he’d come without getting her off. The person Zane most wanted to satisfy was the one person he hadn’t. Normally, he was a considerate lover.

He also regretted saying Winnie was easy. She’d told him he was only the second guy she’d been with, and he believed her. But after his poor performance, he’d hoped that, in her innocence, she wouldn’t know any better. That she’d be happy with his pathetic sex.

Her words had stung his pride. Mainly because he’d intended to make it up to her when he caught his breath. She hadn’t given him a chance.

Zane scrubbed his face with his palms. He needed to apologize. Winnie didn’t deserve his ugliness. Maybe if he confessed he hadn’t lasted because the feel of her combined with the sight of her beautiful, taut body had him ejaculating faster than he could blink, she’d understand.

A scrap of material caught his eye. He bent to pick up the lacy thong, the exact color of her ice-blue eyes. He intended to keep the little triangle of material. It would be his private trophy to take out when no one was around. It would help him remember and savor the delicious feel of her in his arms. With a quick check of the area, he stuffed her panties into the inside pocket of his jacket.

As he took a step in the direction of the Thorne estate, a wave of dizziness struck. He balanced himself with a hand against the closest tree.

What the hell was that?

He shook his head and straightened.

Another step brought another wave of dizziness.

After five more steps, he forgot why he was heading toward the property bordering his family’s.

He spun about. Why the hell had he entered the woods?

The world started to whirl, and he collapsed on his ass. Bile rose up into the back of his throat, and he expelled the contents of his lunch next to the old oak where he’d carved his and Winnie’s initials after their first date.

Winnie. He needed to remember something about Winnie.

Zane raised a shaky hand to his brow.

Like a kaleidoscope of reverse images, the day’s events replayed backward in his mind, each memory blurred and faded into obscurity. Fear clawed at his insides and ripped him up as, one by one, the last two weeks disappeared from his mind.

A half hour had passed before he could gather the strength to stand. He glanced around the woods, worried as to why he might be out here to begin with.

A marking in the bark of a nearby tree snagged his attention. Zane staggered over to the mighty oak and traced the letters there. Who had carved his and Winnie’s initials? Was this his cousins’ idea of a joke? Had they drugged him and done this, knowing he had the major hots for Winnie Thorne?

“If you fuckers are out there, I swear I’m going to kick your asses!” he hollered.

Not even a rustle of leaves answered him.

“Coop? Keat?”


His eyes returned to the initials surrounded by a heart. The tickling in the front of his brain worried him. It was as if his mind struggled to recall something. But what?