Love Potions ONLY
a Warlocks MacGregor novel by New York Times & USA Today bestseller Michelle M. Pillow
Erik MacGregor, from a clan of ancient Scottish warlocks, isn’t looking for love. After centuries, it’s not even a consideration… until he moves in next door to Lydia Barratt. It’s clear that the shy beauty wants nothing to do with him, but he’s drawn to her nonetheless and determined to win her over.
Lydia Barratt just wants to be left alone to grow flowers and make lotions in her old Victorian home. The last thing she needs is a demanding Scottish man meddling in her private life. Just because he’s gorgeous and totally rocks a kilt doesn’t mean she’s going to fall for his seductive manner.
But Erik won’t give up and just as Lydia let’s her guard down, his sister decides to get involved. Her little love potion prank goes terribly wrong, making Lydia the target of his sudden embarrassingly obsessive behavior. They’ll have to find a way to pull Erik out of the spell fast when it becomes clear that Lydia has more than a lovesick warlock to worry about. Evil lurks within the shadows and it plans to use Lydia, alive or dead, to take out Erik and his clan for good.
Title: Love Potions (Warlocks MacGregor)
Author: Michelle M. Pillow
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 277 pages
Release Date: June 2014
by Michelle M. Pillow
Copyright © 2013 by Michelle M. Pillow. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Green Vallis, Wisconsin, Present Day
A chill worked its way up Lydia Barratt’s spine, and she stopped walking to look across the red brick street of downtown Green Vallis. The day was warm, and her lightweight linen shirt should’ve offered more than adequate protection from the elements. But suddenly, she was assaulted with a wintry bitterness that struck all the way to her bones, causing them to ache. Lydia didn’t move as she saw the usual bustle of people go by, smiling and waving as they habitually did in the small town. The sound of engines burred along the streets, the car tires splashing in the puddles leftover from an early morning rain. It was just after noon and almost everyone was on their lunch breaks, eating in the diner or sitting out on benches that lined the street. There was no reason for her to feel ominous on such a beautiful, normal day.Sheriff Johnson drove past in his squad car. She detected the impression of his arm lifting in a wave through the sedan’s window, but couldn’t make out his face. Automatically, she smiled and returned the gesture.
Lydia shivered again. This wasn’t the first time the strange sensations overtook her, but they had been getting stronger in the last week. Before she died, her grandmother would’ve said it was a premonition of something to come, a forewarning to be ready. Lydia wasn’t sure she believed in premonitions. But Annabelle Barratt had. In fact, her grandmother had believed in much more than that. She believed in the old magick, in those who could harness the powers of the earth and sky, those who lived forever hidden amongst normal folk.
People whispered that her grandmother had been a witch. What could Lydia say? That’s exactly what Annabelle had been. She didn’t fly around on a broomstick or have a hideous face covered in warts, but she was a naturalist, a green witch. Everything Lydia knew about herbs and making “potions” came from the woman. Her mother had died when she was born, and her father drank himself into his deathbed. Gramma Annabelle had taken care of her and taught her everything she knew about the supernatural. Unfortunately, in grade school, the teachers didn’t think her knowledge of vampire lore and ghost hunting was as practical as math and vocabulary. She was constantly behind the rest of the class. And, in response, Annabelle simply handed her a calculator and dictionary, while stating, “lesson over.” That incident and many more like it pretty much defined her childhood.
Shaking the feeling off as no more than an oncoming illness, Lydia reached down to grab the handle of her small cart. The basket was close to the ground, overflowing with brown paper packages, and fixed to a long handle so she didn’t have to bend over. The post office was within walking distance, just down the hill from the old Victorian house she’d inherited from Gramma Annabelle two years earlier. Almost every day she’d cart boxes down to be shipped, even in winter. If she didn’t make the short walk, she’d never leave the house.
Lydia glanced up and smiled at the man who spoke. Joe Ellyson was old enough to be her father, but she couldn’t help thinking he was handsome in a weathered sort of way. The laugh lines on his face only added to his charm. “Afternoon, Joe.”
“Got yourself quite a load today, don’t you?” Brad Williams, Joe’s new best friend said, glancing down at the cart overflowing with shipping boxes. The two had become inseparable, and Lydia wasn’t sure she understood the connection. Brad was shorter, balding and had a slightly wandering eye. She noticed it especially liked to wander over her ass when he thought she wasn’t looking. Bad manners weren’t enough to get her to run the other way screaming, but the man definitely had a serial creeper vibe to him. He was the kind as to get drunk and harass waitresses, or leer at bikini-clad women at the swimming pool. Had he been big and muscled, she would’ve been more concerned. As it was, he seemed a sad little letch. Brad had only recently moved to Green Vallis with his family—a spiritless wife and two obnoxious teenage sons who were suspected of vandalism. They’d never been caught.
“Yep,” she answered politely. She’d grown up in Green Vallis. The town was small enough to be comfortable and big enough to afford some privacy—at least for most. Since she was granddaughter to the “witch on the hill” everyone had known her business growing up. It’s why she was so reclusive now. “Quite a load.”
“Business going well, I take it,” Joe said. He’d never married and spent a lot of time doing charitable works. Lydia always assumed he would someday take orders and join the priesthood. Maybe that was why he tolerated the obnoxious Brad. It was charity. Or penance.
“Real well.” Lydia didn’t want to be trapped in a conversation—not with the unsettling Brad staring at her chest. Turning the cart around so it was on the downside of the hill, she slowly backed away from them under the pretense of being pulled by its weight. It wasn’t a complete act. The cart was getting heavier by the second.
“Glad to hear it.” Joe nodded.
The men said their goodbyes continuing up as she went down. Lydia held onto the handle, turning sideways and leaning away from the cart for the steeper part of the incline. The weight tried to pull her faster, but she kept her feet braced. She nodded politely to those she passed, mumbling a soft greeting when necessary.
“I don’t understand these men. Letting a wee lassie like yourself handle such a thing, especially when it’s clear they know ya.”
Lydia nearly lost her step as the Scottish accent came from behind her. She wasn’t sure she’d understood the words completely. This time when she felt the shiver working over her body, it was liquid heat and not a cold chill. The low, honeyed tone of the voice was enough to make her stomach lurch—and not in a completely unwelcome way.
Well, considering she didn’t have a boyfriend to help her out in that department, the sudden dampness between her thighs could be construed as slightly unwelcome.
Lydia didn’t turn around, but kept walking toward the post office. If she didn’t look, she wouldn’t have to explore the curling in her stomach, the sudden ache in her neglected loins. She wouldn’t have to see that the voice belonged to a short, fat, greasy man who was going to try to hit on her. Actually, she might just keep the voice in her head for later—when she had some alone time.
At the thought, she walked faster, not sure why her heart should be pounding in her chest, or why she was suddenly overtaken with the urge to let go of the cart and run home, packages be damned. The odds that the owner of a voice like that was talking to her and not someone else were slim. Men with voices like that didn’t speak to her. Not in this town. Not in any town. She would just mind her business like always and keep going.
“Ya don’t hear me, lassie?”
So much for that theory.
Lydia felt a large presence at her side and nearly tripped as it shadowed the sunlight. A warm hand grabbed her elbow to steady her. Her muscles tightened, even as her heart leapt in surprise, skipping a beat as she gasped for breath. Electricity shot up her arm from the man’s touch, causing her to jerk. He didn’t let go. It was like a blaze of fire that went straight to every nerve in her system. Even her scalp tingled.
“Bòidheach,” he whispered, as if as surprised as she by the lightning contact.
Lydia couldn’t move. Long, black hair spilled over the stranger’s shoulders, the sides bound back from his chiseled features. Sinfully dark eyes met hers, as the man looked down at her from his greater height. At five-seven, she wasn’t exactly short, but this man still towered over her. Or, perhaps it was the broad size of his shoulders that made him seem so gigantic.
The distant call of bagpipes on the wind filtered through her thoughts. The town disappeared as her imagination conjured visions of lush moors and warrior men in plaid kilts. So clear was the thought, she even spotted the tall peaks of a castle behind his shoulder. Within a blink, the image was gone and she was left once more staring into eyes that had the power to draw a woman in and lay bare her soul.
Lydia tensed at the thought. Why was the fact that she hadn’t had sex in ages suddenly popping into her brain like the answer to some unasked trivia question? Her thighs tightened, almost clamping shut. She swallowed nervously, her body stiff, too stunned to move or speak.
Slowly, her eyes raked over him. The crewneck black cotton shirt he wore molded to his flesh, leaving no mystery as to the fine shape of his body. The long sleeve bulged at the shoulders, leading to a thick, muscled chest. Different emotions washed though her—fear and arousal, curiosity and apprehension.
He was by no means slender, for his stomach was nothing but a continuation of solid muscle. His heather gray, flat-front pants hugged to his perfect waist. Though loose by design, the material draped quite erotically over his thighs and calves, as a breezed stirred against them. Lydia’s mouth went dry. The pants draped something else as well—the giant bulge nestled between his legs.
Her eyes widened, convinced by the size of it that his shaft was fully erect. She blinked several times. No, she was wrong. The bulge moved, growing as she watched it.
“Not that I mind ya staring, love, but I’ve got an appointment I must keep.”
Lydia pried her eyes away from the man’s crotch, completely mortified to be caught ogling him like he was a piece of meat she was about to kneel before and devour.
He gave her a playful smile and she knew he was teasing her.
She nodded, breathlessly saying, “Ah, yeah, yes, nice to you meet me. I mean nice of you to meet with me, me to meet you. Uh, I mean bye.”
Lydia pulled her arm from his hold and made a move to grab her cart. That’s when she noticed he held it up for her. With the incline, it would’ve rolled down the hill and her inventory would’ve been lost. She reached for the handle, careful not to touch the strong hand gripping it. Her body still sizzled from the zing his touch had given her.
The man’s dark eyes glanced down to her chest. A slight smile curled his firm lips, adding mischief to his already amused expression. Lydia wanted to die. She knew without looking that her nipples had hardened and were pressing against the linen of her shirt. All her bras had been in the laundry and she’d not put one on for the quick walk down. Her breasts were by no means huge, and she’d thought no one would notice through the dark blue material. She’d been wrong.
“But, we’ve not met. I’m Erik,” he paused, again glancing down to her breasts. She pretended not to realize they were poking like two hard beacons for the world to see. “Erik MacGregor.”
Erik MacGregor. Even the man’s name was sexy. Concentrating on making sure the blush stayed off her features, she said, “Ah, I’m…”
Damn it! What is my name? Think, Lydia. Ah! Lydia.
“Lydia Barratt,” she finished. He extended his hand in a friendly gesture. Lydia didn’t reach for it. She nodded instead, moving to pull her cart from him. If he touched her again, she knew she’d do something stupid—like faint dead away. Erik’s touch was too potent. Men never affected her like this. “Good day, Mr. MacGregor.”
“Erik, please.” His hand tightened, not letting go of the cart.
Lydia nodded, but didn’t say his name. She again tried to jerk the cart away, but he still didn’t let go.
“Let me get that for ya,” he said, not giving her a choice as he began walking.
“But, your appointment,” Lydia said weakly, oddly touched by the gentlemanly gesture. In the last year of carting her packages down, not one person had offered to help her. Not that she needed help, but it was a sweet gesture.
“There’s nothing sweet about me, love,” he said.
Lydia blinked in surprise. Had she said that out loud? He winked when she looked at him, and she felt her cheeks heating. Glancing to the side, she was relieved to see the post office was close. “This is it. Thank you.”
He turned, looking at the old brick building set apart from the others on the block. Mrs. Callister, one of the biggest town gossips, looked their way. The old woman had a pencil tucked behind her ear and a notepad in her purse for just such a rumor-happy occasion.
“I got it from here,” Lydia said, taking advantage of his distraction to get away before Mrs. Callister’s imagination could run amuck. His smile widened as she looked back from the front door of the building.
“Can ya tell me one thing?” he called after her. Dark eyes bored into hers. She really needed to find a place to sit down—preferably in a bath filled with ice cubes. Her heart pounded at a rapid tempo, and she didn’t even want to think of what was going on between her legs. With her luck, her jeans would be soaked from their little encounter, and her total mortification would be complete. He motioned down to her cart. “What’s Love Potions?”
Lydia needlessly glanced at the packages’ labels. Looking back at him, she said, “My business.”
Before he could ask anything more, a young girl came out of the post office with her mother. “Hi, lotion lady!”
“Hi, there, ah, flaxen ringlet girl,” Lydia answered in rushed cheerfulness. She couldn’t think of the girl’s name, though her mom came into her home-based shop at least once a month to buy lotions. It was quite possible she’d never gotten their names, only knew them by face. Though, to be truthful, Lydia could barely think of anything right now.
The girl didn’t notice Lydia’s distraction, giggling as she politely held the door open. Lydia gratefully pulled the cart inside, hearing the girl ask her mother, “What’s flacken rings?”
As Lydia glanced outside through the glass door, she saw the Scotsman was gone. She took a deep breath.
What on earth was that all about? “Gramma, if you really can hear me like you said you’d be able to, don’t do this. I don’t need the distraction right now. Hell, I don’t need the embarrassment. I don’t want a man in my life. Please make sure I never see him again.”
Mrs. Callister grinned, catching Lydia’s eye. The older woman’s pencil flew over her notepad. Grimacing, Lydia grabbed her cart and hurried to get in line.