Once upon a time, there lived a man with five rambunctious daughters. They were an average American farming family except for one minor detail. The man was a warlock, and all of his daughters were witchlets—half witch and half human.
With Christmas two days away, Tamberly Blakeney has given up hope of finding her heart call that year. That is, until Jonathan Mauk walks into the market and into her life. With the magical swirl of a candy cane's stripes, she knows he’s the man meant to be her lifelong love. But first he has to pass the sex hex test, which she is sure won't be a problem.
What she doesn't realize is that there is something in Jonathan's past that deeply disturbs her father. And until Daddy gets all the answers, there could be hell to pay.
The apples were perfect - sweet, juicy, firm, and at the peak of their picking. Jonathan paused in peeling them to stare at the curling ribbons of skin already piled in the bowl. How those people at the farmers market managed to get the apples at their prime to sell baffled him. Like all raw fruits and vegetables, that window of superb quality was extremely narrow. But somehow he knew that anything they sold would be of equal perfection.
Damn if he could explain how he knew such a thing.
Looking up, he glanced out the window over the sink. Snow still fell in slow, light flakes. If it continued, there would probably be at least four more inches of fresh powder by morning. The market was on the other side of the trailer, but it was probably closed. Out of habit, he checked his watch. Yeah. Closing time was an hour ago.
She might be home by now. Does she live here in town? Or was she one of those farmers who came from out of town?
He started peeling the last apple, but the woman was foremost in his mind. Habit made him pause before he cut himself. His thoughts weren’t on the pie. They were on the beautiful redhead who had given him these apples.
In exchange for a slice of pie.
Which was why he was working on the dessert now instead of tomorrow. He and Lyle were supposed to remain here in Toppers Cove until Christmas Day, then drive back to Vermont on the twenty-sixth. Even with the market closed for the season, the tree lot would remain open on Christmas Eve. Hell, there were less than half a dozen trees left in the tent. Jonathan figured if they discounted them, those could be sold before noon.
And then I could take Tammy her slice of pie.
He reached back to feel his jeans pocket where he kept his wallet with the phone number safely tucked inside, needing to reassure himself that it was still there.
What if I called her tonight. Maybe ask her out. Surely there’s some place here in town that stays open after dark.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of something falling onto the floor. Curious, he turned around and stared down at the candy cane lying beside his boot.
“Hello. Where did you come from?” Maybe I brushed up against someone’s decorations back at the market, and it accidentally attached itself to me. The reasoning sounded plausible enough, considering all the times he’d similarly found his back and rump sprinkled with fake snow and pine needles from the trees on the lot.
Jonathan bent over to pick it up. He started to lay it on the counter, prepared to forget it, when something told him to look again. It was a typical red and white peppermint stick, about six inches long. It took him another couple of seconds to realize what made it different.
Its stripes weren’t stripes. Instead, they were swirls. And curlicues. Thin and delicate looking, and almost filigree in design, as if the machine making the candy had suffered a creative glitch. Smiling, he laid the cane on the back of the sink and went back to the pie, and his thoughts returned to Tamberly.
Yep. That’s what he would do. If he pushed it, the pie would be ready within the hour. Then he could call her up with the excuse that he wanted to bring her the promised slice, and while he was there, find a way to ask her out. There was a chance she might even go out with him tonight, if there was something open where he could treat her.
The thought was tempting. In fact, it was becoming increasingly seductive, like a siren’s call, beckoning him. Beguiling. And damn him if he could figure out why. But there was no doubt in his mind he had to see her again. He had to learn more about her.
His mind raced frantically. He’d promised Uncle Morris he’d stay and help Lyle until after Christmas. It would take them a couple of days to get back to Vermont, then he could drive back here to see her again if their first date looked like it could go a second inning.
He remembered the young man who had passed her the paper and pen. Apparently the guy wasn’t her husband or boyfriend, or else he would have made it immediately clear the woman wasn’t available.
An image flashed in his mind’s eye. The man had been wearing a wedding band. Tammy didn’t. The guy was probably her brother, then, he figured, and a sense of relief swept through him.
“Tamberly.” It was an odd name, but it suited her. Tamberly, with the red hair that looked totally natural, and green eyes that were the same shade as the evergreens he sold. He remembered how she smelled like peppermint. Like Christmas candy. Jonathan glanced down at the candy cane sitting on the edge of the sink. The comparison made him smile, and he went back to peeling the remaining apple.