Albert Irving stared out his bedroom window at the swirling flakes of snow. It was snowing for the second straight day. This in itself wasn't so amazing, except that in the past 74 years, it had never once snowed in the town of Sunnyside, California. It sucked.
The waves were up; the surf report had them coming out of the southwest at three to five feet plus. Albert was itching to try out his new surfboard. If it ever stopped snowing.
With a curse he closed the curtains. He knew who was responsible for ruining his summer. It had been a simple case of casting a tracer spell. It had followed the freak snowstorm back to its source. Evidently the bothersome witch didn't know who she was dealing with. He was Albert the Invincible, Warlock of the 4th Order. No one, but no one, messed with his surfing.
He looked at the photo on his computer monitor. He'd pulled it off her company's website. Strawberry-blonde hair framed a heart-shaped face, and sensuous gray eyes stared at back him. He grinned maliciously at the picture and planted a wet kiss in the middle of the screen.
She might live halfway across the state, but soon Madolyn Anderson Merryweather would learn the consequences of playing in his backyard.
The awning was hard to miss. Painted a bright pink and green, it looked as if it would be more at home as a circus tent than covering a sidewalk cafe. Packed underneath the vinyl covering were businessmen in their Armani suits, secretaries in their off-the-rack imposters, and wannabe executives taking a break from making the rounds of job interviews, their hopeful smiles plastered in place. In among all the high-powered wheeling and dealing and gossiping sat the Merryweather cousins. Well, at least two of them.
"So Allyson was busy again today?" Maddie posed it almost as a statement instead of a question.
"She's working nonstop to get her shop ready to open by next weekend. I just hope it turns out to be as successful as she hopes." Caitlyn speared another leaf of lettuce and coated it with salad dressing before it disappeared into her mouth.
"I thought it might be a man. You know, like maybe she'd conjured up one, same as we did with Blake . . . sort of." The Halloween fiasco *had* turned out well in the end.
Caitlyn shook her head. "Nope, but speaking of men, how are things with you and Rich? Should I be shopping around for a bridesmaid dress?"
Madolyn almost choked on her scotch. She should have expected the question. Ever since Caitlyn had entered into romantic bliss with the aforementioned Blake, she'd been relentless in her pursuit to see Madolyn settled with someone. Enter Richard Mitchell. Thirty-seven years old, a computer programmer by trade and amateur ornithologist by hobby, he and Caitlyn were members at the same gym. She'd set Rich and her older cousin up on a blind date and grinned triumphantly when Madolyn confessed that she'd had a nice time and would be going out with him again. That was almost a year ago and they'd been dating exclusively ever since.
Caitlyn patted Maddie on the back until she'd gotten her breath. Not one to be put off, she pressed, "Well?"
Maddie sighed. She knew Caitlyn could be as tenacious as a bulldog when it came to something she considered a "pet project." "If you have to be so damn nosy, we had dinner last night." She hoped that would satisfy her. It didn't.
"Sounds like there's more to it than that. So give."
"He . . . asked me to marry him." Maddie toyed with her napkin to avoid looking Caitlyn in the eye.
"That's great!" she squealed. All thought of finishing her salad was forgotten. "So when's the wedding?"
"There isn't going to be one," Maddie hurried on to clarify, "at least not yet. I told him I needed some time to think about it."
"Why? Is he bad in the sack?"
"Well, is he?" She grinned.
Maddie actually blushed. "I wouldn't know about that. We've fooled around some, but he's never pressed me to go all the way."
"Do you love him?"
Caitlyn had hit the nail on the head. "I don't know. I care about him a lot, but I don't know if I love him, if I can see spending the rest of my life with him. He's so . . . so . . . I hate to use the word boring, but in a way he is. He's bland. Predictable." She started checking off his faults. "He's got plain brown hair, not a hint of blonde or red in it, or even grey, just brown. His eyes are brown, not chocolate or almond, just brown. He's not tall, or even short, just average. He doesn't wear handmade Italian suits or shop off the rack at Wal-Mart. He buys them tailored from Balata, just in-between."
"He does have a nice body, especially his ass." At Maddie's look of surprise, Caitlyn continued, "What? You think I don't notice those things just because I'm happy with Blake? Puh-leeze." She waved her hand in dismissal. "Now, what happens when he kisses you?"
"It feels nice."
Caitlyn blinked. "Nice is good."
"I want more than just someone 'nice,' Cat." Caitlyn knew Maddie was bothered when she reverted to childhood nicknames. "I want fireworks. I want someone to sweep me off my feet. When I start talking too much about the latest fashions and what new line I'm working on, I want a man who will grab me and just kiss me until I'm breathless. I want a man who calls me in the middle of the night, simply because he was thinking about me and couldn't wait a second longer to hear my voice. I want . . . I want the impossible." She put her head in her hands.
There was a moment of silence before Caitlyn replied. She'd always been one to use humor to smooth over awkward moments. "Well, now I know why you're still a virgin."
"I am *not* a virgin!" Maddie hissed.
Caitlyn was taken aback. "But I always thought -"
"One time," Maddie explained, "in college. I had to pay and it was terrible and it doesn't count."
As if only then realizing what they were talking about, in a highly public place, they both laughed. "Good thing Allyson isn't here," Maddie said. "She'd have sunk under the table with embarrassment by now."
Caitlyn shook her head. "I still think that Harry is good for you, Maddie. Promise me you'll think about his proposal. And I mean *really* think about it."
Maddie put her hand over Cait's. "I told him I would, and I will." Caitlyn meant as much to her as if they were sisters instead of just cousins. She knew she only wanted what was best for her. The problem was Maddie wasn't sure exactly was best herself.
The waiter arrived with their check and after a few more minutes of idle chitchat, they got up to leave.
"Oh, Maddie," Caitlyn said, leaning in close so there was less chance of her being overheard. "You wouldn't happen to be responsible for that freak snowstorm down on the coast, would you?"
Maddie grinned and wiggled her eyebrows. "That spellbook I found in great-grandfather's attic has some *very* interesting spells in it, that's all I'm going to say."
"Well, I certainly hope it won't last much longer. Too much attention is not a good thing," Caitlyn cautioned.
"Why do you think I didn't project it here?" Maddie countered. At the look on Caitlyn's face she conceded, "It should be gone by tomorrow, satisfied now?"
Caitlyn gave her a saucy grin. "I'll be satisfied when you take me shopping for a bridesmaid's gown."
Maddie gave her cousin a disgusted look, shook her head, and headed back to work.
"And lift and tuck and lift and tuck, and three, and four, and keep it up."
The perky exercise guru kept up her encouragement. Maddie was on all fours on the floor, staring at the television and lifting her leg in time with the instructor on the screen. Sweat matted her hair to her forehead, and her leotard clung to every curve. She only had twenty more minutes before she could hit the shower, then root in the kitchen for something for supper.
Off in the bedroom, from under the bed, came a slow line of gray dust balls. More and more emerged from under the bed, congregating in front of the dresser, growing in mass, larger and larger. If one looked close enough, individual eyes and teeth could be seen on each tiny dust ball -- glowing green eyes and sharp, miniature teeth.
The mass moved from the bedroom, slowly out the door, gaining speed as more dust balls were added to the mix. It began to shape itself: a vague humanoid form with long, distended arms, and short, squat legs. Down the hallway it moved, closer and closer to where Maddie still exercised on the floor in front of the television.
Maddie could feel the burn in her thigh as she swung her leg from side to side. She was at the part of her workout where the endorphins kicked in, and she grinned, knowing the end was in sight.
Suddenly she was grabbed around the waist and pushed forward, face down onto the tile. Her legs were spread-eagled, arms pinned at her side. Before she could do more than gasp in shock, she was flipped over to her back. Her eyes widened as she found herself staring into a great big blob of what appeared to be dust motes.
Maddie's short scream was cut off when the dust creature crammed her workout towel into her mouth. She struggled, but her arms were pinned down, her legs still spread wide. The manic teeth of the dust motes went to work on her clothes, ripping and shredding, leaving pieces of her clothing in tatters around her.
All she could do was watch in terror as two more odd-shaped arms and hands sprouted out of the creature. They reached forward, crudely pinching and squeezing her breasts. Dozens of tiny dust motes nibbled at her nipples, alternating currents of pleasure and pain zipping through her body. She tried to spit out the towel; if she could get her mouth free she could try one of the banishing spells she'd memorized. Her tongue worked to push the towel out, but it was wedged in too tight and her mouth was too dry.
Maddie closed her eyes in silent frustration, but still strained against the arms and legs that held her tight. The next instant her eyes flew open and downward as something touched her crotch. Another appendage, neither an arm nor a leg (but Maddie had a horrifying guess as to what it was supposed to be), had emerged from the dust creature and was pressing and probing her pussy. Maddie moaned behind the gag, whether in fear or reluctant arousal she wasn't sure.
The appendage was becoming more insistent, rubbing up and down her slit, torturing her further. Maddie's body was betraying her: she could feel herself getting wet even as she willed herself not to. It was a losing battle and Maddie could feel dread settling in her heart. There was no telling what the dust creature had in store for her. She must have pissed someone off big time.
The doorbell cut into her thoughts, and she craned her neck trying to see the front door. It was barely visible, but the window cut into it was too high for her to see who was out there. The doorbell pealed again. The dust creature ignored it, intent on the moist valley between Maddie's thighs.
Maddie renewed her efforts to spit out the gag. If she could make enough noise, then whoever was at the door might investigate. It was the best chance she had. She kicked and bucked as hard as she could, heels thumping against the cool terra-cotta tile.
The sound of the doorbell was replaced by the sound of pounding on the door, and Rich's voice hollered, "Maddie! Maddie are you in there?" More pounding then, "Maddie!" Maddie fought back frantically, trying to break free. The dust mote creature kept up its assault, ignoring both the noise at the door and her attempts to free herself.
The door flung open and Rich strode in. "Maddie, I know you said --" His voice broke off as he took in the scene before him. Maddie had thought that maybe he'd freak out, but he didn't do any such thing. "Where's the broom? Or the vacuum?" he asked, his voice laced with urgency.
Maddie cut her eyes toward the hall closet, jerking her head in that direction. Thankfully Rich got the message and opened the door, spying the expensive canister vac inside. He drug it out and headed for the nearest outlet. Maddie lost sight of him, but in a moment she heard the whirr as the vacuum was turned on.
The dust mote creature must have recognized the sound of the vacuum because it finally tore itself away from Maddie and turned toward Rich. It was too late, at that point, because all Rich had to do was aim the nozzle and walk forward.
Thousands of tiny dust motes emitted a high pitched screech as they were sucked down the hose of the vacuum. Rich didn't stop until every last mote had disappeared. He switched the vacuum off and then opened it up, taking out the bag. He held it closed tightly, and looking at Maddie, said, "I'll be right back."
Maddie sat up gingerly, taking the dirty towel out of her mouth. She heard the sound of running water in the kitchen sink, then the chunka-chunka of the garbage disposal. It seemed that Rich wasn't taking any chances of the dust motes coming back.
She was shaking by the time Rich came back. "Delayed shock," he said. He sat down on the floor beside her, taking off his jacket and placing it around her shoulders. She'd forgotten her lack of clothing.
"I don't quite know how to explain," she said in a shaky voice.
"Are you talking about the fact that you're a witch, or that a ten-foot tall dust bunny thing was attempting to molest you?" he asked in a slightly teasing voice.
"You know I'm a witch?" Maddie looked up at him questioningly.
"Caitlyn confided in me one day at the gym. We were trading family stories. I remarked to her that I had a great uncle from Romania who claimed to be a werewolf. She shared the witch thing." He brushed his fingers across her cheek. "Is that why you said you needed time to think about my proposal? Because you weren't sure how I'd take you being a witch?"
"That was part of it." Maddie ducked her head, leaning against his shoulder. She'd been surprised and a little taken aback by the way he'd rushed in and helped rescue her, just like her imaginary knight in shining armor would have done. "Yes, Rich, I'll marry you," she blurted out.
"Is that because you really want to marry me, or because you feel indebted to me after I just saved you?"
Her eyes shot up to stare at him. His hair was disheveled, hanging rakishly across one eye. His tie was gone, his royal blue dress shirt unbuttoned and looking the worse for wear. "Oh no, Rich. Cait said some things to me at lunch that got me to thinking. By the time I got home I'd made up my mind to accept your proposal. Not because I thought I owed you something, but because I simply can't imagine waking up in the morning without you in my life."
His brown eyes misted over and the smile on his face transformed him from mediocre to mesmerizing. He leaned down and planted a hesitant kiss on her lips.
Maddie deepened the kiss, turning in his arms and running her hands up his chest. She was still aroused from the manipulations from the dust creature, and Rich was looking too good to just let him go home with a goodnight kiss. She unbuttoned his shirt a little more, planting little kisses along his jaw line.
"What are you doing? Putting a spell on me?" he teased.
"I think a knight in shining armor is supposed to get a reward from the damsel in distress. Isn't that how it goes?" She shrugged off his jacket, and lay back on the floor, pulling him down with her.
His lips closed over hers, his hands learning the contours of her body. "I think that's about right," he murmured as he nibbled on her ear.
Rich worked his way from her ear, along the side of her neck, down her chin, kissing and rubbing and igniting fires wherever he touched.
He licked her collarbone, then nuzzled the valley between her breasts. Her nipples were overly sensitive; the red blotchy places were a good indication. Thankfully he only gave them gentle, soothing licks. Maddie could feel her face beaded in sweat, her breath coming in pants.
He began to kiss his way down her body. Close to her navel, he stopped kissing and began to lick and swirl his tongue around and finally into her navel. She clenched her stomach muscles and giggled involuntarily, hoping he'd mark that area as a ticklish spot.
Rich kissed his way further south. She could tell he picked up the scent of her arousal by the way he buried his face in her curls, and breathed deeply. He pushed her legs apart and kissed all around her pubic area. Her red-gold curls were damp and stuck to her skin. He darted his tongue in quick licks along her nether lips. Maddie drew in a sharp breath, and then moaned low, "Richhhhh. . . ." She was already teetering on the edge from the earlier sex play, and didn't know how much more she could stand before she came.
Rich kept licking her lips, occasionally sucking one into his mouth and laving it with his tongue. Maddie wondered briefly where he'd learned to do that, then decided she didn't give a damn. Just as long as he kept doing it. His tongue darted past her lips, drinking of her tangy juices. His hands kneaded and stroked her hips; her hands tangled in his hair, urging him closer, deeper, needing to feel release. It was close, so close.
He tongued her clit, soft and hard pressure, alternating between the two. Maddie's moans got deeper and she started tensing up, tightening her hips and butt. She thought that if only he'd keep either hard or soft pressure, just be constant, she'd come. Rich wrapped his lips around her clit, and stilled, keeping them there for a few seconds. Maddie tensed further, expecting him to suck on her clit or nibble it. Instead, he hummed, his lips vibrating rapidly around her clit.
Maddie screamed and arched her back as her orgasm slammed into her. She pulled on Rich's hair, her thighs tightened around his head as cascades of melting hot pleasure coursed through her body. Rich rode out the onslaught, easing back on the humming until Maddie quieted and her body stilled.
Maddie was exhausted. Between the almost-sex of the dust monster, and Rich's out-of-this-world fellatio, she didn't think she had the energy to move an inch.
Rich spread out beside her, wrapping her in his arms, and kissed her forehead. She nuzzled against him and sighed. She couldn't even remember the reasons she'd had before for not wanting to marry him. He wasn't exactly a knight in shining armor, but thinking about the way he'd rushed in to save her, she thought he was pretty damn close. "You know something, Rich, I never thought computer programmers could give such good . . . lip." She turned her head and grinned impishly at him.
He stood up, reached down, and scooped her up in his arms. She squealed and quickly wrapped her arms around his neck. As he headed for the bedroom, he leaned down to whisper huskily in her ear, "Wait till I show you what else I'm good at."