DESTINY ISN’T CALLING. Kemble Tremaine is thirty-seven. He knows he’ll never get magic like the rest of his family. The Merlin gene has passed him by. No true love, no magic power to help the family in their fight against the descendants of Morgan Le Fay. Since it doesn’t matter who he marries, he asks his sister’s best friend, Jane. At least he’ll be rescuing her from a horrible home life.
CINDERELLA MISSES THE BALL. Jane Butler has loved Kemble since she was twelve years old. She’s well aware he’s not marrying her for love, but she hopes she can make him comfortable.
HAPPINESS IS RELATIVE. Comfort isn’t on the menu for the Tremaines. Kemble’s sister has been having visions of tragedy. The family finds one of Merlin’s precious artifacts, meant to increase the power of those with magic. Morgan and her Clan want it too. They can’t be far behind. Can Kemble and Jane find destiny in the face of danger and even death?
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Read an excerpt
Kemble strode around the car without a word, got behind the wheel and slammed the door. His lips were a thin, determined line. Then he seemed to see her for the first time. “Jane, that…that cheek looks really painful.” His face contorted with an angry look. “I should have been over here first thing this morning.” He was angry with himself, of course. “I could have gone to the doctor if I needed to, you know,” she said. He snorted. “You never want anything for yourself, Jane. I’ll take care of that too.” What did he mean by that? The motor purred to life and Kemble put his arm over the back of her seat to turn and look out the rear window as he backed out. His fingers brushed her shoulder. She closed her eyes as the sensation shot up her spine. Did he have to be so careless? As they turned onto Palos Verdes West she glanced over to him. He was fairly vibrating with…nervous tension? Determination? She couldn’t quite figure it out. He surprised her by sliding into the little shopping center behind the Admiral Risty, an old-school, red-booth dinner place with a wide-water view of the Pacific. “Aren’t you going to be late for dinner at home?” “Yes, I am.” He nodded his head convulsively. The man was sweating. “You want to loosen the tie or something?” He really looked like he was about to choke. “No.” He took a big breath and let it out slowly. Then he turned to her. “I have something I want to ask you, Jane. And I don’t want you to say anything until I’m done explaining.” “Uh. Okay.” Jane was getting a very bad feeling about this. It was going to be something about what he wanted to do with her mother. She just knew it. And she wouldn’t be able to accept his largesse, so he’d try to bully her into it. He looked out over the parked cars. “I’m never going to get magic. I talked to Senior and he agrees. We think the gene is recessive in me. I’ve known it for a while.” She started to protest, but he held up a hand. It was shaking a little. That stopped her far more effectively than anything he could have said. He wasn’t the kind of guy to tremble. “So.” He acted as though that settled everything. “So he agrees that I ought to get on with my life. Settle down. And if I’m not waiting for the bolt of lightning, well, then I can marry whomever I want. So I’m asking you.” Jane felt like she’d been struck deaf, dumb and blind by that lightning bolt. Kemble was… asking her to… marry him? After all these years, he’d realized he loved her… “Now don’t say no,” he rushed on. “Just because we’re not in love doesn’t mean this can’t work out. You need a refuge Jane, and if we marry, I can give that to you.” Jane carefully shut her mouth, though that didn’t mean she could breathe. Kemble looked down at his hands, still on the steering wheel. “The family already loves you. And I’ll make sure your mother is taken care of. Enough money cures everything, Jane, and if it’s one thing I have, it’s money.” His eyes were so earnest it might break her heart. He’d given up. So he might as well marry her. Something heavy sat on her chest. He got an anxious look. “So…uh…what do you think?” She hardly trusted herself to speak. “Oh. Wait.” He lifted his hips to get his hand into the pocket of his slacks, and drew out a small square velveteen box. It said the name of the department store at the top of the hill on the bottom. He fumbled with it until he got it right side up and popped it open. A diamond ring gleamed in the rosy light of the setting sun. The setting was simple, just a band with three medium diamonds set in it. They glinted in the afternoon light. “I didn’t think you’d want one of those big diamonds that are always catching on everything. These… these are nice stones though.” He cleared his throat. It was actually just the kind of ring she would want the man she loved to give her. But not like this. She took a breath. “Kemble, you don’t want to marry me.” It took all the courage she had to speak those words. “But I do,” he protested. “You’re perfect. You’re smart. You’re a calming influence on the family, especially the younger ones.” His voice softened. “And marrying me will give you a place, Jane. Let me take care of you.” She couldn’t marry Kemble when he didn’t love her. That would be too selfish. He put the box with the ring on the dashboard and took both her hands in his larger ones. After the shock that went straight to her groin and the points of her breasts, what she noticed was that the warmth, the slight moisture born of his anxiety, enveloped her with his inherent goodness. She felt…maybe not loved, but at least treasured. “I need you, Jane,” he said. “And I think you need me too. Sometimes life just provides solutions we aren’t expecting.” The words were simple, spoken from his heart. He needed her. It was the one ploy that might get her to agree to this. She couldn’t bear how unhappy he’d been lately. Maybe this solution freed him from the razor-sharp pain of wondering if magic would ever happen for him, thinking he’d never be good enough. She wanted to believe that, because suddenly, she wanted to throw all sense and caution off the cliffs at the Breakers and accept him. Married to Kemble Tremaine, just as she’d dreamed since she was fourteen. A real member of the Tremaine family, with a right to make tira misu for their dinner or cut fresh flowers for the table. There was another problem. “What if you find your destined love after we’re married?” “Never going to happen.” He shrugged as though it didn’t matter to him. But in his blue eyes she saw that it did. He wasn’t over mourning his loss yet. But maybe someday he could be. Maybe time would heal his regret. Maybe they could have something together, if not true love, then companionship, respect. That was more than she was like to have any other way. “You have to promise me something, Kemble Tremaine.” “Anything.” He didn’t mean that, of course. He couldn’t give her the one thing she really wanted. And God, he was so close to her, he was overwhelming any sense she had at all. “Promise that if you ever do find the one really meant for you, you’ll tell me. I’ll set you free the next moment with no regrets.” Well, none she wouldn’t have anyway, whether she married him or not. She’d always regret he didn’t love her. His brows drew together sharply. He really hadn’t thought this out, had he? Finally he nodded. “Okay.” He cleared his throat. “Does that mean you will do me the honor of being my wife?” God help her. She nodded.
About the author:
NYT Bestselling author Susan Squires published twenty-two novels and novellas with Dorchester Publishing and St. Martin’s Press, as well as self-publishing her new Magic Series. She’s won the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion, been a finalist in the Rita contest and garnered several Reviewer’s Choice awards from Romantic Times BookReviews. Publisher’s Weekly named Body Electric one of the most influential mass-market books and One with the Shadows a Best Book of Year. She lives at the beach in Southern California with her husband, who is also a writer, and two Belgian Sheepdogs who help her by laying their chins on the keyboardddddddd.
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