Melanie Rawn Fire Raiser

ISBN 13: 9780765315335

Fire Raiser

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9780765315335: Fire Raiser
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Bestseller Melanie Rawn plunges down the back stairs of the old South into a dark world of family secrets and the international flesh trade that lies underneath the surface of small town politics and romance.

Holly McClure and Evan Lachlan have survived the fiery beginning of their romance and left Manhattan for Holly’s ancestral home to raise their children.  Evan’s the county Sheriff; Holly is still a trouble-making Spellbinder trying to manipulate her family as if they were characters in one of her novels.

But something’s not right in Pocahontas County.  Churches are being burned down in mysterious arsons with a taint of magic on them.  Sheriff Lachlan suspects that they have something to do with the new owners of the old Westmoreland plantation, now a very upscale Inn, but even if he could find proof, it’s going to be hard to bring a case of Black Magic before a Judge -- even in Pocahontas County, where witchcraft is the family business of all the oldest clans.

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About the Author:

Melanie Rawn is the author of Spellbinder, The Ruins of Ambrai, and The Mageborn Traitor. Rawn lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

September 3 , 2006

The water in the bucket was meant for the tomatoes. As it cascaded instead over the tousled head and shirtless torso of her husband, Holly felt her knees wobble. She’d been watching him from the parlor window for a few minutes now, still amused after two and a half years that her city boy had taken so enthusiastically to life in the Virginia sticks. The vegetable garden had been all his idea. Tomatoes, squash, onions, corn, peas, and four varieties of chili peppers received his intense devotion every evening when he got home; on Sundays like this one he spent hours out back, babying anything that needed extra attention.

Yep—scratch an Irishman, find a peasant. She grinned to herself. He made quite the bucolic picture in the noonday heat: six feet four inches of summer-tanned Pocahontas County sheriff, wearing frayed old cutoffs and a pair of sneakers, with a battered Yankees cap pulled low over his forehead to keep the sun from scorching his nose. All he lacked was a thin stalk of hay sticking out from between his teeth.

When he took off the cap and stretched wide, her laughter faded; when he reached for the water bucket, the shift of muscle in strong arms and long back brought a little whimper to her throat. Now, with water gliding down his chest and belly, heat curled low in her abdomen and she leaned a little more heavily on the windowsill in deference to her shaky knees.

After a moment she unlatched the screen, pushed it open, and called out, "Hey, farmboy!"

Evan squinted, using both hands to rake back the wet hair dripping into his eyes. The gesture flexed chest, arms, and shoulders to noteworthy effect; he knew it, too, damn him. The grin he gave her made him look half his forty-two years. Holly gulped.

"Yes, ma’am?"

"Don’t you think it’s time you took a breather?" Breathing was exactly what she wasn’t doing very well just now.

"Sounds mighty nice, ma’am," he drawled in his atrocious version of her native accent. "Pardon for askin’, but y’all wouldn’t happen to be one of them desperate house wives I hear tell about, would you?"

Yeah, he knew what he was doing, all right: knuckles propped just above the low-riding waistband, hips and head in a speculative tilt. Holly’s thoughts turned to pillage and plunder—and she’d do it right in the middle of the crookneck squash if she had to. As he showed off a few more moves with an artfully artless scratch to the small of his back, she pretended to consider his question. "Now that y’all mention it . . ." His answering grin was entirely too smug. So, resting one shoulder against the window frame, she folded her arms beneath her breasts. Instant cleavage. Fairly impressive cleavage, too; becoming the primary milk wagon for twins could do that.

His turn to gulp. But he recovered in a hurry—the rat bastard—and said, "Shucks, ma’am, kinda depends on how desperate we’re talkin’ here."

Holly repressed a sardonic snort. Evan Lachlan and hard to get were mutually exclusive terms. She hiked the skirt of her cotton sundress up her thighs, hitched herself sideways to sit in the window, and slung one bare leg over the ledge. Dangling her foot, scraping the soft dirt of a flower bed with her toes, she told herself that if the cleavage and the naked leg didn’t get him over here within the next thirty seconds, she would go with her original pillage-and-plunder plan, and the squash could damned well fend for itself. Evan cleared his throat and took a couple of involuntary steps toward her. She hid a smirk. Gotcha! "Y’all got any ideas, farmboy?"

"One or two," he allowed. The self-confident saunter was back, signaling a tweak in the balance of power. "I’m all sweaty and dirty, though." He rubbed one hand across his chest as if embarrassed by his scruffiness. "And there you are, all pretty and sweet. . . ."

She heard herself growl. She heard him chuckle. She came out of the window like a tackle going for a quarterback sack.

The crookneck squash never had a chance.

MUCH LATER, after a change of venue upstairs to their bedroom, Evan hummed low in his throat as Holly’s fingertips stroked his shoulder. His wife knew every one of his buttons and exactly how to push them; the thing was that she never pushed them in the same order. Systematic sequential insanity on a regular basis he could have handled, no sweat. But Holly was way too creative for that. He felt a corner of his mouth twitch, knowing how many husbands would give their left nut to have this problem, and tightened his arms around her.

"You have the most amazing skin," she mused drowsily, hand drifting down his chest. "Not a mark on you—"

He tried to catch her fingers before they reached the center of his breastbone. He wasn’t quick enough.

"—except for the scar that’s my fault."

Lachlan was quiet for a long moment, spreading his hand over Holly’s on his chest. He didn’t try to see her face; he knew she wouldn’t look at him. Not that he blamed her; his own mind seemed all bruises whenever he tried to think about that night. Finally, he murmured, "We don’t talk much about it, do we?"

"I know."

"Three years this Hallowe’en."

"Yeah."

"It wasn’t your fault. I know damned well I’ve said that before. I’ve got a scar. You didn’t put it there." He waited, but she wasn’t talking. "Holly, I’m alive because of—" Something occurred to him, and he drew away from her, turning onto his side. "Why am I still alive, anyhow?"

"Evan?" She met his gaze, frowning.

"I never did ask you why I’m still breathing. What you said about how if I ever raised a hand to you again, you’d kill me—"

"We avoid talking about that night, too," she muttered.

"At the Hyacinths," he persisted, "I didn’t just raise my hand to you. I put a gun to your chest."

He didn’t know whether he was more grateful or exasperated when she tried on a mile—not a very good fit—and said, "I thought you were supposed to have amnesia about all that. Or did you forget? To have amnesia, I mean—"

"Knock it off. You know what I’m talking about."

Relenting, she bit her lower lip, then said, "It wasn’t you."

"Part of it was."

"No. Whatever Noel called up, it took you—Evan, I watched it, I saw it come toward you and—and merge with you. But it wasn’t you that night—either of those nights."

"Is that what you’ve been telling yourself this whole time?"

"What have you been telling yourself?"

He lay back flat again and stared at the ceiling. "That I have to be careful. I always knew that. We’ve talked about my parents before. We both know I have a temper. If—"

"I have a temper, too."

"Ya think?" He smiled briefly, but didn’t look at her. "You don’t have a family history like mine. If I ever hit you—or one of the kids—"

"Never."

"I know you’re sure, Holly. I can’t be. I can never be sure."

"What does that mean? That you’ll only stop tormenting yourself about it when you’re dead? Listen to me, a chuisle. The one time, you’d been drunk for a week and you were in martyr mode—"

"You really want to go there?" he asked softly.

"No." Holly took a deep breath. "The other time, you were loaded half out of your skull on that incense stuff to begin with, and then Noel’s little playmate came along. I saw it happen, and I was cold sober. You weren’t. Not either of those times. Do you remember anything about what happened?"

"Some. Not much." He considered for a moment. "I never knew the flowers on my mother’s dress were hyacinths, that day I saw her with the priest. That’s what I saw, all those goddamned purple flowers—only it was you wearing the dress. How did Noel do that? What did he tap into?"

"I don’t know. That’s all the answer I’ve got, Éimhín." Shifting against him, she went on, "We’ve both had nightmares about it."

"Yeah. I can always tell, because those are the ones you won’t talk about."

"And who does this remind us of? My point is that I actually remember both those nights, and you don’t, so you’re just gonna have to trust me on this, husband mine."

"I am, huh?" He turned his head and eyed her grimly determined face. "Does that mean you’re gonna have to trust me about the scar? That it wasn’t your fault?"

"Oh, clever man!" she snarled—but her heart wasn’t really in it. "Got me that time, didn’t you?" "Yep," he agreed, unrepentant. Holly sulked for a moment, then settled into his arms once more. "It still doesn’t negate the fact that we’ve never discussed either of those nights in any detail." "I don’t think we want to go there, either." "Just be glad we s...

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Publisher: Tor Fantasy, 2010
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