Even witches need a vacation.
Everything that could go wrong in Layla’s life has. There’s a murderous werewolf cult, Mr. White is plotting to destroy the world and worst of all—her mother keeps showing up. Her boys aren’t doing much better. Ink’s questioning his place in Layla’s life. Daniel is growing stronger and losing himself in the process. Cal is fighting against the newest addition no matter how hard he tries to make nice. They deserve a break at a private cabin on a lake.
Okay, so they’ll have to put in some labor to help bring the resort up to snuff for the summer season, but a free vacation is still an escape. There’ll still be nights lying under the stars on Cal’s chest, licking s’mores off Ink’s abs by a bonfire, being serenaded by Daniel on a boat ride and snuggling beneath Garavel’s wings. Evil, however, doesn’t take a break.
All the past demons come home to roost as the coven faces not only what they were running from but a lake monster who may not be so mythical after all. In this steamy and heart-racing addition to Coven of Desire, Layla fights to protect her men from demons both without and within.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and death. There is mention of past abuse and of kidnapping.
General Release Date: 14th March 2023
Fifteen years. For fifteen years, I’d stumbled alone in the dark. No mother to teach me how to drive, to show me what tampons to buy, to coo over my prom dress or embarrass me at graduation. I had faced every harsh sunrise alone, my family…my whole world ripped from me bit by bit.
I ran to her and buried my face in my lost mother. Instead of her soft belly cushioning my tears, it was her shoulder that caught me. Uncertain hands patted my back, and as I crushed tighter against her, she returned the hug. I’d never thought I’d feel those arms again.
Never imagined I’d hear her voice calling to me.
The scents of jasmine and burnt wiring plunged a rosy spear of nostalgia through my heart and I sobbed. I’d broken her bottle of perfume my first week in the foster home. It’d shattered on the sink. Even with glass shards slicing up my fingers, I’d tried desperately to mop it up so I wouldn’t lose it. So I wouldn’t lose her.
Nimble fingers tugged through my hair, parting the twists as she cupped the nape of my neck. A tingle I’d always thought came from my imagination pulsed at her touch. Now I knew it to be magic, my mother casting a spell to calm me as if I were a child in a panic after a nightmare.
My arms fell away from her. She’d left. She hadn’t just left—she had made certain I wouldn’t follow. That I couldn’t follow. I staggered back, punch drunk from the emotions roiling in my heart. Wrinkles had built near her eyes and her cheeks sagged, but it was my mom. Looking at her, the years I’d spent building over the scar of her death ripped away.
She smiled dolefully. “I know. I didn’t have a choice, but that’s in the past. What matters is what happens next.”
“In the past?” In the fifteen years of mourning her, my grief callous had hardened over a node of rage. Seeing her broke it open.
“Do you have any idea what I’ve been through because I didn’t have a…?” My lips wobbled, tears spilling over at the word ‘mom.’
“Laylee.” She sighed with my old pet name. I shivered, both in anger and…relief to hear it again. “What matters is you’ve done it, gained your powers and your…” She jerked her head to my purse. On instinct, I slapped a hand over it to protect my spell book, but that only made my mother smile with pride.
“Though, I’m concerned.”
So am I.
“It was quick thinking of you to amplify the realm creature, but you should have been much stronger fighting against the man in white.”
What? “You! You were there. You were there at the house, the monster ball. And you didn’t say anything!”
My mom shrugged, and her blonde braid slipped off her shoulder. The woman, the face behind the mask in the crowd—it had been her and I’d walked on past. I hadn’t even once looked back to her. She could have been killed because of me, and I’d never have known.
“Lucky for you, I was. I saved your life. If you’d been hit by that abomination’s spell, it’d have cast you through every realm into depths I can’t even imagine.” She crossed her arms as if she expected gratitude—like she’d brought my lunch to school after I’d left it on the table.
I clenched my fist, rolling the power inside of me down my forearm, over the back of my hand and into my palm. It ebbed with each pulse as I sank my nails deeper and fought to keep from screaming. “You left. You left me alone for fifteen years.”
“Layla, now is not the time.”
“You abandoned me!” I shrieked and opened my fist. Fire sprang forth, dousing the green-tan grass in flames. My mother pursed her lips and raised her hand.
Even though I knew she had to be a witch, seeing wind erupt from her movements floored me. She had magic, same as me. She was the only person who’d known what I’d face, and she had left me in the dark instead.
“Honestly, this is not the place to be—”
“How long have you watched me? How long have you stood by the sidelines refusing to help me?” I gripped my temples, my body shaking. I rewound through my past. Every time I’d feared for my life, had my mother been there? Even back before my powers, before Ink and the book? When I’d been kicked out of the system with nothing to my name but the clothes in my backpack, where had she been? When I’d slept in a rat-infested apartment because it was all I could afford, had my mother known?
“There’s a lot you don’t understand yet. Look…” My mother reached out to wrap her arm around my shoulders, but I ducked away.
“I understand perfectly well. I know you faked your death, that you killed an innocent woman—”
“She was going to die anyway,” my mother interrupted.
It sure as hell hadn’t looked that way in my vision, but I clenched my jaw and kept going. “And you left me. You left me alone.”
“Layla. That isn’t what—”
I dodged her again, both of my palms up. Power crackled between us, the air tasting like lightning right before the strike. “And the second you find me, when you come back into my life, it’s just to tell me I’m not good enough?”
“It’s not that you aren’t…” She groaned and pinched her nose. “Didi’s better at this.”
I gulped at the mention of my dead auntie. Just when I’d accepted my mom was never coming back, Death had snatched Didi away, too. Had my mother known that as well and still refused to come back?
“Please, let me explain why I—”
“No. No, I’m not… I can’t deal with… Ink!” I closed my eyes tight, picturing my incubus, from his jet-black waves to his come-hither smirk and down his sinful body. I zeroed in on the new tattoo on his chest of a heart made of chains. As I pictured it, hands swept across my waist and my cheek pressed against a pec.
“You rang?” Ink asked.
I clasped my hands around the back of his neck. Ink jerked as if surprised, then he tenderly swept his arms around me. “My bond, are you suffering yet from the angel’s malady?”
“Who’s this?” my mother demanded, her hands raised to cast a spell at the man holding me safe.
“I was about to inquire the same. An enthusiastic grave robber perhaps?”
I turned a single eye back to my mother, the other buried in the darkness of Ink’s chest. “She’s no one,” I said. “Take me home.”
Ink wasn’t stupid. He stared at the woman with my face but paler and less voluptuous features. Still, he caressed his palm over my back as he said, “While I am not one to call a lie a lie, perhaps it would be in—”
I turned tighter in his grip and gasped out, “Please.”
He bent closer, his lips almost caressing my forehead. “Of course.” Ink swept me up in his arms and the realms parted. My skin tingled in a way it never had before as Ink took a step out of the cemetery and back to our home.
Just before he did, my mother cried out, “Layla,” one last time.