Author Susanna Shore
Paranormal and contemporary romances, light mysteries


Third Spell’s the Charm. House of Magic 3.


Chapter One          Chapter Two

Chapter One

I set my hair on fire trying to conjure water. Not the intended outcome, but inevitable to my ever-rising aggravation.

I’d twisted my hands and fingers into correct positions, and recited the required words of the spell, practically tasting the water already. The next thing I knew my hair was burning.

I shrieked and lost concentration, which made the spell break. It didn’t quench the fire. That was done by Amber Boyle, who was teaching me spellcasting, with an elegant flick of her long fingers.

Too late. The fire had singed a chunk of my long cinnamon hair that I’d foolishly left down. The stench of burnt hair made me gag and I dreaded to think what my hair looked like.

“That was not supposed to happen,” Amber said, baffled by my inadequacy. “A water spell is the opposite of a fire spell.”

You don’t say…

We were facing each other on the polished wooden floor of the workroom in the attic of the House of Magic, a magic shop Amber owned with her wife, Giselle Lynn. The shop gave name to the entire building in Clerkenwell, Central London, where I was their lodger.

We were inside a protective circle that Amber had drawn on the floor with chalk. It was supposed to help me focus my magic and prevent accidents.

Apparently it only prevented accidents outside it.

“I told you, this keeps happening,” I said miserably.

She tilted her head, making a shock of red curls sway. I bet she’d never accidentally burned her hair with a spell.

She was thirty-eight, tall and reed thin, a former trauma nurse turned full-time magic shop keeper. She was also a mage. And not just any mage. She was the newly minted leader of the Mages’ Council that governed all the mages in London.

I was twelve years younger, assistant to an arts and antiques dealer, and a newly minted mage. That was the assumption anyway.

The entire world of magic, mages, and supernatural creatures was new to me. Two months ago, I’d accidentally triggered a curse meant for my boss, Archibald Kane. He was the owner of Kane’s Art and Antique and also a mage, and he’d had no choice but to reveal their existence to me.

Last month, I’d learned that my great-aunt Beverly had been a mage too. It wasn’t exactly talked openly about with non-mages, and no one in my family had known. Since being a mage was hereditary and tended to be matrilinear, Kane had deduced that I must be one as well. I’d been delighted by the prospect of learning to cast spells, and he’d been sure I could learn, even though I was much older than mages usually were when they began.

So far, I’d only managed to prove him wrong.

It wasn’t for lack of qualified teachers. Amber and Giselle had been happy to help me learn the basics. They were good at it too. Giselle especially had great patience for a complete dunce like me.

For the first three weeks, I’d mostly been reading about the inner workings of spells, how a spell didn’t create anything but manipulated existing elements—or molecules, according to modern magic theories—into taking new forms. The books were vague on how it was possible. No one really knew the answer, other than that the ability was something mages were born with. Without it, the spells wouldn’t take—ignite, if you will—no matter how much you wiggled your fingers while incanting.

We’d also meditated a lot. Since the ability to manipulate elements was inherent, a mage had to be able to access the place inside them where the potential for it resided. I wasn’t entirely sure I’d located mine yet.

This week, we’d finally progressed to the practical aspect of being a mage: spellcasting. I’d imagined myself throwing spells around like Amber, Giselle, and Kane did, merely with some innate mage-ness that would impress everyone.

Amber and Giselle had had other ideas.

“We’ll start with conjuring water. It’s the easiest spell, as it’s one of the basic elements,” Amber had told me, then reconsidered: “Or the molecules required for it are the most common and everywhere around us. Whichever theory you like to subscribe to.”

“Also the gestures needed for it are the simplest,” Giselle had added with her easy smile. “Children start with it too.”

Turned out, their notion of easy wasn’t compatible with reality. I’d spent two evenings trying to bend and twist my fingers to the exact position needed for the spell. After I’d finally managed it to their satisfaction, I’d had to learn the incantation.

That at least was a simple four-word spell, even if the words weren’t any real language but some sort of bastardisation of Latin. According to my teachers, most spells were like that—except the ones based on ancient Greek—which of course only applied to Western magic. Asian magic was mostly based on an old form of Chinese, and there were other traditions too, but I wouldn’t be learning those.

Finally, it was time to put the pieces together to cast the spell. I needed to reach inside for the source of my ability while gesturing with my fingers and saying the words with intent, first aloud and then silently once I’d learned it.

I’d been at it the entire Saturday, alone in the attic. At first, nothing had happened. It had vexed me, but then I’d concentrated anew, dug deep into myself for that special ingredient, and cast the spell with as much purpose as I could muster.

Water should’ve appeared in the small bowl in front of me. Instead, my hand had burst into flames.

The fire had died when, with a shriek, I’d lost my concentration. Luckily there was some sort of failsafe to fire spells that prevented them from damaging the caster’s skin, but it had unnerved me, and for the next ten or so tries my spell hadn’t caught.

Little by little, I’d begun to relax and concentrate better. That’s when the fires started again.

First it was my other hand. Then it was a feather on the shelf where Amber and Giselle kept their potion ingredients—the smell was awful—and lastly, the notebook for my magic notes. It was in cinders before I even realised it was on fire. Only the tiny magnet that kept the lid closed remained in the pile of ash.

It truly vexed me, and not merely because it was a month’s work lost. It had been a really nice hardcover notebook I’d bought from the gift shop in the British Museum, with a picture of The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai on the cover.

The irony wasn’t lost on me.

I’d admitted my defeat, and asked Amber to help. We’d gone through the basics once more, and then she’d asked me to cast the spell again. With the aforementioned result.

“There must be something wrong with your focus, because I can’t detect any mistakes in your casting. We’d best meditate. Try to concentrate on the magic inside you.”

She tugged the knees of her yoga pants and settled more comfortably—or as comfortably as one could sitting cross-legged on a polished wooden floor. She closed her eyes and rested her wrists on her knees, palms up.

I mirrored the position. I hadn’t meditated before Amber and Giselle had made me, and I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. But I tried to calm my mind, and concentrated on my breathing like she’d instructed.

“Do you feel a spark inside you?” she asked when we’d breathed calmly for a couple of minutes.

My stomach growled, and I cringed, opening my eyes. Amber rolled hers, an impressive feat considering she kept them closed.

“Ignore the hunger. Let your mind float until you feel it being pulled somewhere. Then follow it to the source. That’s where your magic resides. Study it. It has to become as familiar to you as your breathing.”

She’d said the same the first time we did this, and a couple of times since. Problem was, I didn’t feel anything pulling my mind. There was nothing inside me.

“You have the spark,” Amber said, as if reading my mind. “You couldn’t set things on fire if you didn’t. You simply need to give it room to emerge. It’s a bit shy, so you have to quiet your mind to let it become willing to show itself.”

As far as visualisations went, that actually helped. I ignored my hunger—easier said than done when the scents of Giselle’s dinner preparations reached the attic—and pushed every emotion and sensation away: the hard floor under my bottom, my disappointment and frustration, the fear that I wouldn’t be a mage after all.

Nothing happened for the longest time. But I waited with more patience than before, maintaining the emptiness of my mind, pushing away the unpleasant sensations like my legs going numb.

And then, between the thin line of awake and not quite asleep, a tug. Or more like a faint flutter that clearly had a direction. Deeper.

Fearing I would lose it, I reached for it and cast the water spell. Too fast. The sensation disappeared, burying itself in the chaos that was my mind once more.

Disappointment made bile rise to my mouth, and I squeezed my eyes tightly so my tears wouldn’t show.

Amber cleared her throat, and I opened my eyes.

“Your hair is on fire again, Phoebe.”


Giselle had to cut me bangs. My hair was so badly damaged at the front that it was the only solution.

“I look like I’m fifteen,” I sighed, staring at my face in the bathroom mirror. My hazel eyes were miserable under the encroaching hairline, and my face looked alien to me. I hadn’t had a fringe since I was in school and was required to keep my hair in braids to go with the uniform.

“Better fifteen than fifty-five,” Giselle said mercilessly, chocolate eyes twinkling and dimples deep with supressed laughter. She was forty-one, shortish with soft curves, her steel grey hair in a pixie cut I found myself envying. Anything was better than the fringe.

She patted me on the shoulder. “You’ll get used to it. Now, let’s go eat dinner before it’s ruined.”

We cleaned the bathroom of the evidence of my incompetence, though I now carried it on my face, and I pulled my hair into a ponytail. It helped a little.

“At least your handiwork is neat,” I said to Giselle as we headed down the stairs.

Giselle flashed me her easy smile. “I used to be a hairdresser.”

“I didn’t know that.”

She made a dismissive gesture. “It’s not something I remember often. It’s been … almost twenty years since I made a career change to become a cook, before giving that up and becoming a full-time witch after I inherited the shop and this house from my aunt.”

Witches, unlike mages, could be ordinary humans too, as it was mostly about potions and herbs. Giselle was both.

“You’re an excellent cook too.”

The rent included meals, which she prepared. After two months of living here, my clothes had started to feel tight, even though I’d added running to my exercise routine.

Laughing, Giselle crossed the short hallway that doubled as the entrance hall. It opened to a combined kitchen and living room, the two separated by a sturdy oaken dining table that seated ten.

The house was narrow and tall. The shop was on the ground floor, with a basement below and the kitchen and living room right above. Giselle’s and Amber’s quarters were on the floor above that, and the top floor, before the attic, had two bedrooms and a bath for lodgers, of which I was one. The other was Ashley Grant, a firefighter in her early thirties. She was also a werewolf.

That had taken some getting used to.

The kitchen was cosy and functional, and the living room was filled with Victorian sofas, some of them genuine; floor lamps with tasselled shades, occasional tables, and doilies on every surface. Giselle’s aunt had loved crocheting. Two bay windows faced the busy high street below.

The table had already been set for five, which meant the whole household would be present. That didn’t often happen. Ashley had twenty-four-hour shifts, after which she usually slept the next day, and Luca only attended the meals served after sunset.

He was a vampire, to my great disbelief. That had taken even more getting used to, especially since I’d never witnessed him do anything vampiric, like show his fangs. His teeth were perfectly ordinary.

However, I had seen him cast impressive spells when we were chased by a hellhound, so I knew he wasn’t a mere human. And he avoided the sun at all costs.

He resided in the basement, where he had a studio flat with its own bathroom and boarded-over windows to keep the sunlight out. He supported himself with poker and stock trading, both online, and at nights he helped at the shop, which was kept open late for those customers who couldn’t face daylight either.

I heard him and Amber climb up the stairs from the shop. It closed for dinners, freeing them both to attend. Luca reached the kitchen first.

He wasn’t a tall man, only an inch taller than my five-seven, with a tight, muscled body. He looked like a carefree surfer with a handsome, angular face, sandy blond hair he usually kept in a short ponytail, and laughing green eyes. Only the tan was missing—for obvious reasons. He seemed to be about my age, but if I were to believe him, he was over a hundred years old.

Tonight though, the hair was open and casually tousled. He wore slim-fit, steel-grey trousers with a silvery sheen, and a black mesh T-shirt that revealed all the muscles of his impressive torso.

I’d never seen him exercise, so maybe vampires came with a physique like that. Or maybe he went to a twenty-four-hour gym at nights.

He paused abruptly when he spotted me. “Why aren’t you dressed? And what the hell happened to your hair?”

I looked baffled at my black yoga pants and the soft, long-sleeved T. Since I had no answer for the first question, I answered the latter: “A mishap with a spell. What do you mean, dressed?”

“I sent you several messages,” he said, exasperated. “Didn’t you read any of them?”

I took a seat at the table. “I’ve literally been in the attic the whole day. I didn’t have my mobile with me.”

Amber had confiscated it to ensure my unwavering focus. She pulled it out of her pocket now and handed it to me.

“No one called the whole day.”

That was a surprise. My parents usually called on Saturdays, and my girlfriends too, as we were too busy on weekdays for anything other than quick messages.

“What were your messages about?” I asked Luca, opening my phone to check if my friends or parents had left any messages. The only ones were from Luca. He hadn’t exaggerated the number of them. There were at least ten.

“I need you to be my wingman tonight.”

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Chapter Two

I sat straight, stunned. “Me?” I tilted my head, taking in his appearance with renewed appreciation.

“Explains the clothes though. You don’t need a wingman looking like that.”

A slow grin spread on his face and he twirled, giving me a good look at the backside too. Very nice.

“It’s mating season for vampires,” he stated, making Amber sputter and cough out the water she’d just sipped. “It’s finally dark enough that I can party to the morning.”

I groaned. “I don’t have the energy to party all night.”

He gave me a slow look. “You’re twenty-six. Of course you have the energy.”

He wasn’t wrong, and I liked to dance too, but that wasn’t the issue here. “I’ve been learning magic the whole day. It’s exhausting.”

Every spell drained the caster’s energy. The bigger the spell, the more it drained, although greater mages could cast more of the bigger ones in a row. Even though my spells hadn’t had the desired outcome, I was still spent.

“Can’t you take Ashley?” I suggested instead.

“Did I hear my name?”

The woman in question strode into the kitchen, immediately dwarfing the rest of us. She was six foot one and all muscle, strong enough to handle her physically demanding job even without the added benefit of being supernaturally strong.

With sharp cheekbones, a straight, commanding nose, and strong black brows over dark eyes, she was a striking sight. Added to that were a bald head she shaved regularly, earrings down both lobes, and piercings in her left eyebrow. If you poured her into leather and latex, she’d make an impressive wingman for Luca.

She halted abruptly and pinched her nose with her fingers. “You reek of cologne, Luca. What’s going on?”

I hadn’t smelled anything. I leaned closer to him, but I had to practically press my nose into his chest, making him roll his eyes, before I detected the sublime scent he wore.

Werewolves truly had more sensitive noses. And vampires too, since the scent was so faint.

“Luca wants to go clubbing and he needs company,” I told her.

She shuddered in disgust, like a wolf shaking its fur, an oddly elegant gesture. “I can’t go to those places. My ears are too sensitive.”

“My ears are sensitive too,” Luca protested. “That’s what magic’s for.”

“I can’t do magic. If there’s music, I’m not going.”

Luca gave me a pleading puppy look and managed to melt my resolve even though I knew it was just an act. I sighed.

“Fine, I’ll come with you. But I can’t pull an overnighter.”

He grinned. “That’s what you think…”

The last time I’d gone clubbing had been months ago. My three best friends and I had celebrated the birthday of one of us with an almost overnighter, and we’d had a great time. Back then, I’d believed I was in a happy and secure relationship with Troy Newell, a City banker I’d been seeing for a year. Less than a month after that night, I’d learned that he’d been cheating on me the entire time we were together, and had broken up with him.

Heartbroken, clubbing hadn’t exactly been at the top the things I wanted to do, but I’d gone to a club in Nice in August when I visited my parents, who lived near there. It had been a short evening though; I’d mostly wanted to prove to myself that I was over Troy.

I hadn’t been.

When I finally recovered from the breakup—it involved a hex I accidentally put on him—and let myself fall for a guy named Jack Palmer, a mage—not that I knew it when I met him—the bastard had put a spell on me that made me repulsive to men. Literally. Being around me had made every man except him nauseated. Even if I had been in a partying mood, I couldn’t have gone anywhere near men.

I’d managed to rid myself of the spell, and Jack. The latter possibly also literally, although I did hope he wasn’t dead. But I’d been busy with learning to become a mage since, and hadn’t even met with my girlfriends, let alone gone clubbing.

It was high time I had a night out. And Luca was always great company.

I was starting to feel excited about the night as I prepared for it after dinner. I selected my outfit carefully. I didn’t know if the wingman—or wingwoman—was supposed to look hotter than the chap she was there for, but I didn’t want to fade into the background next to Luca either.

The choice was between white hotpants and a powder pink miniskirt of some stretchy material that looked like leather. Trousers would’ve been weather appropriate—October had been rainy—but since I wanted to pair it with a black, long-sleeved, mesh blouse, I would’ve been dressed exactly like Luca and that couldn’t be.

The skirt it was. I could wear black tights for warmth.

I’d gained a little bit of weight since I’d worn the skirt last, but it still fit and made my bottom look rounder. My cleavage looked better too in the black bra that showed through the shirt.

Maybe I’d keep some of this excess weight after all…

I pulled my hair into a dressier ponytail, the kind with hair wrapped around it, which made the horrid fringe look slightly better. I made my eyes look dark and mysterious—I hoped—and my lips kissable. Not that I had any intentions of kissing anyone.

The footwear was a choice between strappy sandals and knee-high boots of the same leather-like material as the skirt, but black. The sandals would’ve looked better, but I gave into the weather and wore the boots. They made my legs look good, and since they were almost flat, my feet would thank me later.

As a last-minute addition, I wore a leather jacket too, genuine leather. I left it open—for now.

My efforts were instantly appreciated when I entered the living room, where Luca was waiting. He glanced at me over the backrest of the armchair he was lounging in, then glanced again.

“Wow! You look hot.”

I twirled around, my cheeks warming. “Thanks. Where do you want to go?”

The club scene in London was varied and vibrant, something for everyone if one knew where to look. My girlfriends and I usually went to the trendiest place, suffered the long queues and ridiculous prices, and declared ourselves satisfied afterwards.

“Let’s start with a few cocktail bars and see where that’ll lead us.”

We took a taxi to Soho, a trendy area in the middle of Central London. It had a lively nightlife and I’d often ended up there with my friends.

We weren’t the only people around despite the bleak weather. It was Saturday night in London, and everyone was young at heart. There were queues to every pub and wine bar we wanted to enter. We chose the longest one on the assumption that it had to be the best.

I hoped it didn’t merely mean it had the slowest staff.

“So what’s the gameplan?” I asked Luca, who tilted his head and considered me with a small smile.

“Would you believe if I said I wanted to get laid?”

I’d sort of assumed that was self-evident. “You don’t?”

He shrugged. “Maybe. But mostly I need to feed.”

I stepped away from him, the reaction involuntary, and he sneered.

“What, you’re frightened of me now?”

A faint blush rose to my cheeks. “No, I was just surprised that you’d talk about it so openly.”

He gave me a pointed look. “You know what I am.”

“It’s just that I didn’t believe you.” I made a helpless gesture, and his brows shot up.

“Why would I lie about that?”

“Because women are into weird stuff?”

He laughed. “I’ll give you that…”

The line moved and we took a few steps forwards. I glanced at Luca from the corner of my eye.

“So … how often do you need to, ummm…?”

He looked amused. “Suck the blood from the veins of an unsuspecting human?”

Gross. “I was about to go with feed, but okay.”

“Not often. I can get by with normal food as well. But I need an occasional booster to maintain my … enhancements.”

He grinned, reminding me of my ignorance of people other than humans when we first met in August. They’d described themselves as enhanced humans.

“Right. So what am I here for?” I stomped my legs to keep them warm. Despite the tights, the damp air was getting through.

“Your job is to make me look harmless.”

I gave him a dubious look. “That doesn’t sound predatory at all…”

“Hey, I am a predator.” He smiled to soften his words. “But don’t worry, my victims will live, and they won’t have any memories or visible signs of having been my snack.”

That sounded only marginally better.

“And if there’s sex, it’ll be perfectly consensual, and they’ll remember that afterwards.” His smile was smug now.

“I guess it’s not easy being a vampire in this day and age.”

“Not as easy as it was in the sixties…”

I tilted my head. “I’ll have to take your word for that.”

The queue moved again, bringing us to the open door. We could see that the holdup was a large group of women—not unlike me and my girlfriends—who had ordered complicated cocktails that took forever to make. They looked exotic.

“Want one of those?” I asked Luca, who shrugged.

“Alcohol doesn’t really have any effect on me, but you get one.”

My mouth dropped. “Why are we bar-hopping, then?”

He grinned. “For fun? To chat up girls? To loosen you up? It’s hours until morning. We might as well enjoy the night.”

“Can’t you just … mesmerise someone and be done with it?”

He looked appalled. “It’s about the chase. I am a predator.”

“One who hunts the most inebriated at the end of the night?”

“Or the most desperate…”

I laughed. “You and the rest of the blokes.”

An arm wrapped around my shoulders just then and a face pressed far too close to mine as a drunken bloke leaned down to speak to me, giving me a whiff of alcohol-soaked breath. Startled, I pulled away, closer to Luca, but the hopeful suitor followed.

“Hello, gorgeous. Why don’t you ditch the shorty and we go somewhere just the two of us?”

I made a face, trying to pull away again. Luca wrapped an arm around my shoulders, dislodging the eel. “No, thank you.”

A sneer spread on his face, and he ran his eyes down my body. It would’ve been more effective if he hadn’t lingered on my breasts. “What, you think you can find someone better?”

“Hope springs eternal.”

Luca snorted a laugh, which angered the drunken fool, who leaned closer again. “The lady and I are talking. Bugger off.”

“Actually, the lady is very much trying not to talk with you,” Luca said. “So you bugger off.”

He made a quick gesture with his hand I only noticed because I’d been practicing such gestures lately. The eyes of the harasser glazed over. He shook his head, as if trying to dislodge something in his brain—and walked away.

“That was handy,” I said admiringly. “Can you teach me that too?”

“Sorry, it’s a vampire speciality.”


The queue finally cleared. I grabbed Luca by his arm and pulled him into the bar with me. “Come, I need a drink.”


Three hours and far too many bars—and drinks—later, we were queueing to a nightclub. The cold had stopped bothering me three drinks ago, and I was having a brilliant time. I was dancing in the queue with the people around me, each to music only they could hear.

Mine was Abba, by the way. Really danceable, and I vaguely heard it playing in the club every time the door opened. I had no idea where we were, but since we hadn’t walked all that much, I was pretty sure we were still in Soho or thereabouts.

“What is this place?” I asked Luca, looking around. I was slurring a little and had trouble focusing my eyes. I narrowed them to see better and spotted a rainbow flag over the door.

“Is this … a gay club?”

He grinned. He’d been wonderful company the whole night, and seemed to be having a good time too, even though I’d probably been a lousy wingman. “It is.”

“And are you…?”

I’d been pretty sure he preferred women. He certainly showed great appreciation to my body, and he’d only chatted up women all night.

His grin deepened. “Anything goes. For sex and for food. Except vampires.” He shuddered, disgusted. I decided not to probe that particular ghost. “And I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable here too.”

The drunken fool at the first bar hadn’t been the only drunken fool that evening, keeping Luca’s mesmerising skills busy.

I wrapped an arm around his. “Aww, thanks.”

The queue was mercifully short, as I was starting to feel cold again. I was underdressed for a gay club too. If I’d known we’d come here, I’d have worn more glittery clothes and larger jewellery. And a feather boa.

I envied the plush pink thing the person in front of me had wrapped around their throat. I bet it warmed nicely. I tapped on their shoulder.

“I’ll give you five pounds for that boa,” I said, trying to sound sharp.

They turned around and revealed themself to be a tall and fabulous drag queen in a sequined dress and gravity defying heels. She lifted a well-painted brow and tilted her head, checking me out with her cherry lips pursed.

“It would bring your outfit together perfectly.”

“I know!”

She took off the boa and wrapped it around my throat with great artistry. Then she offered me the crook of her arm and I took it.

“What’s your name, hon?”

“Phoebe, and this is Luca.”

“I’m Miss Peaches.”

She offered her free hand to Luca, who dutifully—and elegantly—bowed over it, placing a small kiss on it. “Charmed,” he drawled.

“Oooh, you have an old school gentleman here.”

I nodded, proud like he was my creation. “Considering he’s over a hundred years old, he’s definitely old school.”

Both of her brows shot up. “He’s well preserved for such an old chap.”

“That’s because he’s a vampire,” I stage whispered. Luca rolled his eyes, exasperated, and Miss Peaches gave a throaty laugh.

“I’ve always wanted to meet one.”

“Tonight’s your lucky night, then.”

“You don’t say…”

She offered her other arm to Luca, who took it. “So what does a vampire do for a living?”

“Stock trading.”

“That is so boring,” she said, her shoulders slumping.

Luca’s mouth quirked. “What do you do, then?”

“I’m an entertainer.” She pulled out a calling card from her bra and handed it to him. “I can be hired for all kinds of occasions, and I perform regularly at a cabaret in Brasserie Noël.

“I’ve always wanted to see one of those!” I often had lunch there, as it was near where I worked—and near where we currently were too, come to think of it—but I’d never had a chance to see any of the shows.

Then again, I’d been avoiding the place lately, because Jack had taken me there on our one and only date.

Miss Peaches jumped excitedly. “You absolutely have to come on Tuesday! I’ll put your names on the list. There are shows tomorrow too, but I’m not performing, so don’t come then.”

Happy with the prospect, we queued five more minutes until we reached the door. A large bouncer guarded it, built like the Rock and with a similar bald head too. But instead of reminding me of the actor, he reminded me of…

“Are you related to Ashley?” I asked him with the frankness of an inebriate, leaning closer. He had the same sharp cheekbones and regal nose, though his was much larger. His black brows shot up and I could easily imagine them with piercings.

“Who’s asking?” he said, and even his voice reminded me of her, though it was much deeper and rougher. His nostrils flared, like Ashley’s when she was smelling something unpleasant, and he curled his upper lip at Luca. I guess werewolves didn’t like vampires except in our house.

“I’m Phoebe, and this is Luca. We’re her housemates,” I gushed, excited for guessing right. “Miss Peaches here doesn’t live in our house. We only just met her.”

He studied me, bemused. “Ashley’s my sister.”

“I knew it!” I jumped up and down. “What’s your name?”

“I’m … Ronnie.”

“Is it short for Ronald?”

“No, just Ronnie.” He pulled the door open, practically throwing us in. “Have a nice night.”

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