November, Present Day
Bryce Jackson slid her damp palms on the wool fabric of her pantsuit and hoisted herself from her stool in the Singing Kraken Tavern.
Pushing her drink away with resolve, she eyed him again.
That’s it. No more waiting.
She was here to do one job. Better get it done fast.
For half an hour already, she’d been observing him while aimlessly twirling the straw in the lowball glass of her diet soda. Not once did she break her focus.
She had watched him order his beer. Then, she’d studied his reflection in the faded mirror behind the bar while he exchanged casual banter with the dreadlocked bartender serving him.
He had flirted with at least three women dropping on him. First, she saw the whisper in the blonde’s ear. The girl, a tall beauty covered in swirling tattoos, had laughed before kissing him on the mouth.
Minutes after, he’d swapped phone numbers with a gorgeous black woman in regal yellow silk. Then, there was the small purple-haired girl, who had playfully tousled the dark curls from his forehead, before jumping to straddle his lap as he’d let his fingers trail lazily on her naked thigh.
Without question, he was hot.
The bar was full of millennials. Seattle hipsters with beards, expensive tattoos, upscale hiking garbs, glittery dresses matched with combat boots, and the occasional 12th man football paraphernalia.
Despite the diversity bordering on outrageous, he managed to stand out from the crowd.
Not at all trendy but bad boy classic.
Basic jeans, black-t-shirt, and motorcycle leather jacket. The hair, which he raked back a few times, a little too long. Lips curled with both amusement and lust at the gaggle of women crowding him.
No doubt sex radiated from him.
People didn’t know about the power.
But Bryce did.
She knew about the daggers hidden within his jacket. She knew about the leather bracelet oozing with sorcery at his wrist. She knew about the magic legacy scouring through his blood.
It was all in the file. She’d studied everything about his background and habits in the portfolio Mr. Cones had sent her the day before. Doggedly casting to memory every detail after she’d loaded and listened to the documents on her tablet to help with her dyslexia.
Knightley Theodore Morgan, Warlock of the Order of the Black Oak.
She knew all about his history.
She sighed and moistened her bottom lip as a stream of warmth travelled to her navel. She just hadn’t been prepared to have to fight her attraction.
He was sexy as hell. Her task would not be easy.
Yet, she’d never wavered from challenging jobs. She’d work too hard to get where she was. The Morgan family would get full satisfaction. No matter how hot she found him, Knightley Morgan would be served.
And, as always, her reputation, as one of the most dependable young attorneys in Seaport, would soar.
He was alone at last. After snatching her crisp leather tote from the bar, she hiked it on her shoulder while crossing the distance between her and the deadly sorcerer.
“Mr. Morgan.” Her spine ramrod straight, her expression blank, she presented her hand to shake. “I’m Ms. Jackson. From Burke and Cones. I need to talk to you.”
He looked at her hand and then caught her eyes. Tingles settled at the center of her chest as a smile etched on his lips. He leaned back on his chair, his arms wide against the bar railing behind him.
“Hello, beautiful,” he drawled.
He let his gaze trail along the length of her body, his sea-green eyes contemplating every limb, and she found herself shifting at the appraisal.
“I came here from Seaport.” She kept her voice dispassionate as she coolly lowered her hand.
His expression altered at her words. He leisurely reached back for his beer on the bar behind him while keeping her under his gaze, an eyebrow cocked. “Why am I not surprised.”
The ambient noise intensified, and she edged closer, catching his scent. The enticing mix of clean laundry spiced with a hint of masculinity impeded her ability to focus on her task.
“Mr. Morgan.” She kept down her rising lust and gathered her professionalism. “This will only take a minute.”
“Knight.” He took a slug from his drink and settled it down on the counter. Then he leveled with her. “Call me Knight. Mr. Morgan is my twin brother.”
“I have been sent here from the East Coast, ” she told him, tightening her grip on her tote bag.
The amused look returned to his eyes. “I can tell. Your fancy outfit really stands out in this place.” He nodded at her understated professional attire.
“Mr. Morgan. Knight,” she corrected herself, “I just need a few minutes of your time and I can be on my way.”
“You came from my father,” he said, his voice flat.
“The Morgans in Seaport hired my firm.” She kept her tone steady.
“Are you a sorceress? A witch maybe?”
“I am not in the Order, if this is what you ask,” she said. “Can we sit somewhere?”
She did not want to dwell much longer in this tedious conversation. The place was too hot, too noisy. The sweet perfume and scent of alcohol permeating the air hung too thick above her.
And Knightley Morgan’s powerful body was annoyingly attractive.
She wanted to be done and back on a plane to Rhode Island.
“You’re right.” He ignored her request to sit with her and shrugged. “Definitely not one of them. There’s not an ounce of power in you. I’d have felt it.”
She flinched at the dismissive tone. The strong attraction she’d felt for him replaced with irritation. She gritted her teeth. Her whole life she’d been told she wasn’t smart enough to be successful.
Dammit! She would not let this runaway sorcerer make her feel inferior. “There are different kinds of power, Mr. Morgan,” she told him, her tone icy.
“Knight,” he corrected her again before letting out an exasperated sigh. “Fine, let’s sit over there. It’s quieter.” He motioned her to a booth at the back of the tavern.
As they made their way between crowded, rickety tables piled high with beers on tap and bar food, Knight stopped to slide an arm around a girl’s waist. He whispered something in her ear, and she laughed loudly, her head thrown back with glee. He then nodded at two older bikers, who took turns to shake his hand somberly before giving him a grim pat on the shoulder followed by a heavy hug filled with meaning.
“Let’s get this over with.” He finally showed Bryce to an empty red leatherette bench at an isolated corner booth.
She found a crumbled pile of paper napkins and wiped the table before taking her seat. Then she waited for him to sit across from her while silently digging through her leather tote for the artifact.
“Has anyone told you,” he drawled, his rich tone stopped her mid-motion. “You’re way too pretty for a lawyer.”
She shook her head to ignore the small flutter at her heart from the compliment. No time for that kind of thing. Without a word, she placed the mystical object on the table in front of him.
The intricate dagger shone bright in the glow of the frosty tavern lamp above them.
“What’s this?” He went from flirty to grim in less than a second.
“It’s yours,” she said evenly. “If you want it.”
“Another of Dad’s tricks?”
“I’m only here to deliver a message.”
“Which is…?” He leaned in closer.
“The dagger for your loyalty.”
She knew little of the Order and its families’ drama. That was not her place. Her job was to pass on his father’s wishes, and act accordingly.
“This is the Huntsman Dagger,” he said with caution.
“It’s very dark. Not of this world. It was used in the murder of one of our own over two years ago.”
“Mrs. Clarke.” She nodded gravely. “One of the elders. So I’ve been told.”
“You’ve been carrying this in your purse all day? How did you pass airport security?”
“Not your concern.”
“A cloaking spell, no doubt.” He leaned back casually and pinched his sensual bottom lip between his thumb and forefinger, pondering the blade from afar.
“Your father knows how to get things done.” While Mr. Morgan was not the most warmhearted person, she admired his ruthless demeanor and aura of success.
“So what does Dad want for it?”
“A visit?” Surprise shaded the green pupils as his jaw tensed.
“The terms are this. You return to Seaport. Pledge your loyalty to the Order of the Black Oak again. The dagger is yours. I’m told you could use such a powerful weapon in your arsenal. I’d say it’s a good deal.” She patted her tote on the bench at her side. “I have your plane ticket in my bag.”
“The ticket is one way.”
“Why, yes, it is.”
He smirked and cocked an eyebrow at her. “They want me back permanently.”
She shrugged. “Or maybe they want you to decide how long you’ll stay with your family.”
“You don’t get it. There is no family.” Angst abruptly veiled his expression, the flirty bad boy gone and now replaced by a deeply distressed man.
Bryce forced her emotions in check while she nervously crossed her legs under the booth’s table.
“Mr. Morgan,” she said again, her tone gentler. “Knight. I’m here to deliver the message. I know the dagger is something you want. Your father only wishes to see you.”
“Why aren’t you talking to my twin?” A tortured look shadowed his striking features.
“Your brother has just returned from Seaport. Didn’t you know?”
“No, I did not know.” He flinched once more before the crafted carefree expression returned. “Typical. Duke probably got lured by another precious artifact to add to his collection.”
“Or he missed his father,” she suggested with care.
“Here’s something you don’t get, Miss…” He reached across the table and seized her wrist, a dark look crossing his eyes. “What’s your name again?”
“Ms. Jackson.” She gulped uneasily as she glanced down at the broad rugged hand holding her and the sorcery bracelet covered in silver skulls at his wrist.
“Here’s something, Ms. Jackson.” He tightened his grip on her arm, his fingers hot on her flesh. With a deadly stare, he forced her to look at him. “My brother and I, we would never, ever miss our father.”
She blinked as he leaned into her, the relaxed persona now utterly vanished. And she finally understood who Knightley Morgan truly was.
Forget the hot bad-boy surrounded by women, the popular Pacific Northwest rebel. The object of her subpoena was a bitter, lethal warlock with a serious attitude.
“The cold bastard,” he snapped, “never cared for us. Never will.”
His hold was not painful but scorching, demanding. And there it was. The defiant power of the archmage.
She’d been warned.
Knightley Morgan didn’t play by the rules of the Order. He made his own.
But she was no weak flower, either. Unlike him, she hadn’t been raised in the gilded Seaport mansions. She came from a hard-working fisherman’s family from the other side of the bay and could hold her own.
She paced her heart with purpose as she returned his dark stare. Determined to match his weight and do well by her employer no matter how lethal the man before her.
“He wants you home,” she said flatly. “That’s all I know.”
Knightley Morgan let go of her wrist and picked up the dagger. A smirk crossed his lips as he let his rugged finger slide along the dark blade. He weighted the weapon in his open palm. His dexterous fingers toyed with the handle covered in intricate sigils.
She noticed the scars down his arms under the warlock’s bracelet. But she remained silent.
She was here to deliver the offer. Nothing else.
He moved his gaze from the blade to her. Stared hard at her for what seemed forever, his stormy pupils a complex mix of truths. Regrets. Of secrets.
Her heartbeat hastened as she tumbled under his power. Drawn into him suddenly. And she wondered what it would be like to be his woman.
Even just for one night.
Like the blonde kissing him earlier. Or the tiny pixie straddling his lap.
Ignoring her lust as best as she could, she forced herself to study him coolly.
The Morgan heir, the fighter, the warlock.
He carefully unfolded himself from his seat. His eyes still locked upon Bryce. And, unaware of the storm raging inside her, he dropped the dagger in front of her on the table.
He pivoted on his heels and without a second look, strode away from the booth where she remained, stunned.
His shoulders wide under the sturdy leather coat, a few dark curls brushing the back of his neck, he pushed open the tavern’s wooden door.
And disappeared in the misty Seattle night.