Go to Salem, they urged.
You’ll love it, they promised.
It will be fun, they said.
his eyes and tried to focus on a string of computer code. Some fun. He could
have stayed in Alabama if he’d wanted to be stuck in a boring tech job.
Sighing, he shoved out of his chair and walked to the window. In the darkness
of late afternoon, a light shone in the library next door on the campus quad.
She was there
again. Sitting alone at a table, her long, brown hair swept to one side, her
enchanting profile glowing like a halo of warmth against the New England chill.
Damn, the unbearable cold had turned his brain to poetic mush. She was just a
girl, and he’d had more than his fair share of dating last year. Before
everything had turned to shit.
He’d prove she
was nothing special. Tanner abruptly closed down the computer, grabbed his
coat, and walked down the semi-deserted hallway. “See you in the morning,” he
called to his boss.
didn’t bother looking up from his hunched position over a computer. “Night,” he
mumbled, pushing up wire-framed glasses from the bridge of his nose.
shuddered. Would that be him thirty years from now? Buried in an academic
environment, wearing old-man woolen sweaters and deciphering endless lines of
computer code with steadily declining eyesight? Not how he’d envisioned his
future. He closed his eyes and remembered the thrill of catching his one and
only touchdown pass—the cheering crowd, outrunning the opposing team’s
defenders, the ball tucked safely in his arms, and crossing the goal line.
How things had
changed in one year. And not for the good.
slammed into his body as he exited the tech lab. He clutched his leather jacket
tighter, glumly trying to imagine how much colder Salem would be in winter.
Back home, he’d still be in short sleeves and enjoying sunshine.
His right knee
throbbed, as it always did in cold weather. Damn nuisance. You’d think he was
ninety instead of nineteen. He walked as quickly as he could with the bum knee,
grateful for the warmth of the library as he pushed open its heavy, wooden
doors. The cozy scent of old books and weathered oak lifted his sour mood.
scanned the towering rows of books and the whispering crowd of students at the
center tables. In the far right corner, on the second level, she was bent over a book, her long hair
a veil, covering her face.
groaned as he climbed the stairs, trying to avoid wincing at the darting pain
needling through his knee. A gaggle of girls passed, shooting him sly glances.
He winked at the boldest one, who had flaming red hair, dressed all in black,
and sported a large pentacle pendant. Back home, she’d have stuck out like a
black widow on a bed of white linen. But at the Women’s College of Salem, she
was part of a notable minority that flaunted a belief in witchcraft. She smiled,
but her eyes held no warmth. She turned her back and elbowed the girl nearest
her orbit. “He’s cute but . . . all crippled up. Too bad.”
His face warmed.
The remark had been whispered, but it was loud enough to carry—as the girl no
doubt intended. He was used to being called cute, but not to people wondering
at his injury. At least, not that he’d overheard. Way to build his confidence
as he approached the girl to whom he’d been drawn for the past few weeks.
He squared his
shoulders, determined not to let the offhand comment ruin his plans. If he’d
learned nothing else from his old football coach, it was to persevere, no
matter the obstacles. Still, he was used to outmaneuvering three-hundred-pound
linebackers, not pathetically limping like an old man as he climbed a set of
stairs. All while a group of girls insulted his dignity.
The girls went
their way, chattering, never sparing a glance behind them. Amazing—not in a
good way—that he’d gone from a rising football star to nearly invisible.
Different. A tiny flash of red on the floor
caught his attention. Tanner bent over, picking up a small, black feather with
a skein of red floss clumsily woven into its spine. A few inches of the red
thread formed a tiny circle, perhaps large enough for a small wrist. Some kind
of Native American bracelet, perhaps? He looked around, but nobody caught his
eye. It probably belonged to one of the girls who had laughed at him. Too bad.
He wasn’t going to search them out and ask. He shrugged and stuffed it into his
jacket pocket, intending to throw it in the nearest trashcan.
At last, he
reached the top. Tanner gripped the railing, collecting his breath and his
pride. Once both were again intact, he walked toward the mystery girl, his
footsteps creaking on the old pine flooring, but she didn’t look up from the
book held in her hands, a heavy, dusty tome—Salem
Witch Trials and Mass Hysteria: 1692—1693.
his index finger against the book’s spine to get her attention. “A little light
reading?” he joked.
Eyes as gray as
a November sky regarded him with a decided chill. He was definitely striking
out with the ladies today.
Her voice was
smooth and cold as ice. “Nothing light
about the killing of innocent women.”
“That’s what you
call irony.” Tanner pulled out a chair across from her and sat, uninvited. “You
writing a history paper on the trials?”
She cocked her
head to one side and regarded him with a raised brow. “Yes. Do you need to use
“Oh, no, I’m not
sharpened her delicate features, and her fingers gripped the edge of the table.
Real smooth there, Tanner. Now you’re scaring the women away.
“It’s okay,” he
said quickly. “I work here. In the IT department. My uncle—Ralph Landers—is the
Her death grip
on the book relaxed a fraction.
“I can prove
it.” He dug in his coat pocket and fished out his employee ID. “See? I’m
totally legit.” He slapped the card on the table and slid it toward her.
she read aloud, comparing his face to the awkward employee picture. “Computer
The way she said
his name with her proper, reserved New England inflection was strangely sexy.
She pushed his ID card back on the table, and their fingers touched. Chills,
the good kind, vibrated through his entire body.
“Debbie Herbert writes paranormal romance novels reflecting her belief that love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment. She’s always been fascinated by magic, romance and Gothic stories. She is traditionally published through Harlequin as well as Indie published.
Married and living in Alabama, she roots for the Crimson Tide football team. Debbie enjoys recumbent bicycling and jet skiing with her husband. She has two grown sons and the oldest has autism. Characters with autism frequently land in her works, even when she doesn’t plan on it!
A past Maggie finalist in both Young Adult & Paranormal Romance, and a past finalist for the YARWA award for New Adult (Young Adult Chapter of the Romance Writer’s of America) she’s a member of the Georgia Romance Writers of America. Debbie has a degree in English (Berry College, GA) and a master’s in Library Studies (University of Alabama). “