Black Cat Antiquities, Book 1
Molly Hendrickson’s self-confidence has taken a massive dent. Reeling from her ex-fiancé’s betrayal, the schoolteacher feels as dusty as the stuff she’s cleaning out of her late mother’s home. But when she puts on an old necklace she finds, it awakens unfamiliar and deliciously spicy desires…
Lucian Lord can’t escape his reincarnated past. A twelfth-century knight turned modern-day antiques dealer, his desperate pact with a powerful sorcerer’s organization left him duty-bound to contain danger. So when a stunning woman walks in with a bygone collection that sets off all his alarms and takes his breath away, he has hard-pressed reasons to get her number.
Addicted to the power of the pendant, Molly basks in her sensual connection to the gorgeous man from the shop. But the more influence Lucian sees the jewel take, the more he and his former-squire-turned-feline fear his code of honor will drive them all to their doom.
Will their undeniable attraction survive an age-old threat and make it to happily ever after?
Hot Magic is the sassy first book in the Black Cat Antiquities paranormal romance series. If you like endlessly endearing characters, amusing adventures, and a sprinkle of sensuality, then you’ll love Catherine Kean’s award-winning tale.
Buy Hot Magic to light passion’s kindling today!
Read an Excerpt
Cat’s Paw Cove, Florida
July, Present Day
“I wish that woman would stop moaning.”
In the midst of hanging a gilt-framed watercolor on the wall of Black Cat Antiquities, Lucian Lord glanced at the long-haired, orange and white cat sitting nearby—the feline who’d just spoken in a refined British accent.
“The Lady of the Plate can’t help it, Galahad,” Lucian said, as the feline jumped up onto the upholstered seat of a Victorian chair. The plaintive moan, coming from the shelf toward the back of the store, started up again. “Remember what my grandfather told us?”
Galahad huffed. “Yeah, yeah, she cries when there’s a change in barometric pressure.”
“Since it’s summer in Florida and the rainy season, she’ll be wailing a lot. Lucky us.”
Lucian fought not to smile. So, Galahad had been listening to the conversation, even though at the time he’d been wild-eyed and attacking a pink toy mouse filled with catnip.
“We should have gone on that cruise to the Bahamas with your grandfather and his lady friend. But, no. You agreed to mind the shop. How chivalrous of you.”
Lucian returned his attention to the painting. As Galahad well knew, Lucian had agreed to look after the store because he owed his grandfather, and not just for his help with Lucian’s recent work crisis. William Lord had taken twelve-year-old Lucian in and raised him after the horrific car accident in which Lucian’s parents had died.
Galahad excelled at complaining, but to be fair, he hadn’t always been a cat. In truth, he was a reincarnated twelfth-century squire, a lord’s heir, whose ancestors had hailed from Nottinghamshire, England.
Hard to believe some days—not just the reincarnation part, but that Galahad was really fifteen years old and not four.
“If I’d known about the Lady of the Plate, I might have stayed in Boston,” Galahad muttered. “I wouldn’t have moved with you to this humid, alligator-infested, mosquito-breeding swampland.”
“Hey, that’s not a fair description of Cat’s Paw Cove.”
“Alligators live in the lake down the road. Your grandfather said so.”
“He did.” Lucian straightened the painting.
“And the mosquitoes—”
“And the Sherwood cats.” Lucian stole a glance at Galahad. “You got quite excited about meeting female kitties who have ancestral ties to Nottinghamshire, as you do.”
Lucian grinned. “Admit it, you were as intrigued to start afresh here as I was.”
Indeed, moving to the seaside tourist town, with a long-term goal of taking ownership of the antique shop once his grandfather had retired, had sounded ideal weeks ago, when Lucian’s life had gone to hell from one day to the next.
The moan came again from the rear of the store. The sound of a soul in torment, the wail started softly and then rose in volume. “Oooooooooo…”
“That cry gives me the creeps.” Galahad’s puffed-up tail, swishing to and fro, resembled the fluffy duster stowed under the store counter.
Shaking his head, Lucian took a few backward steps and studied the watercolor in relation to the other artifacts around it. Sunlight, streaming in through the shop’s long front windows facing Whiskers Road, shifted as people outside walked past.
Thankfully, the passersby wouldn’t be able to hear the Lady of the Plate’s cries. Even if they caught some of Lucian and Galahad’s conversation, they’d just hear a man talking to his cat, who’d responded with meowing. Only the few gifted—or in Lucian and Galahad’s case, cursed—with ancient magic could hear sounds made by magical items or understand what the feline was really saying.
Galahad’s ears flattened. “Can’t you shut her up? Cats do have a far superior sense of hearing to humans.”
That could well be true. However, Galahad was always claiming ways in which felines were far superior to their human masters.
“Grandfather said she doesn’t cry for long.” Moving forward, Lucian nudged the painting’s right edge a little higher.
Galahad growled again. “Make her stop, or I might report you for torture of a Familiar.”
“What?” Lucian frowned. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
The feline’s eyes gleamed. “I’m quite serious.”
“You are far from tortured. I spoil you rotten. I feed you that expensive, organic cat food you like twice a day. You can eat dry kibble—”
“That looks like rabbit poop—”
“—whenever you like.” Lucian scowled. “And I clean your litter box several times a day and brush you every morning.”
Galahad started washing a front paw.
“You haven’t puked up a single hairball since I started the brushing. And, as far as I know, you haven’t had any more diarrhea or digestive issues—”
“—since you ate the ribbon around that stack of old postcards a few months ago and I had to take you to the emergency vet.”
The cat averted his gaze. “You know I couldn’t help what happened with the ribbon.”
“You just had to gobble it down.”
“Yes! It looked so enticing.” Galahad sighed. “I wish I could explain how it called to me like a lusty siren, seducing my willpower and—”
“Yeah, well, surely my rushing you to the clinic and paying the four-hundred-and-fifty dollar vet bill showed I care about your wellbeing?”
Galahad grumbled. “You’re never going to let me forget that unfortunate incident, are you?”
“Nope. And, you are never getting the chance to eat ribbon again.”
“Sometimes, I can’t stand to think that you and I are cursed to be together forever.”
“That’s it!” The cat leapt down from the chair. “I’m going to break that damned plate. Then, she will be quiet.”
“All right.” The soles of Lucian’s brogues squeaked on the hardwood floor as he swiveled to face the shelf and lifted his right hand, palm up. He focused his thoughts upon the exquisitely hand-painted Wagner plate portraying a beautiful, young woman with flowing brown hair and wide blue eyes.
“Shh,” he silently commanded and curled his fingers inward, as though to catch and contain the sound.
The lady’s mouth closed. Caught in Lucian’s spell, her gaze became lifeless, as though there was no more to her than layers of paint on porcelain.
“Ahh,” Galahad groused. “Finally.”
Lucian retrieved the etched wine glasses and figurines he’d moved from the shelf near the watercolor and set them back in their places. To be honest, the Lady of the Plate had gotten on his nerves, but because he pitied her. Like the gallant knight he’d once been centuries ago, before he’d been cursed, he hated to hear a woman in distress. The antique, like many others in the shop, bore the ghostly fragment of what had once been a flesh-and-blood person who’d died under tragic circumstances.
“I have an idea. Let’s wrap up the plate and ship it off to your brother’s antiques store in London,” Galahad said.
“You know we can’t do that.” Lucian picked up the hammer he’d used earlier. “Rules, remember? The curse became attached to the item here in Florida. So it belongs here in this store, with us.”
Galahad stomped across the Persian carpet. “Well, thanks to Little Miss Moaning, my hopes of a much-needed afternoon nap have been destroyed. I’ll be cranky for the rest of the day. Not my fault.”
Lucian brushed cat hair off the Victorian chair. “Even if I could send the Lady of the Plate away, I wouldn’t. Grandfather has a fondness for the young lady.”
“Unfortunately,” Galahad muttered.
Days ago, Lucian’s grandfather had taken the plate from its lacquered display stand and had handed it to Lucian. “She’s one of my favorites among our long-term guests. I got her from a guy who’d bought her shortly after Hurricane Andrew. Remember that storm back in 1992? It caused lots of damage in South Florida. Killed quite a few people, too.”
As soon as Lucian had touched the plate, its provenance had flashed like snippets of film in his mind: the shrieking winds of a hurricane; an oak tree crashing through the roof of an upscale Florida home and crushing the screaming woman inside; and the plate, knocked from her hands onto the rug on the floor, intact but a silent witness to the tragedy.
When the woman had died, a piece of her soul had become connected to the antique. Most likely, she’d had a strong sentimental attachment to it.
The older man had returned the plate to its assigned spot next to the Steiff teddy bear that had belonged to a mass murderer from Orlando; the box holding the desiccated pinkie of a former trapeze artist for the Ringling Brothers Circus; and the Ancient Egyptian scarab beetle purchased in the 1920s by a late Sanford resident during a visit to the Valley of the Kings. Upon Lucian’s arrival in town, a gold and lapis lazuli box inlaid with the Eye of Horus and holding an ancient cat collar had joined the collection. So many tagged and catalogued items of dark magic lined the shelves, his grandfather could claim to have a small museum.
Lucian’s grandfather had then carried out a pattern of movements with his fingers to reinstall the field, complete with hallmarks that identified him as the sorcerer who’d cast the spell, around the plate. The magical barrier not only made the antique invisible to non-magical visitors to the store, but prevented the dark energy from influencing anything—or anyone—in the normal world. The Experts required that all antiques tainted by evil magic brought into the store had to be contained in that manner.
Lucian’s gaze shifted to Galahad, now sitting in one of the front windows. “Next time, try to be patient with the Lady of the Plate, okay? She isn’t to blame for her curse.”
“Like you and I, my lord.”
Galahad rarely addressed Lucian that way anymore. The formality between them had become irrelevant long ago.
How Lucian wished he could recall the battle with the sorceress that had made him and Galahad into who they were today. But, he had no memories beyond his lifetime as Lucian Lord.
Galahad, though, remembered everything. He’d said the fight had taken place when Lucian was a medieval lord and Galahad his squire. Lucian had rescued his betrothed from being burned alive by the jealous sorceress, but before the evil bitch had died, she’d placed a curse upon Lucian’s bloodline.
Immediately after she’d perished, he’d been confronted by The Experts. This secret society, originating from the era of the Ancient Egyptians, was dedicated to good magic and had given him one choice: swear allegiance to them, or die. They wouldn’t allow him to fall under the influence of the ambitious, evil Dealers of Darkness. Fearing he’d never see his lady love again, Lucian had taken the oath to serve The Experts.
For eight centuries, Lucian had lived, died, and been reincarnated. Each of his lives had been connected in some way to his original lifetime. Most often, he’d been a private collector or antique dealer who’d specialized in artifacts from the Middle Ages.
Galahad, who’d somehow been transformed into a cat when the sorceress tried to kill him, had also lived numerous lifetimes. To be fifteen forever, trapped in a feline’s body with all those raging teenage hormones….
Maybe Galahad had a right to be grouchy.
The cat sprawled in the sunshine, and Lucian crossed to the store’s oak counter and put away the hammer. Earlier, he’d started sorting through a box of silverware his grandfather had bought at auction and stored until he had time to tag the pieces. As his grandfather had done before purchasing the lot, Lucian had confirmed by running his hand over the silver that none of the pieces held dark magic and therefore could be sold to the general public.
Lucian set an ornate serving spoon on the counter and thought of the gleaming cases of antique silver at the New England store. Until two months ago, he’d been the East Coast Representative for The Experts: a prestigious position. He’d screwed up, and had lost all that he’d worked for.
His jaw tightened on a flare of anger and disappointment while he tied the string of a white price tag around the spoon’s handle.
“Now there’s a lady I’d like to hear moan.”
Lucian glanced up. A young woman wearing sunglasses stood outside the shop window, looking in.
He knew quite a few people in Cat’s Paw Cove, but he didn’t recognize her.
Wavy, blond hair brushed her bare shoulders. She wore a sleeveless white sundress, and as his gaze slid down her shapely curves, he saw the open cardboard box tucked under her left arm.
Was she a potential customer? He hoped so.
Heat tingled in Lucian’s gut.
“I saw her first,” Galahad said, sounding petulant.
“True, but you’re a cat.”
To get a better look at Galahad, meowing and gazing up at her, she leaned closer to the window. The shift in posture brought the shadow of her cleavage into view. Lucian’s hand curled against the counter’s cool surface, for he longed to see more.
Reining in his stirring of interest, he forced his attention back to the silverware. She might be on her way to another downtown shop—not bringing items to his grandfather’s store for a free evaluation. Lucian didn’t want to be caught ogling, no matter how much her hourglass figure appealed to him. She might think him one of those antique dealer geeks who were starved for a woman’s attention.
He wasn’t starved. Single, yes. But, he’d never had a problem getting a date when he wanted one.
As he fastened a price tag around another piece of silver, though, he couldn’t resist looking at her again. Shifting the box, she tapped on the glass and smiled at Galahad, who promptly rose to all fours and stretched to the tip of his tail.
The woman’s smile widened with delight.
How lovely she looked—
As she cooed to Galahad and leaned down even farther, something in the box shifted. Panic swept her features, and her free hand flew to keep items from falling out. Her sunglasses slipped from her nose.
Before Lucian realized he’d sprung into motion, he was halfway to the door.
“You would play chivalrous knight to the rescue,” Galahad groused.
“Of course.” Lucian pulled the wooden door open. A small bell attached to it chimed, a musical sound against the noise of traffic on Whiskers Road.
When he stepped outside, ninety-nine-degree heat washed over him. In the air conditioned store, it was easy to forget just how scorching hot it could be in Florida. A shock-like tingle also raced through him, a sign he’d passed through the magical barrier his grandfather had set up around the premises—added protection in case a Dealer of Darkness decided to infiltrate the shop, or any of the dark magic artifacts tried to cause trouble.
Lucian went to the young woman. She crouched on the sidewalk, her skirt brushing the dirty concrete, the box in front of her. With careful hands, she felt the newspaper-wrapped items, as though checking nothing was broken. In the brilliant sunshine, her hair looked even more golden.
Either she hadn’t heard the door open, or she was too concerned about breakage to acknowledge him right away. Looking down at her, he found himself in the perfect position to see what had been denied to him before. The shadowed valley of her cleavage was framed by the lacy trim of her bra—
No. He was a gentleman. He wouldn’t ogle.
A thudding noise intruded: Galahad, up on his hind legs and pawing on the other side of the glass.
A timely interruption.
“Is everything all right?” As Lucian crouched beside the woman, he caught a hint of her citrusy perfume.
Her shoulders—slopes of fair, satiny skin—tensed. Either she was reluctant to answer his question, or she’d only just become aware of him. Her long lashes flickered then she glanced up at him. Her blue-eyed gaze held his before she looked back down at the box. “Oh, damn it,” she muttered.
Lucian fought a jolt of surprise. Most women, when he talked to them, smiled. Many tried to prolong the conversation by flirting and touching his arm. Not once had a woman answered him by averting her gaze and cussing.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.” She peered down at the box again. “I lost one of my contact lenses yesterday. It went down the bathroom sink, and I haven’t had a chance to buy more.” Her hand slid to the right. “My sunglasses are prescription. I know they fell in here somewhere—”
“Bottom right corner,” Lucian said, just as her fingertips hit the tortoiseshell plastic frames.
Her shoulders dropped on a relieved sigh. “Thank you.”
She pushed the sunglasses onto the bridge of her nose. Perspiration glistened on her face, and Lucian became aware of the sweat trickling down the back of his neck and under the collar of his polo shirt.
Be a gentleman. Invite her in.
When she picked up the box and rose, he stood as well.
Their gazes met again. As though seeing him for the first time, a pretty blush stained her cheekbones. Her gaze darted over his shirt that fit snugly enough to show off the muscles he’d built through intense workouts—the only way he’d kept his sanity through the turmoil of the past few months.
“Well.” She sounded a little breathless. “Thank you so much for your help.”
Lucian ignored the thud of Galahad’s paws on the window again. “It’s very hot out here.” Good God, couldn’t he have come up with something more inspiring to say?
“Yes, it is.” Her expression turned rueful. “It’s supposed to be a heat index of one-hundred-and-five today. I’m not used to such temperatures or the humidity.”
Was she was a visitor to Florida? To Cat’s Paw Cove? He must find out.
As she wiped her brow with the back of her hand, Lucian managed his most charming smile. He gestured to the shop’s open door. “Why don’t you come in for a moment and cool off?