Hey, it’s Carmella again. I promised another excerpt from Binding Magick, and here it is! So excited. Not long to go now! If you haven’t done so already, scroll to the previous post and check out the first excerpt too 😀
Super awesome excerpt
Ah, the lunch-time rush. The July heat blasting in my face every time someone opened the damn door, pinching ballet flats, and customers from hell—this was my life. Still groggy from the late night consoling Honey, and nerves jittery from way too much caffeine, I struggled to take orders and get them right. The yaksha had given me her number though, insisting we get together sometime soon. She was Renegade Pack, pretty middling on the pack hierarchy but certainly not in the trouble-maker category. They owned a bunch of eateries in Finchley. I’d promised to give her a bell. Maybe pop down and she’d treat me to dinner.
“You have flour on your face,” Mr. McCreedy said, his lips pursed as if he’d sucked on a lemon.
Great. “Yeah, thanks.”
I reached for the slice of Tottenham cake he’d picked out.
“No, no. Stop.”
I paused and arched a brow. “You don’t want the Tottenham cake?”
He blew out an exasperated breath. “You have flour on your face.”
Seriously? What the heck was his problem?
“Um, Carmella.” Urvashi, the owner of Delightful Bakery, sidled up beside me. “Why don’t you get cleaned up while I serve Mr. McCreedy.” She gave me a pointed look.
Relinquishing the tongs, I backed away from the counter and headed out back to the tiny washroom reserved for staff only. A quick glance in the mirror showed my face to be clean … no wait, there was a smidge, like literally a few tiny flecks of flour on my face. What the heck? Did the guy have microscopes for eyes? A quick dab with a paper towel and I was done.
Best get back out there. Okay, maybe just a couple more minutes of peace. I parked itself on the toilet seat as my emotions did a downward dive. Damn it, how many times did I need to berate myself? It was all right. Working here was okay. So what if it was a part-time gig? It was a bloody great bakery, the best in Piccadilly London, and Urvashi, my apsara boss and friend, was awesome, but the downward dive continued. Gah. If, five years ago, someone had told me I’d be best buddies with a celestial nymph, working in and living above a bakery, I’d have laughed till I puked.
Four years ago, I worked for the assassin’s guild as their artifacts librarian. The guild had been responsible for taking down the worst criminals in London, and I’d been responsible for kitting out the assassins. But all good things come to an end, and when the gates of the underworld opened for the second time in our history, all hell had broken lose. My friends had fought the good fight. Side by side with the Vedic gods who live among us, they’d succeeded in averting the crisis. Me? Pfft. I’d been benched. Not witch enough to do any magick, not kick ass enough to, well, kick ass. I’d been helpless … useless, and I’d hated it. When the dust settled, the desire to be something more had been a burning seed in the pit of my belly, so I’d joined the Inter-Entity Pact Enforcement Unit—the outfit responsible for catching the supernaturals who were dumb or desperate enough to break the pact, and giving them a one way ticket to the maximum security prison known only as The Pit. Six months of hard training to be an operative, and then I’d failed the final exams. Maybe I wasn’t meant to do anything outstanding with my life. Maybe working in a bakery was all I’d ever amount to. That would just have to be okay. Come on, buck up.
A soft knock on the door had me swiping at my eyes. Dammit with the leaky tap impression.
“Carmella, you okay, hun?”
“Yeah, I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Good, because we’re out of cinnamon swirls and you make the best ones.”
I snorted. Yeah, cakes and pastries seemed to be my thing. Flushing the loo to make it seem like I’d been having a tinkle, I ran the tap for a moment then opened the door.
Urvashi blinked at me, her beautiful face contorting into an expression of concern. “You’ve been crying.”
She pulled me into a hug. “You don’t have to make the rolls if you don’t want. Sod the customers.”
I snorted into her shoulder.
She gave me a squeeze and pulled back. “You know, since you started baking for me our profits have tripled. The customers love your rolls and your fluffy mandarins. You have a gift, Carmella.”
“Don’t look at me like that! Surely you know how special you are.”
“Shame you can’t save the world with a perfectly risen soufflé.”
“Never mind. We best get back out there before Brenda eats all the jammy dodgers.”
Urvashi giggled, flicking her long dark hair over her shoulder. “I had a lover who liked to lick me out like the jam—”
I slapped my hands over my ears. “Eww, Urvashi, please!”
It was almost the end of my shift when what Brenda and the other girls called The Main Attraction walked through the door.
Mal Banner was the Piccadilly Coven High Witch, owner of the Moon and Star Club, playboy extraordinaire and pure eye candy. Up until now, I’d managed to avoid him by getting one of the other girls to serve, which they were more than happy to drool, I mean do. But with Brenda on her break and Katy in the loo, the counter was mine. It would be so easy to give in and have a drool, maybe flirt a little, but with my questionable taste in men it was best to curb the instinct. Relationships were a forbidden zone at the moment, the whole dating thing was a confusing mess. The relationships I thought were serious ended up being flings, the flings turned out to be stalkers, and the one time I’d handed over my heart it had been crushed. Banner was a magnet—gorgeous, powerful, witty, and nice, but he was also a playboy, a flirt, and a ladies’ man. Not the kind of man whose radar I wanted to be on. He was smoking hot though. Kind of intimidating.
Banner’s brows flicked up at the sight of me. “Well, you’re new.”
“Not really. You’ve been eating my pastries for weeks.” And why did that have to sound so suggestive?
He pressed his tongue to the back of his teeth and raked me over with an intense gaze. “So you’re the new baker.”
I inclined my head to hide the flush blooming in my cheeks. “What can I get you today?”
He scanned my face, his warm brown eyes twinkling. “How about a date?”
“We don’t sell … oh, um …” Shit. The playboy asks for a date. It’d be like jumping into a tank filled with piranha—he’d eat me alive. “Sorry. I can’t help you with that.”
His lips twitched in amusement. “Really?”
Great, I couldn’t even turn someone down effectively. “Yes. Really. Now if you’d like to order …”
He stared at me for a moment longer, his gaze a little more penetrating than I’d like, a frisson of awareness skittered over my skin.
He cocked his head. “Have we met before?”
Really? That was the best line he could come up with on a knock back? Okay. My assessment of his charisma was taking a rapid down-hill plummet.
“No. We haven’t. So what can I get—”
He snapped his fingers. “You’re Malina Hayes’s friend!”
Fuck. How could I forget? Stifling a groan, I arranged my face into a neutral expression, internally kicking myself for not recalling sooner that my best friend Malina had used Mal to find me when one of my exes had decided to sell me to a fanatical sect hell-bent on taking over the world. Yeah, good times. So, he remembered me as the ditzy blonde who’d been duped by a hot guy with a Mohawk and a smile. Fan-fucking-tastic. Now he’d definitely think I was a pushover.
Well, there was no point in denying it. “Yes. That’s right.”
The bell above the door tinkled as another customer entered. Thank the gods. It was getting way too hot in here, and not just from the mid-July heat wave.
“If you’d like to order?” My tone was impersonal and brusque.
His expression shuttered. “I’ll take two cinnamon rolls and a chocolate muffin please.” He unfolded a piece of paper and passed it across the counter. “And tell Urvashi I need this order in two day’s time.”
I glanced at the paper—at the huge order scrawled in his loping hand—and clenched my teeth to stop my jaw hitting the counter.
“Um, I’ll pass it on.”
He stood silently, watching me as I quickly bagged his items and rung them up.
“See you around, Carmella,” he said, as he strode out the door.
Fuck, he remembered my name.
“Oh my god, was that Make-me-creamy?” Kate cooed from behind me.
“Dammit. I can’t believe I missed him.”
The girls had come up with the nickname a few weeks back and it had stuck. Usually I’d laugh about it with them, but not today. Being reminded of what a fool I’d been had put a damper on my day.
“I’m gonna go make some bread.” I headed toward the kitchens.
“But we don’t need any bread.”
“It’s for the soup kitchen.”
“Ah, you gonna make broth?”
“Did it this morning.”
I set to work on the bread. I needed to pummel something. In the absence of a face, it would have to be a lump of dough.
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