Eyes of the Cowan
by Lena Austin
Ebook ISBN: 02105-00662
[ Paranormal Romance, MF ]
Blaze’s agent has persuaded him to do the one thing he hates — a magazine interview.
“Dammit, Daniel. Why are you doing this?” Blaze Robinson barely controlled his temper, contenting himself with snarling viciously into the phone.
“Because it’s good for sales, and you know it,” his agent replied. Daniel Owens had worked with Blaze for years now, and wasn’t intimidated by a little show of temperament.
“You know I don’t want to be interviewed unless it’s by email.” Blaze stormed into the kitchen to start a pot of tea. He hated publicity of any kind, and with good reason.
Daniel sighed. “Yeah, I understand why, too. But Blaze, this isn’t for some local yokel New Age rag. This is for Weird magazine. Valda Lyman.”
“You’re shitting me.” Blaze stopped poking in his supply of herbal teas, his hand poised on top of his favorite blueberry. He began to chuckle. “The woman who does the Skeptic’s Voice column, right?” In better spirits, he opened the box and pulled out some tea bags.
Daniel’s voice lost the pleading note. “Yep. The same woman who makes you laugh every month, and whose column you quote to me when you disagree with how your editor wants you to sound spookier and more mysterious.”
Snickering now, Blaze pulled out his favorite teapot from the cabinet. “Damn right I do. Miles wants me sound like a charlatan barker from the circus. Ms. Lyman demands logic and explanations anyone off the street can understand. Bless her scientific Cowan heart.” He poured the boiling hot water into the china teapot, setting it aside to steep.
“Cowan? What’s that? You and your weird terms.”
“It means a non-believer.” Blaze pulled down a sturdy mug with the phrase, “Life’s a Witch” in bright green on the side. He could feel his privacy slipping away. Dammit, he liked celebrating Sabbats alone without having to consider anyone’s tastes but his own.
“That she is. So, you’ll do it?”
Blaze weighed pros and cons. “So, I allow Valda Lyman in my home for a week of arguments, instead of the peaceful, solitary Beltane I’d planned. In exchange, I’ll get publicity I can’t buy anywhere else and probably material to make sure my next book is clear as a bell.” He leaned his hip against his countertop and frowned. “It won’t be pleasant. She’s probably an argumentative hag who won’t take my word that the sky is blue without outside confirmation.”
“Ya think? That’s a no-brainer, bud. Don’t worry, I’ll negotiate that certain things about your life are not to be included. However, if you can convince a national columnist like Valda Lyman that you’re legit enough to get her nod, you’ve probably got a New York Times bestseller waiting in the wings.” Daniel drew an audible breath. “That would give me quite a bit of leverage in arguing a nice advance out of Miles on the next contract.”
“Ah, now we come down to the real reason you’re pushing this. Greed. You want my advances over the half-million mark.” Cernunnos Publishing was notoriously tight-fisted, but had been generous enough to please Blaze. Miles was actually a good editor, when he wasn’t trying to make Blaze sound more like a showman than a shaman.
“Damn right. I’ll call Weird magazine and tell them yes. Catch ya later!” Daniel hung up with a blip.
Blaze took his teapot and a mug into his office with a long, heartfelt sigh. “Fucking great. I just agreed to allow Ms. Scientific Negativity in my house for a whole week.”
He poured himself some tea, found his glasses, and returned to his latest manuscript. “Screw it. I’m not changing my ways. Come on, Ms. Lyman. I’m not putting on any shows, nor am I stopping my Beltane celebration just for you. Come to Florida and meet a real witch.”
* * *
Blaze stalked over to his tarot-reading table and sat in the comfortable chair. That thrice-damned reporter would be here in a few hours. Curiosity finally got the best of him. He wanted to know why he seemed forced into hosting a Cowan journalist for the sake of selling his latest book. It made the top seller lists, didn’t it? So why did he feel as if he had no choice? The cards would tell him.
He grounded and centered himself, knowing he’d get a false reading if he didn’t meticulously pay attention to every step. Sight was not his forte. He pulled a pad and pen close to write down the reading for reference later. The first card was a no-brainer — The Hierophant. Yeah, that was him, the teacher. No news there.
The second card, What Crossed Him, was also not unexpected — The Ten of Wands. Okay, yeah, he’d been working too hard. However, there was a caveat to that card. Not letting pride stand in your way. Blaze sighed. Blast it all, something was going on. He moved on through the reading.
Card number three: What he knew. The Queen of Swords. Shit. A woman of passion and power who brings change. If an Ace appeared anywhere in the reading, he was dead meat. Dammit, he didn’t need any more personal growth attached to a passionate woman, even one like Valda Lyman.
Card number four: What was affecting the situation? The Moon. A mysterious force? Heightened psychic development? Huh? He dutifully wrote it down, including all the interpretations for that card. Sometimes you just had to take it on blind faith that you didn’t understand the entire situation. Damn if he understood what this card meant.
Card number five: The past now fading away. The Hermit. Yeah, he preferred his peace and isolation. It was going away. Well, that figured. His latest book was selling like hotcakes, and Daniel was having a hard time keeping the paparazzi at bay.
Card number six: What was before him? Death. Oh, damn. Not only was the reading turning out to have enough Major Arcana cards in it to give him the willies, now this card indicated a major turning point. A change for the good toward a better life, but one that brooked no argument.
Card number seven: His current state of mind. The Four of Pentacles. Okay, he granted that. The miserly attitude of not wanting to give up anything, especially his privacy, fit what he was feeling. He couldn’t write with other people around.
Card number eight: What surrounded the situation. The Ace of Cups. Blaze put his head on the table, right on top of the cards. “No, dammit, no.” He sighed. So, a new love was in the offing. Was it with the woman who was represented by the Queen of Swords? Not exactly what he had in mind.
He didn’t have to finish the reading. He knew what was coming. Like a directive from the Goddess, The Lovers card appeared right on cue, followed by The World. Resigned to the changes the reading indicated, he scribbled everything down for addition into his Book of Shadows. This reading was momentous enough to be noted for posterity. He knew better than to fight a reading this strong. No reading was set in stone, but this one bothered him.
The ways of reading cards were open to interpretation, and each card held several definitions within. He could be missing an obscure meaning. Not to mention that the very act of reading and knowing sometimes changed the future. That was why he rarely read for himself. More often than not, he was sorry he asked, and this time was no exception.
Blaze sat back with a sigh. “Okay, Goddess. I can take this kind of a clue-by-four to my head. Like it or not, Ms. Lyman is the catalyst for change in my life. I can fight it all I want, but the changes to come are for my own good. I hope you don’t mind if I take time to adjust.” He scrubbed his forehead and pushed back from the table.
He poured himself a mug of tea and walked out on the patio to soothe himself by watching the sun rise over the trees. His cat, a little gray tabby, rose from where he lounged on one of the chaises and jumped up on a rail to demand petting.
“Hi, Spike.” Blaze rubbed the cat and scratched behind his ears. “We’re going to have a woman in the house, boy. I hope you don’t annoy her like you did my last female guest.” He shook his finger at the cat, who promptly batted at it. “Oh, you want to box, do you? Okay. Put up your dukes.”
Blaze set aside his tea and played their favorite game. He’d try to touch anywhere on Spike’s body with his hand, and Spike would defend himself like a boxer, using his de-clawed front paws. Mock growls and masculine laughter mixed until Spike grew weary of the game. He pounced on Blaze’s hand and delivered a love bite that didn’t hurt, but definitely would draw blood if Blaze moved.
“Ouch! Okay, you win.”
Spike released his hand and sauntered off with a victorious air to return to his favorite sunny patch for a “nap attack.”
“I’m warning you, Brat Cat. No stealing her hair doodads. Hear me?” Not much of a threat, considering Blaze was chuckling.
Spike turned his back on his human buddy and washed a leg.
Blaze sighed. “You haven’t lived until you’ve been ignored by a cat.” He shook his head and picked up his tea.
He hoped Ms. Lyman had the same sense of humor that showed every month in her column. Spike was a handful of a cat, with more personality than a litter of kittens, considering he’d been at least three when he’d wandered up to the house and demanded to make his home here.
Like all cats, he seemed to know instinctively who hated cats and who was allergic. Invariably, he made their lives miserable. If he disliked that individual, Goddess help them. The last person had been some imperious TV news reporter who’d been condescending enough to want to “do a piece” on Blaze. A piece of something else had been on her agenda as well. She hadn’t lasted twenty-four hours. Blaze had politely sent all the ridiculous bows and hair clips Spike had appropriated back to the station.
Come to think of it, Valda Lyman had long hair in her magazine article picture. Blaze groaned, envisioning a sneezing, scratched, and disheveled woman storming out of his house half an hour after she’d arrived. Daniel would kill him if he screwed this up.
For all his comments to Daniel, he knew she was no hag. Her bio was in the magazine, along with a carefully contrived publicity photo that may or may not reflect reality. He went inside and picked up his latest issue of Weird magazine. She looked sexy and mysterious in that picture.
“The Queen of Swords. Well, that fits you, Valda Lyman. You are passionate about your skepticism.” He wondered if she was as passionate in the bedroom. He envisioned being entangled in the Beltane circle with the woman in the picture, and felt himself harden at the possibility.
“What am I thinking?” He threw the magazine back on the table, found his mug of cooling tea, and stalked upstairs. He had a manuscript to finish that was not going well. He didn’t have time to be daydreaming about sex. So what if he’d not had anything but his hands to pleasure himself for months? “That’s the price I pay for peace and quiet,” he muttered, and started searching for his glasses. “I’d better stop talking to myself. I might start answering — or worse, arguing.”
He picked up his latest research book and found his glasses perched on top of it. He sighed. One of these days, he was going to lose this third pair in a year. Placing them on his nose, he opened the dusty book. “Tasseomancy. Think tasseomancy, I hate tea leaves,” he chanted like a mantra.
At least he had warning, if he’d read the cards correctly. The woman coming to visit him was about to change his life in some way, perhaps forever.