Jennifer Ashley

Excerpt: A Little Night Magic

Stormwalker Prequel Novella (Hot for the Holidays)

I am Coyote. I run on the wind; I invade your dreams. I know your darkest secrets, your most depraved desires. I know what it is you crave deep in the night.

The gods call me Trickster. They laugh at me but they fear and distrust me.

They are right to fear. I have no boundaries, no restrictions. I do as I please, screw whom I please, bestow bounty or terrible misfortune, as I choose.

I am Coyote. I am Chaos.

Enjoy your dreams.

Chapter One

“I’m here to stay,” Jamison Kee said.

Naomi stared over rows of red and white poinsettias at Jamison, who’d walked back into her life as suddenly as he’d walked out of it. He had his hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans jacket, dark eyes quiet, easy as you please.

She’d woken not half an hour ago to the sound of hammering on her roof. Wrong time of year for a woodpecker. Her deaf daughter, Julie, bouncing up and down excitedly, had nearly dragged Naomi out of bed and out of the room, too excited to stop and sign.

Throwing a coat over her sleeping shirt and exercise shorts, Naomi had picked up a baseball bat and marched outside.

She’d looked up to see Jamison Kee on her porch roof, hammer in hand, like he belonged there. Julie pointed up at him and yelled in joy.

“What happened to your roof?” Jamison had asked, holding a nail to another shingle. “It’s a f*cking mess.”

Naomi had stood there with mouth open, unable to speak, unable to think. She’d turned and slammed back into the house.

Jamison had still been on the roof when she emerged again, dressed. Julie had climbed up the ladder to take Jamison coffee. Both ex-lover and daughter looked over the edge of the porch roof at her as she’d stalked to the greenhouse to check on the poinsettias she’d promised to take to the Ghost Train celebration.

Damn him for still looking so good. Black hair, brown eyes, honed body, at home in jeans and jacket and cowboy boots. A Navajo shaman with a gorgeous ass.

She heard the door to the greenhouse open behind her and knew it was him. Naomi walked around the table, happier with it between her and Jamison and her emotions.

“What are all those for?” he asked, his voice as dark and rich as she remembered. He’d lulled her with his voice the first night she’d met him, and if she wasn’t careful, he’d lull her with it now.

“The Ghost Train.” She leaned over to pluck off a dead leaf.

“You don’t believe in the Ghost Train.”

“Neither do you,” she shot back. “But it brings in my biggest week of business for the year. No way am I going to argue that it doesn’t exist.”

Jamison didn’t answer. The Ghost Train legend—that a ghostly steam train glided into Magellan on the empty railroad bed every Christmas Eve—was bullshit as far as Naomi was concerned. Plenty of people believed it, though, including the loads of tourists who came every year to the festivities. Jamison also knew it was bogus, but he kept his mouth shut. People liked to believe in things.

Jamison’s silence continued. He could do that, stand in place and simply be, for hours on end if he wanted to. She’d liked that about him—liked that he’d brought equilibrium back to her life. Peace.

Which he’d shattered by disappearing one fine morning. Naomi had awakened to her daughter standing sorrowfully by her bed and signing, Jamison’s gone.

“What do you want, Jamison?”

“To tell you why I went to Mexico, and why I came back.”

Naomi finally glanced up at him. Mistake. He was even better looking than she remembered, his body harder and stronger, his face bearing a new grimness.

She viciously squirted water on an ailing poinsettia. “Don’t bother. I know what you’re going to say—that you needed ‘time,’ but then you changed your mind and decided you wanted to see me again. Well, guess what? I don’t want to hear it.” She made her voice firm but couldn’t bring herself to look at him again. “I got over you, Jamison. I don’t want you back, and I don’t give a shit where you were or what you were doing. So clear your stuff out of your studio and go.”

“I checked the studio this morning. I was surprised you didn’t throw everything out. Or burn it down.”

Naomi slammed the water bottle back to the table. “I couldn’t risk that some half-finished sculpture might be worth a frigging fortune, and that wouldn’t be fair to your family. It’s not their fault you went walkabout. They say you do this all the time. I can’t believe how sick I got of people asking me if you were off working on a new sculpture.”

“I’m sorry about that,” Jamison said. “I really am.”

“So, what, after two years without hearing anything from you I should just say, ‘Golly gee, glad you’re back, let’s kiss and make up?’ Forget it.”

She swung away but felt Jamison move behind her, his warmth on her back

“I’m not leaving again, Naomi,” he said softly. “That’s what I came to explain. I’m here to stay. For always.”

Naomi tried to make herself pull away, maybe put the table between them again. Instead she turned and let herself look into his dark eyes, to see again the man she’d fallen in love with.

She’d met Jamison through one of her cousins in the vast Hansen clan, Heather, who owned Magellan’s New Age store called Paradox. Heather had invited Jamison, a noted Navajo storyteller, to come down from Chinle to talk to her study group about Native American myth. Naomi had gone and taken Julie, thinking it would be good to teach her about Navajo culture, since they lived so close to the Navajo Nation.

She’d expected an old man with a lined face and white hair. Instead, Heather had brought out a broad-shouldered, muscular man of about thirty-five, easy in his own skin, with sin-dark eyes and a mesmerizing voice.

Jamison had asked to be introduced to Naomi after his talk, because he’d watched Naomi sign his entire lecture to Julie. He’d smiled at Naomi, the sensuality of him making her breath catch. Jamison had invited Naomi and Julie to grab coffee with him, so Julie could ask him questions, he said, before he made his long drive back to Chinle.

Then next thing Naomi knew, Jamison was spending the night in her bed and making pancakes for breakfast the next morning. He never did go back to Chinle.

Jamison had made Naomi fall in love again, had taught her to feel again against her better judgment. He’d made love like an angel, his body sealed to hers, his mouth taking away all pain. Deep in the night he whispered that he loved her, that they were soul mates, together forever.

Soul mates, my ass.

Damn all magic-seeking, shamanistic men with gorgeous bodies and long cocks. Jamison had laughed at Naomi for being an Unbeliever—a person who lived in Magellan and didn’t buy the crap about it being at a confluence of vortexes or a center of mystical energy—then went on drawing circles and chanting and whatever it was he did in the art studio he’d built himself in her backyard. And she’d loved him like crazy.

Their first wild night together flashed through Naomi’s mind as Jamison slid his fingers behind her neck. She remembered every touch, every kiss, the feel of him invading her body, and her ready surrender.

He smelled of sweat and denim, winter sunshine and wind. As always, she sensed something wild in him, like an animal or lightning, she was never sure which.

Her skin prickled where his fingertips brushed her. He leaned closer, lips nearly touching hers.

He was waiting for her to kiss him, to make the first move. Once she did, once she acknowledged his touch, his kiss would turn hard, possessive. Jamison always did that, making her feel like she was in control, then taking that control away in an instant.

As Naomi willed herself not to respond, Jamison began brushing soft kisses to the corners of her mouth. His lips were smooth, his breath warm.

Warmth tingled through her body and pooled between her legs. She burned for him. She wanted him to lay her back on the pile of potting soil next to them and screw her right there, anything to ease the ache.

Naomi slid her hands down his back, over the hard leather of his belt to his slim butt cupped by tight jeans. She loved his backside, remembering it taut and bronze-colored against her white sheets.

“Let’s go inside,” he said against her mouth.

Naomi dragged in a sharp breath, and cold poured over her. “No.”

“Naomi . . .”

“No.” She almost cried as she pushed Jamison away. “You always do this to me. You kiss me until I want you so much, I’ll do anything you say. I won’t do it this time. I’m busy. I have a business to run and plants to get to the depot.”

“Let me help you.”

“No, thanks.”

“It’s a big job. You need me.”

She slammed her arms over her chest. “I needed you so many times in the last two years. Where were you then? Oh, I forgot, somewhere in Mexico.”

“Do you think this is easy for me? To love you so much it rips me to pieces to know I hurt you?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I did fine without you.”

“Why? Did you start seeing someone else?”

She wanted to laugh. “In Magellan? Who? I’m related to half the town, and I’ve known the other half far too long. Besides, I don’t need a man in my life.”

Jamison relaxed. “Good. That makes things easier.”

“Easier for who?”

“Easier for me. I don’t have to worry about anyone else getting hurt.” He finally stepped away from her, his big body tense and tight. “I told you, I’m staying, Naomi. In Magellan, in the house. With you.”

“Oh, really? Well, what if I don’t want you to?”

“That doesn’t matter. I’ll sleep on the sofa if you don’t want me in your bed. I’m not leaving you and Julie alone, because they’ll be coming.”

His eyes held a darkness she’d never seen. “Who will?”

“People I pissed off in Mexico.”

“What kind of people? Shit, Jamison, don’t tell me you got involved with drug runners.”

A hard smile flitted across his face. “There are more dangers out there than drug runners, believe me. I’m one of those dangers. I’m staying here to protect you. For now. For always.”

From the look in his eyes, he wasn’t joking, he wasn’t exaggerating. She felt a qualm of fear. Julie.

“Give me your keys,” he said, holding out his hand. “I’ll bring the truck around.”

“I left them in the ignition. Paco Medina is putting on a new tire for me.”

“Don’t leave them there again. Lock your truck and keep the keys with you. Or better still, with me. Get Julie, and I’ll meet you at the truck.”

Jamison turned around, hands in his jacket pockets, and strode out of the greenhouse. Naomi’s palms sweated, her heart pounded, and her lips were raw from his kiss.

There was a part of Jamison that she’d never understood, never reached. Jamison had known so much, had seen so much. He’d grown up in poverty, which had been conquered only by his entire family’s hard work and Jamison’s sought-after sculptures. Naomi might be an Unbeliever, but she realized Jamison knew things she couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Something had happened in Mexico that frightened even him. Whatever scared Jamison had to be damned dangerous.

She wished with all her strength that she could hold onto that fear and not be distracted by how nice his ass looked as he walked away from her.

Jamison let Naomi drive to the depot, not trusting himself behind a wheel yet. The Ghost Train was a popular holiday tradition, and everyone in town seemed to be at the old depot to help decorate. Jamison was greeted left and right by people happy to see him again, asking him how he was, where he’d been. Jamison hadn’t realized he’d made so many friends during his short sojourn here, but Naomi didn’t seem surprised.

Jamison was as friendly and polite as possible, but insisted that he, Naomi, and Julie return home right away. He wanted this over with; he’d looked forward to this moment since he’d finally broken out of his cage and started the thousand mile journey home.

The Changers had been fools to try to force him to bind to one of their own. He’d already been half-bound to Naomi, but if he didn’t complete the bond quickly, she’d be in grave danger.

When they walked into the house, Naomi slammed her purse on the kitchen counter. “Julie, go tell Mrs. Medina I told you to help her. I need to talk to Jamison.”

Julie’s smile grew sly. “Are you going to kiss?”

Jamison felt his own smile grow, but Naomi shot him an irritated look. “No, we’re going to talk.”

Julie shrugged, grinned once more, and ran out of the house, toward the open door of Hansen’s Garden Center, which backed onto Naomi’s property. The Medina family, who ran the nursery with Naomi, adored Julie and would take care of her.

Naomi faced Jamison in silence. Gods, she was beautiful. The wind had pulled Naomi’s brown hair into fantastic tangles, and her cheeks were pink with cold and anger. The cold poked her nipples into tight buds as well, obvious even through her sweatshirt. He itched to grasp her breasts again, feel the velvet areolas, the hard little points.

Naomi started talking, and Jamison struggled to focus on her words. The animal in him wanted to take over, and focusing was difficult.

“All right,” she said. “If you insist on explaining. Why did you disappear for twenty-four months, then charge back in like you expected me to be waiting? How long will you be gone for next time?”

“I told you, I’m staying. For good.”


“To protect you from my enemies.”

“What enemies? Jamison, if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’ll explode.”

Not an hour ago, she’d been too angry to want his explanation, but he knew Naomi couldn’t stand not to know. She probably thought he’d taken off to some Native American enclave where he’d spent days in a peyote haze and seduced every female who came along. The peyote part had been true, though not by his choice.

Jamison shucked his jacket and laid it on a stool at her breakfast bar. “It would be easier to show you.” He held out his hand. “Come upstairs with me?”

She folded her arms across her chest, pushing her enticing breasts higher. “Something in Julie’s room you want to see?”

He let a smile touch his mouth. “This isn’t about sex. I promise.” At least, not yet.

Naomi’s eyes went flint-hard. Jamison loved her eyes. They were the color of turquoise, a beautiful blue green that defied description. He’d never liked blue eyes until he’d seen hers.

She walked past him, her arms still folded, and started up the stairs.

Naomi’s house was an old Craftsman bungalow, built in the 1920s and renovated several times through the years. The result was a modernized but solid, cozy house, with a large living room and kitchen below and two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. Julie’s room was on the right at the top of the staircase, Naomi’s on the left. Naomi marched into her own sunny bedroom and waited for Jamison, winter sunshine picking out golden highlights in her hair.

Jamison’s wariness prickled as he walked inside. There were too many windows. Naomi’s room had views northeast, northwest, and southeast, the bedroom running the entire length of the house. It wasn’t the axis Jamison would have picked on which to orient a bedroom, but people in Magellan built their houses according to street planning, not alignment with the four winds.

Jamison quietly pulled the blinds down on the thick-paned windows while Naomi watched him in silence. He turned around and toed off his boots at the same time he pulled off his sweatshirt.

He didn’t miss how Naomi’s gaze went to his chest, to his own nipples, which were dark and tight. He liked that she didn’t look away as he undid his turquoise belt buckle and slid off his jeans.

Her face went pink as she gazed at his ordinary cotton briefs. He was hard behind them—how the hell could he help it? Jamison tugged off his socks then, without modesty, pulled off the briefs.

The way her gaze swiveled to his needy arousal was gratifying. She’d always liked to look at him, lord knew why. She’d wet her lips like she was eager to savor every inch of him.

Two years without Naomi had been way too damn long. He loved every molecule of the woman. Why do I love her? he’d once asked his grandfather, who was a much better shaman than Jamison could ever hope to be. Was it some kind of trickster magic? Jamison had spent his entire life on the Navajo reservation, scoffing at white people and white ways. Then a woman with blue green eyes had smiled at him, and he’d fallen like boulders in an avalanche.

He’d fallen so hard he’d moved into her house in the middle of a white man’s town. In the middle of a community who believed that the ghost of a steam train chugged through their little town every Christmas. The gods had to be laughing their asses off at him. Except Jamison hadn’t felt humiliated. He’d been happy.

Jamison crossed his hands over his chest and closed his eyes. He drew on the stillness he’d learned deep in drug-induced dreams, looking for the center of calm that nothing could breach.

He found the beast right where he’d left it. The beast had terrified Jamison the first time, and he’d been convinced he’d been put under a spell or cursed by a sorcerer. The Changers in Mexico had explained everything to him. Whatever else they’d done, they’d at least let him understand.

Jamison’s mouth always changed first. His flat human teeth enlarged and elongated, becoming sharp canines, top and bottom. His face pushed forward, his jaw and tongue re-forming to fit the new mouth. The strangest feeling was the whiskers poking out sharp and hard from the sides of his face.

The mouth took the longest, then the rest of his head followed rapidly. Ears pricked, his hearing sharpened, and his eyes became round and wide. His spine narrowed and lengthened, and claws erupted on his now huge feline feet. He fell to all fours, feeling a long tail twitching behind him.

He wanted to roar but stifled it; there was enough of his own consciousness left to realize what would happen if someone heard a wildcat snarl in Naomi’s bedroom. He lifted his gaze to Naomi, his world now black-and-white, the edges rounded and slightly concave. She stared back at him, her red-lipped mouth open, her blue green eyes wide.

His beautiful, brave lady didn’t scream or faint. She simply gaped at him for a moment then said, “Jamison, what the f*ck?”

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