Authors: Emmie Dark
Belle flicked through the pile of magazines in front of her. Pictures of beautifully sculpted, doe-eyed, tousled-haired men graced every page:
and a gay publication that – rather depressingly – actually had the best selection of photos in it.
She sat back and sighed, running a hand through her messy brunette curls. Could she really go through with it?
She reached a hand towards the scissors lying on the floor a few feet away. ‘To me,’ she said, trying to keep her voice even, the way she’d been taught. Nothing. Nada. The scissors didn’t so much as twitch.
Belle was a witch, like her mother and grandmother and just about every female ancestor in the family line.
Unfortunately, Belle wasn’t a very good witch.
Even though her parents were vehemently supportive, Belle knew she was the family joke; the spellmaker who needed potions and herbs to create magic. She couldn’t read minds, couldn’t fly, couldn’t use telekinesis to so much as make a cup of tea without getting up from the couch. All she could do was mix up potions, and even that she kept to a minimum; mostly because the resulting smells didn’t go down well with the neighbours, but also because they often didn’t go quite as she planned.
Muttering under her breath, Belle got to her knees and reached over for the damned immobile scissors. She clipped out one last image from the magazines in her lap before standing up and surveying the items spread out on the carpet around her.
She walked to her armoire, a brightly coloured cabinet that held all her magical supplies. As a piece of furniture the armoire classified as kitsch, if not downright ugly. Luckily, most people didn’t notice it. When the doors were shut with their huge brass cogs, a perception filter made any visitor see it as a garish TV cupboard, if they saw it at all.
Belle scanned the multicoloured glass jars and dried herb stems inside: one last check of the ingredients she’d need.
to be perfect.
‘Oh, no. No.’ Belle clucked her tongue in irritation as she held up a heavy green glass jar to the light. ‘Damn Aunt Gertrude.’ She returned the near-empty jar to the shelf. ‘Now I have to go get more sage.’
Aunt Gertrude, Belle’s godmother and teacher back in her academy days, lived around the corner and had a spare key to Belle’s apartment. Belle could guess what had happened: Gertrude had been cooking her famous chicken and sage soup, run low on the herb, and Belle’s apartment was closer than the supermarket.
The sage certainly wouldn’t have been for something as basic as a spell.
Pulling on a coat to protect herself from the chilly autumn wind, Belle grabbed her purse and muttered to herself as she made her way to the incredibly slow old lift that serviced her apartment building in South Melbourne. Surrounded by modern high-rises, Belle’s top-floor apartment was in a building that had once been a huge Gothic-styled mansion – and that had somehow escaped the attention of the developers’ wrecking ball.
To the ancient powers, I implore your intercession
,’ she muttered under her breath as she got in the creaky old lift, pressed the button for the ground floor, and stared unseeingly at the pocked metal doors. It never hurt to practise the incantation for her spell. She’d learned the hard way – the more confident and definite she sounded when she recited it, the better the outcome. It had taken a lot of practice – and some embarrassingly bad pots of revolting, ineffectual potion – to work that out.
Magics weave to bring dreams to life
,’ she continued. She especially hated the spells that didn’t rhyme. Much harder to memorise. This one didn’t even have a decent rhythm to it. Belle flicked at her hair in irritation. What happened to good old-fashioned iambic pentameter? Some of these newer spells – however powerful they might be – seemed far from any kind of poetry.
‘Satisfaction delivered, a lover incarnate. I create thee . . .’
What was the next line?
Belle stared intently at the wooden floor of the lift, wrapped up in remembering the words that would be critical later this evening. Finally, it clicked.
‘I create thee from my heart’s desire; a man for all seasons, a man for tonight.’
A muffled clearing of the throat brought Belle out of her trance-like state and she realised that the creaky old lift had stopped and someone else had just stepped in.
Belle’s stomach flipped over as a familiar scent surrounded her. She took in a deep breath, trying to form a sense memory of it. She would use it later, when she cast the spell, because it was wonderful, this scent: cinnamon and musk and sandalwood and a hint of violets. This was the fragrance she wanted to touch and taste and kiss. Which meant —
, right?’ The lift dipped and righted itself as he stepped inside. Nick. Of course it was Nick. Her gorgeous neighbour; the man she’d secretly lusted after, pretty much ever since he’d moved into the building a few months back.
‘Uh . . .’ His smile and swarthy good looks did their usual work, flustering her to beyond the point of sense. Belle’s family knew pretty much everyone in the magically inclined community of Melbourne, so she knew he wasn’t a warlock. But he was more than capable of rendering her speechless with his mere presence.
Belle forced her gaze back to his face, subtly raking her eyes over him from his elegant shoes up. Jeans, a belt with a heavy silver buckle, a white T-shirt, tucked in but kind of messy with artful black swirls across the chest, a leather jacket that squeaked slightly when he moved.
His expression had turned quizzical – no doubt he was wondering why Belle had lost her voice. Why Belle had lost her mind.
His dark, almost black, hair was carefully messed, greying ever so slightly at the temples, but that just gave his face a distinguished look. His jaw was shadowed by stubble – it was the weekend and Belle knew from her covert observation that he didn’t shave on weekends. Sometimes, by Sunday night, his beard was thick enough to show a tiny patch of grey on his chin.
White, even teeth were showed off by his smile – a smile that was faltering with every lengthening second of her silence.
‘Uh, yeah, I’m Belle.’
Fantastic. Witty. Sparkling conversation there, Belle. Way to go.
‘You’re Nick, right?’ As if she didn’t know. Nicholas Marchetti. Nicholas
Marchetti. Not that Belle was a stalker or anything. He’d dropped some of his mail once, when they’d found themselves in the building foyer at the same time, and it had landed next to her foot, so she’d picked it up and handed it back. She hadn’t been able to say anything except ‘Here’s your mail’ and scoot away as he thanked her. In the lift a moment later, by herself, she’d thought that if she were a different woman, one who was sexy and flirty and attractive – the kind of woman her ex, Tony, had said she’d never be – she’d have asked him about ‘Abner’. Was he named for a relative? Did he like the name? Maybe she’d even have told him her own middle name in shared embarrassment.
Back in the present day, the object of her daydreams smiled, making Belle’s stomach flip over yet again. ‘Were you singing?’ he asked.
Heat flamed her face with the realisation he’d overheard her incantation. Had he heard the ‘satisfaction delivered, lover incarnate’ bit? That line really packed the punch; it made Belle’s blood pressure leap when she said it. ‘No, just, uh, practising lines for a play,’ she invented.
‘Oh, are you an actor?’ He seemed genuinely interested but Belle knew he couldn’t be. He was just polite. He was always lovely, every time they ran into each other. It was probably why she’d developed such a crush on him.
‘I just, you know, amateur, kind of . . .’
Belle was saved from her stumbling excuse when the lift doors opened again, this time on the second floor, admitting a noisy group who crowded in. Nick moved next to her, making room for the others, and his scent flowed over her. His arm pressed against hers, the cool leather of his jacket on the back of her hand, the solidness of his body within. She had an almost overwhelming urge to throw herself at him, to press her face to his chest and feel his arms wrap around her.
He was strong, she was sure of that. She’d seen him come into the building after jogging. He wasn’t a pumped-up bodybuilder, but he had a lean, sinewy body with rounded, defined shoulders and arms. From hundreds of push-ups, she’d bet.
Oh, that’d be a sight to see.
His arms would feel hard and powerful around her. They’d crush her to him, just to feel their bodies pressed against one another, and then he’d explore. He’d take it slowly, one hand tracing down her spine to draw little fingertip circles in the small of her back. The other would make a path upwards, trailing heat until it touched the bare nape of her neck, forcing a gasp from her throat and goosebumps from her skin. His fingers would tunnel through her hair, the one good feature she possessed, and when he was almost at the ends he’d tighten his fist around the strands and use it to tilt her head back. His eyes would be glazed, his lips parted, his breath shallow, and he’d look at Belle with such blatant lust that there would be no confusing his intentions.
Belle would forget in an instant all the things Tony – Moany-Tony, as her friends had dubbed her ex-boyfriend for his habit of complaining all the time – used to say about her lack of sexual prowess. She’d be so overwhelmed by Nick’s power and body and hands that she’d just not think, and he’d know exactly what to do, how to please her, how to show her what she knew her body was capable of. She’d be so close to him she’d feel the thud of his heartbeat in his chest, feel the rise and fall of his breathing, feel his hard, potent cock straining against his jeans, pushing against her belly, teasing her with its steely solidity.
And because in this fantasy Belle was a bold, sexy, adventurous woman, she’d meet his gaze and smile mysteriously. And when he kissed her, as he inevitably would, she’d kiss him back, stealing his taste, taking his very breath away. Her fingers would go to his jeans, and the sound of metal as she undid his belt would send a shudder through her. And then, right there in the lift, she’d go down on her knees and take him into her mouth, wanton and wicked, revelling in his moan of pleasure, licking his hot skin, hearing him say her name in a low, desperate tone, tasting him as he —
‘Hey, get a room!’ A couple in the corner of the lift were kissing deeply, provoking catcalls and jeers from their friends.
Belle sucked in a breath, suddenly overheated and claustrophobic.
Finally the doors opened to the foyer and the occupants of the lift tumbled out.
‘See you around, Belle,’ a low voice said from beside her.
Belle glanced up in time to give Nick a quick, nervous smile as he stepped away. The very top of his cheekbones held a slash of colour and his usually bright eyes had darkened to a smoky grey. Perhaps he was coming down with something? Before Belle could say anything he took a couple of quick steps, heading for the stairs that led down to the basement car park, disappearing in an instant.
Sighing with regret, Belle hitched her bag higher over her shoulder and headed out into the cold air.
The noisy group headed off in the other direction, suddenly horny and on edge. None of them would end up staying at the party they were headed to for long. Mary and Pete, who’d begun kissing in the lift, wouldn’t even make it to the front door of their destination before calling a cab home to have a round of astonishingly rampant sex that would save their sagging marriage. En route to the party, Megan would pick up an exceptionally well-endowed street vendor and experience her first orgasm from oral sex, standing up against a tree in a nearby park. Henry and Daniel would finally give in to the feelings they’d been suppressing for many years and begin desperately touching each other up in a corner at the party to absolutely no one’s surprise. Diane would meet Wil, a dentist, at the party, and in contravention of her usual rule against one-night-stands, would take him home. They would fall madly in love, Diane would become pregnant almost instantly, and they and their twins would live happily ever after. And Mark, whose apartment they’d all come from, would return home after a disappointing hour at the party, put on his favourite porno and masturbate on the couch while thinking about the breasts of the cute brunette who lived on the top floor, and whom he’d seen many times but had never really
And Nick Marchetti? He stood by his motorbike in the basement car park imagining every bad and disappointing thing that had ever happened to him in an effort to quell his raging erection.
He’d had the most astonishingly vivid image pop up in his mind while in the lift – that sexy brunette neighbour of his, kneeling on the floor in front of him, her lips wrapped around his cock. It hadn’t been the first time he’d entertained naughty thoughts about the delectable Belle, but they had never affected him this severely before. He thought back again to the many times he’d attempted to open a conversation with Belle, determined to ask her out. He couldn’t explain why it simply hadn’t happened.
It was several minutes before he was in decent enough shape to get on the motorbike without doing himself an injury.