QSFer Rowan McAllister has a new fantasy book out in the shared Magic Emporium series: Hexes and Horns.
Ryan O’Byrne has rules: 1) no using his magic, 2) no getting dragged back into his family’s craziness, and 3) no dating supernaturals of any kind, especially shifters … in other words, nothing and no one who will tempt him to break rule number one.
But what if the gorgeous wall of muscle he can’t seem to stay away from just happens to be a shifter? Well, it is only a short-term thing, and he isn’t a master of denial for nothing.
Leo Holt can’t help it if he has a teeny tiny weakness for bad boys—not really bad, just a little prickly around the edges. Even for a unicorn, all sweetness and light, all the time, can get a little boring. But, falling for the eldest son of the dark witch family who runs his little West Virginia town might be getting his fingers too close to the fire, even for him.
For Ryan, it was supposed to be a simple trip back home to show support during a family crisis. But when hexes, secrets, a family demon, and the O’Byrne witches are involved, nothing is ever simple.
The Muffin Man is part of the Magic Emporium Series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone is in dire need. This book contains reluctant heroes, sentient sourdough starter, lots of carbs, and a guaranteed HEA.
Despite being as woefully underdressed compared to everyone else as Ryan was, Leo still turned quite a few heads as he threaded his way through the crowd. He had to be some kind of cat shifter with a walk like that. All grace and power. Or would Leo be too obvious a name?
Ryan vacillated between detached fascination and a completely ludicrous amount of jealousy, right up until he realized their destination and stopped dead in the middle of the merchant lane, forcing the couple dressed as elves behind him to stumble into him. As Ryan made his distracted apologies to the elves, Leo kept going, raising a hand in greeting to the creepy old woman behind the counter. Ryan should have realized it the second he’d seen what Leo pulled out of the back of his truck, but in his defense, he’d been a little distracted.
Ron, in his kilt and little else, stood at the end of the long counter with an open mason jar in his hand. He waved back at Leo, but when he spotted Ryan, his smile faltered. He said a few words to the old woman, gave Leo another friendly wave, and scurried away.
At Leo’s insistent beckoning, Ryan reluctantly closed the last few yards to the tent. The old woman made him nervous, but he’d be damned if he’d admit it.
“Ryan, this is my neighbor, business partner, and best friend, Morag McGregor. Morag, this is Ryan—”
“O’Byrne,” she finished for him, her steel-colored eyes riveted on Ryan, assessing, suspicious, and a little hostile. “The prodigal son returns.”
“Mo,” Leo chastised gently as a shiver ran down Ryan’s spine at the way she’d said his name.
“It’s nice to meet you,” she grumbled. She cast a sidelong look at Leo as she said it, but then she pinned Ryan with her gaze again and added equally begrudgingly, “Thank you for what you did for Ron. He told me how kind you were to him.”
“Lucky you hadn’t been doing any laundry lately, huh Mo?” Leo said with a chuckle, and Morag threw a ballpoint pen at him, which he ducked effortlessly, grinning.
When Ryan frowned in bewilderment, Leo gave him an apologetic smile and said, “Inside joke.” He cupped a hand next to his mouth and whispered conspiratorially, “But if she ever offers to wash your clothes, just say nay.”
Thoroughly unnerved, Ryan tried to come up with something more interesting to say than that but was saved when his cell chimed in his pocket.
Kaia: Where’d you go?
“Excuse me for a second,” he said to Leo and Mo.
Ryan: Back by the moonshine tent. Long story.
Kaia: Be there in a few.
“My friend wondering where I went,” he said by way of explanation as he tucked his phone away.
Leo just smiled his understanding, and Ryan had to fight the sudden urge to sigh dreamily and flutter his eyelashes at the man. He clutched at the amulet around his neck again, and it tingled reassuringly in his palm.
Who were these people? And why had his mother allowed another supernatural, possibly two, into her town? Did she know?
Clearing his throat, he pasted on a patented O’Byrne fake smile and said, “Well, I guess you must live nearby, if you know my family. Have you been in the valley long?”
“Mo’s been here for ages,” Leo answered, “I only moved here about five years ago.”
Ryan should know Morag if she’d lived in Byrnwood that long, or at least know of her. She certainly had a memorable name. He racked his brain. Now that he was closer to her, she had the feel of something more than human, but if she’d been in the area that long, his family would have had to know about her, unless…. His stomach dropped.
“Where did you say you lived?” he croaked.
Rowan McAllister is an unapologetically romantic jack of all trades and a sucker for good food, good cocktails, rich fibers, a great beat, and anything else that indulges the senses. In addition to a continuing love affair with words, she likes to play with textiles, metal, wood, stone, and whatever other interesting scraps of life she can get her hands on.
She lives in the woods, on the very edge of suburbia–where civilization drops off and nature takes over–sharing her home with her patient, loving, and grounded husband, three furry rescues, and a whole lot of books, booze, and fabric.
Her chosen family is a madcap collection of people as diverse as her interests, all of whom act as her muses in so many ways, and she would be lost without them. Whether her stories have a historical, fantasy, or contemporary setting, they always feature characters who still believe in true love, happy endings, and the oft-underappreciated value of sarcasm.