Anice

Book 5 in the Cursed Clan Series

The thrilling conclusion to the Cursed Clan series!

A woman destined to save her family.

Anice has always felt left out. Granted, not on purpose, but when the only female who spent two centuries with her cousins and brother, it’s hard not to. Now that all of them have found their mates, she is ready for her happy ending. When she falls for Brody Stewart, Anice is thrilled he is interested.

A man who hides his true self.

Brody has spent his entire life hiding his true self from the world. When his sadistic cousin gives him a chance at freedom, he takes it. He has no issues seducing a woman–until he meets her. Anice is his mate, there is no doubt, and he cannot imagine a life without her. Now he has to play a careful balancing act protecting both her and his family.

A love that cannot be denied.

When Brody’s deception is uncovered, Anice wants nothing more to do with him. Unfortunately, it’s revealed he is essential to the last quest. As dark forces close in on the Mclennans, Anice and Brody will have to learn to trust each other, or lose everything they hold dear.

This is the conclusion to the Cursed Clan series which is better read in order.

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Anice

Anice

Book 5 in the Cursed Clan Series

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Prologue

 

Anice lay in the field, looking up at the starry night. It was late, later than a lass like her should be out, but she didn’t care. Her brother and her cousins could galivant all over the countryside at all hours of the day or night, but her following suit was frowned upon. She was sick of playing by the rules.

So, there she lay, the soft grass beneath her body and the entire sky above her.  She couldn’t fight the pull of the night. It always seemed to grab hold of her, especially when the moon was full. She could stare up at it for hours, waiting. For what, she had no idea, but anticipation always seemed to grow during this time of the month.

A twig snapped, and Anice stilled. She did as her cousin Callum had taught her and listened. More rustling. Not the wind and definitely bigger than most of the nocturnal animals in the area. Her instinct told her to run as fast as she could, but a voice stopped her.

“Lady Anice, do not fret,” an older, weary voice called out to her. When the person came into view, Anice recognized her. The witch who told fortunes and saved lives.

“I wasn’t fretting,” she lied. “What are you doing out and about this late?”

“I could ask the same of you, but I know why you are here.” She sighed. “Frederica had a baby tonight and I attended the birthing.”

She nodded but said nothing else. Anice wanted to ask the woman more, to know everything about her future, but she controlled the urge…barely.

“I should get home before I am missed,” she said, brushing the grass and twigs from her plaid. “Good eve.”

She took three steps before the witch called out to her, “Don’t you want to know your future, Lady Anice?”

Anice hated the fact that she did. More than anything in the world right now. She turned to face the witch. “I doona think that is a good idea.”

“Why is that?”

“Knowing what has been foretold might hinder my true nature.”

There was a long pause, then the witch threw back her head and cackled.

“Stop that,” Anice said, trying to ignore how embarrassed she was. “I said, stop it.”

The witch finally calmed herself. “Please, do not take offense, my lady. I was only enjoying your spirit. Too many women don’t have your courage. Tis good, since you will be needing it.”

Unable to resist, she stepped closer. “So, you do know my future?”

“No. Not completely. The Fates do not always reveal their ways to me.”

“But you know something?”

The older woman’s smile faded, and her expression grew troubled. “Yes. For all of us in the Highlands. We will be forced to endure some of the worst times we have seen in centuries. But for you, your mate…he will not be easy.”

She snorted. “I would not want an easy man. They are usually lazy.”

The witch nodded, once. “You are as wise as I thought. Tis good because this man in your future is just like you.”

“Like me, how?”

“Tell me, my lady. Why do you like to come outside at night?”

“Tis quiet. I like that everything seems so serene at night.”

The witch nodded. “But I guess you specifically come out during the cycle that features a full moon.”

“Maybe.” But it was true. It was always this night that called to her.

“Yes. Well, your mate will need you by his side, and he will need a woman who understands.”

“Understands that he traipses across the fields at night?” She crossed her arms beneath her breasts. “What are you blathering on about?”

Another quick smile, then it faded. “Oh, how I would want to see you fall in love, but I fear it will be long after I am gone from this earth.”

Intrigued even more, she stepped closer. “How long?”

“I cannae tell you that.”

“Then what good are you?” she asked, frustration threading her tone. Anice knew it was unladylike to be so blunt, but she didn’t care.

For a long moment, the witch said nothing. The silence filled the night and Anice suddenly felt as if Nanny had caught her stealing biscuits.

She opened her mouth to apologize, but the witch held up her hand.

“No, you need that attitude, my lady. You are the key and it will test you.”

“The key?”

“The link between families. You are the one who will save the Clans, the only one who can unite them.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Doona think lightly of your role. Your mate and you will have a difficult time of it. He will be true to you, Anice. A man that might not seem to be, but he is. Believe in him, and you can have a happy life.”

“But if I don’t?”

The sadness in the witch’s eyes stole Anice’s breath. Fear threaded through her veins as she tried to take in air. It was as if she were being slowly drowned.

“Oh, my lady…I would rather not say.”

Anger replaced her panic. “Tell me.”

The witch sighed. Regret danced on the air around them. “Destruction of everything you hold dear.”

 

Chapter One

 

Anice stood in her walk-in closet and tried to figure out what to wear for the evening. She felt like such a loser because she couldn’t find anything. True, this was the fifth date with Brody, but she shouldn’t be this indecisive. Was it because she had decided tonight was the night to seduce him?

She rolled her eyes. “Like I know how to do that.”

“Speaking to yourself again, sister?” Rena asked, appearing beside her.

“Bloody hell, I told you not to do that.”

Her soon to be sister-in-law smiled. “I’m sorry but your thoughts were kind of shouty.”

Half fae/half human, Rena had the ability to hear others’ thoughts; although, she had learned to block out the thoughts of others.

She sighed. “I’m sorry for being shouty.” she couldn’t fight the smile that danced around her lips. “I’m nervous about tonight.”

“Another date with the Brody man?”

She nodded. Her brother and cousins weren’t overly happy about it, but after a couple of centuries, she figured she deserved a little fun.

“We’re going to dinner tonight, and he insisted on picking me up this time.”

“What time?”

“Seven.”

Rena frowned. “I have to go to some kind of fundraiser benefit with your brother or I would check him out.”

“I don’t think you need to. Normal human.” Normal, sexy human. One that made her want to eat him up with one big bite.

“Ooch, stop,” Rena said holding her head.

“Sorry. I just can’t stop thinking about him.”

“Hmm.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That means there was a man that I couldn’t stop thinking about at one time.”

“And?”

Her expression softened. “I’m marrying him next month.”

Panic tickled the back of her throat. She didn’t need this complication. She just needed to have an affair. Feelings were okay, unless she got wrapped up in him. She didn’t want that problem.

“Are you trying to tell me I’m in love with Brody?”

“Falling in love.”

She sighed.

“You have a problem with this, sister?” Rena asked.

“I just don’t want that issue. I just want to…well, you know.”

“You want a good hard shag,” Rena said, humor filling her tone. “I definitely agree with that.  Still, I want to meet him soon.”

“Why?”

“You’re my sister, Anice. I want to know the man who is stealing your heart.”

“Thanks for that. My brother and cousins seem to think I can’t be trusted.”

Of course, there was a very good reason for that. She had been duped by one of the McWaltons decades earlier. She knew they had all been upset at the time, and she had been left devastated. It had taken her months to return to normal and since then she hadn’t had a relationship. She feared they continued to see her as that same broken woman.

“You’re not.”

“What?”

“Broken. I truly apologize, but I can’t fight your thoughts. You might not be my blood, but you are to be my sister by marriage and that connects us. I love you as much as I love Maggie and Meghan.”

She felt the backs of her eyes burn. For Rena to admit such a thing, Anice knew that made her special. Rena didn’t let a lot of people into her life.

“Don’t cry.”

“I can’t help it,” Anice said with a laugh. “It’s your fault.”

Rena studied her for a second, then she opened her arms. Anice accepted the hug, something uncommon for Rena. Affection wasn’t easily given—except with Maggie and Meghan. Now, that had extended to Anice and she relished it. It was so insanely cool to have a sister.

“Sister, you are strong, probably the strongest of all your kin. You might not see it or feel it, but you are.”

“And my brother and cousins?”

“They are idiot men who can’t be trusted for their opinions.”

She pulled back, laughing. “You’re marrying one of them.”

“True, but this is part of their makeup. It’s instinctual. I know that Phoebe could give you a better explanation, but they feel the need to protect. It’s important to them that they make sure you are safe.”

“I know, and I love them for that, but it is so annoying.”

“I completely understand. When Fletcher stepped in front of me to protect me from a bullet, I wanted to strangle him.”

“I think you should go sexy tonight.”

“You think?”

She nodded. “I think you need to move this thing along or you’ll explode from never having sex.”

Anice chuckled. “There is that.”

“What are you planning in the way of lingerie?”

Anice wasn’t a prude, but she wasn’t accustomed to having someone being so nosey about her underwear.

“Um, a bra and panties.”

Rena rolled her eyes. “Show me.”

“I have it on.” She was wearing a robe over her bra and panties.

Rena made a motion with her hands. “Come on. It’s not like I haven’t seen what you have. I have the same bits and pieces.”

Anice sighed. “It’s just a bra and panties, and I don’t know why we’re discussing this.”

“Because, you are planning on letting him see beneath your clothes tonight. You want to make sure you have something on to entice him. You should wear this,” she said grabbing a purple dress. It was one of her favorites, as the color of the dress made her skin look amazing and brought out the deep blue in her eyes.

“Yeah?”

Rena nodded. “Looks fabulous on you. Plus, it isn’t overly revealing but just enough. Driving him crazy about what is beneath will get him even more interested in finding out.”

“Okay.”

“Hair up.”

She wiggled her fingers and all of a sudden, Anice’s hair was up in a very intricate style, with a few curls left down.

“Whoa. I should become a witch.”

Rena smiled. “The M and M’s are very good at it. I’m better.”

“We hear you,” Maggie said as she walked in with Meghan by her side.

“Where’s Phoebe?” she asked sarcastically.

“Napping.”

Their cousin’s wife was in the last six weeks of her pregnancy. She had been taking a lot of naps in between deciphering the diary.

“Wow, I guess Rena did your hair?” Meghan said.

She nodded.

“And I agree with the purple dress. You also need to wear stockings tonight.”

Anice frowned. “I’m not a fan.”

“No, but men are. Just the idea that you are wearing stockings might drive him even crazier.”

“What color are your bra and panties? Do you have matching garters?” Meghan said, leaving them in the walk-in closet. The other two trailed after her and Anice blinked. Was she going to go through her drawers looking for garters?

“Oh, look at these.”

Bloody hell. She hurried after them and found all three of them looking at a pair of garters.

“Hey,” she said. The three women turned in unison, as if it were a choreographed event. If she wasn’t so embarrassed, she would have laughed.

“What’s wrong?” Maggie asked.

“Do you do this to everyone you know? Just go through their stuff and make comments.”

Maggie blinked, then she gave her an understanding smile. “I’m sorry. I forget that you virtually spent all this time without any women around. You’ve never dealt with the sisterhood kind of moments.”

“So this is normal?”

“Well, no one would call Maggie here normal,” Meghan said with a laugh.

“Go get bent, Meg.”

“It is normal for women, though, to share things like this.”

“Well, I guess…I’ve seen it in movies, but…”

Rena came forward and slipped an arm around her. “I understand, sister. You’ve had none of these moments. You’ve been the only girl and couldn’t share your secrets with anyone other than your obtuse cousins.”

“It hasn’t been that bad,” she said.

“You handled it better than I would have,” Maggie said, crossing her arms beneath her breasts. She was a tiny woman in stature, just reaching Anice’s shoulders, but she was big in personality. All of her sisters were, at this point.

She held that term to her heart. She had only one sibling, her twin Fletcher. She had never had a close female friend, let alone four–if she counted Phoebe, and she did. It still didn’t make it any easier to deal with the way they infiltrated her life. To them, it was normal. To her, she felt as if she had been invaded.

“Either way, what color do you have on?”

“She said white,” Rena said.

“I think you should go with black.”

“Why?”

“Maybe all of you might think I’m crazy,” Meghan said.

“We already do,” Maggie said with a wicked smile.

“Suck it,” Meghan said. Then she turned back to Anice. “There is an air of innocence about you. The black will be the exact opposite, you know what I mean. It’s seductive, plus, you have the most amazing skin for someone who is over 200 years old–which I say is not fair at all–and it will look fantastic against the darker fabric.”

“Oh, yeah, she’s right,” Maggie said.

Before she could respond, there was a knock at her door, then it swung open. Phoebe waddled in, a frown marring her usually sunny disposition. She made her way across Anice’s bedroom and then stopped in front of the group. She put fisted hands on her hips. She was dressed in a robe and slippers, as she was a lot of the time these days.

“What the bloody hell is going on and why wasn’t I called?”

“We’re trying to get Anice laid,” Maggie said.

There was a moment of stunned silence, then Phoebe giggled.

“That is a good idea, in my not so humble opinion,” Phoebe said.

“You’re not humble?” Anice asked.

“With the amount of degrees that I have, it is impossible. So,” she said sitting down on the bed, “what have you ladies come up with?”

“Purple dress, stockings, and black lingerie.”

“Oh, yeah. That would be wonderful. What are you two doing tonight?”

“Just a night out for dinner.”

“And he’s coming here to pick you up?” Anice nodded. “Brave too.”

“Brave?”

“Would you want to deal with four very grumpy men who see it as their duty to protect you?”

“No. Only three. We have that benefit in town,” Rena said. The McLennan’s didn’t go out often, but when they did, it was usually Anice’s brother Fletcher. Now that he had Rena by his side, Anice no longer had to deal with those things.

“Still. I know that Callum has been grumpy about it all day.”

“He can just get over it,” Anice said.

“That’s what I told him,” Phoebe said.

“Either way, I will take your suggestions to heart,” she said.

“Did Rena do your hair?” Phoebe asked.

“Yes.”

“Figures. At the moment, I can’t do a thing with my hair. I don’t have the energy or the patience.”

There was a flash and Phoebe’s hair was in the neat chignon she usually wore. Once a tangled mess, it was now smooth and sleek.

“Thank you,” she said.

“No problem. Just tell me if you need help with that again,” Rena said. “I think we should leave Anice to get ready for her date.”

“Okay,” Maggie said, walking forward and giving Anice a kiss on the cheek. Both Meghan and Rena followed suit. She was finally left alone with Phoebe. Her cousin-in-law sat on the bed, her feet dangling off the edge. They were swollen, as were her ankles.

“Does Callum know you’re in here?”

Phoebe’s husband, and the laird of the clan, had been acting overprotective of his wife and their new baby. It was understandable. She was carrying the first known baby to be born to them since the curse had been enacted. There had also been a passage warning them about the next generation. Everyone’s level of worry had heightened in the last few weeks, as they moved closer to the birth. Anice just hoped she could live up to the task of getting the last jewel.

“I’m a grown woman. I can walk around on my own.” She patted the bed beside her. Anice walked over and sat down.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve deciphered a little bit in the diary I think has to do with you.”

“Why didn’t you say anything in front of the others?”

“Because you already have so much stress on you being the last.”

She sighed and nodded. Phoebe pulled out a scrap of paper and unfolded it.

“The best of the five, the one with the truest heart, is the one who will decide their fate. She is the connection to everything that could save them from themselves.”

Anice blinked. “How do you know that’s about me?”

“First, you are the only one left. It also mentions the amethyst, and I have heard all of the cousins and your brother make that remark about you.”

“What remark?”

“You are the best of them. They have all said it one way or another. Anice…you are the key to all of this.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You need to contemplate your role in this entire story. You’re the one who kept the idea of ending the curse alive. You are the one who is the gentlest of hearts, but also the bravest.”

Embarrassed, she shook her head. “Don’t go barmy on me, Phoebe. I need at least one of us to stay sane.”

Phoebe shook her head. “You are the bravest. I still cannot understand how you handled traipsing around all your idiot cousins and idiot brother all these years. The fear, the absolute terror of being a woman in those times…” she shook her head. “It’s still not fantastic, but throughout the last two centuries, we have come a long way.”

Again, the backs of her eyes burned, and she tried to blink the tears away. They fell down her cheeks nonetheless.

“Oh, sweet Anice, don’t cry. It’s all going to work out.”

Anice nodded, not truly convinced. For the first time in all the years they had been pursuing this idea, she was starting to doubt it would conclude the way she wanted or hoped. And worse, they had no idea what was going to happen to Phoebe or her unborn bairn if Anice failed.

Phoebe took Anice’s hand in hers. “I know it’s scary, but there is a different way the witches talk about you. They talk about you as if you are the most precious of gifts. It’s almost as if they revere you as some kind of goddess.”

Anice snorted and Phoebe chuckled.

“I know you might not believe it, but you are. They call you the key. I just need to figure out what that key means. Key to what?”

“I’ve never heard anything about a key.”

“Nor I in any of my translations. The barmy witches seem to have some hold over the book.”

“What do you mean?”

“It seems I gravitate to a passage or two when they want me to. There is no rhyme or reason for the way I’m working through the book. Instead, I flip through the pages and they tell me where to stop.”

“Odd,” Anice murmured.

“Right?” She sighed. “Anyway, I just want you to forget all of this and go have fun tonight. Kiss the man, and much more if the mood strikes. You deserve it.”

“I will.”

“Now, help me up.”

Anice did just as there was a knock on the door before it slammed open. Phoebe’s husband Callum stood in the doorway, his regular scowl in place.

“You know I could have been naked, Callum.”

He tossed an irritated look in Anice’s direction before zeroing in on his wife. “I couldn’t find you.”

“Apparently you could, because here you are.”

His frown turned darker. “You should be in bed.”

“The doctor said a little walking was good.”

“Not alone.”

Phoebe rolled her eyes. “Have fun tonight,” she said before kissing Anice on the cheek.

Before she could take another step, Callum was by her side. He took her hand and led her out of the room. Anice smiled and shut the door behind them, then leaned against it. It was hard to believe how fast their lives had changed, thanks to hiring Phoebe. Most people would say being immortal would be fun, but they never had much fun. Living year after year, watching those people you care about die, or worse, the need to cut yourself off from people so you are not hurt.

She sighed and pushed those thoughts aside. Tonight was about fun and seduction and nothing else.

End of Excerpt

Anice

is available for pre-order in the following formats:

Harmless Publishing

Dec 18, 2018

ISBN-13: 978-1-939734-77-8

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This is the conclusion to the Cursed Clan series which is better read in order.