“This,” Siobhan said with a touch of unease, “isn’t at all what I expected.”
“What’s wrong?” Kerr asked. He guided her onto the dance floor with a firm hand on her back. “I promised you dinner, correct?”
“Dinner only. Not dancing.”
“So you wind up with a bonus.” His brown eyes teased her. “What’s the matter? Don’t you dance? And you such a fine Irish lass.”
“I’m not riverdancing, if that’s your intent.”
“Me either. You need four legs to do it right. Dante prefers his guests stay human on the dance floor. And upright, more or less.” His smile promised wickedness to come. “He’s got private rooms, if it’s other positions you’re wanting.”
She trod on his instep. “Mind your feet, Mr. Irish Elk.”
He tripped in his effort to keep off her toes. Siobhan snickered.
She mustn’t let the night get to her. Kerr Mulligan had a long record of breaking women’s hearts and wrecking reputations. No elk, this one; that was a lie. He was stallion through and through. And she was a woman—not his species, but that rarely mattered to a stallion.
She could hold him on a lead only so long before he reared up and bucked. Then she’d be forced to tip her hand.
But not, Dog willing, until this evening was over.
Siobhan had expected dinner at some cramped, dirty bar, or that tavern run by the Scottie in the kilt. She hadn’t expected Dante’s. The game hen had been cooked to perfection, and the odd liqueur they’d been offered at the end of their meal, courtesy of the management, had topped it off with just the right touch of sweetness. A far cry from the perfunctory holiday dinners she’d attended at the Roebucks’ mansion. A girl could get used to such treatment.
Music started up from hidden speakers, and Kerr’s arm curved around her waist. A girl could get used to this too.
Focus, girl! He’s no date. He’s your target. Now she must hold him in Talbot’s Peak until the hunter arrived. The hunter she’d already notified before Kerr had picked her up for dinner. She matched his smile and allowed him to twirl her about to the energetic beat. Perhaps she’d acted prematurely, summoning the hunter so soon.
No. That was the pooka’s magic, working on her. He was far too skillful, this shifty stallion. Dogs and horses, whiskey and women, these were things the Irish were best at, and Kerr was a master of all. Siobhan added dancing to the list.
The lights dimmed, the tempo slowed. Kerr drew her against him. Playing the part, Siobhan molded her body to his. His hand remained on her upper spine, but she sensed it would sink to its preferred target at the first opportunity. She beat him to the punch with a pinch to his buttock. He started, then grinned. “Not so prim and proper after all, are you, terrier girl?” he murmured in her ear.
“Proper enough for a true Irish lass.”
“That you are.” They swayed together to the beat. “You’re glowing.”
“Is that a polite way of telling me I sweat?”
“No, I mean it.” Their slow dance stuttered to a halt. “You’re really glowing.”
That she was. Siobhan stared at her hand, shimmering pale red-gold in the now-darkened room. This wasn’t her own doing. His?
No, he looked as surprised as she. And he was glowing, too.
Nor were they alone. All over the dance floor couples threw off a glimmer like embers in a hearth, in a riot of colors like a rainbow gone berserk. Seductive blues, hot-blooded reds, fiery yellows and delicious greens. Across the room a pair of coyotes whirled in a tornado of violet. No one else seemed the least upset. Indeed, they reveled in their newfound luminosity.
“The drink,” Siobhan realized. “That drink they gave us at the end of the meal. That was the sweet I tasted in it. Magic. This is a spell.”
Kerr’s hand clutched her arms in a show of suspicion. “You can taste magic?”
“Can’t you? After all, you’re—” Dog damn it, he wasn’t supposed to know she knew. “Irish,” she hastily finished.
“As are you,” he retorted, with a passable growl for a horse. He stepped back, putting distance between them. “More than I figured.”
Now what could he mean by—oh. Now that he’d backed off she could see. The magic in the drink had hit the magic in his blood. The outline of his shifter form swirled around his human body, a stallion in plunging blues and blacks and silvers. A tail stretched behind him like ebony smoke. At every move he made, phantom hooves threw off cobalt sparks.
And she? Dear Dog. She lifted her arm to see bright crimson feathering threaded with gold in a fringe along her sleeve. Behind her—yes, there was the tail, a comet of riotous reds. It even wagged, the treacherous thing. Nothing she did could still it.
“Terrier, eh?” Kerr said, not at all friendly.
Siobhan thought fast. “Setters have a bad reputation. Flighty, high-maintenance. Terriers are sturdy. I didn’t want to give a bad impression. And look at you,” she added, switching over to attack. “Elk, indeed.”
He shrugged, setting off a cascade of blue. “Horses have their own bad rep. I didn’t want to scare you off.”
“Terrier or setter, I don’t scare easily.”
“So I see.” Once again his grin emerged, with a silver echo. He caught her hand and reeled her in. “Care to dance?”
They spun across the floor in a twirl of rainbow contrails. Their movements set off Technicolor explosions. Where the others merely twinkled, Kerr and Siobhan flared like novae.
It was the magic, of course. Their Irish blood hummed with magic. The spell in the liqueur fed on it, enhanced it. The spectral stallion and setter that wreathed their human bodies intertwined until none could tell where dog ended and horse began. A reflection, she knew, of their heightened emotions.
That couldn’t be. He was only a job. She had already sent for the hunter.
“Well well,” Kerr said on a laugh. “Look at you. We may be needing that private room after all.”
Siobhan’s red setter had grown to titanic proportions. It blazed the scorching scarlet of lust. Kerr’s stallion gleamed an amenable azure, inviting her to mount.
She let go and pushed herself away. The setter refused to diminish. If anything, it burned brighter. So did Siobhan’s cheeks. “I think I’m done with dancing for the night.”