JASON MILLED around the festival grounds, a stretch of farmland that had been donated to the town and dedicated as a park. Although this was an event he’d enjoyed as a kid, tonight he was uncharacteristically on edge and Clara’s prediction was to blame.

Not that he believed in tarot readings.

Yet, as he smiled at people without stopping to make conversation, the uneasy feeling remained. The fact that most wore masks didn’t help. Nor did the sheer volume of people. Almost the entire town had turned out for the evening.

“Jason, no mask? I’m disappointed.” Gabrielle, his cousin Derek’s wife, zeroed in on him, pink feathers covering her face.

If her long chestnut hair wasn’t a giveaway to her identity, her trademark stiletto heels were. His cousin was one lucky son of a bitch, but he deserved good fortune. Derek had suffered plenty before finally reclaiming his high school sweetheart and the love and family he was meant to have. As the oldest of the Corwin cousins, Derek had set a stoic example for Jason and Mike to follow. Each had held out on relationships for a long time before succumbing. As for Mike, despite a rocky start, he and his wife Amber seemed to be going strong.

Jason, on the other hand, was finished with women for anything but sex-and that was something he hadn’t had in too damn long. Five months to be exact. But now he was open to the possibility. He wasn’t desperate, never had been, and not even a self-imposed dry spell would change that. He just knew better than to expect to find someone from around here. Predictions be damned, he was a Corwin and therefore a realist.

“Jason?” Gabrielle repeated. “I asked you what happened to your mask?”

He refocused his attention on his cousin’s wife. “No self-respecting man would wear one of those things.”

“He’s got a point,” Derek said, joining them. He wasn’t sporting a mask, either.

“You two are just no fun.” Gabrielle let out a long-suffering sigh and placed her hand over her rounded stomach.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Derek asked, covering her hand with his.

“I breathed loudly,” she said, exasperated. “I didn’t moan in pain!”

Jason laughed at his cousin’s reaction.

Ever since their announcement of Gabrielle’s pregnancy, Derek had been wired. Jason didn’t blame him. Their first try had ended in miscarriage and the damn Corwin Curse hung over their heads.

Still, Jason couldn’t help but lighten the mood. “Derek, it’s going to be a long nine months if you keep this up.”

“Only five more to go,” he said, before glancing at his wife. “I’m sorry, but-”

She shook her head. “Don’t apologize. I understand. I just wish you’d relax and enjoy this as much as I am. The doctor swore the last time was a fluke, and I’m determined to believe him.”

Derek wrapped his arm around her waist and kissed her on the lips.

Jason tried not to roll his eyes. It was time he made himself scarce. “Excuse me. I think I’m going to refill my beer. This one’s getting warm.” Leaving his cousin alone with his wife, he turned and started across the field.

Catching sight of his father, Thomas, Jason headed his way. “Hi, Dad.” Another Corwin man without a mask.

“I’m so glad you decided to join the party,” Thomas said.

“I could say the same to you.” Jason eyed his father warily.

Wearing dark pressed chinos and a white buttoned shirt, he was perfectly dressed. Typical Thomas, showing the outside world all was well, no matter what turmoil was going on inside. “Is Uncle Edward here?” Jason asked.

“He’s supposed to be.” Thomas glanced over his son’s shoulder. “I haven’t seen him yet.”

“He’s coming with Clara, isn’t he? That’s who you’re looking around for.”

Thomas had been attracted to Clara from the moment they’d met, and thanks to Corwin history, Jason was worried his father would somehow end up with his uncle Edward’s woman.

Thomas shook his head. “No. I promised I’d steer clear and let those two make their way back to each other,” he said, sounding sincere.

“Or not?” Jason guessed. “Come on, Dad. Are you waiting for Uncle Edward to blow it so you can step in and sweep Clara off her feet?”

“No. That would be too close to history repeating itself.”

“You said you never took Mom away from Uncle Edward. She chose you.” He watched his father carefully.

Thomas nodded. “It’s true. But your uncle’s psychological problems obviously go way back. He blamed me, blamed the curse. His life was a mess. So whatever happens between your uncle and Clara begins and ends with them. I’m out of it.” He raised both hands and took a step back.

Jason nodded, satisfied his father wouldn’t make a move on Clara. The older Corwin men had just begun to repair their fractured relationship. The slightest look in Clara’s direction could conceivably send Edward over the edge. “I’m proud of you, Dad. Putting Uncle Edward’s needs before your own.”

Thomas shook his head. “You’re mistaken. I’m being selfish. I need my brother, too. We both missed out on too much.”

Jason gave his father a brief hug. “The Corwins are making progress,” he said, forcing a laugh.

“Oh! There’s Hank. I think I’ll go hang with my other brother,” he said. “You go find someone your own age.” Thomas slapped Jason on the back and strode away.

Chuckling at his father, Jason headed for the beer tent, not surprised to find a line ahead of him since all beverages were being served in the same place. Settling in to wait, he leaned against the stacked bales of hay and glanced around.

That’s when he saw her.

She captured his attention immediately and not just because she was wearing a red mask, though he had to admit Clara’s tarot reading had predisposed him toward noticing her.

This woman would have rocked his world anyway.

Rocked his world.

Not his usual way with words. They were Clara’s. But they were true.

She made her way closer and he couldn’t tear his gaze off her long, lean legs encased in hip-hugging, slimming black denim, black suede boots, and a black long-sleeved shirt. Her long, beautiful hair, light brown with blond streaks, hung down to the middle of her back, while breezy bangs fluttered over her forehead. But it was her red mask that stood out, covering most of her face, curving seductively lower on one side. She’d wrapped a matching red scarf around her neck.

As she walked toward him in the moonlight, a strange sense of deja vu enveloped him but he couldn’t say why. The band played “That Old Black Magic,” winding a seductive spell around him-if he believed in such things.

But even as he told himself he didn’t, he was drawn to her.

Her gaze never left his as she came up behind him. She looked him over and he did the same to her. Silky hair draped her shoulders, and though the mask covered her face, her matching lipstick drew his attention to her red mouth. She ran her tongue over her lips in a clearly unconscious gesture and every rational thought fled his brain.

“Is this the line for hot cider?” she asked through those lush lips, full, ripe and begging for him to taste.

That voice, also familiar, nudged at the back of his mind even as his thoughts were already churning with the unbelievable notion that Clara’s prediction had come true. And he couldn’t do more than nod in response.

“What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?” she asked in a teasing tone.

A wry smile pulled at his lips. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

She raised her eyebrows warily over the top of the mask. “Try me.”

He shrugged. Why not? “This is going to sound corny as hell but a fortune-teller told me I was going to meet you tonight.”

She tilted her head back and laughed, a full, throaty sound that knotted his stomach and sent desire rushing through his body at breakneck speed. No woman before had ever made such an impact.

Only one had come close and he’d been too young to appreciate her.

“Tell me about that fortune-teller,” she urged.

He shook his head. “I’d rather not.”

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