Midnight enchantment

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“Anya Bast is a professional at writing stories that keep the reader in a…state of suspense. Her reputation is well deserved.”

—Romance Junkies

“The atmosphere that Anya Bast portrays is intricate, dark, and highly erotic.”

—Just Erotic Romance Reviews

PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OFANYABASTDARKENCHANTMENT

“When I was first introduced to Anya Bast a couple of years ago, I quickly became enchanted with her work. It seems that I cannot read her work fast enough to satisfy the need.Dark Enchantment…holds the reader spellbound while in its pages…Like all her books,Dark Enchantmentis well put together and a pleasure to read. I hope you get lost in a ‘Dark Enchantment’ yourself—you will not be disappointed.”

—Night Owl Reviews

“Readers will recognize many characters. Bast has created a charmed world of faeries, brownies, witches, goblins, and more. You won’t want to leave this beautiful world…Seriously sexy.”

—RT Book Reviews

“This is the third installment in the Dark Magick series and it does not let you down…Charlotte is surprisingly sassy [and] Kieran is droolworthy!…As with Bast’s previous novels, there is plenty of action in this novel as well…You will not be disappointed or bored!”

—ParaNormal Romance

WITCHFURY

“Full of action, excitement, and sexy fun…Another delectable tale that will keep your eyes glued to every word.”

—Bitten by Books

“Hot romance, interesting characters, intriguing demons, and powerful emotions. I didn’t want to put it down, and now that I’ve finished this book, I’m ready for the next!”

—Night Owl Reviews

WITCHHEART

“[A] fabulous tale…The story line is fast paced from the onset…Fans will enjoy the third bewitching blast.”

—Genre Go Round Reviews

“Smart, dangerous, and sexy as hell, the witches are more than a match for the warlocks and demons who’d like nothing more than to bring hell to earth and enslave mankind. Always an exhilarating read.”

—Fresh Fiction

“Witch Heartis a story that will captivate its readers. It will hook you from the first few pages and then take you on a wild ride. It is a fast-paced story but it is also a story that will make you feel emotion. Anya Bast uses words like Monet used paint. It’s vibrant. It’s alive. Readers will be able to see the story come to life as it just leaps out of the pages.”

—Bitten by Books

WITCHBLOOD

“Any paranormal fan will be guaranteed a Top Pick read. Anya has provided it all in this hot new paranormal series. You get great suspense, vivid characters, and a world that just pops off the pages…Not to be missed.”

—Night Owl Reviews

“Gritty danger and red-hot sensuality make this book and series smoking!”

—RT Book Reviews

“Ms. Bast delivers another heart-stopping and first-rate paranormal romance. Her characters jump off the page and draw you in.”

—The Romance Readers Connection

WITCHFIRE

“Deliciously sexy and intriguingly original.”

—Angela Knight,New York Timesbestselling author

“Sizzling suspense and sexy magic are sure to propel this hot new series onto the charts. Bast is a talent to watch, and her magical world is one to revisit.”

—RT Book Reviews

“A sensual feast sure to sate even the most finicky of palates. Richly drawn, dynamic characters dictate the direction of this fascinating story. You can’t miss with Anya.”

—A Romance Review

“Fast-paced, edgy suspense…The paranormal elements are fresh and original. This reader was immediately drawn into the story from the opening abduction, and obsessively read straight through to the dramatic final altercation. Bravo, Ms. Bast;Witch Fireis sure to be a fan favorite.”

—ParaNormal Romance

“A fabulously written ultimate romance. Anya Bast tells a really passionate story and leaves you wanting more…The elemental witch series will be a fantastic read.”

—The Romance Readers Connection

“A terrific romantic fantasy starring two volatile lead characters…The relationship between fire and air…makes the tale a blast to read.”

—The Best Reviews

Titles by Anya Bast

WITCH FIREWITCH BLOODWITCH HEARTWITCH FURYWICKED ENCHANTMENTCRUEL ENCHANTMENTDARK ENCHANTMENTMIDNIGHT ENCHANTMENTTHE CHOSEN SINJEWELEDJADEDRAVEN’S QUEST

M I D N I G H TENCHANTMENT

ANYA BAST

BERKLEY SENSATION, NEW YORK

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUPPublished by the Penguin GroupPenguin Group (USA) Inc.375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USAPenguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, EnglandPenguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, IndiaPenguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

MIDNIGHT ENCHANTMENT

A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author

PUBLISHING HISTORYBerkley Sensation mass-market edition / February 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Anya Bast.Excerpt fromEmbrace of the Damnedby Anya Bast copyright © 2012 by Anya Bast.Cover art by Tony Mauro.Cover design by Rita Frangie.Interior text design by Kristin del Rosario.

All rights reserved.No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

EISBN: 9781101560068

BERKLEY SENSATION®Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.BERKLEY SENSATION®is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

Dedicated to Jeffrey Skinnerfor helping me see beauty in the way words come together

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As ever, thank you to Brenda Maxfield for being my sounding board and my second pair of eyes.

Thanks to Axel de Roy for creating the gorgeous interactive map of Piefferburg, which appears on my website,www.anyabast.com.

Table of Contents

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-One

Twenty-Two

Twenty-Three

Twenty-Four

Twenty-Five

Twenty-Six

Twenty-Seven

Twenty-Eight

Twenty-Nine

Thirty

Thirty-One

Epilogue

Glossary

ONE

FIND her. Trap her. Compel her to reveal the location of the two stolen pieces of thebosca fadbhand get the fuck home. Those were his objectives.

Of course, Elizabeth Cely Saintjohn’s objectives directly opposed his.

Right now he was blind, pissed off, and holding a rope embedded with cold iron. The only way this night could get worse was if she escaped him again. Niall’s ear twitched and the hair on his nape rose as something scraped along the boulder to his left. He went still, his eyes searching the endless black for some sign of his quarry.

Footsteps sounded on the path behind him. He turned, cursing the lack of moonlight and Elizabeth’s habit of only traveling at night. To his right, movement caught his attention and he stilled, growling in frustration. Light, ringing laughter echoed all around him. She moved fast and completely silently when she wished.

Rage clenched his gut. She was playing with him.Again.

“Must be nice to be able to see in the dark and move like the wind, huh?” he snarled into the empty air. Not to mentiondissolve into water and move anywhere she wanted within the bounds of Piefferburg. Neat trick.

His hand tightened on the rope that was especially designed to trap a fae like her. He wore thick black leather gloves to prevent the charmed iron from touching his skin and leeching his magick away. It was meant to bind Elizabeth, an asrai, before she escaped him. It would only work if the rope touched her bare skin. Normally that would be a problem, but not with Elizabeth. Reverting to her water self and traveling through the earth left her naked every time she regained form. Unfortunately, roping this woman was harder than catching a weasel in a vat of olive oil. He’d never so much as caught a glimpse of her yet since it was always dark.

Usually, it went this way—she toyed with him for a while, making him think he might have her…then she escaped. It was a bizarre situation for him.Hewas usually the one doing the toying where women were concerned.

“Come on, Elizabeth. Don’t play hard to get. Just give me the pieces and I’ll stop hunting you.”

“I kind of like it when you hunt me,” came her lilting voice from somewhere farther up the path he walked. She had a sexy voice, whiskey rough and sweet.

He ground his teeth together and readied a spell in his head that would give him a little light. It wouldn’t last long, so he needed to draw her closer before he released it. He was a mage, capable of versatile magick not unlike that of the Phaendir. Except his magick wasn’t born of the creepy hive mind that the Phaendir used—his power was all inside him. Independent. Powerful.

And that’s why he’d been sent after the asrai. He was the best qualified to capture and compel a fae like her. Best at thieving—or thievingback, in this case. Best at weaving illusion. Best at tracking, capture, and torture. Best for this job. Or, at least, that’s what everyone at the Black Tower thought. That had been a week ago. A week filled with failure. Who knew what they thought now.

The Shadow Queen had sent him out the moment the Black Tower had learned the Summer Queen had passed off her pieces of thebosca fadbhto Elizabeth. The pieces were parts of a key that would unlock magick that could free the fae fromPiefferburg. He was no closer to trapping her now than he’d been on the first day.

“Why are you doing this?” he called. “Why keep your people from freedom? The Phaendir are at our gates right now. We don’t have time to lose.” His voice grew a degree lower and a lot more hostile. “Why work for the Summer Queen, a nice nature fae like you?”

“Who said I was nice?” The words breezed past his ear and were gone.

He lunged toward the direction of her fading voice with his rope and got nothing but air, a cool breeze, and the light floral fragrance of the soap she used. Staggering and swearing a blue streak, he barely caught himself before falling on his face. Straightening, he laughed mirthlessly. “Come on now, don’t go away so fast, baby. At least give me a kiss before you fuck me.”

And she was there, the warmth of her presence at his elbow, taunting him with her proximity. The brush of her silky hair against his skin. That soapy, light flowery scent of hers teasing his nose.

Ah, good.He’d been gambling her arrogance might be her end.

“Arendriac,”he murmured. The charm burst from him with a little pop, lighting their immediate area with a golden glow. He reached out to pull her close in the same moment, rope in one hand ready to trap.

His fingers brushed the smooth bare skin of her waist as she backed away. For a moment she stood motionless. Her lush lips were parted, ruby red hair lofting around a pale, beautiful heart-shaped face, green eyes flecked with gold and wide with surprise.

He stared back at her, sharing an equal measure of astonishment. She was the most stunning woman he’d ever seen. He hadn’t been expecting that.

Niall took a step forward, rope in hand. She dissolved as soon as he moved. A vision of beauty one moment, gone the next in a soft burst of spray. He looked down at his feet and saw the puddle of water she’d become. Then even the water disappeared, soaking into the earth, every single molecule of it, traveling through the ground to find a river, a stream, whatever flow that would take her away.

Swearing under his breath, he knelt and touched the dry soil where she’d been standing only a moment ago.

Gone yet again.

“Damn it,” he cursed under his breath. The pretty lady with the pieces was out of his reach for another night. He wasn’t sure which he mourned more—the loss of the pieces or the woman. The witch enticed him. She’d done that even before he’d caught a glimpse of her. Why couldn’t she be some unalluring hag without the clever wit she displayed in the woods every time he chased her, without that constantly teasing scent? It was fucking distracting.

Especially since he sort of liked the woman.

Too bad he was probably going to have to kill her.

ELIZABETH regained consciousness sitting on a bed of leaves with her head bowed. Near her bare foot a beetle with bright green and gold casing edged its way through the dying foliage. She blinked, her eyes adjusting to the softly lighted area around her, and raised her head, shivering from the chill in the air.

That had been the first time she’d had a good look at her pursuer. He’d been about what she’d expected. The man was clever and had a mouth on him that never quit. Sparring with him night after night was actually sort of fun—which said a lot about the state of her personal life. Pathetic. Not that she’d ever known it to be anything different.

He was good-looking. She’d expected that based on his cocky personality. Strong of body and jaw, with tousled, thick dark hair that curled over the collar of his shirt and framed a set of expressive gray eyes and a handsome face. She’d only had the barest second to look at him, but a man like that tended to stick in your mind.

His lips were full and his cheeks sported a hint of whiskers that needed to be shaved. She wasn’t sure if that look was deliberate or a result of the chase she’d been leading him on. She hoped it was the latter. Damned man needed to leave her alone.

Carefully, she pushed to her feet and stretched, enjoying the light waft of the night air around her nude body. Her clothingnever dissolved with her, only her flesh, muscle, hair, and bone had the power to melt into her water self and then re-form. It was that way for every other asrai she knew, all one of them.

The other asrai lived near the ocean. The last time Elizabeth talked with her, she’d seemed distant and dreamy. Hopefully she hadn’t fallen prey to a common asrai fate—losing sense-of-self to water forever. Some asrai dissolved one day and simply never re-formed, stayed water for the rest of their lives. The asrai who were all alone in the world, had no one to anchor them, had a much higher chance of it happening—or so she’d heard, anyway.

In the distance her mother’s cottage glowed between the trees. The sprae congregated here, their great number driving away the black, moonless night. As she walked, Elizabeth said thank you to them, even though she doubted they understood her.

The sprae were the only reason her mother, Thea, lived. Thea was a rare and special breed of fae, a kind born only since Piefferburg had been erected. Her life force was dependent upon the sprae, the tiny sentient beings who were drawn to fae energy. The origins of the fae dependent were murky, a result of the goddess Danu’s will alone.

The scent of vegetable stew hit Elizabeth’s nose the moment she cleared the doorway. Her mother turned from the pot on the stove. “And where have you been this evening, my girl?” She waved a hand at clothing draped over a chair. “Go on, get dressed. I have a good stew and some even better bread.” Her mother was used to her strolling around naked, since her water self was the way Elizabeth traveled so often.

Elizabeth’s stomach growled at the prospect of food. She went for the pair of trousers and the man’s shirt, inhaling for any remaining whiff of her father’s scent, but it was long gone now.

Her mother spooned up stew into bowls and set the table. Elizabeth went to the refrigerator to get the cheese and butter for the thickly sliced bread already on the table.

“I was just out exploring,” Elizabeth finally answered her mother’s question.

She wasn’t very good at lying and hoped her mother wouldn’t press her. Her mother had ways of making people dowhat she wanted through the food she cooked, like tell the truth when they didn’t want to tell it. It was her strongest talent. If she didn’t do it with her strong intuition, she did it with her tea or baked goods.

They sat down and began to eat. Elizabeth buttered a piece of bread, keeping her eyes away from her mother’s face. These days she needed to be really careful around Thea since she was keeping a secret—an enormous life-changing one.

Her mother stared at her for a long moment, then the small laugh lines around her eyes creased. “You’ve met a man.”

The knife she held clattered to her plate and she glanced up. “What? Why would you say that?” She gave a laugh that sounded a little too tense to be genuine.

“You’ve got a glow about you I’ve never seen before, a glow of excitement. That’s got to be what it is. Tell me about him!” She leaned forward, her face beaming.

Thea wanted so much for Elizabeth to drag herself away from the hermit’s life that her mother was forced to lead because of her sprae dependence—the hermit’s life Elizabeth had grown up leading out of necessity. Thea wanted Elizabeth to meet a man, move to the city, have children, be happy. Above all, avoid the fate of losing her sense-of-self to water.

A life in the city and a family weren’t what Elizabeth wanted at all, despite the sheltered life she’d lived.

“A glow of excitement?” she echoed. Ah. Well, yes, of course. Her life had turned very exciting the moment the Summer Queen had entrusted her with two of the pieces of thebosca fabhand had ordered her to hide them. “I haven’t met a man, Mom. At least, not in the way you’re thinking.”

“Oh.” Her mother sighed and placed a slice of cheese on the heel of the bread. “That’s too bad.”

Elizabeth made ahmmmsound that was as noncommittal as she could make it, then swallowed a spoonful of stew. “Mmmm, good stew.”

Her mother waggled a finger at her. “Don’t change the subject on me, girl. It’s time we had a talk about your future, and this is just the moment to do it.”

She was familiar with this conversational opening. It had to do with the walls of Piefferburg falling and what that meant for the fae.

Elizabeth set her spoon to the side of the bowl and sighed. “Any future that doesn’t include you alive in the world isn’t a future I want to contemplate. Can we not talk about it tonight? Let’s enjoy our food instead.”

Even though she wasn’t hungry anymore.

The sprae provided her mother’s life force. If the walls broke, her mother would die. She’d watched her father and brother die; she wasn’t going to lose her mother, too.

Her mother looked at her sadly. “It’s coming, and everyone knows it. Even living way out here in the Boundary Lands I know it. What must be, will be, my girl. It will be good for you, and I’m thankful for that. The rest of it…” She shrugged. “I simply have to accept.”

Elizabeth steadied her gaze at her mother’s careworn face. The sprae dependent aged more like a human than the fae, and her mother was nearing sixty. “We’ll see about that.”

Thankfully her mother dropped the subject, and the two of them finished their meal making harmless small talk that had nothing to do with death or the betrayal of her people. Those were two subjects Elizabeth wanted none of right now.

After she’d helped her mother clean up, Elizabeth kissed Thea’s cheek and disappeared out the door, vanishing into the woods. As she walked, she shed her clothes. Then she ran, jumped onto a log and launched herself off it, diving through the air as though into a pool. In midair she became water self, splashing into the earth.

All the tension and stress of her life vanished immediately, along with the bulk of her personality. Feeling free, she gathered herself, seeking the underground water source that flowed under her mother’s property and joined it. The only time Elizabeth ever surrendered was when she transformed into water, giving up her physical self to the slow, cool slide of moisture and the path of least resistance.

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