Wicked Charms (Lizzy & Diesel #3) by Janet Evanovich, Phoef Sutton

CHAPTER ONE

My name is Lizzy Tucker, and I live in a small, slightly tilted historic house that sits on a hill overlooking Marblehead Harbor in Massachusetts. I inherited the house from my Great-Aunt Ophelia when I was twenty-eight, and I’m not much older now. I share the house with a tiger-striped shorthaired cat. When he was rescued from the shelter his tag said Cat 7143, and it’s stuck as his name. Cat has one eye, half a tail, and I’m pretty sure he was a ninja in a past life. I’m a Johnson & Wales culinary school graduate, and when I’m not being asked to save the world I work as a pastry chef at Dazzle’s Bakery in Salem.

It was ten o’clock at night, Cat and I were watching television in bed, and a big, scruffy, incredibly hot guy walked into my bedroom.

“What the heck?” I asked. “Where did you come from?”

“Originally? Switzerland, but I was mostly raised in Southern California.”

“That’s not what I mean. What are you doing in my bedroom?”

He kicked his shoes off. “I’m undressing. And then I’m going to bed.”

“No! Not allowed.”

“Extenuating circumstance,” he said, peeling off his shirt. “I’m between places of residence.”

“I don’t care if you’re between a rock and a hard spot. You can’t stay here.”

His jeans hit the floor. “Of course I can. We’re partners.”

“We’re not that kind of partners. We work together. We’re not supposed to be…you know.”

“Don’t get your panties in a bunch. I have total self-control.”

I leaned forward for a closer look. “Are those parrots on your boxers?”

“I got them in Key West. Cool, right?”

Okay, I have to admit it. The whole package was cool. The guy’s name is Diesel. That’s it. Only one name. And the name suits him because he plows over you like a freight train. He’s over six feet of hard-muscled male perfection. His dark blond hair is thick and sun-streaked and perpetually mussed. His eyes are brown and unreadable. His smile is like Christmas morning. His attitude is deceptive—casual on the outside but intense on the inside. His moral code is all his own.

“All right. You win,” I said, knowing there was no way I could physically remove him. “You can sleep on the couch.”

He stuck his thumb into the waistband on his boxers. “I don’t fit on the couch.”

“Hey,” I said. “Wait a minute!”

Too late. The boxers were on the floor with his shirt and jeans.

I clapped my hands over my eyes. “I can’t believe you just did that.”

“I sleep nude. Women don’t usually mind.”

“I mind!”

“I get that,” Diesel said. “Move over.”

I have a queen-size bed. Plenty big enough for me and Cat. Not big enough for me and Cat and Diesel. Truth is, I wouldn’t mind getting romantic with Diesel, but we have an odd relationship. Diesel isn’t normal. And it would seem that I’m not normal, either. I thought I was normal until Diesel popped into my life shortly after I moved to Marblehead. Now weird is the new normal.

The way Diesel tells it, there are some people on Earth who have enhanced abilities that can’t be explained in ordinary ways. They might be useful abilities, such as Diesel’s talent for opening locks. Or they might be hellacious powers, such as calling down lightning or levitating a garbage truck. Crazy, right? It gets even better. Supposedly there are seven ancient stones that hold the powers of the seven deadly sins. They’re known as the seven SALIGIA Stones. If these stones fall into the wrong hands, all hell will, quite literally, break loose. I’m one of two people in the world who have the ability to locate the stones. Sort of like a human divining rod. Lucky me. So far, Diesel and I have acquired two of the stones, nearly getting blown up and kidnapped and chopped into tiny pieces with a broadsword in the process. When we find a stone, Diesel sends it off to some higher power for safekeeping. At least that’s his story.

“We’re not supposed to sleep together,” I said.

“Sleeping is okay. Getting busy, not so much.”

Turns out if two people with enhanced abilities get busy, one of them will discover that their special powers have gone up in smoke. If I could be sure it was my special powers that would disappear, I’d be happy to take one for the team. But what if it was Diesel who got cleaned out? I’d be on my own to save the world. This wouldn’t be a good thing.

I grabbed a pillow and put it between us. “Just to be safe,” I said.