Italy, August 1420: A gypsy named Lilith sees her lover hanged for a crime he didn’t commit. On the gallows, he swears to return to her. Convinced that one day he’ll be reborn, she searched for a fabled elixir—rumored to grant immortality…
Toronto, August 1999: Waiting has taken its toll on Lilith, now a fortune-teller with a gift for matchmaking. So she concocts her strongest love potion ever. She is certain her magic has worked when the spitting image of her one true love moves in next door.
A very practical—and skeptical—single father, Mitch Davison is intrigued by Lilith’s passionate welcome, yet suspicious of her motives. After all, he’s never believed in magic—and hasn’t believed in love since his wife left him. But when Lilith doubts her own intuition, it’s Mitch who must convince her that the greatest gift of all is the talent to follow your own heart…
Winner of the Colorado Romance Writers’ Award of Excellence for Best Paranormal, Fantasy or Time Travel Romance
“Four and a half stars! Love Potion #9 is utterly charming, mixing a centuries-old myth and a modern day love story with a fast-paced plot that keeps you laughing and wondering if you can really believe.”—Romantic Times
A Romantic Times Top Pick
An excerpt from Love Potion #9:
Toronto – August 1999
It was hotter than Hades in the city, the kind of sticky steamy summer day that most people consider more characteristic of New Orleans than the great white north. The humidity was oppressive and tempers were wearing thin on that Saturday afternoon.
And Mitch Davison had the misfortune to be moving.
“I wanna go swimming!” three-year-old Jen wailed from the back seat of the much-abused Honda wagon. She kicked her feet against her car seat impatiently and Mitch caught a glimpse of her trembling lower lip in the rear view mirror. The treasured toys she had refused to entrust to the professional movers filled most of the back seat of the car – at least what was available after the family wolfhound staked his turf.
“I’m hot,” her brother Jason agreed.
Both children looked expectantly to their father, as though he could solve everything.
Mitch tried. He really did.
“Well, you’re just going to have to wait a little bit longer,” he said with as much cheerfulness as he could manage.
“What kind of Kool-Aid should we make first?”
The dog nudged Mitch in the back of the neck with his wet nose, demanding an open window. Mitch rolled down his window and got a great furry head beside his ear as a bonus. Cooley panted like a blast furnace on his shoulder.
“Cherry! And I wanna swim now!” Jen cried, as though volume could make it so.”
The combination of a restless night and an unsettled day was affecting the toddler’s usual sunny disposition. It was a tough day for the kids, Mitch knew, but he wasn’t having a lot of fun himself. The traffic was brutal, the air conditioning had given out in the car and the sweat was running down his back like a river. Not for the first time, he knew why parents usually came in teams.
Not that Janice would have done any better with this day than Jen was doing. That thought did just about nothing to improve Mitch’s mood.
Maybe, maybe, Andrea was already at the house. Mitch could really use his stepmother’s help this weekend.
Which pretty much guaranteed she had forgotten the whole thing and gone to the Caymans instead. The last trait Mitch would attribute to Andrea was reliability.
Charm she had by the bucket, though.
“I’m working on it, Jen,” he said. “Just hang with me. How about a song for our new house?”
Jason started ‘Old Macdonald’ and much to Mitch’s relief, Jen went for the diversion. They got through the intersection on the next green light, and entered a miraculous stretch of unjammed road. Within moments, Mitch was turning into the common driveway that ran behind the houses on their new street. Ramshackle garages were interspersed with new ones. Gangly tomato plants and grapevines dangled over fences with such abandon that he thought they might take over the lane, given half a chance.
“Look at those sunflowers!” Mitch pointed to the flowers in an effort to distract the kids when their song ended.
“Those ones are really big,” Jason said, in his usual quiet voice.
“Orange!” Jen shouted, the contrast marked as always. She shook her beloved Bun by the ear. “I wanna swim!”
“Any minute now.” Mitch turned into the driveway behind the house and his heart sank.
The yard that was now his was a chaotic mess of greenery. The dandelions certainly had been more manageable when he had looked at the house.
Two months before.
Well, Jen would have to make do. Mowing the weeds was hardly on the agenda today.
A striped grey cat sat on the fence between their disaster of a yard and artfully lush garden beyond. The cat was backed by a brilliant array of bobbing flowers. It eyed the Honda’s occupants, then calmly licked its paw.
Cooley took one look and barked, the noise enough to deafen a normal man at such close proximity. Mitch had already started to open the door, only to have 140 pounds of wolfhound muscle him aside and explode across the yard.
Barking his brains out the whole way.
Well, it was no secret that they’d arrived.
The cat gave Cooley the disdainful look that cats everywhere reserve for non-felines and proceeded to clean the other paw with great care. Cooley was beside himself, running back and forth beneath the cat’s perch.
At least he was occupied.
And he was flattening some of the weeds.
Jen began to bellow for escape; Jason was out the door and off to explore – no doubt to look for bugs – and Mitch was left to manage the details. Once he had broken trail through the yard and unlocked the kitchen door, he wasn’t surprised to find no sign of Andrea.
The movers were ringing the front bell.
It was going to be a long day.
And he was, one more time, all on his own.
* * *
Lilith was in a funk. She rattled through her house, picking listlessly at this crystal or that astrological chart. She was dimly aware of the moving van disgorging possessions next door, but wasn’t really interested.
She was hot in more ways than one.
It was their 579th anniversary and – just like the last 578 times – Sebastian hadn’t shown.
Yet, even given that, today Lilith couldn’t evict Sebastian from her mind. The memory of the evening they’d spent together tormented her. The echo of his last pledge rang in her ears. She had dreamed of him the night before, relived that precious time so vividly that she’d been sure she could feel his hands on her when she awakened in the morning.
But he wasn’t there.
Lilith was alone.
Maybe it was the heat that tried her patience.
Maybe it was this marathon run of celibacy that was getting on her nerves. Lilith had been patient, but immortality alone wasn’t a lot of fun. She was tired of being resilient and optimistic. She was tired of being cheerful in solitude.
Lilith was done with the waiting.
And Sebastian was late, but any calculation.
Tarot card reader, astrologist and crystal therapist, Lilith had adopted all the trappings of the occult to mask her Gift. She was reluctant to give any hint of the real nature of her talent, so she blamed everything on the tarot cards. People found it easier to believe that a stack of cardboard cards held the secrets of the future than that Lilith could see the truth in their eyes.
For the fact was that the draught for immortality – when Lilith had ultimately earned the right to a sip – had added an interesting twist to her innate Gift. After drinking that elixir, Lilith could see anyone’s match right in their eyes. Regardless of where that lovematch was in the world, she could set anyone on the path to connecting with his or her soulmate.
Maybe it was because her heart had been so full of Sebastian when she had that precious sip.
It was a bitter kind of irony to make her living consoling the lovelorn when she was so lonely herself. Lilith didn’t even know how many weddings she’d been invited to attend, mostly because she had in some way been responsible for introducing the bride and groom.
Always a bridesmaid, as the saying went.
The experience was getting old. She’d stopped going stag to weddings five years before, but it didn’t make her feel any better. The invitations were bad enough.
Sebastian was taking his own sweet time returning to her, that much was for certain. Lilith remembered the way he had kissed her and her skin heated. She closed her eyes and leaned back in her favorite chair to remember every caress, one more time.
The only time.
So much for promises made on the gallows.
Lilith frowned at the room, and caught the knowing glint in D’Artagnan’s eyes. That cat saw too much, and it was a blessing he couldn’t talk. He had moved in with purpose two years before, characteristically disinterested in Lilith’s opinion of his presence.
She wondered whether the cat knew that she only let him stay in deliberate defiance of Rom norms. Cats licked themselves, polluting inside with outside. Cats were dirty in Rom terms. Cats were mahrime.
But then, Lilith had been mahrime herself for a long time. Maybe there was a twisted kind of justice in D’Artagnan’s deliberate adoption of her. Maybe they belonged together.
That wasn’t the most optimistic thought she could have had.
Lilith wondered why she had any concern with mahrime conventions. It wasn’t as if the Rom and their ideas had anything to do with her. Nope, she was just a witch who told fortunes, not a gypsy at all. She had studied gadje witchcraft, learned to mix potions and cast spells, draw circles for the moon and read astrological charts, too.
She was not Rom.
She refused to be Rom.
And that was that.
D’Artagnan started cleaning himself – always fastidious – and even the sight of his little darting tongue made Lilith fidget.
She had definitely been alone too long.
What was keeping Sebastian?
Lilith picked up her deck of tarot cards, shuffled and considered the riddle of what to do. She fanned the cards across the table and plucked one from their midst, her heart skipping a beat when she turned it over.
A card about making things happen. A card for the creative and the powerful. A card hinting that it was time things got done.
It was a card that demanded immediate action.
Lilith considered it. Why was she just waiting for Sebastian? In every other area of her life, she was the one to take the initiative and make a difference. She had to admit that it would be a lot more romantic if Sebastian just swept into her life again on his own
He had promised, after all.
Was his promise a lie?
No. She wouldn’t think along those lines. She stood up and went to the mirror. One more time she looked deeply into her own eyes and one more time, she caught no glimpse of Sebastian. Obviously, her Gift didn’t extend to herself. Magick was like that.
But maybe some of the things she had learned over the centuries could help.
The thought had no sooner crossed her mind than Lilith was on the way to her kitchen. She checked the calendar and discovered that both sun and moon were right for a love spell.
That had to be a sign that she was on the right track.
Whether her actions provoked a response or not, it was good just to be doing something. Lilith turned on the radio and tuned into the oldies station. The first song made Lilith smile and turn up the volume.
Love Potion Number Nine.
A potion it would be.
Lilith danced as she conjured, a reckless glee making her feel decidedly younger than her many years. Her cauldron was on the stove and the strongest love potion of all time was rapidly being assembled.
If Sebastian was anywhere within the galaxy, he’d get this message. When he showed up, Lilith had several hundred years of creative thinking to put to good use.
Lilith felt her desire heat to a fever pitch with every pinch of this and two petals of that cast into the brew.
Anticipation hummed beneath her skin and every passing second added to her conviction that this spell would work. The mixture began to boil and its earthy perfume filled the house.
The yearning was enough to make her knees go weak.
Lilith changed softly before the simmering brew.
“Lover true, come to me,
Through the air or across the sea.
Once we loved all night with style
Come back NOW…”
Lilith chuckled under her breath as she thought of the perfect rhyme.
“I’ll make it worth your while.”
She ladled the bubbling green brew into her coffee cup. The last chorus of the song bounced off the kitchen walls.
D’Artagnan lashed his tail as he watched from the doorway, his eyes bright. The potion smelled vile.
Lilith held her nose. She closed her eyes. She held her breath.
She took a sip.
©1999, 2011 Claire Delacroix, Inc.