Cursed

By: S.J. Harper

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We’ve known each other for a long time, but it wasn’t until we sat down during Comic-Con and again during DragonCon a few years ago and started kicking around ideas that the notion of working together was conceived. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had Emma and Zack, a plot, a backstory, and a book!! Jeanne’s agent, Scott Miller, liked it, sold it and the rest, as they say, is history.

To those of you out there giving Cursed a chance, we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.

—Samantha & Jeanne





Siren noun 1. One of three sisters ejected from Mount Olympus by Zeus and cursed by Demeter for failing to prevent Hades from kidnapping Persephone. 2. An immortal goddess bound to earth who, in search of her own salvation, saves others from peril. 3. A beautiful and powerful seductress, capable of infiltrating the minds of others in order to extract truth or exert influence.





CHAPTER 1


You’ve seen one dark, rugged werewolf, you’ve seen them all.

That’s what I told myself the first time I laid eyes on Zack Armstrong. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And now that presumption has come back to bite me in the ass.

I interrupt my best friend, Liz, in the middle of—something. I realize I’d lost the thread of our phone conversation the minute I spied Zack weaving his way through the maze of indistinct gray cubicles that make up the bull pen of the San Diego FBI Field Office. Save the hair and nine a.m. four o’clock shadow, the man is all spit and polish. Tailored dark blue suit, starched white shirt, blue-and-gold silk tie, and gleaming black shoes. The hair gives him a distinct edge—dark brown, slightly longer than regulation, no part. It’s swept straight back, accentuating the lines of his square jaw.

I resist the urge to crawl under my desk. “I’ll call you back later. New partner’s here. I’ve got to go.”

“Not until I hear the details. What’s he look like?”

Liz is forever trying to play matchmaker. Ironically, I rely on her spell casting to make sure a match will never happen.

I turn around and lower my voice a notch. “Remember the guy from South Carolina I told you about? The one I was partnered with on that missing person’s case in Charleston last year?”

“Really?” New interest sparks in her voice. “He looks like him?”

“It is him,” I say. “Which you’d think Johnson would have mentioned.”

“So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you now what I told you then. You shouldn’t write off the possibility of a good romp with a guy just because he goes furry a few days every month. Weres have amazing stamina. Hey, did I ever tell you about Walter?”

You name it, Liz has dated it. Being a witch with serious magical talent puts her in contact with a wide variety of supernaturals. A strong advocate for equal opportunity love, she’s currently dating a vampire.

But Walter the werewolf was decidedly not one of her success stories.

“Yeah, Liz. A few dozen times. The problem isn’t Zack’s nature.”

“The FBI has rules about fraternization?”

“No.” I wish they did. I wish it could be that easy. Not that getting involved with a partner is encouraged.

“What, then?”

My eyes squeeze shut. I shouldn’t have given Zack Armstrong a second thought in the last thirteen months, seventeen days. But I have. I’ve thought of him often. Too often.

Gooseflesh appears on my arms; the hair on the back of my neck rises. A sense of dread washes over me. That’s why he’s here. This isn’t a coincidence. It’s a test the Olympians have their hands in. Or, more specifically, one particular Olympian. Demeter. I’m a Siren—one of three. We were banished by Zeus and cursed by Demeter thousands of years ago for failing to protect her daughter Persephone—for failing to rescue her before she was dragged by Hades to the Underworld. It’s for this I atone. For this I pay.

And pay. And pay.

I’m tempted to make something up, but this is Liz. She deserves the truth. “I liked him. More than liked him.”

Her tone turns serious. “You never mentioned that. This could be bad.”

The understatement of the year. Guys I get into meaningful relationships with tend to end up dead, courtesy of my favorite vindictive goddess. Partnering with Zack Armstrong and risking a rekindling of whatever was between us could prove exceedingly dangerous. Even lethal.

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