Conn Hennessey would give his father's properties to ravish the woman he watches every night as an unwilling voyeur. Dana is uninhibited, passionate and gorgeous, but he would never settle for spying on her if he had the chance to ease the loneliness she confesses to him often.
Trapped in a cursed painting nine hundred years ago, a millennium of experience convinces Conn that Dana is his soul mate. Observing her without being able to caress her, to bring all her sensual desires to reality, is an unending torment--until All Hallow's Eve magic gives him a shot at freeing them both.
During one wild night, he fulfills Dana's fantasies. Come morning, can he convince her of what he knows to be true? He's not an imposter pretending to be the man of her dreams. They were destined to be together and he has twenty-four passion-filled hours to break the spell or be condemned to his prison, alone, for all of eternity.
The clock is ticking.
Publisher's Note: This story was previously published elsewhere and has been revised for Ellora's Cave.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Picture Perfect by Jayne Rylon
Ireland, Twelfth century
"Do you love me?"
Conn peered down into the adoring eyes of the alluring young witch lying beside him on the forest floor, the light dappling her fair skin. Her chest rose and fell rapidly as she recovered from their frolicking dash through the trees. Enchantment surrounded her, lounging on a bed of leaves, raven hair strewn about her delicate frame. A word away from her surrender, he refused to lie to her.
"Deirdre, I care for you."
"But you don't love me." Though her eyes flashed with hurt, her tone reflected resignation. He honored their pact to settle for nothing less, despite the consequences.
"I'm sorry." The words were soft but final. Conn let the regret and longing that ached inside him flow through his kiss.
It was goodbye.
Deirdre relaxed beneath him as though absorbing each scrap of emotion from the final contact. He retrieved his sword from the mossy ground, buckled it over his tunic and then swung a leg over the stallion waiting at the side of the clearing. "I never meant to hurt you."
Rising in front of him, she blocked his path. The flowing silver gown draped around her. Its embroidered belt, which proclaimed her high rank, cinched her waist, emphasizing her figure as she spread her arms wide. Power crackled through the air as tears dripped from her midnight eyes and dropped silently to the forest floor.
"Conn." The plea in her voice could not be mistaken. "I'm sorry also. Someday you'll understand that true love means doing what's right even at great personal cost."
A sudden, unnatural heat enveloped Conn, starting with his legs and spreading up his torso. Panic accompanied it, causing him to struggle with a desperation reserved for survival. "Deirdre! What are you doing? Stop this!"
"Remember that I loved you."
October 30th, Present day
A shrill ring burst from Dana Kavanagh's pocket as she wrestled the bags of groceries onto the kitchen counter. After consulting the display of her cell, she rolled her eyes then flipped it open.
"Yes, Jenny, I still plan on going out with you tonight."
"Dana, I'm so sorry but it looks like I'm going to have to work late."
"Awesome!" Dana did a dorky happy dance as she eyed the carton of melting ice cream and the new book she'd just set down.
Jenny's chuckle carried over the phone line. "Not so fast, you don't get off the hook that easily."
"It's my birthday. Can't I spend it however I want?" Dana groaned.
"No!" Jenny's exasperation transferred over the phone. "A girl only turns thirty once, you have to do it with style."
"Does 'with style' really mean 'in a club, consuming a lot of alcohol'?" Somewhere loud and trendy would be par for the course with Jenny. Not that Dana disliked a night out on the town every now and then, but she didn't feel the need to visit each bar in the city the way her best friend seemed to.
"And hot guys. Don't forget the hot guys."
"I hate to break it to you, Jenny, but I don't know very many unattached hot guys."
"Exactly why you need to get out more!"
Dana sighed. "Listen, I really do appreciate the thought. But lately I feel like hanging out at home. It's not a national emergency, I'm just tired of meeting the same kind of man. I need a break. A change." The metrosexual guys who worried about the caloric content of their fancy-named drinks and loved drama more than a housewife addicted to soap operas got old quick for Dana.
"Then I think you're going to like my idea even more. I want you to come with me tomorrow night instead. There's a private costume party for All Hallow's Eve at my brother's estate. It will be exclusive, sophisticated and more reserved than any club."
"I don't know, Jenny. I always feel out of place there." Wealth and prestige seeped from the sprawling mansion and sculpted grounds. Even the sincere welcome of Jenny's family couldn't eclipse Dana's unease. She might knock over a priceless vase or use the wrong fork at dinner. "Besides, I don't have a costume."
"I knew you were going to say that." Jenny sounded smug. "And I know just what you should wear. The dress."
"My grandmother's dress?"
"Yes! You'll look stunning. You can be a princess."
Dana had to admit the idea held some appeal. The dress called to her. It looked like something straight out of a fairy tale. And when else could she wear it? What the hell, why not?
"Okay. I'll do it, but you have to help me with my hair."
"Deal! I've got to get back to work. I'll be over around five tomorrow. Happy birthday!"