Hexes and Exes
~ Spaghetti Romances | BOOK 3 ~
“No.” It did not matter what Ralph Tortellani had to say because Roma knew better than any woman alive the warlock was trouble.
She didn’t bother to look at him standing in the doorway of her store. “I don’t want to hear anything you have to say. I’m not interested. I’ve told you this before. Now get out.”
There was no need to look, listen, or care about what Ralph had to show, say, or want.
“But, this time—”
“No. No, and for the last time, no.” Pushing off the shelf, she made the eight-foot tall rolling ladder glide away from the unwanted visitor, past the soda fountain, the ice cream freezer, and well-away from the penny candy, only stopping when she came to the spot where dried Bella Donna sat on the highest shelf.
His shoes clicked on the gray tile floor as he took three more steps into the apothecary. “You really should listen because I know what I’m talking about this time, and it will only help prepare you for—”
“Ah, here you are.” Roma pointed at the jar. It lifted off the shelf and floated down to her. “One more step and I will turn your sorry ass into a marble statue of an ass.”
“Fine. But this time, I need your help, and believe it or not, you need mine.” The tone of his voice was different. Generally, Ralph was a happy-go-lucky guy, who for some reason loved everyone to think he was an idiot. “What’s coming our way is more powerful than both of us.” He scratched his head, and if Roma didn’t know him so well, she’d have thought he was worried. “If we work together, we might have a chance.”
But Roma knew otherwise. She knew without question the wily, shrewd, and highly intelligent man had never experienced a moment of worry in his entire life. But more important than any of that, Ralph was a warlock. And it was the warlock part that was the problem.
In the magical community warlock didn’t simply mean male witch. It also meant philanderer, pig, untrustworthy S.O.B. who lived to break every woman’s heart, and Roma was not interested in reliving that experience with Ralph.
“I am more than certain I don’t need your help. In fact, if your help was the absolute last vestige of help to be offered and I was about to fall in a pit of fire and black magic, I’d take my chances and jump.” She opened the jar of Bella Donna. “Get out.”
“Listen, it’s clear we don’t love each other and that’s—” Ralph said.
“Bwa-ha-ha-ha.” Roma tossed her head back and laughed a cackle, the sound of which could have landed her in an asylum. For several seconds she over-dramatized the laugh, holding onto the ladder and hanging backward as if she’d fall from her perch. “That’s rich. It’s also the understatement of the century.”
There had been a point when Roma loved Ralph, loved him, obsessed about him, dreamed of marrying him and having at least six little witches and warlocks with him.
Those days of youth and naiveté were gone. They’d fled the moment she caught him lip-locked with Linda Lallerton from Liberty Lane. It wasn’t that long ago, seeing as she and Ralph had dated when they were in undergraduate school. But twelve years and five PhDs later, Roma no longer loved Ralph. She had even forgotten what it was like to like him.
“Okay. I get it. You haven’t forgiven or forgotten. I understand.” He put his hands up in the universal sign for surrender. “However, this time I’m here to help.”
“Help?” Roma turned to actually look him in the eye, a move she did not regret because in spite of the still hot-as-hell sight of him she was not even slightly interested. Clearly, he still worked out. His body was as muscular as the last time she saw him some ten years ago, which was the last time he’d tried to apologize for being the world’s biggest jerk.
He still had brown curly hair that couldn’t seem to decide what direction it wanted to go. His deep brown eyes were exactly like his twin sister, Lena’s, who happened to be one of Roma’s closest friends.
But gone was the woozy feeling she used to get when he was near. No longer did her legs run to him as if they had a mind of their own. Her arms no longer wanted to hold him, and her heart no longer raced at the sight of him.
Ralph Tortellani no longer made anything right in Roma’s world.
“I don’t need your help, and if you need mine, you must finally be looking for a fidelity charm or monogamy potion, which I find so intriguing. Who is the unlucky girl who just might get snared in your web of faithless fascination?”
She continued to hold the jar of Bella Donna above his head.
He grimaced and had the audacity to glare. “I’ve changed, you know.”
“Your underwear?” She quirked an eyebrow at him.
“As you know I don’t wear underwear.” He snickered.
Roma’s back stiffened. She had forgotten that detail and now realized this interaction was becoming an actual conversation, and it was heading in the wrong direction. “Out.”
“For your information I’m ready to settle down, to be devoted to one woman, to love, to honor, to have and hold, to—”
“To kiss, touch, sleep with only her? The faithful thing, are you ready for that?” She didn’t know why she asked, but she did. Yet, she knew as surely as she knew the exact order of every element of the Periodic Table she did not have the slightest interest in Ralph.
Nothing about him excited her in the way a lover excites a woman. But her scorned heart still wanted revenge. From that angle, he did get a damn good rise out of her.
Roma huffed. “Never mind what I said. Just get out. I’m working.”
“Right. Lena told me you’re creating some sort of dog shampoo to decrease shedding.” He scrubbed his hand through his hair. “Look, I’m sorry for cheating on you all those times. I was young and stupid, but now I’m older, wiser, I guess. I’m ready to settle down. I want to be a good husband.”
The jar crashed to the floor and Bella Donna along with hundreds of shards of glass scattered in every direction.
“All those times?” The tips of Lena’s fingers tingled, and she forced herself to contain her magic, pushing the tidal wave of power down as far as she could manage. Her toes ached from magic pooling in her feet as she called on every last bit of self-control to keep from letting loose. All the angry energy churned with the rise of deep and denied heartbreak, from dreams turned to long-lost fantasies, from years of pent-up humiliation. “Just how many times were there?”
Ralph jumped backward when the miniature tornado Roma whipped up without conscious thought swirled past, sucking glass and Bella Donna into its vortex.