Today I am so pleased to welcome Lana Harper to Joyfully Jay. Lana has come to talk to us about her latest release, Payback’s a Witch. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Even by Avramov standards, Talia was a showstopper. A shining sweep of inky hair, creamy skin with a subtle glow that I suspected did not derive from any K-Beauty mask, the kind of impossibly plush lips that gave you notions. And nearly translucent gray eyes, with a sooty ring around each pale iris that made her look like a tundra wolf. A really, really sexy tundra wolf, if this was, in fact, a thing.
She was watching me now with those unnervingly lovely eyes, a hint of amusement coloring her features. As if she knew exactly what kind of effect she had on people.
“Emmeline,” I responded inanely, a little thrown off balance by the intensity of her gaze. “Uh, Emmy, I mean. Harlow.”
“Oh, I know who you are, Harlow.” She tipped her head to the side and smiled at me, a slow, lazy drawing back of those spectacular lips. Talia always did have a weapons-grade smile, along with a truly staggering amount of swagger. The sight of it made my knees feel a little giddy, even though I was already sitting down. Could a knee even feel giddy, I wondered.
I cleared my throat and took a sip of my drink, just to give myself something more socially acceptable to do than stare at her while my knees swooned under the bar.
“Good thing someone does,” I muttered, liquor searing down my throat. “Unlike certain other individuals.”
She snorted a little, rolling her eyes. “I don’t know that Gareth Blackmoore qualifies as an individual, per se, so much as an irredeemable asshat. Or dickwad. Choose your appendage or orifice at your leisure.”
I sputtered a laugh. “Fair point. Though to play devil’s advocate, at least I could see him when he walked in.”
She swayed her head from side to side, like, touché. Then she picked up her drink and slid over the stools between us to sit next to me, with a languorous and long-limbed grace like some kind of sexy tai chi. From this close, I could smell her perfume, creamy sweetness with hints of sandalwood and cocoa. It was surprisingly decadent for someone with so much edge, and only gave me further notions.
“Deflection glamours are, admittedly, a bit rude,” she said, sounding not even a little sorry. “But I wasn’t in the mood for making nice with anyone tonight. And even I would have felt like a monster for shooting down the saddest bachelorette in all the world when she went looking for a shoulder to cry on.”
I glanced over my own shoulder, to find that the bachelorette in question had abandoned her melted green mess of a cocktail, leaving behind only a wad of crumpled dollar bills pinned by a coaster.
“Ugh, do you think she left with the Blackmoores?” I asked with a shudder. “Because, wow, talk about choosing the wrong pool in which to drown your woes. I bet whichever one she winds up with doesn’t even bother to buy her brunch tomorrow.”
“In theory, I would agree. In practice?” Shrugging, she took a sip from the curly straw bobbing in her suspiciously tropical-looking drink, complete with an umbrella topper. “Haven’t we all been there?”
I stared at her, my mouth dropping open. “And when you say ‘we,’ you would be referring to . . . ?”
“Myself,” she said, lips rounding enticingly around her straw. “And, unless my emotional-carnage radar has gone totally awry, also you.”
I watched as she took another serene sip of her unlikely drink, my mind whirling. Talia and Gareth? This . . . did not compute.
In high school, while I dated in equal opportunity fashion, Talia had almost exclusively pursued girls. And the prettiest ones at that, lithe cheerleaders and ruddy-cheeked soccer players and the pert vice president of the student council. All of them hopelessly smitten with her, and invariably crushed when she eventually lost interest and wandered away to her next pursuit. It wasn’t that she was cruel so much as easily bored and completely frank about her disinterest in inhabiting any relationship beyond a month or two. Getting your heart broken by Talia Avramov, one way or another, was basically a Thistle High queer girl rite of passage, one for which you could really blame only yourself. The fact that she’d never seemed to notice I even existed had been my particular bane.
And of the few guys I remembered among her conquests, none had been of Gareth’s dick-swinging ilk.
“Trust me, I’m aware of the cognitive dissonance,” she said dryly, as if she’d read my mind. But though divination was among the Avramovs’ skills, they were much more into communing with the spirit world than prying into living people’s thoughts. “It was not my finest hour. But I was coming out of a pretty terrible breakup, and he was around, and he can be, you know. Oddly charming when he’s not too far up his own ass to make an effort.”
“I do know,” I said, mortified when my voice wavered a little. I set my jaw, absolutely refusing to cry over the memory of my own stupid, broken heart.
“So, it was because of him, then,” Talia said softly, still watching me with that hyperfocused intensity. “Why you never really came back after high school.”
“Partly, yeah. But it was . . . more complicated than that, too.” I paused to toss back the dregs of my drink, taken aback by just how much I suddenly wanted her to understand what had really happened.
The Witches of Eastwick meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.
Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one–in part because she hasn’t been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoor, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.
But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She’s determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden; and get back to her real life in Chicago.
On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov–an all-around badass adept in the arts of divination–who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoor. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden Thorn–unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Violet want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?
But most concerning of all: Why can’t she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?
Lana Harper is the author of four YA novels about modern-day witches and historical murderesses. Born in Serbia, she grew up in Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria before moving to the US, where she studied psychology and literature at Yale University, law at Boston University, and publishing at Emerson College. She recently moved to Chicago with her family.
Welcome, Lana, and thanks for sharing the excerpt. Best wishes for the success of Payback’s a Witch!