Reprinted from The Love Spell by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group USA. Copyright (c) by Phyllis Curott.

The match splintered in two as I struck it against the narrow flint strip. “Shoot.” I threw it in the garbage pail. Okay, take a deep breath. Just relax. I felt the stiffness in my fingers, my arms, my heart. Slow down. Now, strike cleanly, just focus on the flame. A flare of yellow exploded. I exhaled. Here we go.

I lit the first candle. It was a large red pillar carved with my name and the word love. I lit the charcoal with the candle flame and quickly placed it in a bowl of sand, watched the sparks travel across the disc, smelled the release of sulfurous smoke. I sprinkled the burning charcoal with a spoonful of the incense I’d made—ground sandalwood, patchouli, dried red roses and dried orange peel; a pinch of red pepper to speed up its manifestation; and drops of iris, ambergris and musk oils. It rose in a smoky fragrant spiral.

I stared at the centerpiece of my spell, the amber-colored contents of a large Pyrex measuring cup. I’d started it hours ago, following the simple but important directions with apprehensive precision. I’d used my lawyer’s thoroughness in doing research and I’d read the warnings, but I was aware that I did not, and could not, know all the risks I was taking. Yohimbe bark, when properly prepared, was reputed to effect a profound shift in consciousness and to be highly arousing. And certain indigenous African cultures gave the potion to couples on their wedding night to heighten desire to ecstatic levels.

Although it was legal, it was potentially dangerous. The bark had to be soaked in the right amount of water for precisely the correct amount of time, and its toxins offset by various essential ingredients, without which it could be lethal. I didn’t know anyone who had used it. I stirred cautiously, watching the enigmatic clouds swirl and dissolve. Am I really going to drink it?

One last thing and I could begin . I opened my journal and pulled out the piece of blue card stock. I started down at the image—a young woman sat nestled in the arms of a king as they rode a beautiful, long-mane, great-hooved horse through a magical wood. The king’s face was gaunt yet handsome, with high cheekbones, and framed by long hair that fell to his shoulders. He wore a simple crown, carried a long sword and a spirit shield with a magical countenance.

I held the drawing to my heart. Somewhere, east of the sun and west of the moon, there was a king searching for me, and all I wanted was to rise securely within his strong arms as we journeyed through the enchanted forest of life. Tonight, I would call to him, and knowing that we were connected by love, somehow he would hear and he would find me.

I placed the picture beside the candle. It was almost time. I undressed and quickly cast my circle. “I call to my love with the powers of eloquent air,” I said, creating a circle with the musky incense. “I call to my love with the powers of passionate fire.” I encircled the altar with the burning red candle. “I call to my love with the powers of loving water,” I called out, sprinkling herbed droplets in an infinite circle of love. “I call to my love with the powers of fertile earth.” I cast a final circle sprinkling seeds, corn and salt.

I sat before my altar, grounded, centered, and began to feel my heart and mind open as I breathed deeply. I called to Goddesses of love and fertility, to Freya, Goddess of my Nordic ancestors, and to Hathor, Isis and Yemaya—Goddess of the land from where my herb of transformation had come. I called to Aphrodite and to Venus. I lifted the potion, holding it before the candle, watching the flame glowing within the enchantment infused waters. I poured the first portion into my chalice, lifted it to my lips and drank. It was bitter, but I drank it all.

I lay down on the couch. I breathed slowly and deeply, and then began to squeeze and release groups of muscles, moving slowly through my body from my toes to my head, relaxing. I continued to breathe deeply, moving into a light meditational state. What’s going to happen. I waited anxiously. I relaxed. I worried. I focused on my breathing. And then an insinuating lethargy began to creep along my limbs. Time seemed to distend, slowing to an infinitesimal pace. But my mind began to race. Maybe I didn’t drink enough. My limbs were leaden as I rose to pour and drink another dose.

I dropped back onto the bed. The room filled with glowing amber light, clouds swirling and dissolving within themselves, within me. Waves of agitated need began to surge through me; I stirred listlessly, but lassitude pinned me to the couch. I closed my eyes against the room’s growing brightness, felt my heart pounding as if it would explode.

You overshot yourself this time, kid. Simple sex magic was just not enough, no, first time out you had to add aphrodisiacal hallucinogens.

A tidal surge of desire swept over me but I could barely move, barely breathe. And then, from far beneath any expectation, something rose from unconscious depths, breaking through the membrane of my inhibitions. I felt as if some ancient sea dragon was squeezing me in its tightening coil. My simple intent of casting a love spell disappeared, dragged beneath the dark surface of longing. I gasped for breath, afraid of drowning. My chest compressed and I struggled, as Nonna’s warning came back to me, Love is dangerous. It can break your heart.

The pressure tightened and I gasped raggedly, feeling my heart skip beats. I tried not to panic. Don’t struggle to escape. The strain released slightly and I exhaled. Don’t be afraid, stop trying to control it. Just let go and feel. I stopped resisting, focused on my breathing and tried to relax each breath. Gradually the compression in my chest eased and slowly I gave myself to the pulsing. Work with the energy. I inhaled slowly, focusing my attention on the restless blaze that rippled through me like twisting snakes, like fire-breathing dragons.

I squeezed the muscles I had been training, and released them, squeezed and released, each pulsation deepening and moving the Neptunian arousal from between my legs into my belly. My hands moved slowly along phosphorescent skin, dragon and princess now one. Coils unfurled around my bound body; I moved as if underwater, feeling the soft curve of my breast against the palm of my hand, and the palm of my hand against the smooth skin of my breast. I am the source.

I breathed slowly and easily now, felt the sinuous oscillations as my finger swam to the sea change. In my other hand, I held the little drawing to my heart.

Come to me, please come to me, I whispered.

I ached, longing to feel his invisible mouth materialize against mine, to have his body submerge in mine. My longing ignited, and each breath pulled the fire from between my legs. My heartbeat pushed the heat through my body.

I stared at the picture, whispering over and over until the luster of starry arousal blazed uncontrollably, and I abandoned myself to the imploding nova and the spinning of sensation and the words that whirled around me. Come to me!

The spell was cast.

I floated in the reverberation. The light faded, the stars receded and I saw him, seated quietly upon his horse, emerging from the dark forest below me. The gentle sound of hooves upon the earth echoed my slowing heartbeat. I rode my breathe back into my body, into my apartment, into the world that I had, for a time, left.

The candle was flickering in a small red pool of wax. “Thank you,” I whispered as I blew it out. I wrapped myself in a blanket and fell into dreamless sleep, oblivious to the golden thread that was spinning from the center of my heart, unaware of the Cimmerian fiber winding out of a dark well of longing. Entwined and inevitable, it slid into an ancient labyrinth.

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