Magic Lost: A New Adult Urban Fantasy Novel (Touched By Magic: Dragon Book 3), page 1
Touched By Magic: Dragon Book 3
Also by Ashley Meira
Copyright © 2016 by Ashley Meira
All rights reserved.
This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and incidents described in this publication are used fictitiously or are entirely fictional.
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Created with Vellum
To my lovely readers. You made this book possible, and I will be forever grateful.
And thank you to my wonderful beta readers, who polished this book into what it is now.
Thank you, Anna, who deals with my insanity on an almost daily basis.
Sophia is finally getting control over her magic. Which is great, because if she takes any more time off work, she and her sister will be out on the street. Being a mercenary keeps her off the Council’s radar, so she really doesn’t want to get fired. Unless she wins the lottery.
Then, she does. In a sense. A big job comes her way, and the pay is enough to keep her afloat the rest of her life. Except her client is Liam Pierce, her boyfriend’s father and an important member of the Council that wants all Fireborn like her dead or in prison. The word “no” escapes her lips before he can even get the question out.
But the job hits close to home, and Sophia can’t bring herself to refuse. As long as she keeps her distance from her “boss,” things should be fine, but Sophia’s about to learn there’s more to this job that meets the eye…. And it could cost her everything.
They were getting close.
That was the only thought on my mind as I rushed through the streets of Paris, a herd of soulless vultures hot on my trail. Since the Seraphine debacle a few weeks ago, these things had been after me with a thirst that would make the most vicious of vampires pale.
Being a trained mercenary hadn’t made a difference. No matter where I went, there they were, lurking, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. True to form, their hungry faces greeted me as I rounded the corner. Acting fast, I slipped into a nearby patisserie, casting a longing look at the displayed pastries before rushing into the kitchen and out the back door.
Outraged cries followed after me. Fortunately, my hunters appeared oblivious to the nasty words being thrown my way. Whoever said French people were delicate romantics had clearly never interrupted them while they were garnishing their tarts.
The streets were dark for such a sunny day, but I took the shadows for the gift they were. Pulling my hood up, I headed in the opposite direction of my latest herd of followers. Resignation filled me as I realized it didn’t make much of a difference where I went. They were everywhere.
Vanilla coated my tongue, and if it weren’t for the soothing scent of pine that followed, I’d have thought it a byproduct of walking past yet another bakery. I entered the store and perused the goods, casting a furtive look through the clear glass for any sign of my partner.
That was the term I’d settled on for Adam. As comfortable as I’d grown calling him “my… Adam,” the awkward pause threw people off, and I couldn’t be bothered to wait for them to acclimate — or suffer through their prodding about what I meant. “Boyfriend” also felt awkward, if only for the smug looks he and all my friends gave me when I tried using it. Shame my stalkers weren’t present for that. They could’ve written an article about how I nearly killed everyone around me.
I pulled down my hood and smiled at the friendly woman behind the counter, though my eyes were fixed on the handsome man I’d found outside. His dark brown hair looked like warm chocolate under the Parisian sun, and I heard myself mumbling a request for a chocolate croissant in broken French.
Clear gray eyes met my tense brown ones, chasing my worries away for a moment. Despite the horde of voracious hunters dancing around, Adam didn’t seem bothered at all. Lights flashed from all sides as they surrounded him, their fingers moving at a breakneck pace.
I tore my gaze away before they could follow his line of sight to me. With a quick thanks to the clerk, I took my croissant and once again tried to blend in with the crowd. He claimed they didn’t bother him — much — and that he was sorry I had to go through this.
I didn’t know what he had to feel bad about. I was the one who’d come into his life. Wait. No, that wasn’t true. He’d come into mine, looking to hire me for a job. Something about my dry sarcasm and constant threats of death must have impressed him, because he decided I was worth sticking around for. I had no idea why, but after dealing with the magical community’s upper class the way I had, the answer should have been obvious.
Rich people were weird.
Why else would he stick around after I made it clear that I was no good? He was Adam freakin’ Pierce, heir to a seat on the Council of Magic and uber-billionaire extraordinaire. I wondered how he would react if I got him a set of business cards with that printed on them?
The chocolate chips coating the croissant melted against my tongue, and I took a moment to bask in culinary joy before letting the bad thoughts back in. Mainly, the Council of Magic. They’d been boogeymen in my life as long as the actual boogeyman in my life, and I was dating one of their future VIPs.
But they were on the back burner of my concerns right now. I made the mistake of looking around and caught the eye of one of them. I ducked my head back down, but I’d forgotten to replace my hood when I exited the bakery, and he recognized me instantly.
His greedy nature favored me as I took off down the cobblestone streets. He wanted the bounty all for himself, so the only sign he gave of my location was the constant flashing of his obnoxious implements as he chased after me.
I hurried down the path, stuffing my half-eaten croissant back in its paper bag. His kind weren’t allowed indoors, but I couldn’t be sure of my safety there, either. Paris wasn’t a magical city, but supernatural creatures did frequent it. There was a chance I’d be recognized.
Strong hands gripped my arm and pulled me
“I’m starting to get the hang of your moves,” he said, dusting himself off.
I bit back my guilt and told him, “You’re supposed to be some kind of genius. Shouldn’t you have figured out my moves a long time ago?”
Adam grinned, the action lighting up his handsome face. My heart fluttered at the sight, but I blamed it on the croissant. Nothing needed that much butter and chocolate. I paused and thought of my steady diet of mac and cheese, pizza, cake, pie, and coffee. Okay, maybe I wasn’t the best judge of what constituted as too much unhealthy stuff. Still, gotta give me points for being consistent with my eating habits.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
I rolled my eyes as the guilt welled back up. He was asking me if I was okay after I elbowed him. It was considerate crap like this that made me fall for him in the first place. And despite loving that about him, I refused to like it.
“Are you?” I asked, resisting the urge to run my hands down his torso. That was the last thing I needed to be caught doing. “Are they gone?”
“I’m fine. And probably not.” He wrapped an arm around my waist and led me toward the street, rolling his eyes at my constant head turning. “Sweetheart, don’t you think you’re overreacting? They’re just reporters.”
I glared at him. Reporters covered important things: wars, famine, the latest political scandal. These were not reporters. They were vultures trying to get exclusive pictures of Adam Pierce and his new girlfriend — a term he insisted on using despite my numerous threats to hurt him. I should’ve known. Threats of violence only turned him on.
My glare faded as I noticed the look in his eyes. I’d gotten good at that: reading Adam’s unseen expressions. The man could be a brick wall, so it was a talent that served me well. Like now, when it told me to hold my tongue because there was discomfort in his eyes. Discomfort and guilt, because those reporters were only after me because of him.
“I like my privacy,” I said, trying to rein in my dour expression. “But that’s not the point. The photographers aren’t the issue. It’s who might see their photos that worries me.”
Like Nicholas Ryder, the man who’d kidnapped me and my sister when we were children. The man who beat us and branded us, who forced us to kill people with our magic. The man we’d escaped from only to run into him again when he summoned Seraphine, a creature powerful enough to drown the entire world.
Or so I assumed. That’s what the stories said, though her silence these past few weeks has shown me otherwise. But if there was anything I’d learned recently, it was that things could turn belly-up and ruin your life in a split second. Like bumping into the monster you’d spent your whole life running from. Or being found by said monster because he saw your picture in Witch Mode next to this season’s hottest new trends.
“You’re right,” he said, planting a kiss on my forehead. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t need to be sorry.” I wrapped my arms around him, partly to be closer to him and partly to obscure my face from any cameras. “It’s not your fault I’m fucked up.”
He frowned. “You’re not fucked up.”
No, I was Fireborn, which was pretty much the same thing by today’s standards. Fireborns were mages descended from dragons — or phoenixes — that had the ability to naturally absorb any magic that touched them. The magic they absorbed boosted their power, allowing them to grow stronger when, say, hit by a rival mage or breaking into a magical safe.
Sounded harmless enough, right? Maybe a little concerning, but nothing worth going to war over. Except the magic absorption came with a high, a sense of pleasure so euphoric most Fireborns became hooked on the feeling. The more magic absorbed, the bigger the high. It made you feel invincible, like a god. It was the best feeling in the world — and the crash was the worst. A lot of Fireborns can’t stand it and go mad, doing whatever they can to get more magic. There were stories that Fireborn were horrible monsters who locked up innocent mages, absorbed their magic, then waited for that magic to replenish before sapping it again and again.
Those stories were told by the Council of Magic, who sent Inquisitors after the slightest hint of Fireborn presence. Inquisitors were tracker mages of the highest caliber and were ordered to arrest any suspected Fireborn. They were also given a green light to execute any Fireborn who resisted arrest or who they deemed too much of a threat. I wasn’t sure which was worse: getting killed for the sin of being born, or getting thrown in the Black Citadel, the magical world’s prison, doomed to spend a lifetime in shackles.
“I’ve managed to keep a lid on most of these reports,” Adam said as we continued walking. “What I can’t keep from the press, I have my hackers edit. The photos end up blurred, so the hottest rumor around is that I’m dating a possibly brunette blob.”
“Thank you.” I squeezed him, truly grateful for all he was doing. It would have been so easy for him to let me go, but he stuck by me. He’d accepted me despite everyone in his world claiming my kind were evil monsters, and now he was trying to protect me. How did I get so lucky? “Wait. Hackers?”
He remained quiet for a moment, avoiding my gaze. “Technical consultants.”
My brows furrowed. Of course a multinational company like Pierce Incorporated had hackers. It probably said “Technical Consultant” on their records, too. I decided not to look it in the mouth. He was helping me, and if those “consultants” ever decided to hack a couple million into my bank account, I wasn’t going to complain about that, either.
Not that I’d ever ask. With anyone else, I’d have brought it up as a joke, but Adam was liable to take me seriously. He wouldn’t steal money, but he’d give me his own. A few million was a drop in the bucket for him. Which was exactly why I’d never bring it up. My sister and I had been taking care of ourselves for the past eight years, and we were still capable of doing so now. Speaking of my sister….
“Were you able to find the shop?” I asked. “I didn’t have any luck.”
“I’ve known where it was the entire time, sweetheart.” He paused to smirk at my outraged glare. “I just wanted to take in the sights with you. This is the City of Love, after all.”
I didn’t let his mention of the L-word throw me off. “We spent a week in Nice, which is less than an hour away with your jet.”
Granted, we’d spent most of our time doing hardcore magic training. It’d gotten to the point where I thought I had enough power to destroy the world, but I mostly blamed that on Adam hitting me with so much magic. Spending my evenings hurling into his expensive toilets as my high died down reminded me to temper my expectations.
The only reason we were here now was because Fiona, my sister, begged me to pick her up some chocolate they only made in this one shop in the entire world. Which I thought was a lie, because the shop was magical, and almost all magical shops had an original store in a magical city. A store which, according to Adam and a very insistent Fiona, was now closed, leaving only the Paris branch.
I took a deep breath. “I’m going to assuage my anger by reminding myself that Ollie is going to make amazing desserts with the chocolate I’m bringing back.”
Ollie was one of my best friends, and the greatest cook I’d ever met. He owned a cafe back home. Once he heard I was going to Paris for Fiona, he’d placed his own order for me to fill.
“So, no punching?” Adam made a show of frowning and wiping his eyes.
“How about I smother you in your sleep, instead?”
He tapped his chin thoughtfully. “What will you be wearing when you smother me? And what will you be smothering me with? We’re here, by the way.”
I was so focused on glaring holes into his skull that I didn’t bother looking at the store as he guided me inside
My eyes roamed the displays, and I choked back a gasp. I’d definitely need to eat for free, because these prices were insane. Fiona had warned me things would be pricey — and more importantly, had promised to pay me back — but geez.
“My treat,” Adam whispered in my ear.
“No,” I said firmly. The lavish homes we stayed in after being flown around on his private jet were enough. Not to mention all the dinners he’d paid for. “Fiona and Ollie are paying me back.” And I was pretty sure I had one valid credit card left.
He shrugged. “Then I’m treating them. And you.”
Pursing my lips, I tried to think of a way to tell him no without being rude. Well, more rude than usual. It became clear to him pretty quickly how uncomfortable his wealth made me. We’d had a discussion about it that left me, and probably him, unsatisfied. I felt bad taking his money, and he felt bad not being able to do nice things for me because the cost made me feel bad. It was a vicious, though perfectly formed, cycle. I’d been trying to be more open to his kindness — and trying even harder not to call it “charity” — but it was a steep hill.
In this case, the treacherously tantalizing aroma of chocolate helped things along, and I found myself nodding with less discomfort than usual. Prying my eyes away from the macadamia pralines, I forced my attention to my phone, where a list of chocolate was waiting.
“I need to get everything for Ollie and Fiona first,” I said. “Pretty sure I’ll have forgotten my own name by the time I leave here.”
“I’ll do it,” he said, taking the phone from me. It wasn’t quite asking, but at least he’d given me a warning this time. Before I could mention that, he leaned over to whisper in my ear. “They give out samples.”
Other author's books:
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