Magick Marked (The DarqRealm Series), page 1
Table of Contents
About the Author
Forced into a world of ancient magick and fabled creatures, vampire Rhowen Vasile has been honored with the prestigious appointment of executioner—a promotion she never wanted. Now she has two important responsibilities: execute criminal vampires and protect her race’s Kamen, one of five ancient relics said to harness all magick in the DarqRealm.
When the Kamen Rho swore to protect goes missing, she’s assigned the most important task of her life—join an interracial team with a magick mover, a werewolf and a shape shifter to recover what’s been lost. If she fails, the executioner will become the executed, and the magick held within the relics could be lost forever.
As other Kamens start to disappear and the teammates struggle to trust one another, Rho discovers a physical bond with a powerful magick mover that shouldn’t be possible. With the survival of the entire DarqRealm compromised, she barely has time to deal with her temperamental teammates, much less a forbidden attraction. Rho and her team must put everything aside to find what they seek—before the enemy finds it first.
Copyright © 2013 by Chauntelle Baughman. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: 2013
Edits by Rhonda Helm
Cover Design by Phatpuppy Creations and Bookish Brunette Designs
Formatting: Streetlight Graphics
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
Mohan watched the single drop of blood trickle from the blade in his hand, hitting the mirror lying on the ground. With a steady finger, he traced a pentagram in his blood. Candles flickered, casting light along the dim walls of his cell, flaring as he closed the circle around the star. Finally.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine years and twenty-seven days had passed since they’d put him in this godforsaken slice of hell. Being virtually castrated of his powers was worse than never having had power at all. The blue flame he called into his palms barely flickered now, nothing but mere potential. Those hands of his only served as the reminder of what he’d once been.
What he could become again.
And now, finally, he might be strong enough to escape this place. He’d bribed guards and prisoners alike to get only the simple things he surrounded himself with. A knife. A mirror. Candles. A strand of hair from the strongest of his captors. All of these things made necessary just to give him a few seconds of time with the one person who could help him escape.
A woman he pretended to love.
The time was near. He could feel it, even if he couldn’t see it. The planets and stars were aligning themselves for the new millennia, generating a short-lived fissure in the magick connecting the human world with Etherealis.
He’d done nothing but consider the possibility of his escape for the last thousand years. And he’d generated a theory.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he stared into the mirror. Surely she hadn’t forgotten their last agreement. They’d made it long ago, agreeing to meet at the next weakness in the barrier. She was the beacon, the light in the darkness of this place, which could take him home.
If this worked, he’d know the crack in the barrier was starting. They’d only have a matter of months to assemble those Kamens and get him out of here. Reuniting those five magickal stones was the key to regaining control over all the magick in the DarqRealm, and the sole ticket to his escape. He’d owned all the magick in the world once before. And while it wouldn’t be easy to find the five pieces that had been separated and hidden away, he would do it again. His lips curved up at the thought of leaving these four walls behind.
“Mohan?” The female voice sounded hollow and distant.
Excitement stirred in his stomach. “Rhyannon?”
“Mohan, is that you?”
“You remembered.” Time was short, his patience even shorter, but she was the key to the whole plan. He needed to keep her baited.
“I told you I would, my love,” she answered.
“How I have missed the sound of your voice. Now quickly—we haven’t much time.” The syrupy-sweet tone sounded foreign coming from his lips, but he would give her what she needed to hear.
“Have you found a way out?”
“What do you mean?”
Clank. The mirror fractured, a fissure sliding down the shiny surface and stopping halfway through the plate of glass. He’d worried this would happen. Shoddy second-rate materials.
He spoke quickly. “You must assemble the Kamens. I need you to gather them for me, including the one in your possession.”
“All of them?”
“Yes. Gather all five and then bring them here. You can try to send them to me through the ley lines.”
She paused. “How can I send them through the lines? There is no connection to Etherealis anymore.”
Tink. The crack widened.
“You know that’s not true! You talk to me now, and yet there is no physical connection between your dimension and mine. They were weak before and they are growing weaker now,” he said.
“Are you saying the weakness will grow?”
He shook his head, irritated with the incessant questions but forced his voice to remain gentle. “Yes, I believe it will. And at that weakest moment, you shall bring the Kamens.”
“And I shall free you of that place.”
Crunch. The lifeline he clung so desperately to was unraveling, only a hair’s breadth away from complete loss. Her promise hung like a heavy weight against his chest.
“We’re out of time,” he said quickly.
“And I love—”
Snap. The mirror broke completely. And what a snapshot of his life now, broken in two. The real man versus the performance artist.
At least he didn’t have to say those last few words out loud. Love was for the weak. Manipulation and patience, however? Those were gifts of the strong.
Rho twirled the small red stone between her fingers, keeping it hidden in the pocket of her black leather jacket. On direct order from the Lamia King, the leader of the vampire nation, she was to keep the relic well protected. Why it needed protecting, she hadn’t a clue. But she knew better than to ask.
Trudging along the rocky path, she glanced up at the large limestone home. Her boss, the prince, had given her this address, although she’d been here before. This was the storefront for the online site where she bought the spelled ink for her tattoos. Of all the places she’d scoped out, this was the only one she’d found that could make the stuff with any consistency.
She extended a hand to knock on the door.
Apparently, the family of magick movers living here were some of the most highly acclaimed in Texas, the eldest brother the strongest of the three. If anyone knew how to protect the stone, he would.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The sound of her knuckles against wood echoed in the still silence of the night, although the magick movers inside surely knew she’d arrived before she ever knocked. Only a fool would leave his home unwarded.
A man cracked the door open. “Can I help you?”
She cleared her throat. “I’m looking for Eldon Tradare.”
“We’re not open right now.”
Damn, she’d been afraid of this. The store they ran out of their home only opened during the daylight hours, and her outdoor jaunts were restricted to the night. But these were unique circumstances.
“Please, this is a special case,” she petitioned.
The man sighed and pulled the door completely open. “What do you want?”
“Are you Eldon Tradare?”
The man stepped forward and leaned against the doorjamb, folding his muscled arms across his chest and crossing one foot casually over the other. Shaggy chestnut hair framed his magnificent blue eyes, clearer than the summer sky. Well, from what she remembered of the blue skies she’d seen as a human. She hadn’t seen one in years.
“That depends on who’s asking,” the man answered.
Oh, great. A wise guy. “I’m Rhowen Vasile of the Vasile coven, but you can call me Rho. The Collective referred me. I’m here to ask a favor.”
“My sisters and I don’t do favors for vampires.”
Fucking fantastic. A wise guy and a pain in the ass. “I’ll pay you. Handsomely.”
She shook her head. “I don’t talk money before setting the terms and conditions. And it’s rude to leave me standing on the porch, by the way.”
His brows lifted at her obvious accusation, pausing for a moment before his eyes narrowed. “Fine. You can come inside. But pull any vampire tricks, and I’ll light you up with ley line fire.”
Given the grim look on his face, it wasn’t an empty threat. He stepped aside to allow her through the doorway, and she strode into the house. The man’s eyes never left her, his distrust in her kind evident. Not unusual. Vampires were a dangerous combination of stealth and predator. Hell, half the time she didn’t trust members of her own coven, and they were considered family.
A black cat darted across the entryway, and Rho took a quick step back.
“That’s just Abra. Ignore her,” Eldon said, unfazed as he drifted past her and toward a room to their right.
Swallowing her nervous energy, she nodded.
She’d been deathly allergic to cats as a human, so her knee-jerk reaction to the furry little devils had always been to run in the opposite direction. Of course, now she could cuddle with them up close and personal and never so much as sniffle. Still, old habits were hard to kick, and cats made her cringe. Especially creepy black ones.
She followed him silently through the entryway and into a small side office. He motioned toward a petite Victorian chair opposite a massive redwood desk. She sat down. Rather than take a seat, he stepped back through the doorway.
“I’ll be right back,” he said.
Rho nodded, and he closed the double doors. He certainly planned on warning his sisters of their new house guest. A small part of her wanted to be offended by his skittish behavior, but the other part knew his concern wasn’t without merit. Her nature was dangerous.
The small room held elaborate and expensive artwork showcased in gilded wood frames. Jade and ivory knick-knacks on a heavy wooden bookshelf. Vacuum marks still on the carpet. No dust in sight. Either they cleaned in here often, or they had a maid. And given the décor around this room alone, she’d bet they had money. Lots of it.
The door opened again and Eldon stepped inside. “Sorry about that. Wanted to tell my sisters you were here.”
As she’d suspected. So she couldn’t kill him without someone knowing about it. Smart move.
He stepped around to the opposite side of the desk and sat, leaning back in the rolling leather desk chair. “What can I do for you, Rho Vasile?”
Rho pulled the red rock from her pocket and placed it on the desk. “I need spells to protect this.”
His brows furrowed. “What is it?”
“Don’t know. And I couldn’t tell you if I did.” Well, the first part wasn’t entirely true. She knew it held some magick. Other than that, she hadn’t a clue.
“Then why do you need it protected?”
“Not your business.”
“And you came to me.” More of a statement than a question.
“Yes. My boss said the Collective recommended you, so I’m here to see what you can do to protect this relic.”
“What kind of protection are you looking for?”
“The best. The very, very best. No holds barred.” She’d been ordered to keep it safe at all costs. She took the instruction literally.
“That’ll cost you,” he warned.
She waved a hand in the air. “Irrelevant.”
He tilted his head to the side. “Really.” His crisp blue eyes were distrustful as he studied her from across the desk.
“So what can you offer?”
Meddling with magick without the proper training was akin to poking a sleeping lion. It might not kill you right away, but the more you dabbled, the better your odds of poofing yourself straight into the afterlife. This guy must have major firepower if the Collective was willing to recommend him, especially to a vampire.
He considered her, stroking the light stubble on his chin. Leaning forward, he placed both hands on the desk in front of him. “If you want to protect this rock, your best bet is to use a blood spell and a vocal spell. Very few magick movers can handle either of those spells, and very, very few can handle both.”
“I take it you can.”
“Then we have a deal.”
“Five thousand dollars, vampire.” He stared at her expectantly, as if he were waiting for her to balk at the price.
Rho tried not to smile. She’d expected to pay double that amount. “Done.”
Reaching into her jacket, she pulled out a thick stack of hundreds and laid the bundled bills on the desk between them. With a brow arched, she glanced up at him. “That should cover it.”
Eldon nodded and extended his hand without a word. Rho reached out and shook it, the silent accord struck. His hand was twice the size of her own, his flesh warm against her palm. There must be so much blood beneath the surface of that skin. So much heat.
Pulling her hand b
“Two weeks,” he answered.
Clearly she wasn’t going to get anything more out of him tonight. She watched as he plucked the rock off the desk and placed it in his pocket.
“Are we done here?” she asked.
Eldon nodded and stood up. “I’ll call you.”
“You don’t have my number.”
“I know how to reach you.”
Well, wasn’t that a little disconcerting. Rho stood and proceeded through the door Eldon held open, then followed him through the house toward the front door. “Thank you for seeing me after business hours.”
He nodded. “You’re welcome.” The door opened on its own.
“Have a nice evening,” she said over her shoulder, heading toward her black Porsche 911 Turbo.
The door slammed shut behind her. She rushed toward the car, skin crawling with the sensation of eyes watching her every move. It wasn’t until she left the property that she was alone again with the night.
It wasn’t murder if someone ordered you to do it. At least, that was what Rho kept telling herself.
Her stilettos pattered softly against the packed earth as she ventured through the passageways of the cave. Living below ground had taken some getting used to in the beginning, but now she didn’t mind so much. The natural shield kept them safely hidden in the shadows, the space far enough below the earth to remain at a constant seventy-two degrees regardless of the season.
She turned the rocky corner toward the courtroom and fingered the grips of the daggers stowed in the sheaths at her waist. She didn’t dare show up to court unprepared.