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Magic Fire: an Urban Fantasy Novel (Shifting Magic Book 1), page 1

 

Magic Fire: an Urban Fantasy Novel (Shifting Magic Book 1)
 


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Magic Fire: an Urban Fantasy Novel (Shifting Magic Book 1)


  Magic Fire

  Shifting Magic Series Book 1

  Catherine Vale

  Wildfire Press

  Website: http://www.CatherineVale.com

  Looking for free urban fantasy and paranormal romance books, as well as access to giveaways, contests and more? Subscribe here: www.ShifterFans.com

  Magic Fire

  Shifting Magic Series Book 1

  We aren’t going to run. We’re going to kick some serious Warlock ass.

  Rogue gargoyle attacks aren’t exactly something I deal with on a daily basis, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. So why is this stranger insisting that I need to come with him in order to stay alive? Who does this guy think he is?

  I’m a powerful fae with more magic in one finger than most have in their entire bodies. I sure as hell don’t need some cocky, arrogant dragon shifter protecting me, even if he is drop-dead gorgeous.

  Or so I thought…

  A murderous Warlock is on the rampage, and he won’t give up. Evil is reaching out for me, longing to bind me within its torturous grasp.

  The road to victory is marked with betrayal and deceit, some by the people I love the most. Monsters and mayhem are around every corner. If I’m not careful, I’m going to lose everything.

  My friends. My family. My dragon.

  My life.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Epilogue

  Thank You Note

  About The Author

  Other Books By Catherine Vale

  Copyright

  Chapter One

  All the dreamers want to make their way to New York City, chasing the bright lights, and the even brighter lives that they imagine are waiting for them, in the concrete jungle and grit. They flood in, year after year, ready to take the world by storm. I saw it all the time. I saw the hope, the wonder, the naïve anticipation that this was where they were supposed to be.

  And for some of them, they were right on the money. Most, however, would join the mass exodus back to wherever they hailed from, poor and broken, but not defeated. That’s what I admired so much about humans: the resilience of their spirit. They put up with all the bullshit a city like New York had to offer. It chewed them up and spit them out, but they kept on fighting. They fought for something more, something beyond the mundane that humanity was cursed with. They never gave up.

  Well. Most of them. The girl sobbing at the bus station outside my apartment building, surrounded by suitcases and blubbering on her cell phone to—I could only assume—her mom, sounded on the verge of giving up. I couldn’t blame her for that. She wanted out. I wanted out, too.

  Not forever, of course. Just for the weekend. There was nothing more oppressive to a fae, no matter how pure of blood, than a sprawling metropolis. We did better outside, far from the roar of traffic and shadows of skyscrapers, where we could wriggle our toes in the grass and breathe the clean, crisp air, the natural elements fueling our energies—and our gifts.

  Getting out of the city for a weekend was just good practice for health and happiness, honestly. It was why I never missed the bi-yearly gatherings with my sisters; not literal sisters, unfortunately. I was cursed with an older brother, and not a very good one at that. My fae sisters, however, were lifelong companions. The only people in this whole world who understood me completely—and with whom I could be myself entirely. Or at least most of them. There were a couple of fae that were barely tolerable at times, but you get those in every group, right?

  “Kaye!” I glanced up from my mountain of pillows and blankets to find one of my fae sisters, Catriona, beaming at me from under the tarp I’d mounted over my sleeping arrangements. A gentle breeze fluttered her near-white hair about, looking more like a halo, than anything stereotypically fae. She giggled. “Belladonna and her girls have just arrived! Come say hello!”

  I bit my lip to hold back an embarrassing squeal. Sisters had been arriving all evening, and while I wasn’t the first to show up that Friday night, my ridiculous need to be early for everything had slotted me amongst the earliest arrivals of the weekend.

  It was a twice-yearly event. Fae sisters from all over flocked to our sacred gathering spot within the Appalachians, right on the border of New York and Connecticut. We came to reconnect and rejuvenate our spirits. Nothing was more tiring for a supernatural than being constantly surrounded by humans. Although I made a living working with the most mundane species in the world, I couldn’t deny the way they drained me. If I didn’t have a chance to meet with my sisters a couple times a year and recharge my batteries, I’d lose my mind.

  So, we did the camping thing as a way to get back to nature. Since I’d parked my car in its usual spot, my feet hadn’t seen the insides of shoes and my dark red waves rolled freely down my back. I had trekked all the way up to our sacred gathering spot in blissful silence, pausing every so often to let the sun wash over me, to absorb the energies from the wind, and to listen to the creatures around me—a far cry from the ceaseless honking cabs, screaming people and wailing sirens I had to deal with back in the city.

  We kept our camp hidden from humans—and any other snoops, supernatural or otherwise—with magic, using white gemstones carefully placed across the landscape to channel our wards. Within them, we were free to just be, to exist as we were meant to exist. No magic was off-limits. No more holding back. No more pretending or hiding or downplaying our abilities.

  I took Catriona’s outstretched hand, and we skipped off together, away from my nest of comfort I would undoubtedly fall into later tonight, drunk on spirits and the love of my sisters. As we hurried through the crowd of hugging, laughing, and chattering fairies, I couldn’t help but feel like the dark cloud zooming through a field of sweet pastel flowers. There were stereotypes for a reason, and most of the fae I knew bore the lightness of our kind in their outer appearances. I, meanwhile, tended to wear primarily black clothing that fit snugly around what some might consider generous curves—generous for modern society’s ridiculous expectations of women’s weight, that is. My hair, while red, was closer to the deep tone of coagulated blood, rather than fire, and I liked it that way. I had nothing against my sisters embracing the light, but when it came to personal style, I was dark as the night, able to navigate the world in killer heels with equal ease.

  All the while wishing I was barefoot, of course.

  Outsiders may have struggled to grasp how we fit so many bodies on a single campsite, but within our wards, the lands were limitless. Magic was a beautiful thing. It was sad, really, that the laws of this world forbid humans from indulging in it. Any supernatural who was caught willingly sharing their gifts was immediately considered a traitor to their kind. We took all the precautions to make sure no one accidentally stumbled upon our gatherings, and thankfully, the use of wards made it easy. When I glanced up, I could see the shimmer of magic shielding us from the rest of the world. But before that, we left damaged trails in our wake along the mountainside, deterring hikers from taking that path. We erected temporary signs citing prosecution for trespassing on private property. Thus far, we hadn’t had a human casualty yet.

  We all wanted to keep it that way.

  Catriona dragged me through the sea o
f bodies until suddenly I was throwing myself on Belladonna, making high-pitched, girlish sounds I would never dare utter on a regular day. Today, I just couldn’t help myself. Seeing my sisters was life giving. It saved me. It saved us all.

  “Kaye, my sweet,” Belladonna cooed in my ear, squeezing hard and stroking my hair. “Always my darkest fairy. I’ve missed you!”

  I hugged hard in return, and when we broke apart, our eyes met with shimmering tears in them. My emeralds bore into her honey-browns, adoring her with every fiber of my being.

  “I’ve missed you too,” I assured her, beaming so hard my cheeks ached. “We should try to do this more than once a year, Miss Lady, if you can fit me in your bat-shit crazy schedule, that is.”

  “Oh, honey, I always have time for you!” She pinched my cheek affectionately.

  One of the eldest of our sisters, Belladonna traveled the world in a jetsetter lifestyle. She wore lavish clothes and sparkly baubles, yet she was like the den mother when we gathered. Her daughters, Lily and Rose, were shaping up to follow nicely in their mother’s footsteps.

  I moved onto them next, kissing Lily’s milky white cheek and Rose’s dusty brown temple. Just a touch revitalized me. We could all feel it. The energy pulsing between us, around us, through us.

  “I’ve been absolutely dying for this weekend,” Rose gushed, linking her arm around mine as Lily and Catriona greeted one another. “I don’t know what it is about the seasons changing, but I’ve just about given up on the idea of ever meeting a guy who isn’t just interested in sex.”

  “Something in the summer air makes them dumb as bricks and horny as dogs,” Lily agreed with a groan. One of the other reasons we all yearned for these retreats was to escape the men in our lives, human and otherwise. It wasn’t their fault, of course, that they pursued us so relentlessly. Fairies attracted men like moths to a flame. Even supernaturals, who had a higher resistance to most magical elements in this world, put us on some ridiculous pedestal. When you’re young, it can be flattering. For a year or two, anyway. Then it just gets exhausting. I hadn’t dated, courted, or fucked freely in years, mostly because I couldn’t handle a man’s insane attachment to me after just a couple of dates.

  And because I’d been cut deep, one too many times. I swallowed down a lump in my throat at the thought, pushing the memories aside.

  “I think this is going to be our best gathering yet,” Catriona professed, as I threw an arm around Lily’s shoulder, dragging her into the conversation with a laugh. Rose and Lily lived up to their names. The wild-child romantic persona fell to Rose with her sumptuous lips and come-hither stare. Lily, meanwhile, was soft and sweet, untouchable and readily wilted if improperly cared for. I loved them both with all my heart. I loved all my sisters, naturally, but there were varying degrees to my affection. The four around me were my nearest and dearest.

  “We say that every year,” Rose replied with a chuckle. “What makes you think this one will be any different?”

  Catriona wiggled her dark brows, stark opposite to her white hair, and produced a bottle of fae-brewed wine from her slouchy shoulder bag. We all cheered as she shook it, little flecks of what looked like starlight, dancing inside the bottle. Normally we all drank human-made wine: just as delicious, but not as potent.

  “Because good ol’ Spirits of the Spry is getting the party started before sundown this time!” Catriona exclaimed, and much to my surprise, the entire gathering joined in on our cheering. “Drink up, ladies!”

  I accepted the bottle after Catriona’s first sip, taking a swig of the floral-scented liquor. I closed my eyes as Rose took the bottle next, taking a moment to truly feel the liquid trickle down my throat. Beautiful. Images of a spring day flashed across my mind—flowers and babbling brooks, and leaves rustling in a cool easterly wind. Already the tips of my fingers tingled, a sip of fae-wine comparable to three full glasses of human-made wine.

  And as we took turns sipping from the bottle, I knew that even if this wasn’t the best gathering we sisters had ever had, it was definitely going to be the rowdiest.

  * * *

  I awoke from a blissful, fae-wine induced slumber to the sound of a deep groan. Not just any groan, mind you. As my eyelashes fluttered, and I inhaled a breath of cool mountain air, the sound reverberated in my bones. A baritone rumble that befitted a god, one that could rattle the mountain range from here to the very ends of the Earth, and back again. When sleep finally left me, I shot up with a sharp gasp, chest heaving as I scanned the area.

  Nothing. Catriona lay peacefully beside me, mouth open and drool dribbling onto one of my many, many pillows. Bless the powers that be for magic: there was no way I could have hauled all this crap up here otherwise. One bottomless bag spell and I had a weekend’s worth of clothes, pillows, blankets, and booze ready to go.

  Had I dreamed the sound? My dreams had been fractured, as they always were. As I blinked the crusty bits out of my eyes, I recalled running, but I couldn’t be certain if it was toward something, or away. Shaking my head, I scanned the campsite. Dozens of similar set-ups to mine were spread out over the grounds, full of sleeping fairies, drunk and satisfied after a night of feasting, dancing, and singing around the fire. As I sat up taller, I spied a few of my sisters still awake, sitting by the fire. They spoke in low, harmonious voices. Not one seemed distressed by the sound that echoed through my mind.

  I flopped back, harder than I meant to, and rubbed my forehead, groaning. It must have been a dream. It shouldn’t surprise me, not after a night of drinking fae-wine.

  And yet it happened again. This time I felt the vibrations on the ground, the faint quiver cutting across the earth below and sending a flutter of something through me. I frowned. The vibration… It was like driving over train tracks with your car, taking it just a little too fast and feeling the pleasurable tickle between your thighs.

  There one second, gone the next. In a blink of an eye, the groan, now more like a long, lengthy sigh, was gone. As I looked around the sleepy campsite, over the scattered bodies wrapped in silks and homemade quilts, with tarps and awnings strung up magically, attached to the wards and the trees so no sister was blocked out, I scrutinized harder. In the distance, just beyond the fire, it looked as though something had kicked the dirt off.

  “Fuck it,” I muttered. “This isn’t a dream.”

  After grabbing a bathrobe—black, naturally—and cinching the puffy fat belt around my waist, I hesitated, a hand hovering over Catriona. Should I wake her for what could be as silly as me straddling the lines somewhere between dreaming and awake? She’d had a lot more wine than I had, I recalled with a wry grin. I’d probably get a face full of light, followed by mumbled threats of disfigurement if I woke her now, only a few hours after we collapsed onto my pillow fort in a fit of giggles.

  Smirking, I padded away and carefully stepped around the others scattered around me. Careful not to step on toes or fingers or hair, I moved with fae speed—a gift, fleet-footedness and nimble grace—so as not to disturb anyone. My sisters around the fire didn’t even look up as I passed, their senses so dulled by wine that they probably wouldn’t notice a semi-truck barreling through.

  The dust had fluttered at the edge of the camp, between two huge mounds of slate. I pressed a palm to it, trying to feel the vibrations again. Faint, but still present. Eyebrows knitted, I pushed forward, slipping between the stones and following the path higher up the mountainside. I stayed within the wards, of course. Even if it was something more sinister than a too-real dream, it wouldn’t be able to pass through our protection charms.

  When the path stopped going horizontal and started going vertical, I tightened my bathrobe and took to the climb. Bare feet made for easy climbing, and before I knew it I found myself on a plateau of sorts—right at the mouth of a cave. I glanced over my shoulder, noting the flickering flames of our bonfire in the distance, along with the multi-colored coverings scattered all around it.

  Had this cave always been here? We had
been coming to this exact spot for years. No one had ever mentioned a cave before, and I swore we had explored every inch of this mountain range at least twice by now.

  The hairs on the nape of my neck rose when I took a step toward the dark opening. A warning. Turn back. Get out.

  “Me and my fucking curiosity,” I grumbled. One day, it was going to get me into serious trouble.

  Slowly, with practiced purpose, I raised both hands, fingers splayed and palms out, and drew in a deep breath. It came naturally to me now, Illumination. As simple as turning on a light—of any color I chose, at that. When I was a kid, however, trying to get just the tip of my pinky to light up was a challenge, one I’d shed many tears over. Fae were born with a vast wealth of power, but it took time to access it. You had to work for your gifts, apparently.

  Nobody ever just opened their mouth and belted a perfect opera aria, I suppose.

  I chose a soft, warm yellow light for guidance, in no mood to squint against something obnoxiously bright. Moving on the tips of my toes, I crept along in near silence, sensing now that it wasn’t just a noise that had drawn me here, but a presence—one that must have tugged at my subconscious, because I didn’t realize it until I was almost totally down the rabbit hole, that I wasn’t alone.

  Every so often I’d pause, listening, feeling out into the natural world. Yup. There was definitely something here: something inside our wards. Perfect. The little voice at the back of my head insisted that I go back for help, but I pushed forward stubbornly. For the most part, it was just a tunnel into the mountain. Dirty. A little damp. But the air wasn’t stale; rather, it had life to it, even as I edged farther from the mouth of the cave.

 
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