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Magic, New Mexico: Tainted Magic (Kindle Worlds Novella), page 1

 

Magic, New Mexico: Tainted Magic (Kindle Worlds Novella)
 


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Magic, New Mexico: Tainted Magic (Kindle Worlds Novella)


  Text copyright ©2017 by the Author.

  This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by S.E. Smith. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Magic, New Mexico remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of S.E. Smith, or their affiliates or licensors.

  For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

  Tainted Magic

  Sabine Priestley

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Also by Sabine Priestley

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  Thank you to my amazing editors, Laurel Kriegler and Victoria Baksa. You women are the voices in my head.

  A shout out to Melody Simmons for the awesome cover!

  Finally, and most importantly, to S.E. Smith for inviting me to play in her world.

  Chapter 1

  Arabella Visante gazed over the Haven river. On the far side, Elves were just visible in the tree tops. They appeared to be building structures high in the boughs. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she squinted at the foliage on the opposite bank. If she wasn’t mistaken, those purple orbs growing like weeds beneath the trees were Burdock. The roots would provide relief for old Jamison’s arthritis. The Inn’s handyman hadn’t mentioned it, but his hands had the telltale inflammation.

  The sun warmed her skin and the bluff was rife with wildlife. It was a delightful change from the bustle of New York, where she’d spent the past six months. Before that it was a stint in London.

  This was her first exposure to the less-developed side of America, and New Mexico was something different. There was nothing like it in the UK.

  Late September, winter was around the corner and closing in fast. She hoped it wasn’t as biting as New York had been. Then again, she could well imagine what this place would look like with a blanket of snow. And smell like and sound like. Winter slowed life and had a way of muting reality. Even the elements paused to breathe.

  “You don’t want to go over there.” A deep rumble of a voice slid over her from behind.

  She turned to face a pillar of a man with long wavy hair as black as her own. “Why not? It’s lovely.”

  “Sugar, lovely is not a word to describe the elves.” Something about his tone ricocheted inside her. His eyes were gray with flecks of silver light as he eyed the blue ribbon wrapped around the fingerless sleeve she wore. A symbol of her position in the Edinburgh Starfall coven.

  “Actually, it’s a perfect word for them. They’re so graceful, beautiful.”

  His gaze lingered on her lips as he toyed with a large ring on the index finger of his right hand. A Yin Yang symbol, only, instead of the usual black and white, it was black and blood red.

  “You don’t know elves,” he said. A hint of a smile played across sensual lips.

  She crossed her arms, vexed. “We've had a healthy trade with them for generations.” Granted, they didn’t socialize much. Truth told, until she started her travels, she hadn’t dealt much with anything other than witches. There had been several humans at University in Glasgow, but most didn’t know about paranormals.

  Tanned and muscled arms crossed around the man’s chest and his head tilted to the side as he took her in with one raised eyebrow.

  She couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to have those arms wrapped around her. He might be fun to tangle with; humans were generally harmless, and there was some tantalizing chemistry between them.

  “Heard you’re our new healer.” His voice certainly had an effect on her. There was no telling what his touch could do.

  “For the time being. As long as I’m here.” He was devilishly handsome and no doubt knew it.

  “You’re not going to get much healing work around here.” He stepped closer, well into her personal space. He smelled of pure male, a musky undertone beneath a hint of sweat. She knew how chemistry worked with humans. It was basic. She could create a crippling love potion with just a speck of their DNA, but she’d never experienced an organic manifestation herself until now.

  She flashed him a flirty grin. “I don’t need much. I have other ways of keeping busy.”

  “That right? Like what?” His eyes roamed her face, lingering on her lips.

  The energy between them crackled. Yes, he could be fun.

  “Office work?” He offered. “Typing, maybe?”

  She bit back a sharp retort. She might have to bring this human down a notch. “Are you offering additional work?”

  “Got a thriving business. I’m always looking for help.”

  “I’m certain I could be of assistance.” She was enjoying the verbal foreplay.

  “I bet you could.” His phone buzzed before he could say more. “Dante.”

  Dante. A strong name. Turning back to the river, she couldn’t help but listen in. It was a woman and he knew her well. There was deep attachment there, but animosity as well. Wife?

  She tried to reign in the energy snapping through her.

  He finished the call without a goodbye. They weren’t on overly-friendly terms. Still, if he was married, it was end game. Best to play it safe.

  “You’re staying at the Den, right?” Dante asked.

  As far as she knew, Haven’s Den was the only place to stay in Haven. “Yes.”

  He reached into his back pocket and retrieved a card from his wallet. He managed to brush her fingers before letting go, sending little sparks up her arm.

  Dante Liekos. CEO Liekos Enterprises. “My offices are in the annex next to the Inn. Swing by. I’ll let Maggie know to expect you. She’ll hook you up with something not too difficult.”

  Oh yes, this human needed some educating. “I’m sure we’ll find something suitable.” Two weeks and she’d have his business performing at levels he’d never seen before, regardless of what that business was.

  He nodded and left without formally introducing himself. He had the unmistakable strut of an alpha. Human males and Warlocks both wore alpha like a finely-tailored suit, and he was no exception.

  That physical attraction stuff was pretty heady.

  Tempting as it was to cross the river for the Burdock, she went back to the Den instead. Best to heed the warning until she had the full picture.

  The Inn was a beautiful place constructed of wood and brick. A quarter of the third floor was an open deck that faced the river and the Elven lands beyond.

  What on earth was going on between them? In the distance, the neigh of a horse echoed through the trees. This would be fantastic country to explore, by both hiking and horseback.

  Yes, Haven was a good choice after more than a year in big cities. She was looking forward to the evenings. The stars would undoubtedly be brilliant. And the bats. Fantastic colonies of the sensory-rich creatures lived in nearby caves.

  She crossed the well-groomed lawn toward the stairs. The annex Dante had mentioned was just visible to the left of the Inn. It was a large facility that also sported a deck on the third floor. Judging by the furniture, it was an apartment.

  She wondered what business he was running in the middle of nowhere.

  Climbing the steps, she nearly tripped over a furry white animal as it darted across the lower patio. It was a cub of some kind. Following on its heels was a baby duck. Also white. Arabella laughed at the sight. She sensed intel
ligence in those little minds.

  “Lido! Jinx! Come back here right now!” The Den’s owner, Livy stood in an open sliding glass doorway with her hands on her ample hips. “I know where the both of you live,” she called after them. She turned to go, but stopped when she caught sight of Arabella. “Oh, hello, dear.”

  “Hi, Livy.”

  A flurry of activity off to their right announced the return of the duck and cub. This time the duck was in the lead, flapping its wings furiously and quacking up a storm.

  “You rascals stay out of my kitchen,” Livy called after them. A spark of magic shot out from the portly woman.

  It surprised Arabella.

  Livy must have noticed her quizzical look. “Something wrong?”

  “Not wrong. I just assumed you were human.”

  She let out a laugh that sounded more like a bark. “No thank you. And neither are you, am I right?”

  “Correct. I’m a witch.” She reflexively lowered her voice. She’d only met one other para the whole time in New York.

  “No need to whisper. Folks around here are mostly in the know. Magic is full of us, and that’s just down the road.”

  “Magic?”

  “It’s a town. Lots of different beings hang out there, not all of them from this planet either. Thought you knew that. Figured that’s why you came.”

  “No. I simply wanted to experience something different. I came from New York and London prior to here.”

  “Now there’s a big change if ever there was one. I’ve never been myself. I’m happy where I am, if you know what I mean.”

  “Of course. If you don’t mind my asking, what exactly are you?”

  “Let’s see how long it takes you to puzzle that one out, shall we?” Her wrinkled eyes shone with a sparkle. “You hungry? I got some cookies cooling. Chocolate chip. My own recipe. Those two make a game of seeing how many they can steal before mealtime.”

  “I’d love one. I assume the young ones aren’t what they appear? I sensed intelligence.”

  “They’re shifters. Haven’t shifted yet, though. Should do so any day now. Can’t wait to see their human form.”

  “That’s exciting. What kind of cub is that?”

  “Snow leopard. Judging by the looks of his parents, he’s going to be a heartbreaker. Not so sure about Lido. His ma is pretty enough, but his dad is something of a mystery. Never seen his human form. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

  Arabella followed her through a dining area and into a large kitchen. The smell of cookies mixed with another, richer aroma.

  “Stew?”

  “You bet. Dinner tonight if you’re interested.”

  The elements of the aroma rippled through Arabella before identifying on her tongue. “Carrots, Parsnip—I like parsnip—onion, potato, parsley, beef and…red wine?”

  “You witches and your noses. Ears too. No giving away my recipes now.” Livy grabbed a small plate and loaded it with three moist, warm cookies.

  Arabella took a bite and moaned. “Oh, that’s brilliant. Cinnamon, nutmeg and…I don’t know? Something else.”

  Livy let out another bark-laugh. “And I’m not telling.”

  The sound of boots on flagstone echoed down the hall. A moment later Dante entered, carrying the cub. Behind him, another even taller and burlier man followed stroking the duck in his arms.

  “Heard you had sugar pills,” Dante said, winking at Arabella.

  “Those two don’t need any more. They already stole half the first batch,” Livy admonished.

  Dante looked from the cub to the duck. “That true?” He laughed a moment later. “You’re right. You’re only kids once.” He gave Livy a pleading look that could cajole blood out of a vampire.

  “Oh, for goodness sake.” She made a scene of putting more cookies on a plate and set it on the floor.

  The children wiggled out of the men’s holds and scampered over.

  The taller man extended his hand to Arabella. “Hunter Filtiarn.”

  Livy slapped his hand away. “She don’t need that handshake business. She’s a witch.”

  “A witch?” Dante’s surprise was apparent. “I missed that.”

  If he was having half the problem she was in his presence, she could understand why. But did that mean…“Are you human?”

  “Human?” The other male burst out laughing. “She thinks you’re human.” He grabbed a handful of cookies and headed for the door.

  “I’m Arabella,” she called out after him. No idea why, but she liked the man.

  Irritation flashed across Dante’s face. “You thought I was human?”

  Arabella shrugged. “I thought you both were.”

  “Ha. I’ll make sure to tell Hunter that.”

  “I heard it.” Hunter’s voice echoed from down the hall. “She’s only saying that to make you feel better.”

  Dante grumbled something under his breath.

  “I didn’t realize I was in a paranormal hot spot,” Arabella said. “So what are you two?” She gestured to the hallway. They were the same, whatever it was. Not warlock, unfortunately. She would have picked up on that right away. He was definitely off limits now.

  “One hundred percent wolf, sugar.” Dante said it as though he couldn’t believe she hadn’t known. “Didn’t get a chance to properly introduce myself. I’m Dante.”

  “Arabella.” She nodded her greeting. Wolf. That explained his animalistic aura and that musky undertone. “Nice to meet you.” She knelt down by the young ones. “And this is Jinx and Lido. Saw Livy yelling at you two earlier.”

  They’d finished the plate and sat watching her.

  “Hello.” Jinx said telepathically.

  “Pretty witchy,” Lido added.

  “Aw. Can I pet you?”

  The cub was scampering up the tops of her thighs in an instant. Lido flapped his wings, but couldn’t get a foot hold.

  “Oy. Watch those daggers of yours, Jinx.” Livy warned.

  “He’s okay.” She let him lick her cheek. He smelled like puppy and cookie, and his fur was silkily.

  Lido quacked, his little shoulders dropping.

  “Sorry, Lido.” She reached over and stroked from his head to his tail feathers. “You’re so soft.”

  He rubbed his head against her arm and leaned into her. “I think I found some new friends.” She looked up to find Dante gone and Livy smiling down at them.

  “So, you going to be staying a while then?”

  “At least a few months,” she said getting back to her feet.

  “That’s longer than most. Tourists come to see the caves and wildlife mostly. Area 52, of course. The usual. Be nice having another woman around. I’ll say one thing. You sure threw Dante a curveball.”

  “I believe that was mutual.” She wanted to ask if he was married, but that wasn’t relevant any longer. She wasn’t going to tangle with a wolf shifter.

  “What’s the story with Hunter?”

  “He’s kind of the de-facto sheriff hereabouts. Keeps those elves at bay.”

  Again with the elves. She wanted to ask, but her gut told her it was best to observe. Ask too many questions and she’d get a tainted version. Best to read everyone’s actions.

  Jinx nudged her leg and tilted his head toward the cookie plate. She grabbed two more while Livy was at the sink, her back to them.

  “I’ll see you later then,” she said and headed out.

  “Enjoy the cookies you little hooligans.”

  Dante stomped across the lawn behind the Inn. His mood was black and his wolf pissed off. He’d almost made it to the annex when Hunter appeared at his side.

  “Human,” he laughed.

  “Don’t go there, Hunter.”

  “Why? What are you going to do about it?”

  He was on the verge of shifting and striking out when reason intervened.

  Hunter held his gaze with the eyes of his wolf. “You nearly went for it. Almost found those balls of yours.”

  “Fuck
you.”

  Hunter stopped with a growl low in his chest. “Someday you will treat me like the equal that I am.”

  Dante spun. “This is not that day and I am not your equal. I never was and I never will be.”

  “My status is gone.”

  “Your status was stolen.” Dante scanned their surroundings with his wolf’s senses, ensuring their privacy. “You will always be my Alpha.”

  “I’d rather be your friend.” Hunter shifted mid-turn, his shredded clothes trailing behind the massive silver wolf as he lunged across the lawn and into the forest.

  “Damn it.” The day was headed for the shithouse. He turned and slammed the door behind him.

  Maggie sat at her desk, but she knew better than to disturb him in a mood like this.

  “Take the rest of the day off,” he said, striding across the lobby.

  “It’s only four,” she said, grabbing her purse. “But if you insist.”

  He had to smile. She was an outstanding employee, but never missed an opportunity to skip out early.

  His office was at the end of the hall with access to a small patio overlooking the lawns.

  Hunter had the office on the floor above. He liked to keep the elves in sight.

  The entire third floor was his apartment. He poured three fingers of bourbon and opened the sliders. The sun was dipping and there was hint of cool in the air. Winter was coming early this year; he felt it in his bones.

  The sound of the river drifted over the lawn. What the hell had happened with little Miss Arabella? She’d been telling the truth when she said she thought he was human. In what fucked-up world did that happen?

  The front door opened and closed with a snick. He caught her scent a moment later. “Speak of the devil.” He went back to the lobby.

  Arabella stood looking at the photos on the wall. He was proud of those.

  “Can I help you?” He wanted to. Wanted to help her come in a shuddering, body wracking, orgasm. Blood rushed to his cock at the thought.

 
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