Reclaiming The Magic

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 7

Vampire society knows him as the Thirteenth Elder first vampire in creation, the mages know him as an immortal high sorcerer and the Keeper of the Prophecy.

Delgarias Dullahan only cares about the woman who knew him simply as "Del." Two thousand years ago, he gambled his soul for the power to marry Nikkita Leonine...and lost. Now he is finally on her trail.

But Del is not the only one searching for the missing luminite princess, and whoever finds her first will have the upper hand in the battle against the greatest evil ever known.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

 

Delgarias Dullahan, faelin high sorcerer, and the first vampire in creation, entered the heart of the motherhouse in Amsterdam, where the Elders convened. As the Thirteenth Elder, he had final say over the rulings of the Council of the Twelve.

Ten of the dozen vampires tasked with governing all the vampires on Earth were seated at the circular table in the meeting chamber. Ian, the Lord Vampire of London, sat perfectly composed, his hands folded on the table, only the furrowing of his brow and an agitated glimmer in his silver eyes revealing his concern with the situation at hand.

Marcus, the Lord of Rome, didn’t bother hiding his agitation, he tapped his pen across the polished marble table in an irritating staccato, garnering glares from the Lords of Tokyo and New York.

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After taking his seat at ornately carved chair at the head of the table, Delgarias surveyed the other six Elders. Lord Vampires from Lima, Munich, Perth, and Ulsan regarded him with expectant expressions. The Lords of Bejing and Calgary had already sent their apologies, unable to make it as such notice.

Mixed impatience and worry roiled through Delgarias’s being as he waited to learn why they’d requested his presence this night. The Elders feared him, so they rarely called upon him to participate in their affairs. Del prayed the matter didn’t involve their creator, Mephistopheles, who had once more surfaced and attacked Wurrakia only three months ago. And on Earth, the would-be god was now reaching out to his once-banished creations, luring them to join his infernal army.

Yes, news of Mephistopheles would be very bad. They weren’t ready for him. Pieces of the Prophecy had yet to fall in place.

Delgarias cleared his throat and addressed the Elders. “What need have you of me, my brothers and sisters?”

Jodie, the Lord of Perth scrunched up her nose. “More prisoners were delivered to us from the vigilante rogue.”

Delgarias allowed a sigh of vexation to escape. “Please tell me they didn’t take more cult members.”

The Order of Eternal Night worshipped Mephistopheles and were experiencing a resurgence of the likes none had ever seen, with the Evil One’s recruiting. Delgarias had tasked some of his most trusted vampires to infiltrate the cult and gain knowledge of their enemy’s movements.

If this rogue persisted in arresting cultists, all of Delgarias’s plans could be upended.

“I’m afraid so,” Jodie said.

Ian cut in, “At least they were dangerous criminals, and better off being eliminated from our world.”

Marcus waved a dismissive hand. “They’re always criminals, Ian. But that does not give this rogue the right to take the law into her own hands. The Lord Vampire of El Paso should be the one to handle these things.”

“But he didn’t,” Neko, the Lord of Tokyo said softly.

Carlos, the Lord of Lima curled his knuckles beneath his chin and leaned forward. “Interesting that though the rogue now seems to be targeting the Order of Eternal Night, she still holds to her pattern of apprehending cultists who have violated our most sacred laws. These ones were kidnapping children and selling them to human sex traffickers.”

Delgarias shuddered with revulsion before a realization struck him. “Wait, did you say these cultists were taken from El Paso?”

“Yes.”

“How in the hell did the rogue manage to haul three vampires all the way here?”

Ian ran a hand through his long black hair. “I have no idea, but one has to admit that it is an impressive feat.”

“The portals.” Delgarias blurted, feeling foolish that the answer hadn’t come to him immediately. It was the only way the feat could be accomplished. “We need to interview every Lord Vampire about the portals, find out who is not being discreet.”

Earth held many stationary portals that would take one to the world of Aisthanesthai. The world where Delgarias had been born. The world that he’d also been working hard to keep safe. Vampires were slowly being integrated into some of Aisthanesthai’s countries, allies who’d fight Mephistopheles and his dark horde at the sides of sorcerers, Kanuri priestesses, Wurrak knights, and Tolonquan warriors.

The adjustment was precarious, to say the least. And this Annarkie was endangering that fragile integration by bringing evil vampires through Aisthanesthai, using the magical world as a shortcut. If one of them escaped? Alliances that so many had worked so carefully to forge would be undone by a reckless vigilante.

He had to find the rogue vampire who called herself Annarkie before a sorcerer or knight learned there were uninvited intruders.

Damn her.

She’d been plaguing him on and off for centuries. In the early days, he admired her boldness and even appreciated her capturing dangerous vampires, but after countless failed searches to identify her and recruit her in a formal position, her meddling had grown irksome. Back then, Delgarias and his fellow Elders didn’t know anything about the vigilante, not a name, not a sex, only that they must be a vampire to have such knowledge about their kind and their numerous laws.

Eventually, the deliveries of maimed, wicked vampires would stop, and they would assume that the rogue had gotten his or herself killed by their dangerous pursuits. But a few decades later, a bound vampire would be dropped on the Elders’ doorstep, often missing a limb or two. How the rogue kept the prisoners alive long enough to be delivered to their inevitable execution, Delgarias had no idea.

Also fascinating was the question as to why the prisoners were always delivered alive. The vampires had always been guilty of crimes meriting a death sentence, and yet, the rogue never executed them herself. To do so would have kept her under the radar for longer.

He’d long concluded that she wanted the Elders to be aware of her. Perhaps wanted Delgarias in particular to know of her.

Indeed, this desire for attention was how Delgarias had learned that she was a she, and later on, her name. She always sent notes with her catches, albeit tied up with a messenger. Two hundred years ago, she’d slipped and touched one of the missives, allowing him to cast a divination spell to get a name and the shadowy scent and figure of a woman. It was only a matter of time before—

Ian broke through his ponderings. “Do you wish to see these prisoners, Your Eminence?”

“Yes,” Delgarias rose from the table. “And if they are guilty of the crimes they’ve been charged with, I will execute them myself.”

“They are always guilty,” Hans, the Lord of Munich echoed Marcus’s words.

They went down to the dungeons and approached the cell where the three wicked vampires were held. As usual, all three were missing their tongues, the stubs expertly cauterized. One was missing both feet, bandages soaking crimson. One missed an arm, another his eyes. All three had been castrated, as was Annarkie’s usual tradition for any crimes of a sexual nature.

Jodie made a disgusted sound under her breath. “Every time a batch of these arrives, I think I’m prepared for the sight, but no. It never does get easier, even knowing what they’ve done.”

“How does she keep them alive?” Neko wondered aloud.

“A mystery to be solved another time.” Delgarias tried to conceal his impatience to probe the prisoners. “I’m just thankful they do indeed live so I may try to ferret her out.”

Marcus snorted. “Good luck. She is very thorough at wiping their memories of her voice and visage.”

“She’s made mistakes before,” Delgarias said before lunging toward the eyeless prisoner and sinking his fangs into the other vampire’s throat.

Maybe the fates wished to prove Marcus wrong, or perhaps it was the truth-seeking spell Delgarias had recently cast, but at last he got something from the prisoner’s memories.

Though all he saw was darkness, he heard voices.

“Mistress,” a male voice quavered faintly, as if blocked by a wall or door, “the cell in La Grande is larger than any we’ve come across. I think it will be too dangerous.”

A reply came, but it was distorted, as if coming through electric interference.

The male voice replied, muddied, but discernable. “Still, Pendleton is a mere hour away…. ten of them? You cannot be serious.”

All went black as the blood ceased flowing into Delgarias’s mouth. Triumph surging in his chest, he seized the next prisoner and drained them even quicker, then he moved to the next. No information was to be gleaned from those two, aside from flashes of terrified children and whimpers of pain, but he had what he needed.

“I, Delgarias, Thirteenth Elder, sentence you three worms to death,” he growled, disgusted with what they’d done to over thirty innocents.

Even though the vampires were unconscious from losing what little blood they had left, Delgarias didn’t have the patience to drag them to the execution chamber. Instead, he gathered his power and reached towards the prisoners with both hands.

Arcs of lightning shot out from his fingertips, striking the child traffickers. They jolted like puppets on a string, then flopped on the stone floor like fish hauled from the water. Smoke curled out from their mouths, nostrils, and melting eye-sockets. The reek of burning hair permeated the area before Delgarias stopped frying them.

When he turned around, he saw that the other Elders had stepped backward about twelve feet, staring at him in naked horror.

He watched their eyes scan his almost luminescent hair, with its bi-layered strands, his overly long fingers with their extra knuckles, his pointed ears, and lightning-shot eyes, wondering always what he was before he’d become the first blood drinker. Sure, they’d recently learned that he was faelin, but only Ian had visited Aisthanesthai and had just the slightest comprehension as to what the faelin were.

Tonight, the Elders’ fear didn’t bother him. Not when he was flush with victory. Soon, he would close in on the rogue who’d evaded him for the past three hundred years. It took all of his centuries of self-discipline and sense of duty not to immediately begin pursuit.

Because first, he needed to look in on his other people. And perhaps gain news of someone who’d evaded him for far much longer.

He weighed the pros and cons of telling the Elders that he knew where Annarkie was going to be and decided to hold his silence for now. Between desire to maintain his credibility and the matter of her knowledge of the portals, it was best to wait until he had the rogue in his custody before acting. Besides, there were so many questions he had for her that were best asked in private.

Delgarias cleared his throat. “I must leave for Aisthanesthai now and see if Mephistopheles has made any new moves there.”

Marcus sneered. “I wonder at your devotion to a world that views our kind so poorly. And at the wisdom of looking to you when you play for both sides.”

“There is only one side, Marcus. We all stand against the evil one. I was his first creation, the first of many that he’d enslaved. I will not have you or any of my people enslaved again.”

Before Delgarias teleported outside, he saw that rather than his words reassuring Marcus, the hostility on the ancient Roman’s face seemed to increase.

That one would have to be watched.

When he was certain that no witnesses or drones were near, Delgarias took to the air. The closest portal was outside of Haarlem, thankfully in a shielded copse of trees at the edge of a meadow. He hadn’t told the Elders about this portal. Not until he was certain all could be trusted.

Once through the portal, Delgarias approached the castle in Niji, where the King and Queen of Aisthanesthai had moved their seat for as long as the war lasted.

After he was admitted entry into the receiving room, the queen ran to him and exclaimed with delight before throwing her arms around his waist. “Uncle Del!”

Uncle Del. His throat tightened at the name as he returned the embrace. Xochitl had called him that ever since she could form words, never knowing how the double blow those two words impacted his heart.

Before Kerainne Leonine’s daughter came into the world, only one person had called him Del. And he would have given anything for the chance to wed her, which would have made him Xochitl’s uncle in truth.

Nikkita, his mind whispered. He touched the pendant that remained against his chest, concealed beneath his robes.

The rest of the universe knew him by other names. To the mages of Aisthanesthai, he was the Keeper of the Prophecy and addressed as “revered one.” To his faelin kin in Shellandria, he was “the outcast” or “the abomination.” To the vampires of Earth, he was The Thirteenth Elder. In both worlds he was feared and obeyed.

For over two millennia, Delgarias had trekked back and forth between Earth and Aisthanesthai, never fully belonging to either, never living for himself, but for his seemingly endless quest at redemption. His pride had cost him his love and brought undeserved power to his enemy and thus cost his world.

He may have been Mephistopheles’s first vampire, but Delgarias had quickly learned the error of his ways and had since made it his life’s mission to destroy the would-be god.

And to stop anyone who would interfere.

The King cleared his throat, making Xochitl step back. “We are honored with your visit, Revered One.” Delgarias blinked in surprise that Zareth had reverted back to the old title. After discovering that Delgarias was a vampire, the King had begun addressing him by his name only. “What news do you bring us?”

“Very little, I’m afraid. Cells of the Order of Eternal Night are sprouting up like mushrooms after a rain, but the ones we’ve infiltrated thus far haven’t seen any sign of Mephistopheles. Instead, I’ve come to inform you that I will be occupied on Earth with a rogue who is taking the law into her own hands. She’s been plaguing me on and off for centuries, but I’m closing in on her trail at last.”

“She must be very clever to elude you for so long.”

Delgarias shrugged. “Not really. Her mischief has honestly aided the Elders more than hindered, and her meddling has been sporadic enough to make her a low priority. Until now.”

“Oh?” Zareth prodded lightly.

“The rogue is planning another attack on a very large cell of the Order of Eternal Night. A cell who we believe is in direct contact with Mephistopheles. I need that cult alive and infiltrated, but if this Annarkie and her band of rogues has their way, a bevy of mutilated cultists would be dropped on the doorstop of the Motherhouse instead.”

“Badass!” Xochitl grinned up at him. “An assassin named Annarkie?”

“A misguided vigilante.” Delgarias corrected, not admitting that up until recently, he’d assumed said vigilante to be male and the spelling of his alias to be “Anarchy.” To discover that it had been a female tweaking his nose this whole time had been humbling. “And though the vampires she’s killed were all guilty of their crimes, she is still violating our laws by denying those she kills their rights to a fair trial.”

Zareth nodded. “And if you do not stop her, you could risk the stability of law and order amongst your people.”

“It’s a shame.” Delgarias didn’t mention the risk Annarkie also presented to the vampire integration efforts in Aisthanesthai. “Had she presented herself the first time she’d killed a wrongdoer, she could have become one of our most valued assets, earning a high position as a spy or enforcer for the Elders. Hell, maybe even the third time. But it is too late for her. She’s flouted the law long enough.” To his surprise, regret tugged his chest at the thought of the rogue’s impending capture and execution. “Enough about my vigilante, what news have you of Aisthanesthai?”

“Things are too quiet. I don’t like it.”

“Mephistopheles’s attacks have always been sporadic and far apart,” Delgarias reminded him.

“Yes, but now he knows about Xochitl.” Worry shone in Zareth’s eyes. “I’d think that he’ll want to move faster now that the one foretold to defeat him is here.”

“The Prophecy doesn’t say if she defeats him.” Delgarias reminded the king. “Only that she will battle him.”

Zareth’s clenched fists took on a fine tremble.

Xochitl took her husband’s hand and gazed up at him. “But I will destroy him. I vow it. That fucker raped my mom and destroyed millions of lives.”

Delgarias winced at the blunt reminder of the desecration of a woman who he’d regarded as a sister. But since he could not change the past, he returned the topic to the present. “Zareth is right in that Mephistopheles will likely move faster now that he has seen his daughter.”

“But we’re not ready.” Xochitl echoed Delgarias’s earlier worries. “We haven’t even found all seven nightwalkers with their brides. As far as I’ve counted, there’s Silas and Akasha, Jayden and Razvan, Radu and Lillian, and Aurora and Tony. That’s only four. Three more need to join us. Have you determined any special names for the next Bride?”

Delgarias shook his head. “They come to me when I see them, or soon after.”

Akasha was the general, Jayden, the seeress, Lillian the engineer, Aurora the directrix, who would lead the war march to the beat of her war drum, both literally and metaphorically. What special talent would the next Bride contribute?

“Well, maybe it’s good that you’re going back to Earth and dealing with vampire business,” Xochitl gave him an encouraging smile. Never had she looked upon him with fear, and not only because she was half luminite. “Then you can find the next Bride.”

Although that was the most important person he had to locate, Delgarias was more concerned with finding the rogue and finding Nikkita.

Speaking of…

“If you’ll excuse me, my queen, I’d like to talk to your mother before I take my leave.”

Xochitl’s amber eyes glittered with smug knowledge. “She’s out back.”

He found Kerainne in the rear garden, her waist-length blonde hair covering her in a cloak that gleamed gold in the light of the two moons. Instead of tending to the flowers or reading a book, the luminite princess—no, queen, as she’d recently claimed the title—stared out past the gates at a large vacant lot behind the castle.

The site where Zareth’s half-brother, Stefan, had built a tower wrought of human sacrifice and dark blood magic during his attempt to take the throne and Xochitl. If Stefan had won the throne, Mephistopheles would have triumphed by now. In fact, Stefan would have probably delivered the entire world of Aisthanesthai to the evil one on a silver platter.

“Have you found any clues as to where my sister is?” Kerainne asked without turning around.

“No.” He’d been about to ask her the same question. “But that seeking spell you helped me with led me to the vigilante rogue vampire I’ve been pursuing for centuries.”

“I am happy I was able to help with something.” Kerainne said. “And I do hope that your capture of the vigilante is quick and your dealings with her are and humane.”

“They’ll be as humane as she’ll allow them to be.” Delgarias told her plainly. “But she has knowledge of the portals and has knowledge of the portals and has been using them to deliver the vampires she arrests. And who knows for what else. This is dangerous and—”

Kerainne turned around, making him fall silent as the sight of her beauty and resemblance to her sister made his heart constrict with agony. “You don’t have to justify your decisions to me, Del. Although it is in my nature to guide others to the path of mercy, I’m selfishly concerned with the expediency of this mission. I want my sister found. You’re not the only one hurting from her absence.”

Only last year had he learned that Nikkita had been missing from Medicia for over a thousand years. And a few months ago, Kerainne had told him part of the reason why. She was hiding from an arranged betrothal.

A small, petty part of him rejoiced at the fact that Nik didn’t want to marry another man, but the possessive glee was subdued since she clearly didn’t want to marry him either.

But… a voice whispered.

No, he silenced that usual reminder before it could resurface. That didn’t count.

As it was, Delgarias was still reeling from the revelation that Nikkita had been closer to his reach than he’d believed all this time.

And still she hadn’t sought him out.

Maybe it would be better to give her up again, as he had before. His chest tightened at the thought.

No. He needed answers. At first, he’d thought she avoided him because she was repulsed at what he’d become. But Kerainne had forgiven him and understood what had driven him down his dark path.

Surely Nik could forgive him too? And even if she couldn’t, surely, he could convince her to at least allow him to explain himself.

But now that Kerainne had confessed to giving Nik a blood vow to keep some secret, Delgarias knew the betrothal wasn’t Nik’s only reason for spending centuries in hiding. The secret had to be catastrophic as well, for Nik wouldn’t be the type to subject her own sister to risk of becoming cursed if the truth were forced from her lips.

Curiosity burned almost as deeply as his worry. Whatever it was that kept Nik in hiding, even from her own family, for over a millennium, Delgarias would do what he could to help her.

He just needed to persuade her to let him.

If only he didn’t have to waste valuable time chasing down Annarkie. Then he could focus more of his taxed time to finding the woman who still held his heart in her palm.

COLLAPSE

Melding Souls

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 6

ISBN: 978-1090140944

They’re from two different worlds….

 

For months, Beau Thompson, bass player of Rage of Angels and novice mage, has been fighting a secret crush on Artavian Calla, healer sorcerer, and apprentice to the King of Aisthanesthai.

But with a big war coming and a tenuous alliance between sorcerers and vampires to be negotiated, there’s little time to pursue love. Or maybe Beau’s just scared, since he’s only had brief flings.

Yet each completes the other.

As magic returns to Earth and Rage of Angels are recruiting vampires to fight an evil would-be god, the sorcerer and the rock star spend more time exploring their attraction. And together, Beau and Artavian might have the power to save their friends, and maybe both of their worlds, from a returning enemy.

 

Excerpt:

Chapter One

 

Beau Thompson, bassist of Rage of Angels and novice mage, hissed in pain as the bullet was removed from his shoulder. He tried to remain still, but he couldn’t stop shaking. In the last forty-eight hours, he’d endured a road chase involving men trying to murder him and his friends, breaking into the old courthouse to cross a portal to another world, recruiting a mixed army of mages and vampires to join him and his friends in a shootout with a vampire mafia, where he’d acquired said bullet.

Despite all that, Beau couldn’t be happier. Here he was, sitting bare-chested in front of the man he’d been crushing on for months. And his crush was touching him! Okay, only because he was a healer and it was his duty, but still.

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A thousand flirtatious remarks bubbled on Beau’s tongue, but he couldn’t bring himself to voice them. Because even after all these months of covertly drooling over the guy, Beau still hadn’t built up the nerve to ask which way he swung.

Why was he still torturing himself with the question? Every time before, if a man caught Beau’s eye, he’d find a discreet way to determine whether the hottie was possible to pursue as quickly as possible.

But when it came to Artavian Calla, all of Beau’s usual seduction strategies had been thrown out the window. At first, because the day Beau had met him was right after Xochitl had killed Artavian’s former master and collapsed in a coma.

Nightmares of that cataclysmic day continued to haunt Beau. With him, Aurora, and Sylvis joining Xochitl in playing one of their favorite songs, Xoch’ had banished a cloud of despair from the magical world of Aisthanesthai and brought back a sun that had been obscured for four years. At first, the cost seemed too high, with the prospect of losing one of his best friends and being stranded in an alien world.

When Artavian had joined Beau and his bandmates, along with Zareth, Xochitl’s husband, Beau hadn’t paid much attention to the blue-robed mage because he was more focused on whether or not Xochitl was going to live or die. But once they’d returned to Zareth’s tower and Xochitl’s condition had stabilized, Beau’s breath halted when he noticed Artavian’s otherworldly beauty. With waist-length hair the color of mahogany, elfin, delicate features, and glittering blue eyes, Artavian was so pretty that it hurt to look at him for too long. But Beau didn’t even consider feeling the guy out to see if the attraction was mutual. Not when his best friend was in a coma and Artavian was split between efforts to heal Xochitl and establish his role as Zareth’s new apprentice and seneschal. It wasn’t anywhere near the ideal one-night stand situation. And as for something long term? Even less ideal if Beau was looking for that sort of thing—and he most certainly was not. The only long-term commitments he needed was that of his friends, the only ones who’d been there for him when his own family had not.

At first Beau had wondered if it was a wise idea to take in someone who’d served the enemy, but after talking with Artavian, Beau learned that the mage had been traded off to Stefan against his will. Chattel for an alliance.

As far as Beau could tell, Artavian was human, not one of the myriad other magical creatures that inhabited Aisthanesthai. On Aisthanesthai, everyone was magical to some degree. Beau had only recently learned that not only did he possess a spark of magic, he also shared some ancestry with the most powerful creatures known to exist. The luminites. Winged beings that were like a cross between angels and Greek muses, the luminites had reigned in all of the known worlds for thousands of years. They were incapable of fear and truly immortal. Their only weakness? Luminites could only create. They could not destroy. Xochitl was half luminite and yet she’d killed Stefan.

Artavian had been the one to explain these important details to Beau and his bandmates while Zareth was beside himself with grief and worry for his new wife. Art had done enough hand-wringing himself during Xochitl’s coma. “I’ve studied luminites since I learned to read. I’ve studied healing nearly as long, at the risk of my father’s wrath. But I can’t figure out how to awaken the Queen.”

The guy had been so distraught that Beau had pulled him aside, for once not to try to get laid, but to offer comfort.

“Look, man. You’re doing the best you can. And Xoch’ is gonna make it. I feel it deep down.” To his surprise, he did. “Don’t be too hard on yourself.” Beau had led Artavian to one of the comfortable couches in the solar, a sort of living room area in Zareth’s tower. “Tell me more about yourself. Why didn’t your father want you to study healing?”

“Because in Wurrakia, only the women are supposed to use magic and only to heal.” A bitter sneer had curled Artavian’s lips.

Beau had sat frozen in fascination as the mage described a patriarchal culture of knights and maidens and conquest that could have been inspired by tales of King Arthur. But despite the fantastical story, he found common threads of his own childhood with Artavian’s. Expectations thrust upon him that went against his heart and soul.

Zareth had interrupted that first conversation to assign various duties to Artavian, but Beau sought the guy out whenever he had the chance. At first it was simply the pleasure of spending time in the company of a beautiful man that motivated Beau, as well as to determine whether or not it would be safe to flirt with him. But before Beau realized what was happening, he found himself growing close to him, becoming his friend.

And that was the next impediment from pursuing Artavian sexually. Beau hadn’t had a close male friend since middle school. He’d forgotten how wonderful such camaraderie could be. No way in hell did he want Art to turn away from him with revulsion like his last friend. So instead he tried to control his attraction to the gorgeous mage and appreciate the long conversations and exciting exchanges of knowledge between their two different worlds.

Then, Xochitl’s mother, Kerainne Leonine, had walked into Zareth’s tower, back from the dead, because it turned out that luminites didn’t really die. After a terse explanation as to where she’d been for the last four years, Kerainne revived Xochitl from her coma.

Things got crazy after that. Delgarias, a faeling high sorcerer who was Keeper of the Prophecy, alternated between enigmatic smiles as he checked in on them and furtive, frantic whispers with Xochitls’s mom. Zareth decided that it was time to start training Beau, Aurora, and Sylvis in using their magic. Sometimes Artavian and Xochitl got to join the lessons, since they were both Zareth’s apprentices, but not often since they were light years ahead of Beau and the others in training and talent.

With Xochitl recovering, Aurora had noticed Beau’s interest in Artavian and teased him mercilessly.

“I can’t believe you haven’t made a move on him yet!” Aurora had elbowed him before rolling a joint with weed from Zareth’s kingdom. “You’ve never hesitated before.”

“Things are different.” Beau had pointed at the two moons in the sky and then down at Xochitl, who was learning to fly with her newly sprouted wings. “Really different.”

Aurora had shrugged before lighting the joint and taking a hit. “Point. But still, maybe you could at least try a little flirting, see if he responds.”

But Beau didn’t get the chance because Xochitl had figured out how to open portals and had abruptly driven through one with Aurora jumping in after. Zareth had taken Beau and Sylvis back to Coeur d’Alene in pursuit, where they’d discovered that all of their closest friends in their hometown had been vampires all along. While adjusting to that mind-fuck, Rage of Angels also had to deal with a lawsuit for breach of contract for their disappearance which had led to the mafia war.

The fact that there was going to be an even bigger war—with an even more powerful enemy—was not something Beau wanted to dwell on.

Especially when he was finally back in Artavian’s presence. They’d reunited the night before the battle, but Beau hadn’t had a moment alone with his friend until now. Art had been a legend during the fight, running fearlessly into the stream of endless bullets, throwing up shields and carrying the wounded out of the line of fire. Beau had been a mess, dizzy at the onslaught of chaos and bloodshed, trying to focus on shooting the enemy and trying not to rush to Art when the bullets came too close. Ultimately, a bullet had found Beau.

To his surprise, it didn’t hurt right away. His shoulder seemed to collapse, numb in some places, burning in others. Then Artavian had swooped in like Batman, his blue robes flowing in the wind like a cape. He’d lifted Beau carefully, with an effortless strength that Beau hadn’t expected from such a lean guy. Beau’s dizziness increased, but whether it was from the shock of being shot or from the sensation of being carried in Art’s arms, he didn’t know. He could only rest his cheek against the warm velvet and inhale Art’s scent of sweat and herbs. Despite the growing pain in his shoulder, Beau had to fight off a fresh surge of arousal.

Art had muttered some words in the language of magic, and everything had gone black. When Beau had awakened, the battle was won, the surviving mafia vampires had knelt before Xochitl and acknowledged her as their queen, and they were on a bus back to Central Park to go through the portal back to Aisthanesthai.

Now Beau was seated on a cot in the room Zareth had given Artavian to study and practice his magic. The room was cozy, with a warm fire crackling in the hearth, the scent of dried herbs and candle wax permeating the room. Birds chirped outside the window and Beau caught frequent glimpses of them, robins and finches, hopping on the sill as if interested in the proceedings inside.

Another spike of pain drilled into his bone as Art worked the bullet.

“It’s almost out,” Art’s accented voice soothed Beau. “You’re doing very well.”

Instead of surgical pliers, Art was extracting the bullet with some sort of magnetic wand. The energy of the thing hummed in Beau’s teeth and raised the hair on his forearms. But that wasn’t nearly as unnerving as the sensation of the bullet squirming against his muscles and tendons. Beau didn’t risk looking down at the procedure. Instead he focused on the face that haunted his dreams and thoughts for months. The potion Art had given him helped too, giving him a haze of euphoria and a floaty distance from the gory operation.

At last the bullet popped out, accompanied by a gush of wet heat from the wound. The metallic clang into the tray that Art held below Beau’s arm echoed in his ears like Aurora’s cymbals.

Beau almost tipped over on his side, but Art grasped him by his good shoulder, steadying him before he went to work on the wound, cleaning it with a bubbling, stinging solution that reminded Beau of hydrogen peroxide, only this stuff was blue and hurt a little less.

“I’m going to seal the wound now,” Art’s voice went low and hypnotic. “I need you to remain still and quiet. It may feel strange.” His eyes met Beau’s, crystalline in their intensity before darting away. “Ah, you may hold my hand if it gives you comfort.”

“Fuck, I hate stitches,” Beau tried to keep his voice light. But hell yes, he’d hold Art’s hand. It could be the only chance he got.

“I’m not going to be stitching you,” Art said, his voice suddenly husky. “I’m going to do something else.”

COLLAPSE

Conjuring Destiny

Off
Brooklyn Ann

Brides of Prophecy, Book 3

ISBN: 978-0692552698

 

There’s more than a prophecy holding them together …
Famous rock star, Xochitl Leonine, has dreamt of a world with two moons where a black cloaked man beckons her. One Halloween night, she meets the mysterious stranger of her dreams… literally... and their shared dance becomes a rendezvous in a place of endless night.

Zareth Amotken has no idea how important Xochitl’s heavy metal band is to her. As an immortal sorcerer, he doesn’t care. He has one goal: to find the prophesied savior of his world. Her voice holds the power to bring back his world’s vanished sun.

Xochitl’s compassion urges her to help in any way she can. Yet learning the mysteries of her past causes conflict with her future in music. Her destiny in his world and her obligations to her band pull her in opposite directions. How can she long for one while the other is so dire?

As Zareth introduces her to his people and teaches her to control her powers, she aches for his enchanting kiss. Zareth tries to resist, for their passion will unleash serious consequences, both political and magical.

As the time to fulfill her destiny draws closer, she must choose between her heart, her duty, and her friends. The wrong choice could ruin everything.

 

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Zareth Amotken, high sorcerer of Aisthanesthai, wove through the crowd of jabbering mortals, his lip curled in scorn at their lack of magic. With such tepid fare, his hydra would starve if he remained too long in this desolate world. He could already feel his power dwindling. Disdain faded to unease at that prospect. Zareth quashed the debilitating emotion. He would secure Xochitl and be back in his own world tonight.

The mortals stepped warily to the side as he passed, either intimidated by his height or because they sensed that he was other. He wore a hooded cloak to conceal his luminescent hair, even though unnatural colored tresses swarmed his vision, he likely didn’t need to worry about anything except for his hands, which he kept in his pockets.

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Delgarias had been right. Locating Xochitl Leonine had been simple.

“She shines like a beacon,” the Keeper of the Prophecy had told him. “And she’ll smell like a banquet to your hydra. Even if she didn’t, she’d be easy to find.”

“Why is that?”

“She’s the lead singer of a world famous heavy metal band. They call themselves Rage of Angels.”

Zareth had gaped at the faelin sorcerer in disbelief. “She’s a troubadour? The bastard daughter of Mephistopheles and the princess of Medicia, the one who will save our world, is naught but a minstrel?”

“Think about it, Zareth. What else would she be given the words of the Prophecy?”

“‘With her triumphant roar...’” His eyes widened at the implication. “You can’t be serious.”

“Has the prophecy ever lied?”

Now, here he stood, in a raucous earth realm tavern on the Spirit Feast—what the people here called Halloween—to at last lay eyes on the woman he’d been dream-summoning for the last four years.

As he wove through the costumed masses, he detected several non-human presences. One could be Xochitl, though it was doubtful as the stage remained empty. Strengthening his shields, Zareth surveyed the crowd. His breath caught when he glimpsed two dark-haired men. They were Mephistopheles’s fallen monsters.

Two millennia ago, the would-be god had created some metaphysical mutation, which morphed humans into blood drinking monsters with unnatural strength. They’d acted as his foot soldiers until they’d displeased him, forever banished to Earth, punished to live in a world free of magic.

Zareth couldn’t think of a worse punishment.

Eyeing the creatures, who the people here called vampires,he wondered if they had a connection with Xochitl. After all, she was Mephistopheles’s daughter. Zareth prayed they were only here for the music. He had no wish to interact with those abominations. The lights dimmed and all went still as a vampire appeared on the stage. His fangs gleamed in the stage lights. The humans grinned in admiration, assuming the teeth were part of his costume.

“Welcome to the annual Mortuary Halloween bash!” the vampire shouted.“As many of you know, tonight’s honored guests got their start in my club. Some of you even saw them doing covers of Megadeth, Iron Maiden, and my personal favorite, Metal Church.”

The creature owned this establishment. Zareth ground his teeth in disgust.

“Despite landing a major record deal and recording two platinum albums, they’ve never forgotten us. Every Halloween, they perform a concert and all the proceeds go to a charitable cause. This year your cover charge and drinks will help homeless veterans.” The vampire spread his arms wide. “Without further ado, I present to you, Rage of Angels!”

Zareth felt her before she emerged. Once again, Delgarias had been correct in his assertions. Xochitl’s radiant presence and effervescent power washed over him like a force that made his knuckles tighten.

He cursed her inwardly. Foolish creature. Hadn’t her mother taught her to shield properly?

His hydra, a non-corporeal demon that gave him immortality, roiled with hunger for her essence.

The audience erupted into a cacophony as Rage of Angels came into view. His breath caught at his first sight of the savior of his world. Delicate and ethereal as any luminite, her fine-boned features and pearlescent skin made the humans around her seem coarse by comparison.

Her black and purple waist-length hair gleamed under the stage lights. Unbidden, his gaze swept across her firm, lush breasts and exquisitely curved hips, drinking in the sight of her like a man starved.

Lust, hot and immediate, surged through him in a relentless wave. Zareth clenched his fists and took a deep breath. That wasn’t what he was here for. She was an imperative means to a crucial end. Still, the intensity of his unexpected desire caught him off guard. He’d been too busy with his studies to crave female companionship often.

He shook his head. Maybe it had been too long since he’d shared pleasure with a woman?

So captivated with her beauty, he hadn’t taken notice of her costume. The full-skirted black taffeta dress at first resembled a ball gown, but the lace veil on her head clarified its true purpose. Many of his people also wore such veils for the same occasion.

It was a wedding gown. The realization gave him a twinge of unease. Could her garb be an omen?

The foreboding dissolved into fury when she hugged the vampire. Zareth’s fists clenched in effort not to charge forward and tear her from the monster’s embrace.

A red haze obscured his vision even after the vampire left the stage and Xochitl addressed her audience. Outrage kept him from hearing her words. What did she think she was doing, consorting with their sort? Protective rage coursed through him, making his shadow spell waver.

His hydra roared in protest. No! She is mine!

A memory froze him. He’d uttered those words in a dream-summoning mere years ago. Something had intruded upon Xochitl’s dream. Had it been a vampire?

Every fiber of his being longed to incinerate every blood drinker in sight. Only the dangers of revealing himself stayed his hand.

The other vampires congregated at the base of the stage, scanning the crowd with narrowed, watchful eyes. They’d positioned guards.

Have they sensed me?

Zareth held his breath, poised to fight if necessary. So they meant to protect Xochitl and the others. A slight measure of his hostility waned, though his distrust remained. Then music filled the air and banished all thoughts of the loathsome creatures.

Heavy metal was an explosion on the senses. The wailing guitars, throbbing bass, staccato drums, and the vocalist’s enraged screams evoked a primal life force within its listeners.

A force that had them thrashing and jumping with exhilaration... a force that woke his hydra. It spread its invisible form outward, opened its mouths, and fed. Zareth closed his eyes in pleasure,rejuvenated from his exhausting effort of coming through the portal to this world.

Zareth had heard electric guitars before, but never had he heard the instruments distorted and played in such a blistering style. Leaning forward in fascination, he tried to decide whether or not he liked this music. Either way, it had power.

An impossibly fast drum beat pounded through his consciousness. Whipping his attention to the source of the sound, Zareth studied the striking dark skinned girl playing the drums. This one held a glimmer of magic. Humans of that ilk were rare on Earth, descending from the time when mages, faelin and luminites dwelled here until they were persecuted by non-magical humans. However, he was unsurprised that Xochitl and this woman had become friends. They must have sensed their kinship, as Zareth could.

Guitars joined the rhythm and he shifted his scrutiny to the other minstrels. The bass player also held power... and so did the guitarist. They all did.

“How in the realms?” he whispered, staring in shock.

For two of them to meet was probable, but four?

His speculation broke off as Xochitl’s voice permeated his consciousness. Rich and operatic, punctuated by bone chilling screams of rage, it was more than pleasing to his ears. Her voice was thick with power which imbued its listeners with pure, unadulterated emotion.

Zareth closed his eyes and pictured the people of Aisthanesthai hearing this voice, their passions renewed, their magic rejuvenated enough to bring forth the dawn of their salvation.

COLLAPSE

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Brooklyn Ann