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Hexes & Flames - Ebook

Hexes & Flames - Ebook

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USA TODAY BESTSELLING SERIES

Okay, so officially, I’ve resigned from the Dark Witch Court as one of the witches who clean up paranormal problems no one else wants to handle. Specifically, I deal with the demons that escape from the Veil—the invisible layer that protects our world from the Netherworld.

But when I’m called in to investigate a series of human deaths at a local New York restaurant while between jobs, I’m in no position to turn down the cash. So, I unofficially take the gig.

I quickly discover there’s a new player in town—one who’s been gone for hundreds of years and is now killing innocents with a magical virus.

I hate to admit it, but even as badass as I am, I’m seriously out-magicked. If I can’t find the culprits behind the magical virus, more innocent people will die. It’s time for me to put on my big girl pants and show the Court just what kind of Dark witch I am—a very bad one.

Hexes & Flames is a fast-paced urban fantasy adventure with a kick-butt heroine and plenty of action, suspense and humor.

Look Inside Chapter 1

“What do you mean Faris is my familiar!” I cried incredulously, my temper rising with the heat of
my face. “Poe’s my familiar. I can’t have two familiars. That’s
crazy. It’s not how it works.”

My grandfather leaned against the kitchen island and crossed his
arms over his chest, his bushy white eyebrows high on his forehead. He’d ditched his blue bathrobe for a pair of khaki pants and a navy-blue sweater. He
could have pulled off the old professor look if it weren’t for his tousled mess
of white hair that gave him a mad scientist flair.

“You said to do whatever it took,” he said, his voice a little
higher than usual. “And that’s exactly what I did.”

“Whoa— Wait a second!” I exclaimed, my blood pressure soaring. “I
never asked to make him my familiar. I have enough problems trying to control
Poe, who’s still disappearing on me. I don’t want to be responsible for two
familiars.” Oh, God, what did he do?

My grandfather stood in the kitchen, now with his hands on his hips
and anger growing on his face. He looked just like me. “How did you expect him
to stay in our world without the familiar bond? By Krazy Gluing his ass to a
chair? That’s not how magic works, Samantha. You know this. Making him your
familiar was the only way. The only safe way.”

My eyes found the mid-demon sitting at the kitchen island. I didn’t
like the casual look he gave me. “You knew about this, didn't you?”

Faris’s dark eyes met mine, his gaze calculating as he tilted his
head to one side. “Of course I did.”

Faris wore the same black pants and matching shirt from yesterday,
though wrinkle free and clean with what I expected was some demon magic. He had
a faint, glistening aura about him, and I felt it glide over my skin like a
soft, cool breeze. It felt different than the energy that had surrounded the
mid-demon before. I knew what it was. I recognized it as the energy emanating
from a familiar bond. Mine and his.

Tension pulled me straight. “And you’re okay with it?”

Faris took a gulp of his drink, and his short black hair glimmered
in the kitchen light like oil. “Better this than having my innards pulled out
from my mouth.”

Yikes. Okay. He had a point. Still…

I was a mess. I could barely take care of myself, let alone two
familiars. Scratch that. Two familiars with giant egos.

Stress stiffened my shoulders, and I shook my head. “There has to be
another way. We just have to look harder.”

“There isn’t.” My grandfather sighed through his nose as he pointed
a finger at me. “And don’t even think about going to see that aunt of
yours.”

I gripped the edge of the kitchen island and leaned forward. “Is
that a challenge?”

“No,” answered my grandfather, his blue eyes pinched. “You’ll just
be wasting your time. She’ll tell you the exact same thing. Making him your
familiar is the only way to keep him on this side of the planes.”

I pursed my lips. “We’ll see about that.” I was going to ask her. He
knew it, and I knew it.

My grandfather’s bushy white eyebrows lowered to a frown. “I never
thought I’d see the day when a demon stayed in my house—a bloody demon—and I don’t
know anything about him.”

“I’m sitting right here,” mumbled Faris.

My grandfather took a hesitant breath before he continued. “You
wanted to save him. Put your big-girl pants on and deal with it!”

“I don’t have time to babysit two familiars,” I cried, gesturing
wildly and not caring what they thought. “I didn’t sign up for this. I have to
start looking for work. A paying job.” And now that I had a new mouth to
feed, the pressure was on. Just Faris’s mere size told me the mid-demon had a
very healthy appetite. Cauldron help me. I was going to hurt somebody.

My grandfather’s face reddened, and he gave me an “it’s all your
fault” look. “Next time. Don’t make friends with demons.”

Faris laughed bitterly. “Keep it up, Gordon. And you’ll see exactly
how friendly this demon is.”

“See!” My grandfather pointed at Faris. “He’s threatening me in my
own house! I will not have it, Samantha. I will not. Control your familiar!”

“Yes, Sammy.” Faris gave me a wicked smile, eyebrows high on his
forehead suggestively. “Please, control me. You can control me all night
long, if you wish.”

I gave Faris a hard stare. “Don’t make me get the flying monkeys.”

The mid-demon made a face but said nothing as he took another sip of
his drink.

I rolled my eyes. “This is crap.” My jaw tightened and I stiffened,
not liking this at all. My pulse raced, and I felt like I was about to have a
heart attack in my own kitchen. I took a steadying breath. Then another. How
bad could it be to have Faris as my new familiar? Bad. Really, really bad.

“Well then,” said my grandfather, and I pulled my attention back to
him at the finality in his tone. He flicked his gaze to the digital clock on
the oven. “If that will be all, I really must be going,” he added with a smile.
“I told the widow Tessa I’d pick her up at seven.”

My mouth fell open. “What happened to Charlotte?”

“Don’t wait up, Samantha,” said my grandfather, grinning as he
brushed past me. He hummed a tune all the way down the hall, and I heard the
front door open and close with a soft bang.

“The witch has incredibly poor taste in gin,” said Faris as he set
his empty glass on the counter. “But at least he’s getting some.”

“Shut up,” I growled, not wanting to relive the images of my
grandfather’s and Charlotte’s naked bodies. Closing my eyes, I pinched the
bridge of my nose in my attempt to quell the giant migraine throbbing in my
forehead. It didn’t work. I took a deep breath and held it. I really didn’t need
to deal with this right now. I still hadn’t figured out how I was going to make
money yet, now that I’d given my resignation to the Dark Witch Court. And with
Faris as my new familiar, I was responsible for him. If he stepped out of line,
the consequences would fall on me. Faris was a mid-demon stocked with powerful
demonic magic. If he decided to kill a few humans, I would take the heat.

But Faris had saved my life and Logan’s. I owed him. If that meant
he would become my familiar, I’d just have to live with it, or learn how to. I
didn’t have a choice.

I let out another breath, feeling some of the tension leave my
shoulders. I could do this. I had to.

“You’re very tense,” said Faris, smiling pleasantly. “I have expert
hands.” He made a show of wiggling his fingers. “You want me to release some of
that tension?”

“No.”

The demon frowned and lowered his hands. “There’s that word again. No.
Strange how you’re the only female who’s ever used it on me.”

I gave the demon a look. “I seriously doubt that.” The playful sound
of desire in his voice turned my stomach. “You might be my familiar, Faris,” I
said as I came around the counter to get in his face and pointed my finger at
him, “but don’t get any ideas. I’m going to stop you right there.”

Faris smiled to show a slip of teeth. “Whatever do you mean, Sammy,
darling?”

I glowered. “Don’t play dumb. I’m not going to sleep with you.”

The mid-demon cocked a brow. “Witches and their familiars need to be
very close to strengthen their bond. Everyone knows that.”

“Not going to happen.”

“We share magic,” continued the demon. “And we can share other
things…”

“Forget it,” I said, my voice final. I was not going to have this
conversation again.

Faris gazed at me with more than a hint of testing seduction in his
widening eyes. “How about I pour you a nice glass of wine.” He pushed his chair
out and got up. “Red? Right?” He moved to my wine cabinet. “Let’s see if
there’s anything in here that’s not used for cooking or cleaning. Ah-ha. Here’s
a moderately decent wine.” He pulled out a bottle. “Mouton Cadet 2015. You’ll
have a giant migraine tomorrow. But who cares? You’ll forget about this
conversation after two glasses.”

“I don’t want any wine.”

Faris put the bottle on the counter. “Unlike a demon’s, a witch’s
life is considerably short. You need to live a little and make the most of it.”

“Speaking from experience?” I asked. Seeing the sudden alarm in his
eyes made me regret my choice of words. I hadn’t shared with Faris what Andromalius had told me back in the Netherworld about his witch wife. I wondered
if any of it was true. The minotaur demon could have been lying. But from what
I saw on Faris’s face, he just confirmed it; the savage glint in his eyes bore
his grief and guilt.

Faris glanced at me and then away. For a moment, his gaze had a
haunted look, and his grip tightened on the bottle before he mastered himself.
The mid-demon blinked, and the moment of grief was replaced by his usual sly
amusement. “A little wine never killed anybody,” he said. “Trust me. You look
like you need it.”

I rubbed my temples. “I don’t have time for this.” I grabbed my
phone from the counter. My chest clenched. No new phone calls. No messages.

Faris yanked the cork out of the wine bottle with a pop. “Your date
with the Boy Scout?”

I let out a sigh. “Yes. I have a date with Logan. And stop calling
him that.” The memory of Logan’s lips on mine sent tiny tingles of pleasure
through me.

“You can do a lot better than the Boy Scout,” continued Faris as he
began to pull open the kitchen cabinets.

“You don’t know anything about him,” I countered.

“Neither do you.” Faris grabbed two wine glasses and settled them on
the counter next to the wine bottle. “What time was he supposed to pick you
up?”

An hour ago. Damn. Why wasn’t he here? I
thought about calling him but quickly quashed that thought. I didn’t want him
to think I was a stalker or too needy. That wasn’t me. I was a confident witch
and very proud. I didn’t need a man to make me feel good about myself, but that
didn’t mean intimacy was bad either. Hell, it was nice. Really nice.

I thought Logan and I had shared a connection back in our cage in
the Netherworld. Perhaps I’d been wrong.

What if Logan had told someone my secret? What if he’d betrayed me?

My heart gave a squeeze. Did I really misread all the signs?
Granted, I had been off the dating game for some time, maybe too long. But
Logan had asked me out to dinner. Why ask if he didn’t plan on showing?
Was this a game to him?

Faris brought his head up at my silence. “Forget about him.” He handed
me a large glass of red wine. “Here. Have a drink.”

I shook my head, anger seeping into my mind, and drew in a
frustrated breath. “No thank you.”

Faris shrugged and took a sip. He frowned as he swooshed the wine
around in his mouth like I’d seen some pretentious witches do at wine-tasting
events. He swallowed and said, “Tastes like an old rug. You sure you don’t want
any?”

Gritting my teeth, I slipped my phone in my pocket. I was trying to
keep my emotions from showing but doing a piss-poor job of it.

“What did you expect?” said Faris, seeing my disappointment. “He’s
an angel-born. You’re a witch.”

“So what?” I argued. “What does that have to do with anything.”

“Don’t be naïve, Sam. It doesn’t suit you.”

“Don’t be patronizing, Faris. I might kill you.”

The demon snorted. “Good one.”

My anger rose anew, making my face hot. The bastard had stood me up.
He’d played me, but I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself. If he thought I
was going to sit here all night in the hope that he would show up, he was an
idiot. I was not that kind of witch.

I met Faris’s gaze. “Let’s get out of here.”

Faris beamed. “Now you’re speaking my language. I know just the
place to get a decent drink.”

I grabbed my shoulder bag and headed down the hall. The tall
mid-demon hurried before me and pulled open the front door.

“Witches first,” he intoned and gestured with his hand, looking
overly enthusiastic. I could see the devilish plans forming behind his eyes. I
was going to pay for this. I could feel it in my gut.

“Wiseass,” I muttered as I moved past him to the platform.

The scent of rosewater wafted toward me and I stiffened. Vera
Wardwell looked up from her front garden, her green eyes cold and hard, with a
handful of sage. The glowing white sphere that hovered next to her cast dark
shadows along her face and long nose, making her look old and ragged. Her long
red hair was pulled back into a messy bun.

“Vera,” I said in way of greeting, ignoring the hard stare she was
giving me as I made my way down the steps.

“Who’s your friend?” asked the old witch. Her tone was expectant as
though I was obligated to tell her. Before I could tell her to piss off, Faris
leaped down the stairs and made his way toward the witch.

I pulled myself straight in worry as I saw him reach for her dirty
hand. Damn it. The last thing I wanted was Vera’s very large nose in my
business.

 “Farissael at your service,”
purred the mid-demon, and he kissed the top of her hand streaked with earth.

Vera’s cheeks reddened to match her hair. It was a damn wonder she
didn’t combust into flames. “Oh,” was the only thing that came out of her
mouth. The witch was speechless. Now, that was a first.

The witch smiled, clearly taken by the mid-demon’s charms and
devilishly good looks. Oh, boy.

“Farissael,” said the witch, seemingly regaining control of her
voice. I noticed how she hadn’t taken her hand away. “You look familiar. Do I
know you? Are you a witch from out of town?” Her voice was soft, almost sweet,
another thing I’d never seen before. Creepy.

Faris’s face twisted into a dazzling smile. “I’m Samantha’s new
familiar.”

The blood drained from my face. Oh. Hell. Way to go, Faris.

Vera stiffened, and her eyes widened as she yanked her hand away.
“You’re a demon?” She wiped her hand on her dress. “You don’t smell like a
demon.”  She took a careful step back
from him, her face wrinkling in disdain, though the fear in her eyes was real.

Faris gave the witch a knowing smile. “It’s one of the perks of
being a mid-demon. I can smell like anything I want.” He leaned forward. “Or
anything you want,” he added with a seductive arch in his brow.

“Faris,” I warned. “Let’s go.”

“Have you registered him with the Court?” Vera’s voice was sharp,
her eyes glaring and her drawn-on eyebrows high on her wide forehead. “All new
familiars must be registered. It is as much for their protection as it is for
ours.”

I let out an exasperated sigh. “I haven’t had the time to get around
to it yet.” Shit. She was absolutely right. If I didn’t register Faris soon, it
was the noose for both of us.

“What happened with the raven?” asked the redheaded witch.

A ribbon of fear wrapped around my heart. “He’s around. Not that
it’s any of your business.” If the Dark Witch Court found out I had two
familiars, it was going to get messy. They would ask me to make a choice—Poe or
Faris. I didn’t want to make that kind of choice right now. I couldn’t.

Vera’s mouth fell into a small O. She scoffed, placing her hands on
her hips. “Well,” she said, a winning sneer on her face, “the Dark Witch Court
is going to hear about that.”

“You do that.” Like I cared what they thought about me.

I reached out and steered Faris away. “No more playing with the
witch, Faris,” I whispered in his ear.

“You’re no fun,” he mumbled, his teeth flashing in the soft light.
“Just when things were getting exciting.”

“Sam!”

I looked up at the sudden loud flapping of wings just as a large
raven dove for me. I lifted my arm, and with a great beat of his wings he
landed expertly on it.

“Sam,” said Poe again, the urgency clear in his tone. “I have a
message from the Dark Witch Court.”

I frowned at the small, light gray feathers stuck to his beak. “I
don’t work for them anymore. Remember? I gave them my notice yesterday. I
should have asked them for a giant bonus after what Darius tried to pull.”

“I know, but this is urgent,” pressed Poe. “You’re going to want to
hear this.”

“And you know this, how?” I asked, conscious that Vera had suddenly
taken a step closer.

“I—intercepted the message myself,” said the raven, ruffling his
feathers as he stuck out his chest proudly.

I let out a breath. “Poe. What did you do to the messenger pigeon?”

Poe coughed, and a small silver feather flew from his beak. “Nothing
you wouldn’t have done.”

Faris snorted and I shot him a look. “You’re not helping.”

“What’s this message I hear from the Court?” inquired Vera, and I
scowled at her nerve.

“Nothing that concerns the likes of you,” said Poe.

“What happens in our community concerns me greatly.” Vera held her
head high as she looked down at the raven. “And what do you have to
offer our community?”

The raven widened his eyes. “Bird flu.”

The witch glowered, but when she realized Poe wouldn’t reveal Court
business, she stormed away. I waited for her front door to shut and turned back
to the raven. “What is it, Poe?”

“Something’s happened,” said the raven.

My breath caught. “Another dead witch?” Fear bubbled up. Did Darius
have followers? I knew that was unlikely, but there was a slim possibility he
could have convinced others to drain the life force from witches.

The bird ruffled his feathers again. “That’s the interesting thing.
It’s not. There’s something happening at Luke’s BBQ & Grill uptown, and the
Court wants you to go check it out.”

“What kind of something?”

“Magic-based something,” answered the raven. “It’s all the message
said. Whatever this is, it has something to do with magic.”

Eyes wide, Faris rubbed his hands together. “Sounds exciting. When
do we leave?”

I shot him a look. “I don’t w—”

“Work for them anymore,” expressed Faris. “Yes. Yes. Yes. We heard you.”
He smiled, showing some teeth. “I’ll get us a cab,” he said as he crossed the
street.

Before my resignation, magic-related issues in the city were mine.
At least, I’d get first dibs. I wasn’t the only witch contracted by the Courts,
but I was always a willing participant. Money played a large part.

And yet I was a curious creature. I might not work for the Dark
Witch Court anymore, but this was still my city. And if something magical was
happening, I wanted to know about it.

“Fine. It doesn’t hurt to go take a look,” I said, making Poe laugh.

The raven danced on my arm, his wings flapping in anticipation. “Go
team.”

Excitement fluttered through me at the prospect of doing something
productive. A smile curved up the edges of my lips as I crossed the street
toward Faris next to a yellow cab.

Logan’s no-show was conveniently forgotten.

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