Author: K.F. Breene
Series: Darkness #4
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publication: July 21st, 2014
It’s been a long road, but Sasha has finally claimed her role as the least knowledge mage in history. She’s also acquired a new, incredibly grumpy bodyguard, and a spunky new BFF. With her team by her side, she learns the ropes of this new profession.
Her experience level is about to be fast-tracked, however.
On a routine trip to check out a perimeter breach, she encounters a hideous demon called by an experienced magic worker. It is this terrifying discovery that unlocks a deeper problem: Stefan’s troubled past and the reason he gravely mistrusts the Mata.
While Sasha struggles to fight the physical demons, Stefan struggles to fight the demons of his past. If he fails, his future in Sasha will be lost.
As I got halfway through the open space, a vulgar feeling began to crawl up my skin like tiny insects scrabbling under my clothes. The sickly-sweet smell of rotting flesh tickled my nose.
“I’ve never felt anything like this before,” I said quietly, passing my hands through the air. “Although, granted, I haven’t had a lot of experience.”
Shapes took form within the shadows toward the back wall the closer I got. On the right, near the corner of the building, lay a pile of grayish sticks, charred and blackened by fire. Scorched fabric was glued to the various elements of the pile.
Three more steps had me halting, sucking in a huge breath.
It was a body! They weren’t sticks, they were bones coated in masticated skin!
Did that moan come from me?
A face, twisted in an endless scream of agony, lay on the backside of his calves. One arm had been ripped out of the socket and lay flat under his back. One leg, obviously broken at the thigh, lay over the other. He was broken and twisted, as if he’d been made of match-sticks and sporadically snapped and tossed to the ground.
“No human could have done this,” I whispered. “His back was broken in half.”
“A bear could have,” Jonas’ voice echoed around the crouching walls.
“Not without opposable thumbs,” I retorted into the hush.
A few more steps and I could see another fire site, only this time, there was a large black pot overturned against the wall. A round camping stove, smudged with soot, half lay under it.
“This has got to be a few days old, at least…”
“You’re not here to investigate,” Jonas growled. “You’re here to feel for magic. We have experienced clan that’ll go over this site and give us more conclusive findings.”
“Oh. Well, you could’ve made that more clear before I looked at the body.”
I let my magic drift, sensing for spells and pitfalls within the area. This was something I practiced every day per Toa’s instruction. A large part of my job was sensing other magic and possible dangers. I still had trouble doing this on the fly, but here, in the quiet settings, the building almost feeling as if it was holding its breath, I had nothing else to do but concentrate.
The black glow of my magic, hardly discernable in the gloom of the warehouse, drifted over the overturned pot. Like a match to kerosene, a circular fire lit up, climbing into the sky like fairy lights. Sparkles danced and played in a shimmering orange halo lazily drifting toward the right. Toward the body.
I could not help that squeak. Or holding my breath afterwards.
Still it drifted. Reaching for that death. What would it do when it got there?
I don’t want to know!
A blast of rotten flesh crawled up my nose, prompting a gag. That smell didn’t come from the body, it came from the disgusting magic corroding this area. Magic that was still active. Lingering, waiting. But for what? Whatever spells had been laid, they weren’t used to create rainbows. They were also extensive and intricate. Beyond my training.
“Not good magic over here…” I mumbled.
My magic spread like a fog over the body. For a second, nothing happened.
“Sasha?” Tim asked into the din.
“Don’t go in there, mong—“
Jonas’ voice cut off as my magic started to sizzle and pop. Like water splashing into hot grease.
“What’s it doing?” I asked Jonas with a quiver in my voice.
“This isn’t normal…” Jonas’ voice drifted away.
“Back out of there, Sasha,” Tim urged from the door.
Something tugged at my magical senses. It was like undertow, rolling and fierce, sucking. Consuming. As fast as magic surged into my body, elements desperate to get in, something in that area stole it again, using my draw to fuel itself.
But what the hell kind of spell was it?
“Oh shit,” I mumbled, scrabbling to pull my power back.
“What is it?” Jonas asked, stepping into the building, his tattoos lighting up like a Christmas tree. A great, gleaming sword swung into his hand, the blade glowing orange.
“Get out of here, Jonas! I need to tie off this weird spell. It’s sucking magic to it.”
Jonas took a hasty step back, his body once again receding out of the doorway. Tim backed out with him, but hesitantly.
I got to work, sweat beading my brow, fighting the draw both of that corner, and from the elements fighting to rush into my body.
“Nasty spell-working, this,” I said under my breath, sensing the elements within the casting. “They’re, like,reaching for me. Feeding off my magic. I’ve never dealt with a spell like this. I didn’t even know this was possible.”
“Dark magic,” Jonas whispered. “Hard to work. Harder to control. Someone has balls of steel.”
“Well, it’s not me,” I wheezed.
I snubbed out the elements that made up the spell, like soldering wires, closing the spell in a sort of circuit. The question was, did I just lock all that power in, or would it fray and disintegrate like it had been, needing someone with magic to come along and fan it higher?
“I don’t think the wielder knew exactly what he was doing,” I murmured, analyzing the lacy structure of the orangy incantation. It hovered within a shaky line spilled on the cement floor. Spilled because it looked suspiciously like blood, sticky and slick, gleaming in the soft light from the window.
As I was about to turn away toward Jonas, wanting to talk about what I’d done and see what he thought—we’d probably have to go get Toa—the lacy spell cleared away like mist. In its place grinned the head of a black monster, staring at me like a hungry lion would a fresh steak.
“You did not call me.” Sharp, ragged teeth filled a mouth too big for its face.
Terror jolted me back as a stringy leg stepped forward.
“Sasha?” Jonas’ voice held hard fibers of alarm.
The monster slapped into an invisible barrier. Orange sparks rained down on its head. It glanced up, and then around, noticing the hazy orange circle trapping it. And then its face straightened out, staring right at me out of black pits instead of eyes. “We can rule, you and I. Our power, combined, will be indestructible. Join me.”
“Oh lovely, one of you. Fantastic.”
I eyed his cage as it did, sensing the weakness of it. The shaky spell, barely held together. Even as I stood there, the thing was starting to eat away at its cage.
Was this terrible spell by design, or some sort of failed attempt?
“We gotta get out of here!” I roared at Jonas, backing away as quickly as possible. “This thing is way, waystronger than other Dulcha I’ve seen. It’s feeding off of the magic containing it, somehow. We need Toa for this one.”