- On July 25, 2017
In one week, Blood Magic, the second book in my Blood Books trilogy, releases! If you haven’t yet read Blood Rose, don’t read on—unless you want to read some major spoilers. Instead, hop on over to Blood Rose‘s dedicated page, and purchase your copy for only $0.99!
For those not in the know, my Blood Books trilogy follows the harrowing journey of Avah Taylor, a mortal witch in the midst of a centuries-old war against the immortal vampire species. Avah’s intense journey is fueled by blood, jealousy, betrayal, murder, and revenge. This trilogy is new adult paranormal romance and urban fantasy. It’s Charmed meets The Vampire Diaries.
All three books will be released in 2017 (Blood Rose is available now, Blood Magic releases on August 1st, and Blood Promise releases on October 31st). Click here for links to purchase Blood Rose, and click here for links to pre-order Blood Magic.
Blood Magic — Chapter One
AS A MORTAL witch destined to fight in a war against immortal vampires, my life had been surrounded by death. Before my birth rite, the ritual in which I obtained The Power, the ultimate weapon against the vampire race, I had even prepared for my own death. Being chosen came with consequences—likely not living to see my next birthday was one of them. I had accepted this fate, because my sacrifice would bring honor to my coven. Unfortunately, the prophecies were right. Obtaining The Power did result in my death—I became one of the creatures I had spent my life hunting.
I closed my eyes, focusing on my breathing. As a spirit user, I had a small affinity for all elements, but as a chosen one, a being who harnessed The Power, I had greater control. According to Sebastian, the only other vampire I’d met who shared my differences, that control was limitless, but he had yet to show me how to wield the gift.
I called upon the element air. A breeze swirled around me, fluttering through the thick locks that hung past my shoulders. I smiled as it sent shivers down my spine. As a vampire, I didn’t feel cold in the same way I had as a mortal, but I still felt the sensation, and it was uncontrollably overwhelming. With my new, heightened senses, I could feel everything around me. It was as if the blindfold had finally been lifted, and after years of living in darkness, and even in silence, I could finally see, could finally hear. I had to die to truly feel alive.
As I brushed my palm against the dead grass I sat atop, I admired my handy work. I had been carving protection runes into headstones for hours and was due for a break. I knew the sun would rise soon, and with it, the remaining members of my vampire coven would slumber. But first, there was much to be done. Seventeen vampires from my new coven had fallen, including the guards of our coven’s high priestess, Amicia. Jasik, my sire, explained that a burial had never been rushed. In fact, we were skipping key parts, but with Amicia missing, we weren’t given the luxury of something as simple as time.
No one would talk about the likelihood that she had also been killed. Instead, my fellow Hunters and I put saving Amicia at the top of our to-do list and then called it a day. Ignoring the fact that Amicia was probably already dead didn’t bother me as much as it should have. Being a Hunter, a vampire blessed with my very own set of superpowers, it was my job to protect my coven and the members within it. We had failed when she was taken. Saving her was the only way to redemption.
Though I focused on carving the thick lines into the headstone, my eyes kept flickering to the vampire beside me. Sebastian had offered his help—a ploy, I was sure. Nearly four days had passed since I threatened to kill him if he didn’t tell me everything I wanted to know. He had brushed off my crassness with ease. Even now, as I watched him, he ignored me.
Lingering thoughts crept their way back into my mind. I remembered the dream I had the night I discovered we’d won the battle but lost so many in exchange. The Sebastian in my dream was nothing like the one sitting beside me. In my dream, he was cruel, evil. I was sure it was a vision warning me of what was to come. Being a spirit user, I had visions, but I had yet to learn control. I shuddered at the memory of the Hunters hanging from a tree, split open from navel to neck, their innards swaying from side to side as they hung, lifeless. Had I influenced it in some way? Was Sebastian lying in wait? I shook my head to clear my mind. I needed to remain focused on the task at hand. With one final stroke, the rune was complete. I stood, sheathing my knife and wiping the fine shards of rock from my hands.
“How much longer?” I asked.
“Done,” Sebastian replied as he stood, his light, sandy-brown hair bouncing as he moved. It fell to just below his chin. His lanky frame towered over my short stature, though he wasn’t quite as tall as Jasik.
I nodded, glancing around. We were attacked in this very place. Rogues, soulless, evil vampires who feasted on the blood of the living, had attacked my witch coven the eve of my birth rite and left me for dead. When they realized they’d failed to truly kill me, they came back to finish the job. Though I escaped again, others died in my stead. I closed my eyes, listening to the wind rustle the leaves. I focused on them but felt nothing. The world was empty. Our coven was broken. I hadn’t been a vampire for long, but I was already drawn to them. It was powerful, unexplainable. They felt like family—family I had failed to protect.
I opened my eyes, ignoring the cheeky grin plastered on Sebastian’s face. He had been with us for almost four days, and he had already gotten on my nerves. He was always watching me—just as I was watching him. He liked watching me tap into this power within myself, and even though he wouldn’t admit it, I believed he liked knowing it was always just out of reach. I think he felt safer that way. No one but me had the power to truly hurt him. He knew that. Jasik knew that. I knew that. And it left a gnawing sensation in the pit of my gut. I didn’t like being bested, and I especially didn’t like being vulnerable.
I turned on my heel and walked the stone path that led to the manor’s front door. My new vampire coven was hidden deep within rural Washington State. The forests of national parks surrounded us, keeping our existence secret from prying eyes. Each evening, I woke to crashing ocean waves and thick, salted air. It was nothing like home. My family moved from the remote woodlands of Wisconsin to the mountains of Shasta, California nearly a decade ago. I missed home. I missed Wisconsin and Shasta. I missed my family. But they had turned their backs on me when I needed them most—and now it was my turn to walk away from them.
I glanced back at the cemetery that was laid before our manor’s front entrance. Thinking about how cliché my new vampire life was put a smile on my face when times only called for sorrow. Our gothic manor, painted with splashes of gray and black, sat on wooded property in the middle of remote land, and our front yard consisted of a burial ground and mausoleums. Now all I needed to do was turn into a bat, fall in love with a human, renounce my new destiny, and call it a day. I chuckled at the thought.
“What’s on your mind, love?” Sebastian asked, his Australian accent coating his words.
I rolled my eyes. “Please stop calling me that.”
Sebastian frustrated me to no end, and though I didn’t fully trust him, I found myself questioning myself more. It was easy to fall into step beside him. I allowed myself moments of peace even though he was within reaching distance. This was a mistake I never would have made as a human, a witch. Why now? Was it my knowledge of the power bubbling within me? Was it his easy-going personality? Why did he affect me like this?
I opened the front double doors, and Sebastian closed them behind us as we entered. Vampires lingered in the conservatory and smiled softly as I passed. I smiled back as I took the grand stairs two at a time. I wasn’t sure what our relationship was. They were my family now, and I had accepted that—even though, at first, there had been a lack of trust on both parts. My survival was dependent on them, and it seemed, their survival was dependent on me. We both needed each other in ways we didn’t understand.
The double doors to Amicia’s office were open. With Sebastian by my side, I entered, nodded to my fellow Hunters, and made my way to her desk, where Jasik sat, flipping through pages of a thick book. Dark circles were painted below his eyes, and he ran a hand through tangled hair. We slept in shifts after Amicia’s abduction, but I suspected Jasik skipped his rounds altogether.
I cleared my throat, and Jasik tore his eyes away from the yellowed paper to meet mine.
“Is it finished?” he asked.
“Yes. The runes are carved, and the headstones are spelled. We can begin the ceremony at any time,” I answered.
He released a quick burst of air—no doubt the breath he’d been holding since Amicia had been taken. He leaned back in the chair, running his hands over his eyes.
“I’ve been reading Amicia’s journals for days and haven’t found anything,” he said, dropping his arms and straightening in the chair. “I only know my part and the basics. But it’s not enough. It’s been too long since we’ve…” It was an odd feeling: we were thankful for the lack of deaths, but the distance between the last burial ritual and now meant no one could remember the exact steps that needed to be taken. No one but Amicia, that is.
“We do what we can,” Malik said. He looked just as exhausted as his brother. I knew it had to be difficult for Malik to watch his younger brother in such pain, even though the hard features of his face betrayed nothing. I was always amazed by Malik’s ability to be completely and thoroughly unreadable.
“That won’t be enough,” Jasik said.
“Maybe we can do something different this time. I’ve done countless burial ceremonies. I mean, it’s the least I can do,” I said, hopeful.
“As much as I hate to say it, she’s right,” Lillie said, her Irish accent faint. She was sitting beside Malik, her pixie blonde locks in disarray. Her usual bright, blue eyes were red, puffy. We hadn’t always seen eye-to-eye, but her confession didn’t surprise me. We really didn’t have another option. There were thousands upon thousands of hand-written journals in Amicia’s library. After all, she was over seven hundred years old. A girl could accrue a lot of crap in that amount of time.
“I agree,” Jeremiah said. I almost hadn’t noticed him. Even now, he cowered in the corner, hiding in the shadows. “Besides, we need to get this over with.” The harshness of his words struck anger in the others’ eyes.
“I didn’t mean—I just meant we need to hurry. The longer Amicia’s out there, the more likely she’s going to die. We just need to hurry and get her back, and then things can get back to normal.”
“I don’t think anything will ever be normal again,” I said, meeting Jeremiah’s sad, gray eyes. His dark chocolate skin turned ashy as he nervously scratched at his arms.
No one spoke. I knew we were all thinking the same thing: we couldn’t go back to what we had. We had to move on, to let go. Opening our arms to the future and its possibilities was harder than we imagined.
“Okay. Avah will lead the burial, but it needs to be done tonight.”
I nodded. “Everything I need should be in the basement stock room.” I glanced at the clock. Still four hours before dawn. Plenty of time. “I just need an hour.”
“We’ll make the announcement while you prepare, then.”
I left Amicia’s office in a daze. Jasik rarely spoke of vampire law to me. In fact, my only experience with it had been when he had broken it to change me. I was on the brink of death, and I suppose he thought the sacrifice was worth it. The cost, he had explained, was death. Thankfully, Amicia granted him immunity. The day following Amicia’s capture, Jasik had explained just how important it was to find Amicia: the Hunter’s sole purpose was to protect his priestess. Failure would cost the Hunter his life. Bringing Amicia home, alive, was our only option.
I entered the basement quarters with Sebastian tailing me. It was easy to forget he was around—especially during the rare occasions he chose to remain silent. He was stealthy, invisible… almost.
“I don’t need assistance,” I said without meeting his gaze. I didn’t like the power he held over us. He had information about what I was, and he had the strength that we could have used in battle. He had saved me, and I was grateful, but still, I couldn’t stop thinking of ‘what-ifs.’ What if he had gotten there sooner? What if he had bypassed me and saved the others? What if…
“You sure? I’ve been to my fair share of burials, too.” He quickened his pace so he was walking beside me.
I swung the door to our stock room open and walked inside. I discovered this room a few weeks ago, and it had become difficult to stay away. In it, we stored all things magical: relics, herbs, powders, oils, crystals, candles, books, and more. I remembered my first reaction to this room wasn’t as pleasant. The elders of my witch coven had taught me that vampires and witches could—and would—never find a common ground. But since I became a vampire, that’s all I’ve seemed to discover: a common ground.
“Want to help? Here,” I said, grabbing some items from a shelf and tossing them into his arms. “Hold these.” I grabbed the final pieces for our burial ritual and closed the door behind me.
Outside, I sat the items down beside the cemetery and began to work my magic—literally. The hour I spent cleansing ritual relics by passing them through the sage stick’s smoke and setting up for circle seemed to come to an end almost as soon as it began. Behind me, black-clad members of my coven filed out of the manor and took the steps down toward me.
I smiled at my house-mates. “I know this isn’t going to be the ceremony you’re used to, but I promise I will do my best to honor our fallen. It is very important that you do not cross this line,” I said, pointing to an invisible barrier. In truth, there was nothing there, but I couldn’t allow anyone to break the circle. Had I had the time to learn control, I would have raised my own shield—one of my nifty vampire powers—as a barrier. “Sebastian will cleanse my aura and then join you.”
I nodded to Sebastian, and he stepped forward, grabbing the burning bundle of sage. While I didn’t fully trust his motives for finding me, I knew I didn’t have another choice. Only a witch could speak these words, and besides me, he was the only one around.
“How do you enter?” he asked.
“With perfect love and perfect trust,” I said. He waved the smoke stick up and down the length of my body. I turned so my back faced him, and he repeated the cleansing motion. I entered the circle, picked up my athame dagger, pressed the tip to the ground, and closed the circle. I walked to the center, where my altar sat. On it, I placed relics to represent each of our seventeen fallen members. Jasik and the other Hunters had chosen their memorial items. They brought pictures, cherished collectibles, and more.
I took a deep breath, calming the turmoil that raged within me, and then faced east. With my arm outstretched, I maintained my grasp on the athame and pointed the tip before me and toward the sky. “All that falls must rise again, and so, our friend shall be reborn. The treasure of life is the air we breathe, that for which we will forever be grateful. I call to the gods of the east to bless this circle.”
Still holding the athame, I turned and faced south. “As our life is but a day, our friend has passed into the night. Our strength, memories, courage, and the fires of our lives are given to us by our fallen friend. I call to the gods of the south to bless this circle.”
The athame burned in my hand now as the power of my words fueled its energy. I turned again, this time facing west, and said, “As the sun sets, our friend has now left us. Our tears are like the waters of the ocean. I call to the gods of the west to bless this circle.”
One final time, I turned and faced north. “As the earth has formed us, we now must return our friend back to that earth. We honor the gods for the life they have bestowed upon us and our friend. I call to the gods of the north to bless this circle.”
My breath came in short, quick bursts, as the elements swirled around and within me. As they flowed into each crevice of my being, I smiled and silently thanked the gods. I may not have been a very good vampire, but I was a damn good witch.
I turned to face the altar and the remaining members of my coven, who watched with watery, wide eyes.
I raised the athame and pointed it toward the moon, saying, “You are the moon, Mother Earth, and the goddesses. Though you have fallen, you will remain an eternal creation, a life with no end, a never-ending cycle.
“You are the sun, the gods. You are born from us and will live through us. You only live and die to be reborn again. You are the destroyer, the ruler of the land of the dead.
“Bless our friends and see them safely into Summerland, where they will await their rebirth. May they be reborn again at the same time as the ones they have loved now, so they may know and love them again.” With a final thrust, I twirled the athame in my hand and stabbed it into the cold, hard ground.
I stepped away from the athame, leaving it handle-deep in Mother Earth. I tore my teary eyes from the crowd and glanced at the seventeen candles standing tall on my altar.
“Incendia,” I said, calling to fire. In unison, the seventeen candles sparked, their wicks igniting in flame.
“Though the wick on these candles will burn, the eternal fires within our hearts will never die. We say goodnight and goodbye to our fallen family, as they now must pass through Summerland with the knowledge that they will be missed and forever remembered in our thoughts and hearts. Blessed be, our friends, our family. May your crossing be peaceful and swift.”
I grasped the handle of the athame and focused on its energies. The gods heard my plea and accepted our offering. The athame’s handle, once burning with the power and energy I had left in it, now felt empty, a sign of acceptance. I pulled the athame from the ground, ending the ceremony. I set the athame on the altar and slowly raised my gaze. The others smiled at me with hopeful eyes.
One by one, the vampires walked to the graves to pay their respects. Most cried, and I found myself wondering just how long our fallen had been part of this coven’s life. Had they been here since the beginning? Or were they newborns, their lives cut short by the burden of war? I was lost in my thoughts and hadn’t heard Jasik approach from behind.
“That was beautiful,” he said, pulling me toward him. I fell against his frame, resting my head against his chest. I closed my eyes and listened for his slow, steady heartbeat. The sound had been shocking when I first changed. I hadn’t expected to find a heart, but I discovered that vampires had so much more than just beating hearts: like mortals, they had souls, desires, and downfalls. I opened my eyes to find Malik beside me, staring curiously.
“I was hesitant, but you came through. Thank you,” he said before walking away, joining the other Hunters in the manor. Malik was very slowly opening up to me, and though I knew he needed time to accept the fact that his brother broke a vampire law of utmost importance by changing me, I still wanted him to just let it go. We had more important things to worry about, but had I said that to him, he’d probably simply tell me my ignorance betrayed my youth.
I stepped away from Jasik and wrapped my arms around my chest, watching as each vampire placed his or her hand atop a tombstone and spoke just above a whisper. They prayed that their loved ones would find their way home, and then they went inside, leaving their graves behind to seek shelter and comfort wherever they could find it.
“Sebastian refueled the protection spells around the manor,” I said as I walked toward the front gate. “I just want to make a quick perimeter run to be sure everything’s okay.”
“I’ll join you,” Jasik said, grabbing onto my hand as we left the safety of the magical shield that kept Rogues from entering the manor while we slumbered.
Our manor was enclosed within a black wrought-iron fence boundary, and at each of the four corners, I had placed power-infused crystals to protect us. As we passed each now, I could feel its strength, power radiating from its points. Sebastian hadn’t failed me. I wondered if I should consider giving him the benefit of the doubt.
“What’s on your mind?” Jasik asked. I glanced up to find him staring at me intently.
“Nothing, really. Just thinking about everything—Amicia getting back, Sebastian and his many secrets.”
“We need to discuss what we are to do,” Jasik said, nodding.
“I think… I think he needs to join us when we begin tracking Amicia,” I said.
Jasik came to an abrupt stop, turned, and faced me. I knew he wasn’t going to like my suggestion.
“I think he’ll be useful. We can keep an eye on him, and he and I can work one on one.”
“Avah, it’s not safe. We can’t trust him. Not yet.”
“If he wanted to kill me, don’t you think he would have tried by now? Something? Anything?” It was true that I had lingering doubts regarding Sebastian’s intentions, but admitting so would only fuel the fire Jasik was kindling. But I also couldn’t deny that my faith in him held a stronger pull than my doubt. When it came to the unreadable Sebastian, I was left a mess of emotions.
“Not when he’s facing a house full of vampires, an experienced team of Hunters, and you, but when we leave, it’ll just be us. We’ll be busy tracking, and you’ll be alone with him.”
“I don’t need you to protect me, Jasik. I need to figure this out by myself.”
Pain flashed in his eyes, and I immediately regretted my words.
“Jasik,” I said, reaching for him, my fingertips lightly brushing against his skin, “I didn’t mean it like that. I just need to figure this out, and I’d like answers sooner rather than later. Besides, we can’t just leave him at the house alone, unprotected. This isn’t like your usual hunts. We’ll be gone for weeks, not hours or days. They’ll be too vulnerable.”
“I’ve already contacted other covens. Each house is willing to send one Hunter here for protection. Our coven will be safe. The other Hunters will watch over him, ensuring he doesn’t do anything he’ll regret when we return.”
“And you need to trust that I will be fine. I can do this. I can handle Sebastian. I can protect myself.”
“Not against him. We still don’t know his true power,” Jasik said.
“But more importantly, we still don’t know my power, and that’s what matters. Besides, you won’t need me to help you with tracking. I’ll just be tagging along, really. So bringing Sebastian will give me something to do.”
“Give you something to do? You speak as though saving Amicia isn’t important to you.”
I groaned and turned away but was caught by Jasik’s hand. I yanked my arm free. “You know that’s not what I meant. Of course she’s important to me, but she doesn’t need me. I need me.”
“I need you, too,” he said, looking away.
In my frustration, I hadn’t realized just how important this was to him. Sure, he wanted to protect me, but he was vulnerable, too. He had failed in his duties to protect his high priestess. His wounded pride needed tending. I just couldn’t give him that. Not when I couldn’t trust the growing, uncontrollable power inside me.
“I care a great deal about Amicia. You know this. Don’t belittle my feelings just because I want to spend my days training with Sebastian while you four track her. I’ll still be there. I’ll still be with you. And I’ll help whenever you need me. But I also need to think about myself. While I’m being there for everyone else, no one is being there for me, and I—”
He scoffed and turned away. “You can’t be serious, Avah! Do you truly believe no one is here for you? Every vampire in that house,” he said as he flung his arm toward the manor, “is here for you. They all trust you. They all want you to be part of this coven, and being part of this coven means doing your job as a Hunter. There will be plenty of time for training, but our first priority must be Amicia’s return.”
I was shocked into silence. Sure, I was being selfish, but after everything we’d been through, couldn’t I be selfish for once in my life?
“Jasik, what’s really going on? You know this coven has become one of my top priorities.”
He ran a hand through his hair and exhaled deeply. “I just don’t trust him. I just—I just want you to do this my way. I don’t want to question your safety, and I don’t want to worry about Sebastian. Not right now.”
I understood completely. Though he didn’t say the words, I knew where his hurt lay. Sebastian was the first vampire we’d encountered who shared my differences. Hell, he could be the only other one in existence. I was sure that bothered Jasik more than he let on.
I wrapped my arms around his neck. “You know my decision to bring him along is because I need to learn more about who I am and what I can do. Nothing more, and nothing less.”
“And what happens once you’ve learned everything he can teach you?”
I shrugged, pulling him closer. “Sebastian will go back to Australia?”
Jasik closed his eyes and rested his forehead against mine. “When he’s near… Everything feels different.”
“What does that mean?” I whispered.
He shook his head. “I just… I don’t know.”
“Are you saying you feel differently for… for me?”
His eyes opened as he pulled away, and pain lingered there. “No. Of course not.”
I nodded. His hand grasped mine, and he pulled me toward him. My mouth found his, and I leaned against him. Our bodies fit perfectly—each and every curve tucked neatly together. Hours could have passed before we finally pulled away breathlessly. I smiled up at him, his earlier unease gone.
“You’re sure you can handle him?” he asked.
“Positive. I really think he doesn’t want to hurt us.”
“And if he does?”
I exhaled slowly, letting his words sink in. “If he does, well, then I’ll take care of the situation.”
While my instincts were telling me I could trust Sebastian, I couldn’t deny the possibility that they’d betray me.