Urban Fantasy – Thorns & Blood series
by Cheri Winters
Cheri Winters’ Thorns & Blood – Book 1 is now FREE for a limited time.
Why do the guilty always run? Doesn’t matter if the mark is human, vamp or were or even fae, they all take off as soon as I give my name. Their response should fuel my ego, right? Nope, it just pisses me off. For once, why couldn’t a person acquiesce and let me do my job: turn them into the authorities so I can collect my pay and get on with my life.
I hadn’t finished binge watching Dexter for the third time when this bounty hunting order popped up on my cell. Should’ve known there was more to it than a quick pick up.
My human target dashed into the crowd. Under the rising sun, business people shuffled down the sidewalk in a rush to get to work. A taxi driver had hit another vehicle and both drivers were standing outside their cars, yelling.
Crap, where had the dude fled? If he thought he’d gotten away, he was too late; I’d already thrown a tracking enchantment on him. But I couldn’t risk him discovering it and paying a black arts wizard or witch to break it. Time to move. And I’d worn my heeled boots today thinking a human target, even one with an expensive dollar sign on his head, would be easy.
As I ran, I fingered the baton at my hip. I couldn’t use my dual magic to freeze him with all these civilians in the way. With my luck, if I tried, the humans would turn into ice sculptures and stay that way for weeks.
My boots clicked across the cement as I chased after my mark. He barreled into an old woman, knocking her down, and her bag of groceries scattered across the sidewalk. Apples and a grapefruit tumbled out into the street. Bastard kept running.
“Here, let me help you up.” I paused and held out my hand to the old woman. “Then we’ll get your food.” And I would pick up dude’s trail from the magical tracking spell that had landed on his back. Wasn’t like I didn’t know his crimes. The order was to pick him up for skipping bail and shoplifting. Hardly hardcore stuff, and I should have him bagged, tagged, and delivered before my morning coffee craving hit. Was he too fast a runner to be bagged by the human bounty hunters? Is that why ASH had given me the case and placed a six thousand dollar price tag on him? Should’ve known something was up when I read the order. Too easy – and nothing in my life was ever easy.
“Thank you, sweetie.” The old woman’s eyes widened when I touched her arm, and she began to shake.
What the hell? My magic had siphoned out of me and… into this woman. Why? Had I triggered a wormhole spell that had laid dormant right here all this time? Whatever it was it was draining me like I hadn’t eaten or slept in weeks. I jerked to get away, but my hand wouldn’t budge off her arm. My French manicured nails turned blue. Sparks shot out at our connection. People around us screamed and ran, some ducking into shops and businesses, others jumping into taxis.
The elderly female glanced up at me, the corners of her wrinkled mouth curling upward. “That boy you’re hunting is my nephew.”
“What the fuck are you?” I tried to yank my hand back, but it didn’t move. It felt like I was superglued and sewed to her arm. If I got out of this, it might be useful information for when I tried to apprehend him. Did the dude have any talents like hers? From the neck down, I was a statue. Was she emptying my magic? How?
“A Terin.” She grinned and her teeth were serrated and black. “And after I finish feeding on your power, I’m going to enjoy devouring your flesh and bones.”
Nice. A shiver skated down my back. Wouldn’t be the first time I’d been in over my head. “Crime scene cleanup must be a breeze then.” I swallowed, fighting the urge to close my eyes. Something told me if I did, she’d win, and I wasn’t giving in that easily. My whole life had been a struggle and I wasn’t gonna let some monster get the best of me. Was it a creature like this that had killed my parents? All I knew was I’d come home from high school to find them gone. No trace. No blood. Not even a smidge of a backfired spell.
“Wingetta Meuion,” I said.
She slapped her other hand down on mine. “Not so fast, my little witch.
Double speed, my power flooded forward and into her. I opened my mouth for another spell, but the words stuck in my throat like barnacles. Fuck!
My witch side was useless, along with my wizard power that wouldn’t work without a focal point: a staff, a stick, a wand, or, in my case, the used police baton I’d picked up at a garage sale. If I could reach the thing…
Spots paraded across my vision. I didn’t want to die, but my energy was fading fast. My thoughts turned sluggish. Soon I’d be this ghoul’s dinner.
“Hold it right there!” a voice shouted, but I couldn’t move to see who’d spoken, couldn’t warn them.
“Step away with your hands up.”
Must be a cop and a human one. Anyone else would see her aura slurping up mine. I struggled against the fatigue crashing into me to shout a warning, but I couldn’t even get out a squeak.
“I said, hands up.” The voice came louder this time. Over the Terin’s shoulder, a cop held up a pistol. I seriously doubted that would even leave a scratch on her, but I hoped it would distract her enough if he did fire, for me to throw out a spell and bind the bitch.
She laughed and waved out a hand. Instantly, the guy convulsed. Smoke rose from his body. He screamed. His eyes bulged and his skin changed to a sunburned red. With a bang, his body combusted, leaving fragments of blood and guts steaming on the sidewalk.
Damn, how in the world did she tap into my fire spell? Wait, what else could she do?
Shit, shit, shit! This creature not only absorbed magic, but reused it? And the dead officer had my magical signature all over him. If the Terin didn’t kill me, then ASH-Aligned Supernatural Human task force –would lock me up and throw away the key. Like I didn’t have enough problems.
Rage shimmered across my flesh. I drew into my fading energy, but it slipped through my fingers, like trying to weave spider silk.
I ground my teeth until my jaw cramped. If I could reach the baton, even touch it with my pinkie finger, then I could blast the Terin away from me. It was right there on my hip, an inch at most from my freaking hand. I strained, pulling all the reserves I had left into a central spot on my finger. Move, damn you! Sweat trickled down my spine.
The Terin’s eyes transformed to a crimson color. Not just the iris, but her whole eye. Probably not a good sign.
Come on! I strained to lift my finger, and the nail grazed the baton. Yes. Just a little bit more. My pinkie brushed the cool wood. Yes! I let out a breath and charged the weapon. Or tried to, but my magic didn’t flow into the baton as it should’ve, instead sparks leaped from it and into the Terin.
“Oh, you surprise me little witch.” She grinned, revealing her black jagged teeth and making the Grinch look like Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick. “Or should I say witchard.” She spat the last word like an insult.
Yup, that was me. I was a half-breed of both a witch and a wizard. My magic had been enough to hold my own against paranormal creatures – until now.
But if this Terin was going to end me, I was going to take her to hell with me. I just had to do it without being able to move or use my magic. Otherwise, I’d have to figure out how to haunt her as a ghost.
I couldn’t move my body or use my magic or even kick this bitch to the curb. Wait, I was able to move my head a bit. I reared back as far as I could and slammed my forehead into the side of her head. She blinked as if I had whispered something to her while my skull vibrated from the impact. No way was I giving up, I’d give myself a concussion before I stopped fighting. Again, I smashed into her, making stars zip past my vision. At least this way, she wouldn’t be able to kill me… I was doing a damn fine job of that myself.
A siren sounded in the distance, but ASH would be too late. Already, my life essence was trickling away from me. My breaths and pulse crawled from one to another. I screamed inside my head as a burning pain feeling like lava coursed through my body and melted my bones.
CHERI WINTERS BIO
Cheri Winters got hooked on Urban Fantasy through Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, and Laurel K. Hamilton. Now Cheri writes her stories with kick-ass heroines battling their way through adventure and mayhem.
When not writing, Cheri practices Muay Thai and Karate or catches up reading her favorite authors.
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