Cursed by Fire
(Blood & Magic 1)
by Danielle Annett
Release Date: January 28, 2015 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal
It has been six years since the Awakening and peace in Spokane, Washington is still tenuous at best. The vampires and shifters are all vying for control of the city and the humans seem to be the ones suffering the consequences, or so it seems.
Aria Naveed has spent the last two years of her life fighting to make the many wrongs of the world right, but soon finds out that the humans aren’t as weak as they appear and may be a more terrifying foe than any of the other races combined.
When a stranger rolls into town with trouble on his heels, Aria finds herself trapped in the middle of a battle that could cost her more than she has bargained for as a fight for justice turns into an unexpected fight for her life.
All I saw was blood. Blood soaked my hands and coated the walls. It stained the concrete flooring of the abandoned warehouse and dripped from fixtures that hung from the ceiling, trickling like a slow rain. My vision blurred as anguish filled me. How could this have happened? How could I have been too late?
I stared down at the lifeless body of a child. A boy. Kneeling in a pool of congealing blood, I ran my fingers through his chestnut hair, ignoring the now-cool moisture seeping into the denim of my pants. His face was unrecognizable. Gone was the child with the dimpled cheek and brilliant blue eyes. Left behind was a mass of flesh and bone--a ruined body drained of its life force at such a young age.
Reality snapped like an elastic band, bringing me back to the present as I sat at my desk in Sanborn Place. Ripped from the haunted memories of finding Daniel’s body.
The world was a cruel place. It was a fact of life and even though I knew it was true, I still had a hard time coming to terms with the atrocities people committed. The cruelties that for some god-forsaken reason, people thought were okay. Staring down at the wallet-sized photo now crumpled in my hands, I was greeted by a crown of chestnut hair, bright blue eyes, a heart-shaped face, and a brilliant smile; a single dimple on his left cheek. The face of an innocent seven-year-old boy, cut down like he was little more than a calf brought to slaughter. I found myself struggling to link the image of this smiling boy to that of the ruined body I’d found less than forty-eight hours ago.
Inside, a small part of me burned. My blood heated and a turbulent rage rolled through me, one I had to fight to contain.
“Ari, you’ve got to stop staring at the kid. He’s gone. Let it go,” I heard Mike say.
I couldn’t let it go. I didn’t understand how he could either. I looked up from the photograph and stared Mike straight in the eyes. He cringed but held my gaze.
“He was seven-years-old, Mike,” I said through clenched teeth. “Seven!”
I shook my head, the poor kid had barely lived, barely tasted what the world had to offer. I take that back, he’d tasted too much of what the world could give and it had cost him.
Ever since the Awakening six years ago when all things that went bump in the night decided to come out of the woodwork and play, safety had been tenuous at best and kids like this, like seven-year-old Daniel Blackmore, were suffering the price.
Vampires, shifters, mages, witches and many more creatures of the night so to speak had seemingly popped out of nowhere, deciding they were ready to integrate themselves into everyday, or night, society.
Daniel had been abducted by a rogue vampire. I’d found his mangled body, broken and discarded as if he were nothing more than a piece of trash and I was going to find the bastard that had killed him and make him pay.
“Ari, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no.”
I looked Mike up and down. He was an older man in his late forties with a streak of silver in his otherwise midnight colored hair. The wrinkles around his eyes would lead you to believe he smiled a lot but I knew better. Those lines were from his ever-present frown. Dressed in black slacks and a grey button up shirt, his mid-section strained against the buttons looking like they could pop off at any moment, likely taking someone’s eye out in the process.
“I wasn’t asking for your permission,” I told him, my gaze going back to the photo.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass if you were asking. I’m telling you, Ari, let it go! You can’t help him anymore. All you’ll end up doing is getting yourself hurt or worse, killed for your trouble.”
That was the problem with people who had lived through the Awakening. Their only concern was self-preservation. Nothing else mattered. Well, screw that because this little boy, he mattered. His life mattered and he deserved justice. I had scrubbed my hands after finding his broken body but couldn’t scrub the stain his death left on my soul.
I stood up from my desk and grabbed my keys and daggers. I sheathed the twin blades on either side of my waist, grabbed my leather jacket, and made a beeline for the door. Mike crossed the room to intercept me, arms folded over his chest blocking my way.
“Move,” I bit out.
“I can move you.”
“You can, but you won’t.”
I ground my teeth together. He was being ridiculous. This entire situation was ridiculous.
“Mike, this isn’t some game. A little boy died. He died! Does that even matter to you? I couldn’t live with myself if I let this one go.”
“What’s your plan, Ari, you going to just storm into the coven and force them to tell you who did it? They won’t tell you. They protect their own and you’re one person against an entire Coven of bloodthirsty vampires. Even the kid’s parents know it’s a lost cause. They’ve dropped the case and are focusing on burying their kid. They’re coming to terms with his death. It’s over.”
I’d been hired by Jessica Blackmore, Daniel’s mother, a little over two weeks ago to find her son who’d gone missing one afternoon. He had been walking home from a friend’s, only five houses down from his own, but never made it to the front door. She’d thought it safe enough to allow him the small bit of independence but with paranormals about, it was never truly safe.
Mike knows I’m different. He knows I have pyrokinetic abilities and he knows I can take care of myself. This wasn’t reason talking, this was him being overprotective. Feeling the temperature in the room begin to rise I forced myself to inhale and exhale slowly. Trying to calm down and keep my pyrokinesis locked up tight. It wouldn’t help the situation to start a fire. All it would do is prove to Mike that I wasn’t in control and right now I was in no mood for a lecture.
“Look, Ari, you’re a mercenary. You take on a job when you have a client. There is no client so there is no job. We’re not the police. We don’t try to clean up the streets or bag the bad guys. We’re mercs.”
I couldn’t blame him for his way of thinking. Hell, two weeks ago I would have said the same thing, but this was different. He was just a kid and I couldn’t believe everyone was so willing to leave his murderer out there.
Mid-sentence I heard the distinct buzz of a cell phone. Mike dug his phone out of his left pocket and answered it without looking at the screen.
“Hello,” he said. Mike’s face scrunched in confusion, a furrow forming between his brows. He listened for several moments and then with a grunt he hung up and stared me down. At six feet tall, he towered over me by a good five inches, but I didn’t back down. Lifting my chin and giving him my best try me stare. The one I knew drove him crazy.
“Looks like you’re getting exactly what you asked for,” he said.
“And what exactly is that?”
“That was Declan Valkenaar on the phone.”
Holy shit, the Pack Alpha. What the hell was he doing calling Mike?
An epic, action-packed adventure that left me sitting on the edge of my seat! Fast-paced and loaded with intrigue, there was never a dull moment as the investigation to solve multiple shifter and vampire murders unfolds. I absolutely fell in love with Aria and her spunky spitfire attitude! She's such a badA! Even though she's a tough girl that's been through some hard times, the devotion she has to solve these murders is absolutely admirable. There's a lot of mystery about her background, with just a few layers being revealed in this book. The worldbuilding accomplished by the author was just astounding in it's intricacy and seems actually believable. The characters were all very well developed and the descriptions in this book were just spot on and excellently executed. It was a true joy to embark on this investigation with Aria and I can't wait to see what happens next!
Kissed by Fire
(Blood & Magic 2)
by Danielle Annett
Release Date: September 13, 2015
Genre: Urban Fantasy / Paranormal
As Friend of the Pack, Aria Naveed should be untouchable, protected by the most influential group in the Pacific Northwest. But someone is unleashing rogue vampires to hunt her down, and she is determined to find out why.
When Aria gains command of Sanborn Place and takes on a case involving a mysterious paranormal, her life is put in more peril than ever as she finds herself bound to an influential power player. She doesn’t want to be anyone’s puppet, but must tread carefully as she traverses the streets of Spokane, WA, or risk being overwhelmed by the forces moving against her.
As the only known pyrokinetic in the area, Aria is in high demand, but not for her services. It seems that to those in power, she’s worth more dead than alive, and if a mysterious enemy has their way, she won’t live long enough to find out why.
Fire called to me, tempting me to bring it forth, to destroy my foe in one quick and easy strike. It would be too easy. There was something very wrong about this, about a newly made vampire walking the streets of downtown Spokane as if he were on a leisurely stroll. The change had to have been recent. Blood soaked his light-blue shirt, leaving a large stain over his chest and the left side of his body. If I’d had to guess, he’d been changed within the last few hours. His skin hadn’t turned the pale milky white associated with the undead yet.
Before I could think further, he struck. In a split second, his once jerky movements morphed into a flash of speed as he launched himself at me. I twisted out of the way but was too slow to avoid his second strike. He grabbed me by the back of the neck, flinging me across the road like a rag doll. My body collided with a parking meter, the near frozen metal splitting my cheek and knocking the air from my lungs.
I exhaled a vicious curse before drawing my twin daggers from the thigh sheath beneath my dress and jumping to my feet. My dress rode up, but I couldn’t have cared less at the moment. I was just grateful that despite the dress, I’d managed to wear the blades. Warm blood seeped from my cheek and my ribs ached with my movements.
He charged again, and this time I was ready. I allowed my attacker to get close, his hands brushing my shoulders right before I sank my first blade into the soft flesh of his stomach. My second pierced his chest, but I missed the heart. With my blades still imbedded, he squeezed my shoulder, the pain explosive. I heard a distinct pop before my left arm went limp. Shit!
My brain took a backseat as adrenaline flowed through my muscles. I kicked out with my left foot, the heel in my shoe sinking into his calf. His leg buckled under the assault and I pulled free, losing my heel in the process but retaining one of my blades. The other remained in his chest.
My left arm hung loose at my side. My right lifted and was ready with my dagger, dark-red blood dripping from its point. His eyes glowed an even deeper red, fangs descending farther to cover his bottom lip. You might as well put those back, mister. You won’t be making a meal out of me. Hot blood surged through my veins. I hastily kicked off my remaining heel, ignoring the discomfort of the snow and gravel beneath my feet. I needed to move faster.
When he struck again, I threw myself to the left, my right arm coming up and slashing his throat in a swift motion. A gurgling sound emanated from his throat, but I knew it wouldn’t last. He would begin healing almost immediately. Damn vampire. I needed to disable him somehow without killing him. My fire was calling to me and I shoved it down with everything I had. I could not light him on fire. I was determined to find out who had turned him and why he’d been set loose. I moved to deliver another blow, a deep stab to his stomach once more, but just as I moved to strike, a deep growl echoed through the streets. Another predator making itself known. Like an idiot, I turned, and the moment of distraction cost me as I felt the vampire sink his teeth into my raised forearm. A scream escaped me, and then the growl turned into a thundering roar.
I watched in suspended silence as Declan tackled the fledging vampire, bringing him to the ground, the crunch of bone loud to my ears as his body hit the pavement. He’d taken a mouthful of my flesh with him when he’d gone down, and blood flowed freely from the wound, staining the ground red. I tried without success to staunch the bleeding with my left hand but couldn’t get my arm to corporate.
Before I could stop him, Declan brought his hands to the vampire’s neck and, in one quick movement, snapped it. The sound made me cringe. He rose from the body and kicked it once. He grunted in satisfaction when the body didn’t respond.
As though a switch had been flicked, I snapped out of my daze, fury and so much frustration rising to the surface. “What the hell did you just do?” I yelled at him. Don’t light the Alpha on fire. Don’t light the Alpha on fire. I repeated the mantra over and over in my head. It would not bode well for me to attack him right now. No matter how much he deserved it.
Declan looked taken aback for a moment. “I saved your life,” he said. Urgh. Moron! “No, you didn’t. You ruined it. I cannot believe you just snapped his neck like that, without any thought.” My temperature rose and I had to take a calming breath to contain myself. It didn’t help much.
“Why would I think about it? He had his fangs buried in your arm. I’d expect a little gratitude here.”
I stormed past him and crouched beside the vampire, tearing my blade from his chest. I wiped the blade on the edge of my dress before sheathing it. It was already ruined so a little more blood couldn't hurt it. I needed something else to focus on aside from Declan’s stupidity or I was going to lose what little control I had. I skimmed my hands over the now cold body, checking the pockets of his shirt and pants to find anything that may provide me with some sort of clue.
“What are you doing?” Declan asked, obviously annoyed. Join the club, buddy. I was pretty damn annoyed myself.
“I’m looking for information,” I bit out. “It would have been much easier to just question the vampire but no, you had to go and snap his neck and be all ‘I am tiger, hear me roar.’” I threw my hands in the air in frustration.
He snarled beside me. “I saved your life.”
“No. You interfered. I’m a pyrokinetic. Don’t you think if I’d wanted him dead, I’d have lit his ass on fire as soon as he got close? I wasn’t trying to kill him. I was trying to disable him, and then you had to come out here all hot-headed and kill him.”
Danielle Annett is a reader, writer, photographer, and the blogger behind Coffee and Characters. Born in the SF Bay area, she now resides in Spokane, WA, the primary location for her Blood & Magic series.
Addicted to coffee at an early age, she spends her restless nights putting pen to paper as she tries to get all of the stories out of her head before the dogs wake up the rest of the house and vye for her attention.