The Curse of Dark Root: Part Two (Daughters of Dark Root Book 4)

BOOK: The Curse of Dark Root: Part Two (Daughters of Dark Root Book 4)
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THE CURSE OF DARK ROOT: PART II

(Daughters of Dark Root Book 4)

by

April Aasheim

Copyright © 2016 by April Aasheim

Published by Dark Root Press

Cover Art & Design by Jennifer Munswami at

J.M. Rising Horse Creations

www.facebook.com/RisingHorseCreations

2015

Ebook Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please visit an official vendor for the work and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

SYNOPSIS

Things are tough in Dark Root. Shane is missing and presumed dead. Julianna Benbridge is haunting the town. And the mysterious curse has tightened its grip on Maggie.

The clock is ticking down and its not looking good. Can Maggie save herself and her family from the deal made with Larinda? Or will she be too late this time?

To Kathleen

Who has shown me the true love and strength of family.

PROLOGUE

I Put a Spell On You

AT THE TOP of a mountain sits a gray stone castle, its once sleek outer walls now covered in layers of filth and moss. Crafted by will and cunning long ago, the castle has since succumbed to the madness of the plane in which it resides––a shifting expanse of truths and untruths, woven together in a patchwork of drifting uncertainties.

Inside, a woman in a long red dress paces the main chamber, her sparse brows fused in concentration. A troubled expression lingers on her pallid face. She has spent months here––or perhaps years––waiting for the Darkness to come. A round clock on the far wall announces the hour, though its hands keep moving forward and back, ticking through every possible combination of time. It shifts too much, the woman thinks, keeping one eye forever on the timepiece, watching it like a cauldron of slow-boiling water.

Whenever the hands settle and she is certain the time-shifts have ended, they move again, forward and back, and she must begin her waiting anew.

A raven caws from one of the tall, crumbling pillars flanking the hall––a warning cry. The woman turns towards the corridor, peering into the shadows that separate the vast hollow rooms. Heavy footsteps approach––footsteps that sound with both purpose and apathy, made by a soul whose restlessness mimics her own. Gathering her skirts, she races up the platform steps, in order to greet her guest from her throne.

The raven calls again, then disappears into the gloom.

“You're early!” The woman shouts from her high-backed chair.

An auburn-haired man in his middle years checks his watch as he enters the chamber, a crooked smile on his face. “No, Larinda. I'm right on time.”

They stare at each other for a long moment, remembering earlier days. He has changed, she sees, but not much. There are now lines etched across his temples and silver streaks his hair, but he is still exceptionally handsome. Larinda motions for him to join her. It's been years since his last visit and his eyes explore every inch of the rich tiled floors and walls displaying grand works of art appropriated from museums around the world. His gaze lingers a moment on a watercolor painting of a horse before moving on to the cobwebs in a high corner.

“Looks like you could use a little help around here,” he says with a wink.

“Oh? Are you offering your services? How delightful!” Larinda claps, just once. “And here I thought the great Armand had better things to do these days.”

Armand clicks his too-long nails against one of the marble pillars, loosening dust from above, which he gracefully sidesteps. “Who said I offered to help?”

He clasps his hands in front of him and stretches his arms, cracking his knuckles. The sound echoes throughout the chamber.

“You know why I'm here, Larinda. You sent one of your minions to find me. This better be worth my time.” He reaches into the air and produces a long black feather, twirling it between two fingers. Raising it to his nose, he sniffs before sending it back to its plane.

“Seat?” Larinda motions towards a rug near the foot of her throne. He laughs, then snaps his fingers. Another throne appears beside hers, taller and more ornate, elevated to his advantage. Larinda's thin lips dip into a frown, though she quickly recovers and produces a sweet smile, batting her scant lashes as she extends a hand, inviting him to sit.

“If I had known you were coming so soon, I would have dressed up.” She waves her hands along her body and the red gown is instantly replaced by a black, sequined mini-dress. A jeweled band materializes on her forehead, showcasing three feathers in shades of black, white, and gray.

“Better?” she asks with a coquettish smile, crossing her legs to reveal a hint of her alabaster thigh.

“Sexier, but far less regal.” Armand takes his seat, planting his feet firmly on the tiled floor. “I know the toll that magick takes on you these days, without being able to charge in the real world. It’s a precious commodity that you shouldn't be wasting.”

He leans to the side, smiling as he caresses her chin before pulling away.

His touch weakens her, reminding her of the many nights they shared together, long ago. Does he remember those times, she wants to ask, but dignity keeps her in check. She is not the warlock's equal––in power or intellect––but she will not show weakness. If she hadn't succumbed to him so easily before, she would never have become trapped here in the first place.

Besides, she has something to bargain with now. Something important.

She pushes her back into the chair, sitting as tall as a queen. Her red dress returns, and a crown as well. “Sasha's dead, as you must have heard.”

Armand frowns but doesn't speak.

“As for Jillian and Dora...” Larinda continues, waving her hand dismissively. “Their powers are muted now, nearly useless.”

“Oh?”
 

Larinda suppresses a smile. “I struck a deal with them, and they did not keep their end of the bargain. They have forfeit their right to cast magick. The domes are failing, crashing over Dark Root as we speak! Soon, I shall be able to transport there at will, as will you.”

Armand's jaw tightens and his fingers strum against the armrest. “Deal or not, they will not be daunted. You greatly underestimate their abilities. You always have.”

“As did you.”

He strokes his chin, thoughtfully. “What about Maggie? Are her powers muted, too?”

Larinda smiles, her eyes gleaming. “You shouldn't worry so much, Armand. It will add more lines to your handsome face.” She touches his knee playfully. “As for Maggie, the girl is powerful, but she's also headstrong, stubborn, and unable to control her abilities. A wilder that Sasha never trained. She lacks discipline. Besides, she's still cursed and her bracelet wears thin. She won't stand in our way for long.”

“Undisciplined and headstrong. That's what they once said about me.” Armand stretches his legs across the floor, clicking his heels into the tile.

He is wearing his cowboy boots, Larinda notes, the only ones she’d ever seen him wear, but his cowboy hat is oddly missing.

Armand presses his fingertips together below his chin. “Sasha should have told me about the girl instead of hidden her. How foolish I was to believe she wasn't mine. I could have trained her myself, and things would have been much different.” His eyes once again travel to the horse painting, and for a moment, his aura softens.

“Never underestimate anyone, Larinda,” he continues. “Especially when there's love involved.” He speaks the word love with contempt, one side of his mouth curling into a snarl. Armand despises that word. It holds too much power.

She turns slightly, looking into his green eyes. They are deadened now––incapable of much expression anymore. Still, when she peers deep enough, she sees that he is the same man she once knew, hidden beneath the layers. “Leave this to me, master,” she purrs, her voice as smooth and promising as his favorite brandy. “I promise, I'll please you.”

BOOK: The Curse of Dark Root: Part Two (Daughters of Dark Root Book 4)
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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