Authors: Janelle Daniels
Tags: #Sweet, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Novella, #Psychics, #Ghosts, #Angels, #Fantasy, #Talisman, #Estranged Mate, #Epic Struggle, #Magick, #Magical Enhancer, #Thieves Attack, #Vicious Spells, #Redwood Falls, #Abandoned, #Relic, #Dark & Light Magick, #Freelancing Business, #Enemies, #Protect Mate, #Loyalty, #Dark Magick Wielder, #Voltaire's Fortress, #True One, #Power Jeopardy, #Precarious Balance
HE WITCHING CRAFT
Dream Cache Publishing
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Janelle Daniels
Cover Art © 2015 Creative Book Covers
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
An estranged mate’s return,
And an epic struggle between dark and light magick.
t was her destiny
After Persephone creates the talisman, a magical enhancer beyond any ever forged, she’s attacked by thieves from both sides of power, intent on stealing the object for themselves. She protects the talisman with vicious spells but doesn’t prepare for Zander, her estranged mate who abandoned her years ago, or his attempt to possess the relic.
He wants the talisman...
After years of walking the line between dark and light magick, Zander refuses to allow any item to tip the balance and cut into his freelancing business--regardless of who crafted it. However, once Zander lays eyes on Persephone, the one woman he’d never forgotten, his goals shift. He’d not only keep the talisman away from his enemies, but he’d protect his mate as well, winning back her loyalty and love after years apart.
After Voltaire, a ruthless dark magick wielder, captures Persephone, she finds the key she’d searched for… the True One… hidden in Voltaire’s fortress. With the talisman’s power in jeopardy, Persephone must choose whether to channel its magick, an act that could kill her, or risk the precarious balance between light and dark, destroying all she holds dear.
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o my critique partners
. You’re amazing.
And Dan. Always.
, Seph, but not good enough," Zander whispered to himself as curls of sapphire-blue power flowed through his fingers, manipulating the barrier spell. He furrowed his brows, concentrating on unlinking the intricate spell Persephone maintained around her property. The hint of dark magick he sensed split a grin on his face. She'd grown in the time he'd been away. Back then, she never would have considered using a whiff of dark magick.
With a final incantation, he neutralized the spell, confident his magical fingerprint would never be found. "Gotcha."
The night stood still around her five-acre lot. The moon was new, working in his favor as he crept around her property, undetected.
Peering through the back living room window, all lights were off. She was either sleeping or away for the night. The first was preferable. He blocked the swift stab of jealousy the second option evoked. He didn't have the right to feel that way anymore. He'd seen to that.
Proceeding farther toward the back of the property, the air vibrated in front of him. He paused inches away from the force field, contemplating the translucent space.
His long fingers rooted through his pockets, closing around a small leather pouch. In his line of work, it'd come in useful more times than he cared to admit. With a small portion in his hand, he blew the green powder into the air, its fine-grained consistency diffusing as it bonded with her spell.
His eyes narrowed. If he'd taken one more step into the trap, he'd be dead. The second barrier wasn’t a surprise. Anyone protecting something so powerful would have multiple spells in place. But this was on a whole other level. She didn't just want to keep people away. She wanted them dead.
Grim, he took a handful of onyx stones out of his pack, slowly pushing one into the enchantment’s core. The spell’s glowing threads held the stone in place as Zander spaced the remaining stones throughout the spell’s weave until he'd run out. The enchantment was larger than he'd expected. Had he brought enough stones to break it?
Ancient words floated through his lips as blue light swirled around him. Pushing the energy into the middle stone, electricity ricocheted to the others, pulverizing the death trap.
Persephone was in over her head. While her two protection spells would keep most others away, the people coming after her, after the talisman, would easily break through them and whatever else she had planned. Her illusion of safety was just that. An illusion.
He’d failed her once, but even if she hated him now, he'd protect her. Keeping the talisman in her possession would only end in her death. He wouldn’t allow that. Ever.
He’d been good once. Good like her. He couldn’t say he walked in the light now. The dark had its uses, its purposes. Dark and light blended until they created something new. He fought for that side now.
His own side.
A client had wanted him to acquire the foretold talisman after sensing its creation, but Zander had refused. He didn’t need to scry for its location like others would. Who'd created it, who’d been destined to do so, was the one person he’d never been able to forget.
That history gave him an edge in tracking the talisman, but others would close in on it soon. The talisman was too powerful to allow it to fall into anyone else’s hands.
He'd toed the line between light and dark for a decade and had built up his reputation on both sides of the fight. The talisman would tip the scale, and he refused to allow anything to jeopardize all he’d accomplished as a freelancer.
If he didn't steal the item himself and lead the other hunters away, the talisman would fall into dangerous hands by night’s end. And Persephone would be dead.
The breeze shifted, carrying the clang of metal striking metal. He turned, glimpsing slices of light slipping through mature trees.
Ah, so that’s where she was.
He traipsed across a field. Light escaped through the barn doors, and his eyes narrowed at the burning in his nose from smelting.
The structure wasn’t just a barn. It was Persephone's forge. But hell, it was two in the morning, didn't the woman sleep?
He sensed the talisman inside the freshly painted building, but confronting her caused other problems. He couldn’t take the talisman by force. A physical altercation with Persephone proved difficult under any circumstances.
He could wait until she left, but there wasn’t time. Others would be here soon.
Raking a hand through his dirty blond hair, his gut twisted. Confronting her was necessary, but what could he say? Hey, babe, I’m back? Sorry I haven’t dropped you a line in ten years? He never thought he’d see her again, and the inevitability of the moment flustered him.
He bypassed several local traps at the end of the field, not bothering to disarm them. Why would he when avoidance was quicker?
Assuming a final spell protected the door, he approached it warily. One step too far and a nearly untraceable surge of power locked around him.
A second trap.
He struggled against the mystical white ropes lacing around him, combing up this body and tying down each limb. His own magick surged against the bindings, but it failed.
The net captured him.
Furious, he bucked, the futility fueling his rage. He'd never been caught.
. Not once in a decade of freelancing. But now, at the time when it mattered most, the past distracted him. Persephone distracted him.
How was he going to explain his presence? She wouldn’t believe the lies he so often wove to accomplish his tasks. She’d know exactly why he’d come. What he was here for.
He cursed again.
ersephone labored in the forge
, purifying metal and purging her mind. The last twelve hours caused more grief, more stress, than she'd experienced in her whole life.
Glancing at the warped metal in her tongs, she had no clue what it’d become. Right now, forging wasn't about the outcome, it was about the process. It could remain a hunk of metal for all she cared.
Pulling off a glove, she swiped a damp red curl from her forehead. Sweat beaded there, but she didn't mind. She shifted the silver-knotted bracelet on her wrist before recovering her arm with the heavy glove.
The thick chains of metal hanging around her neck and dangling from her ears were her own design. She lived for metal. It was her essence, her skill. Her power. Her craft.
Weaving a spell through the molten material, a vision of a thick cuff filled her mind. A piece to protect against dark magick. She didn't relish weaving hints of darkness into her work. She never had, but it was necessary at times. Balance needed to be maintained. You couldn't have something so powerful without a weakness, without a drawback. Nature ruled the world that way, and Persephone followed that law when creating.
The only time she had gone against that law, magick took its price another way. The scar around her wrist tingled as she crafted. Some laws could be bent or broken, but this one couldn’t. Mystical balance required absolute obedience.
She raised the hammer high when the spell’s alarm sounded. Gasping, she dropped the tool on her anvil and secured her tongs and enchanted metal in the fire.
Her stomach flipped as she raced to the door. The first and second barrier hadn't sounded. Only one of the locals.
How had an intruder gotten so close?
Other protective magicks awaited deployment, Celeste had assured her, but they'd been too dangerous, too costly. Once a person dabbled in dark magick, it was hard to stop. Dark power was seductive, addicting. With the amount she’d infused in the talisman, it was risky using more.
She gulped, she'd have to now. No matter the toll.
Jerking opened the door, she froze as the wind knocked from her chest. The intruder writhed ten steps from the entrance, entangled in one of her encapture spells. But he wasn't a stranger.
Oh, heavens. She should have expected this, should have realized the man responsible for so many thefts throughout the magical world would come after the talisman. But expecting it and preparing for it were two very different things.
Magick fluttered within her, recognizing him, his power.
She squashed the feeling. Zander wasn't her mate. Not any longer. He'd made sure of that.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she braced herself and shielded her heart with a rigid confidence she prayed he wouldn't see through. "So, The Freelancer has returned."
His head whipped up, dark eyes meeting hers. She flinched when his power caressed her. He might not want her, might have turned his back on everything they’d had, but his power would always yearn for hers. "Rein it back," she snapped.
"Sorry." His teeth clenched as he pulled it back, sealing it away.
His struggle pleased her. She shouldn't be the only one to suffer withdrawals from mated magick.
"Persephone, it's not what it looks like."
Did he think she was stupid? "Really? You aren't here to steal the talisman?"
"I'm here to help you." He wiggled against the invisible bonds encasing him.
She scoffed, leaning against the barn door. In his mind, he probably was helping her by stealing one of the most powerful relics ever created. If rumors were true, and he’d stolen as many artifacts as they claimed, he’d say anything to get what he wanted. "And how thoughtful it was for you to come and test my protection spells. I'm indebted to you."
His jaw clenched. "Are you going to release me, or what?"
"Why would I do that?"
"I can help you." He growled.
He’d changed in the ten years since she’d last seen him. His frame had filled out, his arms more muscular. His jaw was also sharper, more determined, more stubborn. And his lips…
Don’t go there, Seph.
He fought against her spell again, completely helpless.
She swallowed a laugh, enjoying herself. He was still easy to read. She'd bested him. It had to infuriate him. The Freelancer wasn’t used to being trapped or losing. "And why would I need your help? I think I'm handling things quite well on my own." She nodded to the spell around him. "Seems like I accomplished exactly what I set out to do. Keep out thieves."
"This won't keep them out, Seph."
She inhaled sharply. "Don't call me that. That right isn't yours anymore."
"All right,” he agreed easily, but his eyes devoured her body, scorching a path over her curves that forced memories of their time together to the surface. No one had ever looked at her with such greedy desire.
She cleared her throat, forcing her attraction away. "If my traps keep you out, it will keep the others out too." She cocked her head. Now that she’d thought of it... "How did you bypass the others without alerting me? Even disarmed, they should have triggered."
," he corrected, "It wasn't that hard. I'm used to cracking protection spells. Stronger ones. And the people who are coming after the talisman are also. The only difference is they won't be distracted like me. They'll have one thought and one thought only. Taking it. And they won't care who they have to kill to get it. There's too much at stake."
"Don't you think I know?" She crossed her arms tightly. How could he still get to her like this? Why was she arguing with him? She should cast the memory spell and be done with it, then hurry and reset the defenses.
"I think you absolutely know it."
He eyed the chains around her neck, her earrings, rings, and armbands. He could sense the talisman, she knew, but he couldn't see it. One final precaution had been to cloak the bracelet with a sneaky spell that would only allow those without the desire for its power to see it.
"You need my help, honey. You're in over your head."
Her shoulders tensed. If he called her one more pet name, she’d smack him. "I'll be fine."
He shrugged as best he could through the bindings, which wasn't much. "We'll see."
"You won't be seeing anything."
"So you’ll release me?"
She itched to wipe the smirk off his face. "Yes. And you won't remember this place or the talisman when you go. You'll never have a desire to know anything else about it."
His eyes bulged and a part of her, a small part she wasn't proud of, was glad.
"You can't do that to me, Seph. Do you really want me to forget all about you? About us?"
"Oh, you won't forget everything about me," she said, flicking dirt off her black shirt and pants. "You'll just forget tonight, about the traps, about the talisman. A short term memory wipe with a small kick of not caring.”
Another alarm sounded and she jerked. "I thought you said you disarmed them."
Panic set in. Others were here. If the alarm hadn't sounded, there’d be no time to prepare.
"I destroyed the death weave, but left the first boundary active. I'm not stupid."
Bracing herself, she marched toward the activated boundary.
"Wait. You have no idea who's there. Let me help you. I’ll protect it, then leave. The talisman will stay with you tonight."
With one barrier down, how long could she hold them off? How much damage would they do to her remaining defenses before she bulked up for the next wave?
"I can help you! Release me, now!"
As much as she hated it, he was right. Her defenses bled. She’d underestimated the enemy and needed his help. "Make it binding. Your promise."
His eyes flared hotly, but she didn't care. She couldn't trust him, couldn't take his word on anything. If she released him, she needed guarantees.
Her magick shot out sensing the first inkling of his. Orange and blue swirled, testing, probing, linking together in an unbreakable oath that stole her breath. His magick, melding with hers, was ecstasy.
He moaned at the contact.
Startled, she jerked her magick back, refusing to allow the feelings to linger. At the same moment, she released his bonds.
"Get ready," she said, unable to mask the tremor in her voice.