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Authors: Annie Bellet

Tags: #Supernaturals, #UF

Thicker Than Blood

Thicker Than Blood

 

The Twenty-Sided Sorceress: Book Six

 

 

Annie Bellet

 

Copyright 2015, Annie Bellet

 

All rights reserved. Published by Doomed Muse Press.

 

This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, places, and incidents described in this publication are used fictitiously, or are entirely fictional.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, except by an authorized retailer, or with written permission of the publisher. Inquiries may be addressed via email to
[email protected]
.

 

Cover designed by Ravven (
www.ravven.com
)

Formatting by Polgarus Studio (
www.polgarusstudio.com
)

Electronic edition, 2015

 

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Dedicated to all those who get knocked down, brush themselves off, and get back up again. You have a superpower that should not be underestimated.

The Twenty-Sided Sorceress
series in reading order:

Justice Calling

Murder of Crows

Pack of Lies

Hunting Season

Heartache

The diner was nearly empty when I stumbled in, looking for coffee and a plate full of fat and protein to soothe my starving stomach. I was glad for the lack of people to stare at me, but the emptiness meant the waitress had no one else to pester.

“What’s your story, honey?” she asked me as she leaned a hip against my table, holding the coffee pot precariously in one hand. She was plump with wide blue eyes, and had probably been pretty before smoke and sun and the disappointment of years working in a diner in the middle of nowhere got to her.

“I used to be a sorceress,” I told her. “Until I took an arrow to the knee.”

“Sure you did,” she said with a small shake of her head, easing away from me like I was rabid. “Holler if you want a refill.”

All right, so it was a bad joke. But it was true. Only instead of an arrow, I’d burned myself out by pulling some seriously timey-wimey shit. I’d created a freaking save file in real life. Which was pretty cool. And I’d saved my friends from my psycho ex. I’d saved Alek.

Well, saved most of my friends. My every thought was haunted by that sickening puff of feathers as Junebug was shot out of the sky, and Harper streaking past me, out of reach of Iollan’s spell. I still saw Harper’s face every time I closed my eyes. I’d failed her the worst.

I shoved away those thoughts and thought instead that it was funny, almost, that in saving everyone, in resetting the entire world a few minutes back, and getting the druid to teleport us all to here and gone, I’d lost the very power that had made Samir hunt me. Not that I expected for a minute he would stop, even if I was an ex-sorceress. My wounds were healing, so I guess I was only a powerless sorceress and still not human. He’d eat my heart; it would just make less of a meal at the moment.

Because the power
was
gone. Poof. No more. I could reach inside me and there was nothing there but a vast empty hole. A dry well. I couldn’t have lit a candle or a match with it. Or bent one of the tarnished and chipped spoons on the table in front of me.

No magic. Not a drop. Not even mind-Tess chiding me in my brain anymore. All my ghosts were silent, though their memories still floated around in my head. They were just memories now, however, no more distinct than my own. Even my talisman, the silver d20 necklace, was damaged. Where the one had been on the die was just a pockmark now, a divot. It hung from my neck, a cold reminder that I was totally powerless.

Which really sucked. Because I wanted to find Samir and rip his fucking heart out and swallow it whole.

Literally.

Iollan’s spell had spit me out on the edge of the wilderness. I’d stumbled, too stubborn to freeze to death, until I found I-95. A trucker couple had picked me up and taken me to Boise. I was surprised they’d bothered, since I looked like death with bruises everywhere and lots of drying blood on my leg. They’d assumed most of the story and I seeded in enough details about getting away from an abusive boyfriend that they left me alone. I got to pass out somewhere warm; they got to feel like they were doing a good deed. Everybody won.

I had slept fitfully, my dreams turning to nightmares as I watched everyone I loved die over and over, Harper’s look of utter betrayal the last thing I saw before I awoke. The couple wanted to help me in Boise, but I told them I had an aunt here, and in the end they hadn’t pressed too much.

I had no aunt here, obviously, but I did have a stash. Nothing says low point in life more than breaking into your own storage unit. I had no identification, no money, and I looked like someone who had been through some serious shit. Filthy, bloody, tired as hell. So I waited for full dark and climbed a fence instead of trying to bluff my way past the gate guy, glad I had opted for a combination lock.

I had a few units like this all over the States, prepped for if or when I had to run away without taking anything with me. Much as it sucked to admit, my paranoia was saving my ass again. The unit had cash, changes of clothes, and a new identification that would let me hide while figuring out my next move.
Just call me Jade fucking Bourne
.

A motel room and a shower later, I’d crashed out again, risking the nightmares for more sleep in the hope that my magic would return. Morning brought nothing but the sound of cars passing on the nearby freeway. So here I sat, in a diner, alone and powerless, trying to plot my next move.

I was tempted to try to call Alek or the twins. It had been over a day since the fight. I had no idea if they were safe or together. There was a burner phone in my pocket. I gave in, trying Alek’s number. I had to know.

It went straight to voicemail. I’d half-expected that, since we’d ditched our stuff before preparing for the final battle, worried that Samir might use human technology to track us somehow. He was using mercenaries, both shifter and human, after all, and he’d used humans to keep track of me apparently, all these years in Wylde. I tried the twins and Harper’s numbers after that, fighting the tears that threatened to spill as each number went straight to voicemail. Out of desperation, I called Brie’s number, too, hoping she might have forwarded her bakery phone to a cell or something. I had no way to reach her or Ciaran, my leprechaun neighbor. They were in Ireland still, doing universe knew what. It wasn’t like they could help right now anyway. That number went to voicemail too, for the bakery. No answer from anyone. No help.

I hadn’t felt this alone in over twenty-five years.

It was safer this way. I knew that. Samir wanted me. He’d come after me. I hoped. I remembered his words, his gloating about how he’d known where I was, how this was about more than just me. What if he didn’t come after me?

I chewed my way through a plate of waffles and bacon, every bite like swallowing sand. I had to think about this logically.

We’d fought. I’d lost. Well, I’d almost won. I could have killed him, turned that pure bolt of power from the ley lines on him and taken him out.

It only would have cost me everyone I loved to do it. So I hadn’t.

What did that tell me? That I could have won. We weren’t as mismatched as it seemed. Well, if I had my magic. Samir wasn’t some all-powerful being. I could kill him.

With magic.

That stupid pesky detail kept coming back.

Break it down
, I told myself. I needed magic to fight Samir. I needed to know what else he might be up to, and if he had any weaknesses. I’d learned a hard lesson fighting him, now I needed to put what I’d learned to use.

Operating under the idea that I could get my magic back was part one. I’d slept most of the last twenty-four hours, but maybe whatever I’d done would take more time to heal. Which was the bitch of it, because I didn’t have time. Samir had clearly chosen now to come after me for a reason, and he wasn’t afraid of doing big shit humans might notice. Killing the librarian witch and burning my store with the fire elemental or whatever the fuck that was had shown that as much as anything.

Alek had made it pretty clear the Council of Nine was out of the picture, some kind of infighting going on there, so even Samir threatening shifters wasn’t going to cause them to send help. I knew of no other magical source of assistance. Mostly things that went bump in the night hid from the human world, keeping to the edges. Humans outnumber us millions to one, after all, and magic had been fading from the world for a long time. As Brie had once told me, the time of gods had come and gone. Which royally sucked, because I could have really used some divine intervention right about then.

I’d ditched my allies to try to protect them. Going back was option one, I supposed. I thanked the waitress absently as she refilled my coffee. The morning was slipping away; a few diners had come and gone while I sat, lost in thought. I couldn’t go back. Not without magic. I was worse than useless to them this way.

“So go get your mojo back,” a gentle male voice said to me.

I spilled coffee all over the table as my hand jerked in surprise. Sitting across from me, where I swear there hadn’t been anyone before, was a mid-forties looking Native man with short black hair and dark eyes that held flickers of red in their depths. Not human.

“Let me get you a washcloth, honey,” the waitress said, coming over and helping me contain the coffee spill. She didn’t even look at the man or offer him anything, which was my second clue that he wasn’t normal.

I decided to say nothing about him either, in case my suspicion was accurate. “Thanks,” I said to her again. A family of four came in and saved me from having to say more.

“You done yet?” the man asked.

“Who are you? They can’t see you, can they?” I whispered, trying not to look like a crazy lady.

“Of course not. I’m not here.” He leaned back and smiled.

“Ash?” I guessed. Half guessed, because my brain provided me an image of a man who looked like him but younger, bending over my mother, Pearl. A memory that wasn’t mine.

“Good to see I didn’t breed stupid,” my biological father said. Well, the whatever-the-fuck vision or hallucination of my father said. “You asked for Deus Ex Machina; here I am.”

“Awesome,” I said, trying to wrap my brain around this. “How do I get my magic back?”

“Come see me,” he said.

I wondered if there had ever been an actually helpful vision anywhere in the history of magical shit happening or if they were all so damned cryptic.

“Great, where are you?” I asked, keeping my voice low and trying not to get openly annoyed. Though if he was in my head or whatever, he’d know I was frustrated anyway.

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