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Authors: Madeline Pryce

Wicked Magic (6 page)

BOOK: Wicked Magic
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She stopped cold. She curled her hands into a ball. Anger
made her palms sweat. Magic flared to life, and with it, so did his jaguar.
“And what did you sign up for? To fuck me, then walk out the door and never
come back?”

“You asked me to sleep with you! Then you spring this
familiar crap on me, I bet there’s some kind of ritual or some shit. It’s
Samhain, isn’t it? Now that I think about it, you’re always twitchy right
around this time, sexier. Never mind. How did you expect me to react? Or were
you planning on tricking me into it?” he asked, his voice low and dangerous.

Not like this, that was for sure.
Twitchy? She wasn’t
twitchy. Sexual frustration fueled her fury. If she’d had something handy, she
would have chucked it at his head.

“I hardly tricked you! If you hadn’t been avoiding me, for
years I might add, I would have had time to ease you into the idea. I’ve known
since I was sixteen but you’re so damn unapproachable and stubborn—”

“Goddamn it, will you stop pacing?” he growled and wrapped a
hand around her arm, stilling her.

As soon as he touched her, the magic in her veins rushed at
him. He flinched but didn’t remove his touch.

She looked up at him. “I’m not asking you to be my bitch. A
familiar is a companion, an equal. It’s not like we’d be soul mates. Some
witches aren’t choosy who they bind themselves with, but I believe every witch
has a shape shifter that she, or he, is meant to find. It’s a system of
balance. We aren’t anything without the other. My father’s was a leopard, my
great-grandfather’s a tiger. I think my great-aunt’s was a wolf. We don’t know
who our true familiars are until we stumble upon them.”

Trent drew a hand through his hair and tugged. He digested
the information and his nostrils flared. “Is that what Brenda meant when she
said you inherited your father’s claws? You’ve never mentioned your father
before. I think I’d notice if you turned furry once a month.”

She shook her head and tried not to smile. “Brenda was only
being cute. Besides, I’m not much of anything. Not a shifter. Not a witch. I’m
all talk, no show.”

“No show, my ass,” he grumbled.

It was the first glimpse of a smile she’d seen reflected in
his eyes since she’d ruined their sexcapade.

He continued, “You think I walk around ‘scaring the crap out
of people’? You terrify ’Miah.”

She smiled. “’Miah is afraid of ladybugs.”

A wide, loving smile finally cracked through his anger. “I
forgot about that. Thanks for the reminder.”

Trying to keep things on track, she forged ahead. He needed
to know everything—no more stalling. “You were right. If you agree to become my
familiar, there is a ritual. I give you my virginity during Samhain, when the
veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest. We’ll need candles and a
few other things. In turn, I get to be a witch. Until then, I’m not anything.”

She dropped onto the couch and folded her legs underneath
her. Back and forth, she pulled her necklace across her neck. It helped her
think, reminded her of what her mother was, what she stood for.

His hand hovered over her arm, but he didn’t touch her. Did
he expect the magic to rise from her skin like mist?

“I’ve felt your magic, experienced it before. I remember
that night in my bedroom. There was something different in your eyes—a sexual
pull that made me feel like a damn pervert for wanting to take you up on your
offer. Even though I scared you off, you weren’t my brother’s little friend
anymore.”

She shook her head. “You felt the magic because you brought
it to life. Before that night, I’d never felt so much as a flicker. It’s you, your
jaguar that makes me what I am. I was young and stupid and went about trying to
seduce you all wrong. I thought if I got naked—then the rest would fall into
place. I never counted on you saying no, or breaking my heart.”

Trent plopped down beside her. The heat of his shoulder
against her erased the chill the cold ground had left inside her.

“Can I think about it?” he asked.

“Time’s running out, Trent. Samhain happens only once a
year. If I don’t do this before I’m twenty-one then my chance passes.”

“That’s in two days. That’s a fuck of a lot of pressure and
not a whole lotta time to consider the ramifications. I’ve got a duty, Sam.
When you say bound together…” Trent looked like he was going to be sick.

“I’d be attuned to you, and you to me.”

“We’d be mates.” His skin paled, turned almost green and he
shot across the room as far from her as he could get. Now he was the one making
her dizzy. “You want to get hitched? We haven’t even gone out to dinner.”

This really wasn’t working out how she’d planned. As she
spoke, she put her clothes back on. “It’s not a marriage, I swear to you. Some
witch/familiar pairs are close friends who are involved in other relationships.
The bond goes beyond a marriage, or so I’m told. I can’t explain…” When she
looked up, he didn’t meet her eyes. “Don’t you feel it, Trent? Feel how
connected we are? God, do you think I would have picked you for this? You’re a
royal pain in my ass! Hot, sure. It’s not our choice what fate chooses for us.
I know your ex screwed you, ran off with your friend, but I swear on everything
I am that what we have goes far, far beyond that.”

“He told you? Never mind, it doesn’t matter.” In the span of
a few minutes, she’d seen him aroused, concerned, flabbergasted and now angry
as all hell.

Oh no. “Don’t get mad at ’Miah, everyone knows what that
bitch Cindy did but people are too chicken-shit to say anything about it.”

“Cindy didn’t mean shit, not really. She would have been my
wife, but she was human—she wouldn’t have owned me the way you’re proposing.
There’s a difference. Does my brother know about this familiar crap?” His
finger zinged back and forth between them too fast to watch. The nice buzz
she’d had when Trent had pushed her against the wall and kissed her senseless
was gone. Her head ached.

She squared her shoulders and made sure she had his gaze. On
a normal day, she wasn’t afraid of him. Why should she be now?

“If you won’t do it, he’s offered to take your place.”

Trent’s back stiffened. At his sides, his hands curved into
fists. The brooding, roiling energy swirling into the room ramped up her
anxiety.

“So if I don’t fuck you, you’re going to let my little
brother pop your cherry?” His voice was cold as ice.

She tried to call up patience, another thing being a real
witch would have been good for. “No. I’m not into ’Miah like that, it would be
like having sex with my brother. And unlike the other members of my coven, I
won’t go through the transformation unless I have the man, you, who calls to my
magic.”

“So if I don’t go along with your little ritual, what
happens?” he asked.

She let out a long, low breath. “This has to be your choice.
It doesn’t matter what happens to me. I know it’s a commitment but I’m not
indenturing you into slavery. You won’t be at my beck and call. Equals. That’s
all I’m asking for.”

“I’ve got to think about this.”

Trent turned and knelt in front of her. He cupped her cheek.
She nuzzled against the heat of his palm. As if to prove her point, she let the
magic he called up in her flow through them.

“It’s not that I don’t care about you. You’re a sweet girl,”
he whispered.

“But?” she prompted when he said nothing else but stared
into her eyes.

His hand fell from her face. With it, her magic fell as well,
an omen that had the backs of her eyes burning.

“I can’t be what you need Sam. I’m poison. The things I
touch turn to shit. My profession, Area Enforcer, it’s a fucking death
sentence. I never intended to take a mate. Everything inside me wants to
dominate you, pin you to that couch and fuck you as hard as I can. I want to bite
you, leave my mark deep inside you, make sure no one ever touches you, looks at
you, ever again. Everything inside of you wants to fight against that
possession, don’t deny it. Whether your father was a shifter or not, you’ve got
no idea how strong the animal instincts inside me are. Fighting and fucking are
the only two things I’m good at. Love was never on the table.”

She opened her mouth to deny it. He stopped her.

“Give me some time,” he said.

Sam nodded, watched as he picked up his shirt and holster
from the ground. As he turned, the shirt fell into place and the crisscross of
claw marks disappeared under the fabric. He all but ran to the stairs left of
the elevator. When she no longer heard the heavy thud of his boots, she fell
back against the couch.

He was right, in a way. She hated that he was possessive and
demanding. But at the same time, what she hated about him, she loved—his
aggression, his dominance, his stubborn need to be the best. Their partnership
was about balance. Too bad they were both too fucked up to complete much of
anything, let alone a circle. But maybe that was what made them so perfect. Who
wanted a nice round circle when they could have a misshapen ball?

Chapter Six

 

Not many things in life scared the shit out of Trent.
Somehow Sam, with her wide, gentle eyes, had managed to make him a trembling
mess. A familiar? What the fuck? His hands shook. His stomach was tied in a
knot. He slammed his palm against the door at the top of the stairwell. Holy
hell, he’d been reduced to a witch’s bitch. Fate, he mused, must be a cruel,
evil woman who was out to get him.

Sure, Sam was gorgeous, sassy and one hell of a kisser. He
even cared about her. But mates? He’d sworn off the idea when he’d taken his
father’s place as enforcer.

Over the last few years, his take-no-prisoners attitude had
worked fine. When the urge struck, he filled it with a quick fuck. Except, even
those few-and-far-between encounters had lost their appeal. He might be an
asshole, but even he knew screwing one woman while thinking about another was
shitty. Sam was all he wanted. All he couldn’t have. Why in the hell did he
have to come to the Watering Hole tonight anyway?

The door creaked open, the sound raising the hair on his
arms. As soon as he entered the main floor of the bar, heat slapped him in the
face. He deserved it. The music pulsed, penetrated him. The tune had shifted
from country to hard electric guitars and vocals that sounded like women
shrieking. If his head hadn’t hurt before, he knew it would in only a matter of
minutes.

He had one mission—get the hell out of the bar before he
took out his aggression on his brother. The bastard had actually offered to
fuck her. He should kick his ass. He was going to kick his ass—right after he
went home and drowned his sexual frustration in liquor. He’d been blindsided
tonight. Jeremiah had been the catalyst.

“Worse than a goddamn, pansy-assed matchmaker,” he mumbled
under his breath and stormed across the room.

Every step he took increased the buzzing in his head. The
jaguar roared, paced, did everything it could to let his agitation be known.
The only thing that kept him from shifting was his hand on his feline’s tail,
holding it below the surface. Sweat beaded at the nape of his neck, trailed
beneath his collar and down his back. Sam had touched him there, traced her
nails over the many battle wounds he’d acquired in the last few years. Her
scent, the taste of her skin, lingered in his mouth. He had a clear picture of
her breasts, the indent of her stomach, the tiny mole left of her hip. When
she’d spread her thighs, exposing the tiny black panties, he’d almost come in
his pants like a schoolboy.

“I know it’s been awhile, but damn, that was quick. Where’s
Sam?” With a wide grin, Jeremiah stepped in front of him. His brother’s gaze
darted from him to the door he’d come out of as if expecting the little witch
to appear at any moment.

Trent took in a deep breath through his nose and curled his
hands into fists. ’Miah meant well—he really did. He lifted his head to meet
his brother’s eyes. One step forward closed the space between him and ’Miah
until their chests touched. Jeremiah’s eyes went wide. His back stiffened.
Good. At least he had the sense to be afraid.

Aggression, anger, pent-up sexual frustration…it all jumbled
inside him. His hand slipped on the tail he was clutching. It was the inch his
kitty needed. Canines slipped from his gums and the first strands of fur grew
from the tops of his hands.

“Don’t bullshit me.” He didn’t recognize his own voice. “I
can’t believe you planned on fucking her, making her yours. Dad always did say
it should be you.”

“Brother,” Jeremiah warned, then took an immediate step back
when a growl ripped from Trent’s throat.

The collective smoke in the bar hazed around him, filled his
lungs. He was already moving before his brain could catch up. A gasp sounded
from the poor guy who’d picked a table in his line of sight.

“Cigarette, now.” He slapped a hand on the table, looked up,
and met wide, terrified eyes. Even shifters got a little uneasy when you were
half human, half animal.

Scrambling, the kid did his best to open up his pack of
smokes. Jesus, was this pip-squeak even old enough to be in the bar? The white
stick hovered in the air, shaking, before Trent rolled his eyes and snatched it.
He ripped off the brown filter and stuck the rest between his lips. When he
held out his hand, a lighter landed in it.

He scraped his thumb over the wheel of the Bic, sparked the
flint and took in a deep breath. The smell of the flame mixed with the sweet
nicotine. He drew the smoke into his mouth, brought it into his lungs, taming
the sudden craving. In, out. He ignored the loose tobacco that stuck to the
inside of his lip.

He tossed the lighter to the table and turned right into
Jeremiah. The kid didn’t know when to leave well enough alone. Never removing
the cigarette from his mouth, he blew a line of smoke into his brother’s face.

Waving the mist aside, Jeremiah straightened to his full
height. Being as tall as he was, he tended to slouch.

“She doesn’t deserve to be punished because you’re afraid,”
Jeremiah said, tone defensive.

“You think life with me would be sunshine and fucking roses?
I’m doing her a favor by walking away. Get out of my way. I’m not in the mood
for this.” For every step he took, his brother took one more. He’d forgotten
the ashy aftertaste cigarettes left in his mouth. As he walked by a table of
werebears, he dropped his partially smoked cigarette in their pitcher of beer.

“If it’s not fear, then what in the hell put your panties in
a bunch?” Jeremiah yelled.

Trent stopped, turned to look into his brother’s eyes. ’Miah
was asking for a beat down.

The room changed. His eyes pulled tight and colors morphed.
It was too late to pull back the beast. Trent barely made it outside. The night
pressed into him, cool and windless. He dropped to his knees—his stomach
curled, twisted and he fisted the gravel beneath his hands. Glass dug into his
palms, drew blood. The scent filled the air until he tasted copper in his
mouth.

Bones shifted. His back arched, spine lengthening. The last
thing he heard as a human was the ripping of cloth before his jaguar pushed to
the surface and took control. He shook his head, body following. He whipped his
tail, felt it curling in the air. He drew in a deep breath. The familiar scent
of the earth filled him. Pine. Soil. Rain. There was something else much fouler
that lingered in the air. Terror. Blood. Female.

He padded forward, following the scents. This, protecting
humans and other shifters, was what he knew. Trees rustled along the edge of
forest that lined the western side of the bar. Through the cars and trucks,
branches swayed in the breeze. Leaves crunched, giving off a subtle scent. He
tilted his head, studied the shadows that appeared between the trees.

“Please, no more!” A woman’s sobs filled the night and drew
his focus as his heart thundered with adrenaline. The scents around him
shifted. There was something familiar in the air, something evil. A tight
sensation puckered the skin below his fur, and his hackles rose. The wolf pack
he’d tangled with earlier was nearby. And they weren’t alone—assholes.

He sprinted forward. The impending hunt had his blood
singing. The air caressed his fur. Each strand that moved tickled his skin,
invigorating him. The faster he ran, the more scents he took in. All those
smells stayed with him, told him where to go.

He stopped at the edge of the clearing. Rage and disgust
filled him. He was too late, and now a woman was dead. A naked blonde lay in
the dirt, her pale flesh splayed open with deep claw marks. Teeth marks and
bruises marred her skin. Trent let out a bellowing roar that reverberated
through the night. If these assholes wanted blood, he was more than willing to
teach them a lesson. One by one, the glimmering sheen of the wolves’ eyes
pierced the darkness.

Padding forward, he drew them out, into his sight. This was
going to be a dirty fight. As an enforcer, he had the authority to put down any
shifter he’d deemed a threat. The corpse before him was more than enough cause
for him to take action. He knew this would be a fight to the death. The pack
filtered out through the trees and surrounded him.

Trent moved in a circle, baring his teeth and eying his
prey. He swatted, his razor-sharp claws gleaming in the light of the nearly
full moon. The pack initiated the dance. They snarled, advanced and then
retreated. Power leaked into the air. It was potent, unsettling. It should have
been a warning, a sign that he might be outclassed. At six to one, he knew he
was being foolish. Everything went silent, as if the earth sensed the danger
and backed off. But pride wouldn’t let him bow out. He was Alpha. Male.
Stronger, quicker, more powerful than these dogs—he’d show them.

The first wolf attacked, jumped into the air. He pushed off
the ground with his hind legs and sprang to meet him. His tail moved, lashed
against a solid body before they collided in air. The rest was a tussle of fur
and teeth. The wolf went straight for his neck. Trent was quicker. Blood filled
his mouth, the rich, salty taste whetting his appetite for more. The ground
crashed under his feet and he rolled, pulling his attacker with him. The wolf
yelped, a pitiful cry that was silenced when he dug his teeth into its neck and
shook. Bones popped. The wolf’s heart thudded into silence and Trent’s pulse
sped.

Two wolves jumped on his back. The sting of claws forced him
to drop their brethren. He reared back in an attempt to throw them off. Two
more leaped, sharp teeth dripping with saliva, aiming for his neck. As he pulled
on all his strength, a fierce snarl ripped from his throat. He shook the beasts
off his back, curving his neck enough to grip one of their napes and yank. The
wolf crashed to the ground, yelping before it sprang upright. The dog growled
and limped forward, blood dripping to the ground.

They circled, never taking their gazes off each other. He
swatted, his paw colliding with solid muscle. The wolf tumbled to the ground,
its snout sliding through leaves. Triumph gave him a burst of adrenaline. The
wolf didn’t get up. Teeth pierced Trent’s thigh, forcing him around in a
circle. He tried to shake off the attack. Another wolf jumped, hit him on the
opposite side. Pain shot through his lungs and made it hard to draw in a
breath. He staggered, thrashed with claws and teeth to fight free. His tail
twitched, dragging through dirt. The beast biting him shook its head, tried to
separate muscle from bone. Heat pierced his leg, spread into his back.

He cried out and swung, barely managing to take down another
wolf. For every one he threw to the ground, another rose. It was becoming hard
to breathe. Adrenaline coursed through him, kept him upright. Blood dripped
from the wounds along his back and limbs. The pack surged, fed off the doubt
that crawled inside him. They lunged, knocking him to his side.

The world grew black and the sound of snarls dampened out
everything else. Sam. He shouldn’t have been such a coward. He could jump
headfirst into a fight with a pack of bloodthirsty beasts, yet he wasn’t man
enough to take her, to claim her as his own. He was afraid—fearful that the
joining would somehow weaken him. Well, look where that had fucking got him. A
guttural cry rent through the night, and teeth closed around his neck.
Heaviness pressed along his back and legs. The pack howled, the jaw at his neck
tightened, teeth piercing his skin. Trent was too weak to move, to fight them
off.
Samantha…

BOOK: Wicked Magic
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