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Authors: Ann Macela

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Romance, #Suspense

Wild Magic

BOOK: Wild Magic
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
 
DEDICATION:
 
To my readers, with heartfelt thanks for all your support
Published 2009 by Medallion Press, Inc.
 
The MEDALLION PRESS LOGO
is a registered trademark of Medallion Press, Inc.
 
If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment from this “stripped book.”
 
Copyright © 2009 by Ann Macela
Cover Illustration by James Tampa
 
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
 
Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
 
Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro
Printed in the United States of America
 
ISBN: 9-781-93383699-7
 
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:
 
Thanks to my critique group—MJ, Rita, Sherry, Jan, Noirin, Barbara, and Chris—plus Paula and Kelle. Ladies, I couldn’t have done it without you.
 
Thanks to all those with whom I played fantasy role-playing games in the past. You really taught me to throw fireballs and lightning bolts.
 
About the location of the HeatherRidge Center. I have rearranged a few sub-divisions in the vicinity of Barrington, Illinois. When I began the book, the land was vacant. So, if you go looking for the HeatherRidge, it won’t be there.
 
Special thanks, as usual, to my own hero and the love of my life, Paul. He’s also the best research assistant a writer could hope for. And you can take that statement any way you want to.
PROLOGUE
 
Twenty-five years ago
 
“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” Bruce Ubell asked his cousin, Alton Finster, as he looked around the dingy storeroom in the basements of the hundred-and-ten-year-old ancestral mansion in Chicago. It was midnight, and their flashlight beams barely penetrated the cold gray gloom in the never- electrified space.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Alton replied with the edge he used to let Bruce know he had asked a ridiculous question. “Granddad’s diary is extremely specific, and I spent a lot of time as a kid exploring the cellars. I never noticed this place, though.”
Bruce straightened his red and black practitioner robe, settling it more carefully on his shoulders. This dusty, musty, dark corner of the basement creeped him out, and he reminded himself of the prize hidden here somewhere. To find it, he simply had to put up with Alton’s bossy tendencies. One day he’d show his two-years-older cousin who was really the smartest—and make him acknowledge it.
“Man, I thought my parents would never go to bed,” Alton said. “I expected any minute my mother would tell us it was past our bedtimes. You’d think they could treat us like adults. After all, I’m twenty-seven, and you’re twenty-five.”
“Yeah, my mother’s the same way. Given your father’s hatred of Granddad, I doubt they’d have joined in the hunt for what the old man called the secret of his success.”
“You’ve got that right. If Dad knew Granddad had ordered his lawyer to give me the diary ten years after he died, with instructions to show it to you, he’d have a fit.”
Bruce wondered for a moment if he would have showed the diary to Alton if he’d been the recipient, but put the thought out of his mind as unproductive and irrelevant. He stepped closer to the back wall and shined his flashlight behind a pile of wooden boxes. “Here’s the door.”
“Give me a hand,” Alton ordered as he lifted the top box and placed it behind them. A long smear of dirt trailed down his robe when he turned around.
Bruce grimaced. Alton never worried about ruining his robes—which matched Bruce’s since they had both inherited the family’s accounting talents. Bruce, however, did. The damn things didn’t always clean easily, and they cost a lot to replace because of their protective enchantments. For a CPA, Alton threw money around in a way Bruce couldn’t bring himself to emulate. Granddad’s instructions had been explicit, though: “Wear your robes.”
Bruce picked up one edge of the next box with his fingertips and helped carry it to the other side of the room. It was lighter than expected—the empty boxes were simply stage dressing.
“Only one more,” Alton said.
They moved the container and turned their attention to the dark wooden door. A black metal handle was bolted to the right side, but there was no visible lock mechanism.
“Okay.” Alton pulled a red-leather book from his pocket and opened the slim volume to the third page. “Shine the light here.”
Bruce did as he was told and reviewed the instructions along with Alton. “The
resolvo
spell is required to open it. Want me to cast?”
“Yeah,” Alton replied, “I’ve never used it.”
Of course he hadn’t—Alton was too lazy to learn any enchantment unless it directly involved his talents. Bruce cast the spell at the door.
It swung open, slowly and silently. A gust of stale, frigid wind blew out of the room behind it and ruffled the bottom of their robes. He shivered when, despite the protective spells, the chill penetrated the cloth.
When both aimed their flashlights at the opening, the darkness inside swallowed up the beams.
“Damn,” Alton said. “Looks like we have to use the candles.”
“Personally, I’d rather not chance exploding flashlights. If the magic in there is as old and powerful as the diary suggests, it may not like newfangled gadgets.” Bruce wished he’d paid for more safeguards in his robe, but nothing had fried him or Alton when they opened the door, so they were probably all right. After all, Granddad wouldn’t want to destroy his heirs—would he? He pulled a candle and holder out of a robe pocket and lit the wick with a small
flamma
spell.
Alton put the little book in his pocket and did the same. “Granddad wrote that he cast extremely powerful shielding spells around the entire section of the basement, and especially this room. Can you feel anything?”
Bruce concentrated on the blackness. Nothing made him want to turn away. “No. Let’s be careful no matter what.”
Holding the candles in outstretched hands, they stuck the lights through the doorway into the dark. The flickering flames illuminated only a small room, as dingy as the one they stood in. When nothing happened, they entered—Bruce letting Alton go first.
The walls of the ten-by-ten space were rough-hewn stone, granite by the looks of it. The only furnishings were a scratched and dented wooden table and a matching chair, both dark with age and dirt. A tarnished-to-black six-branch candelabra, a supply of white candles, and a few sheets of blank, yellowing paper sat on the tabletop. Propped in a corner was a gnarled black stick about six feet long. Its top looked like four dead fingers trying to grasp something.
Bruce quickly put candles in the candelabra and lit them.
Alton turned in a slow circle before pointing at a corner. “The diary says to look three hand-spans south and four up from the northeast corner. Find a man’s face.”
Bruce raised the candles while Alton scooted the chair out of the way and knelt by the wall. They both jumped when a devilish stone face with a gaping grin leaped suddenly out of the black gloom.
Alton gave a nervous laugh and held his solitary candle closer to the carving. “Looks like Granddad, doesn’t it?”
“Now you’re supposed to put your fingers in the mouth and pull.”
“Whoa. Not me. Not when the instructions don’t say what’s in there or what happens next.” Alton stood and backed two feet away. “You do it.”
“Coward.”
“Just cautious. Granddad always liked you best, although why, I could never figure out. So, he won’t hurt you, but where I’m concerned ...” He shrugged.
Glaring at his cousin, Bruce had to admit Alton was right. Their grandfather had shown a preference for him, the younger grandson, and even predicted he’d grow up to take control of the entire family shipping empire. Bruce knew that prize wouldn’t be his. Even though his own mother was the eldest child, control of the Finster conglomerate always went down the male line. Besides, Alton wasn’t about to give up his privileged place in the succession, even to a smarter male cousin with a higher magic level than his.
BOOK: Wild Magic
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