Copyright © February 2014, Kassanna
Cover art by Mina Carter © February 2014
Formatting by Bob Houston eBook Formatting
Charlotte, NC 28227
No part of this e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior written permission from Amira Press.
For my readers. Thank you for your time.
The orb hung in the air like a dazzling giant prism reflecting light. Jax ducked and glass shattered. That would be the third window he would have to fix in as many days. Elspeth giggled as she tossed another ball of energy at him, which lit up the room with a blinding, white light. He narrowly avoided the second volley by weaving between the furniture and dipping behind the sofa. The white-hot sphere of tightly woven currents burrowed into the high-backed chair next to him, burning a hole in the fabric and foam before it dissipated. Her aim was getting better with every run-through. Soon she would be able to protect herself and the women if he and the men had to leave. The things that Elspeth learned she could show to Ember. Ember was powerful, but she lacked skill, and at the moment no other coven knew the two witches existed.
When the spell weavers found out Elspeth and Ember were the reason the Babel Coven had been exterminated, those bitches would be out for blood. There would be hell to pay and if at least one of them wasn’t ready, the death of Elspeth, Ember, or both would be the outcome. Goddess, but pulling strings behind peoples backs was a pain in the ass.
Jax bent over the arm of the chair to gaze at the damage and shook his head. “We are going to be in so much trouble if we don’t fix this.” He winked at the kid.
Elspeth cocked her head and smirked. “How?”
“Remember that spell I told you about to undo damage? Now is the time to use it.”
She shook her head and her big ringlets of brown curls bounced. “You told me to look it up.”
“Because I’m no warlock.” He wiped a hand down his face. “You haven’t logged on have you?”
Her shoulders dropped. “Nope, I don’t want anyone to find me. What if you or Kirill or Timur aren’t here?”
“Elspeth.” Jax sighed. “That is a secure site. I checked it out myself and had a few folks I trust with my life verify that it was safe. At Witching, you’ll learn about spells casting and chat with children your own age who share your gift. There are teachers on there waiting to educate you. I know for a fact no one will hurt you while you’re signed on or when you log out.”
“But sometimes the Internet is off.”
“Kirill tapped into a satellite, I find that hard to believe. Look at it this way, how else are you going to teach Ember how to be a witch if you don’t learn?” He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “And let’s face it, that fledgling sorceress needs all the help she can get.”
The door swung open and Ember stepped inside the kitchen with Timur stomping in behind her. She chuckled and glanced behind her like they were sharing an inside joke. He yanked the barrier closed with such force, it rattled in the frame.
Jax shook his head and whispered, “Remember to keep that website between us.” He peered down at her, “Okay?”
Elspeth pressed her lips together and nodded.
“What the hell happened here?” Timur looked around at the demolished furniture and stared for a minute at the broken window as a strong wind sent a few more chips of glass tumbling out the frame. The gargoyle’s lips were turned down as he lifted his gaze and glared at Jax.
“We were playing tag.” Jax shrugged
Ember spun around. “With what? Fireballs?”
“Seriously, we need to get this cleaned up. Synda and Kirill trusted us to keep you two out of trouble.” Ember stepped closer to the window. “They will be back tonight.”
“Great, would love to know how their search—urh—honeymoon in the Amazon went.” Jax slowly edged toward the door.
Timur scooped up Elspeth in his arms. “Come on, cutie, tell me what really happened.”
The little girl lifted her thin shoulders and wrapped her arms around Timur’s neck. “Hi, Daddy.”
Jax raised his hand and gave her a thumbs-up. He didn’t bother grabbing his coat. He was already late for his meeting. The last sliver of the sun was dipping into the sea and heralding the long shadows the evenings brought with them as it disappeared. The nights were getting shorter. If he wasn’t mistaken, pretty soon they would be stuck with a few months of twenty-four-hour daylight. He stared at Timur and wondered how the granite giant was going to handle it.
Too bad he couldn’t think about it long, Mags was going to make his life harder if he missed their appointment again. He checked the time on the clock fixed to the wall next to the stove. If he left now, he would just make it to the bar to catch her. Now that Timur and Ember where up, there was no longer a need for him to babysit Elspeth. Careful not to draw any attention to himself, he reached behind him, wrapped his fingers around the knob, and slowly twisted it.
Ember’s head snapped up. “Hold up. Just where are you going? We need to talk.” She took a few steps Jax’s way.
He bit back his internal groan. “Got business to take care of. The kid’s already had her dinner. Tell Kirill I’ll catch him later.” Jax yanked the door open and slipped between the crack he created. Hastily, he shut the door to the barrage of Timur’s rapid-fire questions. Frigid air swirled around him. Snow fell in light flurries, coating his hair and shoulders. He ran toward the snow mobile and snatched the duffel he’d hidden there earlier from beneath the seat.
Mags wouldn’t wait long. He stripped and stuffed his clothing in the bag, slinging the strap around his neck. A chill rose up his legs from the soles of his feet as he took off running, embracing his dragon as he spread his arms. His body changed in midstep, leathery, electric-blue wings sprouted from his back catching the air current. Scales enfolded his body, covering him in a matter of seconds. His bulk was kept aloft by his eighty-foot wingspan. He straightened his neck and angled his body to glide on the wind.
Vibrant color split the darkness as the aurora borealis lit the sky above him. He was alone with his thoughts. Even though he was enjoying his time with the future Dragonrex, Drago still needed to be dealt with and his father’s death avenged. Although it had been weeks since Drago had shown his reptilian head, he knew the bastard was just lying low and planning his next move. His playing possum wouldn’t last long. He usually used others to do his bidding like sending other reptiles to attack Synda and Kirill or ordering him to help the covens. That cracked shifter had to be running low on personnel by now.
Kirill felt it was safe enough to take Synda on a quest to South America in search of another clue or possibly the Y Ddraig Goch jewels themselves. Manx the Supreme was a wily old dragon. There was no way the former leader of the dragon clans would make it easy to locate the gems. Jax had a sinking feeling each clue only led to more important finds and he’d bet his hide the treasure was probably in plain sight. In the meantime, there was still work to be done and a crazy fuck to track down. As soon as he found out what his mother wanted this time. Goddess, it was as if the woman had a seek-and-destroy sense whenever he was actually enjoying himself.
His mom, Airla, had been hounding him to come back to Greece. He snorted, like that was going to happen. He enjoyed kids, but siring a brood of dragon spawn in hopes of producing a female? Nope, he wasn’t doing it. Airla would have to wait a little longer for an heir. Now if he could talk Mags into no longer tailing him and maybe reporting to his mom that he couldn’t be found, he might be able to continue on business as usual. Jax spiraled in the air and flapped his wings. Flying low, he skimmed their tips along the sea’s surface.
There was no way he could go back, especially since he’d made himself known to Drago. He could not risk the bizarre fuck finding his tribe. They still had a thriving population of female dragons, a gender that seemed to be on the decline with other clans.
In the distance, miniature orbs of light bobbed. He narrowed his eyes and angled his head. This close to Sitka it was probably a cruise ship. He stretched his neck and barrel rolled into a rising airstream to take him above the clouds. The last thing he wanted was for a boatload of tourists photographing him as he flew to be splattered across some a tabloid’s front page. Hidden high in the mists he flew, stretching his neck and occasionally flapping his wings. He had an appointment with his bodyguard, and he needed to talk to her before she fucked up his plans by making herself known.
* * * *
River treaded the water under the pier waiting for the people standing above her to move. They stomped on the wood, speaking excitedly. A quick succession of flashes told her the folks were taking pictures. Goddess, but she hated tourists and for some reason she could never avoid them. She swiped a hand down her face. Humans were everywhere. Not that they were bad, actually she believed they might serve a purpose, she just hadn’t figured out what it was yet.
She swam to the rocky outcropping on the shore and pulled herself up on a boulder. Tracking her father, Harper, down was becoming quite the chore. She didn’t like the man, but he was her dad so she did at least owe him her life. Sadly, he was like most mermen, a blowhard with an ego the size of Mariana Trench. Harper had to go confront crazy-ass Drago in his lair for her attack by the stupid sentinels he led. She thought she handled the incident rather well by trying to twist off her assailant’s balls before he’d had time to shift. When that fucking lizard flew away he was gliding lopsided. She grinned at the memory. Of course her dad had to make a big deal out of it, and now Drago was holding Harper hostage. Nonplussed, when she first got word of Drago’s demand, her response to his messengers was to go to hell. If Drago wanted the headache of her father, then he was welcome to keep him as long as he liked.
So it began, threats sent back and forth, followed by concessions. She was not stupid enough to show up to that asshole’s lair and fall into the same trap her dad had. Instead, she enlisted Tucker’s help and her clan, the Loch Mers, reformed the alliance with the Ketchi Tribe. The pact was broken when Harper decided to stay with the dragons after Manx’s disappearance. Now it felt like she was always one step behind that damned silver dragon in her quest to get her father back. Maybe she should let the manic kill Harper. River skimmed her hand along her scales and flicked her tail. His death might make life easier, at least on her part.
The stomping stopped, and other than the sound of the water lapping against the shore, the night was eerily quiet. She lifted her tail completely out of the water and spun around on the rough surface of the rock. Who was she kidding? As much as a pain in her ass her father could be, there was no way in hell she would let anything happen to him. Even if she didn’t technically like him, she did love him, and allowing a dragon to have the upper hand over her or her people just didn’t sit right. Dragons were another species she simply couldn’t fathom why they existed. She pulled the waterproof bag from over her shoulder and yanked a towel from it to vigorously wipe the moisture from her tail. Her appendage changed to limbs as she continued to dry them. She sighed, at least she was an equal opportunity hater. Standing, she tugged a thin dress from her plastic bag and yanked it over her head.