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Authors: Sonya Clark

Firewall (Magic Born)

BOOK: Firewall (Magic Born)
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By Sonya Clark

Book three of Magic Born

She was the only Magic Born to ever escape the Rangers. Now there’s a ten-million-dollar bounty for her return.

Trancehacker Tuyet Caron could have left New Corinth for good, but instead uses her magic and risks her life on a daily basis to help the Magic Born. She’s been careful to avoid capture, but a careless glance at a video camera brings her face to face with the Ranger who let her go.

Captain Dale Hayes let Tuyet walk away once, but he won’t make that mistake again. When faced with the ultimate choice, however, he chooses her with barely a thought. But that also means siding with the Magic Born and becoming a fugitive in the eyes of the law.

Tuyet and Dale plan to flee, but are caught in a deadly riot that kills innocent people. Outraged, the pair vows to bring an end to the Magic Laws, regardless of what that means for their own safety.

79,000 words

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the December 2014 releases and happy summer! Okay, so some of you are going “what??” but these letters are often so seasonally directed that I think it’s only fair that our friends in the New Zealand and Australian parts of the world get one fit for them. Plus, I really miss summer so I’d rather talk about that than winter. Also, I’d much rather prefer to imagine I’m on a warm, sunny beach somewhere than in the cold. But whether you’re looking for a beach read or for a book to heat things up, our December releases can fit the bill.

Michele Mannon wraps up her Worth the Fight trilogy with
Out for the Count
. Beautiful, all-American kick ass fighter Huntley Wittaker knows in order to win an MMA championship, she must perfect her punch. But when a ball-busting brute of a biker—undercover narcotics detective Bracken Kelly—answers her ad for a trainer, she finds them both drawn into a battle far greater than she’d imagined. Though all three books in the trilogy stand alone, go ahead and pick up the first two,
Knock Out
Tap Out

Historical romance fans will be pleased to see Caroline Kimberly return with another standout historical romance. Love hurts…especially for Ethan Ashford, who’s been charged with making sure his beloved nemesis, the high-spirited Lady Kyra Deverill, makes it to the altar—to marry someone else—in
An Inconvenient Wife
. Don’t miss Caroline’s first book, An Inconvenient Kiss, described as Regency meets
Romancing the Stone
, which has gotten fantastic reviews.

If you love the reunited lovers trope, Amylynn Bright’s contemporary romance is perfect for you. In
Finish What We Started
, no matter how many adorable animals he brings into her clinic, Dr. Candace Claesson doesn’t plan on forgiving her ex-boyfriend for the way he ended their relationship five years ago. But when Lee to proves to her that the passion between them is still there, Candace has to decide if she’s willing to trust him with her heart one more time.

Geek girl Lexi Carmichael is back with another action adventure—and more romance. Now Lexi has to face her worst nightmare—going back to high school in order catch a group of exceptionally talented student hackers. Don’t miss
No Test for the Wicked
, or go back to the beginning of Julie Moffett’s entertaining series with
No One Lives Twice

If you’ve been hoping for something different in the new adult category—no college, no contemporary, something that stands out, take a look at Anne Tibbets’ futuristic dystopian duology
The Line: Carrier
The Line: Walled
. Naya may be former sex slave but no one will stop her as she fights to conquer both the wall around her city and the one around her heart.

Danube Adele also offers a unique look at the new adult market with her paranormal romance,
Dreams of a Wild Heart
. Kidnapped from Earth and taken to a planet millions of light-years away by a seemingly cold-hearted warrior with steamy aquamarine eyes, Dr. Cecilia Bradford desperately tries to find a way back to Earth before she loses her heart to the precious people in need and to a man who claims to need no one, but who won’t let her go.

A Grave Inheritance
, Keri Edgren continues her foray into the new adult historical paranormal market. Gifted healer Selah has chosen love over duty and followed her husband to London, but can she keep her dangerous secret in her new home?

Urban fantasy
by Sonya Clark brings the Magic Born trilogy to a thrilling conclusion when reunited lovers risk everything to change the world. Check out the first two books in the trilogy,
(at least take a look at the gorgeous covers!).

In the spirit of the holiday season, don’t forget to check out some of our backlist titles including our collections of contemporary holiday romance and male/male holiday romance. All of our seasonal titles can be found here:
. We have a wonderful collection of holiday novellas to keep you company while you wait in those long shopping lines!

Coming in January 2015: Marie Force’s romantic suspense
Fatal Scandal
, and Lisa Marie Rice is back with another Midnight installment. Releases in mystery, historical romance, paranormal romance, steampunk and more!

Here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

~Angela James

Editorial Director, Carina Press


was the hardest of the Magic Born books to write, and I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help and support.

Thanks go to Amy Burgess, Kim Wilbanks, Nerine Dorman, Carrie Clevenger, Eleri Stone, Jody Wallace and Shelley Parris for beta reading, answering research questions, and offering up much needed encouragement.

Thank you to everyone at Carina Press—for the fantastic covers, for all the hard work behind the scenes, and for taking on such a tricky to define series in the first place.

Working with editor Jeff Seymour on this series has been a fantastic learning experience. His edit letters and comments in the manuscripts have always been so easygoing and supportive that I wouldn’t realize until deep into the edits just how hard he was making me work. His incredible enthusiasm for the story helped me get past so many doubts and fears. That gave me the confidence I needed to accept the challenge and do my best. With his help and guidance, these three manuscripts became books I’m deeply proud of. He’s made me a better writer, and for that I can’t thank him enough.

I couldn’t do any of this without my husband, the perfect spouse a writer could have. He never minds when a deadline means the laundry sits unfolded in the dryer an extra day, he’s happy to cook so I don’t kill us all with food poisoning, and he reads everything I write. There’s a little bit of him in every hero I create.

Chapter One


An image of Tuyet Caron rendered by a highly skilled digital artist stared at Hayes from the screen of his tablet. An excellent likeness, it was meant to fill the void left by all of the destroyed photos of her. He’d spent the last few days reconstructing her records as best he could, or at least details of their missions together. The parts he was willing to share, at any rate.

The image was an excellent likeness in the manner of a badge photo or mug shot, but it showed nothing of the real woman. The shy hesitation in her smile, the way amusement made soft glints of gold and amber light up her deep brown eyes.

Colonel Talbot’s voice broke through his reverie. “Caron remains the only Magic Born to escape from the Rangers.”

“Yes, sir.” Hayes tore his eyes from the image and looked up at the older man. “You don’t have to tell me.”

Years of practice helped Hayes maintain an impassive mask. He should have been a major by now, or at least still leading his own Ranger squad. Instead, he was stuck at captain, behind a desk in Virginia where he spent his days staring at useless information on a screen.

Though his career was hardly the only thing he’d lost.

“What I don’t understand is why you brought me in to rehash ancient history.” Describing Tuyet to the digital artist had been bad enough. Recreating mission reports had unlocked a cascade of memories he would have preferred to keep buried. “She’s in the wind, Colonel. Paris, most likely.” She’d loved Paris, said she felt freer there than she ever had. “Maybe Tokyo or Shanghai by now.” Both cities had energized her, not only with their casual acceptance of all magic but with their burgeoning communities centered around magic tech.

Hayes quashed his thoughts, not liking where they were headed. He didn’t need to know where she was now, what her life was like. Didn’t need all these memories crashing through his head—the clear, rolling sound of her laughter, the glow of her skin after a hard bout of sparring, the sight of her standing under a Paris street lamp in a soft whirl of snow, hands out to catch the flakes.

It was far easier to hang on to the anger at her desertion. Absently, he rubbed his upper left arm. A scar was stitched into his skin thanks to her, right underneath the unit insignia on his uniform.

The colonel narrowed his eyes. “Anybody with a lick of sense would keep that attitude in check, Captain.” He emphasized the rank to rub it in. “You do as you’re told, when you’re told to do it, and if I deign to tell you why, you say ‘
Thank you
and shut the hell up.”

Hayes flashed a quick grin. “You and I both know I don’t have any sense.” He paused for a beat. “Sir.”

Talbot smacked the desk. “God damn it, kid. You really think you’ve got nothing to lose, don’t you?”

“I suppose I could be stationed at the South Pole.” Hayes returned his tablet to the briefcase at his feet. “Demoted, instead of just stalled out at captain.”

“Shoveling shit somewhere in the Congo instead of pretending to analyze intelligence in Virginia.”

Hayes absently plucked lint from his uniform trousers. “Maybe I do have something to lose, sir.”

“What I don’t get is why you’re still here,” Talbot said. “Your warrant officer, what was her name?”

“Gibson,” Hayes supplied. There was no way Talbot didn’t know that and every other detail of his team that was still available.

“She’s pulling down six figures a year in private security now. You find a company that’s not too particular, you might do the same. But here you are, still hanging on. Why is that, Hayes? You some kind of glutton for punishment?”

It was a good question but Hayes didn’t have an answer. Not one he cared to share with Talbot. “Sir, what can I do for you?”

“What did they used to call you? Hayseed?” Talbot laughed, the sound unkind but oddly free of malice as well. “Shit, boy, could you even read when you enlisted?” He laughed again.

Hayes let it roll off his back like everything else. “I could even spell, sir. Easy words, anyway.”

“You came from nothing and turned yourself into one of the best Rangers this program has ever seen. Ranger Team Six had the best record in the program’s history, right up until the incident with Osman and then Caron’s escape a few months later.

“She ruined your career, Hayes.” Talbot’s voice changed, all the fake humor drained out and replaced with something Hayes couldn’t yet identify. “What do you think of that?”

Hayes raised his eyes and regarded the older man for a long moment. “You really want me to talk about my feelings, sir?”

“God, no.” He swiveled his desk monitor around to face Hayes. “I want you to tell me what you think of this.” He tapped a few icons on the desk touch screen.

A video began to play CCTV footage of a protest, but not overseas. From the signage and other telltale markers, Hayes knew this was an American city. Which could only mean one city.

“New Corinth,” Talbot confirmed. “Three weeks ago.”

Hayes clenched his hands into fists before he could stop himself from showing any emotion. It wasn’t his job to analyze information from inside the U.S., but no one with any level of access could turn off their curiosity about what was happening in New Corinth. The media portrayal of the local law that had turned the city’s zone into a virtual concentration camp was vastly different from the truth that filtered its way out through other sources. The corporate-controlled media outlets would never show footage like this, for instance. Hundreds of people marched in front of the New Corinth city hall. Many carried placards with slogans like Open the Zone, Free the Magic Born, and We Want Our Children Back. There was no sound, but Hayes could tell people were yelling, chanting, perhaps even singing. A heavy police presence ringed the protesters.

Hayes realized he’d hunched forward in his chair, peering intently at the video. “Want to give me a hint about what I’m supposed to find? Because this looks like every Friday in New Corinth.” The idea of regular protests on American soil was still something he couldn’t get used to. It harkened back to a time when fear ran out of control and left blood staining the country from coast to coast. The Magic Revelation and subsequent terrorism, both against witches and by witches, had been long before his time but he knew the history as well as any Ranger.

“This protest
just another Friday in New Corinth. Hundreds of people marching, every cop in the city babysitting. What’s got me curious is this.” Talbot changed the video with a few touches.

The image was a wide crowd shot from a moving vehicle. Faces passed by quickly, mostly female. Hayes took in as much as he could but found nothing of interest. “What am I looking for?”

“A camera crew from the local TMG affiliate was shooting B-roll for some story or other and didn’t make it out of the neighborhood in time to miss the start of a protest. They got some footage but of course it never aired. An eagle eye with an interest in the ten-million-dollar reward for her caught this.” Talbot zoomed in on one face in the sea of people. It was a woman, caught looking in the camera’s direction as she entered a side street, away from the protest. Vaguely Asian features, honey-gold skin, hazel eyes—Hayes knew that glamour as well as he knew the true face underneath.

“Tina Jones.”

He didn’t realize he’d spoken aloud until the colonel replied, “Tuyet Caron.”

All the breath left Hayes in a rush, as if he’d been punched in the gut. He clenched his fists tighter. A jumble of emotions came at him at once, some good, some bad, all confusing. He shut his eyes against both the image and the onslaught it caused.


“At the same time a protest is underway, a fugitive witch is skulking around the city, unimpeded by cops that are busy elsewhere. That looks like something to me, son. Possibly something big.” He paused. Hayes could feel the colonel’s eyes on him and did his best to keep his expression neutral.

“Local authorities wouldn’t be able to handle someone at her level. She’s too dangerous for them.” Talbot spoke in a low, measured voice. “I can’t send a team.” Ranger units were not authorized to operate inside the United States. “I could notify the FBI, but I doubt they could handle her either. Same with the DMS.” Talbot’s disdain for the Department of Magic Security was well-known.

Hayes knew what the colonel was doing. He followed the manipulation as surely and easily as if it were mapped out on his tablet screen.

Talbot sat back in his chair and gazed out the window. “It took a long time for what happened to blow over. Be thought of as part of the past, instead of an ongoing emergency.” The view overlooked the central quad of the campus that held the defense think tank that provided cover for the program. It was lunchtime on a sunny day. The picnic tables and green area around the fountain would soon be full of people.

Hayes waited for the colonel to speak again.

“If she were to come up on the radar again, it would bring all that back up,” Talbot said. “God forbid that happens and then we lose her again. Congressional investigators would know more about my prostate than I do.”

Any other time Hayes would have found that funny. All he could think about was the sight of Tuyet running away from him. They’d both made choices that night. Every day he lived with the consequences. All he’d ever wanted from the day he first heard of the Rangers was to not only be one, but be the best. He’d made it too, only to have his career and reputation ruined by Tuyet.

Talbot continued. “Best thing we could do is delete this video and forget we ever had this conversation. The second best thing, anyway.” He tilted his head slightly. “After bringing her in, served up on a platter to face charges.”

Dereliction of duty, absence without leave, unauthorized transit of a Magic Born, desertion—Hayes couldn’t remember all of the charges leveled against her after she fled. They’d stopped short of treason because there was no proof she’d taken any magic tech with her, and no proof so far that she’d used her abilities in any manner against the government. Depending on what she was doing in New Corinth, that could change. If she was charged with treason and convicted, she would get the death penalty.

“You knew her better than anyone else,” Talbot said. “You and Osman, and we can’t talk to him. So you tell me, Captain Hayes. Is Tuyet Caron a potential terrorist?”

“No, sir.” Hayes shook out his fists and took a deep breath. “I don’t know what she’s doing, but she’s no terrorist.” The idea was ludicrous. But what the hell was she doing in New Corinth, of all places? She should have been overseas somewhere, in a country where she didn’t have to hide being a witch. Where she could be herself. He’d imagined her living a quiet, safe life. Happy. Free.

“It’s been three years,” said Talbot. “You’ve changed in that time. How can you be sure she hasn’t?”

“Sir.” Hayes stopped, unsure how to proceed. It was one thing for Talbot to say that Hayes had known her better than anyone else. It was quite another to offer private details. He might not have much of a career left, but he wanted to hang on to what he did have.

“I’m taking you out from behind that desk and sending you on special assignment.”

“Sir!” His stomach plummeted and his mouth went dry.

“She escaped on your watch, Captain. It’s only right that you be the one to bring her in.” Talbot stood and Hayes immediately followed suit. His eyes were drawn to the epaulets that held silver birds instead of general’s stars.

A lot of careers had been ended or stalled four years ago, including the colonel’s.

Talbot said, “You’re going to bring her in and close the book on this, Hayes. That woman ruined lives, careers. Spat on everything this program gave her. It’s time she paid the price for that.” All trace of manipulation was gone, and along with it all pretense of Talbot playing Uncle Hardass. Nothing but cold fury was left in the man. “You bring her in, I’ll see to it you get out from behind that desk.”

Hayes swallowed a lump in his throat as a sensation like cat claws prickled up his spine. “From a desk to where, sir?” There was only one prize that would make it worth going after Tuyet Caron. He wanted to hear the colonel spell it out.

“Back in the field, Hayes. Leading your own Ranger team again.” Talbot grinned, his teeth and cheekbones giving his face a skull-like cast. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you, boy?”

Stupid old fuck. Briefly Hayes considered telling the colonel to go play with himself in a dark corner, then emailing his resignation on the way out the door. Instead he banked his disdain.

“If I can’t bring her in, sir? What then?” Hayes expected to hear about being sent to consult with the FBI, maybe a DMS tactical unit.

“Then I suggest you disappear back to that shithole you came from, Hayseed, because if you let that witch get away again I will consider that a declaration of where your loyalties lie. Is that clear?”

The threat could hardly have been more explicit. “Yes, sir.” Hayes had been lucky to escape charges three years ago. That luck wouldn’t hold if he didn’t bring Tuyet in now.

Talbot stared for a long, uncomfortable moment. “Get your ass to New Corinth. Find out what Caron’s doing, put a stop to it, and get her back here. I want to see her stand trial.”

Hayes licked his lips, trying to figure out the most politic way to phrase what he wanted to ask. “Sir, the law against Ranger teams operating inside the U.S.—”

“I’m not sending a team, Hayes. I’m sending an intelligence analyst familiar with magic and witches to learn more about the situation in a city beset by strife due to both those things. That’s all anyone else needs to know, should you encounter local police or DMS. Now do I need to draw you a map to your ass while we’re at it or are you ready to get to work?”

Hayes suppressed a sigh and lied. “I’m ready to get to work, sir.”

“Good.” Talbot nodded. “Get the hell out.” He waved at the door. “I’m late for lunch.”

Hayes fled as fast as his dignity would allow. He took refuge in a stall in the nearest men’s room. Few areas in the facility were free of surveillance. This was guaranteed to be one of them. He slumped against the door and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes.

BOOK: Firewall (Magic Born)
10.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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