Authors: Lynn Tyler
Handlers, Book 1
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2014, Lynn Tyler. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Sunny Kerrigan has never quite figured out what was wrong with her. After being raised in a series of foster homes, and even a stint in the local psychiatric unit as a child, it’s not until she’s visited by two strange men that she finally gets some answers about her past. She’s a witch. A fire handler, to be specific.
Sloan Shirer, the MacAlister water handler, has never gotten over the death of his wife. But the arrival of the new fire handler, with a personality that matches her name, shakes him to the core. Suddenly, he’s feeling things he’d thought died all those years ago with his wife.
Sunny and Sloan struggle to find their way as the prophesied battle looms ever closer in this steamy new series.
To my parents, just because.
As always, I couldn’t have done this without the help of my fabulous editor, Victoria.
My wonderful husband also deserves a big thanks. Who else would take the children out, braving the crowds on a long weekend, so I could make my way through edits. I love you!
Sloan Shirer laughed at the sight his wife, Dara, made dancing in the rain, arms spread out and face tilted skyward. “It’s beautiful, Sloan,” she called, twirling around.
“You’re beautiful,” he called back. He made the drops swirl around her, just to hear her laugh.
“Sloan,” Raven shouted. “I’m glad you’re having fun, but we’re training.”
Dara giggled and pointed at Sloan. “Yeah, Sloan. You’re supposed to be training,” she teased.
He stuck out his tongue at his wife and focused on his task again. As the water handler for the MacAlister clan, the water was his to manipulate to his liking. If he wanted to create a whirlpool in a pond, it was easily done. If he wanted to manipulate a lake into one giant wave, he could. And if he wanted to create the perfect storm, he could.
Well, maybe he couldn’t create the perfect storm on his own. But if he combined his magic with the magic of the clan’s three other handlers, they could do just about everything. “Anna,” he called. “Can you increase the wind?”
He couldn’t hear her response, but her husband, Addison, flashed him a thumbs up. It took a few minutes before he felt the breeze increase and a quick glance in the air handler’s direction showed him she concentrated fiercely. Her intense focus didn’t surprise him. Anna had only come into her magic a couple of years ago and was still learning how to manipulate it to her liking.
As soon as his magic collided with Anna’s the intensity of the storm increased until it raged around them.
Raven, the MacAlister clan leader, appeared in front of him. “You’re doing well, Sloan. The dragons are impressed."
Sloan felt his chest puff out. The dragon queen, her son, and a small contingent of their guards had joined them that morning. They had been allied with the dragons for a few years and their queen seemed to be fascinated with their magic. Her son, Prince Gareth, was her second in command, and had taken to accompanying her on her visits. To be complimented by such ancient beings was a huge honor.
Once the storm was sufficiently large enough, it was time for the other handlers to join in. The earth handler added her power first, making the ground rumble and shake under their feet. She was skilled enough to stop the ground from shifting under his feet and he smiled his thanks at her.
The fire handler shot a stream of fire directly into the heart of the storm, heating the rain until it exploded into a superheated steam. “That would cook anyone who wandered by,” Sloan shouted with glee.
He wasn’t bloodthirsty. He didn’t want to kill any innocents. But the tensions between the MacAlister clan and the Keita and Takahashi clans, the two other witch clans, were increasing at a rapid pace. The handlers had to get their powers in sync or risk heavy casualties when the battle finally broke out between the three clans.
Leith MacAlister paced the perimeter of the storm anxiously. His long blond hair whipped around his face and his mouth was turned down in a frown. It wasn’t unusual for Leith to be frowning. In fact, Sloan sometimes thought Leith’s face would crack if he tried to smile. The pacing was unusual, however.
He didn’t have a chance to ask Leith what was wrong though. It was getting harder to control his magic now that the three other handlers had mingled their powers with his.
Cupping his hands, he began shaping the rain into a water funnel. If he could master holding the water funnel during a storm of this proportion, he could do anything. Anna’s magic tugged against his before merging with it.
The sensation of combining their magics was mildly unpleasant. The power buzzed up his arms, adding to the strength of his own magic until it was almost impossible to hold, but it wasn’t the most uncomfortable thing about the whole experience. For some reason, every time he succeeded in joining his magic with that of another handler, all his walls seemed to fall away. He could feel Anna’s presence in the back of his mind, like a silent observer to his every thought and emotion.
Of course, it went both ways. Once they’d established their connection, he could clearly see her determination to create the storm. He knew she feared they’d fail and disappoint the clan. Her nervousness of preforming such a feat in front of spectators was so acute, he could have sworn it was his own feeling.
He tried his very best to remain ignorant to any of her feelings that weren’t relevant to what they were doing, but apparently, she and Addison had had a particularly satisfying night in bed.
Barely keeping the amused grin off his face, he concentrated on the task at hand. The addition of the wind created a funnel more massive than he had expected. “Awesome!” he shouted.
Raven and Leith started waving their arms in the air. He could see their mouths moving, but the wind whisked their words away. It looked like they wanted the handlers to end the storm.
It was easier said than done. Pulling back that amount of magic into his body would be excruciating. He resigned himself to an uncomfortable evening and started absorbing his power into his very cells.
It was slow going. The earth handler had ceased the earthquake and the fire handler had extinguished the flames. It would be harder for him and Anna to stop their storm, since their magic had been let out a lot more.
Finally, he had the rain slowed to a drizzle. He looked around for his leader to question the sudden decision and was confronted with his worst nightmare.
The ground was stained with blood. Raven, Leith and the other handlers were surrounded by the enemy and were engaged in a battle to save their own lives.
Everywhere he looked, there was another Takahashi or Keita witch or one of their allies. Werewolves were snapping their jaws and lunging at everyone they considered an enemy, and vampires were busy tearing out people’s throats.
How had the other clans figured out what they were doing?
He summoned a single, massive jet of water and used it to knock a werewolf off Raven and a vampire away from Leith. He swiveled his head around frantically, searching for Dara in the chaos. All he could see was Anna, who had conjured a funnel cloud to blow the other witches, werewolves, and vampires away from the MacAlister clan.
The dragons had shifted and clawed at the vampires, who seemed to be concentrating their attacks on them, blowing fire at them.
He sent another jet of water out, this time directly at a Takahashi handler, who hurled boulders left, right and center.
A searing pain shot through him and he collapsed, landing on his hands and knees. He struggled to his feet and had almost made it when another lightning shaft of agony bolted through his system, followed by an empty chasm in his soul. He’d never experienced something like this personally, but he’d heard whispers about it from the earth and fire handler. Just as he had felt Anna come into her magic two years ago, he keenly felt the death of at least two of the MacAlister handlers.
Fighting through the pain, he forced himself to his feet and noticed the wind still blew. Anna must be alive. Which meant the earth handler and the fire handler were dead, their magic now transferred to two unborn MacAlister children.
They were hopelessly out numbered, and now that two of their handlers were gone, they didn’t have much hope of surviving the battle. He hoped Raven had enough time to get back to clan grounds and set the evacuation plan in place. If he didn’t give the order for the clan to disperse, they would be easier to kill than fish in a barrel. The clan would be decimated.
He shook his head, trying to clear it of the lingering pain, and focused on drawing up as much water from the soil as possible. Maybe he could create a giant wave and flood the attackers out.
A scream pierced the air, and Sloan spun around to find Anna kneeling on the ground. He made a mad dash for her. If the MacAlisters had any hope of surviving at all, they needed both him and Anna. They couldn’t be down three handlers. It wasn’t until he skidded to a halt next to the fallen handler that he realized she wasn’t screaming because she was hurt.
The air handler cradled her husband’s head in her lap. Addison’s eyes were open but his stare was empty. Blood trickled from both his nose and his ears. Sloan pawed at the man’s neck, searching for a pulse. “It’s no use,” Anna said in a dead voice. “I turned around and he was holding his head before he collapsed. It had to be one of the damn Takahashi handlers. One of them must have gotten into his head when I wasn’t paying attention.”
Sloan bent over the fallen witch. His pupils were blown wide and the whites of his eyes were bloodied. It certainly looked like a psychic attack.
“When I started running toward him, I blinked and realized I was back where I started. The Keita handlers stole some time from us.”
. It was no secret the Keita clan handlers could manipulate time. If they had reversed time, even for a few seconds, there was no telling what had happened. Everything he remembered from the past few minutes could actually never have happened. He needed to find his wife.
The battle still raged around him, but Sloan risked a quick glance around, locating Dara, who was using her magic to strengthen Raven’s.
Reassured, he turned back to Anna, only to find her pressing a kiss to her dead husband’s forehead. She eased him to the ground and rose to her feet. Her eyes flashed and the wind increased dramatically. Suddenly, a funnel cloud appeared. Anna screamed, a sound of pure fury, and sent the tornado racing toward the Takahashis.
Sloan watched for a few seconds, stunned by the sheer power behind the wind funnel, before spinning around to run to Dara. She could help him bolster his magic so he could wash these fuckers away.
In a frantic attempt to locate her, Sloan eased up on the rain and strained his eyes.
His heart stopped when he finally caught sight of Dara again, in time to see a Takahashi witch wave his hand and a massive boulder go flying toward his wife.
He screamed for Anna to blow the boulder off of its deadly course, but it was too late. It crashed into Dara, knocking her to the ground and crushing her under its weight.
His heart was trying to pound its way out of his chest by the time he stumbled to a stop next to his wife. He redirected his water jet and managed to push the boulder off of Dara but she didn’t move. Instinctively, he knew she was already gone.
A different kind of pain, not physical but still as potent, hit him and he dropped to his knees and examined her. He couldn’t bring himself to look at her abdomen, which was surely mangled beyond belief. There was no way she could have survived, but he searched for a pulse anyway. Nothing.
Desperate for any thread of hope, Sloan threw up a wall of water to surround them and shuffled to her side, ready to administer CPR.
He regretted his actions as soon as he pressed his palms to her chest and his hands sank farther into her flesh than they ever should have.
There wasn’t even a word to describe the murderous wrath that swamped him. Letting the wall drop, Sloan surged to his feet and threw his arms in the air. He didn’t even attempt to control his magic. Instead, he let it flow unchecked, allowing it to grow and evolve, until it seemed to have a life of its own.