Urban Fantasy Romance With a Heaping Side of Hexes, Spells, and MAGICK! Even a black cat.
By Ann Gimpel
Dream Shadow Press
70K wordsRelease Date: 9/26/16
Urban Fantasy Romance with a heaping side of Hexes, Spells, and Magick!
Jenna’s a special witch, sort of, when her magic works, which it often doesn’t. One of three remaining demon assassins, she and her sister witches, Roz and Colleen, are Earth’s only hedge against being overrun by Hell’s minions. On the heels of Roz’s and Colleen’s weddings, Jenna is headed for the U.K. when a demon confronts her. Any other witch could teleport out of the plane, but not her. Frustration about her limited power eats at her. It would be pathetic to get killed for lack of skills a teenager could master.
Tristan is a Sidhe warrior, but his primary gift is attunement to others’ emotions. He fell hard for Jenna, but hasn’t had an opportunity to act on their attraction beyond a few kisses because she returned to Alaska, and he’s been in the field fighting demons.
As seer for the Sidhe, Kiernan is haunted by visions, particularly an apocalyptic sending that seems to be coming true. A confirmed bachelor, he doesn’t understand his attraction to Jenna, but it’s so strong he can’t fight it. After a while, he doesn’t even try, despite recognizing Tristan’s claim to her.
Startling truths surface about Jenna’s magic, and then there’s the problem that she’s falling in love with two very different men. At first she believes she has to pick one of them, but her spirit refuses to walk away from either. It’s impossible to choose between a seer with dreams in his eyes and a beautiful man who intuits her every need. Standing on the verge of Earth’s destruction, will she defy convention and follow the song in her heart?
Jenna Neil sank heavily onto her airplane seat and kicked off her high heels, shoving them beneath the seat in front of her. With a small sigh of relief, she rotated her ankles to take the pressure off her aching arches. She’d always loved heels—the higher the better—and insisted on wearing them, never mind they definitely lacked a comfort factor. Once she’d shot past six feet, she figured it didn’t matter if she added a few inches to her already overbearing height.
A flight attendant leaned over to hand her a pillow and blanket. Jenna tucked the pillow behind her head as she listened to the safety briefing and estimates of their arrival time in London.
She closed her eyes, but it didn’t ease how tired and gritty they felt, and smoothed her too-short denim skirt down her thighs. A red wool sweater and matching denim jacket finished off her outfit. She’d been so excited about getting out of Alaska and away from the layers she was forced to wear through the winter, she’d probably underdressed for the current jaunt. Less trendy clothes were tucked in her checked luggage, but they weren’t exactly accessible.
The last few days hadn’t offered much opportunity for rest. She, Colleen Kelly-Regis, and Roxanne Lantry-Redstone—Roz to everyone who knew her well—were the last of the demon assassin witches. Having escaped Irichna demons by a ridiculously narrow margin—again—the three of them were on their way to the U.K. where they could do it all over again.
Jenna grinned ruefully. Demons running amok through the British countryside had thrown witches and the Daoine Sidhe together after two hundred years of enmity. It had also netted impossibly hunky husbands for her sister witches, but that was beside the point. Staying alive was a much more front and center problem.
Because Irichna demons had become so much more aggressive, everyone but her thought it would be best to travel separately. She hadn’t agreed, but she’d been the one dissenting vote. As far as Jenna was concerned, there was always strength in numbers, but the others were convinced their current strategy would confuse the demons long enough for everyone to regroup on the eastern side of the Atlantic. Colleen and Roz were teleporting with their husbands. Niall, Colleen’s Irish changeling familiar, was making his own way back home along with two Scottish changelings, Llyr and Krae. Jenna had never been much good at teleporting, so she’d opted to fly commercial. It would place her arrival at least twelve hours after everyone else, but she could live with that. At least the first leg of her journey, from Fairbanks to Seattle, and thence to New York, had been uneventful.
Thinking about Irichna made her shiver, so she unfolded her blanket and draped it around her shoulders. Demons didn’t get much worse than Irichna. As Abbadon’s chosen henchmen, they played for keeps, and Abbadon was the biggest and baddest of Hell’s denizens, so nothing was off limits. Demon assassin witches had been a craw in his throat for a long time, and lately he’d upped the ante to get rid of them—permanently.
Them means me, and I’d do well not to forget that.
Jenna blew out a weary breath. One of her not-so-distant ancestors had been forced into demon containment two hundred years ago by the Sidhe, breaking every rule that bound magic-wielders, but the Sidhe hadn’t cared. In the intervening years, demons had managed to kill every single witch with demon-assassin ability—except for her, Roz, and Colleen. The Sidhe were primed to take back some responsibility for ferrying Irichna to the Ninth Circle of Hell where the gatekeeper locked them away, but that hadn’t exactly happened yet.
She gritted her teeth and unclenched hands she’d balled into fists around the edge of the thin airline blanket. The aircraft backed out of its slip and headed for one of the many runways at JFK Airport. While it would be lovely to have help with the demons, working with the Sidhe held its own set of problems. For one thing, most of them were insufferably autocratic, which was how Jenna’s great-grandmother had ended up being suckered into picking up the demon banner in the first place.
Even though Titania, Queen of Faerie, appeared marginally tolerant of Colleen’s and Roz’s marriages to Sidhe now, she’d given Duncan quite a bit of grief over his proposed marriage to Colleen at the front end of things. By the time Ronin, the de facto Sidhe leader, made it clear he’d set his sights on Roz, Titania had backed down a few notches, probably because they were beset by Irichna.
Jenna thinned her lips into a hard line. Hundreds of years before, Ronin’s human partner had died in childbirth, and the child along with her. Apparently, both the Queen and King of Faerie made it clear Ronin had sunk himself by choosing to marry someone outside his race. In the face of their indifference, Ronin had carried his grief alone.
It’s just like it is with humans. Everybody’s got to have somebody to look down on…
Jenna tamped back a cynical grin. The Sidhe had made strides accepting other races, but they had a way to go before they moved beyond their intolerant past.
Jenna pictured her friends’ husbands, and a small sigh escaped. Like all the Daoine Sidhe, Duncan Regis and Ronin Redstone were heartbreakingly stunning. Duncan’s blond good looks and green eyes provided a counterpart for Ronin’s dark hair and deep blue gaze. When Jenna scratched the surface and did a little soul-searching, she had to admit she’d never expected to find a permanent partner. Girls like her—well rounded and obscenely tall—weren’t exactly in demand. Colleen was beautiful with her waist length auburn hair and pale blue eyes, and Roz was unusual and striking. Her Native American heritage and long, lean frame turned heads whenever she passed by.
Guess I’m the odd witch out these days…
Jenna pressed her lips together. It remained to be seen how her friends’ marriages would impact their lives. Some things would have to change because she couldn’t quite envision Duncan and Ronin simply moving in to her Fairbanks, Alaska, home along with their new wives. For one thing, all the Sidhe maintained amazing abodes in the U.K. Places that resembled castles more than houses.
Jenna reined in her thoughts. There were a lot of unknowns, but the main problem would be surviving the next few weeks. Once they got the Irichna on the run—if that were even possible—then she could figure out more prosaic things, like if she’d be the only one still living in Fairbanks and running their magicians’ supply shop. Before the thought even finished forming, she knew that arrangement wouldn’t work. She, Roz, and Colleen had to stay together, and if the others insisted on remaining in the U.K., well then she wouldn’t have much choice in the matter. If she returned to Alaska by herself, she’d be a sitting duck for Irichna to swoop down and overpower her.
She shivered again and considered asking for a second blanket.
In an attempt to divert herself and maybe unwind, though it seemed unlikely, Jenna started to push her seat back and then remembered she wasn’t supposed to quite yet. The plane’s engines were revving, but they hadn’t left the ground. She heard the captain instruct the flight attendants to prepare the cabin for takeoff and tried to relax in her plush first-class seat. If the goddess was good to her, maybe she’d catch a few hours of sleep before the plane landed.
A flurry of supernatural energy caught the edges of her attention, and Jenna’s gut twisted into a sour knot. She sat up straight and craned her neck to scan the cabin, defensive magic at the ready. Her eyes widened in disbelief as Krae’s unmistakable form shimmered into being, and the changeling bounded into the empty seat next to Jenna. Her long, bright red hair hung loose, and her eyes shone like emeralds. Krae’s stocky body was draped in wide-bottomed green silk pants and an embroidered black tunic. As was usual with changelings, her feet were bare. The creatures drew their power from the earth, and Jenna assumed they didn’t want layers of leather or rubber or neoprene between themselves and their magical well. With their three-foot height, broad shoulders, and longish arms, they looked like a missing link between humans and the great apes.
“What are you doing here?” Jenna kept her voice low.
“Don’t worry,” Krae replied, not exactly answering Jenna’s question. “No one can see me except you.”
“Where are Niall and Llyr?”
“Niall joined Colleen and Duncan, and Llyr is with Roz and Ronin.”
Of course, why didn’t I think of that?
Jenna cleared her throat. “Why did you make different plans?”
Krae cocked her head to one side and crinkled her gnome-like face, making her look even more outlandish. “We discussed it and decided you might need help.” A corner of her mouth curved into a frown. “Personally, I thought it was a bit overdrawn, but Niall was most insistent about remaining with Colleen.”
“Can he join her teleport spell after it’s already set in motion?” Jenna was curious, but if Krae could teleport into this aircraft, maybe the other two could tap into a spell she’d always considered sacrosanct.
“Not directly, but he communicated with Colleen telepathically, and she altered her destination to pick him up. Llyr did the same with Roz and Ronin.” Krae dusted her palms together and grinned. “Nothing easier.” The changeling swept her agate-green gaze around the first-class cabin. “When will they feed us?”
“As soon as we pass through ten thousand feet, which won’t be long since we just took off.” Jenna paused for a beat. “If you weren’t thrilled about the plans to get to the U.K., why didn’t you speak up back in Alaska?”
“We did. No one listened to us. Roz and Ronin were so wrapped up in lust and pawing at each other, all they wanted to do was get to his manor house as fast as they could.”
“Well, they did just get married,” Jenna pointed out in defense of her friend. “And I don’t recall anyone but me voicing concerns about splitting up to travel.”
“That’s because you weren’t paying attention, either. Look, sweetie, if the Irichna win, no one will be tupping anyone.” Despite being much shorter than Jenna, the changeling managed to send a withering glance her way.
“Point taken.” Jenna shot an equally scathing glance back. “Next time, if you feel strongly about something and no one’s paying attention, talk louder.”
“Rehashing the past is a waste of time.” Krae bounced up and down in her seat. Jenna considered telling her to fasten her seatbelt, but if no one could see her, there wasn’t much point. “Be sure to take everything they offer foodwise,” the changeling instructed. “I’m hungry.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem since I’m not.” Jenna lapsed into silence.
“Why so glum, witchy girl?” Krae trained her ancient eyes, which probably didn’t miss a trick, on Jenna.
“Oh, no particular reason.” Jenna stifled a snort and rolled her eyes. “I find facing death several times a day downright exhilarating.”
A bell sounded, and the fasten seat belt icon winked out. Moments later, the first-class cabin flight attendant leaned close. “Are you all right?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Jenna snapped and then winced at how surly she sounded.
“I heard you talking and thought maybe you needed something.” The flight attendant smiled encouragingly. Airlines had moved past using Barbie clones long since, and this woman was middle-aged with streaks of gray in her dark, shoulder-length hair, the beginnings of wrinkles around her blue eyes, and a kind expression.
“Food,” Krae prodded, not bothering with telepathic speech.
“Thanks for being concerned.” Jenna managed a genuine smile for the cabin attendant. “I am hungry, so snacks would be appreciated whenever you get around to serving.”
“Of course.” The woman smiled back. “I’m Suzanne.” She tapped the nametag hanging around her neck. “Just press your call button if you need anything. Other than that, relax and enjoy your flight.”
“You could’ve been a bit more assertive about our dinner,” Krae complained.
“I’m guessing they can’t hear you, either.” Jenna switched to telepathic speech.
“Of course they can’t.” Krae blew out an annoyed-sounding breath. “Look, witchy-girl, draw a spot of magic and shield your speech. That way no one will bother us, and we can talk.”
Feeling like an idiot because she hadn’t come up with the idea herself, Jenna drew the requisite spell before she spoke again. “I was actually hoping to sleep.”
“You can do that after we eat and talk.”
Jenna turned to face the changeling and raised a quizzical brow. “This is starting to sound bigger than you. Whose idea was it for the three of you to split up, and for you to join me?”
Krae’s generous mouth twitched into a grin, and she jabbed a finger in the air between them. “Smart witch.”
“You didn’t exactly answer me.”
“No. I didn’t.”
Jenna pressed her tongue against her teeth to manage her annoyance. The last thing she needed was a rousing game of twenty questions, so she trained what she hoped was a non-confrontational gaze on Krae and shrugged. “We have seven hours, feel free to take your time.”
The changeling’s green eyes sparkled with mischief. “You’re burning up with curiosity. I can smell it.”
Jenna didn’t bother to point out she was so trashed from the past few weeks that she doubted she had enough energy to burn up with anything. Suzanne handed her a bottle of water and a tray with an assortment of appetizers. The flight attendant had no sooner moved on to the next passenger than Krae bent over the tray and dug in.
The changeling looked up after inhaling half the finger sandwiches and most of the nuts. “Sure you don’t want any of this?”
“Help yourself.” Jenna adjusted her seat so it tilted backward, twisted the cap off the water, and drank deeply.
“Beer, wine, or a cocktail, miss?” a masculine voice asked.
Jenna glanced up at a cabin attendant she hadn’t seen before. He was tall and rangy with very blue eyes, white-blond hair, and a gold band on the third finger of his left hand. She swallowed a smile. With looks like his, he might have begun wearing the ring in self-defense, to slow the tide of women throwing themselves at his feet. He arched a brow and gestured toward the drink cart.
“Um, maybe a cup of coffee with a side of Irish whiskey.”
“Excellent choice.” He beamed at her, displaying very white, very even teeth. He may have winked, but she wasn’t quite certain. “Would you care for cream or sugar?”
Once he handed her drink over, she uncapped the small bottle of spirits and dumped a little into her cup. She’d traveled through so many time zones already, it scarcely mattered whether it was evening yet, and the liquor might have a salutary effect. The steward’s gaze traveled up her body in frank appraisal before he moved to the passenger across the aisle. Jenna’s face warmed a few degrees. What the hell? Was he sizing her up for a quickie in one of the plane’s johns?
Krae twisted her head and stared at the man. The air glistened wetly where the changeling deployed magic. She wasn’t particularly subtle, and the man’s spine stiffened, but he didn’t turn around.
“He felt that.” Jenna pitched her mind voice just for Krae and shielded it to boot.
“Indeed he did.” Krae narrowed her eyes. “Do you know what he is?” Jenna shook her head. “Pity,” the changeling went on, “neither do I.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to send more magic his way,” Jenna murmured. “As it is, what you did tipped him off. How did you know something was wrong?”
“How else?” Krae shrugged. “I almost missed it, but something…odd drew my attention when he looked at you. If he’d been human, his gaze would have held more heat. Instead there was an…unnatural hunger.” She hesitated. “More like he was relieved he’d found you rather than wanting sex.”
A shudder iced Jenna’s blood. Unlike Roz and Colleen, she couldn’t simply teleport off the airplane. Her heartbeat sped up. “Maybe you should leave,” she told Krae. “No point in both of us being trapped.”
“Uh-uh. We hold our ground for now. It’s possible his presence has nothing to do with you.”
“Not very fucking likely.”
Krae picked up another small sandwich and stuffed it into her mouth. Jenna snuck a peek at the steward just in time to see him disappear through the curtain separating first class from the remainder of the aircraft. Because she was desperate for information, she sent a tendril of magic snaking outward and yanked it back as soon as she determined the man wasn’t an Irichna disguised as human. Duncan had run up against one masquerading as a priest near the Witches’ Northwest Coven headquarters in Seattle. It had lured two female teenagers and would have drained them of life if Duncan hadn’t intervened. As it was, he wasn’t certain either had survived because he’d left them at a hospital and hadn’t hung around long enough to find out.
Jenna ran options through her mind, not liking any of them. She didn’t want to end up in a pitched battle inside the aircraft. Hell, they’d probably lock her away as a terrorist the minute the plane landed, and Irichna would pick her off from her cell.
“I was serious,” Krae’s out loud voice intruded. “There’s at least a small possibility he’s simply some sort of mage. He might have gotten a magical hit off your aura and was curious.”
“What did you want to talk about earlier?” Jenna changed the subject because she could speculate about the mystery steward from now until he made a move against her, and it wouldn’t change the outcome, other than making her more aware to watch out for him.
“How much do you know about my race?” Krae countered, answering Jenna by asking a question of her own.
“Mostly what I’ve gleaned from living with Niall for forty years. Why?”
Krae popped the last sandwich into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “We’ve always known we would have a key role to play in major battles against the Irichna. It’s written in our histories, and we’ve prepared as best we could.”
Jenna drew her brows together. “Niall never mentioned it.”
“It’s quite possible he didn’t know. We’ve done our damnedest to keep that particular bit of knowledge quiet, so the Irichna wouldn’t target us before the time came to play our part. Not that we didn’t inform our people—and try to coach them—but Niall’s been gone for a good many years.”
Jenna rolled her shoulders to offset the iron bar of tension sitting between them. “You sound like a preacher threatening the latter days are nearly upon us.”
“They are.” Krae’s expression turned deadly serious.
“More whiskey, miss?”
Jenna started at the sound of the steward’s voice. He’d returned to the cabin so quietly, she hadn’t heard him. “Um, no.” She resisted the temptation to look at him. It would give her more information, but that was a two-way street.
“As you will, miss.” He pushed the drink cart past her. It made quite a bit of noise, which led her to suspect he’d used magic to muffle his presence earlier.
How long had he studied her without her knowing?
Why hadn’t Krae sensed him?
Worse, he’d apparently made his way back to the front of the plane, pushed the rattling cart past her, and served other passengers without alerting her to his presence. Not good. Jenna shielded her mind—just in case—and clamped her jaws together when he sashayed into the curtained galley alcove between first class and the cockpit. Her heart thudded against her ribcage, and her throat was dry. It was looking like she’d need to do something, but what would attract the least attention?
Krae uttered a muted expletive in Gaelic, bolted from her seat, and whisked after the steward. Jenna stared after the changeling with her mouth hanging open. She pushed upright, remembered her seatbelt, and fumbled with the clasp. By the time she was free of it, a flash of multicolored light practically blinded her, flaring above, below, and through the curtain. Heedless of the other first class passengers, who couldn’t sense expended magic anyway, she threw her power wide open.
Jenna didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until it whistled from between her clenched teeth. She drew her lips back, hissing in satisfaction once she realized the blast of power had come from Krae, not the man. Balancing on the balls of her stocking-clad feet, Jenna strode forward and pushed past the curtain.
The steward was shaking his head back and forth, his face screwed into a mask of pain. Power flashed from the changeling’s hands. “No more,” he rasped, tottering from foot to foot. “I won’t hurt either of you.”
Jenna dragged an invisibility spell over all of them, layered a don’t look here spell over that, and prayed to the goddess no one would enter the small, enclosed space for the next few minutes.
“What are you?” She shoved the question hard into his mind.
“I already figured that out,” Krae said sourly. “He’s a minor demon sent to keep an eye on you and report back.”
“I already told you I hadn’t,” he whined. “And I won’t. You can bind me with magic.”
“That’s not good enough,” Jenna growled. “Demons lie.”
“So do changelings and witches.” He shot her a venomous look that belied his promises of non-interference.
“We’re wasting time,” Krae said and settled into a low chant.
A look of horror twisted the steward’s handsome face into something unrecognizable. He tried to walk past them but clearly couldn’t move. The air thickened, took on a blackish tinge, and stank of ozone just before smoke rose from the creature and he vanished.
Jenna drew back, impressed. Whatever Krae had done was magic well beyond her own abilities. Footsteps sounded on the far side of the curtain. Suzanne. Jenna recognized her energy and ducked into a passenger restroom. If Krae was powerful enough to banish the demon, shielding herself from the flight attendant should prove trivial. Kicking herself for being sloppy, Jenna pulled the magic from her spells to make the cramped galley appear as normal as possible.
“Paul,” Suzanne’s voice was pitched low, “your drink cart’s here. Where are you?”
Jenna flushed the toilet and splashed cold water on her overheated face. She took her time drying off and settled her features into a bland expression before stepping out of the john. With a nod and a smile at Suzanne, she pushed the curtain aside and returned to her seat. Krae was already there, doing her best to mask a self-satisfied grin.
“Okay, I give up.” Jenna eyed the changeling. “What did you do?”
“Teleported him outside the plane. Nature took care of the rest.”
Jenna thought about it. “While it’s good he’s gone, how will we know he didn’t report in somehow?”
“We won’t,” Krae said shortly. “Which means we’ll have to be very careful not to lead the enemy right to wherever we’re staying after we land.”