There’s no wrath like that of a witch scorned.
Avah Taylor has been given a death sentence: as one of the only spirit users in her coven, Avah has been chosen to wield The Power, the ultimate weapon against the immortal vampire species witches have been at war with for centuries. The Power, given by the gods to one witch of each generation, is considered a great honor, but every witch before has died trying to master this all-too-powerful gift, one that the shell of a mortal can’t contain for long.
On the night of her birth rite, Avah’s coven is attacked, and Avah is left for dead. Confronted with a terrible choice, Avah must decide to either die or save herself by becoming like her enemies. Forced to seek refuge among the very beings she has sworn to kill, Avah vows revenge on those who took her former life from her.
As Avah slowly transitions into a life of blood and war and battles her own feelings for a man she is supposed to hate, she realizes everything she’s been told is a lie.
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“A black, wrought-iron fence loomed before us. The tips pointed like deadly daggers. Two large gargoyles stood beside the wide entrance. Their menacing glares stared back at me. Witches had often used gargoyles for protection against evil entities, and I found it odd that vampires did, too.
“They’re spelled,” Jasik said.
I met his eyes, confused. “Witches live here?”
“No, but we’ve made allies,” he replied.
I couldn’t help gawking at him. Had he really just suggested that witches had helped vampires?
“There is much for you to learn,” he said, his British accent thickening the words. He smiled, turned, and walked away. The other vampires had already left us behind.
I realized then that I could run. By the time they had realized I wasn’t there, I could be to Montana or back home in Wisconsin. I knew I could never run back to Shasta. They’d find me there. But I could be free. Free of my Pagan expectations. Free of the vampire curse. And then I shook my head and kicked twigs at my feet.
I could never be free of the vampire curse, and it was time to face it: I needed Jasik. I wasn’t very good at being a vampire.
I followed the vampires across the threshold. I had almost expected to burst into flames upon entrance, like an evil being entering holy grounds. I laughed inside at the thought. Comparing a vampire coven to holy ground? I must have lost my mind.
The overgrown grass made it difficult to navigate the stone walkway. A small cemetery sat to my right. I found myself stopping to pray for the lost souls. The headstones were stacked one after the other. I wondered how the dead fit in such close quarters. The carvings on the front stones were dark, new. The stones in rows farther back were dirty and chipped, and the ground around them was covered in weeds. I wondered how long the oldest grave had been there. One hundred years? Five hundred? I thought back to our cemetery. Ancestry played a bigger role in the vampires’ lives than I had realized. The similarities between the two species, witches and vampires, left a bad taste in my mouth. Why, in all of my teachings, had I never learned of this side to them? Why had I never learned of Hunters, of vampires who seemed to protect me more than my own coven? The overhanging trees were without bloom. I imagined how cold it must be. It was December, and we were in Washington. There was a light layer of snow beneath my feet. The crunch of it beneath my heels brought me home. I smiled as I remembered the long winters in Wisconsin. They seemed never-ending.
Each season brought a blizzard, and each blizzard brought games. I would play outside for hours.
Only during Wisconsin winters did I learn how to control my magic, because only then did I need to call upon fire’s warmth.
I lifted my arm, palm to the sky. I didn’t feel cold, though I felt the breeze. I suppose I only knew it was cold because the human in me still beckoned to me. The witch wasn’t letting go, after all.
I dropped my arm and slowly backed away. As I turned, I collided with Jasik, who wrapped his hands around my arms to keep me from losing my balance.
“I was just…” I said, looking over my shoulders. Only then did I see them. They glinted as the moonlight hit them just right. Runes. Runes of protection, of strength.
“We must get inside,” he said, breaking my trance.
“Who’s buried here?” I asked, pulling away from him. The runes spelled on the tombstones were powerful. They were meant to keep something out.
Or something in.
He said nothing.
“Jasik, who is buried here?” I asked again. I made a point of asking in a tone that made him understand he didn’t have a choice. He would tell me, or we’d stay outside until the sun rose.
“Our dead,” he said. His answer annoyed me. He gave me a simple, and obvious, answer—one he knew I knew was technically correct.
“Jasik,” I said, breathing slowly, choosing my words wisely. “These stones are spelled. I know this, because I have used these very same spells on the graves of our dead. Why are these particular stones spelled, and if you lie or give me a stupid answer, I’m going to sink my fangs so deeply into your throat your healing powers wouldn’t be able to fix it before the sun rose. Understand?”
He smiled. In truth, his reaction didn’t surprise me as much as mine had. I had just threatened a seemingly very powerful vampire, and I wasn’t worried. I knew I could take him.
I took a step forward and linked my arm with his. He tensed under my show of affection. I found it odd that my proximity always made him nervous. Vampires were used to blending in with humans, and in order to successfully blend in, you had to become comfortable. When I agreed to leave with them, I thought I would be the one having a difficult time transitioning into a new life with new rules. But in reality, we both were having a difficult time accepting the change.
“I want to trust you,” I said. “You’re all I know now, Jasik. As much as I hate the thought, you’re all I have.”
I smiled. I gave him the most sincere smile I could muster. I didn’t want to fight with him. I needed him to see that he could trust me, too.
There was no space between us. My body rested against his. His heartbeat rose as I met his eyes. As much as I wanted to play the friend game, I still didn’t like how comfortable I was becoming with him. I tried to tell myself that I had to remember who I was—even if I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to remain that same girl. But I knew my survival rested in his hands, and I needed to know that I could count on him when it mattered most. I needed to know that he wouldn’t pounce the moment my back was turned.
“The tombstones imprison those of us turned Rogue. They’re no longer living, but we take extra precautions. Thus, the stones and graveyard are spelled.”
“How do we turn Rogue?” I whispered. I barely heard my own words, even with my heightened senses, but it was all I could say.
“By giving into the blood lust, by feeding from humans to the point where you consume their essence. It triggers a change—one from which you cannot return.”
I looked back over my shoulder, staring at the tombstones. I hadn’t noticed the mausoleum hidden in the corner. I wondered what was in there. Most of the dead seemed to be buried in the ground. Who was important enough to be buried behind what I assumed to be a locked door?
I unlinked my arm and walked beside him in silence. Within minutes, a large, dark building emerged from the smoky air. A Victorian mansion. Its wraparound stone porch and stained-glass windows would spook even the strongest heart. More gargoyles sat beside the entrance to the porch and were perched on the roof. Figures stood in the windows of the upper floors, watching us. I swallowed hard. I knew more vampires were inside. I was just getting used to Jasik and the Hunters. How was I to live in a house full of them?
“Everything will be okay,” Jasik said as he squeezed my hand.
I realized he’d promised that twice tonight, and I was beginning to wonder if he was actually trying to reassure himself.”
About the Author
Danielle Rose is writer of fiction and travel, as well as the owner of Narrative Ink Editing LLC. Danielle currently resides in the Midwest, where she spends her days at a local coffee shop planning her next vacation or plotting her next novel.
Danielle holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. In addition to her Master of Fine Arts, she also holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and certification in professional writing from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
When not writing, traveling, or writing about traveling, Danielle enjoys being outdoors, cheering for her favorite football team (Go Packers!), and spending time with her husband and their furbabies: two dogs and a cat. For more information about Danielle Rose, visit her website: www.Danielle-Rose.com.
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