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Venin assassin 03 blac.., p.8
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       venin assassin 03 - black shadow, p.8

           Gena D. Lutz
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She tapped the edge of the spoon against the rim before sliding the leather loop, connected to the end of the ladle’s handle, onto the side of the pot. Anika always handled magic with the utmost care. After seeing her spell properly set to simmer, she stepped in-between the two warring nincompoops. Anika narrowed her eyes on the dragon.

  “You, I expect a little more common sense from,” she said, chastising Faing.

  After sending Tamra one more scorching look, he plopped down on his haunches and crossed his scale-covered front legs across his chest. The red that matched his shiny scales faded from his irises.

  Anika’s eyes swung to Tamra. “You never mentioned why you came to see me. You always avoid this side of the building like the plague.”

  Well, not always, but certainly since Anika and Drake’s relationship became more serious. Anika still felt the sting over her crumbled and ruined friendship with her sister-witch, but Tamra acted as if it never existed. Jealousy was surely the ruination of many things, small and large.

  Tamra scoffed at her words. “I brought you a gift, a little token of my deep and festering feelings over your accomplishments. Today represents everything you’ve been working so hard for all these years.”

  The blonde witch reached inside her Chanel purse, which was most assuredly that season’s design. Tamra would never be caught dead accessorizing with anything less. She then pulled out a charm.

  In an instant, Anika recognized the feel of her own magic spill off the charm. “What are you doing with that?” she demanded. Fear and dread crawled up her spine.

  Tamra shrugged her shoulders and flashed a wicked grin. “I thought I’d make your final assignment a bit more challenging, since you’re so damn smart, the teacher’s pet, and all that brown-nosing crap. I figured you’d appreciate the sentiment.”

  Anika stared at the amplifying charm dangling from Tamra’s hand. She must have stolen the potent charm from the storage cabinet in the corner. It was where she kept all her enchantments. The real question was, how did she get her hands on it? The cabinet was heavily warded. It would take one hell of a practitioner to break through.

  Anika’s mind raced over the possible repercussions a single toss of Tamra’s hand could wreak. If that charm ended up in the witch’s brew behind her, complete and utter chaos would follow. She found a modicum of relief in knowing that her protection circle was strong, doubly reinforced because of her proclivity to triple-check and shield her spells. So if Tamra were to throw the charm into the brew, all of Anika’s hard work would be ruined, ensuring that she’d fail her final trial, but at least, the volatile magic would remain contained safely inside the circle of protection.

  “You’re entitled to your opinion. Hate me if you must, or believe I’ve taken something from you. I can live with that. But please, take it out on me in some other way. Magic isn’t to be played with, and you know there’s always a price to pay for trifling with it.”

  Tamra paced the edge of the circle, enjoying Anika’s discomfort.

  “Save your miss know-it-all lecture and warnings and shove them up your ass.”

  Tamra smiled and looked down. With the toe of her shoe, she shifted forward, smearing the border of salt and breaking the circle. After that, everything happened in slow motion.

  Faing’s wings unfolded as he lifted into the air. Tamra flung the charm at the cast iron pot, her face a mask of hate and merriment. She looked crazed. Anika’s hand shot out, trying to block the course of the throw. Faing’s claws closed together as he roared out a stream of fire. The dragon’s claws gripped air, and his fire caught Tamra in the side, knocking her down.

  Anika saw pain flash across Tamra’s eyes, and then realization. A witch’s Familiar was strictly forbidden from harming another, unless the life of its master was in danger, and Anika’s life had never been in jeopardy.

  A loud explosion from behind her sent Anika shooting forward. She crashed against the far wall of her sanctum, sliding down to land flat on her butt on the floor. Light blue and white smoke billowed from the pot. It crawled like an octopus across the floor, shooting straight for the door. Panic set in as Anika helplessly watched the last curling tendril of magic disappear under the doorway.

  Chapter Two

  “I can’t believe you did that! Are you insane?”

  Anika pushed up from the floor, noting that her workspace was in shambles. Faing soared overhead, roaring his rage with fire.

  Laughter from the corner of the room hit Anika hard, the sound to her, like the cackle from an evil witch. Coincidentally, that was exactly what Tamra was flirting with becoming by setting loose such havoc. The thought was disheartening. No matter what the two had been through, she didn’t want Tamra to become one of the Dark Ones. There was no coming back from it. A witch or warlock could only taint his or her soul so many times with darkness before evil took the soul over absolutely.

  Tamra swept a curtain of blonde hair behind her shoulder. Somehow, she’d made it through the explosion of magic with nary a scratch. Her eyes roamed over her handiwork.

  “Look what your charm has wrought. How will you explain this to the High Priestess?” Her words slid from her lips like venomous honey. “Good luck passing your final trials now.”

  Anger like Anika had never known boiled through her blood. The good witch in her scolded for patience. But the wicked side, the darkness within that was a part of every witch, pushed for her to retaliate. It would take more than a vengeful, jealous woman to turn that white witch dark. Anika tampered back a building firestorm that screamed to be released. With just a swirl of her finger, she could have easily turned Tamra into a donkey, or even better, a pile of rat shit. With magic, it always came down to intent, and Anika intended to never harm another. Not even if the bitch deserved it.

  Faing let out another roar, reminding Anika of the trouble that had been unleashed. She turned her back to Tamra, while at the same time, waving a dismissive hand. The gesture lifted the trouble-making witch off the floor. Tamra was rendered motionless, speechless, with big, wide eyes filled with malice and hate. With her other hand, Anika waved at the door. It swung open, and then, after making sure she did so gently, she tossed Tamra out of the room. The door slammed shut behind her.

  One mess cleaned up, and a huge one left to deal with. Anika tapped a short, rounded nail against the tip of her chin. She smiled wide, because she knew exactly what needed to be done. She walked over to the fallen shelves, where her spell books were strewn across the floor. She flinched at the desecration of her most coveted tomes. With a flourish of her hand, and at a few softly spoken words, “Back you go,” the shelf righted itself. Following suit, the books rose into the air and flew back into place.


  Drake unsheathed his dagger. The warlock had sensed danger the moment he’d entered the witches’ compound. Pressure pounded against his temple in the beat of magic turned volatile. With careful steps, he charged up the stairs. At that time of night, only a few witches should be in the residence—one of them being the beautiful Anika, his woman. Drake tried forcing down the tingles of fear he felt for Anika and concentrated, instead, on the present. If there was a threat to his girlfriend, he would find it, and in short work, annihilate it.

  A loud crash from above sent him sprinting forward. The moment his leather boots slammed down on the second landing of the staircase, a billow of blue and white smoke caught his eye. The smoke slithered toward him, coming from the third level, the vicinity of Anika’s chamber. His heart rocked hard against his chest. Find her! Protect her! his instincts roared.

  He brought up his scarred hand, setting it on the railing; he squeezed hard enough to almost crack the wood. Holding still, while identifying the new threat, was excruciatingly hard for him to do. He ignored the pull from his body to move and stood his ground as the smoke neared. It slipped harmlessly between his legs and continued to slither down the stairs. He could taste the sulfuric taint of twisted magic on his tongue, coating his lungs, but it was not ha
rmful to witches or warlocks. He picked apart that aspect immediately, as well as Anika’s magical influence all throughout the spell. It couldn’t be. She would never mix a spell of that nature and set it free.

  The echoing sound of heels tapping against hardwood had his head snapping up. A blonde in a tight, blue dress and high heels came barreling down the stairs. Her face was pinched up in fury, and her eyes were alight with mischief. It was Tamra—not the person he wished to run into. Not then, not ever. That woman was a thorn in Anika’s side, and anybody who wished ill will towards her had him to deal with. Considering that Drake viewed any man who would strike out at a woman in any way, verbal or physical, as a pussy, it was always best for him to avoid Tamra. She had an irritating way about her that set his teeth on edge.

  What the hell? Drake tried to jump to the side. Tamra hadn’t been looking where she was going, and the lethal minx slammed straight into him. He rocked back on his heels and tightened his grip on the banister, taking the brunt of the impact. Tamra’s hand landed against his chest. Immediately switching positions, she wrapped her arms around his waist.

  “A heroic knight has valiantly saved me from breaking my neck. Let me thank him with a kiss.” She tilted her head up, batting her lashes seductively. Her arms banded around his waist even tighter, while she pressed her breasts against him. Her heart was pounding fast. His almost raced out of his chest…from anger.

  Drake sneered with disgust; every inch of his skin crawled from her touch. The woman was truly a devious witch. “Remove yourself from me, or I’ll have no choice but to remove you myself.”

  Tamra writhed against him in response. Her hands moved lower, stopping at the waistband of his jeans. Her fingertips rubbed against his lower back, just beneath the band. Drake growled in frustration, and having little choice, he wrapped his hands around her tiny wrists and yanked them away. Taking two steps down the stairs, he freed himself from her. She looked down at her wrists in shock. Faint red marks wrapped around each one, where he’d grabbed her, but they quickly faded away.

  “You’ll regret manhandling me.”

  “Woman, you test my patience.” Drake shook his head and jogged up the stairs past her. He’d wasted enough precious time on the likes of her.

  “Enjoy your pretty witch while you still can. Soon, she’ll be too busy making amends with the coven to lie down and roll in the hay with you, lover boy.”

  Drake hadn’t a clue what the crazed woman was rambling on about, but chances were, it wasn’t anything good. “Careful what you wish for, Tamra. I may not have it in me to harm you, but I have no adverse feelings about hexing you into a genie. If you harmed a hair on my lady’s head, consider yourself bottled up and made a human’s slave for eternity.”

  Her hand fluttered to her neck. “You wouldn’t dare!”

  “Try me.” At that, Drake beat feet the rest of the way up the stairs, in search of Anika.

  Chapter Three

  Okay, this will either work, or I’m going to look like a complete idiot.

  Anika placed a retractable broom length-wise on her lap. The retractable part was not standard issue for a witch’s broom, but she thought it looked interesting, so Drake had bought it for her.

  She sat cross-legged on the floor, a fresh salt circle surrounding her. She glanced over at the door, the sound of approaching footsteps grabbing her attention. The door swung open with a crash. Great, another mess to clean up.

  The disruption was quickly forgotten as soon as she saw who had disturbed her. Drake barreled through the open doorway, his features stricken with concern. His imposing body was tensed for battle. He scanned the room, looking for something to kill. It was as if his entire body would explode if he didn’t find it. Then his eyes landed on Anika.

  “My God, darlin’, I thought the worst. What happened here?” He rushed over to her. His stern features softened after finding her safe, but his golden eyes never stopped scanning the room. Something had happened there; he was sure of it. By the smell and feel of the room, which reeked of bad juju, he was certain it had everything to do with the crazy woman he’d run into only moments before in the stairwell.

  “Tamra happened,” Anika said.

  Before he could get any closer, she held up her hand, stopping him. Pointing at the circle, she said, “You know you can’t cross.” She smiled up at the handsome warlock. Her belly fluttered out of control, and heat scorched throughout her body at the sight of him.

  Drake was always dressed for battle, starting with the black leather, steel-toed boots he wore. He had two wicked daggers sheathed at his sides and a shoulder strap that holstered two guns belted across his wide chest and strapped over his dark shirt. Blades and bullets weren’t the battle-hardened warlock’s only defenses. There was also his massive body, which was built like a sleek tank, all muscle and sinew. That wasn’t a truth only because of his ability to use brute force, but also, because Drake was a very powerful warlock.

  Scars covered Drake’s hands, and a long, white one puckered along the curve of his chin. It traveled down his neck, disappearing underneath a t-shirt spread taut against a ripped chest. Anika knew from experience that that particular scar marked him from chin to waist. She had once asked him how he got all of his scars.

  “I collect them like souvenirs; each mark, a reminder of the high cost of using magic.”

  As a practitioner of magic herself, and a witness to some pretty powerful things, she understood the meaning of his answer.

  Drake eased himself down on his knees. “Are you okay?”

  Anika pressed together a special combination of herbs and a pinch of grave dirt with a stone pestle and mortar. When she was satisfied with the resulting fine powder, she stood up with her broom in hand. Drake rose with her.

  “Tamra set a spell loose and wrecked the place, but I was left uninjured.”

  “So that’s what shot out of the castle like a pistol. I had a feeling it was bad. I just didn’t know to what extent.”

  Across the room, the dragon roared. She knew the sound; it was the equivalent to Faing’s grunt. He agreed with Drake, and so did she.

  “The town and its people are in danger.”

  “Indeed.” His gaze shot to the mortar. “What are you making? Is that grave dirt I smell?”

  Anika smiled at her warlock. He had an incredible sense of smell, among other endearing attributes.

  “Yes, I’m in the process of making a nullifier to battle the malevolent magic. I’m almost finished.”

  “I hope this will open your eyes to how much trouble Tamra is. That woman has been harassing you for far too long. I think it may be time to apprise the Priestess and my father of her antics,” Drake said.

  She looked over at Drake and smiled. His aura burned bright. A red halo, which was dominant above all the other colors in his aura spectrum, surrounded him. It meant that he was filled with passion, stable in thought, and full of vitality. Anika read the outline of yellow that stood out to her, surrounding the halo of red. His brain was working overtime, logically poring over options as to how he could help her. He was always trying to fix things.

  “You know I won’t do that,” Anika said. “I’m still not convinced that she’s all the way gone. She loved me once; we were best friends, practically sisters. I owe it to her to not give up so easily.”

  A burst of orange flared against the red part of his aura. With all three colors burning bright, Drake resembled the blazing sun, proof positive of the warrior he was to his very core, an expression of valiancy in every beat of his heart. He couldn’t help trying to protect her. It was who he was and why he was the fiercest warrior of his clan.

  Drake swallowed hard and looked at Anika as he released a frustrated breath. “We will do this your way, then. For now.”

  “Thank you.”

  Relieved, Anika leaned over, setting the broom on the floor in front of her. She scooped a handful of pressed powder into her palm, and with her other hand, pinched a portion of the magic
dust between her fingers and sprinkled it over the bristles of the broom.

  “I ask the Goddess Three to hear my call. Bespell this instrument of good; no magic can run from the cleansing sweep of its thrall. What riddles the mind and hides truth from its bearer, with this instrument, will wash away the corrupt and bring forth truth to its wearer. In this, I ask harm to none. Blessed be.”

  Drake dragged a hand through his hair and stood. He watched Anika finish her spell. She was busy at the sink, cleaning up and neutralizing all the utensils she’d used with salt baths and rubs. She’d already broken her circle, so he stepped up behind her. The smell of French vanilla and sage wafted off her body as he slipped both arms around her. His forehead dropped forward, resting against soft, coffee-colored hair and the back of her head. Drake breathed her scent in and squeezed her waist gently.

  “I missed you,” he said, glad to finally touch her.

  Anika licked her lips, set down the mortar in her hand, and turned in his arms to face him. She reached up and cupped his cheek. Her thumb moved across his bottom lip.

  “You’re all I thought about,” she said. Leaning up, she kissed him. “Your missions are drawing out by days. I get lonely.”

  “The Dark Ones have grown bolder.”

  She rolled up her apron, tossing it in the sink, which was full of salt water. It was a lazy way to neutralize the lingering magic left on it, but she would see to it properly later.

  “Are you coming with me?” Anika lifted her freshly spelled broom. “I have a town to clean up.”

  “Yes, of course. There’s no other’s side I’d want to be glued to.”

  Faing soared into the air. He spun backwards twice and flew at her with lightning speed. Within the span of ten feet, he morphed from a six-foot-long dragon, into a six-inch one. He curled up inside the front pocket of her jacket and let out an adorable roar. It seemed that Faing had decided to tag along with them.

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