THE GUARDIAN WITCH SERIES: THE ELVENRUDE TRILOGY:
Excerpt from Awakening the Fire (Guardian Witch #1): Ari has just defeated a werewolf in the park while on evening patrol.
Ari retrieved her knife from the forest floor. The woods were quiet again. Still, she lingered, reluctant to leave. An ominous prickle persisted at the back of her neck, keeping her rooted to the clearing. She scanned the trees, opening her mind to the smells and energy in the wind.
A sharp round of applause shattered the silence.
A shadowy figure stepped from the shelter of the trees. The stranger stopped, silhouetted against the light of the moon. “Very nice, if a little overdone. I do not think he will return soon.”
A rich, masculine voice, softly accented, rolled over her. Ari’s pulse leaped. Her witch blood surged in response to the unmistakable vampiric energy, and she snapped into defensive mode.
The vampire stayed in the moonlight. An easy target for witch fire, Ari thought. Maybe he wasn’t hostile. More likely, he didn’t think she was any kind of threat. Either way, her advantage. She’d been underestimated before.
“You need not be concerned,” he said. “I intend no mischief.”
The distinctive cadence of Italy in his words trailed a feathery caress along her skin. The sound wrapped itself around her in lazy curls. A quiver swept up her arms, and she shivered. Ari quickly blocked the intrusion. She needed to keep her wits about her.
“No magical probing,” she snapped. “Your tricks don’t work on me. I’m stronger than that.” Yet even as she spoke, she felt the pull, smooth as silk and slightly wicked. Her blood hummed in response, as if her magic recognized his.
And liked it.
He chuckled. Audacious. Bold. Sexy? Huh? Contrary to popular fiction, seduction wasn’t something Ari associated with vampires. Federal civil rights laws, new treaties, and citizen status didn’t make them any less dangerous. They were predators—useful in the military, but not exactly her idea of boyfriend material.
“I heard there was a new guardian, but not that she was a fire witch.” The vampire moved closer, his feet skimming soundlessly over the layers of fallen leaves and pine needles. When he came to a halt, the moonlight illuminated his face, revealing dark eyes and strong, lean features. A lock of black hair had fallen across his forehead. He was dressed casually in black jeans and a crew neck T-shirt. “Our meeting is fortunate. Always good to know the local authorities.” He cocked his head. “You are not what I expected."
Excerpt from Cross Keys: An Elvenrude Novel (book one of the trilogy
Caleb nodded absently at the departing couple, then returned his gaze to Kam. “I’m serious. It’s time you became more involved with trade matters. In fact,” he paused, “you have several decisions you should be making. When are you coming home?” “I’m here now.” She clamped down on a spark of anger. Why did every conversation with him lead into demands about the future?
“You know that isn’t what I meant.”
She stiffened. “It’s too soon for any long-term decisions. I like where we are now.” A storm was gathering in his eyes, and she took steps to head off a fight. This was hardly the time or place. She tilted her head and looked at him. “Are you about ready to leave?” A diversion was in order before she lost her temper and said something she’d regret. “I have to be back in the city by early morning, and I can think of better things we could be doing.”
“More than ready.” His smile held a provocative edge. “Shall we start our round of goodbyes?”
“I’m going to visit the ladies’ room, then I’ll catch up with you.”
“Don’t be long.”
She ducked her head and hurried away, anxious to get out of sight before he realized just how annoyed she was. She shoved the door open into the hallway a little harder than was necessary and ran into a solid body. She stumbled, throwing out her arms for balance.
“Oh, I’m so sor—” Strong hands caught her, and she looked up into Seth Lormarc’s glittering green eyes. “You!”
His eyes widened in surprise. “Do I know you?”
A spark of unexpected awareness ran up her arms, and she tried to shake off his grasp. He held tight until she was steady. “No, but I know who you are.” She looked pointedly at his hands. “Take your hands off me.”
“No problem.” He released her and stepped back, a smile parting his lips. “Are you always so charming?”
She frowned at him, ready to give a sharp retort, then hesitated, realizing how rude she’d been. “You’re quite right. Mother would be appalled at my manners. Thank you for your assistance. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
“Certainly.” He moved to one side.
Her throat suddenly dry, Kam hurried past and down the hall. Insufferable Lormarcs. She entered the powder room and took a deep breath. The mirror revealed her heated cheeks, and she dipped a handkerchief in the water basin to cool her face. Why had she reacted so strongly, been so impolite? Was it the lazy smile he’d made little attempt to hide or just her anger at Caleb spilling over onto the first male she saw?
Excerpt from Fire Within (Guardian Witch #2): Ari hasn't seen Andreas in the eight months since book 1.
The auditorium of the Arts Center was packed. The annual Charity Auction always drew a large crowd, not only of bidders but those who came to see and be seen. It was one of the biggest community events of the year. For an exorbitant entrance price, each person earned the right to free appetizers and wine and the opportunity to bid on a lot of things he didn’t need. Ari ran a cynical eye over the merchandise. And, in her case, many items she couldn’t afford. Like the perfectly ordinary-looking granny vase with a starting bid of $3,000. Of course, she could just ogle at all the rich and famous of Riverdale. It was expected. Looking around at the crowd, Ari estimated there were more oglers than bidders, but the auction always met its goal.
The two couples dutifully filed past the tables and viewed the choices in the silent auction. Brando kept up a running commentary on the city officials and wealthy patrons he recognized. Steffan placed a bid on a case of wine but was immediately out-bid by the couple behind them in line. He grinned at Ari, shrugged, and they moved on.
Ari paused when she spied a champagne dinner for two from Club Dintero. She wouldn’t be bidding on that. Claris’s attempt to hurry them past, to skip that particular auction item, brought a frown to Ari’s face. Like she wouldn’t notice. Apparently, Claris wasn’t convinced the past was in the past. Ari’s frown deepened.
She knew she had been a little touchy on the subject of Andreas and his club. Unbidden, a series of scenes flashed through her head: strong arms holding a grief-stricken young witch; a dark figure singing on stage, the crowd captivated; the same sexy figure sipping Chianti; a forbidden kiss. Ari determinedly brushed aside such highly selective memories. Those were only the good things—and there were some not so good. She flashed a reassuring smile at Claris and turned her attention to the next item, a spa package.
As if Ari’s traitorous thoughts had conjured it, a surge of Otherworld power touched her. Vampire. And not just any vampire. Sensation raced across her skin, her witch magic singing in recognition as the air shimmered with his dark, slightly wicked energy. She whipped her head around, focused on the front entry, and there he was.
Andreas’s dark eyes captured hers from across the room. Her breath caught, and like always, that compelling swirl of power wrapped itself around her, beguiling, irresistible. She barely registered the presence of the other vampires with him. Seconds, perhaps hours or years, passed with her caught in his gaze. As suddenly as it came, the magic withdrew, leaving a void. Andreas turned away and said something to the woman at his side. His companion laid a possessive hand on his arm.
Shaken, Ari took a shallow breath. After eight months she’d thought her reaction to him would be diminished. She’d be the last one to deny Andreas De Luca was heartbreakingly attractive, despite being one of the undead. That still didn’t explain his almost paralyzing effect on her.
Excerpt from Burning Both Ends (Guardian Witch #3): This scene occurs in chapter two.
Nearing the park gate, Ari whirled at the rustle of pine needles. A sudden spike in her witch senses flooded her system with adrenaline, but before she could do more than register the smell of lukos anthropos, the first werewolf slammed its head into her legs. Her leap into the air was a second too late to avoid the impact entirely. Although the wolf skidded under her, she was knocked off balance and landed hard on her knees. She yanked the silver dagger from her waist sheath, but three more wolves, yipping and growling, leaped onto her back. Toppled forward by their combined weight, she landed with her knife arm pinned under her body. Ari was in trouble.
She jerked her head back hard, smashing the face of one of her attackers. The wolf grunted, snarling, but pulling back, shaking its head. She caught another wolf with the heel of her foot in a backward kick and rolled to one side far enough to free her dagger. She sliced the blade across the chest of the gray wolf straddling her side; the creature sank his teeth into her knife hand. Sharp pain shot up her arm, tearing a scream from her throat. Ari smelled blood—her blood—and knew the wolves did too. If she didn’t break free soon, it would be a short fight.
Amid the deafening sounds of snarling and growling wolves, she bucked, kicked and twisted with a strength born of desperation. Momentarily rolling free, she flipped to her feet, and brought up her hands to use witch fire. Claws slashed the back of her legs, catching and ripping her jeans, pulling her off balance. Ari stumbled, spun away to avoid going down, and fired a blue-flamed stunner, sidestepping another set of deadly claws. She bled steadily now. The sweet aroma filled the air and would soon trigger a feeding frenzy in the pack.
Turning in time to see a black wolf leap toward her, she backed away, shooting lethal witch fire from her fingertips. The crimson arc caught the wolf in mid-flight. Howling, he burst into flames. Other claws dragged her down from behind, and a second attacker’s needle-sharp fangs reached for her throat. She punched him in the nose with a hard jab. Blood spurted and the wolf pulled back, only to be replaced by another looming over her.
The second attacker suddenly released her and was ripped away. Andreas shook the attacker repeatedly before tossing it into the nearby bushes. He grabbed Ari’s arm, yanked her to her feet, and they turned together to face the remainder of the circling pack.
Breathing hard, Ari lifted her fingers again, hitting the closest wolf with a stun-level blue flame. The creature whined and stumbled. She gave it a second blast for good measure—and because she was really pissed.
Andreas took care of the other two. The loud crack of a broken neck sealed the fate of the dark gray wolf that had bitten her. The last wolf turned tail and ran. Shaken and bleeding, Ari was content to let it go, but Andreas had other ideas. He reached the creature in four long leaps and dispatched it with a twist of its head. The only wolf alive was unconscious from the witch fire stuns.
Andreas gave the fallen wolf a brief look and turned to Ari. “How badly are you injured?” He eyed a scratch on her cheek, her torn blouse, then dropped his gaze to her hand.
“The damn thing bit me.” She peered at the bite wound. The blood ran across her palm and dropped onto the ground; she held her hand away from her. “Other than this, just scratches. I’ll heal.”
“Is the bite a concern?” he asked, taking her hand to examine it.
Ari knew what he was asking. In a small percentage of cases, the bite of a werewolf infected a human with lycanthropy. If that happened, she would find herself howling and running through the woods on the next full moon. But Ari was only part human. Except for her great-grandfather, her witch bloodlines were pure. She shook her head. “No. My witch blood is dominant. It protects me.”
“Good to know. Nevertheless, we need to stop the bleeding. The bite is deep.” Still holding her hand, his voice held a question. “My saliva will stop the bleeding by coagulating the blood.”
“You want to lick it?” Ari made an effort to keep her voice neutral, as if this was a perfectly normal development. But, ew! Wake up call. Boyfriend was a vampire.
Excerpt from Cross Keys: Revelation (Elvenrude Book #2):
Swamp water lapped against the small watercraft, rocking it gently. Kam shifted on the hard seat of the airboat’s cramped quarters, pushed a strand of dark hair away from her face, and studied the forty-something man across from her.
Noah Crain, senior agent, CIA. Sweat beaded on his forehead from the unrelenting humidity of the late July night. He wiped it away and squinted at the bundle of American one-hundred-dollar bills in his hand. The single dim lantern barely lit the enclosed cockpit—a rarity on swamp boats—but Crain was a covert operative. He didn’t like doing business in the open.
He flipped through the bills and looked up at her. “Counterfeit. As I expected. They flood our country with drugs to support their terrorist activities and then add to the insult by paying their pipeline with funny money.” With a soft plunk, he dropped the currency next to two identical packets on the extra seat beside him. “Thanks for bringing this. We’ll take it from here. Another great job, Kam. There’ll be the usual deposit to your account.”
She shrugged. The money was immaterial. Born into the wealthy Ryndel family in Elvenrude, she’d never lacked for anything. The CIA missions were merely small challenges for an Elite dark elf, amusing adventures. “I need to go. I’m late.”
“About that…” Crain frowned at her. “Rescuing the girl wasn’t part of your assignment. You could have been caught.”
“But I wasn’t. I either do these missions my way or not at all.” How could he expect her to leave a fourteen-year-old girl in the hands of the Mexican drug lords? Yes, she’d had to deactivate the invisibility magic and reveal her presence in order to lead the girl out of that stinking hole. But it had been worth it. Kam relaxed her shoulders and took the edge off her tone. “I’ll be more careful in the future.”
He sighed and shook his head. “I wish I could believe that.”
Two minutes later, Kam leaped off the boat and sped across the swamplands of southern Louisiana, headed for New Orleans. She was glad to be going home and drew in a deep breath of the moist, earthy air. Her feet skimmed the ground as she watched for alligators or vipers or unstable ground. Even at her magically enhanced speed, a misstep into a watery hole or on the wrong head or tail could lead to disaster.
Kam swung her head toward a dim flash of light, a blurry movement on her left. Alligator hunters? She wound her fingers around the invisibility amulet dangling from her neck and invoked the magic, then paused on a patch of solid ground. Now that she couldn’t be seen, she took her time peering around. Alert for any furtive movements out of sync with normal swamp activity, she had almost given up when something whipped past a few feet away, leaving only the faintest ripple in the marshy grasses.
A chill crept across her neck. A whiff of magical energy. A ghost? A vampire? She’d heard stories of all kinds of strange sightings in and around New Orleans but never seen anything supernatural except her own people. She waited. A minute crawled by. And another. When nothing else occurred, she continued toward the city.
Every sense was on edge, but she reached the outskirts without a repetition of the puzzling magical trace. As the density of buildings increased, Kam used the ancient magic in her silver wristband to leap onto the rooftops and run across the cityscape.
Except from Blood and Fire (Guardian Witch #4): Beginning scene.
Ari’s long hair whipped in the wind, the pale strands stinging her cheek as she looked down from the cliff top at the scene below. Three cops, two in tan uniforms, huddled around a sprawled figure. She recognized her human partner from his tall frame and fair, curly hair. As usual, Lt. Ryan Foster wore casual jeans. His position as head of the Inter-Community Division (IDC) of the Riverdale Police Department gave him latitude in his attire. His khaki windbreaker jacket, optional on a late March day, was tightly zipped, indicating he’d been there since before the sun came out. Four uniformed officers appeared to be searching the Mississippi River bank, poking among the rocks and sparse weeds.
Ari turned her attention to the dead body lying face up, one masculine hand out flung as if he had sought to grab something to break the downward plunge. The body lay too far out from the bluff for an accidental fall. Had he jumped? Been thrown? From this distance, she couldn’t identify his injuries. Ari sniffed the air. No unusual scents. And yet her witch senses told her something wasn’t normal even for a death scene.
Ryan looked up and waved at her. Ari started down the rocky path, feeling a vague disquiet. The closer she got to the body, the more her magic reacted. Her unease grew to an eerie foreboding, sending quivers across her neck and shoulders by the time she reached the huddled cops. At her nod, the officers stepped aside to give her access. Ari’s nostrils flared.
Black magic. Negative vibes swirled around her. Had the victim been an illicit practitioner, or the target of one?
“Hope I didn’t get you out of bed.” Ryan glanced at her face and handed her a steaming Styrofoam cup. “You look like you could use a pick-me-up.”
After working together several times over the past two years, Ryan knew her habits well. She functioned a whole lot better when running on caffeine. Ari quashed her reaction to the dark vibes, reached for the cup with a steady hand, and mumbled an inattentive “Thanks.” Her green eyes never left the corpse.
Ryan watched in silence as she did her initial assessment.
Human. White male, early forties, full head of sandy brown hair. Tanned, sun-weathered face. Jeans, heavy flannel shirt over a T-shirt, wool socks peeking out of laced hiking boots. No unusual injuries, only the abrasions on his hands and head that were consistent with a fall. “What do we know?”
Ryan’s jacket tightened across his broad shoulders as he shrugged. “Not much. The body was found like this about six o’clock by an early-morning fisherman. Medical examiner says rigor’s set in, so he estimates death occurred sometime around midnight, probably a little before. As usual, Doc’s refused to give a cause of death until he can do the autopsy, but a fall is the obvious conclusion.”
Knowing Ryan couldn’t sense the magic, she threw him a questioning look. “So why did you call me?”
“Olde Town district. Unknown cause of death. My gut, maybe. The cause of death might be too obvious.”
“How so?” He frowned at the body. “Did you notice something I missed?”
“Sorcery. Black magic is rolling off him in waves.”
“You don’t say?” Ryan looked at the victim with renewed interest but backed up a half step, as if tainted magic might be contagious. “I thought he was human.”
“He is human. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t attacked by a rogue magic user. Or that he didn’t dabble in things he couldn’t control. Do you know who he is?”
“No. Although his face seems familiar, like I might have seen him somewhere. No wallet or ID on him. I know,” he added, when she made a small sound in her throat, “that’s suspicious by itself. Unless some petty thief found him and relieved him of his identification before our good Samaritan came along.” Ryan waved a hand toward the searchers. “We’re looking for the wallet. If somebody wanted the money and cards, they might have tossed the rest.”
“Did he leave a parked car or truck in the area?”
“A cruiser is looking. So far, nothing. What do you think he was doing out here? Don’t see any fishing or rappelling gear.”
“A trail hiker, maybe. I’d think a tourist would have a camera, although he might have dropped it during…whatever happened. He’s dressed pretty warmly.” She pointed to the wool socks, then looked back up at the cliffs. “More like a caver, but again, we’re missing equipment. He’d need at least a flashlight. I’ll take a look up there. See what I can find.”
Ryan shifted his feet and followed her gaze to the cliff tops. “Let’s hope he wasn’t in the caves. The vampires would raise hell with anyone nosing around, maybe guarantee he didn’t return. They’re damned territorial.”
She shot him an appraising look. “Are you suggesting they threw him off the cliff? More likely, they’d scare him, chase him back to town.”
“Maybe they chased him right off the edge.”
Ari held back a retort. Ryan had come a long way in his thinking about Otherworlders, especially in the time he’d been partnered part-time with a fire witch, but he still had lapses into old thinking. Most humans, out of fear or bias, had ignored supernaturals until they were brought back into the limelight by the McFarland treaties in the 1990s and the Civil Rights Acts, which had set up protections for both communities. Pockets of humanity still clung to the old superstitions. Nevertheless, murder and bloodletting had been outlawed and the practices abandoned by Otherworlders. If a vampire did this, it was a rogue.
But black witchcraft wasn’t a vampire thing.
Except from Fire Storm (Guardian Witch #5): (De Luca estate in Tuscany)
“The scent stops here,” Ramon said standing. “They followed it to some kind of circle drawn on the ground, where it ended. To be certain, they’ve searched a half mile radius.”
Samuel and Ramon pulled back the brush, and the group entered the clearing. Ari drew back a step. An oppressive black aura, a dark thundercloud of haze, hung over the immediate area. She didn’t say anything, because the others couldn’t see it, but other remnants of the sorcery circle were obvious to all. The scent of sulfur, the ring of ashes. She moved forward to examine the ash used to draw the circle and recoiled in disgust. Human ashes. Not unexpected because the ability to teleport was produced by a dark arts spell. The most complex spells required a level of power typically achieved through human sacrifice or at least the use of human remains.
She stood and walked the circle. Sophistrina’s coven used black magic to teleport, but this wasn’t big enough to hold thirteen witches. This ring held no more than five or six creatures, and some of them had been werebears. And Sophistrina didn’t use human remains. At least not when Ari knew her.
The air at the edge of the circle shimmered. “Intruders,” she shouted. “Get out of here.” She leaped forward to protect her companions, throwing up a temporary barrier with the magic powder she always carried in her pockets. Lilith pulled both her guns; Samuel began to morph into tiger form, and the foxes snarled a warning, but backed away, ready to run.
Energy crackled, and as if Ari’s earlier thoughts had pulled them in, Sophistrina and her coven materialized outside the prior circle.
“Hold everything. It’s Sophistrina.” Ari thrust out a restraining hand to keep her companions from attacking, but she kept her eyes on the witches, waiting to see the coven’s mood. The last leader of this group had indeed tried to kill her. It paid to be cautious. Especially when they showed up at this particular spot.
“Why do you seem so surprised?” The high priestess smiled at her from the other side of the barrier and cocked her head to one side. “Didn’t you call me?”
Excerpt from Wild Fire (Guardian Witch #6)
The tracks in the snow gradually moved up the slope toward the older parts of Riverdale, out of the tourist district, past residential homes, angling toward the cliff area that overlooked the Mississippi River. Then it took a sharp swing north.
Ari looked ahead, her gaze following the tracks through the gate and into the Riverdale Cemetery. "I don't like this." She came to a stop with one hand on the gate. "Don't you think the trail is a bit too obvious? As if he wanted us to follow him?" Her eyes scanned the cemetery grounds for anything unusual, a shadow, a hint of color out of place among the stones and crypts. The only sizable tracks went behind a tall mausoleum.
"A trap?" Ryan drew his pistol. "Do you sense something?"
"Maybe. But there is a lot of magical interference in graveyards." Ari frowned. She sensed a flicker of Otherworld power, but it didn't feel right. Shielded? Would a halfling demon be that good? She eased through the gate; Ryan followed close behind. Her magic stirred, raising the hairs on her arms, and she stopped, extending her witch senses to probe the area around them—tasting, smelling, touching the environment. Her magic roared to life.
"Back!" she shouted. "Power. And lots of it."
Two gigantic figures leaped from the top of the nearest crypt. A howling rent the quiet of the cemetery. By the time the creatures landed—one in front of Ari and Ryan, and the other cutting them off from the gate—both had morphed into fiery red, eight-foot demons, their eyes deep black holes. Each carried a metal shield and swung a five-foot mace.
"Hellsgate warriors!" Ari crouched, raising her fingers to call the witch fire to her command.
Excerpt from Eternal Fires (Guardian Witch #7): Series Finale
“A super crow,” Doc Onway muttered, sounding exasperated. “What’s next?”
Exactly. Ari disconnected. During her conversation with the doctor, the bird hadn’t moved from its position on the fence. It was at least as large as a condor, and the murky haze around it wasn’t put there by nature. The creature cocked its head and stared at her. Witch fire tingled in her fingertips, but she calmed the magic and tightened her grip on her handgun.
Unless forced by circumstances, she wouldn’t use magical fire out in the open like this, where she might burn the farmer’s fields. And where motorists might observe her. Magic still caused a big stir—and a lot of fear—among humans.
“It’s not coming after us.” Ryan turned to look at her. “What did you mean by ‘a normal bird wouldn’t?’”
“It isn’t a coincidence that a flock of crows is called a murder of crows,” she said darkly. “They have a bad reputation. Their minds can be bent to evil by someone with the ability to call and control them—a werewolf, a witch or wizard, even a vampire. There are stories of powerful magic users who can morph into the creature’s form. Just look at it, Ryan. You can’t see the dark aura, but how do you explain that size?”
“Are you telling me that bird might be someone else? Someone supernatural?” Ryan’s hand moved to hover over his own pistol.
“Let’s find out.” Ari took off running, vaulted the fence, and headed straight for the crow. The creature stretched its head high before spreading its wings to their full span and lifting into the air. It released a loud caw and streaked away at astonishing speed. Ari came to a halt in the middle of the field. By the time Ryan caught up, she’d already put her gun away.
“Guess it wasn’t in the mood for a fight.” She shaded her eyes and watched the black object disappear into the horizon.
“How can a bird move that fast?”
Ordinary birds couldn’t. Ari didn’t bother to answer him. She started toward the fence line where the creature had perched.
“The residual magic might tell me what it is or who’s controlling it.”
Ryan didn’t comment, but she heard the cornstalks swish against his denim jeans as he followed her. He acted skeptical, which kind of surprised her after all the things he’d seen in the last three years. But Ryan had never been completely comfortable with the Otherworld. He’d rather believe the bird was genetically altered by some mad scientist than a magical manifestation.
She stopped at the wooden fence and ran her hands over the rails until she found a spot that tingled…and filled her with an unreasonable sense of dread. She lifted her hands and the oppressive feeling receded. Bad mojo.
“Hey, look.” Ryan pointed toward a black feather sticking out of the grass. He pulled a set of crime scene gloves from his pocket and handed them to Ari. “I suppose you need to handle it first.”
“You know me.” She snapped the gloves in place and picked up the glossy object. Scorching heat, devouring flames. “Yikes!” She dropped it from sheer reflex, the heat vanished, and her fingers had no sign of injury. An illusion. A strong one.
“What happened?” Ryan demanded, staring at the shiny quill as if it might come to life. “You act like it bit you.”
She eyed the feather, not eager to repeat the experience. “Try touching it.”
His brows shot up.
“Carefully,” she added. “See if you get the same vivid sensation of heat.”
“Why am I always the guinea pig?” But he pulled out a second pair of gloves, crouched, and extended a tentative finger. “Nope. I feel nothing.” He picked it up. “What’s that tell you?”
“It has a defensive shield that reacts to magic.”
“So you were right. It wasn’t a real crow.”
She gave a terse nod. “I couldn’t get past its shields to identify the magic user. Maybe the lab can do better.” She took off her gloves and stuffed them in a pocket. Ryan could carry the damned thing.
They headed back to the car. Ari kept a vigilant eye on the sky and trees around them, extending her senses to avoid a surprise attack. Although the nymph hadn’t died from the visible injuries of a crow’s attack, Ari believed they’d just seen the killer—or some form of the killer—and the cause of the nymph’s death was dark magic.