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By the time those gray clouds cleared, it was like the whole world was burning. Even though everything looked normal to my eyes, it didn’t feel that way. I could feel the heat slamming against my shields and I could feel the air as it was being squeezed out of my lungs and I was certain that if I didn’t move, didn’t get away, I was going to die.

Rolling onto my belly, determined to do just that—get away—I went to shove onto my hands and knees.

Somebody forced me back onto my face in the dirt.

“You move, you die.”

The voice. I knew that voice. Didn’t like the owner of it. Didn’t know why, but after a few seconds…

Oh. Yeah. Sleazy son-of-a-bitch witch.

Evil witches were bad.

This guy had wrong written all over him. Bad news.

In my pain-driven state, I think maybe I saw a little more clearly than I had earlier and that spell Colleen had cast on him now made more sense. I flexed my hand, ready to call my sword but his voice stopped me.

“Marlowe and your cat are at each other’s throats—son of a bitch is throwing magics out like he doesn’t care who lives or dies and I’m not strong enough to do anything more than buckle down and wait it out.” Xavier’s voice was a disgusted mutter just a few inches away from my ear. “If you leave the circle I’ve got down, you aren’t going to live and I am not responsible for your stupidity. You hear me?”

I tried to think past the roaring in my ears.

The air was thick with magic and it was the angry kind. Careless. Careless didn’t fit the image I had of Marlowe but if Marlowe thought he was about ready to go down in a blaze of glory? Behind my eyes, I thought I caught flickers of something virulent and red, ricocheting through the air.

All the oxygen seemed to disappear from the world and Xavier muttered, “Aw, fuck—”

I forced myself into a crouch. I could see past the circle Xavier had cast and just a few dozen yards away, there was a dead hawk lying there. “What happened to it?”

“Marlowe,” he said thinly. “He’s got an affinity for death magic. It’s forbidden but he doesn’t care.”

Beneath us, the ground shuddered and then he looked at me. “Your cat isn’t going to make it if this keeps up. I’m barely holding the shields and I’m not in the thick of it. If he—”

Despite the wild magic rippling all around us, a surreal quiet had fallen but the sound of a weapon firing through the night had suddenly shattered it. Yeah, no mistaking that sound.


My brain kicked into gear and I started processing. No. I didn’t like modern weapons, although some of the weapons manufactured back in the 1800 and 1900s weren’t bad. They usually needed work when I got a hold of them, like my Desert Eagle—they were in bad need of repair, some TLC and I usually had to have my ammo specially made.

Weapons, though, regardless of their craftsmanship, or lack of, were my stock and trade and I knew them.

The one being fired now wasn’t new—the typical gun of today was quieter and operated with either a laser or an electric discharge. Most. Not all.

There were still plenty that fired ammo like the old school weapons, but my ears told me this was an older one. The kind that would cut through a tank. The kind soldiers had carried when they walked through deserts back in the wars fought in the earlier part of the century, right before our presence had been brought into the open.

They were rare these days, but I knew what it was: an old-school assault rifle with armor piercing capabilities. Loaded with the right kind of ammo—magically charged ammo, a weapon like that could take down just about anything…an elephant, a tank, a homicidal vampire. Or an enraged witch with a knack for death spells.

Magic ripped through the air—fuck. That was the right kind of ammo. I gasped as I felt in it the pit of my gut. The screaming started almost instantly.

“Something charged in that weapon,” Xavier whispered. “Where in the hell did he get that idea?”

I swallowed, staring at the ground. The weapon fired again and each time, the power built in the air. Higher and higher.

“He’s going to bring down the fucking ward. Son of a bitch…” Xavier’s voice was full of shock, amazement and a little bit of horror.

I clamped my hands over my ears, because I knew what was coming. I could hear something shrieking—the wards, maybe. I could hear somebody screaming off in the distance, even though I knew the firefight was easily a mile away.

The magic built and built, and built—

When it broke, it was like a tsunami and I swayed under it. Blood trickled from my nose and I huddled there, convinced that somehow, the dying magic would get in and grab me.



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It’s also in print now at Amazon…will be live at other outlets, and orderable (is that a word?) through your local bookstores in a few more weeks.

Tomorrow…I’m doing a giveaway at my blog. With prizes.  Since my release day SUCKED big rotten hairy nasty things, I’m having a do-over. Because I can. It will be at Hope to see you there.