Blood and Fire

Guardian Witch 4

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: Sweet
Word Count: 84,803
0 Ratings (0.0)

A dead body, black magic, and a vampire enforcer...

Ari thought her biggest problem was deciding if she should move in with her vampire boyfriend, Andreas. That was before they found the dead body at the bottom of the Riverdale cliffs. And before she realized he'd been cursed by black magic.

Just as she begins the murder investigation, the vampire rulers in Europe send an enforcer to make inquiries into the recent defeat of the Toronto vampire prince. While Andreas has taken responsibility for the brutal dictator’s death, there is much about the incident that he and Ari must keep to themselves—secrets the vampire elders would stop at nothing to learn.

With threats of retaliation hanging over their heads, Ari moves into Andreas’s Victorian mansion—for safety’s sake—while the enforcer begins a campaign of terror. Ari is caught between competing dangers and challenges: black magic, a ghost, a missing Native American artifact…not to mention a new roommate…all while trying to stay alive…

Blood and Fire
0 Ratings (0.0)

Blood and Fire

Guardian Witch 4

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: Sweet
Word Count: 84,803
0 Ratings (0.0)
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Chapter One

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.”“Smart call.”“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.Ari crouched beside the body. Not as much blood as there should be, raising the question of whether he’d been dead before he went over the edge. This might be a dumpsite. She reached out a hand to touch his face. The instant she made contact, she snatched her hand back. “Bad mojo,” she muttered, rising to stand.“Don’t go all spooky on me.” Ryan scowled, exhibiting typical human discomfort with the unknown.“OK, but this death isn’t going to fit into human medical experience.” And for that reason, she intended to confer on the case with her friend Gillian at the Otherworld forensics lab. “Your ME is going to find something internal he can’t explain.”“Like what?” the cop demanded, his baby blues growing suspicious.“Oh, crushed organs. Curdled blood.” Her tone was matter-of-fact. “I don’t know the exact form of the attack, but I think our victim was killed by a curse.”

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