Tagline: To save Ev and Tag, Brittany must master the powerful magic of a goddess to stop a sorcerer from raising the Goddess of Carnage from manifesting through the cauldron.
Brittany is a long way from the scared witch who watched a necromancer murder her mother. She’s grown and more powerful than even she realized as the sorceress she truly is. But all the magic in the world doesn’t mean anything if her best friend and werewolf, Everett Cooper, rejects her again. How many times can a person’s heart break? Brittany isn’t willing to find out. So, when another werewolf asks her out on an actual date, she jumps at the invitation.
Caught between two werewolves, Brittany will need all her friends when one of the pack goes missing. But nothing is ever easy, and magic has a cost that they may not be willing to pay. A trail of disappearances follow in Brittany’s wake, as someone tracks her every magical movement. But to what purpose? To what end?
Brittany has been patient.
Now, will Brittany be enough to save her friends . . . and the world?
“I’m sorry, what did you just say?”
I mumbled, as Tag’s question tumbled around in my head. My brain hitched,
unable to follow. The kitchen island was a hard edge at my back as I clutched
the sweating glass of soda tight in my hand. Huh, the refrigerator door was
open. Did I leave that open? That’s such a waste of energy. Why was I worrying
about the electric bill and the energy? God, Brittany, pull it together. Focus!
“I asked if you would like to go to
dinner with me,” the werewolf asked . . . again. “On a date,” he clarified as
if I hadn’t understood the first time. In all honesty, I hadn’t. I was staring
at him with my mouth gaping open wide enough to catch flies but I couldn’t seem
to snap myself out of a stupefied shock. His lips turned up in a teasing smirk
that made my gut tighten and my brow crinkle in confusion.
“A date?” I asked, my voice uneven
and hesitant as I considered. As many times as I’d dreamed of being asked that
question by a werewolf—and I had, many many MANY times—the werewolf in my
daydreams had never been Tag.
Stewart Taggar was long and lean,
towering over my five foot six inches. I wasn’t a giant but I wasn’t tiny
either. His red hair was more carrot than auburn but it seemed to shimmer when
set against his bronzed skin. He was muscled but not bulky like a lot of the
werewolves in the pack. He gazed down at me now in a way that was new or maybe
it wasn’t and I just hadn’t noticed. He’d always treated me—I’d thought—like a
little sister. Honestly, most of the pack did. Yes, I was only twenty-two and
decades or centuries younger than most of the wolves and vampires but that
didn’t mean I was a child. Tag wasn’t looking at me like I was a kid, that’s
for sure. And I wasn’t sure how I felt about that development.
“Aren’t you a little old for her?” a
gruff, clipped voice called from the kitchen doorway. Without my knowledge or
permission, my body reacted to that voice in ways that made heat creep into my
cheeks. Everett Cooper was three or four inches taller than me at most; lean
and muscular. He seemed to be gaining bulk every day and it looked good on him.
His sandy blond hair was styled away from his face, exposing the deep navy-blue
of his eyes. His gaze fell on me like a weight, not crushing or overwhelming
but comforting and all too familiar.
“That’s for her to decide, pup,” Tag
responded, with an edge of condescension in his last word that surprised me.
Tag and Ev were friends, or at least
had been, I’d thought. I wasn’t sure what was going on between them lately, but
something was definitely up. Standing between them, I was ridiculously
uncomfortable. Tension boiled in the kitchen until it was a physical heat
against my skin as the two werewolves faced off. Sweat beaded on my upper lip.
I was waiting for one of them to pee on me and mark their territory or
something dumb like that. To be honest, I only wanted one of them to pee on me.
Oh God, that didn’t sound right.
“She’s not going anywhere with you,
old man,” Ev growled, squaring his shoulders. I perked up at that statement. I
may be desperately in-love with Everett Cooper in a shameful and embarrassing
sort of way, I wasn’t fool enough to lie to myself anymore about that fact. I
was head-over-heels in-love with the idiot. That didn’t mean he could order me
around like a piece of property. Because he couldn’t. I did not belong to him.
“Whoa whoa whoa!” I huffed out,
throwing my shoulders back in irritation and raising my chin in defiance. I was
a strong independent woman, darn it, and even if Ev was the man of my dreams, I
wasn’t going to let him talk about me like a piece of meat.
Yes, Ev had kissed me a couple of
weeks ago. Yes, it had been a-maz-ing. And yes, I’d said I would wait for him
to figure his stupid, insecure, man-baby crap out. But it had been more weeks
than I’d like to admit since our kiss and I was tired of waiting for this grown
man to figure out what he was going to do with me. If anything. Maybe a little
fire under his rear end would move his addled brain along. Or maybe he’d decide
I wasn’t worth the effort and let me go. Either way, it was good to know . . .
wasn’t it? That’s what I told myself, anyway.
Both men turned, meeting my
heavy—okay, angry—stare. I was too young and too cute for heavy. I just didn’t
have the menace behind any stare to classify as heavy. Feisty anger though, I
“First,” I started, meeting Ev’s
deep, dark, and penetrating gaze. Ugh, he was so cute. Shake it off, Britt.
Pull yourself together. “You’re not the boss of me,” I hissed. Tag snorted
in laughter and I turned on him, “Second, don’t provoke him.” Tag had the good
sense to drop the grin on his face and appear suitably apologetic. “Third,” I
said with a bright and cheerful smile that was actually true, and my smiles
hadn’t been true for a very long time. “Tag, I would love to go to dinner with
“What?” Ev erupted, wide-eyed
surprise clear on his face as he took an aggressive step in my direction.
Ignoring Ev’s apparent surprise, Tag
stepped in front of me with his back to Ev, blocking my view of the angry
werewolf. “I’ll pick you up tonight at seven.” Clutching my hand in his, Tag
squeezed reassuringly and smiled down at me in a way that made me feel like I
was his whole world. Something about that expression made my insides flutter
and I couldn’t help but grin back at him. I hadn’t expected that look in his
eyes or my reaction to his attention. Did that make me an attention-starved
idiot? Ugh, maybe it did.
“I’ll be ready,” I said, feeling
giddy at the prospect of just being wanted. Yep, attention-starved idiot right
here. He squeezed my hand again and strode by Ev, his head just a little bit
“My shift starts soon, so I’ve gotta
go but dress up tonight,” he said over his shoulder. “We’re going someplace
“We don’t have to,” I said, suddenly
feeling awkward at the thought of Tag spending money on me. Somehow, I didn’t
feel comfortable with the idea of a fancy date. I could clean up, for sure, but
I wasn’t very comfortable—like it wasn’t me but a bizzaro-world version of me.
Tag stopped, maybe hearing the
uncertainty in my voice or wanting to drive the knife into Ev a little deeper,
I don’t know. He turned to me and said, “You deserve the best, Brittany,”
meeting my uncertain gaze with a self-confident grin. I blinked hard at him,
seeing the man instead of my friend. It was the first time since we’d met—that
I could remember, anyway— that he’d called me anything but “G”. He liked to
refer to me as Glenda the Good Witch of the North because, by his own words, I
had been all pink-fluffy-witchy-goodness when he’d first met me.
Tag continued, “You deserve so much
more than anyone can or has ever given you.” With that last parting jibe, he
left to go to work at the coroner’s office.
The front door closed behind Tag and
silence descended on the kitchen. Uncomfortable and now, suddenly anxious, I
turned and made my way around the overly large island toward the stairs. I took
the long way around the island, clutching my soda close to my chest and letting
the condensation soak into my shirt in an effort to keep as much space between
me and Ev as I could.
“You said you’d give me time,” he
whispered, sounding pained, or maybe that was anger. I couldn’t tell. Living in
a house full of werewolves and vampires meant that nothing was really private
unless you worked really hard to keep it that way. At that moment, I couldn’t
decipher if he was protecting my privacy or his own.
“I did,” I agreed, turning to meet
his now sea-foam green eyes. His wolf was close to the surface, magic flooded
his irises with his wolf’s power. That show of power would have worried most
people. But not me. I knew in my gut that neither Ev, nor his wolf, would ever
hurt me. “I also told you not to wait too long or you might miss your chance.”
I was so proud of myself, managing to get the words out without my voice
shaking too much. I made my way around him with my shoulders back and my head
high, looking to escape as quickly as my two feet would carry me.
“Brit,” he sighed, reaching for me,
he caught my hip with the tips of his fingers. I froze at the touch as heat
pooled in my center. My breath hitched in my throat and my fingers tightened
around the glass. He made me stop and meet his questioning gaze instead of
retreating up to my room like I desperately wanted. Ev and I lived in the same
house with the vampire colony liege, the werewolf pack alpha, and their
significant other—The Blushing Death. It’s a long and complicated story. Our
living arrangement had made the last few weeks . . . awkward at best. “Brit,
I—” he started but didn’t seem to know how to finish.
“Ev,” I said, wanting very much to
ditch this mostly embarrassing and gruesomely uncomfortable conversation. “I’m
not your mate. We both know it,” I said, the words sticking in my throat a bit.
Werewolves had a mystical fated mate. Some werewolves found that mate over the
course of their lifetime and some didn’t. Kurt, the pack Beta, had described it
as a string tugging in his chest that linked directly to his mate’s heart.
Voicing the unequivocal fact that I
was not Ev’s mate, made my heart break a little bit more each time I said it.
Actually, a lot. It crushed me to my very soul. I cannot overstate this fact.
Knowing I wasn’t his mate broke me on a foundational level. But the reality
was, werewolves had fated mates and I wasn’t Ev’s.
He closed his eyes and breathed
“It’s not fair to me to keep beating
around this bush when nothing will ever come of it,” I said around the defeat
lodged in my throat.
“You’re not Tag’s mate,” he growled
as if that solved everything.
“No, you’re right about that,” I
said, very proud of myself for not bursting into tears. “But I don’t love him,”
I whispered, wishing desperately that I could suck those words back in. But I
couldn’t. I’d said them out loud and to his face. There was no going back now.
His gaze narrowed on me in question
and what I thought might be pity. I don’t think I could stand it if he pitied
me. Before I could let that thought sink in, he asked, “Then why?”
“Because HE can’t crush me,” I
answered succinctly. Blinking back the hot tears now flooding my eyes, I
shifted my hip out from under his soft touch and made my way up to my room.
Carefully, I closed the door behind me and finally released the tears I’d
managed not to shed in front of Everett Cooper.
“Crying again?” a distant voice
teased from my desk.
“Stay out of it, Cerridwyn!” I
hissed, not wanting either of our voices to be heard by anyone. Everyone pretty
much thought the succubus-witch that had killed ten people across Columbus and
almost destroyed our house was dead. I hadn’t had the guts or the stomach to
kill her. But I had managed to drag her soul out of her body and shove it into
an amber amulet. Thinking back on it now, I’m not entirely sure I chose the
kinder option. Maybe this was why the preternatural community thought sorceri
were evil. Wynne certainly didn’t like being confined to the amulet. I was
working up to telling everyone that I’d messed up on that one. Actually, I was
trying to find a way to banish her so I wouldn’t have to confess my mistake to
anyone. That seemed like a better idea. It was just taking longer than I’d
thought. Especially if I didn’t want to destroy her soul in the process which I
“So young and stupid,” she muttered
loudly, clearly wanting me to hear her.
“I don’t need your two cents,
Wynne,” I snapped. I’d come to my room for quiet but had forgotten about the
nagging succubus currently residing in the amulet on my desk. How had I ever
forgotten? The woman took every opportunity to gripe, badger, harass, or simply
voice her opinions. I’d tried silencing her with my magic but it hadn’t worked.
Sometimes my magic just did what I wanted with a single thought. Other times, I
couldn’t do the simplest parlor tricks. My whole life, all I’d ever been told
was how powerful I was. But since my mother’s murder, I haven’t been able to
get anything to work right. It was either all or nothing at all. Unless, that
is, I was cornered. Then everything seemed to work just fine.
“What two cents? I have no money,”
Wynne replied, confused.
I smiled to myself at her confusion.
Having been stuck in a vast wasteland of desert and mirrors the succubus-witch
had dubbed the In-Between for more than a millennium, sometimes Wynne’s
understanding of colloquialisms wasn’t up to scratch. I don’t know why I
thought it was funny, but I did.
“Either way, it doesn’t change the
fact that you are young and stupid. How many times have you cried over that
boy? Too many to count by my opinion.” She huffed at me as if I was wasting her
time. All she had was time. Plus, I was pretty sure she secretly loved it. I’d
come to understand that Wynne liked to be needed. Who didn’t though? That was
the point, wasn’t it? I wanted to be wanted and needed and it didn’t seem like
Ev wanted or needed me at all. But maybe Tag did.
“Well, you’ll be glad to know that I
have a date tonight,” I said, my chin high. I couldn’t keep the pleased grin
from my face, even through the tears. When she stared at me, the words clearly
not registering in her mind I added, “I’m going to be spending time with
someone tonight in a romantic way . . . a man.”
“The boy finally became a man,” she
grumbled and this time I wasn’t so sure she’d intended for me to hear her.
“Ev?” I asked, confused but
continued on, “No, Tag. I’m going to dinner with Tag.”
“The soul stealer?” she asked, and I
could hear the surprise and disgust in her voice. She almost spat to ward off
evil spirits. I could almost see her bright blue eyes the size of saucers in
astonishment from the small amulet.
“Wynne,” I said. “Redheads don’t
steal souls. They just don’t.” I sighed. “But you know who does?” I asked and
she was quiet for a moment, waiting. “Succubi. Succubi steal souls and that’s
you.” When she didn’t respond—because I had her on that one—I said, “Tag is a
nice guy. He’s steady. And he wants me.”
“Ahh,” she responded in a way that
made my blood boil, as if she saw everything and I saw nothing.
“Ahh? What does ahhh mean?” I hissed, angry now. It felt good to be angry and show
it. Turns out, I’d been angry for a while and keeping it pent up wasn’t doing
me any favors. For some reason though, I felt completely comfortable showing
anger to Wynne.
“Nothing,” she clipped, pleased with
herself. “Just . . . ahh. Have fun on your . . . date,” she said with a snide
lilt. And in the blink of an eye, she was gone, retreating back into her amulet
to let me stew. I hated when she did that. She put just enough doubt in my head
to make me second-guess everything. Wynne was just mean.
“I will!” I snapped at her, knowing
full well she wasn’t listening. I plopped down on my bed and sighed. I would
have a good time with Tag. I always had a good time with Tag. We were friends
and I wouldn’t let Wynne’s nagging doubts cast a shadow on our date. This
wouldn’t be weird at all.