For nearly a quarter of a century, Edward andVictor have despised one another, but things are about to get worse.
Cassie returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania to find that her family has taken a hostage.
She is desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, and seeks help from Abigail Hastings, a local seer who is also Evan’s grandmother.
Abigail foresees her own death – which comes at the hand of Cassie’s father – and Victor kills Edward.
But things may not be precisely as they appear.
Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth and new revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger
Can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own?
Evan’s face stared back at him from a large glossy poster hanging in the front window of the local post office. The words “Wanted Alive” were splattered across the top in big red letters. Someone had cast an animation spell over it to make his hooded eyes shift slightly, as if in guilt. Evan had seen all that before, but a new addition to the bottom of the poster stopped him dead in his tracks: “One Million Dollar Reward.”
… he muttered under his breath. He looked around, more than half expecting an ambush right there on the street, but he saw nothing sinister. He reached within himself for his magic anyway, channeling it into a shield that would protect him from most magical attacks.
A million dollars. This was going to bring out every crazy in the country! He had been fighting bounty hunters for over a month, ever since the wanted posters first went up, but then the reward had only been $100,000.
The Scots were either getting desperate or stupid to try something like this. Rumors already abounded regarding his bottomless reserves of magic, making him out to be some kind of inexhaustible fountain of power. The million-dollar reward would only confirm these lies in the minds of many; which meant that if someone did manage to catch Evan, the Scots were unlikely to get their hands on him. Why would a bounty hunter settle for money when he could have Evan’s magic for himself?
Evan turned away from the poster and was just about to continue down the street when a black Suburban turned into the post office parking lot, cutting him off. He waited for it to pull into a spot, his shields still up, his senses alert.
Robert Scot, Edward Scot’s cousin, stepped out of the vehicle, threw Evan a dirty look, then went around to the back to pull a four-year-old girl out of a car seat. The presence of the child did not convince Evan to lower his guard, though he truly hoped they hadn’t sunk so low as to fight when an innocent child might get hurt.
One million dollars. People had killed for far less, and had allowed children to become victims. Robert Scot was a strong practitioner, on par with Edward, but he didn’t have access to the secrets of alchemy, and he was not a rich man. He earned a good living as a bank manager or something, but one million dollars had to be a temptation.
The two men did not take their eyes from one another as Robert walked into the post office. Robert clutched the wriggling child, who clearly wanted down, to his chest in an almost painful grip. A minute later he was past, and Evan breathed a little easier. He walked away from the post office, heading down the sidewalk in the direction of his Prius, parked a few stores down. He still had errands to run, but in light of what he had learned about the reward, they didn’t seem important.
Suddenly, an explosion rent the air. Evan dove behind the nearby antique shop, his shields maxed out, his senses hyper-alert. When he peeked around the corner, he saw smoke and debris where there had once been a Suburban.
The chubby face of the little girl filled Evan’s mind, and he felt a moment of terror as he wondered whether or not Robert and his little girl had already returned to the car. Practically flying from his hidden position, Evan sped back to the post office and that mockery of a wanted poster, his eyes searching the interior until they fell, thankfully, onto the shocked faces of Robert Scot and his daughter huddled safely inside the building.
Robert’s face didn’t remain shocked for long; it fell into an enraged scowl. Robert shoved the girl into the arms of a nearby post office patron and marched outside to confront Evan man to man.
“You son of a … ! My daughter could have been in there. I almost left her there while I ran inside, but then I saw you.”
“I didn’t do that. I ran back to make sure you were all right.” More the girl than Robert, but still….
Robert didn’t respond with words; instead he let loose with a torrent of raw energy that battered Evan’s shields until he could scarcely hold them. Raw magic wasn’t normally a useful attack strategy, but powerful emotion could turn it into one for a short time. Another blast like that and Evan would be in trouble, but he had no intention of letting Robert get off another shot. He parried the attack with his own telekinetic gift, throwing Robert bodily backward, forcefully enough that he smashed through the wanted poster and the glass window, shattering it.Evan didn’t wait for Robert to get back up; he ran. He hadn’t caused the explosion, and he had no reason to finish a fight against a man he scarcely knew, but one whose family seemed to want to go to war with his.
The worst part was that someone in Evan’s family probably had done it–they had been muttering for weeks that they couldn’t just let the Scots persecute him. Evan had begged them to give him time, but obviously time had run out.
Robert wouldn’t care whether Evan had been personally involved or not, nor would the rest of the Scots. And maybe they were right. Evan would find out who had done it and set him or her straight, but the damage was already done.
The first direct shot had been fired.
The Author: Christine Amsden
has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.
In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
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