Saturday, May 30, 2015

ThunderClap Reward: Full First Chapter of No More Black Magic

As promised here is the first full chapter of No More Black Magic. Thank you all for your support of the ThunderClap Campaign and remember this is up for preorders! Links are at the end of the chapter! You can also still support the ThunderClap!

When I was four, my life changed forever. My parents were taken from me and I was adopted by a vampire. Flash forward twenty years. I now work for that vampire and I work for the state as a paranormal investigator. I deal with dead bodies, magic and anything that doesn’t fall in the category of normal. If I walk onto a scene, then you know shit is going down. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but I know that having a vampire backing me has helped. Unfortunately, he likes to hold that over my head. He taught me, he trained me, and I owe him everything. I pay that debt by taking cases that don’t go public, the darker ones behind the scenes and not given to the authorities. Welcome to my life.

The phone rang and I cursed it. Not even noon and someone was calling. Couldn’t be Levi, no, he’d be tucked safe in his underground basement. That left one of the few friends that I had or the police. Seeing as most of my friends would be asleep right now too, my guess was the police. I grabbed my phone and slid the little green unlock icon.
“Abby Collins, speak.” I muttered out, not happy about being woken up so early.
“It’s noon.” The gruff male voice made me sit up in bed with a sigh.
“I go to bed at eight am, detective. Least you guys could do is wait until the afternoon to actually call.” I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “Did you need something or did you just want to give me a wake-up call?”
I could hear something being shuffled on the other side and vague words being called out. The only one I heard was ‘I found an arm’.
My stomach dropped at the horrifying thought that someone needed to find an arm… “Murder?”
“Horrible. I was hoping that you’d come down and take a look at some strange markings we found.” He paused and then barked out, “Don’t you touch them. We don’t know what they are.”
Great way to start a day, witchcraft and murder. “Where are you?”
He gave me the location and I jotted it down in a notebook on my nightstand.
“Great, be there in about thirty minutes.” I hung up without saying goodbye. If he told me too much about the scene I would go in with a preconception of what it might be. I needed to be a pair of fresh eyes and an unbiased mind in order to truly be any help.
I got out of the bed and skipped the shower; chances were I’d need one when I got back anyways. I opened the closet doors and glanced at the clothes hanging there. I skipped over any light colored clothes before I pulled out the usual black jeans and a black V-neck shirt and threw them on the bed. I gathered what I needed for undergarments from my drawers and swapped my pajamas for them. I pulled on my other clothes and left my room in search of my boots. As usual they were half-ass discarded near the door. I snatched them up and went to sit on the couch to put them on.
I was the only one who lived in my two-story home, so I could randomly leave my shoes where I wanted and other items for that matter. I pulled them on and tied them up. Nothing fancy, no heel, just good old fashioned combat boots. They went with the pseudo-uniform that all of us wore. I would have preferred tennis shoes, but it wasn’t my choice. I grabbed my badge off the end table and then went to the gun safe back in my room. Placing my hand on the scanner, I tried not to think about what kind of murder waited for me. What the hell happened that made a person lose an arm?

With a satisfying click the safe opened for me and I pulled out my favorite handgun. It hung on pegs next to my favorite shotgun. Black, sleek, great handle, 9mm and loaded with ammo enhanced with my magic and with enough silver to stop most things coming after me. I holstered it in the belt that hung on the side of the safe and then put the belt on. It was time to get to work.
I haphazardly threw my brown waves up into a ponytail and headed out the door.

I pulled up to the crime scene, a farm property in the middle of nowhere, and parked my SUV next to a State Trooper’s cruiser.
The one thing I loved about crime scenes is the amount of people who gather around them. We’ll feign terror and true desire to know what happened, but in reality we are curious as to what kind of creature or person would commit such a crime.  Human curiosity was disgusting. This scene lacked that. How odd.
A tall man started towards the yellow crime scene tape. His hair was cropped close to his head giving no hint to the color. His black jacket had his detective shield attached to it. Detective Mason was one of my favorites to work with.
Bout’ time you got here, Abigail.” His blue eyes met my gaze. “I was starting to think you were going to chicken out.”
“Yeah, not an option.” I shrugged and ducked under the crime scene tape. “Where’s the gawkers?”
“No idea. Just the lady whose dog found the body. Corpse’s been out here for a couple days at least.”
Great. That meant it was going to smell. “And the markings you want me to take a look at?”
“Are all over the barn walls. That’s all I’m going to tell you.” He started walking towards a barn in the distance. My long legs were great for treading through the tall unkempt weeds that had taken over the area. The uneven ground made it a struggle to keep balanced, but there was no way Id let myself fall. I already caught enough flack out on the field, being a witch and a woman.
I grumbled as we got to the barn and scrunched up my nose. “Oh, God.” The smell churned my stomach and it was times like this I wish that I had a spell or something to mask it.
An officer at the door handed me a facemask and then motioned for me to go in. I walked in and looked around. A tarp covered a lump that I imagined was the body, dried blood coated the packed dirt floor and it looked like whatever it was had exploded. Well, that explained the arm.
I tried to focus as my gaze crawled up the wall. Symbols covered it, scattered all over, drawn in something black and I could see the faint glowing of whatever magic it held.
I frowned and pulled out my phone to take pictures of them. “They’re still active.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I’m trained in magic. I can see the power behind the marks.” I took a few more pictures.
“You can’t take pictures, Abby.”
“I don’t know them on sight, I’m going to have to do some research.” Hopefully the camera could capture the symbols without going haywire. A chill went down my spine and I cursed at the feeling of malevolent magic being activated.
“Get out, get out!” I shoved at Detective Mason and ran out after him. I felt the magic trail after me and I cursed. Grabbing Mason and the uniform at the door, I held on to their wrists and muttered a protection spell under my breath. In my mind I envisioned a purple circle and threw my energy into that vision to make it manifest.
The barn exploded the moment my circle went up. Shrapnel flew around us and the blast was hot enough to feel through the purple haze of my magic. Had I not managed to get my circle up, we’d be crispy humans. Holy shit. When the smoke cleared all that was left was a smoking pile of wood and the smell of burnt flesh in the air. I let the circle down when I felt the magic in the air fade.
“What the hell was that?” Mason snapped, spinning me around to face him.
“Magic. Strong, terrifying magic.” I took a deep shuddering breath and pulled my own magic back into me.
“My corpse is gone.” He snapped at me and I crossed my arms. There was no way he was going to blame me for this. “My evidence is gone.”
“Yeah well, you’d be gone too if I hadn’t been here.” I growled.
“Sir?” Another officer came up holding a cooler. “What would you like me to do with the arm?”
The damn arm. My stomach lurched again. Full bodies were fine, when we start having detached parts I had a hard time. “There you go, you can identify your victim with that.”
“And what are you going to do?” He growled. “I have an arm and you have pictures of the magical equivalent of C-4.”
Marks that I’d never seen before. “I have to research them to figure out where they might have come from. Each coven, each group, can use different runes as their base. This isn’t a…language, for lack of a better term, that I’ve seen before.”
“Could it have been used to kill the man?” Mason asked.
I glanced at the officer holding the cooler and then back to the detective. “If he was blown up, yes.”
“Yeah, I would say he was blown apart.” He grumbled and his eyes cut to the remains of the barn. “Keep in touch on those marks. I’d hate for anyone else to end up blown up.” I could see the frustration on his face and I couldn’t blame him. I didn’t want anything else to blow up either.
So would I. “Will do.” I spun on my heels and started back towards the car.
“Abby?” Mason called. “I mean it!”
I chuckled. Of course he did, but I wasn’t going to hand over the full formula.

The hot spray felt amazing and I rolled my neck. No matter what I tried to focus on my mind kept going back to the arm. Why was the arm separate from the other body parts? The rest had all been in the barn that exploded, except for that arm. I closed my eyes and counted backwards from a hundred to help relax the tension flowing through me.
Inch by inch my magic flowed through my body and cleansed my aura. No more nasty black magic. No more icky feeling on my skin and no more arms consuming my thoughts. By the time I got out of the shower my skin was red and I was ready for breakfast. I had one stop I needed to make before I swung by somewhere and got food. 
I traded my uniform for jeans and a tank top. I kept the gun, but changed my boots to my tennis shoes. A formal appearance as an agent of the Paranormal Investigation Bureau wouldn’t gain me any favors in my next errand. I had to deal with one of Levi’s contacts. I hated running errands for him, but it was part of my job description.

I parked my SUV as close to the store as I could get. This time of morning and this part of town was always a bad combination. The bustling crowd of downtown made the older buildings seem filled with life. Most of the buildings down here had been turned into offices or cafes. I jumped out and walked the block and a half to the metaphysical store. The front door was painted purple with a stained glass fairy hanging in the window. To most humans it looked like a tourist stop, some place fun that may or may not have an actual witch in it.
The little bells dinged as I pushed the door open. I prepared myself for the bombardment that was Clarissa. The squeal came first and then the giant hug. Clarissa was a witch, a high priestess of the coven in our area, and a giant sweetheart. The thing was, I grew up without hugs and kisses and I wasn’t a touchy feely person.
“I was hoping he was going to send you to pick up the package.” Her round face glowed with honest happiness to see me. “I haven’t seen you since the last full moon!”
And that was because I had needed help catching a rampaging werewolf. “It’s only been two weeks, Rissa.” I smiled and laughed.
Her fading red hair bounced as she moved, framing her face. “I know, but that’s much too long. You must tell me how everything is going. Have you got a case? Is Levi working you too hard?”
I snorted. “No, but I did just get a case with the state. Anyone new in town?”
She considered her answer for a moment and then went behind her counter. I looked into the glass case and studied the little miniature fairy figures cast in bright colors and doused with glitter. I’d never met a fairy before, but I doubted they were all that cute looking.
“If there’s anyone new in town they haven’t contacted me.” She spun around with a package in her hand. Her green eyes searched my face for a moment, as if debating on something. “This is what Levi asked for. Just give it right to him, don’t worry about the contents.”
I took it from her and nodded. “Don’t worry, I know the rules.” I ran my hand over the package and frowned. “It’s something magical.”
“Stay out of it Abby, you know you don’t want to know.” The humor drained from her voice.
She was right, the less I knew about Levi’s dealings the better. I was more likely to live longer if I stayed out of vampire politics. “As long as it’s not harmful to meand as long as it’s not an arm.” I muttered.
“An arm, Abby? Really?”  She snorted. “Must be a hell of a day if you’re worried about an arm in a box.”
I started towards the exit. “You have no idea. I’ll catch you later. I might need your help.” If I couldn’t figure out the runes, maybe she could. I needed the time to sit down and figure out what coven it might have been from.
I got to my car and looked over my shoulder. Something caused a shiver to go up my spine. Magic, a different one than the one in the barn. Comforting seeing as I didn’t want to see anymore exploded bodies or buildings. It wasn’t a threat, so I didn’t need to address it, yet. If I sensed it again I would worry about it.

Levi’s complex was south of the city, back on dirt roads, hidden by hills that gave way to mountains. And it was huge. I never understood why he needed such a big place. It was only he and I when I was growing up, that I knew of, and the only thing he did was throw a fancy ball every now and then. Balls I had always been forbidden to go to, no skin off my back. I didn’t like to dance and had no interest in wearing a tightly fitted dress.
By the time I reached Levi’s the sun was sinking behind the hills. The complex was a huge square building with pillars in the front, reminding me of a Greek temple. Behind the main building were a couple of guesthouses that were rarely used. One of them used to be mine, until I started working for the state. Then I insisted on moving out and being more independent.

I threw my SUV in park and picked up the package out of the passenger seat. After stuffing one more fry into my mouth, I got out of the car and went to the door. I put my hand on the scanner and the door clicked open. Levi was the only vampire I knew who was not afraid of technology and the compound was full of it.
Walking in, I shivered as the protection spells I had put up pressed against me. “Levi?”
“Ah, Abigail, I see you’ve brought me my package.” He came out of one of the corridors to my right. He towered over me, his blonde hair had been cut short, but still had enough left for someone to run their hands through. His blue eyes met my gaze. With his looks it was no wonder he had no problem finding female companions. His eyes flashed red for a moment, and I knew he was hungry.
“Of course. I see you haven’t fed for the night.” I handed him the box and then watched as he peeked into it and then smiled, showing a hint of fang. “Anything else you need tonight? If not, I need to get to work on a case.”
“The exploding barn one that I saw on the news? I do hope you weren’t in the barn or near it.” He met my gaze and I shrugged.
“My magic may have set off a magical bomb.”
“Abigail.” He snapped.
“I wasn’t hurt, the detective wasn’t hurt. I don’t see what the big deal is.” I crossed my arms. “I’m not a child and you were the one who told me to work for the state.”
“An explosion can kill you. Guns, swords, shifters, all of those you can take care of with magic.” His eyes flashed again.
Why was he so upset about this? Normally he let me go about my work without his concern. “Don’t worry, I handled it with magic. Back to my task at hand. Anything that you need me to take care of?”
“Simon is in the back room, he’s been going on about magic in his bar. Make an appointment with him to check the wards.”
I curled a lip. He always asked me out on dates. I trusted him; I just didnt want to date him. “Can’t Simon find another witch?”
“He specifically requested you, Abigail, I suggest that you be nice. He’s one of the strongest—“
“Wolves in the territory, I know, I know. I’ll play nice, but I’m taking my gun.”
Levi rolled his eyes. “It would not hurt you to go out on a date with him.”
“Says you.” I rolled my shoulders. “He makes my magic itch.”
“I’m starting to think anything with a penis makes your magic itch.”
“Just because I’d rather work than fuck, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me.” Though let’s face it, magic made it hard to have sex. Especially magic like mine. My aura didn’t mix well with others and most people’s auras set mine off. Too much of that and my magic could become unstable. It’s the downside of being a powerful witch.
“You might loosen up a bit if you did.” Levi waved me away. “Go talk to Simon. I need to take care of this.” He motioned to the package.

Yeah, whatever that was. I took a deep breath and marched through the hall that led to the back room.

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