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Forged by Fire — Blood & Magic Book Six
If you had trouble of the magic variety, you had two options. One, you could call the Human and Paranormal Enforcement Division, also known as the HPED. The first problem with this was that in order to call the HPED, you needed to be human.
They didn’t work for paranormals no matter how low on the food chain you might be. And if you were human but the job wasn’t entirely human-related, as soon as they got a whiff of supernatural, they were out.
Sure, if someone broke into your house, they were happy to assist. But if that someone was a vampire ex-boyfriend with boundary issues, you were on your own.
The second problem you’d face when calling the HPED was that your issue needed to be small enough that they felt comfortable handling it. The HPED prided themselves in being competent, so they would never outright say a job was out of their league. They would, however, tell you their case log was a mile long and unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to assist in a timely manner.
If you were lucky, they referred you to a mercenary like me. If you were unlucky, they just hung up.
The HPED didn’t deal with murder or brutal assaults. They didn’t take jobs that actively put their lives in danger. And to be honest, I couldn’t blame them. They weren’t paid enough and unfortunately for them, tax dollars were a thing of the past.
Members of the HPED were paid by the job and upon completion. If it looked like an investigation would take several weeks—let alone months— they were going to pass when they could find a simple fender bender that they could wrap up in an afternoon.
Option two was calling a mercenary like me in the first place. It’s like that children’s cartoon saying: “No job’s too big. No mercenary’s too small.” I’m pretty sure it had something to do with pups but this version worked for me so I rolled with it.
I wasn’t the only merc in town, but I was one of the best, and I didn’t charge an arm and a leg if I knew the client couldn’t afford it.
There was a time when I would have, but all that changed when a boy was murdered in my city and it was like a switch went off inside of me. Couple that with my boss-slash-surrogate-father being murdered and me inheriting his business and we’ll just say my priorities changed.
It could also have had something to do with being mate-bound to Declan Valkenaar—Alpha to the Pacific Northwest Pack—but I tried not to give him credit when I didn’t have to. It would just go to his head.
So with all that said, why the hell was I covered in sweat in an abandoned warehouse when I could have been sitting in my new shiny office or out in the streets taking down baddies?
I glared at the handsome asshole across the room. His almond shaped eyes narrowed further as he smiled and blew me a kiss before giving me the finger.
I was going to kill him. I just needed to get close enough to his Asian ass to do it.
Before I could return his lewd gesture, I was forced to jump over the table or risk getting run over by it.
I landed in a crouch as it sailed past me before slamming into the metal wall leaving a dent. What the hell had I gotten myself into?
Another object — this time a metal folding chair — zipped through the air, aiming for my face.
My feet pounded through the warehouse. I sprinted through the wide-open space, zipping past more flying furniture in my haste to get away.
Chair, end table, lamp — They were all out to get me.
Think, Aria. Think.
Easier said than done. You try coming up with a plan when a full warehouse worth of furnishings is trying to kick your ass. I never should have agreed to this. I knew I needed the training. Controlling my pyrokinetic abilities had been a challenge in and of itself. Couple that with my newly acquired telekinetic abilities and I was a virulent ticking time bomb.
But this — this was not training. This was borderline abuse.
Okay, I was probably being dramatic but I couldn’t even count the bruises anymore. By the end of today I wouldn’t be surprised if I was a giant ball of purple and yellow flesh. I could barely make out my normally sun kissed olive skin as it was.
Soft afternoon light filtered in through the dirt-coated windows, lighting the space and illuminating Dia’s annoyed frown. What the hell did she have to be upset about?
She wasn’t the one being pelted. No, she got to stand in relative safety beside Jason as he threw everything he had at me. If it weren’t for the spelled cuff still wrapped around her wrist, I’m sure she’d have been joining him in the fun.
“Stop thinking like a mercenary and think like a psyker!” she shouted.
I flipped her the bird.
A smile spread across her face. Oh, when I was through with —
Chest heaving, I rounded a pillar and ran smack into a coffee table, falling to my knees.
Muscle memory took hold and I jumped to my feet. I kicked the table in the center with my steel-toed boots. It split so I kicked it again, this time breaking it in half.
A smile spread across my face. “Take that!” Stupid table. The karate kid in me jumped for joy.
“You can’t win by killing the furniture.” Jason Hoang’s voice rang through the open space.
I shifted my gaze back to him. He leaned against a brick pillar with a bored expression on his face. Then again, he was always bored as though kicking my ass was hardly ever a challenge.
I wanted to punch him. What the hell kind of training exercise was this supposed to be anyway?
An idea formed in my mind and before I could second guess it, I launched to my feet and sprinted in his direction.
Jason’s dark brown, almond-shaped eyes narrowed. Of Korean and Chinese descent, Jason had dark brown hair that was shaved on the sides and longer on top. Today he wore ripped jeans and a quarter-sleeve, v-neck white T-shirt.
If I didn’t know better, I’d be fooled into believing Jason was the boy next door type. He carried a bored and aloof attitude and smiled easily but let me tell you — he was far from it and I sure as hell knew better.
He was the telekinetic mind behind the attacking furniture. Disable him and I’d disable the furniture. Sounded like a solid plan to me.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Oh, wouldn’t he like to know.
I smirked and continued my forward charge.
I was five feet away now and closing in when all of a sudden, the air in front of me shimmered, the only hint that he’d formed an invisible wall between us.
I ran headfirst into it and bounced back, falling on my ass.
“Shit!” I spit blood and glowered up at him.
“You can’t beat every opponent with brute force. You’re not a shifter.” He flicked his gaze toward Declan, who had so far been a quiet observer. Asshole. He was the reason I was here, training. You’d think being his mate would keep me warm and sheltered. But no. His idea of keeping me safe was by throwing me to the wolves to get my ass kicked.
I threw my hands in the air. “What do you want from me? I’m trying here.”
Dia stomped over and helped me to my feet before giving me a small shove in the shoulder. “You’re not trying. You’re a telekinetic. Use it.”
I shook my head. They didn’t know what they were asking. “I fight better with my fire —”
“Too bad. You’re never going to take down your mother if you don’t figure out how to master both and use them in conjunction with one another. And stop fighting like a street fighter. Look at you.” Jason waved a hand in my direction. “You’re covered in sweat, breathing heavy, and look like a strong wind could topple you over.” He shook his head and then turned to Declan. “Has no one been working with her?”
Declan’s emerald green eyes narrowed. “What exactly are you insinuating?” he asked and took a menacing step forward.
That’s right, baby! You tell him. I clamped my jaw shut before I could embarrass myself and say those words out loud.
Jason didn’t seem cowed. If anything, he was angrier.
“She isn’t a shifter, yet her first instinct is to run toward danger and try to beat it into submission. You’re handicapping her.”
And ensues the rage. It might not look like it based on Declan’s expression but that man was a walking ball of fury thanks to Jason’s words.
I ran a hand over my face. I didn’t have the energy to try and stop whatever altercation might result from Jason being an idiot.
Up until the past two weeks, Declan was my trainer. Before him, I’d trained with James — my werewolf best friend who had been conveniently unavailable ever since he went off on some hush hush Pack mission. So yeah, I could kinda see Jason’s point, not that I’d ever openly agree with him.
But I didn’t have a whole lot of options. Declan and James were two of the only people strong enough to train with me. Sure, both men could tear me in two if they wanted to, but between my pyrokinetic and telekinetic abilities, I could do permanent damage or accidentally kill someone.
I’d been focusing on strength and hand-to-hand training. It was safer. And it was my choice. Declan didn’t have the knowledge to hone my psyker abilities. But he was a hell of a fighter. He was doing the best he could with me and it wasn’t like I was an easy student.
Declan growled and every hair on my body stood on end. Rather than get involved, I decided to take this opportunity to catch my breath and took a seat on the floor.
It was nice down here.
“Why do you think you’re here? Help her or get out. Stop wasting our time.”
Jason sighed and turned back to me. “Whatever you learned during your time with the shifters, unlearn it. You need to create new instincts. You need to start reacting with your telekinetic powers first and physical force second. Understand?”
I nodded. Easier said than done but I was willing to give it a go.
“Okay then. Let’s go again.”
I heaved out a breath and rose to my feet. That break hadn’t lasted long.
This was my fifth training session with Jason and Dia. I was supposed to learn how to better manage my TK abilities. Instead, I tended to get my ass kicked and it was getting old.
I couldn’t deny that some of what we worked on did help with my control. The room didn’t shake and the floor didn’t shudder every time I called on my telekinesis anymore. I wasn’t on the verge of a complete loss of control. And I didn’t worry about inadvertently hurting people anymore. But I didn’t know how to fight like a TK. Jason and Dia grew up with their abilities. They used called on them instinctually. Telekinesis wasn’t natural for me. Fire was. I just didn’t understand why they wouldn’t let me burry my TK side. If you asked me, being a pyrokinetic was more than enough.
“I can’t believe Inarus never went over any of this with you,” Dia mumbled as she strode back toward her seat. I rolled my eyes and decided not to rise to the bait because in truth, he had. He was the reason I didn’t level the Compound when my emotions ran high. He was the reason I could be around the people I cared about. And he was also the reason I knew that unleashing my abilities unless I had complete control over them could be catastrophic to those around me.
I knew my telekinesis had the potential to be an asset. I mean, who didn’t want more power in a fight? But some mental block inside me didn’t want to wield it.
Everything in me screamed it was risky. Dangerous.
And no matter how many times I said aloud that I wanted to control it, use it even, in truth, I just wanted my telekinesis to go away.
I eyed the cuff wrapped around Dia’s wrist. Her telekinetic abilities were still bound thanks to the spell-worked cuff the Evergreen witches had provided back when she was just one more in an endless line of people who wanted to kill me. It should have come off on its own by now, but it hadn’t and I wasn’t going to bring it up.
A small part of me wished I had that cuff. But I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my pyrokinesis just to have the burden of my TK powers lifted. That cuff was an all or nothing solution. I couldn’t pick and choose which powers to smother.
I sighed. Dia might not be the enemy anymore, but she still wasn’t a friend.
So I ignored her and rolled my eyes. Inarus had taught me a lot. She didn’t know the mess I was before his help. And I wasn’t about to lay myself bare before her.
My past wasn’t any of her business. And right now, I really didn’t want to talk about her brother either. Inarus was the last person I wanted to think about. That way led to nothing but anger and depression.
We still didn’t know if he’d survive his injuries.
It’d been over two weeks since my mother — the leader of the Northwest Human Alliance Corporation — had abducted and brutalized him.
We’d managed to get him out but not before he’d sustained life-threatening injuries.
He’d undergone surgery but the damage had been so severe the Pack healers had needed to put him into an induced coma to give him time to heal.
It’d been nearly three weeks now.
Frankie and Annabeth checked on him daily and his vitals were stronger now than before, but we still didn’t know when, or if, he’d wake up. Most of his bones had fused back together thanks to advanced psyker healing abilities but his skin was still mottled with bruises and we didn’t know what other internal damage he may have sustained. Gone were the days where we had access to ultrasound machines or x-rays. Now we just prayed and hoped for the best.
It was hard seeing him like that.
The stress of it all ate at my nerves.
If Inarus didn’t pull through, I would never forgive myself.
I shook the thoughts away and focused on my task at hand. He’d wake up. I just had to keep believing that and make sure when he did, I was ready. He deserved retribution and I would give it to him.
The name of the game was to take out Jason. As my self-nominated trainer, he claimed he would whip me into shape and prepare me for the battle we all knew was coming.
The more I worked with him though, the more I thought he was trying to kill me. He didn’t pull his punches and I had the bruises to show for it.
A metal folding chair leaped through the air toward me.
“Don’t hit it!” Dia shouted. “Use your abilities.”
“I know,” I ground out.
On instinct, I called my fire to me but quickly realized that the stupid chair would just fly through whatever fire barrier I managed to erect.
Shit. I snuffed out my flames and raised both hands, trying to call on the telekinetic energy buried inside of me.
I didn’t use it often. Not with conscious thought.
It was volatile and I had no idea how to control it with any sort of precision, so I’d worked at burying it deep inside me. Doing so made it slow to respond but when it did … I shivered.
The chair closed in and I pulled harder on the ball of energy I knew was buried deep inside of me.
“Come on. Come on.” Sweat dripped down my brow. A slow vibration started beneath the surface of my skin, increasing to create a roar in my ears.
I threw my hands up in front of my face as the chair zipped closer. It slammed into an invisible barrier only inches from my face and hovered there.
I looked up. Relief flooded through me. I did it. I stopped the chair.
And then it pulled back, charged forward, and broke through the invisible shield I’d erected around myself, slamming into my face.
I fell flat on my back. Blood dripped down my chin and my vision went black before it flickered in and out.
I groaned and rubbed my eyes. When my vision cleared, Dia’s face came into view above me. A shit-eating grin spread across her face.
“Well, you tried.”
I flipped her off and rolled to the side before pushing myself to my feet.
“Maybe it’s time for a break,” Dia suggested.
I waved her off. I didn’t need a break.
I leveled my gaze on Jason. “Again.”
“Fine by me.”
Declan remained quiet but I could feel disapproval radiating from him through our bond.
I shook my head to clear out the dark spots and took a few steps back. I slid my back foot out and assumed a fighters stance.
A table screeched across the floor toward me. I dodged it and blasted it with fire.
“Wrong ability,” Dia called.
“I know that!” The table whirled and slammed into my back, knocking me off my feet. I careened forward but managed to stay upright.
Dia’s voice grated on my nerves.
The table came at me again. The sound of scraping metal had me looking over my shoulder to see another table coming in from the rear.
I pulled my TK power to me and melded it with my fire. Air stirred all around me. This wasn’t working. At this rate, I was going to be pulverized by furniture and wouldn’t that make for a hilarious headstone.
Here lies Aria Naveed. Pyrokinetic. Mercenary. Idiot killed by a coffee table. May she rest in peace.
I bit my lower lip. I was making too many mistakes. I needed a Plan B.
I stilled and closed my eyes for a moment as I racked my brain. The name of the game was to avoid being hit using only my TK abilities. Which meant I couldn’t rely on my fire or my speed.
I snapped my eyes open and my fire surged back inside of me. The two tables closed in.
“Here goes nothing.”
Opening the floodgates on my TK abilities, I wrapped both tables in an invisible shield and forced them to halt.
My knees shook. My skin vibrated and sweat dripped down my back between my shoulder blades. It itched but I ignored it.
Jason shoved against my hold. My teeth clattered and my head pounded. Black spots filled my vision but I held on.
“Not today, buddy. Not today.”
I pushed back but it wasn’t enough. I was barely hanging on. I could already feel the mental push back. I wasn’t going to be able to hold out much longer. Apprehension coursed through me. The blowback was going to hurt like a bitch.
I braced myself in anticipation.
A surge of warmth brushed along my subconscious and I reached for it.
The bond between Declan and I lit up like a neon sign at a strip club. I reached for it and a cascade of strength surged through my bloodstream.
Adrenaline consumed me and I shoved against Jason with everything I had as I roared a preemptive roar shout of victory.
The tables flew back, each slamming into the opposite wall with an audible thwack.
My knees buckled and I fell to the floor.
I did it. I finally did it.
Declan rushed toward me and pulled me to my feet. I smiled up with a wide grin and kissed him square on the lips.
“Thank you.” I was so happy I didn’t care that I was acting like a love-drunk idiot.
He scowled but pulled me close. “Next time, don’t wait so long to lean on me.”
I laughed. “Hell, if I knew the bond could do that, I’d have taken advantage of it earlier.”
Okay, so I might not have. The bond between Declan and I was still a scary thing, but I was happy for it at the moment.
Jason walked over, rubbing his forehead.
“The kickback’s a bitch, isn’t it?” I snickered and the buried my smile against Declan’s chest.
He scowled. “I think that’s enough for today. Get some rest and we’ll do this again soon.”
Hopefully not too soon because after today, I needed a nap. Preferably one that lasted several days. And one that maybe included a wine break or two.
About The Blood & Magic Universe
The world isn’t what it once was. Creatures of the night and all things paranormal are no longer content sitting on the side lines as humans cling to power. They’ve risen up and refuse to go back into hiding.
But humanity is afraid and when humans fear something, they seek to destroy it.
Governments waged wars they could not win in an attempt to beat back the monsters of their nightmares. Battles were fought and lives were lost.
In the end, humans did the only thing they could. They conceded and a thin agreement was formed between the four largest factions — humans, vampires, shifters, and witches — in an attempt to end the bloodshed.
Years later, peace is tenuous at best and humanity continues to quake in the aftermath of the Awakening. The economy crashed. Democracy fell. Big pharma, fire departments, police forces, hospitals, public schools, and all things government funded struggle to find their footing.
In this new age, law and order are a thing of the past. Only the strong survive. Only the strong remain in power.
It’s a volatile and messed up world. Welcome to the aftermath of the Awakening.
“Breakneck pacing, a strong fierce heroine, and a twist at every corner.” —NYT Bestselling Author Cherry Adair
“I love how Danielle Annett writes. Her books are so intriguing, action packed, and unique.”
—The Book Quarry
"I personally am a Kate Daniels fan, and I loved this series."
“Oh my GOODNESS! I completely devoured this book in one sitting it was THAT GOOD!”
—Cocktails and Books Blog
“I have to say, Danielle Annett sucked me into a world of magnificent beings and creatures.”
The Blood & Magic series
Start at the beginning!
When the good guys start to look more like villains, Aria has no choice but to question everything she knows, including the people she thought she could trust.
About the author
Danielle Annett is a USA Today Bestselling Author. She likes to write about kick butt heroines in volatile settings and apologizes in advance for all of the cliffhangers in your future. She can’t help herself. But she promises that they’ll all be worth it in the end.
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