Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered: Bad Witch
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by Robyn Bachar
Description: It's better to be a bad witch than a dead one. A Bad Witch story One thing stands between Catherine Duquesne and happily-ever-after with her soul mate Lex--her unwanted bond with billionaire vampire Zachary Harrison. Married life is hard enough without adding an uninvited vampire to the mix, and being tied to Zach endangers more than just her relationship. If Zach dies, she dies, and with his new seat on the necromancer council being challenged by older, more powerful masters, his life expectancy is dwindling fast. Vampire politics is only the beginning of Cat's problems. Hunters are stalking magicians, abducting entire families and killing anyone who resists. As the current Titania and Oberon, Cat and Lex must protect their people, but Cat's dark past keeps the victims from seeking their help. Worse, the former Titania's granddaughter wants to oust Cat from the job, believing her vampire ties make her unfit. To break the bond Cat must broker deals with devils on a journey that will take her to hell and back--literally. Freedom comes at a high price, but Cat will risk anything to save her people and her marriage. Warning: This book contains explicit language, faerie shenanigans, a field trip to hell, even more magician sex, and gratuitous violence against vampires, demons, hunters, helicopters and the kitchen sink. And if you want to know how the very sexy Lex swept Cat off her feet, check out Blood, Smoke and Mirrors.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2012 2012
eBookwise Release Date: May 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [341 KB]
Reading time: 214-300 min.
It was a dead man's party, and I was a guest of honor. Lucky me.
I never intended to join Team Evil. I'd spent most of my life trying to prove to the rest of magician society that there was no evil in my blood. Yet there I was, waltzing into a necromancer gathering to fight on the side of my vampire master, Councilman Zachary Harrison. Our spirits were stuck together with magical duct tape, and if Harrison lost his head, so would I, making it in my best interest to ensure he didn't get his ass handed to him by the angry vamps who wanted his job. Plus there was the annoying fact that Harrison was one of the few magicians with the power, money and chutzpah needed to fight our growing hunter problem. Without him we all might end up being dissected on some government slab, so again it was important to keep him alive. Or as alive as a vampire can get.
But that didn't make me feel any better about being on the side of Team Evil. All I needed were some leather pants and a bad Eastern European accent and I'd be ready for true villainess status. I drew the line at leather pants, though. No one needed to see my fat ass in leather pants, not even my husband Lex. He probably would've approved of leather pants in the privacy of our own home, but at the moment he radiated a thundercloud of pissed-offedness as he walked beside me into the heart of darkness.
It was a pleasant, well-appointed heart of darkness. The gathering was held at the home of the eldest necromancer councilman, Alejandro Vargas--one of his homes, specifically a mansion in Oak Brook. Though the decor was elegant, the place stank to high heaven of decomposing flesh and biting smoke. Necromancer magic. Gross. Of course, I was the only one who could smell it, with my extra-special gift for recognizing magic by scent, like a paranormal bloodhound. I tried to keep from wrinkling my nose, but it was hard not to be disgusted by the undead crowd. If I wanted to be fair, I'd point out that they weren't all undead. Some were minions like me or apprentices still in vampire training. Well, none of them were minions like me. I was special. Unique. Even more important than Harrison's apprentice, Anthony, who wasn't a bad kid, despite his whole volunteering--to-be-a-necromancer thing.
The official necromancer term for my predicament was blooded, but Harrison and I weren't bound by blood per se. Instead, we were connected on some weird, spiritual level that gave our magic an extra oomph, but came with the very unwanted side effect of being able to hear his thoughts and sense his emotions. Thus I had the Zachary Harrison endless playlist going on in my brain 24/7. It was quieter at home and almost completely silent in Faerie, but here in necro central the reception was loud and clear. Even though he was on the other side of the building, I knew Harrison was irritated and cranky, rather like a toddler who needed a nap.
He didn't appreciate that observation. I mentally told him to die in a fire.
"Ah, there she is." I turned and spotted Faust, the one gray suit in a sea of black, approaching us. Aside from the outfit, he blended pretty well--Faust was skinny, pretty, and he'd be young forever. He peered at me from behind the smoked lenses of his spectacles and smiled politely. Faust is a shadowspawn faerie, and as Titania I shouldn't ever speak to him because his entire family was kicked out of Faerie for epic bad behavior. But as Harrison's minion, I talked to Faust all the time. And he was weirdly growing on me, like a foot fungus.
"If you and your Oberon would be so kind as to follow me?" Faust bowed, and I heard a faint grunt from Lex's direction. It was the first sign of life I'd heard out of him since that afternoon...unless it were possible to hear someone's teeth grinding. I didn't need a psychic hot line into Lex's thoughts to know he hated every moment of this. Understandably so. I know I'd be ready to spit fire if Lex had some woojy connection to another woman. Sure, we were soul mates, but our relationship had enough trouble to begin with without throwing my big, stupid necromancer problem into the mix.
Harrison appreciated that observation. I mentally told him to die in a fire. Again. It was going to be a long night.
Faust led us through room after room where the bland, beautiful dead were discussing politics. Finally we entered a library, and it gave me a moment of pause, because books were not in the top ten things I associated with Zachary Harrison. Probably not even in the top twenty-five.
"I do read, you know," Zach commented dryly.
"E-mail doesn't count," I replied.
"I really wish you two wouldn't do that," Lex said. Normally his voice was a smooth drawl, but tonight it was clipped and brusque.
"Sorry," I muttered, wincing sheepishly. "Hey, Anthony. Aren't you supposed to be at school?" I asked Zach's apprentice. Anthony was a college student, and he attended my alma mater, Three Oaks University.
"I came up for the weekend. Mr. Harrison sent his helicopter for me." Anthony smiled his dazzling, white smile, reminding me he was every bit as handsome as his mentor. Apparently Harrison was continuing Lovely Laura's legacy of creating pretty vampires. Anthony looked like a Mediterranean billionaire-in-training, while Zach was an all-American blond heartthrob.
"Of course he did. How long do we have to stay?" I asked.
"Until the challenge is complete," Zach said.
This was our third necro gathering since my forcible recruitment to the dark side, but it was the first time someone had gotten up the cojones to challenge Harrison for his new seat on the necro council. The seat he'd gained when Lex and I had whacked the previous councilwoman, Lovely Laura Barrenheart. It was one of my fondest memories. I hoped that bitch was burning in an extra-special hell.
"So you slay the bad guy and we're outta here?"
"It's not quite that simple. The situation has changed." A line of worry creased his spray-tanned brow, and my stomach dropped. Zach didn't scare easily. "It appears that my challenger, Mr. Rousseau, also has a blooded servant--a fire sorcerer. As such, you will be expected to fight in the challenge as well."
Lex stepped forward and I grabbed him before he could lose his temper and pop Zach in the jaw. Not that I feared for Zach's safety, but I'd feel the pain of the blow too. Zach's frown deepened, and I scowled at him.
"Exactly when were you going to mention this?" I asked.
"I didn't know about it until he arrived tonight."
"Good thing I brought my sword." Said sword was strapped to my waist. It didn't quite go with my blue jeans, but I thought it complemented the top hat well. "Unless I can trade up to a bazooka. Or an Uzi might be nice."
"Are those weapons allowed?" Faust asked Zach, tilting his head to the side. Zach glared at the faerie.
"No, they are not. I'm sure Catherine will do fine with her rapier. She did well enough against Dorian with it," he countered.
The breath whooshed from my lungs as I deflated like a kinslaying balloon. Yeah, I'd killed my father, Dorian, but he'd had it coming. I tried not to think about it, except when it came back to haunt me in the wee hours of the morning when I contemplated the idea of starting a family with Lex. How could I justify having kids? I was a bad witch, spawned from an even worse sorcerer-turned-necromancer. His wasn't the only blood I had on my hands, and now I was expected to help homicide some vampire's lackey.
"Does it matter at all that I'm disinclined to acquiesce to their request?" I asked.
"If you refuse, I will lose the challenge and my seat on the council," Zach pointed out.
"I'm not seein' a problem with that," Lex said. "It'd put an end to any future challenges. You know you'll have more of them, even if you win."
"Yeah, I have to agree with that. You're too young to be a council member anyway," I added.
"I am not too young--" Zach began, but I cut him off.
"You're dangerously close to a time-out."
Faust snickered, and I fought the urge to smile. Mustn't let the evil faerie think I like him. Zach sighed as though the weight of the world were on his shoulders, and I didn't feel guilty. He'd dragged me into this mess. I hoped he suffered.
"You do realize that I am not a combat nut and am likely to get us both killed in a fight, right?" I said.
"You're not that bad," Lex muttered. I blinked at him, wondering if that was a compliment.
"If you can keep your shields up, I can handle the rest," Zach assured me.
Great. Story of my witch's life. Keep your shields up, Cat. Everything'll be fine. My shields were pretty damn good, but I knew from experience that they didn't last forever. I'd been working on self-defense skills these past few weeks--having a former guardian for a husband worked wonders in that department--and I'd been undergoing some supersecret magic lessons with my faerie cousin Portia, but that didn't make me eager to throw down in a necromancer fight.
"Now all I need is a blood donation before the challenge begins."
"No," Lex said.
"I'm afraid it is nec--"
"How much blood?" I interrupted. I knew blood donation was nonnegotiable. I'd learned a lot about vampires in the past few months, and blood was always part of the equation.
"Enough," he replied evasively. "I really can't quantify it."
"You don't need it. You want to hold the council seat, do it on your own," Lex argued.
Oh, those were testosterone-filled fightin' words. Zach's anger burned at the implication that he wasn't strong enough to hold Laura's seat, but his expression was controlled.
"I can manage the fight on my own. However, considering that Catherine will share my injuries, I think it is best for both our sakes that I go into the fight as strong as possible."
A vein in Lex's neck twitched as he clenched his jaw, but he didn't argue.
"We can take care of the blood matter now if you'll give us some privacy."
"Before I go, I have something for you," Anthony said. He withdrew a piece of paper from inside his jacket and handed it to me. My eyebrows rose as I took it, and I unfolded it to find a flyer. A stylized tiger colored in red, white, and blue was splashed across it, with the word HOPE printed across the bottom in bold block letters.
"I got it from a coyote," he explained.
"You can't be serious," I replied. "She can't campaign to be Titania. No one votes for it 'cept the faerie council. This is just...wrong."
Anthony shrugged and followed Faust out of the room. I showed the paper to Lex and he shook his head. I jammed the thing into the back pocket of my jeans. We'd discuss it later--more stress I didn't need right now.
"It would appear that Miss O'Driscoll is becoming quite popular among the shapeshifters," Zach commented.
"Yeah, she's just sweetness and light, isn't she?" The words were bitter in my mouth, and I instantly felt guilty for saying them. Maureen would be ashamed of me for bitching about a member of her family, and that stung, but I couldn't help it. After the hell I'd gone through to become Titania, I still wasn't good enough to make the witch council happy, and thanks to their interference I was going to have to fight to keep a job I'd already won fair and square.
Sounds familiar, Zach thought at me. I mentally flipped him off. Great, Dracula and I were two peas in a pod. Wasn't that special?
It was just Lex, Zach and me left in the room, and the two men stared daggers at each other.
"I did ask for privacy," Zach pointed out.
"I'm not leavin' you alone with my wife." There was no mistaking the emphasis he placed on the word, another reminder to Zach that I belonged with Lex and not with him. Zach's irritation itched in my thoughts and I took my top hat off to scratch my scalp as though I could feel it through my skull.
"I'll be a perfect gentleman," he assured us.
I barked a bitter laugh. "Yeah right. Because your track record at that is so good. Lex stays, get it over with."
I set my hat down, stepped in front of Lex and leaned back against his chest. He slipped one arm around my waist and then I held my wrist out to Zach. It was close to an insult--Zach was a neck man--but he couldn't argue with us. He sighed, shaking his head as he approached. My nose twitched at the smoky scent of vamp magic, but I fought down the urge to sneeze. There was an awkward pause as he peered at my wrist in disappointment, but he'd deal. The last time Zach fed from my neck I'd almost ended up topless, but I'd come to my senses before things had gone too far. I was never letting him that close again. This was clinical, like a blood donation to the Red Cross. I didn't have to read his mind to know that he hated it.
Lex hated it too. I could practically feel the ill will rolling off him like an arctic blast. I leaned into him, hoping the fact that I wanted to be near him and away from Zach would give Lex some comfort. He held me tighter as Zach's fangs pierced my skin, but I wasn't sure if that was a reflex or an attempt to reassure me. Because I'd forbidden him to use any pleasurable magic, the bite hurt. A lot. Like twin needles stabbing my skin, and each pull of his mouth rocketed pain up my arm. I grimaced, grinding my teeth. It seemed to take impossibly long, probably because it hurt like a motherfucker, but when black spots began dancing across my field of vision, Zach pulled away.
"Are you happy now?" I asked, my voice breathy. He didn't answer aloud, but I heard a clear no from his thoughts.
Too bad. That's all you get, I shot back.