Forbidden Magic (Magic Series, Book 1)

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9780312937614: Forbidden Magic (Magic Series, Book 1)
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Cheyenne McCray's paranormal romances seduce with an award-winning combination of heat and fantasy. Now, she weaves the first tale in an enthralling new series sizzling with dark magic and dangerous desires. Prepare to be spellbound by Forbidden Magic...

D'Anu witch Silver Ashcroft knows she walks a perilous line by practicing gray magic. But it's the only way to protect herself from the evil that surrounds her. After the horrors she has witnessed, Silver thinks she is ready for anything...until the most intensely arousing being she has ever encountered swiftly--and sensuously--proves her wrong...

Hawk is a Tuatha D'Danann warrior--powerful beings descended from the Fae. And for him duty has always come before pleasure. Then, clad only in moonlight, Silver Ashcroft welcomes him to her city of San Francisco and makes his blood sing with a passion beyond compare. She is the embodiment of fantasies he never knew he had, but the terrifying reality of his mission lurks in every shadow...

Only the strongest will survive the upcoming battle, and the forces of darkness are more powerful than ever. Now, warrior and witch must trust in their hearts above all else--for to claim victory, they first must claim each other...

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About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cheyenne McCray writes the Night Tracker novels and the Armed and Dangerous series, among others. She grew up on a ranch in southeastern Arizona. She has been writing ever since she can remember, back to her kindergarten days when she penned her first poem. She always knew one day she would write novels—she wanted to create worlds that readers would get lost in, just as she had always gotten lost in her favorite books. “Growing up I read, read, and read,” she says, “and grew up to write, write, write.” She has three sons and two dogs. A true Arizona native, she loves the desert and all of the sunshine and beautiful sunsets that go along with it.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

San Francisco

Silver Ashcroft slipped through night and shadows, heart pounding and rage simmering. Although she belonged to a D'Anu Coven that practiced white witchcraft, there was no doubt in her mind this situation required a good dose of gray magic.

Behind her, Paranormal Special Forces Captain Jake Macgregor walked as soundlessly as she did despite the fact he was tall, big, and muscular, and had to weigh a good two-twenty. "Are you sure, Silver?" the handsome dark-haired man asked through the transmitter attached to her ear.

She paused only long enough to toss him a glare over her shoulder. "Have I ever been wrong?"

Jake answered with a wink and she shook her head as she reached the fire escape. It was one of the older boardinghouses on the southern side of San Francisco, and it showed its age with its cracked and peeling paint, rusted drainpipes, and weed-choked yard.

Without waiting for Jake, Silver grabbed a rail. The paint-chipped metal felt rough beneath her palms and she caught the smell of rust. She swung up and onto the fire escape and landed soundlessly on the mesh floor.

Below her Jake swore under his breath, but she heard it over the communication device. He hated to have her involved in the actual bust, but when she led them to illegal paranormal activities like ritual sacrifice and the use of magic to destroy property or steal expensive items, she insisted on taking part. She often made the take-down easier, but knew the officer still didn't like her putting herself in danger.

Smells of garbage, dirt, and weeds met her nose as she grasped the metal bars that would take her to the next story. She'd have to be careful the creaking fire escape didn't catch the attention of the occupants in the third-story apartment.

When she was at the second story, she whispered into the transmitter, "Make sure your team is ready."

In the next moment she ran her hand down in the air before her face, drawing a glamour around herself and disappearing from human sight.

Jake murmured to his team into the communicator on his jacket as Silver continued her climb. Chill air penetrated her black gloves, jeans, and jacket, and her nose was so cold it was nearly numb. She heard the captain swing up and onto the fire escape to begin his quiet climb. He would stay one floor below her, knowing she needed her space to perform her magic.

PSF team members eased from the shadows and waited on the ground, their guns trained on the third-story windows. More officers blocked all escape routes and some had already slipped into the boardinghouse to await Jake's orders.

When Silver finally crept onto the third-floor fire escape, she crouched near the dingy window closest to her. She peered through a pair of frayed white curtains parted just enough for her to see into the room. With her glamour she had no fear of being seen, but she always took care just in case she ran into something that could actually see an invisible witch.

Her gaze took in the sparsely furnished room. She caught the odor of cigarettes, and that musty smell of old buildings, along with a more bitter odor---calamus root and dragon's blood. Countless black candles flickered for attention, giving the room enough light to see by.

As sharp and hot as a desert wind, heat flooded her at the sight of the inverted pentagram burned into the frayed carpet, a lidless eye at its center. It was identical to the others they'd found near dead witches.

For a moment she didn't see anyone through the window, but then a form in a black robe appeared, entering the candlelit room from another part of the house. The hood dropped back away from the woman's face. With her long blond hair and classic looks, she was beautiful by human society's standards.

Silver would never have taken her for a Balorite warlock, but she knew she needed to shed her stereotypes of warlocks. These Balorites were a whole new breed. Unfortunately, practicing evil didn't make them look evil. In fact, rather the opposite, as if those initials with physical flaws were culled.

From what Silver had scried using her pewter cauldron, she had learned that Balorites definitely used blood magic---the spilling of blood to draw on energies and beings far outside the warlock's own ability---for personal gain and power. Also for the purpose of hurting other living things. Rumor had it they intended to rule the underground magic world and ultimately take political power for themselves.

And like members of the D'Anu, by day many of the Balorites already served in high positions in the government, and in major corporations. Positions of power.

But by night, many of the Balorite Clan---or their minions---wreaked havoc that the D'Anu worked to overcome with white magic.

Except for me. Gray magic was what Silver practiced, unbeknownst to her Coven.

She attempted to shake off the feeling of evil from being in the mere vicinity of obvious preparations for a Balorite ritual. But she could feel it creeping down her spine, making her squirm in revulsion.

"Are you all right?" Jake's voice crackled in her ear from the transmitter.

Even though she knew he couldn't see her because of the cloak of magic she wore, she nodded and responded with a "Shhh," as she moved to the next window. She squinted, trying to peer through another set of curtains, but they were shut tight. With her gloved hands, she attempted to lift the window only to find it locked.

Biting her lower lip in concentration, Silver flicked one finger in the air, sending her magic to do her bidding. In the next second she heard the rusty scrape of metal against wood as the latch unfastened.

She held her breath, hoping the warlock hadn't heard.

After pausing two heartbeats, Silver gripped the bottom of the window and her muscles tightened as she slowly pushed it up. Wood scratched wood like fingernails across a chalkboard, as she eased the window high enough that even a grown man could crawl through. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness when she parted the stained green curtains, but then her heart thumped in her throat.

It was the same scene she'd witnessed with her scrying cauldron earlier that evening. The missing child was curled up in a ball in an exhausted sleep, her cheeks grubby and tearstained, her hands bound in front of her with cloth strips biting into her small wrists.

Silver's blood boiled even hotter. This girl had been kidnapped to be used in unspeakable rites, harmed in ways that made Silver ill to think about.

Blood magic. The blackest of all black magic.

Remaining in a crouch, Silver moved back to the first window and saw that the woman had been joined by two men, both wearing black robes identical to the one the woman wore. One man was slightly turned, so that she could make out his aristocratic profile. The second man had pierced ears, shaggy brown hair, and a day's growth of stubble. He was speaking to the other Balorite warlocks. Silver caught the words "Darkwolf," "initiates," "ritual," and "soon."

Silver tamped down fury that threatened to overcome her, that threatened to make these warlocks pay in a way that would make them wish they'd never been born to this world. But that would be black magic, and she walked the fine line of gray and white. Never black.

If she'd been Janis Arrowsmith or any older member of the D'Anu Coven, they would simply have let the PSF officers take over once they directed the cops to the house where the child was held. Rhiannon, Mackenzie, and Sydney often helped Jake, too, but as far as she knew, they used only white witchcraft.

Not Silver. She would ensure these warlocks wouldn't escape the justice due them.

The barest of thumps on the fire escape startled Silver so badly she nearly cried out. At the same time she cut her gaze toward the sound, she flipped out two short, thin, and extremely sharp stiletto daggers sheathed inside her boots.

A man was mere inches from her, and from her crouched position she had to look up---way, way up---to fully see him. His massive arms were folded across his powerful chest, his stance wide, shoulder-length ebony hair whipping in the breeze. He wore all black, a snug sleeveless shirt and tight leather pants with a glimmering sword sheathed to one side of his lean hips, a dagger at his other. A fierce expression crossed his rough features, and his jaw tightened as if with anger.

He was one of the most gorgeous men she'd ever seen.

A man that made her heart pound, and fire burn in her blood.

A man who shouldn't have been able to get past Jake.

Silver clenched her jaw and gripped her knives tighter, but the man held his fingers to his lips in a "shush" motion. "Quiet," came a voice with a strong Irish brogue in her mind. "I will help you get the child to safety before you attempt to finish your assignment."

Silver was speechless. He'd seen through her glamour and he had spoken in her mind.

Before she could react, he leaned in through the now open window, his longer body and sheer strength giving him an advantage she didn't have. In mere seconds he reappeared with the sleeping child in his large embrace.

He held her tenderly, as if she were a precious treasure and might break if he wasn't careful. He stroked a strand of the girl's matted brown curls from her face. "A leanbh," he murmured aloud, his amber eyes focused on the girl, a look of compassion on his strong features. "You are safe now."

He looked to Silver and his features hardened, and again he spoke in her mind. "The warlocks. Stop them."

Silver's gaze shot to the room where the three black magicians were placing flickering black candles around the inverted pentagram.

She glanced back to the man and the child---

They were gone.

A chill gripped Silver's chest and she cursed herself. Where had the man taken the girl? And how had he gotten past her?

A few heartbeats later Jake spoke through her transmitter. "One of my men has the child. I don't know how, but she's safe."

Relief coursed through Silver and her muscles relaxed. Somehow the man had gotten the child to the officers.

But how?

She shook the question off. Time to take care of business.

She flipped her blades back into her boot sheaths. When they were safely tucked away, she raised her hands and projected gray tendrils of fog through the window. The fog streaming from her fingers slowly crept along the floor, growing thicker and thicker, until it was swirling around all three Balorite warlocks like dark chains of mist.

The fog caught the attention of one of the males. "What the fuck?" he said at the same time he dropped to his knees from the power of Silver's magic.

It was too late for the man. It was too late for all of them. With fierce concentration, Silver wrapped the fog around the three warlocks, forcing the other two to kneel. Their eyes became vacant, unseeing, as her power over them expanded. At the same time her anger grew and she tightened the fog around the three, causing them to gasp, choke, and sputter. A sense of satisfaction flowed through Silver that shouldn't have been there. She shouldn't feel pleasure at causing any living creature pain.

An icy feeling gripped Silver, quick and sudden, like cold fingers closing around her heart. Grabbing her, yanking her toward the dark. Her vision blurred and she clenched her teeth to maintain her control over the Balorites.

A man---no, a warlock---appeared in her mind, blocking out everything around her. She no longer saw the Balorites, no longer saw the window, or anything else. Only the warlock.

He was stunningly handsome, dark-haired with high cheekbones, a cleft in his chin, and a sensual look in his dark eyes. "Darkwolf," someone whispered in her mind. "Darkwolf." A face to a name she'd heard so many times but had never been able to scry.

The Balorite high priest motioned to her, drawing on her gray magic, calling to her to join him. The call was sensuous, seductive.

And powerful. So very, very powerful. She could feel the need for that power growing within her. Could feel herself sliding closer to it.

Dark, the dark. So alluring. So masterful.

The warlock's mouth curved into a carnal smile and Silver shivered.

Her gaze dropped from Darkwolf's face to his chest. A black stone eye dangled from a chain around his neck, against his bare skin.

Something about the eye vibrated to her. Called to her like Darkwolf had.

Then it began glowing, a vicious horrible red.

The eye looked directly at Silver, seeing straight through her, straight into her soul.

Terror ripped through her and the real world crashed down. She reeled, barely maintaining control of her witchcraft. She yanked herself away from the call of the dark and almost collapsed on the fire escape.

Oh, goddess! What in the Ancestors' names just happened?

Her breathing came hard and heavy, her body weak with fatigue. It took all she had to maintain her hold on the warlocks with more force than was necessary, just long enough to project thoughts to the bastards---gray magic needed to get them to obey her.

"You will not attempt to escape," she ordered the warlocks with her magic. "You will tell the Paranormal Special Forces everything you know about the dead witches and the kidnapping." Everything.

The moment she finished her spell, the fog stopped flowing from Silver's fingers. Her glamour failed. She collapsed onto the fire escape, her back to the wall and her breathing heavy, her hands braced to either side of her on the metal grill. Knots twisted in her belly and perspiration coated her skin.

The glowing eye. Goddess, the eye!

She couldn't get it out of her mind.

Lately, every time she used gray magic, the call to the dark had grown stronger and stronger. But this was the first time she had seen Darkwolf. This was the first time she'd felt herself slipping over the fine edge between white and black.

How much longer could she fight it off?

Jake was at her side before she knew it. "Dammit, Silver." He squeezed her knee with his large hand, his gaze raking over her, taking in how exhausted she was. "You've overdone it again. You should let me handle things."

"Sure---shoot and ask questions later," Silver said between breaths. "Just get them. We need to find out how to locate their stronghold. We need to stop all these murders."

The PSF captain spoke into the transmitter on his vest, and within seconds she heard the front door crash open and the shouts of officers as they trained their weapons on the warlocks and began searching the small apartment.

Silver had started working with the PSF about a year ago when her sister Copper vanished after performing a moon ritual alone. The night before she disappeared, Copper had one of her dream visions. The vision had shown her that she must "draw down the moon." Copper had been evasive and had insisted on performing the ritual herself. Silver had argued against it, but had lost the battle.

When Copper hadn't returned home by dawn, Silver had gone in search of her sister at their sacred stretch of beach. All she had found were Copper's tools of the craft . . . along with a lidless eye perfectly outlined in the sand.

Not long before her disappearance, San Francisco's police force had finally come to terms with the fact that some crimes needed a special touch, a special sort of investigation. Crimes related to paranormal practices were on the rise, and Copper's disappearance confirmed that beyond all doubt. The poli...

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