Chapter 1: Magic's Mate
Adira Brenna shoved, stretching her arm out, palm up, as magic blazed from her hand to strike Jensen Harper full force in the chest. He flew across the room, tumbling over her ottoman to land on the floor. “You knew all this time you were destined to mate another, and you still played hide the sausage with me?" Adira stood, arms crossed over her chest, not because she was scared or nervous, but to keep her from reaching out with her power again and turning Jensen and his wolf into something hideous. “How the hell could you do that? How could you allow me to believe we had a future?"
Jensen hauled himself back to his feet, shaking off her attack as he paced back and forth in her living room, although she wasn't sure if it was him or his wolf who sensed the danger they were both in right then, making him act erratically. Jensen ran a hand through his dark chocolate hair, his gold eyes looking everywhere except at her. “I know, Adira, I know. It was stupid to allow you to think this could be anything other than a little fun. I'm sorry."
“A little fun!" Bursts of power sparkled from her fingertips as she uncrossed her arms and took a step toward him. She knew she allowed her anger to rule her right then, not a good move considering the powers of magic at her disposal. Magic was to be used for good, not evil, and this little temper tantrum of hers could cross a line she didn't need to cross. However, there was no reining her anger in right then. Not with how foolish she felt. “A little fun is playing pool down at Shades. A little fun is a family picnic. A little fun is at least knowing you're only a stand-in for the real, true mate, so you don't allow your heart to get involved. Hell, Jensen, I would have had fun in the sack with you until you decided who your real mate was. I just would have preferred knowing ahead of time this wasn't going to be anything longterm, you know. A little head's up. Then I could have looked for what I assumed I found in you."
He sighed, his shoulders rising and falling with the action, and she instinctively knew she wouldn't like what came out of his mouth next. “I've always known who my mate was," he said, his voice tired, scared. “I've known since before she went away to college. My wolf scented her the first time he saw her in high school, but she left before I could mark her."
She just stared at him. Adira was around shifters long enough to know how most of their rituals and habits worked. Their animals controlled who they were destined to spend the rest of their lives with, rather than their own hearts. She accepted that as part of the deal when she started dating Jensen, knowing that shifters mated with humans often. That didn't mean she comprehended everything or even had a clue as to what it all really meant. She only knew the basics. “You knew who she was? You have a name? A person to attach to this whole mating thing? And yet you still…You still let me believe I could…that we could…?" Her heart felt as if it shattered, splintering into a million shards, and the sparks of blue light at her fingertips started to sputter. “Get out."
He took a step toward her instead. Not a smart man. “Adira, look, Cynthia will be here tomorrow. She graduated and is moving back home. I just…"
“You just want to make sure I stay out of your way," she practically growled. “That I don't make trouble for you and your…your mate!" She felt every muscle in her body constrict, ready to explode with magic. “Get out, Jensen."
“Adira, I just…"
“Get out!" She lifted her right arm again, her hand palm out, as a ball of blue power shot from her hand and into his chest, picking him up, and knocking him back into the wall behind him. She heard the crack of a bone as he hit, heard his head thunk against the wall, but she didn't care. Tears rained down her cheeks, her vision blurry, as she readied to strike him again if he stepped toward her instead of leaving.
Jensen held up a shaking hand, holding her off. He pushed back against the wall, sliding himself into a standing position, as he wrapped his good arm around his broken one. He nodded, his lips curled down in a frown. “I'm sorry," he whispered, as he moved to her front door and out of her life.
As soon as the door shut, and not a second before, she collapsed onto the floor, sobs ripping from her chest, as she huddled into herself. How could he do that to her? Shards of power sparked at her fingertips, sputtering in her misery, wanting to lash out and strike something, anything. How would she face everyone, knowing that they all probably knew what she had just discovered? How did she not know that something was wrong since he hadn't asked to mark her already, marking her as his? Isn't that how it all worked? Their animals scented their mates and leaped? Tears fell down her cheeks, streaking her face as she sat there, crumpled on the floor. How could I be so stupid?
She wallowed on the floor until her tears were all dried out, then took a deep breath, and decided she needed to get out of her house. There were just too many memories around the place as Jensen spent most of his nights off with her. Pull yourself together, Adira. It's not the end of the world. He's just a damn man after all.
Outside, night began to fall, bringing its darkness into her house. She reached out with her fingers to light some candles on the wall, but nothing happened. Shards of sparks burst from her fingers, then fizzled and whiffed out. She tried it again, but nothing. Again. Nothing. Oh, god. She started crying again, her body shaking under her sobs. She knew she risked her magic when she used it in anger, bringing harm instead of building up. She snapped her fingers again. Still nothing. She cried harder.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there on the floor, lost in the agony of her broken magic. She wasn't even sure how long someone knocked on her door, calling her name, but eventually the female voice filtered through Adira's tears, bringing her out of her sorrow for a moment. She forced herself to move, shoving her body into a standing position as her muscles screamed at her for being stuck in the same spot so long. She had to have been down there longer than she thought. On her way to the door, she swiped her cheeks and eyes with her arm, trying to remove the tears, but knowing she probably only made the streaks on her face worse. Peeking through the front window, she saw Agatha Rochester standing there and gave an inward groan. Somehow, someone must have found out about her use of magic to hurt Jensen, and Agatha was there to reprimand her. With a deep breath, Adira opened the door, braced for the scolding she expected.
However, it never came.
“Oh, my dear," Agatha said as she stood there, her head tilted to the side as she took in Adira's appearance. “I was afraid of this." She nodded and then moved to enter the house. “Well, let's get some tea in you so we can talk. Tea always helps soothe our aching minds and souls."
Adira turned, her gaze following the older witch as Agatha entered the house, moving as if she owned the place. “Agatha, why are you here? How did you..?" She shook her head and then took another deep breath. “How did you know I was hurting?"
Agatha, her dark hair pulled tight against her head, her thin body moving with deliberate intent, hiding a power underneath her frail frame, just kept walking toward Adira's kitchen. “Farren Covington called." Agatha walked into the kitchen, moving to the kettle on the stove. As she carried it over to the sink to fill it, she glanced at Adira. “Seems one of the wolves in his pack returned a little scorched around the edges." She filled the kettle with water, her back now to Adira. “I also heard that Cynthia Rogers returned to town." She turned and faced Adira again, a soft smile on her face. “It doesn't take a spell to conjure up what happened and why." Then she shrugged as she returned the kettle to the stove. “So, I thought you might be needing some tea and a shoulder."
Adira felt the tears threaten to fall again and did her best to hold them inside. How could she tell the matriarch of witches that she had used her own magic to bring harm? Agatha Rochester had stood by the witches of Draven Falls for decades, training those who couldn't get a handle on their magic and guiding them in the path of the White Goddess. While she didn't participate in coven business, for what reason Adira couldn't tell, the older woman always seemed to have her hand in things behind the scenes. Her family was one of the founding families in Draven Falls, and Agatha seemed to know everything that happened to just about everybody. “Oh, Agatha, I screwed up." Adira wrapped her arms around her waist, doing her best to hold the turmoil inside. “I didn't mean to do it. I just… I just lost control. I was so damn angry. I felt like an i***t. If I never see another shifter again, it'll be too soon."
Agatha leaned back on the counter, her hands in her jean pockets, her face a mask of sympathy. “I'm sorry, Adira. I know how much that must have hurt, and Jensen was wrong not to be upfront with you from the beginning. Farren told me about everything. I told him he's lucky Jensen is still able to mate anyone." She smiled even bigger when she said the latter. Then Adira saw the woman's shoulders rise with her deep breath. “I also have another reason for stopping by. I was wondering if you were up to taking a trip."
“A trip? To where? Why?" Although, Adira thought, a trip may just be what I need to get the hell away from Draven Falls and Jensen Harper.
The tea kettle whistled, and Agatha moved to pull it off the burner. Adira finally forced herself to move as she walked over to a cabinet and pulled out two teacups. “Well, how does Florida sound to you?"
Adira felt an eyebrow arch. “Sounds hot and sweaty. Why? What's in Florida?"
“Not so much what as who." Agatha poured the hot water into the teacups while Adira reached for the tea bags she kept in a box on the counter. Agatha looked at the tea bag and sighed. “We really need to teach you how to make tea without the store-bought bags." She took a deep breath. “Well, hopefully, you have honey."
“Agatha, who is in Florida?" Adira walked over to a cupboard and pulled out a bottle of honey.
“Dimitri Everest, and he runs a small camp there called Bull Creek. The place is a haven of sorts for those who need a place to escape the prejudices and hatred of the world. When he left Draven Falls a year ago, he became alpha of sorts of the place, helping people regroup and get their lives back. I think the two of you can help each other."
“Agatha, my magic is on the blink. It hasn't worked right since I attacked Jensen. I'm not sure what help I could be to whoever this Dimitri is."
“Well, let me explain," Agatha said as she gestured to the kitchen table. “You see, there's a pack of coyotes trying to stir up trouble and drive the humans out of Bull Creek." They both slid into seats around the table, their hands wrapped around their teacups. “Apparently, a shifter named Bane Kastner thinks humans are about as evil as some of the humans in Draven Falls think shifters are. This might be just what you need to help your magic repair itself. You go down there, help Dimitri drive the coyotes away, and that balances out what happened here tonight."
“But Agatha, I don't want to live in Florida. I love the mountains here. North Carolina has been my home since I was born; I've finally found people who accept me for who I am. Why would I give that up?"
“My dear, I never said move there." Agatha shrugged. “Just go and help out. Bull Creek doesn't have any witches, and your powers might be the difference between Bane succeeding or not."
Adira glanced down at her tea, the dark liquid steaming in the ceramic cup. If I can get my powers back, that is. I doubt I'd make much difference anywhere right now.