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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


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Copyright© 2017 Serenity Snow



ISBN: 978-1-77339-416-9


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: CA Clauson



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



TAKEN BY THE WIND


Windswept, 1


Serenity Snow


Copyright © 2017


Prologue


The curtains of a large bedroom were tied back allowing the silver glow of moon to wash over the small round stone table. There was a pentacle carved into its center and runes around its edges. Votive candles languished in the glass holders while incense smoldered in a soapstone burner.

Juliet Hart stood before the altar, a small gold heart charm between her fingers, while to her right, lay the bracelet that the charm would be placed on, and a double-edged knife glinting in the light.

“I invite love into my life and embrace it with my whole heart.”

She chanted and the words flowed into a melodious sound for the next two minutes and energy rose in a powerful wave forming a thick pink fog around her. Her aura turned rhubarb pink with green around the edges and faint black veins as her magick emerged in full force.

She put the heart charm aside and picked up the knife. Juliet pricked her finger and let a drop of blood fall into the pink candle’s wax before putting the knife aside.

She lifted the heart, her blood dampening the metal as she held it in her hand.

“I conjure my forever love by the moon’s radiant light.” She held the charm up so the moonlight washed over it.

The charm glowed as if engulfed by pink flames, but the metal didn’t scorch. The blood burned away and she held the charm for a moment feeling the power thrumming through it.

She thanked Aphrodite, the Goddess of love, and released the guardians called to protect and guard during the ritual. Then she picked up the bracelet to put the charm on it. Juliet stroked the charm feeling light inside.

With a smile, she slipped the bracelet onto her wrist next to the gold one with the gold hearts in a circle with the watermelon tourmaline center. The stone had one red tourmaline crystal on either side and had been in her family since the middle ages, a gift from a goddess of war and air.

She traced the stones and a soft wind brushed her face like a caress. That always happened when she touched the stones and it made her ache for a love so passionate it burned. She assumed it was an echo from the past and thought the woman who’d had that had been lucky. She was still looking for her princess charming.

However, the stones weren’t just the symbol of a love she aspired to. They were a portend of the power she would gain, the woman she would become once she fully connected with the stones’ energy. And then, she might find the love of her life.


Chapter One


The next day…

“I can’t do it, not one more time,” Juliet muttered as she glared and turned her gaze out the picture window of Alistair’s Deli. Her fingers clenched on the table as she thought of the injustice of the situation. And it wasn’t just this weekend.

It was her job.

She worked for her mother who owned a very lucrative wedding planning business, and Juliet got to watch so many brides-to-be flit in and out gushing about how happy they were. She’d thought she’d have her own love by now, but the fact that she didn’t was why she’d cast the spell last night.

“Calm down, Juliet,” Callie said with a thread of amusement making her tone light.

She glanced at her best-friend Callie whose normally black hair was auburn this month, the shoulder length locks straight as a poker today. She envied Callie her confidence and nonchalance. She was never ruffled by anything, especially not Beltane and the weekend events both their parents always threw.

The romance-themed fundraiser always brought in lots of money for Ivory, the women and children’s shelter Callie’s mother had opened seven years ago. Both their mothers demanded their appearance and participation from that Friday morning’s breakfast at the country club to Sunday evening’s ball.

“It’s for a good cause and it’s usually fun,” Callie said, giving her a smile. “I hear this year your mother is auctioning off a wedding dress complete with bridesmaid dresses.”

The designer was internationally famous for her wedding dresses, but no one had ever seen the designer’s face. Still, every single woman in America would probably buy a ticket to the Saturday afternoon auction. She was glad she wouldn’t be in charge of it. Her mother only assigned her to handle the Friday luncheon with its giveaways of lingerie, spa packages, and the honeymoon trip to Paris.

Most of the prizes were paid for by other witch-owned businesses.

“Along with us?” Juliet demanded darkly. Her mother always did the obligatory human auction on Saturday nights.

Callie laughed. “My mom has some hot bachelors lined up, so women aren’t on the block this year.” Callie gave her an amused look and patted her hand. “I’ll fix you up with someone,” Callie told her with a serene smile as she reached for her peaches-and-cream smoothie.

“No.” Juliet tapped her foot on the bar of the stool she was perched on. She pushed the straw around in her drink. “Maybe I’m just a romantic.”

“Or an idiot,” Callie said giving her an arch look. “I fixed you up with a man most women would kill to have look her way, and what did you do?” She winced and Callie pursed her lips. “Exactly. You screwed it up.”

“He wasn’t my type,” Juliet complained, poking her lip out. None of them were ever her type not that there was anything wrong with any of the men. They’d all have been perfect if she was straight.

“Who is? I’m tired of explaining that you’re just picky, girl. And I don’t know how many more men’s delicate egos I can put at risk for you to bruise. But I’m willing to do it all one more time.”

Juliet rolled her eyes. “How kind of you,” she drawled dryly as she met her friend’s gaze again. “But I don’t need help.”

“Yes, you do, unless you’re planning on getting a sex change,” she informed her with a grin. “All the good ones will be taken by the time you get your head on straight.”

She groaned. “You sound like my mother.” Her mother was always on her case about finding a man—no, a male witch with whom she could produce an heir.

“In this case, I’ll take that as a compliment.” Callie grinned. “Anyway, you’re an only child. Your mother expects you to produce at least one heir”

“I know this, Cal,” she muttered. “You’re just so lucky not to have all this pressure on you.”

“Then start seriously looking for someone,” Callie told her. “You don’t have to get hand-fasted right away.” She turned her attention to her phone as it vibrated and danced on the table.

Juliet blew out a frustrated sigh as her gaze fell on a patron sitting two tables away. Lounging lazily in a chair that faced the door, the light brown-skinned woman’s head was down-bent as she studied something on the round table. The short hair shone coal beneath the artificial lights and the curly strands fell to mid-ear length.

Then she looked up and her hair seemed to ripple around her face as if a light breeze were blowing it. Their eyes met, held. Juliet’s heart stopped beating and for a moment they were the only two people in the room.

No, they were outside in a wood. To their right, a brook babbled and a soft wind rustled leaves and wiggled vines. The fresh air was faintly scented by the recently cut grass and water violets.

Juliet had a crown of flowers on her head and her lover leaned back against a thick trunk of oak. The love in her eyes made her breath catch and her mouth dry up.

The wind ran a hand through the shoulder length black curls just as she ached to do and the fine strands of pale gray shimmered. Those beautiful eyes smiled at her, and Juliet’s heart beat faster even as the corners of her mouth lifted in response.

It was nice to have her lover home again, but it hurt that she couldn’t tell anyone how happy this woman made her.

Even though she wasn’t married, there was no one she could tell of this forbidden passion. A woman was meant to love a man, but no man had touched her heart with true love as this woman of the wind had done.

“But seriously, do you even want a man?”

Callie’s voice roused her from the reverie or was it a memory?

It felt like a forgotten part of her, and she ached to know that woman who’d so captured her heart so long ago.

Men, no, but romance certainly. She wanted a lover who made her hot when she said her name, set her on fire when she looked at her, and made her feel satisfied when she thought of her. “I want excitement,” she murmured as she stared at the stranger.

As if she’d heard her reply, the other patron’s lips curved into a slow smile, starting Juliet’s pulse pounding and heating her skin to a living flame. Then the woman winked at her. She tingled and her fingers went to her throat of their own volition.

“Then stop being so damned hard to get.”

Juliet dragged her gaze to Callie.

Callie wiggled her brows and leaned toward Juliet. “I’m going to find you a wizard so hot he’s going to make you see sparks.”

She grinned. Just make that a witch and they were good to go. “Not going to happen.”

“Oh, yeah. It’s gonna happen. You just need to be open to love,” Callie told her and turned her attention back to her phone’s virtual keyboard. “And you better or you know your mother isn’t going to let you take over the business. She doesn’t think you’re stable without emotional ties, and I mean that in the sense that you have no roots, no reason to not take off on a whim.”

“I’ve been showing no signs of taking off,” Juliet muttered.

“But still, you can’t change how she feels, so just date someone,” she murmured.

Juliet slowly turned her head back and the gorgeous woman was still watching her. Even from this distance she felt the flame in eyes that seemed the color of the sky in the light. Her stomach knotted and there was an ache in her chest that forced her breathing to come out uneven.

And Juliet dropped her gaze unable to bear the heat making her nipples peak. A silver tie was a safe point of focus. It was knotted beneath the collar of a cobalt blue blouse that looked expensive.

Meeting her eyes again, almost tentatively, Juliet was caught in her stare, paralyzed by it. She flushed and her skin tingled beneath her bracelets as a light breeze circled her, brushed against her cheek, and then drifted away.

Her lips parted and a puff of air escaped as her heart beat faster.

The woman’s brows flicked up before she lowered her gaze to whatever it was on the table she was studying.

Juliet stabilized her uneven breathing as she ate the other woman up with her eyes. Damn, but she’d love to be her primary focus, the need she couldn’t sate, the sight she couldn’t get enough of.

It had been more than five months since she’d last been with a woman, last been left well-enjoyed and satisfied, though wanting more.

Something had been missing from her last relationship—heat—and that was already flickering in her belly just from making eye contact.

Juliet’s phone rang, and she jumped guiltily. Glancing down at it, she saw that it was her mother and groaned inwardly. “Hello?” she answered quietly.

“Juliet, I need you back at the office now,” her mother said firmly. “We have a problem.”

“What kind of problem? Is it the lawyer?” Surely that cow hadn’t changed her mind about something again!

“I have a problem with the designer who’s doing the dress for the giveaway. She backed out.”

“What do you want me to do about it?” she asked confused.

It had been her idea to engage a famous designer to do the dress this year, but her mother had no idea thanks to her cousin, Alice. Juliet had thought it would bring in more money for the shelter and the kids programs the shelter wanted to provide to the women who came to them for help.

“Juliet, just get your butt back to the shop now,” Samantha ordered.

“I’m on my way, Mom,” she said and ended the call. “I have to go, work calls.”

Callie got to her feet. “I’ve got to get back, too. I’ll call you later, and we’ll go out.”

“I’ll likely be working or too tired,” Juliet said and barely kept from wincing from the lie. She was going to a club Callie wouldn’t be caught dead in.

The spell couldn’t work if she didn’t do something to help it along, now could it? And going to a straight bar wasn’t going to cut it.

“Okay,” Callie answered and headed for the door.

Juliet got to her feet and took her cup to the trash. There, she sneaked a glance back to the object of her hunger.

Their eyes met again, and Juliet realized she’d seen her before. They’d never met, and she didn’t know her name. However, she’d glimpsed her at the country club and always with another woman. Men speculated she was her lover since she never came with a man.

“Coming, Juliet?” Callie called, as she pushed sunglasses up on her nose.

Wouldn’t that be the icing on the cake if she were a good witch?

The woman gave her a nod and Juliet smiled faintly before following Callie from the deli. She took with her the knowledge that the chances of them doing anything other than having a brief conversation at the club were about the same as a snowball’s chance in the Christian hell.


Chapter Two


He continued to study the neatly manicured lawns of the company’s grounds from his office, hands in his pockets as he ignored the knock at his office door. He loved the afternoon when the sun was at its most potent. It reminded him of a demon at his peak, but unlike the fading sun, a demon wasn’t supposed to fade as the day came to a close.

He raked his fingers through his neatly coiffed hair and considered his own plans and the lengths he’d gone to at reinventing himself, or rather, creating this man people thought he was and the coven Whiteall.

The coven was a façade of civility and respectability that had opened the doors of the most powerful families in this state to him and his dark brood. No one knew he and his inner circle were pure demons not even the dark breeds he’d brought into the coven to serve him.

“Voltaire?”

The underworld was his to rule, but he hadn’t counted on the good witches’ contrivance of the Joint Witch’s Congress which would tie evil’s hands in the end. Tie his hands.

“Come in, Tucker,” he called. The door slid open, but he didn’t turn. “Is everything okay? Why didn’t you answer right away?”

He wanted total control of the underworld. Only when he had it could he exact the revenge on those who’d slaughtered his family and forced him to slink away like a school girl with his tail between his legs. The defeat he could overcome, but the devastation those witches had wrought was unforgivable.

“What brings you here when you should be working?”

“I was working,” Tucker told him, a chill in his tone.

Voltaire faced the half-human, half-demon then and looked him over carefully, in his tailored suit, brown eyes snapping with irritation. He despised the incubi breed, referred to as dark ones. They were at the bottom of the demon barrel and wanted control of the underworld, but if they couldn’t seize it, they wanted to be in favor with the underworld’s leader.

Behind Tucker was Necron, his second in command, a pure demon who’d taken a more human name and appearance as he had. The purpose wasn’t just to appear more human, but to hide in plain sight.

“Yes, I can see how hard you are going at it.”

Tucker sneered at him showing him the contempt went both ways, and he had no doubt Tucker had an agenda of his own. The incubus would knife him in the back the first chance he got. However, he was proving more than useful—that’s why Voltaire kept him around.

“We’ve encountered a problem,” Tucker told him coolly.

“Other than you looking shiftless?” Voltaire mocked. Tucker would knife him in the back whenever the chance arose, but he tolerated him because Tucker was just one of his pawns in this game.

Tucker strolled to the window as if to see what Voltaire had been studying. “Obviously or we wouldn’t be here,” Tucker replied, turning his head to meet Voltaire’s gaze.

“Do tell,” he invited coldly. He turned his gaze on Necron whose blue eyes held a glint of humor.

“The stones aren’t in her possession,” Necron told him. “And from what I’ve learned they’ve never been.”

“Fuck,” he muttered with a grimace. That threw his immediate plans of easily gaining control of the book and the spells inside it that he needed.

The stones had been bequeathed to humans by the aurai, as the wind nymphs were called. Gaining possession of the wind stones would give him centuries of knowledge of magick, witches, and demons that would allow him to break his enemies.

“And the bracelet that contains the stones is always on Juliet’s person,” Necron told them and then cursed as his phone rang. He tugged it from its holster at his hip. “Speak of the good witch. I’ll take this in my office, but we’ll talk later Volt.”

“Right,” he said, watching Necron leave.

That witch and her daughter had to be killed because they were part of the legacy of the aurai. The daughter would one day become a champion for balance between good and evil, and a threat to him just as her great-grandmother had been.

“Then, we’ll capture her and take the bracelet,” Voltaire replied turning his attention to Tucker. “Your influence with the girl’s closest friend should afford us information on her weaknesses, her strengths, and her dreams.”

“I’m working Callie, but pushing too hard for no reason would only create suspicion,” he said. “However, I’ve managed to win over others of her family who’ll be good allies against Silken Cord in the end.”

Silken Cord Coven was an old coven built on the blood of powerful women. They were feared and respected. Their leadership had dealt the head of the underworld a humiliating and crippling loss a hundred and ten years ago. The demonic world still hadn’t fully recovered from it in terms of manpower.

“We still have one problem you’re not factoring into all of this.”

Voltaire went cold, brows lifting contemptuously. “And what do you think I’ve left out?”

“The aurai,” Tucker replied patiently. “Some of them still exist and one of them is bound to play a part in the prophesy.”

“What are you talking about, Tucker?” he demanded, frowning. He hadn’t heard of any prophesy concerning the once powerful race he and his grandfather had helped drive into obscurity.

“The seer told me the cards portend the rising of the aurai like the phoenix from its ashes and even the Witch’s Congress is concerned about that happening. If they rise, they might seek revenge on the witches who brought about their downfall, good and evil.”

The right word in the right ear had turned the good witches and wizards against the aurai and their consorts, the Knights. The Witch’s Congress, with the help of the dark Congress, had systematically exterminated those who’d help them cripple the Dark Congress.

The factions of the underworld were still greatly divided. Not only that, their leader was believed to have been stripped of part of his power leaving him weaker than those he ruled due to the tenacity of the aurai.

“I know some of them exist, but their numbers aren’t large enough to fear.” He didn’t fear the aurai he knew hid. He was looking forward to drawing them out and killing them.

“The stones aren’t removable from Juliet. She has to willingly give them,” Tucker told him. “This has to be done during Mid-Summer as the stones’ energies are attuned to the south wind which rules fire and passion among other things.”

This was another thing he hadn’t planned on, but it this was just another reason he tolerated Tucker. Tucker was able to get close to humans which allowed him to gain information he might otherwise not be able to.

“Wind is about logic, but the holders are human still. Their trigger is partially emotional. She has to be made to believe she’s in love, to trust the man she gives the stone to.”

That was just like a good witch to connect so much to love, but they were so infantile in their belief of good winning out over dark.

“This will have to be done very carefully,” he said. “Trust and love aren’t easy to evoke.”

“True, but we aren’t just the sexual creatures who feed off the sexual energy of women,” Tucker reminded him. “We have the power to seduce and the ability to twist both emotion and the mind.”

Voltaire smiled. Those the incubi and succubae fed from and fucked, often became addicted to them and would do anything to have them in their beds again.

He coveted that kind of control over humans, but he didn’t regret not having it. He’d merely learned well how to use those who did.

“We can use a spell to nudge her in the right direction,” Tucker replied with a half-smile. “All we need is a lock of hair, blood or something that belongs to her to ensure the attraction spell is powerful enough to overcome any and all resistance on her part.”

“Blood would be best,” Voltaire murmured rubbing his hands together. Blood magick was very potent.

“I agree, so she’ll have to be attacked.”

“Have Carrel follow her and obtain what we need tonight. I want that potion ready for the first date, and alert Morgan that he’s getting the call to romance her.”

Tucker gave him a grin. “I’ve already put Carrel to work. I figure none of them would be suspicious of a woman.”

He nodded curtly. The women of Silken Cord were strong, but their defeat along with any aurai that came to their aid would be quick and humiliating.


Chapter Three


The crowd at the Sand Bar and Grill was thinner than usual, but a good number of patrons filled the tables on both levels. The old brick building with its worn dark-wood floors was rather nice with reasonable prices. The atmosphere was warm and cozy with soft light drifting around the spacious floors that opened onto a wide patio on each level.

“Have you heard about the recent deaths?” Andi Brees asked in low tones.

Aria Brees took a sip of her whiskey and savored the burn as she glanced to the woman who was a sister for all intents and purposes. Her pale blue-gray eyes were filled with concern that annoyed Aria.

“Witches are dying. It’s hard to miss, but that is the Witch’s Congress’ problem.”

The Witch’s Congress had betrayed the aurai and the Knights more than two centuries ago. The Knights had been half-human sorcerers while the aurai had been wind nymphs with telepathic abilities as well as the ability to control the winds and storms. The aurai were the human embodiment of the air and storms.

“We might not have a choice,” Andi told her with a shrug. “What’s going on is something we’ve seen before.”

“Forget it, Andi,” she ordered. They had been friends for almost two centuries. They’d come of age during the darkest times of their race when witch civil war raged quietly behind the scenes of normal human life.

Their race had been tricked and executed, but some had escaped, hidden. They’d quietly lived, regaining their strength and isolating themselves once again from humans.

Andi glared at her. “I know why you don’t want us to get involved, but we can’t continue to do nothing.”

She wouldn’t get involved in a war between good and dark witches. “Do as you will,” Aria retorted as her eyes fell on the dance floor again.

Ginger hair cascaded down delicate shoulders to curl on the ends. The bow mouth in the heart-shaped face was pulled into an enticing grin.

Gaze traveling down, Aria found a curvy little body with a short skirt swirled around her legs and hugging her hips. The cute little top was a delicate feminine-looking fabric of pink that made her skin glow.

She was the woman from the deli, who’d been coming onto her in a very non-vocal way.

Aria had seen Juliet several times at the club and been inexplicably drawn to her, but she hadn’t dared approach. She was a witch’s daughter and she had no interest in getting involved with a witch.

That minor fact aside, Aria was surprised to see Juliet here, considering the girl was either with her mother and cousin at the club or on the arm of a man. It was always a different one, so Juliet was either promiscuous, hard to please, or gay and trying to be straight to avoid the displeasure of her mother.

The only way to find out was to make a move.

The woman dancing with the intriguing hottie, was Carrel. Aria had designed a dress for her a few years ago. She smelled succubae. The breed had an enticing musk smell. The dark ones weren’t all bad, but she trusted none of them.

However, it was Carrel’s fingers stroking the gingered-haired woman’s small hip that snagged her attention. The contact, the body language, sent out the clear impression the other woman thought she was getting lucky tonight.

The air gusted fast and hard through her mind in protest, eager to lash out, but Aria soothed it with a firm reprimand. The air was like an animal, it was a part of her nature that could be vicious or kind as any creature.

“I really need to blow off some steam,” Andi murmured. “But I need to get to work on that sculpture. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Aria forced herself to look away when what she really wanted was to be alone with the red-head, getting to know her body better.

“Not unless you mean after work,” she murmured. “I’ve got to finish up my new collection.”

Andi rolled her eyes. “We’re both all about the work these days.” She sighed regretfully. “We’ll do lunch.”

“Wonderful.” Aria flashed a brief smile and Andi returned it, but she saw the anger burning in her friend’s stare before she left.

They’d been through so much at the hands of the Witch’s Congress all in the name of excising the impure—the offspring of the Knights and aurai, from their race. Aria had no plans to become a slave to a people that meant her no good no matter if they were dying at the hands of the dark breed.

The song ended and Aria found and tracked the hot little number back to a table across the room with her eyes. Carrel was nowhere in sight, and Aria hoped she’d found someone else to hold her attention because Juliet was hers.

Aria got up, deciding there was no need to waste time when hers was of a premium these days.

****

Juliet saw her prowling toward her, weaving through the crowd of dancers now heading for the bar or tables. The music had been replaced by the murmur of voices and laughter—a little too loud—filled the room.

Juliet’s throat was suddenly parched, and her bracelet warmed her skin while her body tingled. That single look across the room had had her stomach pulling taut and her heart beating fast. But Juliet didn’t move from her table where she sat, skin flushing.

That heat was there again, urging her toward it like the sun pulling her into its gravitational orbit. She almost left but averted her gaze to break the intense connection, tangling her shaking hands in the soft folds of her skirt.

“Hi.”

Juliet turned her head to meet a pair of pale blue-gray eyes flecked with green. She leaned forward, her skin warm, her clothes suddenly too confining.

Her lips parted to speak, but no sound came out as she refocused, taking her eyes from those beautiful eyes threatening to consume her to land on the royal blue splash of color beneath the black quarter length sleeve blouse. The top three buttons had been left open and a silver disc resting just below the hollow of her throat drew Juliet’s attention.

“Can I buy you a drink?” Her voice was low and intimate as if she’d known her for years and this was a night out for them.

Juliet shivered and cleared her throat as she tore her gaze from the disc with its intriguing flower and runic inscription. No, it wasn’t a flower it was a quadquetra.

She had seen it somewhere before with a pink and green center with black veins making up the symbol and its circle.

“Sure.”

“I’m Aria.” She signaled the waitress and then held out her hand.

“Juliet.” Juliet took her hand and fire sparked on her fingers to course through her hand. She was thrown back in time to a room in which she sat on a large bed with gold curtains on either side and a roaring fire just to her left.

Her eyes beheld those of a woman with russet skin and a fall of thick black hair. Her pale gray eyes glowed as if backlit.

But my husband—”

He will die in battle in Crecy, but I’ll see you again in ten days,” Haven told her quickly.

What if I want to see you before then?” she asked, an ache of longing in her soul already.

My love, I can’t return before. Even we demigods have demands on our time.” She grinned and caressed her cheek. Eliza turned her head into her touch, her chest clenching from the tenderness of it. “Here. Just think of me when you look at this.”


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