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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


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Copyright© 2018 Serenity Snow



ISBN: 978-1-77339-539-5


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.



DEDICATION


To my muse, the real storm and passion in my life. Thank you for being there no matter what.



A NORTHERLY BREEZE


Windswept, 3


Serenity Snow


Copyright © 2018


Prologue


“Elaina come out.” His voice held a bit of mirth and that irked Elaina, but she knew her chances of survival were truly very slim.

She was a woodland nymph—a warrior—but she didn’t have the heart for killing unlike others of her breed. And she was wounded, bleeding badly. She wouldn’t be able to survive another direct hit.

“I’ll kill you quick if you show yourself,” the demon said. “I just want your power.”

“You’re strong enough without it,” she replied weakly and grimaced as pain radiated through her side.

“Yes, but there are just some things your kind can do that mine can’t,” he murmured. “Like connecting with the aurai.”

The wind nymphs. The ones that lived here now were warrior wind. They fought to ensure the balance between good and evil remained intact even if they had to allow evil a small victory over good.

Most of them were gray. They lived in that place between good and evil themselves, especially the storms. They were forces of destruction that carried out great deeds of good.

And she’d been sent here to relay a message and act as liaison between the woodlands and the aurai.

“Elaina. Stop playing hard to get.” His voice held an edge of impatience now.

She listened, straining hard. Those were footsteps coming toward them.

Elaina forced herself to stand and gripped the thick branch of a tree to keep upright.

“Strengthen me, Gaia,” she prayed as she forced her feet to move and pain shot up her hip. “Where I am weak, be my fortitude, Lady Divine.”

Elaina moved quickly as the even tempo continued toward her.

“You’re a pathetic excuse for a warrior,” he said mockingly. “If this is what your race has to offer, we’re safe from your sisters.”

Elaina got her labored breathing under control as she leaned against a tree. She’d only been there a half a second before a woman came to an abrupt halt before her in the sprawling park. The night-dark sky was filled with fluffy clouds blocking out the moon.

The woman gasped, but she didn’t scream, and Elaina knew how she must look—face swollen and bloody, clothes torn, and her eyes—well she knew her eyes glowed a little lighting her way. Twigs were already starting to grow in her hair as the Goddess began to reclaim her.

The demon would be able to feed off her, taking her powers of earth for his own unless…

“Help me,” Elaina lurched forward, knowing she only had one chance to defeat this demon’s true purpose in attacking her.

The woman caught her when she stumbled and the rush of power stunned her. Their eyes met and Elaina’s lips tilted in a faint smile.

She was one of the seeded who’d yet to come to power. Well, she’d fix that, and transform her into something better.

Elaina gripped her head tight between her hands and the woman’s brown eyes widened.

“I’m sorry,” Elaina whispered. “My place is yours now. My power yours.” The woman’s eyes glowed a vivid green and Elaina knew her power had been successfully mingled with the energy already inside the woman.

“No,” the woman said weakly, fear in her eyes.

“Don’t fear this change, others were chosen through bloodline to carry the mantle of woodland power, but I bequeath mine to you. I choose you because you are you.”

“Stop,” the woman said as she attempted to push her off and back up.

“I know you don’t understand,” Elaina said, holding on tighter. “But I’ll explain.”

Even as the words sighed from her in the language of the plants and flowers, Elaina knew the woman wouldn’t understand her now, but in three days when she woke and the energy of the earth took her, this night would come back to her, and she’d wake with full knowledge of what she was and what she had to do.

Elaina stumbled backward and her torso stretched, turning into dark bark and her arms reached up, becoming long and leafy.

“Elaina!”

The woman put a hand on the stranger’s forehead, and said, “Sleep until the demon’s retreat. When you wake, it’ll be safe exit, and the House of Rose will continue to Flourish.”

The stunned woman staggered into the tree just as the demon came into sight.

“No!” he shouted.

Elaina’s bark was covered over with moss from the trunk up as she gave herself over to be reborn in peace.

****

“I got the information,” Avery Northerly said into the secure line of the cell phone in her office.

“You need to take care of them as soon as possible,” the woman on the other end ordered. “They’re power brokers, and I know one of them is out hunting tonight. I lost him, but if he catches his prey, he’ll gain some woodland nymph powers to sell. And we can’t risk a demon running around with those powers.”

She rubbed her shoulder. “I know.” She’d been at work since seven this morning thanks to an emergency.

“I think it’s a safe house or something. The most you can afford to wait on this is three days.”

“Okay. Listen, someone’s at the door, and I can’t just ignore them. They might be hurt.” The clinic catered to the witch community and sometimes fairy.

“Be careful, honey,” her aunt said into her ear. “I’m sorry to leave you like this especially knowing the demons are planning to strike at the four most powerful covens in the city before going after the Big Thirteen, but I have to get out of the country tonight.”

“They’re going after Vesta?”

“Yes,” her aunt told her. “The demon Margeau and I killed last night was part of the offensive. They’re going to finish off Spring Skye and then go after Vesta and Daye before taking on Silken Cord. Sam’s coven is last because she’s part of the Dual Congress and the coven has a few traitors in it.”

The Dual Congress was the governing body of witches—and now demons thanks to some foolish notion by someone that the demons went along with.

“Who are they?” she demanded. The four most prominent covens in the city all had members in the Local Council, the local arm of the Dual Congress.

If they didn’t have members in the Local Council, they were part of the Round Table known as the Big Thirteen. Those families were known for influencing policy, protection outside of the Local Council, and had influence in human politics and business.

“I don’t know yet, but you need to be careful and get out of Vesta. You’re aurai so they have no jurisdiction over you.”

“I can’t just leave the coven,” Avery protested. “They need me.”

“Will you do me another favor, honey?” her aunt asked as if she hadn’t spoken, which meant she expected Avery to obey despite her objections.

“Yes.” She wasn’t leaving the coven.

“Margeau’s traveling with me, so Tamari’s taking over the underground network for witches who might need to flee the city. Margeau’s house is one of those stops and it’s going to be unmanned. I need you to look in on it.”

The Lakeview Drive area was notoriously quiet with many homes widely spaced on acres of land. There were only two other houses on that street and one of the neighbors was rarely home.

“You want me to man the place?”

“No, I just want you to be there in case Tamari needs you,” she said. “Do you still have the keys?”

“Yes,” Avery replied with a smile.

“And I know you can unlock the ward since you created it.”

She chuckled. She was somewhat of a ward specialist with words or with items. She could create or break them with no problems.

“Be safe, my love.”

“You, too,” she said and ended the call. Avery hurried to the door, the tile floor gleaming beneath her feet.

Her aunt and her aunt’s best-friend had co-founded the Black Moon Clinic twenty years ago. She’d come to work here when she was twenty-one after graduating medical school.

She came to a stop in front of the glass door to find a tall woman with gray eyes standing on the other side. The suit she wore looked tailored through the thick glass and her expression impassible. However, she didn’t look wounded.

Avery started shaking her head and opened her mouth to tell her the clinic was closed, but lightning flashed in her eyes sending chills down Avery’s spine. With wonder and consternation, she immediately lifted a hand to disengage the locks.

She’d heard about the storm aurai, but had never met one of the breed she was to become once she’d fully connected with her powers and the energy of air. While the connection was nearly finished, she hadn’t expected anyone to just appear on her doorstep.

“Hello, Avery.” The woman’s voice was cool, yet soft as a breeze.

“Come in,” Avery said with a sweep of her hand. She moved aside to allow her guest to enter before locking the door and then facing her.

“I’m Storme, Tylor Storme, the reigning aurai leader of the tri-state area.”

Avery nodded, studying the woman. Her curly hair rippled around her face as if a breeze caressed it.

“You’re not what I expected,” Tylor said. “We’ve never had a healer in our ranks as we heal pretty quickly, but not all the marked will have our abilities. So, I suppose you are a perfectly designed addition.”

“Thanks, I guess.” Avery frowned. “Why are you here? I mean, I guess you have a reason other than to pronounce me fit.”

Tylor’s lips quirked up in amusement. “I had Vesta Tradition Coven investigated when I heard an aurai-marked could be part of the coven. That’s why I’m here. You can’t be allowed to continue outside the aurai structure.”

“I’m not leaving the coven right now, but I’ll take my place in aurai ranks,” she retorted. Everything in her hungered for the connection with those of her kind. She wouldn’t deny where she belonged, but she wouldn’t forsake the coven that had been a mainstay in her life since she was nineteen.

She’d outstripped them all in power, but they were always there for her even though they couldn’t possibly understand what she’d been going through in the last year as she began becoming the power she would be.

Tylor’s gray eyes became storm-gray and flashed with lightning. Avery expected her to attack and mentally prepared for it, allowing her power to surge forth in an icy wave.

Then, Tylor walked around her and she held her ground, listening to the footfalls, tracking the heat of her energy. At the same time, Avery kept her power from spewing forth in a spell that was a tight web of energy designed to confine an attacker.

“I can’t hear your thoughts, but I can feel them rippling down my spine in a cold wind.” Her voice held tensile strength and the underlying hint of a dare.

Avery faced her then and found an enigmatic look on the pretty face.

“Energies of the black tourmaline serve you well,” Tylor said. “They allowed you to create a strong mental shield.”

Circumstances had ensured that a long time ago, but Avery wasn’t going to correct her. The black tourmaline stones in the bracelet she wore—partnered with moss agate to enable her connection to the north winds—assured her survival when she was a child lost in the clutches of dark breeds.

“Demons are stalking aurai, as well as good witches. So we need to end them before it goes much further.”

Avery studied her. “Your investigator just determined that I was aurai-marked?”

“Not quite,” Tylor said. “You were researched and you’re an anomaly. Your mother was only ever part of a small family trad coven. The Northerlys were quite strong air witches.”

“My mother’s strength didn’t save her.” The ice in her tone almost turned the air frosty.

“I’ve read the stories,” Tylor answered. “Rumors and supposition mean nothing, but meeting you I can see one thing was true. You are one of the dark winds. That rarely happens unless the father is dark venti.”

The venti were always male and could control the winds, but they weren’t a personification of the element as the aurai were. The venti could be either good or evil for they weren’t specifically charged with keeping balance as the aurai were.

“They are powerful, able to whip up a storm, but not as we are,” Tylor told her. “Most of them gain their power by absorbing those of a powerful being they kill. When they kill a demon and take on its power, they take on even more darkness if they are dark.”

Her father had been venti and had grown darker with each year of her life until she was seven, and he’d killed her mother and attempted to kill her, too. That’s when she’d begun connecting to the energies of air.

“And your point is?” Avery crossed her arms over her chest.

Tylor’s expression filled with amusement. “I also know that your aunt is a hunter,” Tylor said. “I was a little surprised, but the fact that you have training will make your transition into our ranks easier.”

“How so?” she asked carefully. “As you can see, I’m a doctor.”

Tylor’s lips twisted into a small smile. “I don’t care that you have dark blood. It’s what you really are that matters, and you will do your part. Welcome to the family, Avery.” She held out her hand and Avery took it after a moment’s hesitation.

Lightning flashed in Tylor’s eyes and burned in Avery’s palm. She tried to jerk free, but the heat seared their hands together as it coursed through Avery, making her hair stand on end as her skin flamed.

Avery tried to scream, but all that came out was a gust of electrically charged air that was quickly consumed by the woman in front of her. The gust was blown back at her, but it went through her to range around the room.

Tylor withdrew her hand. “We’ll speak again soon.” She turned to a puff of air and raced toward the door which flew open and closed silently behind her.


Chapter One


Two days later…

“Come in.” Amollia Holt called. The door opened, bringing with it a glimmer of light that painted the carpet golden.

“Mind if I turn on the light? You know I’m not fond of the dark, cousin,” the woman framed in the doorway commented quietly.

Amollia leaned forward and switched on the reading lamp on the desk. Even from where she sat in her grandmother’s spacious home office, she could tell there was something different about her older cousin. Her aura was unreadable as though shielded and Michaela could never hide from her.

“Better, Michaela?” she asked cautiously. What if Michaela had been sent to lure her out so the Witch’s Council could get to her?

She didn’t want to hurt her, and hoped she didn’t have to since Michaela wasn’t even half as powerful as she was. Her cousin was an anomaly in the family with her interest in potions and earth magick.

She wore a bracelet with a moss and black agate which amplified her energies, allowing her to tap into earth magick more easily. But her power was borrowed.

Still she’d been the emissary of choice because she wouldn’t appear a threat to the dark forces or the Council tracking them with the intent of imprisoning them for a crime she and her grandmother and their coven hadn’t committed.

****

Michaela stepped inside, closing the door. She wasn’t often invited to her grandmother Amara’s office nor had she been invited to join Spring Skye as Amollia, her grandmother’s favorite, had.

“What do you want, Molly?” Michaela asked coolly as she advanced.

“What did Declan say when he came to the house last night?” Amollia demanded.

“He said the Local Council was investigating what happened at Grandmother’s as an attack on the Dual Congress because one of Kryto’s brothers was lured there by Grandmother.”

“What’s the family’s position?”

Michaela studied her, the anger at being left out of their grandmother’s inner circle for so long draining away at the defeated look on her cousin’s pale face.

She pushed out a sigh. “They’re sticking by Grandmother, but we’ve all been cautioned not to get caught associating with any of Spring Skye’s remaining members.”

Amollia nodded. “Have warrants been issued?”

“Yes. For all of you, which means you can’t show your faces, and my father is concerned about the problems that will create business wise.”

“He’ll be strong,” Amollia commented. “I need you to do me a favor, and it’s of great import.”

“What?”

“We need money. Grandmother’s accounts have been frozen.”

“I can take care of it, but what are you doing about lodgings?”

“One of Grandmother’s lovers left her a house in Lakeview, but no one knows it’s in her name. We need you to move in there.”

“Why?” Michaela demanded. “How will that even help if they start snooping around?”

“Use a glamour,” Amollia told her. “No one will think anything about a tenant moving into the place. Grandmother advertised the place was for rent a week ago in case we needed to use it, but two women will be suspicious.”

“Where do you get off asking me to do this, Molly? You and Grandmother treat me like I’m invisible and suddenly you want me to be your buddy?”

“We need your help,” Amollia snapped. “And you’re family.”

“Oh, please.” Michaela glared at her and ran a hand through her blonde hair as she walked a few steps away from her. “Grandmother built allies even within the family and my father is one of her best. He’s the one that’s going to run the company and make sure she gets all the money she needs until this damned thing is over.”

“Stop whining,” Amollia muttered.

“Our entire family could be sanctioned by the Dual Congress if you and Grandmother are captured and found guilty. The only way to avoid that is to distance ourselves from you.”

“What?” Amollia paled beneath the thin light.

“Yeah. The risk is great, cousin, so you and Grandmother aren’t the only ones whose necks are on the line.”

“That’s all the more reason for you to help us, because nine times out of ten, your father is already being investigated since it’s no secret that he’s Grandmother’s right arm.”

“Anything else?” Michaela demanded. She knew she couldn’t argue with that.

“Clothes. And get a glamour spell from the family grimoire so one of us can glamour into a man. Grandmother’s was lost in the fire when they attacked us four nights ago.”

“I can’t get access to the book without a good reason,” Michaela told her, shaking her head. “The family elders are afraid we’ll get caught doing something like helping you guys.”

“Get it from your father,” Amollia ordered and then glanced to the window. “Did you bring someone with you?”

“No.” She jerked her gaze to the window and saw a shadow.

“You were followed then and probably by the—” A dull sound of glass breaking cut her off. Amollia backed toward the wall, near the window. “Take care cousin.”

She used a veil to hide herself from view and the door burst open.

Michaela faced the door and an energy ball raced in before the porcelain white skinned demon stepped in followed by a second with darker red skin.

“Creatures of habit you humans are,” the porcelain one drawled. “Where’s your grandmother, witch.”

“Right here.” Amollia stepped into sight and threw a sphere of energy and the demon. He blocked it, but Michaela pulled a bottle from her pocket and hurled it at him. The bottle landed on the floor and his feet and exploded pelting him with fragments of glass and liquid that burned.

He howled and threw a shard of steel gray energy at her that slammed into her ribs and threw her to the floor. She groaned, but didn’t have time to react to the pain reverberating through.

The second demon pounced on her. He jerked her up and slapped her before throwing her into the wall and hitting her again. Then, he dug his claws into her hip.

Michaela screamed and he retracted his claws with a laugh.

“I’m going to enjoy pulverizing you before I kill you,” he said and flashed her a cruel smile.

“I bet.” Michaela kicked him in his groin making sure her foot connected a little further back than on a human male. His eyes crossed and he let out a pained howl.

He was knocked to the floor by a sphere of energy.

“Out the widow,” Amollia snapped just before she used a spell to shatter the glass.

Michaela used a spell to knock the screen free and then climbed out. Her cousin fell into her, knocking her to the ground.

Amollia rolled off her in a breath and helped her up. They started to run when fireballs forced them to separate. Something tagged Michaela’s leg as she ran, and she bit back a cry but kept going.

****

Voltaire Whiteall threw the book of case law against the wall in his study, lips pulling into a silent snarl. His winning record was being threatened by an upstart in the DA’s office, but that wasn’t what had him so irritated.

None of the aurai-marked were dead and the third girl that he’d had his team diligently attempting to find seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth at three. No one knew what had happened to a single, helpless child whose mother had died in a car accident.

She hadn’t just climbed out and walked away. But there was no record of her even in the foster care system.

“I didn’t go through all of this to come away empty-handed,” he growled at the man seated across from his desk, an unconcerned mask on his very handsome face.

“Neither of us have,” Necron told him with a shrug. “But we’ll find her. In the meantime, I’ve researched the women in Arielle’s coven. There’s something about one of them to give us pause.”

“Why?” Voltaire demanded. He didn’t know who she was or even if he’d met her before.

“She’s descended from a venti who was partly to blame for my family’s murder as it turns out.”

The rage in Necron’s voice reverberated in him. They’d both had their families annihilated by witches banded with aurai and it seemed to be on the verge of happening again.

Aurai were wind nymphs—warriors, champions of the balance between good and evil. They were a menace to them both and all demon kind.

Aurai-marked were girls who’d become full aurai when they connected with the energies of the air. Each girl was guardian of a set of stones that more or less turned them into air nymphs.

“I told you before to forget about vengeance and focus on the goal,” Necron said as if reading his mind. “This girl is even more important than the others because she has venti blood.”

“Then, how is she one of the wind-marked?” Voltaire demanded. He wasn’t as well-versed in these mixed non-demonic species.

“Her mother was human, but her father was a dark venti who had pledged allegiance to my family until he was manipulated by a witch, the aurai’s great-grandmother.”

“The witch had aurai connections?”

Necron gave him a wan smile. “Yes. She was a guardian of the north.”

Voltaire didn’t need a lesson of any kind to tell him just how dangerous this girl could be when she connected fully with her stones. She would be one of those breeds they despised even more than they hated storm aurai because their power was vast.

“We’ll never tame her power,” Voltaire told him quietly. “We’ll have to kill her because she won’t be brought to heel, and she’ll have the potential to affect other venti.

“She’ll be a challenge and I do plan to kill her, but I’ve engaged power brokers to do the job when the time is right. However, we need to focus on finishing the Holts and bringing Vesta to ruin.”

“True.”


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