Warlock Coven Book 1
by Victoria Danann
Genre: Paranormal SciFi Fantasy Romance
Seven warlocks. Seven contests made more interesting by magical handicaps and strangers for teammates.
From the “Queen of Alpha Males”, Victoria Danann (Slashed Reads). The warlocks as introduced in Wednesday, Witches of Wimberley, are taking you on the adventure of a lifetime.
Romance to die for.
Let’s find out if you want more!!
LET THE GAME BEGIN!
It’s hard to find new experiences when you’re hundreds of years old and have no financial or geographical limitations. But when it was Rally’s turn to suggest the next “Boredom Break”, they got the adventure they were craving and the romance they wanted, even if they hadn’t known they wanted it.
**Only .99 cents!!**
Each and every coven member stared at Rally with a blank look until Turf started laughing. “Oh, well. Let me make sure I’ve got this straight. We don’t know what we’ll be doing, why we’re doing it, or who we’re doing it with. The only thing we know for sure is that we’ll have to deal with fucking Breitlingers. And that means we could end the game with nothing to show for it but funeral rites for our friends,” Turf said what everybody was thinking out loud.
“All true,” Rally said, “but apparently there are a group of artifacts that, if gathered together in the same place, could create a power shift. In comic book terms, you might call it a win for the good guys.”
“Would it be too great an assumption to take it that we’re the good guys?” Aodh asked.
“No, it wouldn’t,” Rally said. “And, yes, we are. The good guys, I mean. Pertama says. . .”
“Why don’t we just hold up right there?” Turf jumped in. “How did this convo come about? Did the crypt-keeper ask you over for psychotherapy?”
Rally stared at Turf for a few beats. “If you’re referring to Pertama as the ‘crypt-keeper’, you’re the one in need of psychotherapy. He’s been prophet to warlocks for. . . well, as long as there’ve been warlocks, I guess. You need to show him a little respect.”
Wolfram sighed, rested his elbows on his knees, and said, “Second that. I want to hear everything he said before I make up my mind.”
Rally nodded. “As to how I came to be talking to him, he sent me a wedding present. I sent a thank you. He responded by teleporting me to his, ah. . . cave? Anyway, he broad-brushed this competition thing and asked me to pass along that he thinks we should enter.”
“Hate to sound like I’m stuck on a loop,” Turf said, “but again, what do we get out of this?”
“In Turf terms,” Rally said, “something different. In coven terms, it’s a chance to bring in something like a magical Age of Aquarius.”
Aodh laughed. “Good one.”
“No. Really,” Rally said, not sharing the amusement. “There are seven legs of the race. One of seven artifacts is up for grabs during each leg. The first team to get the thing and hold onto it long enough to cross the finish line gets to keep it. The only way we find out what happens if all seven artifacts end up in the same place at the same time is if we,” his hand made a circular motion to indicate the coven, “enter and win every leg.”
“Sounds intense,” Jean Mar said.
Turf scoffed. “If you believe the old buzzard’s on the level and not delusional.”
Mallach ignored Turf. Like everybody else. “High pressure for sure.”
“Yeah,” Rally agreed. “I said the same thing to Pertama. Know what he said?” The others murmured an interest. “That we’ve been training for this for centuries while we thought we were just fucking around.”
Wolfram cocked his head. “Pertama said ‘fucking around’?”
Rally turned to Wolfram. “No. Paraphrasing.”
“Come on,” Turf said, “Y’all are not buying into this. It’s. . . preposterous.”
“Such a big word for such a small mind,” Aodh said. “Except for a teeny fraction of supernatural outliers, the world’s population of two-legged creatures would say the idea of real warlocks is preposterous.”
“He has a point,” Jean Mar said.
Turf made a scoffing noise. “Look. None of us mind being called crazy. We do stuff that’s extreme, even for us. But this ain’t crazy. It’s insane.”
“Perhaps it’s a language issue, but I don’t get the difference,” said Jean Mar.
Aodh was quick to reassure Jean Mar that there was nothing wrong with his English. “Neither does anybody else. The difference exists solely in his own mind.”
“Pros and cons?” Wolfram suggested, using verbal shorthand.
Mallach turned to Rally. “Do we have all the deets on the table?”
Rally nodded. “Yeah. You know what I know.”
“Madness,” Turf muttered.
“Knock it off,” Harm said. “Let’s hear the ins and outs.”
Aodh shot him Turf a look. “Harm’s right. Everybody knows where you stand without further belaborin’ of the point.” He turned toward Rally. “There’s a couple of things I’d like to know. First, who else is entering. Second, I’m no’ clear on the rules.”
Rally moved to sit at the edge of his tufted leather chair. It gave him a couple of inches of extra height, not to mention an added air of authority.
“It’s invitational. We’ve been given seven out of twenty-eight invitations. The other twenty-one have been offered to pretty much the whole supernatural world. If we’re in, we’ll be competing against, you know, demons, midgarts, fae, sorceri . . . maybe weres. I don’t know. Those that accept the invitations will be sending their best.
“Each leg has a winning team and a losing team. If you win an artifact, you’re done. If you’re last, you’re done.”
Wolfram spoke up. “So you could have a demon for a teammate. Say you win. Who gets the artifact?”
“That’s a good question,” Rally said. “I don’t know. I guess you work it out between you.”
Turf barked out a laugh before saying, “Work it out with demons!”
Jean Mar said, “I hate to say this, but Martins is right. Demons do not play well with others.”
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Rally said. “I just. . . I don’t think Pertama would say we should enter without a good reason.”
“Also a good point,” Jean Mar said.
“Congratulations, Frenchie,” Turf said. “I’ll bet you were a fine jellyfish in a former life.”
Unfazed by ridicule, Jean Mar lifted and dropped a shoulder. “Be careful, mon ami. The jellyfish sting is most unpleasant.”
“So,” Mallach said, “one of us has to win every challenge and none of us can ever be last.”
Everyone looked toward Rally for confirmation. “That’s my understanding. Yeah.”
“And what, may I ask, are the challenges to be?”
Rally could tell by Aohd’s question, and by knowing him so well, that he was definitely interested. “No one knows. Everybody starts at the same place with the same clues,” Rally said.
“Weird,” Jean mar offered.
“Well said.” Aodh clapped his hands together and rose making a gesture with his right hand that resembled a complicated means of knuckle cracking. A holographic screen, about the size of a common dry erase board, appeared and hovered in the air. Aodh used his finger to draw a P column and a C column. “First up in the tank?” he asked.
“I have a pro,” Rally said, “It’s something to do.”
Sounding like a game show host, Aodh said, “Man says something to do.”
He looked at the holographic board and the words “something to do” appeared in one-inch flames that flared then died away leaving glowing text next to Pro number one.
“I have a con,” Wolfram said. “Breitlingers.”
“And the big dog says Breitlingers,” Aodh pointed at the board and the word appeared as number one under the C column.
“I’d like to put an asterisk next to that one,” Jean Mar said.
“Asterisk next to Breitlingers,” Aodh pointed at the board and an asterisk flamed to life then died.
“Are they really that bad?” Harm asked.
Wolfram gave up a long sigh. Aodh looked away.
“Yeah,” Rally said quietly. “Being real. There are only two kinds of good Breitlinger. Dead or sound asleep.”
“So they’re. . .?” Harm started to ask.
“Succubi,” Turf answered.
Mallach jumped in. “And not the good kind.”
Harm stared at Mallach. “There’s a good kind of succubi?”
Mallach unsuccessfully fought a grin for a few minutes before Jean Mar playfully pushed him off the couch.
“Am I supposed to feel like I know more than when I asked if they’re bad?” Harm said.
“If they wake up, they’ll be consumed by a compulsion to mate with us,” Wolfram said.
The room fell quiet for a few beats. “And that’s bad because. . .?” Harm asked. When no one replied, he ventured, “They’re hideous?”
“They’re not hideous,” Mallach said. “Just insistent.”
Jean Mar nodded. “Really insistent.”
“And lethal,” Turf added. “Don’t forget the lethal part.”
“We’re not forgettin’,” Aodh said. “If they’re successful, they like to kill us off afterward. They only beget daughters and they’re adamant about not sharing custody.”
“So just don’t fuck them,” Harm said. “Problem solved.” The other six shared looks and glances. “Okay. What am I missing?”
“When Mallach said they’re insistent,” Aodh said, “he means they’re strong and they hunt in packs.”
“Hunt?” Harm was beginning to sound alarmed. “In packs?” The others nodded, refusing to meet his eyes. The warlocks looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable with the topic led Harm straight to a horrific guess. “Like. . . gang rape?”
“Well,” Rally said. “Sort of. There’s no point in sugarcoating it.”
“So why are we even talking about this?” Harm asked. “I don’t care about pros and cons. I’m not up for, uh . . . that.”
Jean Mar answered. “If boredom breaks didn’t come with risks, they’d be boring? No?”
“Look at it this way,” Aodh said, “you’d die happy.”
Mallach formed a ball of blue flame and threw it at Aodh, who easily deflected and doused it, laughing. “Very funny, Aodh. But Breitlingers are nothing to laugh about.”
“Everythin’ is somethin’ to laugh about,” said Aodh. “
“Besides,” Rally continued, undeterred, “If we’re all racing, they’ll split up. There’re not that many of them left.”
“He’s right,” Aodh said, “ there’d probably be, say, two after each of us. ‘Twould be somewhat manageable.”
Harm gaped before finally managing to say, “Somewhat?”
“We’re also at a disadvantage because the Breitlingers won’t be interfering with the others,” Mallach said.
“Right ye are. Goes without sayin’,” Aodh said, “Anythin’ else?”
“Ah, yes,” Jean Mar said. “We don’t know the prize. Or prizes.”
“Is that a pro or a con?” Aodh asked.
“Con,” Jean Mar said at the same time Rally said, “Pro.”
Rally spoke first. “I think not knowing what we’re racing for makes it more exciting. The point of boredom breaks isn’t to win prizes. It’s to give us a new experience. What’s a better counter to boredom that jumping off into the unknown?”
“That is not an informed decision. That is ridiculous,” Jean Mar said.
Rally chuckled. “Informed decision? When did you get so straight-laced?”
“I’m not straight-laced, whatever that is, but I do have a brain,” Jean Mar defended.
“Since when?” Turf asked.
Aodh decided to end the argument. He turned to the display. “Ref says the point goes in both columns. What else?”
“Random teammate assignments. Gods only know who we could end up with,” Turf said.
“So ‘tis a con then?” Aodh couldn’t resist pushing Turf’s buttons.
“Yes, Aodh,” Turf mocked patience. “Put it in the bad column.”
“Hold on,” Rally said. “Maybe this one needs to go in both columns.”
“How do you figure that?” Mallach asked.
“Because the factor of unknown, not knowing who we’re going to draw. . . that is for sure not boring,” Rally replied.
Turf narrowed his eyes. “Easy for you to say since you already know who your partner is.”
Jean Mar shrugged. “Rally’s right. Not knowing who we’ll be paired with is not boring. Both columns is okay with me.”
“Someone needs to state the obvious,” Wolfram said. “It’s a supernatural event. That means we could be killed.”
Jean Mar pointed to the holograph board. “That is a con.”
“When has fear of bein’ killed ever stopped us from doin’ what we want? Aodh said as he directed flamed text to light up the board under the con column.
To everybody’s surprise, Turf said, “Man’s right. There’re a lot of good reasons to pass on this suggestion, but pussying out isn’t one of them.” That simple statement threw down a gauntlet clearly understood by everybody in the room, as could be told by the collective sigh. “We don’t decide boredom breaks based on what’s safest.”
“Yeah. If we’re going there, we might as well buy Buicks, live in the suburbs and sell insurance,” Mallach said. “Maybe the element of risk goes in the pro column.”
Nodding, Aodh said, “Risk is the heart of boredom breaks.”
“Let’s vote,” Wolfram said. “But before we do, let’s agree that we will all abide by the majority. Like it or not.” After nods and murmurs, he clarified. “Any dissenters speak up. Say it clearly and say it now.”
“Alrighty then,” Aodh said. “Who’s in?”
Rally raised his hand without hesitation. Aodh and Turf quickly added their agreement. Jean Mar, Mallach, and Wolfram followed one at a time until there was only one left. Harm.
Harm was relatively new to the coven; relatively meaning that the others had been part of a pledged collective for hundreds of years. He wasn’t sure he was wholeheartedly up for anything, but he was sure he didn’t want to be kicked out. And he was just as sure that he didn’t want the others to think less of him.
He raised his hand.
With a grin Aodh waved his hand and the holographic board disappeared. “The ayes have it then. Looks like we’re bound for glory.”
“I’m going home to write my eulogy,” Harm told Jean Mar. “Just in case.”
Overhearing that, Turf said, “You think people would come to your sendoff?”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nineteen romances. Victoria’s Knights of Black Swan series won BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE SERIES FIVE YEARS IN A ROW. Reviewers Choice Awards, The Paranormal Romance Guild. Eight times #1 Amazon bestseller. Over two million books sold. Her paranormal romances come with uniquely fresh perspectives on “imaginary” creatures, characters, and themes. She adds a dash of scifi, a flourish of fantasy, enough humor to make you laugh out loud, and enough steam to make you squirm in your chair. Her heroines are independent femmes with flaws and minds of their own whether they are aliens, witches, demonologists, psychics, past life therapists. Her heroes are hot and hunky, but they also have brains, character, and good manners. **Usually. Victoria lives in The Woodlands, Texas with her husband and a very smart, mostly black German Shepherd dog.