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I’m super excited to tell you that Witches Be Burned is currently on sale for 99 cents at all e-tailers for a limited time!
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Series: Magic & Mayhem, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
Original Publication Date: May 19, 2015
In Stacey Kennedy’s steamy paranormal romance novel, a rookie guardian sworn to combat the undead risks life and love in a world of violence, witchcraft, and seduction.
Trained as an Elite Guardian and witch, Nexi Jones has lost her family and she’s hell-bent on making sure she doesn’t lose anyone else. At least she has Kyden, her smoldering hot partner who’s been there for her every step of the way. But just as Nexi thinks she’s done mourning, tragedy strikes the Otherworld when a fellow guardian is murdered by a group of rogue vampires. Drawn into their dangerous games, she and Kyden trek into the Earthworld to hunt down a killer—and Nexi alone will be put to the ultimate test.
Although Kyden knows that Nexi must fight her own battles, his guardian instincts are raging as he struggles to keep her close. The ruthlessness of these vampires is like nothing he’s ever seen. And at their helm is the black witch Astoria, a demon with one burning desire: to shed blood in the name of vengeance. What troubles Kyden even more, though, is the warlock lurking in the shadows. Let the devil do his worst . . . all Kyden can do is love and protect Nexi until his last breath.
PRAISE FOR WITCHES BE BURNED:
“Witches Be Burned has everything I love in paranormal romance: scorching heat, dramatic world-building, heart-wrenching emotion, and sexy heroes!”—Carrie Ann Ryan, New York Timesbestselling author of Tattered Loyalties
“An intriguing, exciting, and sexy adventure that lures you into its darkness and refuses to let go.”—Cecy Robson, author of the Weird Girls series
“What do we have?”
“Newly made vampire gone rogue,” Alazar replied, glancing between her and Kyden.
Nexi responded to his clear unease with a smirk. “Well, now, don’t you know, rogue vampires are my specialty.”
A specialty she suspected Kyden wished she didn’t have. He might want her safe and protected in the Otherworld, but she needed a damn purpose to keep moving forward. Most of all, she needed to stop thinking of everyone she lost at the hands of an evil vampire and wishing she could somehow bring them back.
Six months ago, after her mortal family had been murdered, she’d left her human life behind to work for the Council’s Guard—which was fine and she accepted it. But Kyden needed to accept it, too.
“Are we going, then?” Alazar asked tightly, staring solely at the guardian in front of Nexi, exuding irritation.
She’d had enough of Kyden’s protectiveness. “Which way?” Alazar pointed to the left, and Nexi started walking. “See, this is us going.”
She held back her chuckle and then embraced the silence that fell between them as they strode along Salt Lake City’s dark and dreary streets. Alazar eventually punched forward, leading the way, still in human form, sniffing the air. The only time a werewolf tracker shifted into his fur was when the scent was weak. Since Alazar hadn’t, that meant there was a good chance they’d find this vampire.
This part of the city was likely full of activity during daylight hours, but being two in the morning, the roads were almost empty, with only a few cars passing. Nexi decided then and there that she preferred the quiet. It meant innocent humans were safe. Though if a mortal were to pass by them right now, the human’s eye wouldn’t see the leather kilts and swords on their backs, they’d see typical earthly clothes. Only supernaturals saw their true forms due to a magical glamour placed on their clothing.
With each and every step, she shoved the rest of the annoyance away. Kyden might object to her being there, but he wasn’t stopping it, either. And she knew part of his objection was because she was so new to his world. She had been living as a human just a short time ago. Nexi had already had one vampire targeting her because of her uniqueness and the rich power in her blood. And it was more than likely she’d probably have to face that all over again.
Alazar darted down a few more streets before he finally stopped. He pointed to a building on his right. “The vamp’s scent is strong in there. I suspect he’s inside.”
Nexi looked at the Starbucks that had been long closed for the night. “He’s inside the coffee shop?”
“I believe so.” Alazar angled his head back and took a deep sniff of the dry air. “But I suspect that”—he looked to the sidewalk—“he’s in a basement. His scent is beneath us.”
Nexi understood completely—if they entered the building, the alarms would sound. Mortal cops getting into the mix of a vampire in the throes of bloodlust was bad news.
“He must’ve gotten in somehow without setting off the security system,” Kyden said, voice tight, indicating that his annoyance at Nexi remained. “Let’s find out where and go in the same way.”
“Awesome plan,” Nexi said, disregarding Kyden’s gruffness. She wouldn’t tiptoe around this problem anymore.
Kyden’s long-suffering sigh slid through the dark night.
Alazar’s mouth twitched, clearly hiding his smile. “Call me if you need anything.” He retreated down the street in the opposite direction.
Nexi turned to Kyden and grinned, eyeing her sexy beast of a man, spotting the flares of irritation in his bedroom eyes. She knew he wasn’t angry with her but was fearful of losing her. Her heart warmed, of course it did, but even if their love was strong and solid, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t do her job.
“Ready?” she asked.
“I’m not sure how I can manage to both love and hate your willfulness, but that seems to be the case.” Kyden’s mouth flattened. “Let’s go.”
She blew him a kiss for that one.
Leading the way, he headed around the coffee shop and Nexi stayed right at his side. She couldn’t see any doors ajar. Nothing stood out to her as an entrance point. Moving farther toward the back of the building, Kyden approached the alleyway, and the stench of death hit tenfold.
He grunted. “It appears we’ll have more victims.”
“Unless there is a morgue nearby, I’m guessing you’re right.” She breathed shallowly to avoid the pungent aroma, scanning the back alleyway with the large garbage cans. A small parking lot was to her left, but the area was too dark to spot any threats. Not being able to see their killer left them in a precarious position and at a great disadvantage. Unease traveled through her, but she shoved the insecurity away.
Kyden cautiously stepped deeper into the alleyway before he squatted, dragging his finger across the ground. That’s when she noticed black liquid shining along the pavement. When he raised his finger, blood dripped off the tip, and he shook his head. “This vamp is reckless, messy.”
She didn’t argue with that, focusing on the trail of blood. Only a few steps forward, she discovered a small broken window located at the back of the coffee shop. Now it was her turn to grunt. “I’ll never begin to understand why vampires don’t just use the damn door like regular people.”
Kyden nodded in agreement. “In we go?”
“After you, my gallant hero.” She waved her hand for him to precede her.
He rolled his eyes at her dramatics before he knelt in front of the window, brushing away the remaining blood-covered glass shards. Then he angled his shoulders, placing one in first, and then eased the other through the small space before dropping down onto the basement floor.
“Come on,” he said, calling her forward.
Helping Nexi through the window, he gently pulled her down onto the concrete floor and her nipples puckered as she slid down his chest. He groaned. “Another reason for you not to join me on assignments. It’s . . . distracting.”
“Hey!” she blasted back, understanding the heat blazing in his features. His touch always ignited a similar burn. “It’s not my fault. Blame whatever idiot decided that female guardians should be half naked.”
“Now, that”—Kyden pressed her tight against him, revealing his tempting erection—“is not something I’ll ever complain about.”
Just as she allowed his heat to consume her, a low growl spun her around, and a loud splatter hit the wall in nearly the same second. A dull bulb glowed, giving off a little light at the back of the basement. The wretched metallic scent of blood and death became overwhelming.
Then she saw something that at one time in her life would have horrified her.
Near the boxes of coffee supplies the vampire sat, hidden within the shadows. The light in the room silhouetted him, and Nexi didn’t wait—she approached, with Kyden one step ahead of her. When her vision adjusted to the darkness, her fists clenched and heady adrenaline spiked her heart rate.
Three humans, all dead, with their skin covered with endless fang marks and blood strewn everywhere. So captivated in his kills, and overwhelmed by bloodlust, the vamp hadn’t even noticed their arrival.
The gravity of the truth washed over her, and she wondered if maybe that’s why Kyden was in such a mood earlier. The vampire was young—eighteen years old at most—and killing anyone so young wasn’t something guardians liked to do, but in these situations there were no other options.
Though it may be cruel, there was nothing they could do to help him. Once bloodlust took a vampire to the point that he no longer had his humanity, his mind would be consumed by one need—to feed—and there was no coming back from that. The vampire would never get enough blood to sate him.
Her thoughts were only confirmed when the vamp continued to bite the woman repeatedly, not caring that she was already dead. He was searching for a vein while squeezing her body to pump the blood into his mouth, struggling to find a big enough vein that would give him his fix.
Kyden’s shoulders stiffened. “Release her.”
Dark eyes cut to them, and the vamp dropped the woman to the ground, her body a heavy weight, slamming her head against the floor. He leaned forward, bringing his face out of the shadows, snarling, with blood dripping off his fangs.
In hope of possibly saving this kid, Nexi thought it wise to add, “Stay right where you are. Think. Calm down. We’re here to help you.”
The second her mouth closed, a rush of wind tore past her. Then Kyden was on his back with the vampire on top of him, fangs snapping about wildly. Vamps had one advantage over guardians—speed. Which meant guardians often had to use the element of surprise to catch and kill them, though newly made vampires were just a bit faster and stronger. Kyden gripped the vamp’s face as the kid attempted to make a chew toy out of him.
A fury like no other overtook Nexi. Sometimes things were complicated. Other things were very simple. Touch the love of her life, and die.
She lunged forward, wrapping her fingers into the vamp’s hair and yanking him off Kyden. Fighting against the strength of the vampire, she straddled him and pushed her hands against his chest, groaning against the sheer strength he possessed.
The vampire bounced up, shoving her off him just as Kyden appeared. Plowing into the vamp, he got him on the ground and pushed a knee to the vampire’s chest. Bucking wildly and with fangs snapping violently, the kid glared with eyes so dark that Nexi swore he was the Devil. Nothing human lived in this vampire anymore. He growled feral and vicious, throwing Kyden off him with a speed that sent her lover airborne.
Lost in a frenzy to kill or be killed, the vampire snarled, standing in the corner of the room near the cleaning supplies. Confidence and purpose had Nexi charging forward, tackling the vamp to the ground by the waist. No more pissing around—she yelled, “This isn’t working.” They couldn’t reason with this vampire. “Kill him, will you?”
A blink of an eye later, Kyden roared, “Off.”
She lurched backward, falling ass-first to the ground, landing with a crash. A human might flinch in pain, but the guardian magic didn’t only make Nexi stronger, it also gave her a higher level of pain tolerance. As quickly as she’d hit the floor she was back on her feet, much more graceful than she would have been before Kyden’s intensive guardian training when she first returned to the Otherworld.
With a swoosh, Kyden’s sword hit the base of the vampire’s neck. Then the kid’s head hit the floor, along with a loud splatter of blood from a well-fed vampire.
Perhaps the old her would’ve been horrified to witness such a ghastly death, but there were two ways to kill a vampire: cut off his head or burn him to ash. The shock value was lessened, since she knew his death had saved more innocent lives. Yet as she looked at the deceased humans around him, it didn’t seem enough of a reward. Too many lives had already been lost. “That was certainly unusual,” she said to Kyden, breathless. “I’ve never seen a vampire so lost in bloodlust before.”
Bent at his knees and catching his breath, Kyden arched a curious brow at her.
She rolled her eyes. “Or I should say, ‘So that’s what a vampire lost in bloodlust looks like’?” True enough, she hadn’t been on that many cases yet, either. Her fight so far had been with Lazarus and all those who supported him. Even if Nexi had killed more supernaturals than she could count on two hands, none had been newly made and in the throes of bloodlust.
“Yes, that’s what bloodlust looks like.” Kyden straightened, the beads of sweat dripping along his chest glistening against the light. “And it’s about the worst I’ve ever seen bloodlust consume a vamp. I can’t imagine who would leave him in this state. It’s strange.”
“Tragic is what it is,” she retorted.
She also couldn’t push away the fact that tonight’s assignment had led them back to Salt Lake City. The last time Salt Lake City had trouble, Lazarus was involved. Cold worry etched her bones, and she wondered if there was a possible connection.
Reaching for her sword, she moved toward the victims and then placed the sword’s tip gently into their stomachs to change their wounds. She always felt like a bag of shit for doing it. Even though she understood it protected supernaturals and their existence, it was a terrible thing that the victims’ loved ones never knew what really happened to them—and in the mortal world the killers were never caught. At least the guardians obtained their justice; she’d have to find comfort in that.
Once the fang marks became gunshots, she turned to Kyden, seeing that the vampire was now gone, as was all his blood. While the magic in their swords altered wounds on humans, if the blade was used on a supernatural, the magic made the body vanish, remnants of blood included. The Otherworld didn’t bury their dead killed by enemies, nor did they celebrate their life. They got revenge for a life taken.
Pulled by the fierceness between them, she approached. The light in the room showed off one side of his face, but that visible eye held a piercing soul that stole the air from her lungs. “Will the Council go after the vampire who turned him?” she asked.
Kyden stepped out of the shadows and both eyes blazed at her, igniting heat in her loins and wonderment over the conversation ahead. “It would be impossible to track him or her down.” Without looking away, he backed up to the window they’d entered through, waving her before him.
In no time, she was outside with Kyden next to her. The night air brushed her skin and the silence drifted around them. She couldn’t resist moving closer to him, his heat simply calling to her. He might be angry, but he happened to look off-the-charts hot that way.
He dipped his head, his warm minty breath brushing across her face. “Now, then, dare to tell me why you came tonight when I never ordered it?”
As the Elite Guardian, Kyden did have authority over her. In those terms, she never should have showed up at the scene. But she knew if she didn’t push this matter, he’d always keep her out, coming up with one excuse or another.
She smiled sensually. “What can I say? Watching you fight is the best kind of foreplay.”
“Ah, so that’s why you did this?” One brow arched. “Need some excitement, do you?”
“Of course.” She grinned, blinking innocently at him and wiggling against the growing hardness resting against her belly. “I thought it might make for a fun night.”
The arousal in his eyes was replacing the hard edge. “I’ll hold you to that, you know.” A deep flush crept over his cheeks, hinting at sexual promise. “If your plan was to start something tonight, I expect it to be finished later.”
She stood on her tiptoes, dropping a quick kiss on his lips. “Whatcha waiting for? Let’s finish it now.”
That’s all she got out before his lips crushed against hers, stealing the world from around her. When Kyden touched her, time stopped. His kisses possessed her soul and she experienced the burn of each one right down to her toes. It wasn’t just a joining of lips, but a joining of passion that she’d never believe existed if she hadn’t experienced it herself. Apart, they were Nexi and Kyden. Together, they were something different, something stronger, something that created a fire that could never be extinguished.
By the time he broke away, they were both breathing heavily.
“That, Álainn”—the nickname, meaning beautiful in Gaelic, a language passed along from the older generation in the Otherworld, fueled the need swelling inside her, especially because he had a way of purring the word—“would be in your immediate future, if I wasn’t someone who actually followed protocol. Tonight needs to be reported to the Council.”
“See, and that’s why your Goody Two-shoes way”—she stepped back, forcing some cooler air between them—“sucks.”
Kyden’s devilish grin—a smile that belonged to a man so arrogant from knowing his worth—slowly spread across his face. “Yet I’m not the one who is often in trouble with the Council, am I, darlin’?”
She accepted the jab—she was a bit of a rule breaker and didn’t possess a filter when it came to her mouth. “I would follow the rules if they made sense. And, might I add, weren’t made up from some caveman beating his chest to protect what he calls mine.”
He dropped his chin, brought his eyes level to hers, and a tightness appeared in his features, igniting a fierce heat in her belly. “You do realize that any other guardian would be punished for showing up like you did tonight.” His voice was far too husky to be taken seriously.
She rubbed herself against his hard length pressing so deliciously against her in a tempting offer. “Oh, I’m not worried. I can give the one who dishes out the punishments sexy times. Doesn’t that exclude me from such punishments?”
“No, Álainn.” Intensity crossed Kyden’s expression, causing Nexi to wonder how she could get him to break the rules just for tonight, as he added, “It means my punishments can be more creative.”
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