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Series: Magic & Mayhem, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
Original Publication Date: April 15, 2013
Nexi Jones—part witch, part guardian, and wannabe kick-ass warrior—can’t throw a punch or conjure the simplest magic. But that doesn’t stop her from hunting the werewolves who slaughtered her human family. She’ll have her revenge, but only if Kyden, the elite guardian, would get the hell out of her way.
Kyden can’t decide if Nexi wants to get herself killed or if she just has no clue what she’s doing. But her father made it clear: keep Nexi safe…or else. Of course, the more Nexi runs toward revenge, the more she needs Kyden’s aid, and as she grows into her power and confidence, so does his desire to protect her. The only problem? She’d rather he dropped dead.
But when a vampire paints a bull’s-eye on Nexi’s back, she’s hard-pressed to deny Kyden and the help he’s offering. Even if it means getting her revenge will be a little bit harder. At least it will still be as sweet.
PRAISE FOR WITCHES BE BURNED:
“It is such a joy to read a book that you love every part of, one that not only fulfills but exceeds your expectations. Werewolves Be Damned is just such a book. It is a perfect combination of all the elements. The world Stacey Kennedy created is magical and creative, it will entertain and intrigue. The plot is exciting, interesting and moving. As you read you become wonderfully immersed in the story. It is a compelling mix of action, humor, sexual tension and romance. You will laugh and you may just shed a tear or two. It gets its hooks into you within the first few pages and once you begin you’ll be hard pressed to pull yourself away.” —Paranormal Kiss
“Fantastic! Another 5 Skull reason why I adore Stacey Kennedy. Her heroes are perfect – just the right amount of snark, compassion, alpha-maleness, and naughtiness, and her heroines are all strong, independent, talented, and confident – making for some uber sexy power couples. Add those to a world that flows like the best champagne, and a mystery that keeps you on the edge on your seat with every action packed moment, and you have a Stacey Kennedy masterpiece.“ —Literal Addiction
“Werewolves be Damned has the perfect amount of awesomeness. Its action packed, sexy to the max and the story will have you totally entranced. If you have never read a book by Stacey then this will a perfect book to start with and if you are already a fan then I suggest you get to reading this. Its amazing!” —Awesomesauce Book Club
“This book is full of action, heartache, and romance that will have you wanting the next installment right away.” —Book Lovin’ Mamas
“Where is she?”
Briggs opened the door wider and Kyden stepped into the cabin, discovering Nexi sitting on the couch near the woodstove. Her arms were folded, leg crossed over her knee, which she bounced with clear irritation, and a familiar scowl he’d seen for weeks now marred her face. “How’d that go for you?”
Her hazel eyes narrowed.
Briggs shut the door behind Kyden, then he pulled a small silver dagger with a bejeweled handle from his back pocket. “She had this with her.”
Kyden took the dagger. “Where’d you get the knife?”
“It’s Haven’s,” she retorted. “I borrowed it.”
He slid the dagger into his scabbard in front of his sword. “You shouldn’t have a weapon until you know how to use it.”
She flicked her long, dirty-blonde hair over her shoulder. “Well, if someone would teach me, then this wouldn’t be a problem, would it?”
While Kyden shared in his friend’s amusement over the smart-mouthed woman—and he rather enjoyed that smart mouth—she had become a real problem. Her present behavior was classic Nexi Jones. She might be new to the Otherworld, but her brisk confidence would make most believe she’d never left the magical realm.
Dropping onto the couch across from her, Kyden shifted the sword strapped to his back to rest upon the cushion, when Briggs asked, “Hungry?”
The warm, comforting scent of home cooking drifting through the air reminded Kyden he hadn’t eaten for hours. “Always.”
In the kitchenette behind Nexi’s couch, Briggs grabbed two wooden bowls out of the cupboard. He removed the lid from an old steel pot on the stove, and scooped out what smelled like beef stew.
With bowls in hand, Briggs returned and placed a bowl on the coffee table in front of Nexi and she glared at the dinner. Then Briggs handed Kyden a bowl before he sat next to her, looking at Kyden. “Would you like to tell me what’s going on?” He gestured toward the fuming woman. “And why this little darling wanted to remove my furry balls.”
Kyden chuckled. A threat. Indeed.
He scooped up some beef and potatoes with his spoon. “Nexi and her parents were attacked by a group of werewolves. One managed to get away from us at the scene, and we’ve been hunting him, but the trail is cold.” To Nexi, he firmed his voice. “The Council wanted me to have a civilized conversation with Briggs about it. Not deal with your sorry excuse for an assassination attempt.”
She snorted. “His balls would’ve been an added ingredient to that stew you’re drooling over.” She hesitated, her cheeks flushing. “That is, if I’d known werewolves had increased scenting abilities.”
“Exactly why you shouldn’t have come. You haven’t been taught the ins-and-outs of supernaturals and their talents,” he countered out of sheer frustration. “A werewolf could’ve scented you the minute you arrived. And if that was an enemy waiting to kill you, I’d be picking up the pieces of your body right now.”
Her eyes blazed. “He’s not an enemy, though, is he?”
His lips parted to tell her—again—how much danger she continued to put herself in, but Briggs interjected, “The only troubles recently have been within the Texas pack. Some of the members in Austin have left the pack’s protection.”
Kyden ate his spoonful of the stew before he asked Briggs, “Think these wolves could be connected?”
Briggs shrugged. “It’s possible. The wolves haven’t joined another pack.”
As Kyden swirled the contents of his bowl and added more beef to his spoon, Briggs said, “Darlin’, will you please eat. Not only can I smell how hungry you are, but you look like you need it.”
Nexi stared at the bowl on the table and her internal struggle showed in her pinched expression. However, Kyden disagreed with Briggs. Nexi might be tiny, only coming up to his chest, but her small frame held curves he did his best not to notice. Besides, she’d gained back most of the weight she’d lost during the first week after her parents’ death.
She had a long stare-down with the bowl until she finally grabbed it, settling it onto her lap. “There, happy?”
“I’ll be happier once you eat it.” Briggs smiled.
She rolled her eyes. “You’re a persistent fluff ball.”
Kyden examined her, noticing the dark circles under her eyes had faded, and the emptiness he’d spotted in her gaze had lifted. He had sympathized with her. That was, until she’d gotten into the habit of running away from the Otherworld and he ended up having to search for her.
The more he chased her, however, the more his curiosity about her formed. The only problem was, by all appearances, she’d rather stuff a dagger into his gut than hold a causal conversation with him.
Perhaps he’d been a little short with her in the beginning, since chasing her hadn’t been what he’d called enjoyable. But he had softened his edge lately, not that she had noticed. Or perhaps it was that she didn’t care.
Maybe he liked that about her, too.
She finally took a bite of her stew. “All right, I admit it’s obvious you didn’t kill my parents, but then why did the Council and Haven think you could help with this?”
Briggs mouth curved. “You are new, aren’t you?”
“Brand spanking new.” She rested her spoon on the bowl and firmed her expression. “Unless you want me to break out the whips and chains, dish.”
“Well now, we wouldn’t want that.” Briggs winked before the playfulness in his features vanished. “I’ll answer you as simply as I can.” He placed both arms against the back of the couch, and rested an ankle over his knee. “From what I’ve seen, you don’t know much about werewolves?”
She looked at him with startling hatred. “Other than knowing your kind killed my parents, no.”
“My kind?” Briggs’s eyes crinkled. “Let’s hope I can change your fine opinion of us.”
Kyden clenched his jaw and instead of chastising her for being disrespectful to a close friend who deserved nothing less than the highest regard, he shut up and ate his meal.
“Keeping it simple,” Briggs continued. “Each state in the U.S. has a werewolf pack. Each of those packs has their own alpha who leads them, but those alphas are ruled by the Patriarch.”
After she swallowed, she asked, “Like the alpha of all alphas?”
Briggs nodded. “That’s a good way to see it.” He gestured to her bowl, and waited until she took another bite before he added, “Valor is our Patriarch. I’m his beta. His second in command, so to speak.”
She regarded him with a slight tilt to her head. “What does a beta do, exactly?”
“He’s a secretary,” Kyden stated.
Briggs tossed a pillow at Kyden’s head, which he caught and tucked under his arm, as Briggs smiled and went on. “It’s more than taking phone calls and scheduling meetings, wanker.”
Turning to Nexi, Briggs softened his voice. “My main duty is to help solve disputes within the packs. If the matter cannot be resolved, the Patriarch gets involved. Valor is always aware when trouble arises within the packs, which means I know, too. Does that answer your question sufficiently?”
She gave him a quick nod. “As the second-in-command, of course, you’d know the happenings in the wolf world. Makes sense.” She swirled her spoon in the stew, and whispered, “If anything about werewolves makes sense.”
Kyden winced at the raw pain in her voice. Every so often, she showed her despair even if she didn’t realize it. Judging by Briggs’s intense stare, he noticed it, too. Kyden wanted to help her understand. “Werewolves are tightly bound to their pack, so when one leaves, it always draws suspicion.”
When she lifted her head, she hid the agony inside of her—something else she’d been good at—and her expression held only curiosity. “A wolf wouldn’t leave his pack just to leave?”
Briggs shook his head. “Not without permission. The Texas alpha contacted Valor two nights ago after their search for the missing wolves turned up nothing.”
Good news, Kyden thought. They needed this lead. He finished the last bite of the stew and placed the bowl on the coffee table in front of him, then he said to Briggs, “Keep us updated if anything develops in Texas.”
Briggs inclined his head. ”Of course.”
Nexi settled her half-eaten dinner next to Kyden’s on the table. To Briggs, she said, “Since you’ve got fur, you’d know better than anyone. Why do you think these wolves killed my family?”
“Don’t know, darlin’,” Briggs responded, his voice gentle. “But trust me on this, there’s a reason for it. Wolves rarely kill maliciously. It’s just not in our nature.”
Her eyebrows drew together and her lips pursed. Kyden had seen the troubled look many times over the past month. She wanted answers to settle the chaos in her life—find closure—and no doubt she sought revenge. But she was going about it in the wrong way, which included putting herself in danger, more than once.
Kyden empathized with Nexi’s need for vengeance and wanted to bring those responsible to justice. However, she needed to allow the Council’s Guard to solve this instead of taking the matter into her own hands. The Guard existed for this very reason, to stop any supernatural that broke the Otherworld’s one law: thou shall not take a mortal life. She didn’t need to do this on her own. She had the Council backing her desire to find those responsible, and Kyden hungered to kill them for their crime.
He cleared his throat, which drew her attention to him, and her look shifted to a death stare. He chuckled. “Let’s go home, Álainn.”
In a split second, she was on her feet and striding past the coffee table. Before she reached the door, he blocked her way. He glanced down into a face that was beautiful regardless of how she was burning with hells-fire at him.
He studied her soft, creamy skin with light freckles dusting her nose. As he’d seen every time she caught him looking at her and before she’d hide her reaction from him, her cheeks flushed and eyes dilated. He didn’t doubt she also sensed the chemistry between them, but she also appeared to be unable to take a single word of advice without wanting to castrate him.
He had tried to ignore the attraction to her for a week, until he finally gave up realizing he’d be a fool not to explore his draw to her. Now he watched a cold distance slide across her face and he missed the heat he’d spotted. “So, there is a bit of guardian in you after all. Going all half-cocked as if you stood a chance of fighting anyone.”
She hesitated, visibly gulped, then her eyes narrowed, shedding any of the softness. “Well, you all keep drilling it into my head that I am a guardian, so what do you expect?” She stepped back and looked at his chin. “Prepping for another lecture?”
“Don’t need to.” Kyden nodded a goodbye to Briggs before he glanced to the troublemaker. “You have it coming, believe me.”
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