Spirit Magic – Ella Summers

A solitary werewolf howled in the distance, breaking the night’s heavy silence. Naomi paused at the entrance to the Paranormal Expo Center and looked up at the murky sky. The clouds had rolled in an hour ago, completely blotting out the stars. As far as bad omens went, tonight was a solid five on the apocalyptic scale. At around a seven, supernaturals started going crazy left and right. And by the time you got to a nine, hell’s bells were pealing at full volume and monsters roamed the streets. Naomi glanced around, scouring the shadows for any lurking beasts. She was more concerned about the actual beasts the werewolf’s call might have attracted, than she was with the werewolf itself. Werewolves didn’t turn into savage, mindless beasts at every full moon. They were just one kind of mage shifter, mages who had the power to cast shifting spells that turned them into beasts. Mage shifters weren’t feral or violent by nature—at least not more than any other mage was. You see, sometimes mages got magic-drunk, and that was when things started going south real fast. That was when Naomi and the other supernatural enforcers were sent in. The wolf called out again. Beside Naomi, her friend Alex let out a howl in response.

And it was a pretty convincing howl. It sounded just like an actual werewolf. The werewolf howled back. Sera elbowed her sister. “Stop egging him on, Alex.” Tonight, Alex and Sera were wearing identical black leather pants and forest green tank tops. The twin sisters themselves were not identical, but they were pretty damn close. Both had long, straight dark hair, though Sera’s had a hint of auburn in it, whereas Alex’s was nearly black. The two sisters were both slender but toned, a consequence of fighting monsters and supernatural menaces day in and day out. Alex grinned at Sera, her blue eyes twinkling with magic.

“I’ll have you know, smarty pants, that this particular werewolf is a lady.” The cool evening wind expelled a deep breath, and goosebumps prickled across Naomi’s skin. “How do you know it’s a girl?” Naomi asked Alex. “I know because the wolf told me.” “You’ve gained many skills through your blood bond with Logan. Talking to beasts is not one of them,” said Sera. Alex was bonded by magic to her assassin lover Logan, a human whose parents had infused him with the magic of supernaturals. His senses were heightened, his strength super, and he was resilient against magic attacks, among other perks. When Alex and Logan had bonded in a blood magic ceremony, Alex had gained some of Logan’s powers. “How do you know I can’t talk to beasts?” Alex demanded.

“You tell me everything,” replied Sera. “Not everything.” Alex glanced at Naomi, wiggling her eyebrows. “Some things are too scandalous for my sister’s sweet ears.” Naomi stepped inside the Paranormal Expo Center. “You know, there’s a reason people call you the evil twin. And the wicked sister,” she told Alex. “I endeavor to live up to their wicked expectations,” Alex said, smirking, as she and Sera followed Naomi inside. The halls were dark, as was to be expected at this late evening hour. They passed under a gigantic banner that brightly advertised the cooperative human-supernatural healers conference which kicked off tomorrow morning.

Naomi, Alex, and Sera moved quietly down the wide hall, their steps muffled by the carpet beneath their boots. The generic, totally forgettable carpeting, in this case red with green diamond patterns, was the gold standard of hotels and conference centers alike. The thousands of people who walked through this building each and every day had already worn the carpet down to a flat pancake. As they moved into the glass corridor, Sera and Alex drew their swords. Naomi already had an arrow nocked. They were ready for trouble. They were expecting it, hunting for it. After all, they hadn’t been sent here to appreciate the interior decorating. The werewolf howled again, its call hardly dulled by the walls and windows of the building. “I think it’s getting closer,” Sera said.

“Hey, don’t look at me,” said Alex. “I didn’t invite it to come and play. I don’t talk to wolves. I was just messing with you.” Naomi looked through the glass walls. In the few short minutes since they’d entered the building, the wind had blown away most of the clouds. Beyond the glass dome, splashes of red and orange streaked the sky, framing the setting sun. Its beauty was almost magical, contrasting strongly with the expo center’s gentrified off-white paint and Christmas-colored carpeting. A chorus of werewolves howled, answering the first caller. “A pack is gathering,” Naomi commented.

A sly smirk curled Sera’s lips. “Likely to get drunk and dance naked in the moonlight.” She was probably right. Mage shifters who turned into werewolves liked to gather in packs, like fraternities. And they loved to pull crazy stunts and laugh over them later. “As long as the werewolves are out there, they are safe from what is lurking in here,” said Naomi. Alex let out a sigh, which was both long-suffering and completely fake. “Whereas we are rushing headfirst into danger.” “You’re always rushing headfirst into danger,” Sera pointed out. Alex flashed her a grin.

“Let’s try to put a stopper in this danger before tomorrow morning,” Naomi said. When the doors opened tomorrow, human doctors and magic healers would flood the building, meeting for three days of discussions and presentations on the latest research into healing methodologies. They moved out of the glass corridor to enter the main hall. Every few feet, they passed under a colorful sign advertising the healers’ conference. One banner pictured a very academic-looking female human doctor in a white coat, holding a doctor’s bag. She exuded professionalism. The next banner, woven red and gold to represent the Mage Triad, featured a mage healer. The long-haired man was dressed in a suede vest and jeans over cowboy boots. Magic glowed on his hands. “He looks like someone who would try to kick your ass, not heal you,” Alex commented.

“In my experience, he’s a pretty typical example of a mage healer,” Naomi said. Sera nodded. “Like Dal.” Dal was the healer in the trio of Sera’s favorite combat mages. She had dubbed them ‘the commandos’. She was very fond of them, and so was Naomi. The commandos were tough in the field and hilarious off the field. “That one looks very sage,” Sera commented, looking up at the next banner. It displayed a human doctor, a balding dark-haired man. With his wool vest over a button-down dress shirt, he looked like a medical school professor.

The next banner featured a female healing fairy. She was an older lady, whose wild mop of grey hair framed her face. A dozen bead necklaces hung around her neck. Between the beads and her long flowery skirt, her barely-there sandals and the pouches of healing powders dangling from her waist, she looked like a denizen of Fairy Island, a pacifist community of fairies and mages just off of San Francisco. A big smile lit up the fairy’s face. She looked kind and approachable, the sort of person you knew would care for you, no matter what kind of trouble you’d gotten yourself into. “Unity must be this season’s color,” Naomi said, pointing up at the banner of a human and a mage standing together, shaking hands. “It’s sure an improvement over the tensions between humans and supernaturals that hit the world over the past year,” Sera pointed out. “The tensions aren’t over yet,” said Alex. “But things feel better lately,” Naomi said.

“Like the world is coming into balance.” “Don’t jinx it,” Alex teased her. “You know, the zombies are just waiting for us to become complacent before they all jump out from around the next corner.” “You are the one who attracts the zombies,” Sera said. Alex grimaced. “Don’t remind me. I hate zombies.” She shook off a shiver, then looked down the corridor waiting before them. “Well, if not zombies, then hell beasts.” Naomi directed her gaze to a dark corner.

Nothing jumped out. The hall was perfectly quiet. Naomi grinned at Alex. “See, no zombies. That’s the power of positive thinking.” Of course, maybe it was just the eye of the hurricane, the calm before the storm, a short respite before everything exploded. No, Naomi was determined to stay positive. She didn’t want to believe that the natural state of the world was anarchy. The world had just been out of balance for a while, that’s all. It would find its way back to harmony.

It just needed a nudge in the right direction. They continued along the corridor, their eyes peeled for something suspicious. For anything out of the ordinary. Alex hadn’t been joking about the hell beasts. Several of them had been sighted in the area over the past week. The enforcers believed this building to be a scene of demonic activity. That’s why Naomi and the Dering sisters were here. They were hunting for trouble. After all, hell beasts were just the appetizers to the main course: a demon. “This place gives me the creeps,” Sera whispered.

“Something feels…wrong.” “Yeah,” Alex agreed. “Like the punchline of some sinister plan is going to explode in our faces at any moment.” “Jokes have punchlines. Sinister plans do not,” said Naomi. “Well, the ones I’ve been tangled in lately sure have felt like a sick cosmic joke.” “That’s just the universe telling you to quit your current job and come work with us at Drachenburg Industries,” Sera told Alex with a smile. Unlike Naomi and Sera, Alex was not part of the supernatural enforcer squad. Right now, she was in town to visit Sera—but she couldn’t help herself when the opportunity for a monster hunt presented itself. Alex and Logan had just taken out a cell of the supernatural-hating terrorists down the coast, so they’d been in the area.

Right now, they were waiting for news of the next cell before they launched another attack. But there were just so many cells. Every time Alex and Logan took one out, they found two more. Naomi could read Alex’s frustration in her eyes. This mission had consumed her life for months. It had become so much a part of her that Naomi wondered what Alex would do when it was over. Would she come work for the enforcers? Naomi hoped she would. The enforcer squad was like one big family. A door creaked. Alex spun around, lifting her sword.

But it was just the wind. Alex sighed. She looked disappointed. “I can’t believe we’re missing pizza for this,” Sera commented as they continued moving down the hall. “I certainly didn’t expect to spend my Friday night like this,” said Naomi. Earlier today, Alex had suggested a girls’ afternoon out: pizza and a movie for the three of them. But then Naomi and Sera had gotten the call to check out the expo center. Light flashed overhead. Naomi aimed her arrow at the ceiling. She laughed at herself when she realized that flash of light was only the last remaining clouds dissolving to reveal the rising moon.

Naomi lowered her bow, breathing in and out slowly, trying to calm her racing nerves. Alex looked up at the moon shining through the glass ceiling. “Jumpy today, aren’t you?” “I’ll feel better once I get some brownies,” Naomi replied. “With ice cream on top,” added Sera. “Stop it.” Naomi glanced down at her rumbling tummy. “You’re making me drool.” Sera chuckled. “It’s a good thing I came along on this little excursion,” Alex said brightly. “You two would just get into trouble without me.

” Naomi laughed. “You can’t be serious.” Alex’s dark brows arched. “Sure I am.” Alex was constantly getting herself—and anyone around her—into trouble. “If you come work with us at Drachenburg Industries, you can keep us out of all sorts of trouble,” Sera said, nudging her sister. Alex snorted. “Well, it is tempting. Your fiancé Kai Drachenburg has a very big and impressive building. Almost as big and impressive as his dragon.

” Kai was a mage shifter who could turn into a dragon, the pinnacle of the mage shifter pyramid, the most magically difficult beast to turn into. “And he has a big weapons arsenal,” Sera said. Alex wiggled her eyebrows. Naomi nearly choked on her own chuckles. Sera’s gaze shifted between them. “I meant that literally.” Naomi patted her shoulder. “Honey, we have no doubt of that.” Sera was as sweet as cotton candy. She blushed at even the slightest hint of innuendo.

Kind of like how she was blushing right now. Sera cleared her throat. “We were talking about you joining me on Kai’s new enforcer squad, Alex. We are officially sanctioned by the Magic Council itself. We get to catch monsters and flash our badges at the misbehaving, self-entitled supernatural elite when they get high on magic and go crazy. All those people who looked down on us for years now have to do as we say. Last week, I ticketed Bethany Harrower for not cleaning up her purple poodle’s poop in Golden Gate Park. I made her scoop it up, while I looked on disapprovingly.” Sera’s eyes twinkled. “Finally, she got a taste of her own medicine.

It was glorious.” Bethany Harrower was a mage socialite of the highest order, the elder lady of the magical elite, a woman who treated each and every person on this earth like the sole purpose of their existence was to serve her. She had a purple poodle she dressed up with diamond collars. She cared more about that dog than she did about the people around her. “You sure do know how to sell the job, sister,” Alex laughed. “I would have given anything to see the look on Bethany Harrower’s face when you handed her the pooper scooper.” “The price of that joy isn’t as great as you might think. You need only join us,” Sera said. “Come on. It will be fun.

You’ll get paid better than you do now and we’ll get to wreak havoc together again. You can’t get any better than that.” “I do miss this. Making magical mayhem with my besties. Fighting beasts. Going home so sore you don’t know if you’ll be able to get out of bed the next morning,” Alex sighed. It wasn’t a sad sigh. It was packed with so much happiness that she looked like she might explode. “There are other perks,” Sera pressed on. “I even got my own armory closet.

” “That’s because Kai is sweet on you,” Naomi told her. “I didn’t get an armory closet. I have to break into yours when I need something.” “I’ll talk to Kai about getting you your own armory closet.” “Don’t worry about it. It’s much more fun stealing from yours.” Naomi grinned at her. “I’m sure it is.” Sera focused in on Alex again, as though she could sense her sister was close to surrender. “Riley is on the squad, the commandos are on it, Naomi is on it, I’m on it.

All the cool people are part of it.” “Well, not all the cool people.” Alex batted her long black eyelashes. “Let me think on it.” “Naomi was much easier to recruit than you,” Sera pouted. “It didn’t take much to recruit me,” Naomi said. “Working for Kai saved me from a terrible fate.” When the Magic Council had found out Naomi was a Spirit Warrior, that she possessed a rare fairy power which allowed her to travel between earth and the spirit realm, they’d tried to force her into service. But Naomi didn’t want to spend the rest of her days exiling people who’d annoyed the Magic Council to an eternity in hell. Hell was no paradise, and she would have had to live with the fact that she’d been the one to make those eternal sentences possible.

Naomi glanced at Sera. “Luckily for me, most people are afraid of Kai, including his comrades on the Magic Council.” “Kai is harmless,” said Sera. “A big softy.” “Yes, his dragon scales are particularly soft,” Alex whispered to Naomi—but not that quietly. Naomi clasped Sera’s hand. “Sometimes, it really pays to have an in with a mage who can shift into a twenty-ton dragon.” “So Naomi escaped a horrible fate, and Kai added the world’s only known Spirit Warrior to his enforcer squad,” said Sera. “An enforcer squad funded by the Magic Council,” Naomi added. “With a sizable cut of that budget taken by Kai’s company for handling the administration.

” Alex whistled, long and low. “Your fiancé is one crazy, clever dragon,” she told her sister. Sera shrugged, but she wasn’t pulling off the nonchalant act very well. She was practically bursting at the seams with pride. “He has a degree in business.” “You can certainly see that in action here,” Naomi said. Sera honed in on Alex once more. “Logan should join the enforcer squad too.” “Oh, yes,” Alex said, rolling her eyes. “He’d love nothing more than to have to do whatever Kai says.

” “For Logan, doing Kai’s bidding is definitely right up there with eating cheese out of a bottle,” Naomi agreed. Alex snickered. “Calling that yellow sludge ‘cheese’ is an affront to cheeses everywhere,” she said in a deep voice vaguely resembling Logan’s. Naomi was shaking so hard with laughter that she nearly dropped her bow. Alex slapped her on the back like she was dying from hiccups. “Real professional, Naomi.” Confusion crinkled Sera’s brow. “What am I missing?” “Logan has been coming around my house a lot lately,” Naomi explained. “He and Makani are bonding over their love of crafting weapons.” “And making snide comments about our cheese,” added Alex.

“There’s been some wrestling too.” Naomi licked her lips. “Yesterday’s match was a killer. I didn’t blink for the whole ten minutes. I was afraid I’d miss something.” Naomi tapped her head. “I have it all stored in here. Every muscle.” “Every rip of fabric.” Naomi fanned herself.

“This is what you two were doing yesterday? This is why you were apparently too busy to hang out with me?” Sera said. “If you’d been there to watch, you’d understand,” Naomi told her. “Sera is a good girl,” Alex said, a sparkle in her eyes. “She doesn’t watch half-naked men wrestle.” “Which reminds me.” Naomi turned toward Sera. “Did you get my invitation to the cookout at my place next week? Bring Kai too.” Alex tittered. Sera considered Naomi and Alex, then she said, “I was going to say yes, but now I’m wondering if you have ulterior motives.” “Oh?” Naomi cast a swirling halo of sparkling pink Fairy Dust over her head.

Wind magic funneled around Alex. A pair of translucent wings unfolded from her back. “You two don’t fool me for a moment,” Sera told them. “This evening will not devolve into fisticuffs, I trust.” “Not fisticuffs. A tournament to test their prowess,” Alex said. “Guys like to do that. Especially when they have an audience.” “Magic flashing. Knives flying,” Naomi said, setting the scene.

“Shirts coming off,” Alex added. “Their shirts will come off?” Sera asked. “Sure,” Alex said. “Just like in those romance novels you like to read, Sera. The ones with the topless men on the cover.”

.

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