THE WICKED
The Magical Sword Book Two
(releases August 23rd with Liquid Silver Books)




“Stop! That is enough,” Kyden roared. His thick body and luscious muscles quivered with pure rage. Squared jaw clenched, plump lips in a thin unhappy line, and his normal light green bedroom eyes squinted with the need to kill someone. Even his usual soft brown hair that hung messily across his forehead appeared pissed off.
Why?
The answer was quite simple, Finn and Trefan. Brothers, practically twins I’d say, but Trefan was younger―closer to my age of twenty-four than Finn who was Kyden’s age of twenty-eight. Both had the whole surfer vibe―blond, blue-eyed, sleek sculpted muscles and presently had Kyden pinned against the wall forcing him still.
The hold was necessary since Kyden was about the tear everyone in the room to pieces. That’s one thing about Kyden, he may be a tad protective. Scratch that―he’s outright possessive. It was the one issue that never ceased to be a battle between us. He’d possess―I’d throttle him. We were still working out the quirks.
“We need to test her,” Talon, the Master of Guardians shouted back.
He’s part of the Council. They’re the big wigs of the Otherworld―the leaders as such. He was also Kyden’s dad―looked a lot like him, dazzling green eyes, shaggy brown hair, square chin―even shared the same spectacular body. That much was clearly evident since he wore what all Guardians did―an armor kilt, a sword strapped to their back and nothing else. Sure, he was hot, but like your friend’s dad hot.
“If you cannot manage being here,” Talon roared, “leave at once.”
Kyden swore, then tore his arms away from Finn and Trefan who happily obliged. Restraining him would be compared to holding back a freight train―not very much fun.
I pulled my focus away from the others and drew in a deep breath for bravery. “I’m fine,” I groaned. “Let’s just get this over with.” Lord knows I meant those words. Forty minutes of having my ass handed to me is not my definition of a fun night.
Talon called it being tested. I called it being abused. My control needed to be proven that I could handle my magic gifted to me as a Witch when I fought as a Guardian.
As shitty as this was―and it was certainly shitty―I wouldn’t have passed up on this opportunity. I was done missing my Guardian role like a kid misses their blanket. It had been a month since the Lazarus incident. Lazarus, a vampire, who on his quest to rule the Otherworld had kidnapped Kyden and tried very hard to kill me. Thankfully, my magic came out in the nick of time, and Lazarus was dead by my very hand.
This past, while it wasn’t wasted, I’d learned a lot since the Council agreed to let me join Kyden on his assignments, probably in an attempt to save my sanity from being bored to death. But I wasn’t allowed to get in on the action. If I didn’t get back out there soon, a serious hissy fit was on the brink. I was craving to get my hands dirty and defend humans against badass supernaturals.
So, I endured this test, which meant my being used as Talon’s personal punching bag.
By the looks of it, I was going to endure more.
Talon strode toward me, reached down, and lifted me to my feet in a way that wasn’t meant to be gentle.
With that lack of consideration, I slammed my fist into his face. My knuckles connected with his jaw, which sent his head whipping back. It really didn’t hurt either of us. Stung a bit, but being a Guardian came with a built in morphine drip. As Talon’s head resumed its proper position, I instantly realized what I had done. “Oh, shit,” I exhaled. Not the smartest decision I’d ever made.
He slowly raised his gaze to mine with blood dipping off his lip. “You want to have a go then?”
The amusement on his face had me scoping out the nearest exit. I’m brave, but I ain’t stupid. He was about to buff the floor with my ass.
“I’m...” That was all that escaped my mouth before he pummeled me with the full force of his body. A breeze swept by as I soared across the Guardian’s hall wooden floor.
Before I even had the chance to stop sliding, Talon was on me. He began to strike with pure skill―throwing punches while I blocked and dodged each one. It was impossible to hit him back, his arms so friggin’ fast. He is the best Guardian in the Otherworld and I’m just a five-foot-five female Guardian. Maybe described as pretty with long and wavy, dirty blonde hair, hazel eyes that were always more green than brown, I always thought I was better described as plain.
I did have one thing that gave me a little edge―my Witch Magic. Most females would last a few minutes battling against Talon. The magic made me stronger, quicker, but apparently not nearly as strong as I needed to be to fight against him. The longer this went on, the more obvious it became that he had been taking it easy on me. Now, that rule no longer applied and pain was becoming my constant companion.
After a hard blow to my cheek, my entire body flew up in the air then landed with a loud bang against the floor. One of my not so great personality traits is my temper. I may have a little problem controlling it. I’d never admit that out loud, especially with Kyden within hearing range―and it just so happened that final blow hurt enough, my tolerance reached its limit.
What happens when my temper shows itself? My magic comes out and there was no stopping it now. Wind began to whip around me. My hair flew around my face as dust glittered through the air. The sword strapped to my back was thumping across my shoulder blade, my entirely too short armor kilt was lifting slightly to reveal the tight silver shorts, but thankfully, the matching armor bra was staying in place.
Talon immediately froze and gave me a speculative glare.
I was losing it. This couldn’t happen. If it did, my Guardian life would be over. This was the problem. My magic was intertwined with my anger. Whenever I’d get mad, the world would suffer because of it. Thus, why I needed to be tested this way. Talon wanted to be sure that if he sent me out on assignments again that I would in fact save humans instead of killing them with my unruly power.
Before it overpowered me, I quickly looked at Kyden. He had taken a step forward when my gaze met his. His expression was anxious, but strong. I heard every word he was trying to tell me. I had to calm down. He knew how much I wanted to return to assignments―needed to return.
Instantly, I closed my eyes and let the memories of the two of us fill my mind. Not until the heat burning through my blood and the wind coursing through the air settled, did I open them again.
“That’s it, Nexi,” Zia, the Master of Witches, praised by the sidelines. She was what stars pay thousands of dollars to look like―strawberry blonde locks and all. But she was more than just a beautiful face―she was as close to a mother as I had here in the Otherworld. Well, a mother who looked just a few years older as did every supernatural―just an added perk about being an immortal. Once you hit thirty, you stop aging.
A scuffle on the floor drew my focus back. My gaze connected with Talon just as he lunged forward. I dodged his move with a quick spin then jumped to my feet. Reacting instantly, I slammed a fist hard into his back sending him straight to the ground. He flipped over, and his expression was about as amused as it comes.
The amusement here was clear―as if I stood a chance in hell of defeating Talon. I wasn’t really counting on it. It’s just I can’t get hit and do nothing. I do have my pride and all.
A split second passed then Talon showed me just how right my line of thinking was. Pain blasted through me as he leveled me with the weight of his body, which only intensified when he sliced deep into my bicep, leaving my arm to all but dangle.
I staggered to my feet, not giving into the pain stealing my breath. Without a chance to recover, he smacked me in the face with the grip of his sword. I staggered again, forcing my feet to hold. I glanced at Kyden and he came running toward me. The world spun. Stars sparkled before my eyes. Then, darkness washed across my vision as I tumbled into a welcome deep slumber.
* * * *
My eyes fluttered open. Urgh. It was foggy.
I blinked a few more times. When the fogginess cleared, warm feelings instantly spread through me as the hammer beam roof sitting atop a gothic cathedral reminded me I was in the Guardian’s Hall―home.
I wiggled a bit, stopped by strong arms. When I turned my head, I saw Zia.
“You did extremely well,” she said. “Quite proud. Wouldn’t you say, Talon?”
Talon stood beside her, beaming. “It took much longer than I thought to knock you out. Well done.”
I snorted. “If I knew that’s all you wanted I would’ve blacked out sooner.” They laughed.
Kyden’s laughter wasn’t among them. I glanced back to my left to see tormented light green eyes staring down at me. I raised my hand to Kyden’s square jaw, and he leaned into it. “I’m not hurt,” I told him, which was the truth. Zia’s magical healing abilities gifted from the Spirit Element were definitely a blessing. One touch from her and there wasn’t a trace of injury―not even a bruise.
“This will never happen again,” Kyden said fiercely then dove in to capture me in one of his leg wobbling, blood boiling kisses.
When he drew away, I chuckled. “You’ll get no arguments from me there.”
Suddenly, Haven’s voice blasted through the hall. “Oh gosh! That was horrible,” she cried as she ran madly toward me. Her normally cute features were squished into nothing. Her curly brown hair bounced as she ran to me, and her big blue eyes filled with tears. “I wasn’t even here and I could barely stand it.” Her squeaky voice squeaked higher. When she reached me, she tore me from Kyden’s arms and hugged me in a death grip.
I smacked her back. “Can’t breathe.”
She pushed me back and ran her hands all over me. “You’re fine. You’ve got your arms.” She patted my thighs. “Your legs are still there.” She sighed deeply, and sat back. “Oh thank the jelly beans, you’re okay.”
Poor Haven. She always suffered my emotions. That’s the not-so-great part to our soul-sister bond―we can sense what each other is feeling. Unfortunately, it was worst for her since she was always on a roller coaster with me around. Haven was one of those annoying types―always happy and immensely bubbly. But it was impossible not to love her. Hearing that you’re soul-bound to another woman should have been weird―maybe would have if the bond wasn’t so needy. I’d be lost without her.
“I’m fine.” I hesitated, re-thinking that thought. “Well I am now.” I glanced at Talon. “Please tell me I passed?”
Pride lightened Talon’s raw demeanor. “I believe you will do fine.” He glanced at Zia, my gaze following his. “Do you agree?”
She nodded, just as proud. “I do. She seems to be able to control herself when she’s fighting. As long as you keep your emotions in check I see no problem here.”
A blush rose to my cheeks. I understood her meaning perfectly. A few nights ago, Kyden and I had a little squabble about this test. His position was undeniably against the idea that I be tried in such a way, which resulted in our residence being put through a mild tornado. I shrugged away the embarrassment. No one’s perfect.
“Isn’t this sweet,” a smooth, velvety voice said.
When I glanced toward the voice, I saw it belonged to a Guardian who was leaning up against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest. He belonged in the Navy Seals and had the buzz-cut to prove it. He was tough, but boy was he pretty. His blond hair, eyes a deep blue, he was made for the cover of GQ Magazine.
“Ryker,” Talon said. “Come in. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow night.”
“What can I say,” Ryker said sarcastically. “I was excited to see you all.” He pushed off the doorframe and started forward. His gaze very much fixed on my face. “Hmm. Who do we have here?”
Kyden shoved me off and stood quicker than I could say hot potato.
“Look at her again and you will wish you hadn’t,” Kyden growled, puffing out his chest as if he was about to turn G.I. Handsome into G.I. Jane.
First, I rubbed my sore butt then I snapped my gaze to Kyden, appalled. His possessiveness has always been to the extreme, but this was definitely pushing the limits. Never had he used such a curt tone or been so outright angered. Ryker was just looking at me, and not even in a let’s go heat up the sheets way either. Why was Kyden so provoked?
Kyden’s reaction only deepened Ryker’s intrigue. “Someone of interest indeed.”
“She is mine,” Kyden’s voice was so angry it came out as a whisper.
My shock increased. What the hell was he doing, and who the hell was this guy?
Well, I had just about enough of this ball bashing. I quickly stood and stuck my hand out. “Hi. I’m Nexi. Ryker, right?”
Ryker took my hand and laid a soft kiss on my palm. “You’ve got that right, babe.”
Before I could respond to his sultry tone, Kyden slapped his hand away, stinging mine in the process. My glare came in an instant. “That’s twice now you’ve hurt me. Stop it,” I snarled, rubbing my hand.
Kyden didn’t even give me a second glance―his angry gaze remained glued on Ryker’s every move.
Haven stepped forward and grabbed my sore hand. “You gotta be pooped. Finn will help sort this out.”
“I’m leaving,” I told Kyden.
Kyden and Ryker stood nose-to-nose. Zia looked annoyed and Talon smiled in amusement. Finn and Trefan had positioned themselves close to the two Guardians, looking ready to referee a smack down at the WWF.
“I said, I’m leaving,” I repeated for no reason. He never moved an inch, nor said a word. My only response was to sigh and leave the two imbeciles to their ridiculous staring contest.
The second Haven and I were out of the Guardian’s Hall, I asked, “Who the hell was that?”
Haven wiggled her brows. “That’s Kyden’s rival.”
“Rival?”
“Yup. They trained together. Basically went head to head for years until Ryker left the Council to be a shield for the Mistress of the Mid-West.”
I froze and could only imagine how unbelievably confused I looked. “The…who of the what?”
Haven hadn’t missed the look and giggled in response. “She’s a vampire. I forget you don’t know any of this. Hmm...let’s see.” She hesitated for a moment tapping her lip. “Okay, keeping it simple, Vamps have divided up the U.S. into regions. You know, kinda like the wolves―just different and on a bigger scale.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! There’s Alpha vampires running each region of the United States?”
“No. Not Alpha’s. They’re Mistresses, but you get the gist of it.”
We started back down the hall, walking past Guardian residences―one by one, doors labeled by names in gold calligraphy resting within the stone walls of the castle. “And Ryker worked for her?”
She nodded. “He was her guard, but you’ve seen him. I’m sure she used him for other purposes as well.”
“I’m sure she did.” I had to admit, he was definitely a piece of eye candy. “So, what’s with all the tension between them? I’ve never seen Kyden act that way...well...” I hesitated trying to recall, “…ever. He looked about a second away from digging Ryker’s grave.”
“They’ve always been like that―always trying to outdo each other. Whenever one would do something, the other would do it too, only better.”
“Okay, I get that, but what was all that about in there?”
She shrugged. “Just be prepared for Kyden to keep his leash on you extra tight with Ryker around because I can almost promise he’ll be chasing after your tail.”
“First of all, Kyden has no leash on me whatsoever.” A leash, bah at the word. Haven laughed loudly, and gave me a wink. I scowled and continued. “And what makes you think he’ll be chasing after me?”
“Well, duh! Kyden has something Ryker doesn’t―you. It’s always a competition between them. I assume things will be exactly the same.”
“Wonderful.” I sighed deeply. “This sounds as if it’s going to be very, very annoying.”
“Probably will.” Then, she beamed. “How ‘bout some lasagna? Finn says it’s my specialty.”
I groaned a little and forced a smile. I loved Haven. She was more than a sister to me―she was like my better half, but she did have a flaw. She couldn’t cook. Her meals always left the stomach a little worse for wear.
We passed through two long hallways of the castle until we reached the arched doorway that read Witch.
The castle in the Otherworld is massive and my sense of direction is a blemish I never rectified. I was glad the Witch’s house wasn’t far from the Guardians―it’s easy to get lost around here. Trust me, I’ve done it on many occasions. I’d resorted to sticking to places I knew as much as possible.
Once at Haven’s residence, she opened the door and when I stepped in, I was once again in awe of her great design. She may be a bad chef, but she could put a room together with style―modern with all the fixings.
“What can I help with?” I asked, following her into the kitchen.
She pushed me toward the steel glass top table. “Nothing. You’ve been through enough for one night. This won’t take me long.”
Her words couldn’t have been any more accurate. Haven’s contraptions weren’t something that usually worked up a sweat.
An hour later, and five minutes remaining on the oven’s timer, Kyden and Finn moseyed in.
“Oh look, its nincompoop.” I laughed, as Kyden strode across the room and lifted me from my chair, kissing me deeply.
When he drew away, his brow arched in a question. “Nincompoop?”
It was difficult to hold back my laughter, but bursting into hysterics right in his face wasn’t something he’d appreciate so I refrained. “You don’t know what it means do you?”
He shook his head and eyed me, full of suspicion.
“Gives you something to look into then.” I went up on my tippy-toes and pulled his head down to kiss his nose. “I think you’ll find the definition quite appropriate.”
“Appropriate you say?” he purred, and cupped the back of my head to draw me closer. “Inappropriate are where my thoughts linger, Álainn.”
Álainn, Gaelic for beautiful, his little pet name for me, which still sent butterflies through me every time I heard it. “Oh my, inappropriate?” I asked in my best southern belle charm.
Haven sighed. “Would you two stop it! You are distracting me. You’re going to make me screw up.”
I laughed to myself. Like she needed help in that department.
Kyden reciprocated with his devilish grin, just another thing that caused the current butterflies whipping through my belly and set me down to pull a stool up beside me.
It wasn’t long before Haven was done and placed the food on the table. The lasagna looked dry and brittle. The Caesar salad was completely drenched in dressing and the breadsticks had burned to a crisp.
I gulped and hoped I could get this down without gagging. “Looks yummy, Haven.”
Finn smiled big.
Haven started scooping the Lasagna onto his plate. “Why’s Ryker back?” she asked him.
Before answering, he dug right in, and even motioned for her to give him more. Now, that’s love if I’ve ever seen it.
After a couple of bites, he shrugged, and glanced to Kyden, “Do you know?”
Kyden was eyeing his food like a sworn enemy. “Talon said he was bored of taking care of the Mistress.” He finally looked away from his plate, his face grim. “He’s looking for a change of scenery.”
Is it the food or Ryker’s return causing his grumpiness? I examined Kyden closely for a moment trying to decipher his mood. Finally, concluding it was probably a bit of both.
My curiosity was reaching sky-high limits about Ryker, but now was not the time to discuss him. No need to stir the pot when Kyden was so obviously on edge. Those questions would have to wait, but we didn’t need to talk about him directly for me to get some answers.
“I still can’t wrap my mind around this whole Mistress Vampire thing.” I laughed, trying to remain nonchalant. “What are they like?”
Haven shrugged. “Some are nice. Others are...”
“Others,” Finn interrupted. “Have a serious amount of dead shoved up their arse.”