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Authors: Dannika Dark

Tags: #paranormal fantasy

Twist

Also By Dannika Dark:

 

THE MAGERI SERIES

Sterling

Twist

TWIST

A Mageri Series Novel

Book 2

By Dannika Dark

 

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2012 Dannika Dark

No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author. You must not circulate this book in any format. Thank you for respecting the rights of the author.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cover design by Dannika Dark.

http://dannikadark.blogspot.com/

Acknowledgements:

 
I want to thank all the wonderful people who have provided invaluable input and kept me laughing through this process. A big thanks to the betas for your hard work and hours dedicated during the craziest time of year. Above all, thanks to the readers for your encouraging e-mails, patience, and show of support.

 

All men should strive

to learn before they die

what they are running from, and to, and why.

 

—James Thurber

Chapter 1

 

“C-8.”

“Miss,” I said, twisting open a chocolate cookie. I scraped the icing off with my teeth and nibbled at the edge, watching Simon squirm in his chair.

I lifted my chin, feigning confidence. “B-10.”

“Hit.” Simon leaned on his elbow, planting his cheek against a fist.

“Ready for some humble pie?” I snickered. “B-9.”

“Miss!” he sang, wagging his eyebrows. “C-2.”

He squinted at me with those brown eyes when I flicked a tiny white peg off the polished table. It skipped across the floor, twirling in a circle near the stove. Simon lacked humility, and I lacked grace.

“You win.”

“Say it.”

“Come on, Simon, you won. Don’t be such a
child
.”


Say it
.”

He folded his arms. Hell would freeze over before my English friend would let me walk away from that table without saying the words of defeat he longed to hear.

I rolled my eyes dramatically. “You sunk my battleship.”

“Atta girl.”

He turned my game board around. “You shouldn’t be so sensitive, Silver. What you lack is conviction. You’re so eager to beat me that you forget all about strategy.”

“Perhaps our game sessions should end; clearly I’m not enough of a challenge for you.”

“Such a drama queen. Didn’t play nice in the schoolyard, did you? If you only see the next move, you’ll never win the game. You have to look further ahead. I can give you an example.”

“Of course you can.”

His lips thinned and I pretended not to notice. Simon loved comparing life with games.

“In chess, you try to so hard to protect all your pieces that you wind up spending half your moves running until you’ve been cornered. You need to be willing to make sacrifices. Perhaps that pawn you so desperately cling to is your pride.”

“Don’t play that hand, Simon. I’m really not in the mood tonight.” I kicked my chair back and stood up. “I know what you’re doing, but I don’t care to have a life lesson wrapped up in a game analogy. The simple fact is—I’ll never beat you.”

Simon rested his chin in the palm of his hand, and tapped his cheek playfully. “Self-doubt is a persuasive mistress; careful not to shag her or you’ll never get your balls back.”

“Why does everything have to be about sex with you?”

A snort escaped. “I thought it was about games?”

“Aren’t they one in the same?”

He nodded. “Truer words were never spoken. Learn from your mistakes, love. You can be
so
predictable.”

He chomped on a cookie while studying the placement of my ships.

His bad boy looks were deceiving, because Simon was an intelligent and resourceful Mage who was a demon with knives. Teaching new Learners how to protect their light was his bread and butter. I also learned that his reputation preceded him as a strategist. We could contract our services to other Breed, but the Mageri paid well and took care of its own. Simon worked independently. He was an Englishman who recently returned to his way of life in America. Either that, or the country ousted him. He turned down three job offers since the move, insisting he was in retirement. Deep down, Simon hated the politics.

Long ago, there were no governments within the Breed; we were lawless. Humans feared us, wars raged, and there was no order. I read about slavery, and even some who were driven to extinction from conflicts that were ages old. It was necessary for each Breed to establish rules and structure before we destroyed ourselves. For Mage, a higher order called the Mageri was created, with individual Councils for various territories. Rogues who did not comply with the laws were hunted, and there was a sense of comfort among the people.

The Breed has separate laws, places of business, history, and culture. A world brimming with its own magic—a world I rarely saw. My Ghuardian, Justus, kept me under close watch. His responsibility was to protect, educate, and shelter the hell out of me.

He took his job seriously.

Justus schooled me, both mentally and physically. I learned what I was capable of, and he worked to sharpen my abilities. A Mage does not automatically know how to use their gifts; a significant amount of calculation goes into it.

Two nights out of the week were spent with the sexiest game geek this side of the East Coast. That would be Simon Hunt: the man, the myth, the bane of my existence.

Simon’s game collection was unparalleled, and it pleased him immensely that I spent countless hours getting my ass kicked. I wasn’t bitter, but in my defense—
no one
should have seven hotels on one property.

When I first met Simon, he didn’t own a television, but when I started hanging around, it became our late night ritual. He loved the old creature features.

I used to live in what I considered a big city until I moved to Cognito. Nothing compares. It’s a metropolis polluted with traffic, cluttered buildings, coffee shops, and nightlife. It’s also the capital for the supernatural. Breed live within human society; we are not hideous creatures that lurk in the shadows. We’re standing in line behind you at the grocery store checkout, eating burgers at the local diner, sitting two rows ahead in the theater, and coexisting with humans—all without your knowledge. Physically, most of us pass as an ordinary person, but if you look close enough, you’ll notice subtle differences. The eyes are often telling, but most humans ignore the strange. Even among Mage, flickers of dim light dance in the irises during an energy burst, often imperceptible to an inattentive eye.

I crossed the living room and sat on the couch, smoothing out the wrinkles on my blouse. Simon plucked the pegs away from the game board, watching me from the corner of his eye.

What he lacked in brawn, he more than made up for in charisma. His eyes were as sweet as candy and flustered many a woman. Simon possessed soft features and a dimple on his left cheek that wouldn’t quit. His smile was contagious—lush lips in the center that thinned out to wicked lines. He also knew how to turn the English accent on and off to his advantage. Wavy brown hair dusted his shoulders, and most of the time it never touched a brush. I suspected the real reason he kept his hair long was to cover up the tattoo at the nape of his neck. The one he never mentioned but once.

When I first met the great Mr. Hunt, he came off as the kind of man who would be holding an electric guitar and licking a woman's boot from heel to cuff with his pierced tongue. The usual dress code was jeans and a mangled shirt, but he also owned the most curious collection of leather. Simon’s appearance was 50% rebellion, 30% comfort, and 100% attention. He dressed smart when he wanted to. He just never wanted to.

“What is it, love?”

When I didn’t respond, he rose from his chair and sat beside me. The cushion sank, and I leaned against him as he curled his fingers through my long black hair.

“Still fretting about that friend of yours?”

He was talking about Adam. The last time we spoke was the night Adam challenged Samil, my Creator. It was a scheme they hatched up to use Adam, because of the rules the Council put in place. They all wanted Samil dead, but the death of a Mage went against the laws of the Mageri. The only way was to remove his power to the weakest challenger—a human.

“Novis is an experienced maker,” Simon assured. “He has made many a respectable Mage. If his decision is to separate you two, then it’s with good reason. Look here. I do not want to see any long faces tonight. It’s
our
night, so don’t be a sourpuss.”

Simon’s wicked fingers wiggled around my rib cage, sending out a flutter of electricity.

“Stop it!” I snapped.

Simon dragged me over his lap and tickled me until I fell on the floor, just shy of hitting the coffee table. A red, lacy article of clothing beneath the sofa caught my eye, and I snagged it. “What’s this?”

He snatched the pair of panties dangling from my fingertips. “Last night’s dessert; now get up off the floor.”

“Why? Afraid I’ll find the rest of her clothes down here? I hope she left wearing something decent.”

“No woman leaves my apartment decent,” he said with a wink.

“If you buy me dinner, I’ll be a happy woman.”

“That better be a promise,” he said. “Now what say we get Twister out for later?” He stepped over me, lifting a black leather coat from the chair.

While he shuffled into the sleeves, I noticed his dimple was on prominent display. It was an adorable feature on his otherwise scandalous face. We played almost every game, except one. Twister was
out of the question
with his flirty behind.

I adored him despite his flaws. Simon was a good friend to me and always kept me in hysterics. He hadn’t laid a finger on me in a suggestive way lately, although it wasn’t without noticeable restraint. He
was
a man, and I ruffled his needs on occasion. We kindled a fire once, and neither was willing to strike the match again. Mistakes happen.

“Not on your life, but if you pick up a cheesecake, I’ll
endure
a game of Risk.”

His eyes brightened. “The cheesecake remains in the fridge until I dominate Europe.”

“Whatever.”

So easy to please
.

Risk was his weakness, and I rarely agreed to play. I couldn’t stand all that territory and global dominance shit.

He locked the door on his way out and I grabbed my phone. I was breaking the rule about severing human ties. Justus complicated my life with rules, and while I accepted these new expectations, it was a difficult adjustment. My heart ached when I thought about the simple pleasures of my previous life. I missed the feel of southern heat on my skin, the taste of strawberry ice on my tongue from my favorite snow cone stand, and watching life pass me by at a casual pace. I missed going to the movies because Justus never went. I missed the connection I had with girlfriends—the kind you could talk to for hours about nothing. For various reasons, there weren’t as many women as men among Breed. I was also new, and it made it that much harder to make friends when I only spent time at the occasional Breed bar.

I missed Sunny. In my human life, we shared an unbreakable friendship. Only now, I feared she would not be receptive to any of this, but my heart was telling me to try.

Sunny had moved out of her downtown apartment, but the girl who sublet it gave me her private number. I decided to make the call at Simon’s house where I could have a moment alone. Justus kept a tight watch on me—that man probably had the Mage laws tattooed on his ass.

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