Published by: Monster House Books
Publication date: May 30th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
For Elea, there’s never been a better time to turn away from witch life. The Tsar is in exile. The Vicomte is dead. And Rowan? Falling for him only broke her heart. Instead of casting spells, Elea spends her days running Braddock Farm and enjoying the flirtations of the very handsome and non-magical Philippe. Everything is going perfectly, except for one problem.
Someone’s trying to kill her.
Shujaa is a Changed One, a Creation Caster mage whose mutated form makes him invincible in battle. Now that the Tsar and Vicomte are gone, Shujaa wants to rise and rule. To do so, he must eliminate all those powerful enough to oppose him, and Elea is top on his list. Anyone who offers her aid quickly ends up dead.
In the end, there’s only one person who can keep Elea safe while helping her defeat Shujaa: Rowan. Like it or not, Elea must team up with her old love. With Philippe along for the ride, Elea plans to team with Rowan without losing her heart this time. But that’s when all her plans fall apart…
Monster House Books is celebrating the launch of the ebook version of CHERISHED! As a result, the first two books in the series are specially priced for a limited time! To find out more, visit: http://monsterhousebooks.com/blog/cherishedpromo
In the last three months, I hadn’t raised the dead, animated any skeletons, or cast a single kill spell. For me, that was an achievement. After all, I was a Grand Mistress Necromancer turned farm girl…And I loved my new life.
All right. In complete honesty, I was dying to cast a silencer spell right now. The reason was simple—Gail and Lizzie Dunkel had joined me for a wagon ride into town.
“Who do you think we’ll meet in the village?” asked Lizzie brightly. She and her twin sister flanked me on the driver’s bench. The pair both had big blue eyes, tanned skin, long blonde hair, and curvy figures. They even wore matching green gowns. I was their opposite: long dark hair, brown eyes, porcelain complexion, and slim build.
“Perhaps the widow Feyer or the Hartmann boys,” replied Gail. The two went on to list other farm families we might encounter. Their chatter was high-pitched and soothing, like a pair of happy birds. Still, I ached to cast my spell. Why? Without it, the sisters would eventually ask me to join their conversation.
In my life, magick came easily. But small talk? Not at all.
My horse Smokey took a familiar turn into an orchard. Bright morning sunlight gleamed off the trees.
“What beautiful apples,” sighed Lizzie.
“They look delicious,” added Gail. She rubbed her stomach. “How I’d love to stop and try one.” She stared at me pointedly. After all, I was holding the reins to Smokey.
Even so, we weren’t stopping. The fruit looked too waxy and perfect, which meant this orchard had been hit with freeze blight. Sure, the apples looked gorgeous. But once you bit in, you’d find the colorful shell was filled with foul white goop. Yes, there was still an apple in the milky slop, but it wasn’t anything you’d want to eat—more of a small, gray and disgusting lump. Most decidedly not delicious. I gently flicked my reins so Smokey would move a little faster.
Lizzie fluttered her lashes at me. “Can’t we please stop, Elea?”
I pretended not to hear her question.
Gail nudged me in the ribs. “You do talk, don’t you?”
I straightened my spine. What was I afraid of, exactly? Not so long ago, I rode through far more dangerous woods than these, all in the hopes that bandits would attack me. Plus, I raised thousands of Necromancers from the dead. I even exiled none other than Viktor, a fearsome mage who could wield the hybrid magick of both Creation Casters and Necromancers. Back then, I feared no one—I was a Grand Mistress Necromancer on a mission. Now, I was merely an ex-mage trying to chitchat with some other farm girls.
Small talk. How hard could that be?
“We aren’t stopping.” I nodded to the trees. “Those are covered in freeze blight.”
The girls began gasping and waving their arms in panic.
I ground my back teeth. As it turned out, small talk was rather hard.
“Freeze blight,” cried Lizzie. “Oh, no! It couldn’t have hit our shire.”
“This is terrible,” added Gail. “There will be no food this winter. We’re all going to die.”
Lizzie gripped my upper arm. “You’re just teasing…Aren’t you?”
A long pause followed in which I silently cursed my friend Philippe. This had all been his idea. He’d urged me to transport the Dunkel sisters in what he called his Elea Stops Frightening The Locals plan. I’d tried to argue my way out of it, but for some reason, it was impossible to win a verbal battle with Philippe. Now, I was stuck answering Lizzie’s question.
I kept my features carefully level. My Necromancer training taught me to mask my emotions. “I’m sure we’ll all be fine.” Mostly I said this because I could always cast spells that would kill the blight and speed the harvest. But I’d only do that if things got really dire. One rotten orchard wasn’t enough to break my vow against magick.
Here was my issue. My parents left me Braddock Farm. It was all I had to remember them by. I wanted to honor their legacy and become a farm girl once more. My best chance to do that was in giving up on magick altogether. “Perhaps we should talk about something else?” I asked.
“I love this idea,” said Lizzie. “How delightful that you wish to join our conversation.” Lizzie looked so please, I almost felt guilty for not wanting to chat with her. Almost.
“Let me think.” Gail tapped her tiny pointed chin. “Ah, I have it. Elea, what’s your favorite way to bake a barley loaf?”
Barley loaf? That’s a thing?
“I don’t bake.”
Lizzie stared me, slack jawed. “Surely you’ve made apple tarts?”
“No.” How many things did most farm girls bake? For my part, I ate whatever Mabel and Sam had ready. The pair had been watching over my farm while I was out adventuring this past year. They’d stayed on after I returned, mostly because they were excellent farmers. Mabel kept a perpetual pot of stew over the hearth.
“What about porridge?” asked Gail.
Relief washed through me. I was about to answer that, Yes, I know how to make porridge, when Lizzie elbowed her sister in the rib cage. “Hush, Gail. Everyone knows how to make porridge.” She leaned forward on the driver’s bench in order to catch my eye. “What do you make that’s special?”
“Nothing you’d like to hear about, I’m afraid.” I was trying to keep my stories about Necromancer spells to a minimum. My tales tended to frighten everyone except Philippe.
“Please,” said Gail. “We know you aren’t a witch these days.”
“I’ve never been a witch,” I said slowly. “I’m a Grand Mistress Necromancer.”
“Right,” said Lizzie. She and Gail shared a long look. I got the feeling I’d made a social blunder somewhere along the line, but I couldn’t think where. No self-respecting Necromancer tolerated being called a witch. Witches were hacks who performed black magick at travelling faires. Mages like me spent years mastering our skills, and we never used our powers for evil.
“Well,” said Gail. “Tell us what things you made as a Necromancer.”
My mood lifted. Fine. If they want the truth, they’ll get it.
“I’m quite good at animating skulls.”
Lizzie popped her hand over her mouth. “Skulls.”
The shocked look on her face was just too precious. “That’s right. And I always cover mine with gemstones. It makes for a nice effect, especially when the eye sockets glow while they’re talking.”
More silence. I may have pushed that too far. It was all part of my Zuchtlos nature, which was what Necromancers called someone who was impetuous. I decided to steer the conversation onto safer ground. “Philippe said nice things about both of you, by the way. I’m so glad he suggested we spend time together.”
Another long and meaningful stare passed between the sisters. I almost wanted to offer to let them sit side by side. After all, they had to lean forward to gawk around me.
Lizzie’s eyes narrowed. “Do you fancy Philippe? Is he courting you?”
I should have seen that question coming and been prepared for it. But I didn’t and I wasn’t, so I blurted out the truth. “I don’t fancy Philippe and we aren’t courting.”
“Are you certain?” asked Gail. “He’s awfully sweet on you.”
Gail wasn’t exaggerating. Philippe often proclaimed his undying affection for me, but I had other suspicions. Namely, I thought Philippe would rather be living with his sister, Amelia. However, Amelia had recently been reunited with her lost friend Veronique, a woman that Philippe detested. So he was hiding out nearby until Veronique took off.
“Believe me,” I said. “I have no designs on Philippe as anything other than as a friend.”
“If you say so.” Gail giggled, and it reminded me how she and Lizzie were nineteen, which wasn’t much younger than my twenty-two years. Still, our ages felt centuries apart. I hadn’t giggled in years.
Lizzie fanned her face dramatically. “Most girls would die for a chance at that man.”
“You’re not wrong,” I said. In fact, Philippe was exactly the kind of fellow that I should fancy. He was handsome, charming, and kind. Unfortunately, my heart was still set on Rowan, the man who was engaged to Philippe’s sister.
What a disaster.
I decided to close out this topic. “If you doubt me, we can settle the issue once we get to the village. I’ll stop by the tavern where Philippe is staying. He can explain things directly.”
Gail squirmed. “Visit Philippe alone? But we’ve no chaperones to protect our reputations.”
“Don’t worry. I can kill almost anything, including Philippe.”
Lizzie and Gail stared at me yet again, wide eyed. I was going for some kind of record here: Most Social Mistakes By A Necromancer.
“Wh-what?” asked Lizzie.
Obviously, I needed to change the subject once more. I cleared my throat. “But that’s enough about Philippe. Do you have any news about this weekend’s faire?”
The Dunkel faire was an annual tradition. It always took place on the fields behind their main house, and the next celebration was this Saturday. This was yet another potential social catastrophe which Philippe had manipulated me into.
Gail beamed. “Oh, the preparations for the faire are coming along quite well. We already have set up the tables and—”
All of a sudden, a wave of energy coursed over me, caressing my skin into gooseflesh. The rest of Gail’s words were lost to my consciousness.
Someone is casting magick nearby.
The spell felt like hundreds of embers searing my skin. That could only mean one thing. A detection spell from a Creation Caster. Interesting.
All Creation Casters knew magick, but most could only perform a handful of low-level spells. Senior Casters were extremely rare. Sadly, an evil mage named Viktor had transformed most Senior Casters into Changed Ones, which were part-animal mages that could cast hardly any spells. Rowan and I had sent Viktor into exile; most Changed Ones were thrilled with that accomplishment.
A handful still served Viktor, though.
A sinking feeling crept into my stomach. Something told me this new mage was one of Viktor’s followers. Not good.
I pulled the wagon to a stop and scanned my surroundings. We’d passed the orchard some time ago. Now, tall stalks of green barley lined either side of the road. The shadows within them seemed too dark for daylight.
Something was wrong here.
And because I was Zuchtlos, that wrongness felt absolutely exciting to me. My shoulders squared. The world came into clearer focus. An evil Creation Caster was definitely close by. A battle of wits and magick could start any second now.
For the first time in ages, I giggled with joy.
Christina Bauer knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers.
Bauer has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press.
Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.
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