Fireborne (Raven Cursed #1) by McKenzie Hunter ~ #BookTour #Excerpt #Giveaway

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Fireborne
by McKenzie Hunter
(Raven Cursed #1)
Publication date: November 1st 2019
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy

Synopsis:
My magic isn’t just a curse – it’s an addiction. I crave it the way some people crave chocolate. But, chocolate doesn’t kill – my magic does.

I’m Raven Cursed. When I borrow magic from someone, they die. That’s always been the case—until I met my client, the devilishly handsome and enigmatic Mephisto. He has his own brand of unique magic and a mysterious past he’s determined to keep to himself.

He knows that I’m the one to call anytime a curse goes wrong, a magical object is lost, or a rogue supernatural needs apprehending. So he offers a trade. He’ll give me his magic, and in return, I accept a job from him.

It seems like a simple deal until all hell breaks loose. We have to team up to stop a god from unleashing destruction upon the city. It leaves me to wonder: can I battle a god with the devil at my back?

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“She’s not what I expected,” Ava said in French. “She’s younger and more unassuming. I expected someone more menacing. Especially after the stories you told me and what I heard in passing. I was looking forward to meeting her, but it feels anticlimactic. She’s underwhelming.”

Anticlimactic? Underwhelming? I came in with a bag of weapons and accessories; what else did she want? Me stomping into the room, a sword strapped to my back, blades sheathed on each leg, and dual wielding Glocks? Dark-blue jeans and a black long-sleeve shirt was a respectable outfit. It didn’t scream total badass the way my leathers did, but I had no plans of being dragged across gravel today. Did she want me to mug her, growl like a rabid dog, hand out lollipops and slaps to everyone as I passed them? Maybe I wasn’t her image of a retrieval specialist—I really did like that title—but I was far from anticlimactic and underwhelming.

I shrugged off her comments. I couldn’t believe I cared what she thought. If I arrived in a fluffy sweater and a tutu, what did it matter as long as I got the job done?

I kept my face neutral so they wouldn’t suspect I could understand them. Spending most of my childhood at Madison’s home ensured I spoke French, although I wasn’t as fluent as I would have liked. It became a private joke in the family, that the more French spoken, the thicker Madison’s father’s Irish brogue became. On several occasions, she would grin at her father and speak French with an Irish enunciation. That he didn’t think it was as amusing as we did only increased our enjoyment.

“She’s not a merc, she’s a woman of many talents, but retrieval is her specialty,” Mephisto said in French.

True, I did a little of everything. If it made me money, I would do it. But I couldn’t put “I’ll do anything for money” on a business card or website because the calls and responses would get lascivious pretty fast. Jack/Jane of all trades didn’t work either because it cued more strange calls. People would be surprised what some considered a trade. So I kept it simple. Technically I was a bounty hunter. Merc sounded too ignoble. I operated in the many shades of gray of the human and supernatural system, but I didn’t want to advertise it. You call yourself a merc and people assume you skated right past the gray areas and went wading in the dark. Sometimes I had to, but it was never my first choice.

“That’s the beauty of her. She’s not flashy. She’s unassuming and her abilities make her tactics unique and noteworthy. That works in her favor. I assure you she’s skilled and quite impressive. After all, at this moment she’s pretending she doesn’t understand us, when clearly

she does.”

My head stayed down looking at the paper, refusing to confirm his allegation. After several more minutes of looking over the contract, I looked up and feigned confusion over Ava’s scrutiny of me. Ava’s voice softened as she said something about her statements being rude before effortlessly slipping into another language that I couldn’t place.

Once I’d finished marking up the corrections to the contract, I walked over to Ava, whose presence was pleasant, although her eyes held hints of displeasure at being underwhelmed by me.

Tough. I’m not here to entertain you with a dog and pony show.

*****

“You always struck me as a bourbon type of woman,” said the deep, smooth baritone voice behind me. A blush of anger spread along my cheeks and bridge of my nose as I resisted the urge to move away. Asher sidled up to the bar a few feet from me and ordered whiskey.

I kept my hands balled tight into fists at my sides because if I didn’t, he would have been wearing the whiskey, not drinking it.

He took a sip and when he pulled the glass away, his lips furled into a crooked smirk. Silver eyes sparked. The low growl that came from me surprised me and amused him.

My nails dug into my palms the tighter I balled my fists. I shouldn’t let him get to me. He gathered too much joy from it. He shifted his weight to his left foot, once again giving me a better view of him. Why did it always look like he was posing for me? He took bigger sips from his glass, finally emptying it and placing the glass on the counter.

“Erin, it’s always a pleasure to see you.” He drawled my name with the excitement and familiarity of an old friend. My mood lightened at the thought of the Taser sheathed in my belt, near my lower back, concealed by my shirt.

I smiled. Welcomed him closer. Come closer. Flashes of him jerking on the floor, flopping around like a fish out of water, brought an even wider smile to my face.

“It’s always a pleasure seeing you as well, Asher,” I said, my tone just as bright and friendly as his. I hoped the menace didn’t show in my eyes.

He looked at me, eyes skeptical and assessing. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think all was forgiven.”

“Of course, it was just business, right? You got there first, it was your find.” No, it wasn’t. You cheated. He had anticipated all my moves and had specific details about my whereabouts. I was careful, so how did he know?

“That’s a very mature and professional way to look at it. All’s fair,” he said.

He was close but not close enough for me to lunge at him before he could react. He had the advantage of shifter speed and agility and was adept with it. The movement of a predator on the hunt—even in a casual setting. I needed him closer. His gaze dropped from mine to look at my hand that was inching around to my back. Then I stopped abruptly. Compromising this job and possibly ruining my reputation, for what? Him? I wouldn’t do that. The best way to get back at him was to beat him at his own game. Find out what he wanted most of all and ensure that I got it first. What did someone like Asher want most of all?

He moved closer and noticeably inhaled the air, closing his eyes and making a light noise, a beat. The steady metronome of sound kept increasing in pace. It was just too easy now to grab my Taser and zap him. The potential sweetness of that revenge lingered on my palate. I hated that I couldn’t indulge the idea. He opened his eyes and fixed me with a look, and I knew he was mimicking the beat of my heart as it increased with his proximity. My gaze narrowed on him.

He grabbed his refilled glass off the bar and leaned toward me. “You’re a hunter. Good at what you do, but you’re still just a hunter. I’m an apex predator. I will always be one step ahead of you.”

Screw it. I was going to wipe that smirk off his face even if I made a scene. I didn’t care. They knew he was a jackass. It might just increase my credibility. People may applaud me for daring to live the dream. Living my best life and putting the wolf in his place. My hand was slipping down my waist toward the weapon when Mephisto eased between us.

“Erin,” he said smoothly, invading my space so much it forced me to move back and distance myself from him and essentially Asher. Drink in hand, Asher sauntered away, past me, the smug vulpine look on his face making everything in me desperate to wipe it off.

*****

“Do your visitors know that they are on video?”

“There aren’t any cameras in my bedroom, or any of the bedrooms, if that’s what you are worried about.”

“That’s good. No one wants to see what goes on with that chicken and goat in your bedroom,” I countered.

He gave a deep chuckle, half turning to give me a look over his shoulder. “Chicken? Goat?”

“I don’t claim to know what your deal is with the devil to keep him from claiming your soul, Mephisto. I assume there’s a weird dance, chanting, and an animal sacrifice.”

He moved so sleek and fast, I sucked in a sharp breath when I found him leaning over the desk, his intense, inquiring eyes fixed on mine.

“I’m confused. Do you consider me Satan or his servant?” he asked.

“Only you would know that. Are you Mephistopheles as seen in the works of Faust or are you the devil himself?”

His answer didn’t come immediately. How hard a question was it: Are you Satan or his servant? I knew he was neither, but I wanted to know his name and had been reduced to juvenile antics to try and get it. I wished I was above it.

His real name. The complexity and absurdity of people’s nature is that denial heightens longing. Upright now, he took slow, measured steps backward, away from me. Amusement played over his features. “I’m no one’s servant,” he said before turning to look back at the screens.

It was ridiculous calling him Mephisto. He seemed to know far more about me and my kind than I had thought, and I didn’t know the first thing about him. It was bugging me. With a name, I could begin to investigate. Just give me a name.

“Is it working?” he finally asked.

“What?”

“All the effort you make trying to make me seem so undesirable? Have you succeeded?”

His dark eyes appraised me intensely for several moments. “If it hasn’t, know that the offer stands. Perhaps you will enjoy that devil’s playground.” As if to drive home his words, I heard the faint sound of The Rigs’s song “Devil’s Playground.” I was now convinced that he chose Mephisto for the numerous songs about the devil at his disposal. I remembered our first meeting, when I made a comment about working for the devil; on my next visit, I was met with the song “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone. It played at a low volume during the entirety of the meeting.

My rebuttal was not nearly as well thought out as I’d like. Mephisto flustered me.

“I have no interest in what happens in your bedroom because I’ll never be one of the women in it. Your magic makes me curious and yes, I want to know what it feels like, but not enough to risk having anything more than what we have now. The tall, dark, and mysterious shtick doesn’t intrigue me the way you think it does.”

“Hmm,” he mused, “if you believe any of that to be true, then good for you.” He was out the door, giving me a quick, “Be careful with the job.”

Be careful. It was the platitude I hated the most. Most people tried to be careful. What was the alternative—be reckless?

*****

“Emotions—fear, anger, frustration—they all have a distinctive smell, a noticeable physiological change.” The languid lilt to his voice matched the way he sat on my sofa. He sighed, his voice cloying—annoyingly sweet. “How can I mend the rift in our friendship?” he asked.

“First we would have to have a friendship. We were never friends and never will be. I don’t trust you.”

“And that breaks my heart,” he purred. “Tell me how to get that trust?” It had a hint of mockery to it, and I knew he didn’t care that I didn’t like him. This was just another challenge. It was obvious he thrived on them.

“How did you do it?”

“I’m a predator. I follow the footprints and scents. It’s what I do.”

“Does that mean you followed my digital footprints?” Had that asshole hacked my computer?

He leaned forward, his face pensive, and for a brief moment, I thought maybe I was mistaken. Maybe he was being serious about repairing the rift between us. The people I dealt with daily had made me cynical. Then it dawned on me. When it came to shifters, it all came down to protecting the pack. Adding “corp” behind their pack name didn’t change their dedication and priorities.

“Why did you need it?” The Salem Stone was a magic connector that allowed the user to

siphon magic from others and strengthen the borrower’s magic. It wasn’t as malicious as it sounded. A person had to willingly sacrifice their magic by invoking that spell. Contrary to how dramatic and portentous the STF made it sound, it wasn’t as if a person carrying the stone could rip magic from people and become an overpowered, unstoppable magic wielder. It had limitations. It also required magic to use it, something that shifters didn’t possess.

“How does it affect your pack? What’s going on?” I asked pointedly.

His casual smile faltered. “What goes on with my pack, stays with my pack. Are you interested in being part of it?” he asked in a cool challenge. His brown eyes flickered. Slowly, measuredly, very intentionally, his features shifted. Skin stretched, the carved lines of his jaw relaxed, allowing the jaw to elongate. The narrow slope of his nose extended and reshaped, as did a partial facial shift into his wolf counterpart. It stopped mid-transition, to give me a look at his canine, and before it could fully register, he shifted back to human form. I expected a sheen of perspiration, panting, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or some sign of distress. Nothing. He’d donned and doffed his wolf half with the ease of someone changing a shirt.

“If that creepy performance was a true recruitment effort, you need to work on it.”

His laughter filled the room, and for a fleeting moment, I wondered if I could actually be changed and how shifter magic would affect my magic. Was becoming a shifter even an option? Would it take away my desire for magic since I’d have a different type of magic working through me? I didn’t let the idea linger too long—especially in front of someone as perceptive as Asher.

“Then you know I can’t tell you anything. I needed it and now I have it,” he said bluntly. “Now, my goal is to make recompense.” He seemed earnest, someone a less cynical person would believe. If someone could tell when someone else was lying, it gave them the necessary tools to be a good liar, too.

“Are you really sorry?” I asked.

He nodded. “Not for what I did. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat if I needed to. I’m sorry that you got screwed over.”

Direct but honest. I could work with that.

“Get me the Mystic Souls,” I blurted. “Then we’ll be even. No more bad blood between us.”

I didn’t have to be a shapeshifter to see the change in his mood. His tension was palpable,

and he sat up and eyed me, his interest kindled.

“Mystic Souls,” he repeated, his voice grim. “You know it is rumored that only two copies exist in the entire world, right?”

“I only need one.” He wasn’t going to be able to get it, but it was worth the shot.

His hands washed over his face and then scrubbed along the shadow of beard that accentuated his jawline. For a while, he seemed to contemplate my request. I needed the Mystic Souls book and if he could get it, I’d mend our pseudo friendship.

“If you are asking me for this, you really need it, don’t you?” The arrogance and playfulness had melted from his face and words. Whatever he was doing with his eyes, I didn’t like it. The intensity of his gaze was hard to hold. I nodded. Standing, he straightened the sleeves and nodded.

“Okay, give me two weeks.”

Okay, give me two weeks? What the actual fuck? I’d like a unicorn, a zero-calorie Snickers, and snow on my birthday in July, too.

Hiding my shock, I just nodded again. Of course, it would only take a couple of weeks to find one of the rarest books in the world. I swallowed hard with my hands balled at my sides as I kept my breathing normal, trying not to show my excitement. In a couple of weeks, my life was going to change. Or was it? I snuffed the excitement. He would probably come back with some knockoff consolation prize, one of the spell books I already had or had access to. I didn’t allow myself to hope too hard.

Stopping at the threshold of the door, he looked over his shoulder and smiled. “You’ll get your book.”

“Okay.” I loved that I sounded so nonchalant. Whatever, Mr. CEO, Alpha Man, just drop off the book whenever. It’s no big deal.

Madison believed the book contained a spell that could remove my curse and give me access to magic, and I wanted to believe it, too. I wanted to believe it so much.


 

 


McKenzie, as a child, discovered that her life could be a whirlwind of adventures by simply opening a book. To this day, reading is still her favorite activity. She has a fondness for fantasy and mystery, which is probably why she writes urban fantasy.

When McKenzie isn’t working on her next book she is usually binge-watching paranormal and comedy shows, maintaining her title as “favorite auntie”, or trying to create a tasty low-calorie pizza. McKenzie loves to hear from her readers. Feel free to contact her via her website, Facebook, or email.

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Ellen Stafford
Ellen Stafford
July 3, 2020 12:38 pm

Sounds great. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah L
Sarah L
July 2, 2020 10:35 pm

Looks like an interesting book.
Thanks for the contest.  

Victoria Scott
Victoria Scott
July 1, 2020 9:26 am

I love the cover so much! The story sounds really good!

Jodi Hunter
Jodi Hunter
July 1, 2020 9:01 am

Love the cover.

IRENE HENDERSON
IRENE HENDERSON
June 29, 2020 10:50 pm

Cover’s great! Love the cover & the picture of the sex, but innocent, looking girl! Does stealing magic make her stronger?

BookLady
BookLady
June 29, 2020 3:14 pm

What a fascinating book! Great excerpt and cover.

sherry c5hSs
June 29, 2020 12:52 pm

great cover. sounds like a book i would enjoy
sherry @ <a href=”http://www.fundinmental.com/”> fundinmental</a>

LeonieT
LeonieT
June 29, 2020 8:24 am

Stunning cover!

Elaine
Elaine
June 29, 2020 7:15 am

This sounds really good. Love the covers.

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