Never Again (Wizards of Nevermore Series #1) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Welcome to Nevermore, Texas, population 503, where witches and wizards live side by side with humans, and where witch Lucy Rackmore is in trouble. Ever since her former lover snuffed out her magical abilities, everyone in town is looking to settle a score with her family. And Lucy's only hope for survival may be her ex-brother-in-law-whom her sister betrayed and nearly ...
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Never Again (Wizards of Nevermore Series #1)

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Overview

Welcome to Nevermore, Texas, population 503, where witches and wizards live side by side with humans, and where witch Lucy Rackmore is in trouble. Ever since her former lover snuffed out her magical abilities, everyone in town is looking to settle a score with her family. And Lucy's only hope for survival may be her ex-brother-in-law-whom her sister betrayed and nearly killed.


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101477441
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 103,053
  • File size: 400 KB

Meet the Author

Michele Bardsley lives with her husband, their two children, and Her Highnesses Isis and Cleopatra, two of the most spoiled Bengal cats on the planet.
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Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Ten years ago . . .

Gray Calhoun shut the front door behind him and paused in the foyer, his skin prickling. The entire house was dark and quiet. Typically, their housekeeper greeted him, standing as his wife’s sentry to make sure he took off his shoes and put away his Court robes. It was strange not to hear Cook’s usual dinner-preparation noises—pots banging and Swedish curse words flying.

The silence—and the sense of emptiness—unsettled him.

“Kerren?” he called out.

“Upstairs,” she answered.

He breathed a sigh of relief. This morning, after the shocking revelation about the Rackmores hit the Grand Court’s chambers, she’d called him before he’d even gotten their home number dialed. “Stay there, Gray. Do your job. I’m fine. I have you, remember?”

“Damn the Grand Court,” he’d said, and she’d laughed, then made him promise not to come home early. He wanted to hold his wife, and tell her he didn’t care that she was a Rackmore. He loved her—and love meant loyalty. His heart aching, he moved toward the staircase.

“Don’t you dare come up here with those shoes on!”

He looked down at the foot hovering over the first polished wood stair, and chuckled. The knots in his stomach unfurled. Feeling lighter in spirit, he returned to the foyer and toed off his shoes.

They’d been married for nearly two years, after a whirlwind six-month courtship. Kerren’s parents had welcomed their engagement announcement far more easily than his mother. Leticia Calhoun had thrown every excuse possible at him:You’re too young. You’re too new to the Grand Court. You’re a Dragon. She’s a Raven. And on and on. Eventually, though, she’d given her blessing.

Despite his mother’s worries, he was happily married, and his career was on the fast track. His mediation of several ongoing internal disputes within the House of Dragons led to unheard-of cooperation, and creative resolutions. The success of those negotiations gained him many friends, a very few enemies, and, just last week, the highest accolade offered by any House: Wizard of Honor.

He put his shoes in the foyer closet, and took off his robes, hanging them up. He probably shouldn’t have been surprised that his wife had given the staff the day off. When the world felt the reverberations of what some were calling the “great reckoning,” all hell had broken loose.

The wealth of every single Rackmore had disappeared.

All day, details had been plucked from speculation and rumors until an enterprising scholar had dug through the Great Library’s archives. He’d found a single diary entry from Pickwith Rackmore, Earl of Mersey—a well-known Raven who’d risen in that House’s ranks quickly in the sixteenth century. Pride radiated in the words the man wrote about a ritual in which his entire family had called forth a demon lord. They’d made a bargain for wealth—a whole “spin straw into gold” scenario that would last five hundred years. The most sickening part detailed the sacrifice of the earl’s youngest daughter and her husband.

They hadn’t cared that later generations would reap what they had sown. Death magic and collusion with demons were the two biggest sins a magical could commit. And not only had the Earl of Mersey and his family done both, but they’d also forever intertwined themselves with the House of Ravens.

The fallout would be tremendous.

But those were worries for later. Now he wanted to focus on the needs of his beautiful wife. Kerren was strong-willed and practical. If there was any Rackmore who could weather the storm, it would be her.

Besides, she had him—and he would never abandon her.

Gray took the stairs two at a time. It was dark upstairs, too, but he managed to find his way. Kerren stood in the middle of their richly appointed bedroom, which was cast in shadows, thanks to the single bedside lamp she’d left on.

Kerren was dressed in a diaphanous silver gown that clung to her curves, and offered him a feast. He knew well what lay underneath that simple dress, and he couldn’t wait to take it off her. She was so lovely. Her long blond hair hung in silky curls that draped her shoulders. One hand reached out for him, while the other stayed behind her back.

“What are you hiding?” he asked, amused. It was a game they often played. Sometimes, she had a can of whipped cream or a jar of caramel, and other times, she presented him with trinkets she’d found on her shopping excursions.

“It’s a surprise,” she said coyly.

“Can’t wait,” he murmured, leaning down to brush his lips across hers. “How’s your family?”

“Oh, fine,” she said. “They’ve already made arrangements—but they did say thank you for offering them the spare rooms.”

“Our house is big enough for ten people.”

She sighed. “You’re not going to talk about having babies again, are you?”

“No,” said Gray, though he very much wanted to start a family. Kerren said she wanted children, but she always tabled the topic whenever he broached it. Instead of saying anything else, he lowered his head to give her a proper kiss.

“Gray,” she murmured, stalling his progress.

He looked up, brows raised. “Hmm?”

“You would do anything for me, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course,” he said instantly.

She stepped out of his embrace, but kept her hand on his forearm. Her eyes gleamed. “I had hoped to keep you,” she said with a regretful smile.

Before he could respond to such a strange declaration, she placed that pale, perfect hand against his chest and whispered, “Kahl.”

Pain radiated through him, clogging his throat, throbbing in his eyes, bubbling in his veins. He tried to scream, but no sound could escape through the agony crawling up his windpipe.

His vision grayed at the edges as he stared down at his wife.

“You said you’d do anything for me.” The arm she’d had tucked behind her swung up in a wide arc. In her hand, she clasped an obsidian cudgel. The smooth stone smacked him hard in the temple.

Stars exploded behind his eyes.

Then the world went black.

 

Gray awoke to the stench of sulfur, and the chill of stone beneath his bare skin. His wrists and ankles were manacled to the granite. He felt the dark magic pulsing in the metal, and the thick ugliness of it stifling the room. His right side burned, as though acid had been dribbled from his temple to his shoulder.

He tried to call his magic, but it was useless. The metal dampened his abilities. Besides, not only was there no living thing from which to borrow energy, but also the negative vibrations of this prison suffocated any hint of good.

Bile rose in his throat.

“The heart of a Dragon.” Kerren’s voice issued from the darkness, seconds ahead of the woman. As she walked toward him, looking coldly beautiful in that damned silver gown, torches flamed to life. He could see now that he was in a small cavern, the craggy walls a mixture of black and red. The rectangular rock on which he was pinned was the centerpiece. “All that my lord wanted was me—and the heart of a Dragon.”

“Your lord?” he rasped. Betrayal sat like an anvil on his chest. “What have you done, Kerren?”

“What I must.” She stopped near the edge of the altar and let her gaze rove his naked body. “Such a shameful waste.” She trailed a hand down his inner thigh, then encircled his hip with a sharp nail.

He hissed in pain.

She grinned, and he saw the madness glittering in those chocolate brown eyes, the hint of crazy proffered by that cruel mouth. Oh, Goddess. Not Kerren. Not his wife. “This is a nightmare,” he whispered.

“Not yet,” she said. “You know, Gray, you were very sweet to be so worried about me.” She patted the wound she’d caused on his hip. “The Rackmores weren’t all that interested in their own history—not until today. All our collective paperwork was tossed into our private archives at the Great Library. Piles and piles of moldering ledgers and diaries and personal letters. When I was seventeen, a small indiscretion of mine angered my father so much, he decided to punish me.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

She spread her fingers against his lips. “Shush. I’m telling a story. I’m not without compassion, you see. I thought you should know why you’re going to die.”

The blood drained from his face. Kerren wanted to kill him? Why?

“No more questions, Gray.” Her gaze was that of a stranger, as hard and cold as muddy ice. “If you interrupt me again, I’ll stab you through the heart, and you can go to the darkness not knowing a gods-be-damned thing.”

He pressed his lips together, mostly because he didn’t want to feel the soft reminders of comfort and pleasure the treacherous woman had once given to him. She feathered her fingertips down his cheek and let them rest on his aching shoulder as she leaned against the altar. He knew he should try to think of ways to free himself, or reason with her, but shock had numbed him. His thought processes felt sluggish, and his body clumsy, probably the result of the poisonous magic that surrounded him.

“My punishment was to organize the archives. It took a whole summer. My stupid baby sister went to Paris while I toiled away in that tomb. But I found some very interesting things. For instance, the Earl of Mersey’s diary, his personal spellbook, and a little prophecy he’d written before his death. Imagine my surprise when I read all about the demon bargain and found out that in a few short years, I would be penniless.

“Me? Poor? I don’t think so. I used the same summoning spell, and called forth my own demon lord. He’s very handsome and virile—a real devil in bed.” She winked at him, and nausea churned in his guts. “In exchange for me keeping my wealth and accumulated pretties, all he wanted—other than me, of course—was the heart of a Dragon. Your heart, to be precise.”

“You don’t love me.” The realization slashed at him, and self-pity was the salt on those wounds. Everything he’d believed about the woman he’d married was wrong. He’d been fooled and cuckolded.

Kerren watched the play of emotions on his face with avid interest, and Gray realized he was giving his sociopathic wife quite the show. He did his best to blank his features, but she merely laughed. “You can’t hide from me. Or from destiny.”

Then she produced a wicked dagger and pressed it against his chest. Blood welled where it bit into his skin.

“I liked you. I enjoyed you. I fucked you.” She leaned close, her breath ghosting over his mouth. “But no, my darling, I never loved you.”

“Please,” he said as tears fell. He wasn’t sure what he was begging for—mercy or death—but he couldn’t stop the rejoinders. “Please, Kerren. Please.”

Disgust entered her gaze. She curled back her lips. “I never expected you to simper. You’re pathetic.” Then she raised the dagger and screamed, “For Kahl!”

Her aim was true, vicious, and supernaturally strong.

The double-bladed dagger slid through muscle, bone, heart, lung, flesh. He heard the tip of the blade scratch the stone; then he managed one hoarse scream before the sharp agony abruptly faded.

In the viscid dark of hell, Gray’s soul struggled.

Trapped, whispered a thousand voices, betrayed. You are nothing. No one. You are unloved. Unwelcome. Unheralded.

No, he screamed. I am Gray Calhoun. I am a Dragon. I will live.

Become one with us. You are the dark. You will always be the dark.

Pain ripped through him. Though he had no body now, the agony was just as real. He accepted every lightning bolt of anguish, every jagged strike of terror. I will not bow to you, he yelled. You will not break me!

Then the monster appeared. Its awful smile displayed razor-sharp rows of bloodstained teeth. Gray could discern no other form to go with its terrifying visage—just soulless black eyes, leathery skin, and that terrible grin.

The heart, it demanded, give me the heart.

I will not give you anything. Ever. Gray battled through the sludge, exerting his will. I belong to the Goddess. I call upon the blood of my ancestors, the righteousness of all good Dragons, to help me.

You are the dark, cried the voices, you are one of us.

Light burst through the blackness, and the voices screamed in frustration.

A huge claw reached through golden brightness and grabbed Gray. He was slammed back into his body. The knife was expelled, the horrific wound closed, the chains shattered, and then he was lifted from the altar, and shoved up, up, up through fire, through rock, through earth, until he came to rest on soft, dewy grass.

Gray took a shuddering breath and opened his eyes. Above him, he saw leafy tree branches reaching up as if trying to tickle the full moon. A glance around confirmed he was in some sort of wooded clearing—which could be located in California or France or anywhere in between. He had no idea where he was, only that he was free.

Within himself, he felt the slither of scales, the heat and shape of something foreign.

He had escaped hell.

But he had not come out alone.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 49 )
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  • Posted January 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    readers will appreciate this small town second chance romantic fantasy

    House of Dragons wizard Gray Calhoun is the guardian of Nevermore, Texas with the Census Bureau proclaiming the population in triple digits. However, since his wife betrayed him to a demon, he has neglected his duties as he no longer cares about responsibility.

    His former impoverished sister-in-law House of Ravens witch Lucinda Rackmore arrives in Nevermore. She is cursed and needs Gray's help, as her former lover betrayed her by extinguishing her magical abilities. Now everyone loathes the Rackmore family so with her mundane she is a target of their frustrations. Since the betrayal, Gray sees everything black and white so wants nothing to do with anyone related to his former spouse. However, he also admits to his chagrin he is attracted to Lucinda and cannot prevent himself from protecting her and trying to assist her.

    The tone of Nevermore is totally opposite of the Broken Heart series as the new saga is very dark (fitting of Edgar Allen Poe) while the Oklahoma tales were lighthearted frolics in which bites were sexually bloodless. The world of the Wizards of Nevermore is refreshingly new and fully developed yet interwoven inside the fast-paced story line. Although the climax is somewhat a disappointment as the audience will have expected much more after such a strong plot, readers will appreciate this small town second chance romantic fantasy.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    Humor! And a town with some strange folks.

    This book was so much fun to read. Michelle Bardsley does a fantastic job of laying out this new town of wacky questionable residents. Are they human or something else? Characters are engaging, fun, and just overall entertaining. Loved it! A new series by Michelle that I'm looking forward to finding in the bookstore or online.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2013

    What a great series

    Intriguing paranormal romance. Love the relationship between Gray and Lucy and Taylor and Gray.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    highly recommended, loved it.

    this was a great book. highly recommend. you will love it. first time ever reading michele bardsley and can't wait to read next book in the series.

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  • Posted September 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    1st time with this author & am hooked

    I have been reading historical romance for awhile & then changed to paranormal romance. While looking for another author I came across these books. I just couldn't put them down and certainly can't wait for more from Michele Bardsley. Her characters are very vivid and you get the feeling that you are part of the book. I also recommend the next book in the series "Now or Never" and can't wait for the next. Enjoy your trip

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2011

    Great Read!

    Hard to put down. Great start to a series, can't wait for more. Mystery,murder, love, and magic: potent combination.

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  • Posted June 19, 2011

    Highly Recommended -- A great read!!!

    This is my first exposure to Michele Bardsley, but it won't be my last!!! I loved the characters and the new world she's created. What a wonderful new series (I hope)! I can't wait for Ms. Bardsley to take me back to Nevermore!

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  • Posted May 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Hot!

    Thank goodness Michele Bardsley has started another series. I pray that this is a nice, long series. She is an excellent writer. I try to read everything that I can of hers.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    A Great Beginning!

    I have enjoyed all of Michele Bardsley's books and this one did not disappoint. I found the backstory to be compelling and loved the characters. The love story was good and I can't wait to read the next one. I found this to be a fresh and interesting take on magical/paranormal beings. I highly recommend this one!

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    Posted June 30, 2012

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