Seduced by Magic Chapter One
Fifteen months prior
Copper Ashcroft moved through the fog-shrouded San Francisco night and shivered. Everything looked and felt exactly as it had in her dream-vision.
Rocks and twigs crunched beneath her running shoes as she made her way down the darkened trail to the sacred stretch of beach below, with only her wand light to illuminate the path. Tonight was a new moon and it was foggy as hell. But she knew her way and didn’t pause.
Her arms strained as she gripped the carved wooden chest bearing the tools of her witchcraft at the same time she carried her wand. Her breathing came easy. She was fit from regular exercise, playing softball, and toned from working out at the health club. She’d been a track star and a mean softball pitcher in high school, as well as being the lead pitcher on the California Bears team at UC Berkeley during her undergrad years.
Copper stumbled over a root and almost tumbled down the path. She grimaced and steadied herself. “Bless it,” she murmured. She’d known the root was there. “Too bad being fit and athletic doesn’t make me any less clumsy.”
Zephyr buzzed at her ear, but she ignored her honeybee familiar. She sensed Zeph’sunhappiness that she was attempting this moon ritual alone, but in Copper’s dream-vision she’d performed the ceremony with no one else around. For some reason the goddess wanted her to do this by herself.
She stepped from the dirt path onto sand when she reached the small portion of beach known only to the Coven of D’Anu witches to which she belonged. Her Coven was one of thirteen scattered across the United States. Many more Covens existed around the world, working to keep the cities they inhabited safe from dark magic. Descendents of the Ancient Druids, the D’Anu were powerful witches who used only white witchcraft.
Well, besides Copper and her sister, Silver. The sisters believed in utilizing gray magic to protect their world from the evils that preyed upon the innocent. If their father found out . . . they’d be in a world of trouble. Victor Ashcroft was high priest of the D’Anu Coven in Salem, Massachusetts, and he was a rather formidable man. Their mother, Moondust, was more an ethereal being, the calm in the storm. But she would agree with their father.
White witchcraft just wasn’t strong enough as far as Copper was concerned. She was somewhat of a rebel when it came to choosing between white and gray, and she had no fear of the gray or ever slipping to the black.
With white magic, their skills were limited. Several of the D’Anu could affect the weather but they didn’t dare tip the natural balance. Most could heal and work with animals, “talk through trees,” and make plants grow like crazy—even fast enough to help them bind an enemy. Useful, but . . . not strong enough.
Sand shifted beneath Copper’s jogging shoes as she heaved the chest higher in her arms and carried it across the small beach. Her jeans felt snug and comfortable and her cropped T-shirt allowed the coolness of the night to brush her flat belly. In the distance she could see a portion of the Golden Gate Bridge, its lights looping up and down in the darkness. A foghorn added to the eerie quality of the night, and despite the familiar sound, goose bumps prickled her skin and tiny hairs rose up on the back of her neck.
Copper remembered the old Grimoire she and Silver had used to learn gray magic. Mrs. Illes had given it to them before she passed on to Summerland, and Silver still had it. The ancient book looked harmless enough, but the spells inside—well . . . As Copper had found out when she tried to summon the tide and ended up almost flooding the city, gray magic had the potential to blow the natural order all to hell. Gray witchcraft could help a lot, but it could also cause indirect harm, like hurting a living creature or subverting a being’s natural will.
If anyone of the D’Anu suspected that Copper and Silver practiced gray magic, the pair of them would be kicked out of the Coven. Even using the craft to track down criminals just wasn’t allowed.
Besides, gray witchcraft carried heavy-duty risk to most witches, too. Many believed there was such a fine line between gray and black that gray witches could feel the incredible power that darkness offered. If a gray witch became too emotionally entangled—her own anger, want, need—her spells could lean close to the black. She could use her magic for personal gain and power instead of the general good.
Touching gray, Copper could sense the immeasurable and powerful flow and pull of dark magic. Yet Copper didn’t fear it. She embraced gray magic. She had no doubt she wouldn’t tip to the dark side no matter how deep her gray magic ran. Silver wasn’t so sure and wasn’t as strong a gray witch as Copper was.
A knot twisted Copper’s belly as she allowed a brief flash of why she believed so strongly in gray magic. A childhood friend, Trista, had been murdered when Copper was sixteen. If Copper had been a strong gray witch at that time, she knew with every fiber of her being that she could have saved Trista.
Copper shoved the thought and the threat of tears away. When she reached her favorite part of the shore, she bent and dropped the chest. It made a dull thud that was almost lost in the sound of waves crashing against the shore. The wind off the water carried smells of fish and salt.
As she settled on her knees before the chest, she caught another scent that made her pause. Her skin prickled again. “Wolfsbane?” she murmured.
She shook her head, her shoulder-length copper-colored hair swinging with the movement. Your imagination is on overdrive, girl.
Holding her wand tight in one hand, Copper fumbled with the catch on the trunk using her other, but finally managed to flip the rusted latch open. “I really need to get that oiled,” she muttered. It was one of those things that tended to be low on the priority list.
Hinges creaked as she opened the trunk lid and peered at the contents. Zephyr landed on the curve of her ear just as her wand slipped from her fingers and tumbled inside. She lost her focus and her wand light went out.
“For the Ancestors’ sake.” Her copper pentagram earrings swung against her neck as she rummaged around inside the chest until her fingers found her wand. She was never clumsy with her magic, but she tended to drop some things and knock over others.
The wand was made of copper and tipped with a round quartz crystal at one end and a pointed quartz crystal at the other. She gripped it tightly in her hand and frowned when the crystal did not immediately brighten again. She focused her magical energy on the wand. This time golden light glittered from the crystal and caused the pentagram on her thick copper bracelet to look as though it glowed against her wrist. She didn’t know what she’d do without her wand—her magic was powerful, but only with her wand. Her hand magic wasn’t so hot.
Copper mounted the wand in a corner slot of the trunk where it continued to spill its golden light across the sand, making the grains sparkle like Faerie dust.
She quickly stripped out of her clothing, tossing her T-shirt, bra, shoes, socks, jeans, and thong in a heap on the sand. Even though her witchcraft helped keep most of the coldness at bay, the chilly San Francisco wind whipped at her body, causing her nipples to tighten. She hurried to slip on a shimmering earth-colored robe she dug out of the chest and wrap it around her body.
Copper gathered her supplies, only dropping one candle and her incense burner as she strode a few feet away to where she would cast her circle. After she retrieved everything she needed, she placed each candle at the cardinal points—yellow for Air at the east, red for Fire at the south, blue for Water at the west, and green for Earth at the north.
She arranged her altar, careful not to spill her chalice as she filled it with purified water. As she reached for the cotton bag full of salt granules, her arm brushed the chalice, tipping it. Her heart raced as she dropped the bag to catch the cup before it could fall over and completely lose its contents. With a sigh of relief, she let go of her death grip on the cup and retrieved the cotton bag to pour salt to represent Earth into a small dish. Almost done. With her magic, she lit a black candle that represented both the new moon and Fire, and then she burned cinnamon incense for Air. Of course the filled chalice represented Water.
When Copper finished her preparations, she retrieved her glowing wand and returned to stand within the circle of candles. She took a deep breath. Everything she had just done was routine, yet it felt . . . different. It felt as her dream-vision had last night, and a sense of urgency filled her. Something wrong, terribly wrong, was going to happen in San Francisco—unless she found a way to stop it.
Copper prepared to cast her protective circle. “Goddess, I need your aid in learning as much as I can about the dangers I know the D’Anu will be facing.” I’ll inform Silver and the Coven about my dream-vision once I have more to tell.
She centered herself as she stared out at the ocean, breathing deeply and releasing all tension from her body. The wand was warm in her hand from the magic that filled it. The golden glow it cast looked like early morning sunlight sparkling upon the water’s less than calm surface. It was time to cast her circle and perform the moon ritual.
In the ritual she would ask the goddess for aid in whatever evils were coming their way, and to show her a vision of what they were about to face. Copper was not a seer, she could only dream-vision as her divination talent. But sometimes—well, rarely, but still—the goddess would show her visions when she performed a moon ritual.
Copper breathed deeply, allowing all the night smells to fill her. There was definitely a difference between night and day scents, as if the moon cast its own delicate perfume over the world, even when it was shrouded.
Zeph crawled along the top of her ear as she prepared to cast the circle. Already she felt his magic mingling with hers. But she also sensed distress coming from the familiar. “What’s wrong?” she asked, wishing he could speak aloud. But she could only feel his agitation, as if he were worried about something.
Refocusing her attention, she let the earth-brown robe slide down her shoulders and arms to land around her feet in a satiny mass, leaving her bare body to be buffeted by the wind. Sand trickled between her toes as she widened her stance to shoulder-width apart, leaving her bare sex to be stroked by the night breeze just as that same rush of air hardened her nipples. Her shoulder-length hair teased the nape of her neck and she shivered from the combined sensations.
Copper raised her wand to start casting her circle when a sensation of dark power trailed down her spine; Zeph grew frantic, his wings buzzing. The scent of wolfsbane was strong this time, so very strong.
A presence behind her.
Someone . . . someone watching her.
Zephyr gave a buzz of warning. Copper gripped her wand tighter. Should she quickly attempt to cast the circle to keep evil away from her, or should she face whatever was behind her?
She was certain she didn’t have time to close the circle. She whirled and raised her wand so that its light might blind whatever being had crept up on her, and to use the wand’s magic if need be.
Copper’s pulse began racing. Perhaps ten feet away from her stood a man. A breathtakingly handsome man with eyes as black as his hair, high cheekbones, and a cleft in his square chin.
Around his neck, on a thick chain, hung a stone eye that glittered in Copper’s wand light and glowed a deep red. The sight of it caused her stomach to churn before the red faded away.
What captured her attention the most was the controlled power emanating from the man. A power so intense and dark that Copper nearly recoiled. But she stood her ground. With a tilt of her chin, she narrowed her eyes and faced what she was certain to be a ruthless, incredibly powerful warlock.
“Leave,” Copper said, shoring up her magic at the same time. “This place is sacred. You don’t belong here.”
The warlock smiled, a smile as sensual as it was sinister. “Finally . . . a witch worthy of my time and my training.” He paused and brought his hand to the stone at his neck, the red glow returning and bleeding through his fingers. He gave a slow nod, as if in response to some communication from the eye. “Yes. There is another—you have a sister whose power is as great as yours, and she rides the line of gray magic just as you do. Only she is more . . . vulnerable.”
At the mention of her sister, a chill went through Copper and she straightened her spine. “Who are you?” She tried to ignore the bite of the wind as she stared the warlock down. This was the evil she had dream-visioned about. This was what . . . no, who she was to battle to save everything she loved.
She had to be rid of him before he destroyed what was good and pure. But how?
Zephyr gave an angry buzz and she sensed his desire to sting the man in front of her. “No,” she murmured. “Stay.”
The man raised his hand and beckoned to her. She felt the power of his touch on her naked body. It was as if his bare hand were stroking her, touching every intimate part of her. He took a step forward. “I am Darkwolf.”
“Well, Darkwolf,” she said as the glow intensified from the pointed end of her wand tip. “Stop right there or I’ll make you wish you’d stayed in the sewer you crawled out of.”
“I think not.” He moved closer and raised his hand so that his palm faced her.
She was certain she knew exactly what the goddess wanted her to do to keep them all safe. In a rush, Copper chanted.
Goddess give me power this night
Send the moon’s strength to help me fight.
Ancestors bless this wand and make it a sword
To send this evil to Otherworld!
Light blazed from Copper’s wand, so bright that it blinded even her. Power flooded her, power of the Ancestors, the goddess. But she needed more—the gray magic she held always at the ready.
She poured her gray magic into the spell with all that she had.
In the next moment something shimmered before her. Something alien. Something that couldn’t have been just from the warlock.
From the eye?
Her spell struck the magical shield that was so strong her witchcraft rebounded. The spell shot straight back at her. Before she had time to form a spellshield, her own magic slammed into her and flung her high, into the air . . .
She was falling . . . falling . . . falling . . .
Into sunlight. Into the breath of spring.
She landed facedown, her bare skin upon the softest grass she had ever felt. The rich scent of it and dark loam filled her senses, along with the perfume of rose petals. Vaguely she heard the sound of Zephyr buzzing and the faintest music . . . Faerie song.
She tried to raise her head, but the Faerie music grew ever fainter. Light faded. Darkness came and swept her away on swift wings.
Copyright © 2006 by Cheyenne McCray. All rights reserved. Continues...
Excerpted from Seduced by Magic by Mccray, Cheyenne Copyright © 2006 by Mccray, Cheyenne. Excerpted by permission.
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