Burned (Keeper of the Flame Book 1), страница 1
Keeper of the Flame Book 1
Copyright © 2017 by Lila Kane
Previously published as Kenna Avery Wood
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Table of Contents
Sneak Peek at Book 2: BOUND
Willow Donnelly can’t stop catching things on fire. When she’s enticed to come to the small town of Shadow Hill, she thinks she’s going to get answers about her new powers as a witch. Instead, she’s stalked by a vampire and a shapeshifter tries to run her out of town. She doesn’t think things can get any worse until she realizes she’s part of a decades-old spell that makes it impossible to leave town. Not only that, she’s falling for two paranormals, and one of them isn’t telling her the truth.
Sexy and dangerous vampire Logan wants her to end the spell, and quiet and steady shapeshifter Ryan will do anything to protect her from Logan—and from undoing the spell. Willow is torn. Try to keep the spell intact and save her friends and the town from chaos, or end the spell and get answers to all her questions about her own powers.
I take a calming breath and unfold the note to read it one more time before getting out of the car.
IF YOU WANT ANSWERS, COME TO SHADOW HILL.
Of course I want answers. I want to know why I’d dreamed of my father’s death two weeks before it happened. Or maybe why things catch on fire whenever I’m upset.
I drop the note in my purse and open the door. The house sits in the shadows. There aren’t any lights on inside, and even in the low glow of the moon, I can see it looks neglected. Abandoned.
Grabbing a flashlight from the glove compartment, I clench my fingers tight around the metal. I walk up the steps to the porch, and then bang on the front door though I doubt anyone is going to answer.
Why the hell would my mom tell me to come here when she isn’t even home?
Frowning, I scrub the film on the window with the sleeve of my shirt. Probably because she’s as unpredictable as my father always said she was. Actually, the word he used was unstable. Because she always claimed to see ghosts and said she could make things happen with her mind.
At least that’s what my dad said. I shine the flashlight in the window, narrowing my eyes. Funny how readily I believed what he told me‒including the unstable part‒until I started experiencing the same thing.
“She’s not there.”
I whip around, my heart slamming against my ribs. There’s a man at the bottom of the stairs, his dark eyes glinting in the moonlight. His T-shirt stretches tight across his chest and his toned arms are relaxed as he puts his hands in his pockets. I think I see the hint of a tattoo on his bicep.
“I didn’t hear you,” I breathe. I squeeze the flashlight tight in my hand, keeping my distance. “Where did you come from?”
He nods to the house next door. Through the thick, overgrown hedge, I see lights shining in the windows.
“I’m Faye’s neighbor, Ryan.”
He moves up a few steps and sticks out his hand. My boots click on the wooden flooring of the porch when I walk to take it. His grip is firm and warm, and his cheeks dimple with a welcoming smile.
“Is there something I can help you with?” he asks.
I relax my grip on the flashlight. “I’m Willow. Faye’s daughter.”
He pulls his hand back, scrubbing it on his stubbly jaw as his eyes glint with something dark and dangerous. “Like I said, she’s not here. And she probably won’t be back for a while.”
“How long is a while?” I ask, putting steel into my voice. I hold the flashlight like a weapon.
His jaw clenches and he props his hands on his hips. “Probably longer than you want to wait. You should go home.”
I frown when he starts to turn. “That’s a generic answer. Besides, she told me to come here. Why would she do that if she wasn’t going to be here?”
He pauses, glancing back. “Wait. She asked you to come?”
“Yes. So if you know when she’ll be back, I’d appreciate if you’d tell me.”
He can’t be more than a few years older than me, maybe twenty-five, but his eyes hold years’ worth of experience. He hikes the rest of the steps so he’s standing directly in front of me. “Are you sure she told you to come?”
“How is that any of your business?”
Ryan eyes my death grip on the flashlight, and he lifts a brow. “Are you planning on hitting me with that?”
“Do I need to?”
His lips twitch. “Listen, I’m going to sound like a dick when I say this, but trust me, you don’t want to wait here for your mom. It’s better if you leave. Go home.”
“You’re right,” I say.
His shoulders relax and he actually looks surprised. “Good.” He steps aside and says, “Have a safe trip.”
“I meant you’re right about sounding like a dick. Mission accomplished.” I turn to the house again. “Now, if you’ll excuse me‒”
When I glance back he’s gone. Vanished into thin air. I scan the bushes, shine my flashlight to the side of the house, but there’s no one there.
“Good,” I whisper to myself, though I have no idea how he disappeared that fast. And that quietly.
Peering through the window with my flashlight, I grit my teeth. Shadow Hill needs a better welcoming committee. All I see is the dark outline of furniture inside. On a whim, I check the door and then pause when I find it’s unlocked.
I freeze on the precipice. I’ve never been in my mom’s house before. She left me and my dad when I was eight, fourteen years ago, and I never heard from her once. The only reason I looked her up was because I thought she might want to know about my father’s death. But I hadn’t ended up calling her or visiting her. I hadn’t planned on contacting her at all until I got the letter from a Shadow Hill address with the confusing message.
I shine the flashlight inside. It smells dusty and sealed up. I sneeze and then step into the living room. A dark hallway leads farther into the house, but I stay where I am, scanning the old furniture and knick-knacks on the mantel.
There’s an open book next to a plush chair and I walk over to shine my flashlight on it. A pentagram is branded onto the leather cover and the pages are filled with sketches and what look like spells and hexes.
Something creaks farther down the hall. Almost like footsteps, but too quiet for them to be coming quickly. I shine my flashlight in that direction. I squint my eyes and peer closer. The light reflects off a pair of yellow eyes. I yank in a breath.
A wolf walks slowly down the hallway, like a predator stalking its prey. I back to the door, the book under my arm and my flashlight in the other hand.
The wolf growls, hair rising on its back. My heart hammers in my chest as I twist the doorknob. Slowly, slowly, I pull it open.
And then I dash through, slamming the door behind me. I drop the flashlight but keep running, my boots hitting the wooden flooring on the porch with loud thuds. When I reach my car, I toss the door open and dive inside.
Once the door is shut behind me, I lock it and stare through the windshield. The porch is empty. The front door is still closed and the night is quiet. Peaceful. The old book sits in my lap, pages open to the middle.
My heart still hammering in my chest, I make out the thick lettering at the top of the page. Werewolf.
“Holy shit,” I whisper.
It’s too dark to read the rest of the page. My hand is shaking when I close the book and set it in the passenger seat. It’s just a coincidence. But even so, I’m ready to get out of here.
I need a drink.
Shadow Hill is bigger than I thought. It’s a recreational town along the river with skiing and hiking close by, but also caters to people like me who have no interest in either. Which means it’s easy to find a bar.
It’s a Thursday night, so I’m not surprised when I walk in and see only a handful of people, most of them couples with snacks or meals to go along with their drinks.
I sit at the bar, sliding my bag onto the seat next to me and watching the bartender finish pouring someone a drink before he walks to me.
“Can I get whatever’s on tap?”
“ID please,” he says.
I flash my driver’s license, frowning at the picture when he grabs a glass. It’d been taken two weeks after my father’s death and I’d still been in a daze about the whole thing. The dream I’d had, his actual death, and the fact he’d been secretly storing money in an account for me for years and years.
The first thing I’d done was drop out of college. The next was try to figure out how he’d died. It had also gotten me interested in everything supernatural and paranormal and landed me a freelance job with a magazine that published articles on the same topic.
The bartender slides me my beer. A man sits a few stools from me, glances at my beer and says, “I’ll have one of those.”
He gives me a smile, the kind that only quirks up one corner of his mouth. The kind that says he needs a drink as badly as I do.
I take a long swallow, and then close my eyes, rubbing my hands over my face. The pentagram, the one I’d seen on the front of the book, is burned into my mind. It’s the same one that had been scrawled on my father’s living room floor when he’d been found dead.
“You look like you’ve had a long day,” the man says.
When I look over, he’s angled in my direction, eyes dark as slate. Calculating.
“More like a bad year,” I mumble.
He moves to the seat next to me and I straighten. He’s broad in the shoulders, which are covered with a dark jacket. His hair is as dark as his eyes, raven black and askew in the front like he’s run his hands through it more than once.
When he smiles again, desire shoots straight to my stomach. Not a good idea, I tell myself. I’m here for answers.
“I’ve had a couple of those,” he tells me. “Bad years.”
“You live around here?” If he’s local, maybe I can get information from him.
“As of last month. You?”
“No. Just here for research.”
“What kind of research?”
I shrug. “The kind most people don’t believe in.”
That usually makes most guys even more curious. Once I’d discovered my mom wasn’t really crazy and she must have had some kind of supernatural power, I’d started researching everything I could get my hands on. There’s a lot of information about witches out there, but most of it is surprisingly inaccurate. So I researched and traveled and wrote articles and made an income beyond the money my father gave me. All to try to discover more about what I can do and what had happened to my father.
I see the door open out of the corner of my eye. Ryan walks in, gaze connecting with mine before he sits at a table in the corner.
It could be a coincidence, but I doubt it. First, he tells me to leave and now he’s following me.
The man next to me holds out his hand. “I’m Logan Meyers.”
I reach out and his fingers close over mine, sending a shock of electricity through me. My breath catches in my throat and my vision goes hazy.
“Willow?” Logan asks, still holding my hand.
I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. I see a flash of the wolf in my mother’s house, the book with the pentagram flipping pages frantically, and then another face. One stuck in the shadows…far enough back I can only see the glimpse of something white.
“Willow,” says a low voice. It’s so calm, it’s almost hypnotic.
My eyelids flutter and I open them to find myself slumped against Logan, his arm wrapped snugly around my waist.
“Maybe you should eat something next time you have a drink,” he says with amusement in his voice.
“It wasn’t the drink,” I mumble.
I try to stand, but my legs wobble. Logan squeezes my waist before angling me against the stool. “You okay?”
I swallow, my gaze traveling to Ryan. He’s watching us with a frown. Logan follows my stare and his shoulders tense.
“You know Ryan?” I ask.
His jaw clenches. “I tried to buy one of the houses he flipped. He wouldn’t sell.”
“Maybe he wasn’t ready to let it go.”
Logan looks at me again, humor lighting his eyes. “He wouldn’t sell to me.”
He brushes his thumb on my arm, sending tingles to the tips of my fingers. “Our families don’t get along.”
I ease back on the stool. “I think I’m fine now.”
“Tell me about your research.”
I swivel on my stool and stall by taking another sip of my beer. I kind of dig Logan for being cool about my swooning episode, so I don’t really want to tell him about my research. He’ll probably return to the stool farther away from me. But Logan’s dark eyes are locked on mine again, pulling an answer from my lips.
“Supernatural activity, the occult, paranormal happenings.” I flash him a smile. “Things that go bump in the night.”
“Sounds like you’ve come to the right place, then.”
Intrigued, I swivel to face him again. “Why’s that?”
“Shadow Hill is full of things that go bump in the night. Or so I hear.”
“Where did you hear that?”
He leans in, pitching his voice low, and licks his lips. I try to keep my gaze even with his, but it’s hard when his mouth is so close. I can feel his breath on my arm when he whispers, “Everywhere.”
“It’s everywhere around here. You can see it, feel it. There are ghost tours in the gold mines off the highway, a haunted house over on sixth, animals that only come out when the moon is full. And my favorite?” He smiles, traces his finger from my shoulder to my neck, and lingers. “The ones that suck your blood.”
Fangs. That’s what I’d seen in my vision. My vision when Logan touched me.
“You’re pretty good at tha
“Storytelling.” I wiggle my shoulder so his hand drops. I drink the rest of my beer and stand. “But I haven’t believed in stories like that since I was a kid.”
Not entirely true, but I rarely believe what I don’t see in person. And I’ve never seen a werewolf or a vampire or a ghost‒if you can even see them. The stories of Shadow Hill could very well be a myth like most other places I visit.
Logan watches as I sling my purse over my shoulder and slide a tip onto the shiny bar. He stands before I can take a step and grins down at me.
“You planning on staying for a while?” he asks. “Prove me wrong about the stories?”
I feel eyes on me from across the room, but I can’t look away from Logan. His gaze is dangerous and calm at the same time. Dark and deep, but welcoming.
“I’m planning on staying,” I say. “For a bit.”
He steps back, releasing me from his stare. “Good. Maybe I can take you on one of those tours I mentioned.”
I don’t meet his gaze this time, just smile and slide by so I’m not caught up again. Ryan’s still at his table in the corner, nursing a beer and looking pissed off. He shakes his head when I walk by. I ignore him and step outside.
Maybe there’s something here after all. And if Shadow Hill has any secrets, I’ll find out.
It’s six a.m. when I hear the sound of fluttering. I sit up with a jerk. The sun peeks through the edges of the curtains, but it’s hard to see anything more than the outline of the furniture.
I scoot to the edge of the bed, trying to even my breathing. My bare feet touch the short motel carpeting. The fluttering sounds once more. I gasp and stand. What the hell is that?
The noise comes again from the tiny desk on the opposite wall of the bed. I yank the curtains open and whip around just in time to see the pages of my mother’s book shuffling. They flutter one way and then the other like a deck of cards.
When I step closer, they stop. The top of the page is labeled Curses.