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In a world torn between darkness and light, can love survive?
Metamorphosis. The muse restored his life and Romer’s guardian abilities exploded. At least, that’s what the wings seem to be saying. He’s drawn to the gorgeous newcomer, Zoelle, but his extreme light is attracting dark magic of all sorts into Magic, New Mexico, just in time for Christmas.
Zoelle, a talented forest witch, never trusted her heart or the light, preferring to hoodwink from the shadows. Her connection to Romer forces choices, but she isn’t ready to cede control over her body or how she wields her gifts.
Dark magicals flood the town, turning townspeople against each other. Is Romer the key or the curse? Forsaken by his neighbors but determined to protect them all, he struggles with his love for the darkening Zoelle. Can he save both, or must he release his beloved to sinister forces, lost forever?
Discover what happens when a genuinely good man is called to an extraordinary task.
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In the pinyon and juniper woodlands, the jays and nutcrackers fell silent. Mists, the color of a french lavender field, wafted between the trees, covering the ground in a soft, humid boil. Beneath it, blades of grass, tips of emerging flowers and plants, and tiny vines pushed up from the unforgiving New Mexican soil. More mist surged from the cauldron, until nearly an acre trembled in growth, the vines forming a fence, then walls, and finally a cozy cottage. Grass covered the floor, and flowers dotted the walls and ceiling.
“Not a bad mixture,” Zoelle pushed heavy blond hair back over her shoulders, patted the great iron pot, and waved to smother the fire with a quick spell. “I think we’ll be fine here, Grimpelt.”
The fat cat blinked and purred, his splotched tri color coat of orange, white, and black framing one green and one blue eye. He stretched with elaborate deliberateness, then sashayed his puffy tail into the new home, taking his place on the window sill and eyeing the birds, still withholding their songs.
“From here, we can spy, see what this Magic, New Mexico is like under the surface. Nothing is ever what it seems,” Zoelle murmured, pulling a cup of tea from thin air. “Still, the truth teller was adamant that I needed to pull up all roots and leave the great woods in Wisconsin.” She blew out a sigh and rubbed Grimpelt under his chin. “But I distrust happiness. It’s never served me well. Mayhem, now that’s an attitude I can get behind.”
The moon rose, a slender smiling sliver in the sky and she nodded at the cat, her dark blue eyes crinkling at the corners. “Keep watch. I’ll be back before dawn.”
To his rumbling purr, she snapped her fingers and vanished.
The wind whipped across the flat sandy high desert, and Zoelle stood, perplexed and invisible, staring at the glow strolling, perhaps meandering was a better description, across the flatlands. The ball of light, which appeared to have feet, changed colors, ebbing and expanding in ferocious abandonment. Whatever it was, pulsed with a wild beauty, and she felt both drawn and repulsed, although she remained in place.
Zoelle glanced up at the huge tree and narrowed her eyes.
What the heck is that?
A large bird with gorgeous feathers in red, blue, copper, and green flew low over Zoelle’s head, arcing out across the sand, lost in the night sky.
“I know I’m unseen,” Zoelle muttered to herself before turning her gaze back to the kaleidoscope marching around in the dark. “Have to admit, I’m really curious.”
The bird landed near Romer’s blazing auras and clicked its beak.
“Hey Tashi,” Romer greeted the squinting firebird. “I heard you’re sitting another egg. Congratulations.”
“Quirrup! Quirr, quirr, quirrup!” The bird jerked it’s head with vehemence toward the rocky hill topped by a huge tree.
“A stranger? Hmm.”
Romer gazed at the rock covered hill for a long beat, and reached into his pocket, pulling a thin silky sheet, similar to an oversized magician’s handkerchief, and shook it until it billowed into the night wind. In a way, it was; the sheet was a gift from his teacher, Topper, to help him go incognito when a situation warranted.
In an instant, the swirling ball of light vanished.
“Weird. I sensed no witch, but transport is our gift to weild,” Zoelle propped her hands on her hips as the bird flew unnoticed over her head and landed, settling on her egg and giving Zoelle a hard stare.
“Guess I’ll check out the town, see what else isn’t as it seems.”
With a snap, Zoelle vanished.
Tashi reached into her nest, pulled a coin free with her beak, and flipped it into the air.
A faint pop, and Topper appeared. Today her hair was blue with a wide white streak along one side of her grin. About fifty, she was trim in faded jeans; a lightweight burgundy hoodie protecting her from the cool desert night.
“It’s rare you call for me, Tashi, are you alright?”
With a rustle of feathers, Tashi shifted, stepping off her nest and plunking her naked butt on the branch. A firebird and moon elf blend, she was an unabashed free spirit. Topper lifted a palm upward in question.
“I can only be off the nest for a few moments, but Topper, a strange witch popped onto my hill, and she saw Romer walking, trying to control his glow. I flew and warned him; he used the wrap you made for situations like this one, but she’s headed into town.” Strands of Tashi’s hair moved, of its own volition, around her face and shoulders in alarm.” I didn’t get a good vibe.”
“Did she know what she was seeing?”
“Does anyone?” Tashi snorted. “Hell, Romer can’t even figure himself out yet. But no, I believe she saw him as a being, not a ghost or a light phenomenon. She knew he was off, though.”
“It was getting too quiet around here. When do you expect to hatch?”
“Another week. I’ll probably miss all the fun with our new snoop.”
Topper laughed as Tashi, once more a firebird, turned her egg and settled her body over it.
Romer, invisible to all, climbed the steps to his second floor apartment over Kokopelli’s bar and pulled the door shut behind him. The original plan was for him and his best friend Wellie to share the apartment, and the dwarves built it out to suit, but Wellie went home to New Orleans to visit family, fell head over heels for Trini, and now they had a three story place not far from Topper’s home. Trini, a harpy, regularly flew from the wrap-around third floor balcony; Wellie spent time as the cook at the Krazy Kettle. Well, when he wasn’t trying to figure out how that amulet buried in his chest was changing him.
None of us came through our introduction to Magic, New Mexico unscathed.
None also included his other best friend, Jasper Jones, who managed to survive his metamorphosis, and lived with his drop dead gorgeous wife, Melia, who was a muse and a total badass. Their house, next door to Topper’s, was a regular crash for Romer, and they’d decked out a room to suit his situation.
I understand the benefits of living in this cave, but it still sucks.
Romer gazed around his apartment, covered in blackout curtains from floor to ceiling, and dropped the magical sheet. From every pore, light blazed in a swirl of blending colors. After dying to save Jasper, he received the gift of rebirth from the muse collective. While appreciated, the light show was getting old. Still until he figured out how to control it, this was his life.
Which was a significant motivator.
Daily, he studied at Topper’s with Wellie and Jasper, each determined to master the upending twists that changed, well, damn near everything.
“None of us is who we were, hell, who we spent nearly thirty years becoming. We’re starting over, but the possibilities are huge.”
He stretched out a long, well muscled arm and pulled his current book closer, one borrowed from Topper’s huge library, and laid his bookmark aside.
“The answer is in one of these books.” He ran strong fingers through his thick brown hair, otherworldly cerulean blue eyes seeking the words. “I’ve got to figure out what, and who, I am. Hiding isn’t the answer.”
Zoelle stood outside Topper’s house and nodded.
Witch, and a good one based on the protectie spells she’s placed.
Topper stepped onto her big wrap around porch, a bottle of bourbon and two glasses bobbing in the air behind her. With a glance at Zoelle’s hiding spot, she crooked a finger.
She saw me? How interesting.
“I’d love that,” Zoelle answered, shimmering into view and walking up the drive, sand making little puffs with each step. “How do you stand all this dust?”
“Like anywhere else, a place has charms and the not quite so charming elements. Each decides which matters most.”
Topper gestured to a wicker chair with a deep cushion. Zoelle sat, wrapped slim fingers around the floating highball glass, pulled it toward her, and sipped.
“Nice,” she nodded.
“I’m Topper. Welcome to Magic, New Mexico.”
“Thank you. My name’s Zoelle. I’m visiting from Wisconsin.”
“Far less dust there,” Topper laughed, mind racing. “Are you planning to join our little community?”
“I don’t know enough about it to make that call,” Zoelle sipped and gazed at the moon’s thin smile. “I’ll stay for a month, see the revolution of the moon, and get a sense of the rhythm.”
“A sensible plan,” Topper nodded. “Do you have a place to stay?”
“Oh yes, I’ve set up in forest land a ways north of here. I’ll pop in and out and enjoy myself. I always do.”
“A witch’s pejorative,” Topper laughed.
“Indeed it is,” Zoelle drained her glass and rose. “I appreciate the hospitality, Topper.”
“Come anytime. I enjoy meeting new folks. Perhaps we can discuss craft. Always open to new interpretations!”
“That sounds inviting.”
With a pop, Zoelle vanished and Topper leaned into her seat, bourbon forgotten on the table beside her.
Strong, capable, definitely a forest sense to her, she’s not basic in any way. I wish Elthera was here, I value her wisdom with old magic. I could go see her, but in my bones, I believe I need to stay here.
“Romer is the key,” Topper told her tinkling wind chimes. “He’s pulling the balance as he changes. Our little break from crazy is over, and this witch, Zoelle, is one more piece in a fascinating puzzle. She was drawn here. What I want to know is why?”