Werewolves Be Damned (Magic & Mayhem #1) by Stacey Kennedy

Prologue

The putrefied stench of death rushed through Nexi Jones’s nostrils as she scooted along the floor, cowering from the snarling wolf. Dark red stains saturated the beige carpet and crimson horror splattered the floral wallpaper in her living room.

A terrible combination of grief and fear rattled her, when suddenly, the air around the wolf shimmered. A frigid blast washed through her as if the trauma of seeing her slain parents and her own imminent death had leeched all of her warmth.

The wolf’s fur rippled as if by a harsh wind, yet no windows were open in her house. His features contorted and his gray fur shifted to a cocoa color. Then, in the wolf’s place stood a man, peering down at her with black eyes and shoulder-length dark hair.

Her mind had to have betrayed her—wolves didn’t change into denim-clad men in the blink of an eye. Hadn’t she seen a special on the Discovery Channel about the effects of trauma on the human imagination? Maybe the wolf-man was a weird manifestation of the horror of seeing her parents murdered in the kitchen.

Managing to get on her feet, she scrambled toward the front door. She took two steps before the man grabbed her at the nape and shoved her face-first to the floor. “Don’t fight.” His voice dipped low, resonating with danger. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“What the hell are you?” she gasped.

His grip on her neck loosened. “Do you promise not to run?”

“Yes.” Her hands fisted. “I promise.”

The man shifted off her back and when he turned her over, she kneed him between the legs as hard as she could. He dropped to the side with a loud groan. She pushed off the floor and begged her legs to be quick.

“Help!” she screamed.

His footsteps thundered behind her. “You’re leaving me with no other choice.”

A splitting pain in the back of her skull stole her need to flee, sending her crashing to the floor. Through the pain threatening to smother her, deep yells, muted but obviously angry, trickled through and kept her conscious.

In her line of vision, she discovered paws.

Confused, she raised her pounding head off the carpet. The man had turned into a wolf again and he snarled, but not at her. He trained his predatory stare onto the two men charging into her living room. Men who happened to look like medieval warriors. Both were bare-chested, swords strapped to their backs, and clad in only dark leather kilts and black boots that stopped mid-calf.

One of them positioned himself in front of her and shielded her from the wolf, holding a hefty sword in his hand. He looked down at her, his piercing, light-green eyes blazing. “Don’t move. You’ll be safe.”

The other warrior circled the wolf, exuding controlled power. “Shift now. Answer for this savagery.” The wolf growled, curling his lip to display sharp teeth, and the warrior stepped forward for a clear attack. Then loud howls erupted in the foyer of her house.

Four more wolves charged into her living room, and Nexi leapt to her feet. Her only plan: getting the hell out of this nightmare and away from these freakish creatures. The entrance to the kitchen was behind her and with her fear washing away all thought, she made a beeline for the doorway.

The warrior who had stayed by her yelled, “No, Nexi! Stop!”

She had a split second to wonder how he knew her name and why these men were helping her before scary roars followed by thundering paws against the carpet sounded at her back. Just as she reached the kitchen’s doorway and spotted her adoptive father’s legs, sharp teeth bit painfully into her calf, sending her tumbling.

“Big mistake, wolf.” The green-eyed warrior sliced his blade through the wolf’s neck, spraying blood in the air.

Nexi scrambled back and bumped into the couch. “Holy f**k.”

In front of her, she spotted a brown wolf with a black stripe running along his head and over his snout. He took a quick look around, even his wolfish eyes portrayed alarm, then he ran from the room.

One escaped…

She turned to her left. The other warrior was battling a tan wolf as another gray wolf was prepping to pounce. In an instant, he jumped onto the warrior’s back, and they crashed into her coffee table, breaking it into pieces.

She looked from fight to fight and her mind struggled to catch up. The warriors fought with a speed and strength she had never seen before. No way could this be real. Her parents weren’t dead, wolves weren’t shifting into men, and there weren’t medieval-looking warriors in her living room. Doing the only thing she could, she shut her eyes and prayed that she’d survive.

Not a minute later, a warm hand touched under her knees and a strong arm wrapped around her back. “Are you all right?”

Nexi dared to open her eyes. “Are you out of your goddamned mind?” she snapped, overwhelmed by panic. “I’m anything but all right.”

With a gentle touch, the green-eyed warrior helped her to sit up, and she hissed as her wounds complained. When she took in the state of her living room, nothing made any sense. Before she shut her eyes there were wolves and blood. Now the house was empty except for her, the warriors, and her broken coffee table. “What? The wolves? Gone?”

The warrior tightened his arms around her. “We need to get you out of here.”

“Like hell.” She pushed away from him, her eyesight blurred. “You are…I don’t know what you are, but—” Yes, the men had helped her, but… “That wolf turned into a man…then into a wolf…”

The other warrior, who stood a few feet away, slid his sword into his scabbard. “Take a deep breath. You’re safe now.”

“Safe.” Fighting through the near-crippling pain, she forced herself to stand on wobbly legs. “You’re…you are…?”

“Guardians.” His soft hazel eyes appeared oddly familiar and reflected a gentle nature. It should’ve comforted her. It didn’t. Her blood ran cold. Then the warrior added, “All you need to understand is that I’ve come for you.”

She blinked.

He approached with slow steps, so unlike the warrior she’d witnessed moments ago. “I’m afraid there’s no easy way to tell you this.” He stopped a foot away. “I’m Drake—your birth father.”

“You’re…what?” The world somersaulted around her. “I have…oh, God…I gotta sit down…”

Drake yelled, “Grab her, Kyden. She’s going to faint.”

Chapter One

I’ve found you, fur ball.

Nexi peered from behind the large oak tree and spotted the small log cabin nestled in the thick forest. The porch light cast a warm glow into the night. Fog settled over the lush grass, and the night was dark, eerie.

Stepping away from her hiding place behind the tree, she strode forward and gripped the dagger tightly in her hand. Keeping the silver blade pointed outward, she climbed the cabin’s porch steps, taking each one slowly to avoid detection.

Once she arrived at the front door, she wrapped her hand around the door handle. Rich hunger for revenge burned in her veins and made her intent on one thing: to slaughter the werewolf who escaped the night of her parents’ murder. Not caring what awaited her, she stormed inside, dagger pointed, ready to kill.

The simple cabin had two large brown couches near a wood-burning stove, a kitchenette behind the living room, and a quilt-covered bed resting in the back. And that was it; there were no other rooms to investigate. No secret hiding places she could see.

No damned werewolf.

She cursed, shut the front door behind her, then trotted down the steps to return to her hiding spot. On her way across the yard, she glanced at the space to the right of the tree, which looked much like a heat wave, indicating that the portal to the Otherworld remained.

In some places around the world—or the Earthworld, as supernaturals had called it—there were permanent portals to the supernatural realm. This portal had only appeared because Nexi had travelled to this cabin from the Otherworld. Once she passed through the portal again, the gateway would vanish.

Magic had its perks. Quick travel was one of them.

Nexi shook her head at how normal all this magical stuff seemed now. Just over a month ago she’d never believed in anything that went bump in the night. Now she knew all those things existed, and in fact, she was one of them.

To her horror, she had learned that her birth mother, Tillie, had been murdered by a power-hungry vampire, Lazarus. All those years ago, her birth father, Drake, had protectively decided to block Nexi’s supernatural abilities. He had planned for her to live and die as a mortal. Now with her return to the Otherworld and the removal of the block on her true identity, there was no going back.

She was no longer plain, human, Nexi Jones.

She was Nexi Jones, part guardian, part witch.

Looking away from the portal and to her hiding spot until the werewolf returned, she hurried her steps. She wasn’t ready to return to the Otherworld yet. Not until she had the werewolf’s head as her wall ornament would she dare go home.

Just as she neared the tree, a woodsy scent that had nothing to do with the forest mixed with the citrusy aroma of aftershave. A blink of an eye later, the dagger she held was now at her throat, a hard body closed in on her back.

“You smelled lovely when you arrived.” The low voice by her ear held a faint English accent. “But I never imagined you’d be so pretty.”

The blade pressed into her skin, not drawing blood, but implying that if the werewolf chose, she’d be destined for the grave. “I’m…”

“Going to explain yourself.” He lowered the dagger, took hold of her arm, and jerked her forward.

In a few short strides, the werewolf tossed her through the threshold of the cabin, and slammed the door behind them. He sauntered to the couch, sat down, and regarded her. “Now then, darlin’.” His olive skin was stunningly flawless, and his chocolate-colored hair was spiked tall. “Why would a pretty lass like yourself plan to attack me?”

“Don’t move.” That charm wouldn’t fool her. “Stay right where you are.”

“My mouth is the only thing moving.” His slanted amber eyes raked over her. “Would you like me to stop talking?”

“No.” She hesitated then added, “Only your mouth can move. Nothing else. Tell me what you know.”

He gave her a long look. “I’d be glad to tell you anything you’d like, love.”

His kind face and soft voice wouldn’t trick her. He was a werewolf. She was certain, which was another oddity.

After the block on her supernatural abilities had been lifted, she could identify a supernatural creature as if knowing the difference between a brunette and a redhead. “Tell me why you killed my family.”

“That’s an interesting accusation.” He cocked his head, studying her with a frown. “But I think the more important question is who are you?”

She lifted her chin. “The lass who’s going to cut off your furry wolf balls.”

The Guardians’ House, located on the north side of the Otherworld’s castle, was quiet tonight. Kyden strode through the wide hallway, passing the large arched windows on his right and the thick mahogany doors on his left leading to the residences of his fellow guardians.

Nearly at the bend in the hallway, a scuffle sounded at his back, followed by a loud squeak. He took a quick look behind him, discovering the Earth Witch, Haven, approaching from the Witches’ House. Behind her, his good friend and guardian, Finn, followed at a brisk walk.

“Thank goodness I found you, Kyden.” Haven gasped as she reached him. Her brown curls bounced off her shoulders, her big blue eyes were wide, and her cheeks were flushed pink. “I’ve messed up. Big time.”

When Finn joined them, he leaned against the stone wall and pursed his lips at Haven. As the thinnest guardian in the Otherworld, Finn could be underestimated. Kyden always thought that was Finn’s advantage. Enemies took him to be weak and by the time they realized they were wrong, they were dead.

Turning to Haven, Kyden noticed how she worried her bottom lip. While she was a sweet witch who had a huge heart, and she was Finn’s potential mate, her naiveté brought trouble often. “What have you done now?”

“You see…” She shifted on her feet, looking everywhere but at him. “I was with Nexi earlier tonight. We were talking about her parents’ murders and…I might have mentioned that Briggs could know something about their deaths.”

He arched an eyebrow. “And I should care about this because?”

“She got mad.” Haven’s eyes widened further. “Like, really, really mad. I didn’t think she’d do anything. But she’s left the Otherworld.”

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