:::3/18/2016 Cat Note: Howdy! I got a publishing contract for my Dark Ritual series. Book 1-4 are all out now in ebook/print  from Full Fathom Five.

Ready for a crazy ride? Let the adventure, the drama, the magic begin!:::::

Book Dedication:

Book Dedication:

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Chapter 1

"You want to learn the Death Arts?"

The look on his face was hard to read. It couldn't be every day that someone wandered into the shop and made such a request.

I tried to look more confident than I felt. He couldn't tell my hands were trembling slightly inside my jacket pockets, could he? I forced myself to keep my gaze steady and resisted the urge to take to my heels and run out the door.

My mama always said, You can always ask. The worst they can do is say no. But I don't think Mama was thinking about revenge and murder when she dealt out that piece of homespun advice.

He stood behind the counter with a questioning look in his eyes. He looked about my age—seventeen—and had shoulder-length blond hair. His black tank top sported a picture of a large red phoenix surrounded by fire.

My words seemed to catch in my throat, so I decided to look around the shop to buy me some time. Every wall in the place housed a set of shelves, and scattered around the room were waist-high, freestanding glass cases. Statues with menacing faces stared back at me from between leather-bound books on shelves. Every flat surface was crammed full of exquisite bottles filled with colorful liquids, dried herbs, exotic feathers, and cloth pouches tied with ribbon.

Mixed in with these harmless-looking objects were other things. Misshapen bottles filled with red liquid—probably blood—from a human, goat, or pig... Who could tell? In a dark corner, I could make out the shapes of animal skulls. And something else. I leaned forward to get a closer look. What were those small objects hanging from a wooden pole over in the corner?

A chill ran down my back when I realized they were shrunken heads.

This was a magic shop, dimly lit, with items peering from the shadows where they hid. Some of them I'd only seen in pictures. At another time, I would have been tempted to spend a lazy afternoon exploring every nook and cranny in the place. But not today. I was here with a single-minded purpose.

"I was told the owner of this shop could teach me the Death Arts," I finally said.

"I'm sorry, someone's playing a joke on you. No one here can help you, not with something like that."

I'd anticipated that my request would be met with anger or disbelief, but he seemed almost indifferent. Almost. Those dark-gray eyes had a hint of wariness about them. He might act as though everything was fine and dandy, but I had the impression that, at any moment, I was going to get tossed out on my butt.

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