Chapter 1

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Jessica bent over and gripped her knees, gasping in heavy breaths. Clouds of hot air rose steadily from her lips. Dread pooled in her gut at the sight of the brick wall in front of her. She could hear them approaching in the distance, their stampeding feet indicative of their level of finesse. Of all the nights to run into the witch hunters, they had to find her tonight.

She cursed to herself as she straightened her back and surveyed the end of the alley. Toronto was such a large city that she was still finding new streets and passageways after four years of living there. Unfortunately, she was also still learning new dead-ends.

Jessica heaved a heavy sigh once she managed to catch her breath. The crisp October air made her lungs feel like they were filling with frost, even though snow hadn't fallen yet. She turned to face the way she had come.

"This way," a deep voice said in the distance.

Jessica backed herself against the brick wall and looked up. The sky was brightly decorated with dazzling hues of oranges, pinks and reds — far more vibrant than any regular sunset. Like psychedelic northern lights, it was mesmerizing.

She was part of a small handful of people in the city, or around the world, who knew what those colours really meant. Strong magic was being cast tonight. It was her duty to investigate and, if necessary, stop it. She thought she was getting close to the source when she was interrupted by the witch hunters.

Wherever there were witches, there were witch hunters. They described themselves as a sacred band devoted to bringing justice to the world by correcting the imbalance of power created by the existence of magic. It was quite the slogan.

In reality, they were a ridiculous cult dedicated to eradicating all things magical. At least that was this group's mission. Jessica knew there were different sects of the witch hunters all around the world. They persisted across the globe just as other magical creatures did, including witches.

Not the green faced, black-clothed, funny-nosed kind of witches of T.V. mythology. Witches looked human and, just like regular people, there was a wide diversity. It was Jessica's job as a Beata to keep the balance in the world of magic. A job that was near impossible when she had to run for her life.

"This way!" another male voice called out. It was much closer than before.

Jessica growled under her breath. How stupid was it that a band of people who wanted to destroy all things magical used magic to hunt it down? Their cursed compass directed them to anything with a powerful aura. Being near Jessica made the stupid contraption go haywire. She had no idea how witch hunters managed to get a hold of such a powerful magical relic, but it was a massive thorn in her side.

A team of four entered the alleyway, their shadows stretching up to Jessica's feet. She scowled instinctively. There was a bigger problem at hand than the hunters' petty squabble with her. Her already tired patience was running thin.

"What took you so long?" she asked as the hunters approached.

Three of them she didn't know, two men and a woman, but the man who clearly led them was all too familiar. Damien Crowe, brother and second in command to the witch hunters' leader Connor Crowe. His tall broad frame, just over six feet, cast a dramatic shadow across the alley. Damien didn't say anything at first, but that was no surprise. He was a man of few words, and Jessica had learned not to underestimate him. Beneath the quiet exterior was deadly strength and precision. Damien looked like a bouncer at a club, but he moved with calculated intelligence that made it clear he was more than just muscle.

"Connor call in sick today?" she scoffed. Secretly she was relieved. Being around the other Crowe brother always made her skin crawl. While Damien was broad-shouldered, Connor was lean and shorter. What Connor lacked in physical power, he made up for with his words. He never was shy about sharing his appreciation (or serious lack thereof) of her and her kind.

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