Chapter 1

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May 2014

The laughter of my group echoed off the dark, quiet evening as we made our way down the narrowing road. My head was still filled with lingering grotesque images, thanks to the thriller film. The clatter of heels on blacktop blended with our babble.

A girl's night out.

There was nothing I'd needed more, especially when it was a coveted rare occasion. Lately, I was so stressed with the planet-size responsibility I was expected to shoulder—all part of my birthright.

Some days it sucked ass being the heir to the high priestess.

It had been Kat who had craftily convinced my father to let me outside the gates of Caledonia, normally an impossible feat. I heart Kat and her sly ways. She was so much more inventive than me, even in her magick.

Kat was not only my best friend and confidante, but also my ally in all things, including freedom from outside the walls of my home in Caledonia. Well, I say home loosely. It was more like a fortress. Being the next high priestess left little time for pleasures, even ones as simply as a movie.

Kat, my savior, had rallied Morgan and Nola to tag along on my taste of fresh air without chaperones or guards. At twenty, I'd say it was long overdue.

Okay, for real, it was pathetic.

Our whispered giggles and muffled snickers floated softly into old Toulouse Park. Against the somber night, the grounds held a ghostly beauty. Sculptured trees and bushes lined along the ornate iron fence. Shadows of willows, dogwood, and tall maple swung with the whistling winds. A stone fountain trickled a song of water drops, singing in harmony with the rustling of leaves. The scents of floral beds, fresh mowed grass, and something else tickled the air.

Stepping into the park, I felt the first prickles of unease snake down my spine. Being born with power, I trusted those instincts more often than not. They had yet to fail me. I might not be street smart or worldly, but even in the cage, the instinctual sense of trouble was ingrained.

My instincts were telling me to get the hell out of here. Fast. I should have listened. Not for my sake, but for my friends.

The four of us might be witches, but our gifts were different, and the strength of those gifts varied as well. Bloodline determined everything in our genetic makeup. I was born of royalty magick, which meant I could level a small city if I wanted. I had no specific gift. It was all at my fingertips. My friend's talents were on much more refined scale. Nola could heal. Morgan manipulated nature's elements. And Kat, she could clone herself.

But no magick was without cost.

To heal, Nola absorbed the wounds onto herself. Morgan's control wasn't great. She had once called for a gentle mist to cool us off. Caledonia suffered a monsoon for a month. And multiple Kat's wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

What a bunch we were.

As we passed under a patch of trees, our night was about to end on a sour note. We came face-to-face with the hunger of bloodlust.

A pack of vamps.

What my friends and I stumbled upon in the lavish park had us gasping instead of giggling. Four vamps in the middle of a midnight snack. Two of them were feasting greedily on the limps of a young woman. She didn't appear to be in any pain, especially not in the exotic way she draped herself around the beasts, exposed like a hussy.

The sight still made me want to barf.

Another vampire impatiently paced back and forth behind the bloodsuckers, snarling at having to wait for his sloppy seconds. Knowing that we had walked into trouble, I took a step in retreat, partially to silently forewarn my friends we were in a hot mess. There were some witches who disregarded vampires with arrogance. I however, had never been this close before, and I liked to reserve judgment myself.

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