Cursed by Fire (Blood & Magic) - Danielle Annett

It has been six years since the Awakening and peace in Spokane, Washington is still tenuous at best. The vampires and shifters are all vying for control of the city and the humans seem to be the ones suffering the consequences, or so it seems.

Aria Naveed has spent the last two years of her life fighting to make the many wrongs of the world right, but soon finds out that the humans aren’t as weak as they appear and may be a more terrifying foe than any of the other races combined.

When a stranger rolls into town with trouble on his heels, Aria finds herself trapped in the middle of a battle that could cost her more than she has bargained for as a fight for justice turns into an unexpected fight for her life.

For my daughter, Savanah.

Without you, I would have finished this book much sooner but perhaps this will teach you to always persevere.

And for Joshua. You will likely never read this but know that I love you.

All I saw was blood. Blood soaked my hands and coated the walls. It stained the concrete flooring of the abandoned warehouse and dripped from fixtures that hung from the ceiling, trickling like a slow rain. My vision blurred as anguish filled me. How could this have happened? How could I have been too late?

I stared down at the lifeless body of a child. A boy. Kneeling in a pool of congealing blood, I ran my fingers through his chestnut hair, ignoring the now-cool moisture seeping into the denim of my pants. His face was unrecognizable. Gone was the child with the dimpled cheek and brilliant blue eyes. Left behind was a mass of flesh and bone—a ruined body drained of its life force at such a young age.

Reality snapped like an elastic band, bringing me back to the present as I sat at my desk in Sanborn Place. Ripped from the haunted memories of finding Daniel’s body.

The world was a cruel place. It was a fact of life and even though I knew it was true, I still had a hard time coming to terms with the atrocities people committed. The cruelties that for some god-forsaken reason, people thought were okay. Staring down at the wallet-sized photo now crumpled in my hands, I was greeted by a crown of chestnut hair, bright blue eyes, a heart-shaped face, and a brilliant smile; a single dimple on his left cheek. The face of an innocent seven-year-old boy, cut down like he was little more than a calf brought to slaughter. I found myself struggling to link the image of this smiling boy to that of the ruined body I’d found less than forty-eight hours ago.

Inside, a small part of me burned. My blood heated and a turbulent rage rolled through me, one I had to fight to contain.

“Ari, you’ve got to stop staring at the kid. He’s gone. Let it go,” I heard Mike say.

I couldn’t let it go. I didn’t understand how he could either. I looked up from the photograph and stared Mike straight in the eyes. He cringed but held my gaze.

“He was seven-years-old, Mike,” I said through clenched teeth. “Seven!”

I shook my head, the poor kid had barely lived, barely tasted what the world had to offer. I take that back, he’d tasted too much of what the world could give and it had cost him.

Ever since the Awakening six years ago when all things that went bump in the night decided to come out of the woodwork and play, safety had been tenuous at best and kids like this, like seven-year-old Daniel Blackmore, were suffering the price.

Vampires, shifters, mages, witches and many more creatures of the night so to speak had seemingly popped out of nowhere, deciding they were ready to integrate themselves into everyday, or night, society.

Daniel had been abducted by a rogue vampire. I’d found his mangled body, broken and discarded as if he were nothing more than a piece of trash and I was going to find the bastard that had killed him and make him pay.

“Ari, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no.”

I looked Mike up and down. He was an older man in his late forties with a streak of silver in his otherwise midnight colored hair. The wrinkles around his eyes would lead you to believe he smiled a lot but I knew better. Those lines were from his ever-present frown. Dressed in black slacks and a grey button