Blood of the Mage

At the academy, everyone has their secrets…

Up until a few weeks ago, the only dirt I dished at the Twyst Academy of Magecraft came from scrubbing its floors. Now I’ve learned that deep within these hallowed halls, sinister secrets hide everywhere.

I try to focus on my new job as janitor-turned-war mage, helping my team of four super-hot college wizards win an insanely intense magic competition, but it isn’t easy.

Especially since I’ve barely come to terms with falling for Connor, the most carefree mage in our group…only to develop a mind-blowing crush on Luke, the biggest, scariest mage I’ve ever met. Which, um, is complicated.

And when Luke is nearly killed to keep the explosive truth about his past hidden, something fierce and deadly rages to life inside me. Because I’ve got secrets, too…

Note: This is a slow burn, New Adult paranormal academy romance, and book 2 of 4 in the Twyst Academy series.

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Prologue: Luke

I watched her across the quad as she searched the crowd, her hazel eyes sharp and distrusting. She’d pulled her long dark hair back from her face, and she moved like a fighter entering the ring. I could see the set to her jaw, the slight clenching of her right hand. She didn’t tighten her left. Instead, she flared those fingers out slightly, as if knowing she’d need that hand to balance herself if she had to throw a punch. She was wary, uncertain. On edge.

She was so much like me it hurt.

And I wanted her. Bad enough it made it tough to breathe whenever she was near. Bad enough I’d had to double—triple—my workouts, just so I didn’t say or do something stupid in her presence. Because Maddigan Pierce was not for me.

Not because of Connor, either. He’d found our fierce, incredible war mage first. She fell in love with him straight off, though she still didn’t trust herself to use those words. And he loves her right back. Love comes easy to guys like Connor.

But Connor also insisted that Maddigan was our war mage, and she could love whoever she wanted. Be with whoever she wanted. It was her choice, her decision. She was our center, our beating heart, and if she chose to be with any of us—in any way—we would be stronger for it.

Maddigan’s inner strength absolutely jacked our wizarding abilities every time she touched us—I already knew that to be true. When she joined us in our fighting formation, we were unstoppable. And I also suspected that simply kissing her would amplify my personal power a million percent. Actual sex would probably make my head explode.

And all I had to do in return? Lay down my life for her.

That part I had no problem with.

But I wasn’t worthy of Maddigan Pierce. Never would be. No one could stand to be near me except the guys who made up our team—and I half suspected they were surprised we’d become friends, too. I didn’t blame them. I was rough, scarred. I got angry way too fast, and I was big enough to knock shit down when that happened. I scared people. I didn’t fit, and never had.

Hell, my own parents had dumped me on the front door of a boarding school the first chance they got, then vanished. Completely. Abandoned our family farm so fast that when I went home for my first break not three months later, the place was nothing but a ghost town. They didn’t even say goodbye. I was fourteen years old, and functionally an orphan.

A freak, more like.

Now I had to teach Maddigan how to fight. Work with her in close contact, touching her, holding her. Smelling her heat and fire, tasting the salt of her sweat, even the tang of her blood. Like always, I went hard just thinking about it, which was fucking insane.

It didn’t matter that I hoped—prayed, really—that she would help me, too. Not with sex—I couldn’t even think about that—but with a secret project I needed a sidekick for. A sidekick, not an equal, so none of the guys on our team qualified. It was a fucking pain in the ass, but maybe, with Maddigan’s help…maybe I could make it work.

If I didn’t scare the shit out of her before that, of course.

I blew out a long, slow breath, and it was my turn to clench my fists, to use all my training to relax my body, slow my pounding blood. I would do anything for the guys, anything to help us win the Mage Trials competition. If Maddigan wanted to learn self-defense, I would teach her. If she wanted to spar, to hit me with her flying fists, her eyes wild, her mouth caught halfway between an anguished snarl and fierce delight as she rushed me—I would fight her.

But if she wanted to get any closer, to look at me with those deep, wide hazel eyes, her gorgeous hair spilling out of her ponytail to cover her shoulders, her breath hitching in her throat as her breasts rose and fell, if she wanted to kiss me, touch me—no. I wouldn’t ever let her do that, even if she thought she should, to help out the team. I knew who, and what, I was, and I sensed the purity of power in her, the hidden strength. I didn’t care what Connor believed about mage teams, and the cumulative effect of all of us bonding with our war mage—it wasn’t going to happen.

I breathed out another hissing sigh as she saw me across the quad, her eyes lighting up, her face breaking into a smile. God, was there anyone more beautiful to ever walk the earth? I couldn’t imagine it.

Maddigan Pierce was a queen. Compared to her, I was nothing but dirt.

And I would keep her safe.

Even—especially—from me.

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