Soul of the Mage

Cleaning up the academy just got…personal.

Up to now, my life has been kind of a fairy tale—the down-on-her-luck janitor turned war mage, tapped to help four super-hot college wizards win a magic competition, while they become my very own Prince Charmings.

Except now, as our final and deadliest challenge looms, I’m supposed to bond with the last mage of the group, Rafe. And he’s nothing like I expect.

With the barest smile, he seduces me. With the softest touch, he electrifies me. From our very first kiss, he opens me to a haunting, forsaken power that binds me to him, body and soul.

Even worse, I know—know—that Rafe is hiding a terrible secret. One that threatens to shatter him into a million pieces…or shatter me instead. But I haven’t come this far to lose this gorgeous, tortured wizard to his twisted magic. I haven’t come this far to lose any of them.

So Bring. It. On.

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

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Prologue: Rafe

She broke her own rules. I watched her do it.

In a debased ritual we were never supposed to see, let alone stop, Maddigan Pierce had watched the Red Team steal power from an entire room full of Twyst Academy mages. She knew that theft was gruesomely wrong. She’d despised the Red Team for trying to take what wasn’t theirs, breaking the backs of lesser mages to build their own strength.

Then she’d stared, spellbound, as the academy mages’ untutored powers joined in a furious tangle with the wild magic of the Borderlands. She’d heard that new magic’s siren song. Her body had practically vibrated with it. Her hands had lifted, fingers sparking with fire. Her beautiful lips had parted, her eyes softening. Her breathing had become hitched, erratic.

Despite everything she knew, everything she believed, she’d craved the mind-bending power flooding through that chamber. And before she could stop herself, she’d taken it. Overwhelmed and unprepared for this surging magic, she’d completely vanished from her body for a moment, leaving our realm entirely. Then she’d returned to herself and given the magic back.

Most of it.

And that was the important part.

Remember that, dammit. That’s the important part.

I shuddered in the shadows, feeling her close enough to touch, to take. She was a war mage, her fire bright and true, and I wanted her more with every breath. I’d watched her endlessly these past few months, her growing power, her strength, her confidence. I’d seen her fall in love with Connor, Luke, Marcus…

Not me, though. Never me. Even though we both spark with fire and temptation every time we get near each other, even though I want her so badly, my mouth goes dry and my palms sweat the moment she appears…she throws up one wall after the other. Tries to stop what’s building between us. To deny what our hearts desire, what our bodies damn near demand. A soft voice deep inside her warns her about me, begs her to stay away.

She should listen to that voice.

Maddigan had no idea how much I knew about her, how much I’d always known, from the moment I’d come to Twyst Academy. Because I recognized the shadow slipping unseen through the academy, hidden from me, teasing me. Waking me up in the middle of the night with cold sweats and a racing heart…a heart I’d already sacrificed once to prove I wasn’t the throwback my family feared I was, the wild mage of their nightmares.

I’d proven myself, over and over again. I’d kept myself in tight control, never straying over the line. So when I’d first suspected that an actual war mage lay hidden in wait at Twyst, I knew I should have acted immediately. Informed the board. Worked with them to find the danger and stamp it out for good.

I hadn’t. Instead, I’d hunted for it on my own, half the time doubting my calculations, the other half second-guessing my sanity. I’d finally caught up to Maddigan Pierce last winter on a bitter and frozen night. She’d been leaving the campus, her slender body wrapped in a too-thin jacket, her thick brown hair plastered to her face as she bent into a deluge of stinging sleet. She had the quick, focused movements of a thief, the wiry strength of a girl used to hauling mops and buckets all over campus. She was also mind-blowingly hot in a way that made no sense to me. Her body radiated sensuality under her baggy men’s clothes. Her intelligent wide eyes and full lips were head-turningly gorgeous, despite all her attempts not to be noticed.

But that night, she mostly looked exhausted. Haunted. Filled with anger—fury, even. And as I’d watched a particularly torrential downpour nearly take her off her feet, heard her scream against the wind, the rain, the storm…

I was lost.

Her outrage echoed within me like a healing balm, a cool touch on a fire that had been stoked to an eternal, boiling fury. Her defiance sang along my bones and danced through my blood. Her untapped magic—wild, deadly, and free—was everything I ever wanted but could never have, under pain of so much worse than death.

That was the moment I fell in love with Maddigan Pierce. She was my beating heart, my broken and cursed soul. She was my very breath.

None of that changed reality. I’d bided my time, intensified my skills, studied and researched until I knew with absolute certainty what she truly was. Then I’d drawn her in, bonded her with my best friends on the planet, leveraged her intelligence and skills to dominate the Mage Trials. Together, the Mage Runners would become the most powerful wizards of our generation, and Maddigan would help us do it. Together, we would fight—and we would win.

After that, I’d honor the vow I’d made on bended knee in an infernal ceremony far away from the eyes of civilized wizards. They’d stripped, tortured and pierced me through with a million shattering shards of power, nearly destroying my soul with our family’s dark and twisted magic. But I had survived, and I had made my pledge, not fully understanding its terrible cost.

So when Maddigan Pierce fulfills her role with our team, then turns on us as her wild, brutal magic ultimately and irresistibly demands of her—

I’ll kill her.

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