Arcane kiss talents book.., p.1

Arcane Kiss (Talents Book 1), page 1

 

Arcane Kiss (Talents Book 1)
 

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Arcane Kiss (Talents Book 1)


  Arcane Kiss (Talents 1)

  Angela Knight

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright ©2017 Angela Knight

  First Edition

  Available Electronic File Formats:

  Amazon Kindle, Mobi/PRC, Adobe PDF, Epub

  Publisher:

  Angela Knight

  195 Independence Drive

  Roebuck, SC 29376

  www.angelasknights.com

  Editor: Margaret Riley

  Copy Editors: Bill Riley, Pat Sager

  Line Editor: Emilie Pitt

  Cover Artist: Fiona Jayde

  This ebook file contains adult language and sexually explicit love scenes which some may find offensive and which is not appropriate for a young audience. Angela Knight’s e-books are for sale to adults, only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.

  The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this or any copyrighted work is illegal. File sharing is an international crime, prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice, Division of Cyber Crimes, in partnership with Interpol. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is punishable by seizure of computers, up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 per reported instance.

  Arcane Kiss (Talents 1)

  Arcane Kiss (Talents 1)

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Dedication

  Angela Knight

  Arcane Kiss (Talents 1)

  Angela Knight

  Kurt Briggs has a spirit link to a tiger Familiar that gives him superhuman abilities, but when his father is murdered, the military veteran becomes a target for terrorist sorcerers. Alone, Kurt finds he’s no match for the witch and her shape-shifting polar bear. He turns to Arcanist Genevieve Reyes for help in fighting the killers’ spells.

  As Genevieve and Kurt hunt the terrorists, shared danger leads to shared desire. But they soon realize Kurt’s passion for Gen weakens his control over his cat. The consequences could be deadly for them both. Genevieve is attracted to Kurt’s animal sensuality, but she knows she may be in as much danger from his tiger as she is from the terrorists.

  Then they learn the terrorists plan to sacrifice Kurt to power a horrific spell designed to decimate the U.S. government. Even if Kurt and Gen manage to stop the terrorists, their evil sorcery may trigger a witch hunt that could mean the destruction of everyone with magical Talent -- including Kurt and Genevieve.

  Chapter One

  The tiger bounded toward him in a blur of striped fur and powerful muscle. Kurt Briggs braced himself as the animal reared to thump huge paws down on his shoulders. Somehow he managed not to fall on his ass, though eight feet of cat made an awkward dance partner.

  Rumbling, the beast touched a cool, damp nose to Kurt’s, drinking in his scent. “Hi to you, too, Stoli.” Kurt dug his fingers in thick reddish gold fur to give his Familiar a scratch. Golden eyes narrowed in feline ecstasy and Stoli chuffed a greeting.

  Kurt chuffed back, a sound like a muffled raspberry -- friendly rather than rude.

  The cat’s gaze met his, rich autumn gold striated with umber and sunlit yellow. Stoli’s eyes began to glow as he touched Kurt’s consciousness, sending a surge of affection and pleasure through their spirit link.

  Kurt smiled at his partner’s delight, tasting the beef and chicken Stoli had just eaten, feeling the precise location of the itch that made one round ear flick. He reached up to give the spot a good scratch. Stoli produced a rumbling moan of gratitude.

  The tiger dropped to all fours again, looking up at him. He didn’t have to look far. The top of Stoli’s head came to Kurt’s hip.

  In the tiger’s mind, water rushed through fur, cooling hot flesh as reflected sunlight danced on the water. Kurt recognized the lake that lay on the other side of the enclosure. His Familiar wanted to go swimming. Unlike most cats, tigers loved water.

  “Sounds good to me. It’s hotter than hell, and I’m not even furry.”

  Stoli chuffed and turned toward the lake with a flick of his striped tail. Kurt strolled after him across the thick grass.

  Clusters of oaks, birches and maples shaded the enclosure against the South Carolina sun, and every breath carried the rich, humid smell of loam and growing things. The plant life was so thick, he could barely see the surrounding fifteen-foot-high enclosure fence.

  Through the trees, he spotted the flickering glint of afternoon sunlight on water. The spring-fed lake lay at the heart of Briggs Feral Sanctuary, shared by several big cat enclosures separated by fences embedded in the lake floor.

  Another tiger lounged in the shallows, six hundred pounds of stripes, attitude and luminous golden eyes. Dave gave them a lazy blink, indolent as a pasha.

  And like a pasha, he apparently had a harem -- or at least a gang of devoted fans. Ten female volunteers clustered just outside the enclosure fence as close as they dared get. Dressed in shorts, hats and T-shirts with the BFS lion logo, they all wore grins of anticipation as they waited for him to do something amazing.

  Or, knowing Dave, inappropriate.

  Stoli catapulted off the bank, sailed through the air, and landed on the other cat with a huge splash. The volunteers fled the arcing water, yelping and laughing.

  Dave roared, batting at Stoli’s nose with sheathed claws. “Back off, Tigger! Do I look like fuckin’ Pooh Bear to you?”

  Stoli bound from the water and raced off, chuffing like a giggling ten-year-old who’d pranked his brother.

  Which was exactly what he was. The two cats had been littermates before they’d melded with their human partners. Otherwise they couldn’t have shared an enclosure; their fights would have been real.

  “You’d better run, asshole! I’ll turn you into a rug!” Dave flopped back down in the water with a huff of feline disdain. “The crap I put up with.”

  Kurt’s grin faded. Dave did indeed put up with a hell of a lot.

  Like not being human anymore.

  A year ago he’d been Dave Frost, a member of Kurt’s Arcane Corps unit -- a tall, lanky blond with a wicked sense of humor and cool courage. But that was before Dave had died, leaving his soul trapped in the body of Smilodon, his Familiar.

  Another man might have surrendered to bitterness and grief for his lost humanity. Dave taught himself to talk by making the air vibrate with magic instead of human vocal cords. Now he was building a thriving career as a YouTube smartass.

  “You got me all wet,” a blonde volunteer complained, pretending to pout as she pulled at her soaked shirt.

  The tiger gave her a toothy grin. “My pleasure.”

  “Ladies, quit flirting with the wildlife and finish cleaning the enclosures,” Kurt told them, putting a little subsonic rumble in his voice. Dave wasn’t the only one who could manipulate sound with his magic. “We don’t want BFS to smell like the world’s biggest litter box.”

  “Killjoy,” Dave complained.

  “You heard the man.” Karla Morgen, the volunteer coordinator, made a shooing gesture at the women. “The poop won’t scoop itself.”

  “You
know,” Kurt told Dave as the volunteers scattered, “you couldn’t be any more a ham if you were Porky Pig.”

  “How else would I bring home the bacon?” He flicked a paw, and an invisible snare drum banged out a rimshot.

  Kurt laughed. “You’re getting scary with the magical sound effects.”

  “I live to terrify. Speaking of performances, how many tickets did we sell last night? Looked like every inch of the arena bleachers had somebody’s butt on it.”

  “Pretty much.” BFS’s “Feral 101” show was designed to educate sanctuary visitors about big cats. They’d livened it up with a demonstration of Feral abilities, but the material had still been as dry as sawdust -- until Dave had taken the emcee job in his capable paws. “We brought in five thousand in ticket sales and donations, plus another thousand for selfies and souvenirs.”

  And they needed every dime. Keeping fifty-nine exotic cats fed and healthy wasn’t something you did on a shoestring.

  Dave gave him a smug smile. “I has skillz. I also has half a million followers.”

  “You’re just lucky they don’t know what an asshole you are.”

  “I’m a tiger. We’re supposed to be assholes.”

  Movement across the lake drew Kurt’s attention. In the next enclosure, a lion came to the water’s edge, accompanied by his two lionesses. Staring at the tigers, the Familiar roared.

  “What are you bitching about, Clarence?”

  “He’s probably missing Jake.” Jake Nolan, like Dave, had served on Kurt’s Arcane Corps team before becoming a Laurel County deputy sheriff. Kurt cupped his hands around his mouth and called, “He’s at work, Clarence.” Familiars had a grasp of English roughly equivalent to a four-year-old’s.

  The lion roared again, the low, moaning rumble rolling across the water.

  “I don’t want to hear it from you,” Dave yelled back. “You’ve got a fucking harem to keep you company, you bastard.” He eyed Kurt. “When are you going to find me a girl?”

  “You’d eat her.”

  “Every single chance I got.”

  “I think that’s illegal in this state.”

  “Everything’s illegal in this state. Especially shit that’s no business of the Bible-thumping populace. Why in the hell did you have to drag me to South Carolina? It’s ninety degrees here in June. I have a fucking fur coat.”

  “You also weigh six hundred pounds. There aren’t that many places that would take your fuzzy ass.” The Corps had a retirement sanctuary for Feral Veterans, but they were so badly under funded, Dave refused to go there. There were other sanctuaries for exotic cats around the country, but BFS was the only one owned and operated by Ferals, for Ferals.

  Besides, Kurt owed him.

  “I don’t know why the hell I’m asking you,” Dave grumbled. “You can’t even find a woman for yourself.”

  Kurt flipped him off.

  “You really need to tell your dad to butt out.”

  “And you really need to mind your own business.”

  “But minding yours is so much more fun.” He grinned, all teeth. There’d been a reason they’d called Dave’s tiger “Smilodon.” His canines weren’t as long as his saber-toothed namesake’s, but they came damn close.

  Stoli spotted a fat catfish swimming through the shallows and pounced with a happy rumble and a huge splash. The spirit link carried the sensations of water flowing through the Familiar’s fur as the tiger plunged his head deep. When he emerged, the fish flipped in his jaws. He waded out and settled down on the grass to eat his snack.

  Kurt smiled at the sensations rolling through the link. Raw fish might not appeal to his human taste buds, but Stoli loved him some sushi.

  “Speaking of females, what’s going on with Parvati?” Dave asked.

  His appetite promptly fled. “Nothing good.” When he’d gone to work for his father, Kurt had taken over supervising the cats’ medical care. Sometimes it was a depressing job. “The vet says the cancer has spread to her bones. Add that to the fact she’s fifteen…”

  “Hey, watch it with the ageist shit,” objected Dave, who was ten. Thirty, if he’d still been human. More seriously he asked, “Can the vet do surgery?”

  “Not given the way it’s spread. We may have to put Parvati down if this healer Dad found can’t help.”

  “Let’s hear it for Glenda the Good Witch.” Dave emerged from the lake and shook himself, sending a thunderstorm’s worth of water flying from his fur.

  Kurt jumped back, but got sprayed with cold droplets anyway. “Damn it, Dave!”

  “You looked so hot, I thought I’d help you cool off.” The tiger smirked. “You’re welcome.”

  “Bite me.”

  “You’d better hope not.”

  Before Kurt could retort, his father called, “Play nice, boys. We’ve got company.”

  Fred Briggs stood on the path just beyond Dave’s enclosure. At his side a tall, pretty redhead gazed through the galvanized wire panels at them.

  The newcomer’s face had a fine angularity, with high cheekbones, a slim nose and a round, determined chin. In contrast to the elegant strength of her bone structure, her mouth looked lush and kissable. Her hair fell around her shoulders in auburn curls that gleamed in the afternoon sunlight, vivid against her Celtic pale skin.

  But it was her eyes that really captured Kurt’s attention, a cool and watchful blue under straight auburn brows. She wore khaki shorts that displayed long, long legs, and her turquoise cotton top stretched across sweetly shaped breasts.

  Intrigued, Kurt headed over to the fence for a closer look, both tigers padding at his heels.

  Fred turned to the woman with one of those old-fashioned Southern flourishes he did so well. “Genevieve, this is my son, Kurt, his friend Dave Frost, and Kurt’s Familiar, Stoli.” He looked at them. “Boys, this is Genevieve Reyes. She’s the Arcanist healer who’s volunteered to help Parvati.”

  “Or at least I’m going to try.” A dimple flashed beside her smile. “Hi.”

  “Nice to meet you, Ms. Reyes.”

  “Call me Gen.”

  Kurt smiled back, more than a little dazzled. Damn, she’s gorgeous.

  Unfortunately, she was also a witch. In the Arcane Corps, he’d worked with a lot of magic users who’d been good people.

  But then there’s Mom.

  * * *

  Though two tigers and a couple of humans stared at Genevieve, it was the younger man whose intense gaze made her feel shy.

  Kurt Briggs topped six feet by at least three inches, with a broad-shouldered, powerful build that reminded her of classical sculpture. Maybe a Roman centurion, the kind of man who’d marched miles and fought for his life at the end of it.

  His thick hair was the shade of a rich, dark espresso, cut short, as if he’d gotten used to wearing it that way in the military and had never gotten out of the habit.

  His father’s, on the other hand, fell to his shoulders in a gray-streaked mane. Otherwise the resemblance between the two was striking. Both had the same regal bone structure and wide mouth, the same deep-set eyes.

  It was the eyes that got to her. She itched to capture the shades of gold, umber and sunlit yellow that made Kurt’s gaze so hypnotic.

  Actually, all four of them -- Kurt, Fred and the two tigers -- shared that color. She knew it was a genetic marker of the ability to form spirit links between Feral-Talented humans and the animals bred to be their Familiars.

  Annnnd the silence just got uncomfortable. Probably because I’m staring. And everyone else was staring right back. Purely to fill the silence, Gen blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “I’d love to paint you,” she said to the nearest tiger. “You’re beautiful.”

  “Why, thank you.” The huge cat grinned, flashing more teeth than a Great White. “I’d be happy to sit for you.” His voice crooned, so velvety and deep, he should be doing car commercials.

  Dave. She felt her cheeks heat, and knew her blush probably clashed with her hair. “I saw
your video about Parvati on Facebook,” she all but babbled in discomfort. “That’s why I decided to volunteer. Not sure I’ll be able to cure her, but it’s worth a try.”

  Several bars of “Eye of the Tiger” began to play. Fred Briggs pulled his phone out of his pocket, looked down at it, and cursed. “Excuse me, I have to take this.” He walked off, his thumb swiping over his phone. “Fred Briggs, Briggs Feral Sanctuary… Hello, Senator. Thanks for returning my call…”

  Kurt stared after his father, frowning, before turning back to Genevieve. Making a visible effort to change mental gears, he gestured along the enclosure fence that separated them. “The gate’s this way. We really appreciate your taking time to help Parvati. Dad said you usually do portrait work.”

  She followed him and the tigers, moving parallel to the fence. “Magical face lifts for the rich and famous. Less dangerous than surgery or Botox, and the results look better.”

  “Sounds lucrative.”

  “Enough to let me do volunteer work healing sick kids.”

  “Why’d you move to Laurelton?” Kurt asked. “I’d think Hollywood would be a more logical choice.”

  She shrugged. “But Laurelton has the Faraday Children’s Hospital. And a lot less access to Arcane healers.”

  Dave considered her, his tail tip flicking. “How many have you healed?”

  “Not enough. I can do a lot, but only if my patient’s magic is compatible with mine.”

  “It doesn’t work with Normals?” Kurt lifted a thick, dark brow.

  She waved a hand. “I’m talking about the aura everybody produces, Talent or not.”

  “‘It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,’” Obi-wan Kenobi said.

  Gen started, looking around for the source of the voice. “What the heck?”

  Dave grinned. “I always thought George Lucas owed all us Talents royalties.”

  “That was dead on,” Gen said, impressed. “How did you do that?”

  “PFM.”

  “Is that some kind of weird military acronym?” She’d thought she knew them all.

 
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