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First pages


Utter Darkness

The last three steps were the hardest, but I finally managed to throw my parents over the edge of the cliff.

I thought it would help, but it didn’t. Tears overwhelmed me again, and I was afraid the trembling in my hands would force me to drop the urn that had been holding their ashes. The vessel was massive, an ancient relic passed down through the generations until it ended up on a pedestal in the center of the sunroom. And antiques were never light. It was like an overly cautious ancestor of mine decided he wanted to make certain the remains couldn’t push aside the lid and fly off on their own.

Considering how much superstition was mixed up with hard magical fact back then, I guess I couldn’t blame him. In fact, if I grew up hearing the same stories he did, I probably would have added a place for a few padlocks along with the latches and hooks he included all around the edges.

Releasing ashes over a body of water was a part of the funeral ceremony, and magic whisked them off in the right direction regardless of the ocean wind, especially if the magician performing the ceremony was an Air user. But I waited until the breeze died down since I had no magic and I didn’t want to find out the hard way that a magician really did need to be there to control the release. All I had wanted was to free my parents from their confinement and maybe relieve some of the agony I felt knowing they were in the house yet separated from me in a way they had never been before.

“Why?” I asked the night air for the millionth time since the car accident. “Why did you leave me? Why didn’t you take the guards? Why couldn’t you save yourselves?” My head hurt under the strain of my grief, and I wondered if I was going to have a stroke or something from the pressure in my skull.

Turning my back on the inky water below, I headed back towards the house. There weren’t any lights glowing in the windows, even on the third floor where the staff had their private rooms. I was glad the servants were asleep. I didn’t want anyone to know what I had done.

“It’s okay,” I assured myself. “Their magic is what completes the Ceremony of Remembrance. Not mine.” I wasn’t very convincing, considering how badly I wanted to believe it.

Ghosts of mocking voices filled the air around me. The same echoes that had followed me from school to school, taunting me, telling me I would fail.

You ruin everything, Lia Rector. You’re a magical neuter. A failure. A loser.

A freak.

They were jerks. This time targeting my fear that releasing the ashes by myself was selfish. That I destroyed the connection I was supposed to have with my parents after their death. I tried not to think about the past anymore, but I couldn’t help it. The bad memories stayed with me even though the good ones slipped away so easily.

Pushing aside my whirling thoughts, I reminded myself that I was alone. Nobody was there. Nobody saw what I did. Nobody could blame me if my parents didn’t make it to the other realm because nobody knew. Except me.

I stopped walking and set the urn down in the middle of the stone-lined path to wipe the tears off my face. I took a wad of clean tissues that I had stuffed into my pajama pocket and gently dabbed my cheeks. After two days of crying, they were red and raw. For the first time in my life, I discovered that grief wasn’t just an emotion. It hurt physically, too.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to control myself. But I needed to snap out of it and get back into my bedroom and try to get some rest. Standing around in the night wasn’t helping.

Sucking in a deep breath, I blew my nose one last time and then stuffed the crumpled tissue into my other pocket. It was kind of gross, but it was that or toss the tissue on the ground, and there was no way I would litter in the flower garden designed by my mother. It was too horrible to contemplate.

I bent down and hefted the vessel back into my arms. I had cradled it against me the entire trip from the house to the cliffs. Now that it no longer contained their ashes, adrenaline and desperation weren’t enough to give me the strength I needed to haul it back the entire length of the path without a rest. It was gilded with a thin layer of gold, but the urn was heavy enough to make me wonder what was hidden beneath the decoration. If I could tap into my magic, I would be able to sense its properties. And use a spell to make it lighter.

Of course, I couldn’t. I never learned how.

Finally, I reached the French doors at the top of the patio stairs. I set the urn down again, opened the door, then hefted it over the threshold. Exhausted, my arms cramped and it fell, striking the wooden floor with a dull thud. The door behind me latched quietly and shut out the cool Pacific breeze. The pull on my strained muscles made me groan as I heaved the vessel onto the pedestal where it belonged.

I sighed with relief. The sharp intake of air caught on something in my chest, and more sobs came out when I exhaled. I grabbed another tissue and soaked it through as I trudged up the stairs. The wall beside me was made entirely of glass. Clouds rolled in and covered the moon, snuffing out the full orb’s light. Thankfully, I knew my home well enough to walk to my bedroom in the sudden darkness. I slipped inside. Locking the door behind me, I threw myself onto my bed and let go.


I finally stopped crying when it hurt worse than the pain I felt inside. It wasn’t doing me any good, anyway. Tears were supposed to help release the burden of grief, but I was positive it was never going to go away. Nothing changed the fact that my parents were gone.

Turning onto my side, I stared at the swirling colors behind my closed eyelids. I wished the bursts of light would form into pictures and tell me my future. The magic that controlled that spell still refused to respond to me, yet I knew what was going to happen anyway.

At noon, my house would be filled with people wishing to show off. Some of the visitors would be there to pay their respects, but most just wanted to be seen in attendance as if it were the social event of the season instead of the funeral for my parents.

A funeral on my birthday.

“Ha,” I snorted in disgust. I didn’t really care if anyone was there for me or not. There were too many things to worry about that were more important than birthday presents or cake. Like how I was going to demonstrate to our visitors that I was the true heir and claim our family business as rightfully mine.

I wiped my face with a crumpled tissue. The box had no more fresh new ones, and my pockets were empty.

We knew the day of reckoning would come. I had always expected to prove my claim at some point, but my time had run out. My parents had died too soon. If I couldn’t perform my family’s spells, the Council would hold a competition, and the prize would be my father's company. Centuries of the Rector clan’s greatest achievements lost to a stranger because I was a magicless freak.

Sighing, I flipped over onto my other side. I knew my bedroom door was there, but I couldn't see it. The room was too dark. As dark as the hole in my chest where my heart used to be.

I held myself perfectly still in hopes that I wouldn’t trigger another fit. I needed to practice control, or I would lose it in front of the guests. I couldn’t stand that thought.

My mother’s face came to mind. The wisp of memory clarified and her voice rang hollowly in my mind. “Never let them see you cry, Lia. Don’t let them know anything they do has the power to wound you. If they think you’re weak, they’ll never stop trying to hurt you.”

She had been right, too. Magicians were quick to take advantage. I mentally argued that surely they had to know it didn’t make me weak to miss my parents. My mother wouldn’t have agreed with that, though, and I knew it. I was determined to make her proud of me. Not that I was sure she could even see me from where she was. I didn't understand how that was supposed to work, and it was too late to ask her.

I gripped my necklace, the silver star I had always worn, running my fingers along its slightly rounded points, tracing the familiar shape. “If you can hear me, Mother, please help me. Tell me what to do. Please. And tell me how to do it.” I sucked in a deep breath, forcing all thoughts from my mind as I exhaled. Rolling onto my back, I dropped my arms to my sides and took another deep breath, held it a few heartbeats, then released. I waited.


No advice was coming my way despite the fact that I snuffed out all light sources and surrounded myself with the night. My family drew our deepest power from sheer, utter darkness. If anything worked, that should have.

My father’s lessons played out in my head. Rectors rose above and beyond Dark’s influence and defeated it. That enabled us to control any magician who used the Dark, too. We were the one family who stood between them and the power they sought. Always strong and fierce, the Rectors held them at bay century after century.

Until tomorrow, when I would lose it all.

Pain lanced through me. How was I supposed to live with that, anyway? My parents should have prepared me to lose, not to win. Loss was harder to handle, and my new reality. I thrust that thought aside, but my family’s history still played out in my head as if it wanted to punish me.

Hundreds of years ago, magicians created formal businesses to maintain their magical skills and dominance. My family formed Rector Enterprises, and my father Donovan was the last CEO. We used Dark to bring goodness to people’s lives, selling spells to the rich and giving them away to the poor.

Our company was also contracted by the Council to enforce their laws when the Magical Compacts were signed in 1592. That was the same year British Parliament defined the mile by using feet. It was a time when everybody decided everyone and everything had to be pinned down.

I snorted. Good thing I attended such prestigious schools, or else I might not have known that little factoid. That thought made me chuckle. A mistake, since laughter quickly turned into sobs. I let myself go for a few minutes, but then held my breath and pushed the tears away.

“Stop it,” I ground out. Angry at my weakness, I forced myself to stand, then stumbled into my private bathroom to pull myself together. Grabbing a new box of tissues from where they were stored under the sink, I blew my nose, splashed cold water on my face, then patted it dry.

I was grateful that the room was still shrouded in darkness because I was unable to face myself in the mirror. I knew I would look like a total slob, and I didn’t want to deal with that, either. Still, I soaked a hand towel in cold water and wrung it out, bringing it back to bed with me to lay over my face. I needed to hide the evidence of my grief, and bloodshot eyes would give me away.

“That's it. I'm done. Mother, Father, I love you both, but I can't keep wallowing in your loss. I need you to help me fight the Dark. And please, please, help me go to sleep.”

I didn't have a magic link to my parents. Talking to them was useless, but I needed the connection so badly that I tried anyway. I had to have guidance. Something, anything, to show me a way to succeed.

Guilt burned through my veins like acid. The one-sided conversations I had in my head during the few days since their deaths were deeper than anything I had said to my parents in life. I loved them, and they loved me, but we never truly connected. Now it was too late to try. The sudden pressure inside of my chest made it impossible for me to catch my breath. One second, two. All the way to seven before I could breathe again.

I threw my decorative pillows across the room, trying to work off some frustration. None of my thoughts would help me prove that I had magic. My memories held no clues about how I could keep the powers of darkness at bay.

I was the last Rector standing, and I was going to lose.

My anger bubbled over and turned into a shriek. At that moment, I hated myself and my lack of ability. The magic inside of me was just out of reach. My parents spent years dragging me from place to place, meeting with all the experts so I could learn to tap into my magic and prove my worth on my seventeenth birthday. But we never figured it out.

“Enough of this!” I cried into the muffling power of my mattress. “I'm done.” And I was. Finally, finally, the night overtook me, and I lost myself in the silence.



I forced myself to rise when the sun’s cheerful beaming became too much to ignore.

Exhaustion turned lifting my fluffy comforter into a struggle as I dragged myself out of bed. I stumbled into my bathroom and splashed water on my face, but it did little to shake off the cobwebs clouding my mind. Turning the shower up as hot as I could stand it, I carefully climbed in and scrubbed my skin until I felt like I was ready to face the day. Or as ready as I could be after another sleepless night.

Thankfully, I could wield a makeup brush with the best of them. Styling my hair meticulously, I spent over an hour working it into a shiny chestnut waterfall. My eyes, a hazel mixture of brown and gold, practically glowed with sparkling health and vitality and power. That effect had been harder to achieve, but I finally managed it. I wasn’t about to let anyone disparage my appearance with backhanded comments about how tired I looked. Besides, I needed a mask to shield me from any genuine regrets.

Slipping into my walk-in closet, I dressed carefully in a smooth, ankle-length gown of satin in varying shades of purple, the color of mourning and royalty. Both technically applied since the Rectors had always been part of the ruling class. Not like that meant much anymore. Well, it wasn’t supposed to. Other magicians still treated us differently.

As I walked back into my bedroom, sunlight made my dress sparkle where crystals had been sewn into a subtle pattern. Rector Enterprises provided a bulk of the spell crystals sold on the market and were included on my mourning gown as a sign of respect. The effect was gorgeous, but it felt almost obscene to wear something so bright and pretty to a funeral.

I cut off that line of thinking before I lost control. Somehow I had managed to muster up enough strength to keep from crying again, and I wasn’t about to let a stray thought break me.

The Ascension Ceremony was scheduled to happen immediately after the funeral. There was no avoiding it regardless of the circumstances. I had to prove my magic before I could inherit, and I had to do it within three days of my mother and father’s death. That rule was usually a formality because most magicians had already connected to their magic by then. For me, it was a nightmare. I would have to stand in front of everyone and show them what I could do. Or in my case, not do.

There was no law stating the Ascension had to take place on a magician’s seventeenth birthday, although traditionally it did. Seventeen was when magicians reached their legal majority. Only a legal adult could inherit. An adult who was also a full magician capable of running the family business. And the Rector line ended with me.

Sometimes, I hated all the laws that ruled our lives.

The Ascension Ceremony required me to go barefoot, so I left my shoes behind when I went downstairs to meet my mostly-unwanted visitors. I actually impressed myself, managing to greet and hug and commiserate with the guests with clear-eyed dignity. Or something that looked enough like it to fool even myself.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” one woman said when I reached the ground floor. She had a wry smile on her face, and I could tell she didn’t mean it. She had hustled over to my side so she could show off that she was the first to speak to me.

“Such a lovely couple,” said another. This time truthfully. Then again, even their enemies had to admit my parents were beautiful.

“I’ll never forget the first time I met Miranda and Donovan,” a man murmured. I didn’t hear the rest of what he said when I was distracted by a flurry of activity near the French doors leading to the veranda.

The wind tossed the sheer white panels covering every door as a symbol of the veil separating us from those we mourned, then abruptly settled as if soothed by a large, gentle hand. The fabric parted, and there he was. A commotion in the form of a man. Shocked silence dissolved into whispers and only one word was understandable.


My uncle had arrived. His short black hair was shot with silver. Otherwise, he looked the same as he did the one time I saw him as a child. A memory of his bright silver eyes twinkling down at me played across my mind.

I reached out to him, the formality of the occasion dictating my actions. The proper words fell from my lips without a thought. “Uncle, it’s lovely to see you, in spite of this sad occasion. Please, won’t you join me up front?”

As my only remaining blood relative, Armageddon belonged by my side. Besides, we were honoring his sister and brother-in-law. By rights, he should have been with me when their ashes were released into the world, but I had taken that away from him. I wondered if Armageddon would forgive my impatience and keep my actions a secret. Too many magicians, regardless if they were light or dark, would be shocked that I circumvented the ceremony and hold it against me. And magicians had long memories.

During the Ceremony of Remembrance, the family of the deceased gathered together to release their ashes. Armageddon was about to find out I had already released them. The plan was to throw myself on his mercy. Although, he didn’t look gentle or forgiving, especially in his tailored black three-piece suit. He looked grim and intimidating.

Maybe I should cry when I told him I already released the ashes. That wouldn’t be so bad. The daughter of his only sister weeping before him might soften him up. Goodness knows I had plenty of tears to shed.

And then the most infamous magician of the last five hundred years took my hand and lightly squeezed it. “My dear," he murmured. "I'm sorry for your loss. I want you to know I'm here for you, no matter what.”

The contact made my determination waiver, and I almost burst into tears. My parents had never been the warm and fuzzy type. Sure, I received an occasional approving pat as a child, but they grew few and far between by the time I was a teenager. They loved me. I knew that without a doubt, but they never really touched me. If Armageddon hugged me, which he probably would since it was a funeral, after all, I would break down again. And I couldn’t let that happen.

I pulled my hand away, smiling a little in Armageddon’s general direction, hoping that it would soften the rejection. And it wasn’t like I didn’t appreciate the gesture. I didn’t object to his comfort, or to him. But how could he possibly know that? He hadn’t seen me since I was little.

What a mess. Armageddon was now my legal guardian and in control of my apprenticeship until I reached twenty-one. My first majority granted some legal rights since my seventeenth birthday had finally arrived. However, by law, I wasn’t allowed to be alone for another five years when I reached my final majority. And I just rejected a sweet gesture from the most powerful man alive. My guardian. The man who was in charge of my fate.

What an idiot.

To my surprise, my uncle’s only answer was a smile as genuine as it was gentle. Taking my arm, he escorted me to my seat. It was a formal pose, a normal gesture during any magical gathering. His body language didn’t show any offense, though. Maybe he understood after all.

Thinking I had somebody who might be on my side almost brought me to tears again. I struggled against them. All the crying and internal drama were getting so ridiculous that I was starting to annoy myself.

Vir Fortis, the current mayor, started the ceremony as soon as we were in our seats. Like most magicians, he had chosen a name for himself during his Ascension Ceremony. Magicians chose names to inspire fear or hope, or show who they wanted to be. When he adopted the name Vir Fortis, the mayor declared himself to be a “hero,” or “strong man.”

I couldn’t help the tiny snort that huffed out of my nose at the thought of such a short, rotund man as a strong man. Not that he was a bad guy, but really? The name was ridiculous.

Of course, my magical name might not have been any better. My mother had asked me to claim the name Ethereal and wouldn’t listen when I said that name was better suited to a stunning blond girl with blue-green eyes. Somebody tall and willowy and so lovely that she didn't seem real. Nobody with brown hair and eyes like mine could ever be described as ethereal.

Not that it mattered what name I wanted to register since I couldn’t connect to my magic. Oh, sure, I would eventually claim whatever magician’s name I wanted as soon as I demonstrated my magic - even if I was eighty when I finally figured it out. But I couldn’t imagine an eighty-year-old woman choosing the name “Ethereal,” so I planned to select a name that would actually work for me.

So far, I had nothing. And since I wasn’t likely to suddenly connect to my magic after years of failure, it was a moot point.

My uncle nudged my arm lightly to get my attention. The mayor had stopped speaking. I couldn’t believe I hadn't heard a word of his speech.

Armageddon and I stood as one. He stepped slightly back to allow me the honor of lifting the empty urn from the pedestal. It had held countless Rectors over the years but no longer hosted my parents. The time had come for Armageddon to learn that a person without magic chanted the Words of Release instead of him. I wondered how accurate the whispers about his unreliable temperament and anger were, then I pushed the worries out of my head. It didn’t matter. He was my family, and that meant he needed to get used to disappointment.

We walked ceremoniously, my spine straight and stiff. If somebody put a book on my head, it would have balanced perfectly. I had even attended a class on how to walk that way since that was the kind of thing magical events demanded. It took forever to get anywhere at that pace, but once we were outside where the crowd could no longer see us, Armageddon relaxed into a lilting roll.

"My dear, I know you already Released my sister and your father’s ashes. I could feel them make their way on the wind while I was traveling here. Some of the rumors you have heard about me are entirely accurate but know this: I would never begrudge a daughter her right to let her parents go in her own time. The magic of Release carries the ashes away, not the person chanting. It’s ancient and uncontrollable, so you did no harm.”

I stumbled. It was like he had read my mind. Not only because he knew what I did, but because he reassured me exactly when I needed it.

“I'm relieved to hear that." My voice quivered. I was giddy with relief. "I hope you understand that I meant no disrespect to you. I know you loved my mother and deserved to be there.”

“Yes, I did love her. Miranda and I grew distant over the past few decades, but we were still family. I can feel her even now. Her loss saddens me, but you were her daughter. Your claim is far greater than mine. Come, let’s walk to the cliff’s edge in case anyone is peeking through the mourning veils.”

Armageddon smiled at me, and a memory flashed across my mind. His face held the same reassuring, confident look years ago when he told me he could toss me into the sky so high that I could fly away if I wanted to. He seemed so amazing and powerful at the time that I genuinely thought he could do it, too. I thought he could do anything. And from all I had heard over the decade or so since I had last seen him, he might actually be able to. Not that I trusted rumors.

I stopped worrying about studying under Armageddon. Things might not be that bad after all. His reputation had more bite than he did.

“I’ll take you to where I Released them," I offered. "It’s the loveliest spot out here.”

We lapsed into silence as we retraced my nocturnal journey to the cliff’s edge. My ears caught the gentle sound of Armageddon murmuring quietly to himself. After I made out some of the words, I realized he was cataloging the bee-friendly plants that my mother always insisted we plant in the gardens at each of our estates. I wasn’t sure he realized he was doing it. My mother had always done the same thing when we took our walks, and she never noticed.

My heart filled with both pain and love. This was a connection. A memory. My parents would never be completely gone as long as people who loved them were still among the living.

We finally reached the cliffs and looked out over the water.

“Are you nervous about what comes next?” my uncle asked, breaking the silence that had settled over us.

I wondered how much he knew about me, but then realized that everyone knew everything about me. Of course Armageddon knew I couldn’t perform magic. Every student in every school I had attended knew that, and they weren’t nearly as well-informed as my uncle.

“Yes, I am. How could I not be nervous? We never could find my trigger. I'm about to humiliate myself.”

My uncle chuckled. “It’s not as bad as all that. Just try to relax and let it come. If it doesn’t, we'll thank everyone for attending and I’ll shoo them out the door.”

I grinned. Three days of agony and loss, and there I was smiling like a fool. My uncle, shooing the most influential people in magical society. The image of him flapping his hands to chase them off made me chuckle, and for the first time, my laughter didn’t turn into more sobs.

Maybe I was finally gaining control over myself. Or, maybe this was the calm before the storm. Honestly, it could go either way.

“Thank you, Uncle. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you being here, supporting me.”

Armageddon studied me as we turned to walk back to the manor house. He seemed hesitant, not an emotion usually associated with him. Like he was choosing his words carefully.

“I can feel it inside of you. You have more magic than anyone I've ever met. A powerful magic hums inside of you, even back when you were a tiny girl. I asked your mother to let me take you with me so I could help you, but Miranda grew quite irate. She loved you and refused to let you go. Later, I think she felt guilty about that, worrying that she was responsible for you not finding your trigger because she kept you from me. That made her pull away from you, Lia. I tried to reassure her that time with me was no guarantee of success, but mothers have a habit of second-guessing themselves.”

It was sweet that he wanted to comfort me. “This is on me, now. I know that all too well. It’s why I haven’t been able to sleep since they died. I can’t stand the thought that after all this time I’m going to be the one who loses everything. And in front of all our enemies. The Taines even showed up. I swear almost every one of them is there, except maybe the apprentices.”

Armageddon nodded, allowing me to babble about my worries without interruption. I appreciated that, especially since I wasn’t even sure if I was making any sense. I glanced away, clamping my mouth shut. We were almost back to the house, and I stared up at the building as it loomed before us.

My father had the manor transferred to the San Francisco Bay Area as a young man when the entire magic community moved. He once told me he left the ancestral castle behind in England because he thought it was too pretentious to set it down right there in California.

I always suspected it was really because he liked the clean lines of the Irish manor better. It was essentially a three-story white rectangle with black-lined windows and doors. The only change he ever made to it was to turn one brick wall into glass so we could take advantage of the view of the Pacific.

I sighed. I was stalling. The mourning veils obscuring the open French doors billowed and showed glimpses of the magicians waiting inside. Waiting for me. I didn’t want to go back. Not yet.

“We don’t have to go back inside if you’re not ready,” Armageddon suggested. He must have noticed that my steps had slowed to a crawl. My uncle used a spell to lighten the urn so I didn’t have to heave it like the night before, thankfully, but to me, it still felt as if it weighed a ton. It grew heavier with each step, accumulating the weight of every fear that bombarded my mind, holding me back. Fear that was impossible to shake it off.

I was too light-headed to concentrate. The anxiety I felt knowing I would fail was catching up with me, and the bodice of my dress shook from the thundering of my heart. I was in a near panic, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it through the day without a meltdown.

“Let’s just get this over with,” I blurted. I was rewarded with Armageddon’s look of approval.

My uncle patted my arm as we entered the sunroom together. This was the only room large enough to hold the guests and a small fountain, a requirement at the Ascension. Why there had to be running Water instead of sitting in a small glass like the one that held the Earth element was beyond me. I knew from my studies that there was no more or less magic in running Water than Water in a cup. Even if it were a clay cup, which some might think would muffle Water’s magic since an Earth element would have surrounded it.

But who was I to question how magical things worked? Nobody. Nobody at all.

As Armageddon took the urn from my hands and settled it on the pedestal, the mayor completed the funeral for my parents with a few somber words. When he was done, the crowd of spectators shifted slightly in their seats and focused on me.


“Mirabilia Rector, please stand forth,” Vir Fortis said. He used my full name which was proper in ceremonies when a person had no magical name. I gulped. The only time my legal name had been used was when I was in trouble, and this heightened my anxiety.

Stepping onto a small raised platform, I moved closer to the mayor as he continued. “I call on the Elements. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Heed me. The time has come for this petitioner to enter into your presence and begin her journey as keeper and worker of magic.”

I hoped nobody could tell that I was in the grip of a panic attack. I struggled to suck in enough air. My heart thundered in my ears so loudly that I could barely hear the mayor.

“I have come to demonstrate my power,” I said, thankfully right on cue. My voice was weak and wavering. Everyone could hear how scared I was. Oberon Taine, my father’s biggest enemy, smiled at me. A big, fat, smug grin. He was obviously enjoying my humiliation.

I closed my eyes to block him out. I had managed to avoid thinking about Oberon for three days, and I couldn’t afford to think about him now. Taking a deep breath, I tried to relax the way Armageddon suggested, and let the magic come. I couldn’t feel it, but I knew it was swirling around inside of me, just waiting to get out. I tried to grip onto it and perform one spell, any spell, even a basic spell. But nothing happened.

The room was deadly silent. Not a sound except my own heart beating furiously in my ears, and I wondered if everyone else could hear it, too. I opened my mouth to say the words, magic words that carried spells with them, but like always, I choked on them instead. Non-magicians can’t speak magical words. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried, but I was determined to give it my all. But choking increased my issues and made me dizzy.

I tried to find my uncle, but my vision was too blurry. Horrified, I realized that I was crying. Everyone could see the tears as they poured down my cheeks. I squeezed my eyes shut again so I wouldn’t have to see anyone looking at me. I especially didn’t want to see Oberon Taine laughing at me. Until I failed in front of witnesses, no Rector had ever been vulnerable around him.


About me

T.J. Kelly writes YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, and Sci-fi novels. Destiny called on her thirteenth birthday when her mother had the local bookstore owner choose thirteen books a girl her age might like. The resulting pile of sci-fi and fantasy novels was her first love. When she can tear herself away from reading and writing, T.J. watches movies, asks countless questions, and bakes treats. Originally from California, T.J. now lives in Texas where she’s hard at work on the Armageddon’s Ward series.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
My website is a good place to start. You can also find me on Facebook at or on Twitter at if you want to start a conversation! I'd love to know more about my readers, too.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
Armageddon's Ward is the first novel in a four-book series. Books two and three are written and waiting in the wings to have their day in the sun. The fourth book is all plotted out and I can't wait to conclude Lia's story.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
Hope. Always keep going - even when things are at their darkest and you just failed at everything you were meant to be, there's always another path waiting for you just around the corner.

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