Winter Wolf (Witch & Wolf Book 2) by R.J. Blain
The Hunted Wizard
When Nicole dabbled in the occult, she lost it all: Her voice, her family, and her name. Now on the run from the Inquisition, she must prove to herself—and the world—that not all wizards are too dangerous to let live.
The savage murder of a bookstore employee throws Nicole into the middle of Inquisition business, like it or not. Driven by her inability to save the young man’s life, she decides to hunt the killer on her own. Using forbidden magic to investigate the past, she learns that the murderer is in fact a disease that could kill the entire werewolf race.
Forced to choose between saving lives and preserving her own, Nicole embraces the magic that sent her into exile. Without werewolves, the power of the Inquisition would dwindle, and she could live without being hunted.
Nicole’s only hope for success lies in the hands of the werewolves she hates and the Inquisition she fears, but finding someone to trust is only the beginning of her problems. There are those who want to ensure that the werewolves go extinct and that the Inquisition falls.
But, if she fails to find a cure, her family—including her twin sister—will perish…
Almost everyone in the store had a phone. Dormant devices, from reading lights to mobile chargers, littered the tables. One woman, browsing books nearby, had four battery-powered devices in her purse. One was a phone, and like mine, it hungered. Its need was strong; its battery waned to the point of failure.
If I wanted, I could charge it for her.
No one would notice if I did. Maybe the woman would wonder how her phone hadn’t died before she got home. It only had a few minutes left. It’d take me all of ten seconds to fix it for her. If I did, I wouldn’t be so aware of it. But to do so, I’d have to touch her—or her phone. Some things I could manipulate without having a direct conduit, but cell phone batteries were tricky, greedy things.
I cringed a little, setting the thriller book down. I picked up the next nearest title. I flipped it over, not reading the text on the back. Did I dare? Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the woman browsing through the books. All it would take was a few seconds. I could charge it without her noticing.
That was one thing I was actually good at.
I put the novel I held down and wandered to the same table, careful not to look at her. Book by book, I investigated the titles, circling to where she stood.
“You’re Nicole Thomas, aren’t you? The actress. You’re her.” My quarry appraised me with a pleased expression.
People normally recognized the mainliners, people with beautiful faces and voices to match, people who didn’t avoid crowds.
In short, people other than me.
I met her gaze, abandoning my perusal of novels. “I am,” I replied, wincing a little at the sandpaper-rough quality of my voice. At least I hadn’t been reduced to a whisper—yet. My fatal flaw was my rough, grating voice. Chronic laryngitis did that to a person. It ruined careers, as it had mine, though I hadn’t quite given up on being an actress. I’d already lost the ability to sing.
I wasn’t going to let a stupid disease take everything away from me.
The woman smiled, not seeming to mind talking to someone who sounded more like a zombie than a human. “You’re taller than I expected. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
She thrust out her hand.
I left her phone alone.
“They keep putting me next to giants,” I quipped. It was true. When I did manage to get on the silver screen, I worked alongside actors easily a foot-and-a-half taller than me. “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.” I matched her smile. She didn’t tell me her name, and I didn’t ask for it.
It took all of my will not to fiddle with her phone. All it would take was a murmured word and a thought, and it’d be done. It would have been easy to charge the battery when our hands had been clasped together, but I hadn’t dared.
If, sometime later, she noticed her phone had magically been charged—literally—she might remember me. She knew my name.
And in true cowardice, I couldn’t bring myself to help her. If she connected the strange behavior of her phone with me, she might tell someone. If she did, I’d be as good as dead—or worse. I had dabbled in the occult, and the occult had dabbled back, and there were those who didn’t like when that happened.
The last thing I needed was them finding me.
I slammed my car’s door, spun on a heel, and swore I would have a perfectly normal visit to the mall. All I needed was one little book. Even I could walk into a bookstore, pick up a novel, and leave without causing any trouble.
This time, I wouldn’t blow out the lights. There wouldn’t be a single power surge. I wouldn’t turn on every unplugged device in the electronics store on my way across the mall. In the ten minutes it would take me to get in and out, the only thing anyone would notice about me was the fact that I wore a high-collared sweater in late summer. I had a mission, and I would complete it without fail. The novel my agent insisted I read would be mine.
For a long moment, I considered turning around and getting back into my car. Dominic would forgive me if I didn’t start reading the book until tomorrow. I could call in a favor and ask someone to pick up a copy for me. Then I definitely wouldn’t run any risk of blowing anything up. If I had been smart, I would’ve just ordered the damned thing on the internet, but I had waited too long.
Fishing my cell out of my pocket, I unlocked the screen with a swipe of my finger. The charging icon mocked me. Despite running every battery-draining app I could find, the battery held a full charge. I opened another app, a devilish program capable of killing the battery in ten minutes. It wouldn’t, not with me around, but if I was too busy keeping my phone topped up, maybe my mall shopping trip would prove to be mundane.
I shook my head, laughing at my foolishness.
No one would notice my phone. No one would notice me for more than a second. They’d notice my clothes, and then they’d file me away as yet another weirdo wearing something strange to catch attention. L.A. was full of people like that.
I had no reason to worry. Even if I managed to embarrass myself yet again by losing control of my powers, no one would know I was the cause of unplugged electronics turning on or unusual power surges.
Straightening my shoulders, I fixed my eyes on the line of glass doors and marched my way across the parking lot.
In and out. No blown lights. No power surges. No feeding power to unplugged electrical devices. No charging batteries for strangers. I was in control, and I would charge only my phone.
Making my way to the entry, I paused long enough to hold the door for a little old lady who insisted on making her way through the regular doors despite her walker. I couldn’t blame her. If I lived to be her age, I wouldn’t want to rely on automatic doors either.
She thanked me with a pat on the arm. Flashing her my best smile, I slipped inside.
I could handle ten minutes in the crowded corridors. Maybe if I told myself that enough times, I’d believe it.
Author R.J. Blain
RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.
When she isn't playing pretend, she likes to think she's a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She is currently on a quest for a new warrior fish.
In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.
Favorite Books & Series
In no particular order:
Anne McCaffrey's Pern
Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar & Gryphon Series
Jim Butcher's Codex Alera & The Dresden Files
Brandon Sanderson's Elantris
Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega, Dragon Bones, & The Mercy Thompson series
Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time
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