✅Fierce Lady Friendships
✅Cinnamon Roll Alphas
✅Good Witches, Bad Magic
Driven by a lust for powerful blood, the first LeFey plunged the Four Houses of Magic into a century of conflict. Survivors of the Great War, desperate to repair their tattered worlds, signed a treaty banning any contact between the Houses of fae, werewolf, vampire and witch. And for over a thousand years that treaty has held strong...
Haunted by the dark talents she once embraced, Rose LeFey is determined to confront her manipulative aunt and prove she’s finished with blood magic. Instead, she finds a basement full of prisoners and a false-mate bond with an insanely attractive, and utterly forbidden, werewolf.
As lust tears into her hard-earned self-control, Rose realizes the werewolf was bait. Her aunt wants to unleash war on the magical Houses and humans alike—with Rose at her side. To stop that from happening, Rose must deny both her own deadly powers and the temptation to turn the false mate-bond real.
An Inheritance of Curses (The Four Houses) by Dee J Holmes
CAUGHT BETWEEN THE SQUAT WOODEN building and the searing August sun blaring through her windshield, Rose LeFey pressed her hands to her eyes.
The scars crisscrossing her palms filled her vision, forming faint lines against the bright pink of her sunlit flesh. Most of the marks were no more than faded ridges, the lines barely a shade lighter than the rest of her skin—except for the one crossing her left palm. That line still had the defined, darker edges of a more recent wound. But even that mark lied, its ruddy streak a pale mockery of the real damage she’d wrought with its making.
That hurt ain’t gonna heal anytime soon.
She jerked her hands away from her eyes. Letting out a shuddering breath, she laid her forehead on her steering wheel.
It’s just a little spell, she’d said. Just need a little blood. Famous LeFey last words—and the exact moment her so-called plan went catastrophically cattywampus. One blood spell? She snorted. If sense was leather she couldn’t saddle a flea. It was never going to be just one spell, not for her.
Bing. Her phone buzzed within her purse.
Flinching at the insistent tone, she peeked between her fingers at the yellow satchel on her lap. How in the heck did a simple metallic beep manage to convey such disapproval? But it did. She didn’t need to look at her phone to know who was messaging—her grandmother, no doubt with last-minute instructions.
She dug her phone out of her bag, scrolled through her messages.
Sure enough, four text messages blinked up at her: three from her grandmother, one from her friend.
Swallowing back the lump in her throat, she clicked through them.
Grand-maman: Rose. Remember. I am trusting you to carry out this check-in. It is a simple task. And for God’s sake, don’t involve the locals.
No worries there. Rose hadn’t seen a single local since rolling through town. They were probably all in church, just like her Grand-maman—though Rose hoped they weren’t all texting. For all her grandmother stood as a pillar of Louisiana witch society, she had a terrible habit for checking her phone during Sunday service, messaging while their priest gave thanks to the elements or lectured on the magical deeds of Saint Merlin. Whereas Rose had simply sat beside her in the front pew, worrying that the white-painted eyes on the statue of their magical savior was judging her.
Grand-maman: Remember, this must be handled with the utmost discretion. No scenes.
Rose scoffed. Her grandmother’s conviction to the contrary, the last thing Rose wanted was more trouble. Risk a public hissy fit? Not a chance.
Heck, she wasn’t even risking a personal hissy fit.
She’d more than added that scar to her palm when she’d cast that stupid spell—she’d gone and taken a knife to her oldest, dearest friendship. Because when everything went belly-up, she’d begged for help. And Julian, her law-abiding friend, had compromised his iron-clad principles to bail her out. Now she was fixing to make amends.
Stage one: drive from New Orleans to the tiny Western Washington town of Pinemount and take her family drama on the chin.
As far as plans went, it was kind of a mess. But it’s what she had.
Julian: Looking forward to your visit. We’ll see your aunt tomorrow.
Tomorrow she and Julian would be doing a lot of things, but Rose was damned sure it wouldn’t include visiting her aunt. Coming to Pinemount might have been the stupidest of stupid plans, but she owed it to Julian. Nine months ago he’d literally saved her from herself, not to mention the object of her magical affections. And three weeks ago, he’d done it again—he’d gone and signed the betrothal contract drafted by their families.
He’d done all that, and she hadn’t even gotten out of the dang car yet.
Rose gave herself a shake. Quit being a chicken-chanting ninny.
She had a fiancé and a way out of her grandmother’s house. Time to prove that she wasn’t an impressionable teenager, tempted by secret journals and forbidden spells—or a love-struck moron, letting lust derail six years of hard work.
Sure, lying to her new fiancé about her arrival wasn’t the best way to start that betrothal, but it’s the only plan she had.
Needs must. Lifting her chin, she looked in the truck’s rearview mirror, cringed, and quickly finger-combed her hair into some semblance of order.
The white streak running from the peak of her forehead flashed in the sunlight, like a pale serpent coiled in copper grass. She glared at it. The mark of a LeFey witch, and a damn warning—she couldn’t trust her powers. Or herself. Not yet. But if she could face her aunt—alone, without Grand-maman to shield her or Julian to clean up her mess—with nothing standing between her and the past she had to put behind her? Then she’d finally be ready to begin a respectable life with a decent witch.
Assuming she got through the next five minutes without setting the shop on fire.
Bing. She looked down at her phone.
Grand-maman: Don’t forget. LeFeys look after their own.
“More like sweep their own problems under the rug before the neighbors can see. Argh.” With a disgusted huff, Rose tossed her phone onto the passenger seat. So many dang lies, in an itty bitty metal package. Her so-called important family mission wasn’t nothin’ more than a puffed up PR exercise. “LeFeys look after their own, huh, Grand-maman?” she grumbled. “Doesn’t mean I’m the LeFey to do it.”
Which was nonsense—there were only three LeFeys left.
She pushed out of the vehicle, slamming the door behind her. Gravel crunched under her boots, sending plumes of dust swirling around her ankles. A crisp, mountain-edged breeze brushed her cheek and, despite the sun blazing overhead, she shivered.
Bracing herself against the vehicle’s side, Rose drew in a calming breath.
The long strands of her beaded belt—a witch’s casting arsenal—rapped against the side of her car. It should have made her feel prepared for anything. But it didn’t. Not even an army of trained battle mages could have done that.
She eyed the store, the front more weathered than in her grandmother’s photos.
Painted a cheerful yellow, the shop’s door was propped open, a greeting sign hanging in its window. It should have felt welcoming. Instead, the darkness beyond the threshold trapped her gaze. A stark reminder of where unchecked passion landed her family—exile to a town so quiet it felt as if it were draped in a lead blanket. Nestled deep in the Cascade Mountains, the quiet street, with its low-slung wooden buildings and themed Gold Rush walk, Pinemount was about as far from New Orleans as an American witch could get.
Of course, that had been the point of her aunt’s “relocation:” total obscurity without the bother of Alaska.
Not that Sorcha’d need Alaska to stir up a heaping pile of trouble.
This town, with the raging pulse of a dead pigeon, was exactly where Rose would end up if she didn’t get herself together. Lifting her chin, hands clenched into fists at her sides, she stalked across the parking lot—
Her heel slipped on a stone. Arms outstretched, she staggered a few steps and managed to catch her balance. “Dang it,” she muttered. Hope my aunt didn’t see that. It’d be even harder to maintain an icy, distant demeanor if Sorcha was laughing at her before she’d even gotten inside. Cheeks hot, Rose glanced at the doorway. No hint of movement beyond the dark glass. Letting out a breath, she finished crossing the lot—slowly. She’d known the country-styled, high-heeled boots weren’t practical, but she’d wanted to look her much-taller aunt in the eye. Not that extra height would help if she face-planted across the dang welcome mat.
She pushed open the yellow front door.
A bell tinkled overhead, the faint chime trembled along her spine. She froze in the doorway, one foot hovering over the threshold.
Saint Merlin have mercy.
It didn’t matter that she’d come armed with a full casting belt. Or that she wore enough protective stones around her fingers, wrists and neck to armor a gator. This was Sorcha’s store, and a sick sense of familiarity punched through Rose. Her fingers tightened on the doorframe. Six years she’d avoided any contact with her aunt. Six years she’d kept her blood magic locked away. Figured both those streaks would end round ‘bout the same time.
Letting out a shaky breath, she quietly chanted a child’s charm: “Looks so lovely, feels so strong, shines so bright when lights are gone.”
Squaring her shoulders, she made her way into the shadow-filled reaches.
The store’s interior was dark and dreary as a foggy winter’s night in New Orleans—without the occasional strains of jazz to offset the gloom. Clutter covered the small space from top to bottom. Everywhere she looked were shelves heaped with crystals, mixing bowls and dried herbs. The store had all the appeal of a funeral parlor, including the lingering odor of dead flowers.
“Sorcha? It’s me, Rose. Are you here?”
Rose brushed past a strand of cobweb, stifled a sneeze with the back of her hand. Holy hex. Did her aunt wish to attract any customers at all? The sign hanging in the doorway claimed the store was open, yet the inside screamed “stay away.”
Rose wished she could take the advice. But she had to do this, and not for her grandmother. If Rose didn’t confirm that Sorcha remained a quiet, non-magic-casting recluse, the Magestracy would send her fiancé to do it. Rose shuddered. Julian might be the local Terra, part of the enclave of witches who protected the Treaty and ensured the Four Houses remained separate, but she’d rather eat expired crawfish than see him deal with Sorcha on an off-day.
The ink of their marriage contract was barely dry—heck, Rose still couldn’t believe he’d signed it—no way she’d risk reminding him as to why he’d be smarter to run, not walk, from their pending union. She needed that contract to escape her grandmother’s house—to have a future in regular, respectable witch society.
And Sorcha would try to ruin that future; Rose felt it in her bones.
You’re just like me, niece, a throaty voice whispered from Rose’s memories. You’ll never follow their rules.
“That’s right, Rose. Take the knife, press it to the tip of your finger until you get all three drops. Now the next”. Her raven-haired aunt guided her blade from fingertip to fingertip, then she led their chant. “With the pricking of our thumbs, something wicked this way—”
Rose slammed the past back into her mental box, labeled ‘Do Not Open.’
Her hands clenched, palms sweaty. I will follow the rules. They are for me. I’ll have more in my life than a sad, dusty store.
“I’m not like Sorcha,” she whispered. I’m not a curse.
She forced her chin up and carefully picked her way towards an antique desk that served as a counter.
Her skin crawled with every step.
Where was Sorcha? She’d never close on a Sunday—in fact, she’d take particular pleasure in being open while most were in church. Was she waiting behind that bookcase? Or standing in the shadows behind that ridiculous display of fake wands?
The scuff of Rose’s soles across the floorboards grew unnaturally loud in her ears.
Necklaces jangled rhythmically against her chest, somehow slower than the frantic beating of her heart. The soft clink usually reassured her, just as the weight of her belt and the tap of its strands against her thigh let her feel prepared. Not today. Though…was she hearing something beyond her jewelry?
Her brow furrowed. She stilled the beaded strands with her hand.
There it was again, a faint tap. Coming from the backroom, or the storeroom below?
“Sorcha, is that you?” She rapped her knuckles against the worn, black desktop. “Come out. I’m not interested in playing hide-and-seek.” Her attempt to sound authoritative emerged as an uneasy whisper and she cringed at her thickening drawl.
A muffled moan sounded beneath her feet.
She jerked with surprise. Pressing a hand to her heart and willing it back into her chest, she stomped on the floor, cupping her mouth and calling out, “Are you in the storeroom?”
A thump quivered throughout the shop, making a display of pendant crystals to chime.
She gulped. Bloody hex.
The sound was coming from the cellar. Apparently the cost of her future included questionable stairs and a small, dark, and enclosed space. She’d only seen photos from her grandmother’s, undertaken right after Sorcha’s exile, but, unfortunately, Rose had an excellent memory. Grand-maman’s gloved hand resting atop a dusty altar, her lip curled at the images. “This is the future of a practicing blood witch…”
Rose gave herself a shake and the beaded sash hanging down her left side rattled against her thigh. Silencing the long strands of stones, she rubbed a tiger’s eye bead for courage and headed for a shadowed doorway.
Her heel caught in an unseen break between floorboards. It jerked her foot and sent her stumbling forward.
She caught herself against a wall. “A hex on high heels.”
Groping along the surface, she found a light switch. An assortment of yellow bulbs flickered to life, revealing a yawning staircase. Another moan drifted from below and she sucked a breath in through her teeth.
Safety inspectors would have a field day with this building. Or run screaming.
I don’t have the luxury of running or screaming. Nope. She’d pick Sorcha off the ground, dust her off, remind her she’s banned from casting magic, and leave. Job done. Past closed. Rose looked down at the curving, dimly lit wooden stairs, then at her boots. She’d just do all that carefully.
Sliding her hand along the wall for stability, she headed down. The stone trembled beneath her fingertips as she descended.
Mercy. Something was carrying on but good. Probably Sorcha. Bet she got herself caught by a wayward spell. Her aunt had never had much time for safe casting; she never tidied up her herbs or cleansed the air between spells. And that kind of practice would knock a witch into next week. You’ve got to take better care, sis, Rose’s mother had said, elbowing her twin while she sent Rose’s five-year-old self an exaggerated wink, or you’ll teach our little Rosie bad habits.
For a moment, grief clogged Rose’s throat. Guess I picked those habits up after all.
She swallowed hard.
Rounding a bend in the stairs, she was confronted by a heavy wooden door. A musty odor permeated the area, marking the storeroom more of a cellar carved out below ground.
Energy skittered across her skin.
“What in the heck?” She frowned. Sorcha was forbidden from casting anything but the simplest of spells—not that Rose had expected her aunt to abide by that edict—but the power reverberating down here was extraordinary. It far exceeded a standard locking charm.
The hairs on the back of Rose’s neck tingled with warning. Not every witch had the ability to see magic—the talent was considered a rare gift among her kind—but, in moments like this, it was a bleeding curse. Gritting her teeth, she shifted sights.
Bright lines of magic overlaid the mundane shapes of wood, hinges, and iron handle.
Spells. Ugly, twisting spells.
Spells that reeked of blood magic.
“Oh, God.” Clamping a hand to her mouth, she jerked back. Her aunt hadn’t merely broken the terms of her exile, she’d fed them to a damn gator.
Rose raked her fingers through her hair, stared at the door, and blew out a frustrated breath. Hex it all. Forget worms, her aunt casting blood spells opened a can of cottonmouth snakes. It demanded the Terra take over.
“Shit,” she hissed. “Shit, shit, shit.”
Throat tight, she groped for her cell phone. She’d call Grand-maman or Julian or…not. She’d left the blasted phone in her car.
She headed for the stairs, turned back the door.
Goddammit, this habit of turning tail at the first sign of trouble had to stop. So it was a blood spell, so what? If Rose hurried up to her car and called for help, then every worst-case scenario would play out like a terrible B-movie. Julian would get an eyeful of drama, and Grand-maman would be reminded of the dangers of letting Rose leave the family home. No. Thank. You.
So, she’d deal with it.
If Grand-mana or Julian ever questioned her on the matter, she’d simply claim she’d heard a cry for help. “What’s that?” she called out, pretending to listen to words beyond the door. “You’ve fallen and can’t get up? Don’t worry, I got it.”
Lacing her finger together, she cracked them outward. She wouldn’t have any real future if she couldn’t face a tiny bit of that magic and walk away unscathed. This was the perfect opportunity to prove she could handle some exposure to blood magic. Besides, the wards weren’t overly complicated, just potent.
She tugged a calcite bead off her belt; let it warm in her palm.
When the beat was the same temperature as her body she began to chant. “Like from like, twisted from right. Release your hold, let magic unfold…” Gesturing with her hands, she traced spell-patterns in the air and coaxed the angry red strands of magic to unravel.
The threads tugged and wriggled out of her grasp.
And the scars on her palms tugged with each gesture, like they did every time she cast.
A line of sweat trickled down the back of her neck. Hadn’t casting been easier when she was a young witch studying spells alongside her aunt? Back when she’d used her true element. Power to power, Sorcha had said, as she’d pushed her thumbnail into a mouse’s throat—
Drawing in a lungful of dusty air, Rose focused on the task at hand. Clenching her teeth, she determinedly used standard fire symbols to counteract the barrier.
“You’ll give, damn you. As I will, so mote it—”
The wards gave way with pop. Magic dispersed back into the earth, colors fading like ink beneath a wash of water. Letting out the breath she’d been holding, she gave the air a celebratory fist pump. She’d touched a blood spell, and she hadn’t broken. Sure, she was tired and a bit sweaty, but she’d faced her aunt’s spell and emerged victorious.
Take that, nightmares. She gripped the door’s iron handle. Well-oiled, the door only needed a solid shove to send it swinging inwards. “All right, Sorcha, let’s get this over with. It’s just you, me, and—”
A blast of stale air rushed out, along with a deafening roar.
Teeth and rage filled her senses.
A yip of terror escaped her. She staggered backward, away from the open doorway, away from the teeth.
Run. Run. Run. Get to the truck—
The floor caught her heels. Her knees buckled beneath her, sending her crashing backward. The force of the fall kicked the air from her lungs, leaving her sprawled at the bottom of the stairwell. She tried to get up, yet her body refused to cooperate.
Holy God. There was a monster locked in Sorcha’s cellar.
And Rose had just opened its cage.