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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Faerie Forged by L.R. Braden 💕 Book Tour & Gift Card Giveaway 💕 (Urban Fantasy Paranormal Romance)



New world, new rules . . .

Alex is screwed. She’s due at the fae Court of Enchantment in less than twenty-four hours, but she’s not even close to being ready. Her job is hanging by a fraying thread. There’s a new vampire master in town. And several of her werewolf friends have been captured by the Paranatural Task Force.

She’s their best chance for release before the full moon reveals their secret, but the Lord of Enchantment is not someone you keep waiting—even when he happens to be your grandfather. All Alex can do is call in a favor, hope to hell she can survive the plots of the fae court, and hightail it home to salvage her life.

One mistake at court could change everything . . . .

“Original and riveting.”—Book Likes Blog on A Drop of Magic, Book One of The Magicsmith series

“Great plot. Lovable characters. Heart-pounding action.”—Lauren Davis, Netgalley Reviewer on A Drop of Magic



Chapter 1
BRONZE DUST AND red buffing compound coated my work surface, my
jeans, and my hands. Pulling down my respirator mask so it hung over my
collarbone like a necklace, I set the Dremel aside and, fingers clasped,
pressed my palms toward the ceiling until my back popped. My stomach
growled, and I glanced longingly at the dregs of coffee staining my empty
mug. Breakfast had been a long time ago. The air in the studio smelled of
warm metal and sulfur patina, and my nose twitched with the warning of
an oncoming sneeze.
Sniffing, and brushing the back of my wrist over my upper lip, I
snatched up a polishing cloth to wipe out the residual red rouge caked in
the corners of the bronze queen chess piece. I was careful to keep my mind
clear as I worked, blocking off my emotions so they didn’t accidentally
spill over into Uncle Sol’s Christmas present due to my magical ability.
That would be a fine gift. Here’s a fun game full of anxiety and stress
that makes you sick to your stomach when you touch the pieces.
When the queen shone with a mirror finish, I set her besid e her king,
ready to lead her army across the cherrywood chess board.
On one side of the battlefield, fractal-pattern pawns guarded a court of
frozen snowflakes—all sharp angles and hard lines—their shapes as bright
and clear as their finish. Across the no man’s land of checkered space, a
second army sat, ready for war. These pieces were dark, stained to an oilslick
finish. In contrast to their counterparts, the patinaed court swooped
and curled with organic curves.
The set was done. One more item checked off my to-do list, and not a
moment too soon. I’d be on my way to the fae Winter Festival in less than
a day. My tutors, Kai and Hortense, had been cramming almost every
waking moment with fae etiquette lessons to help me survive my debut at
the Court of Enchantment. Most of the lessons boiled down to “Don’t be
yourself.”
Standing, I brushed what metal dust I could off my jeans, then
scrubbed my hands raw at the sink in the corner.
I had a box all prepared for Sol’s gift, kept safe from the studio’s mess
in a cabinet off to one side of my work space. The chess pieces each
slipped into individual pockets in two felt-lined drawers under the board.
Once the armies were laid to rest, I set the board on a bed of bubble wrap,
covered it, and tucked it in. I secured the box with packing tape and
scribbled the address for Uncle Sol’s New York apartment—the closest
thing he had to a home—across the top. Then I cleaned my Dremel, placed
it back on its peg on the wall, and swept up the evidence of my work.
Straightening, I turned a slow circle, making sure everything was tidy.
Thanks to the time-dilation between realms, this would be the last time I
set foot in my studio for at least a week. Assuming I came back at all.
A colorful sheet hung like a ghost in one corner of the room,
suspended on the copper sculpture it was keeping safe from my creation
process. All the tools were in their places, the kilns were off, the forge was
cold.
Grabbing Sol’s present, I turned out the lights and locked the studio
door. The mid-morning sky was clear but cold, tightening the skin across
my cheeks. Tendrils of mist still huddled in shadows, close to the ground
where the sun couldn’t find them. I breathed deep, and crossed the clearing
to my house.
I set Sol’s package on the breakfast bar that separated the kitchen
from the living room, and glanced at the clock on the wall.
Crap. I only had thirty minutes until my shift at the bookstore.
I FLEW THROUGH the back door to Magpie Books, purse dangling from
one hand, keys clenched in the other. I’d stripped off my dirty clothes,
wiped the worst smudges off my face with a damp rag, and pulled on a
clean outfit in two minutes flat. I’d also careened down the Boulder
Canyon like a maniac, so I was only five minutes late for my shift.
Shoving my belongings into a locker in the back room, I pushed
through the employee-only door to the store proper and jogged up an aisle
of bookcases toward the front.
Dozens of people were perusing the shelves, arms piled high with
popular titles, and the front door jingled constantly with the flow of
holiday traffic. The scent of pine and cinnamon mixed with the smell of
books and coffee. A row of over-stuffed stockings hung on one wall, each
embroidered with an employee’s name. Mine was third from the end.
Kayla stood by the register. Her platinum blond hair was pinned back
from her face with two tiny silver clips. She wore her usual high-collared,
ankle-length dress to hide the gossamer pixie wings she’d once shown me.
I licked my lips, recalling the heady sensation caused by the magical dust
that came off those wings.
“Hey, Kayla. Sorry I’m—” My apology stalled as my gaze shifted past
Kayla to the café area and a knot lodged in my throat.
Standing at the counter was an agent of the Paranatural Task Force—
PTF for short. He wore blue jeans, brown boots, and a button-up shirt with
a beige plaid pattern, nothing to mark him as a PTF agent, but I’d
recognize Benjamin O’Connell anywhere. Hard to forget a man who’d
sworn to ruin your life. Especially when he had the means and authority to
actually do it.
Clenching my fists, I continued past the register, ignoring Kayla’s
furrowed brow. I stepped up to O’Connell. “What are you doing here?”
O’Connell raised one eyebrow. “Getting a coffee.”
I crossed my arms. “Why here?”
He shrugged. “Why not?”
Emma, the barista, pulled a lever on the copper machine behind the
counter and a hiss of steam poured out. She jingled as she worked, her
many chains and piercings clicking with each motion, but her usual
perkiness was absent. Her shoulders sagged, and when she turned I saw
dark circles below her eyes.
Last month, Emma took, and passed, the test to become a practitioner
—a rare human who could use magic. She’d also convinced a local healer
named Luke to take her on as his apprentice, which would explain her
glazed expression. I knew from experience that using magic was
exhausting.
I inched closer to O’Connell and pitched my voice lower. “What do
you want?”
“I was worried you might get lonely after I saw the list of potentials
brought in this morning.”
My heart stuttered, and my mouth went dry. Potentials were people
reported for exhibiting magical behavior. They were rounded up, dragged
to the nearest PTF facility, and tested for paranatural abilities. I’d seen
firsthand how brutal PTF tests could be, and the consequences of
failing . . . I was just lucky my ability to handle iron protected me from
suspicion, since that was the main way they tested for fae heritage. Not all
my friends were so lucky. If he’d gotten his hands on any of them. . . . I
swallowed the sour taste in my mouth.
“Gonna take all day to get them processed.” He sighed and rubbed the
back of his neck—the picture of an overworked employee just trying to get
through the day. “Then there’s the testing. Could be days. Weeks maybe,
backed up as we are.” He leaned toward me like a friend sharing a secret.
His nearness made my skin itch. “We’ve been up to our eyeballs in
suspicion reports since the election results came in.”
Colorado’s governor-to-be, Gary Anderson, had run a Purity
campaign, aligning himself with the extremist group that endorsed
wholesale slaughter of anyone with a drop of magic in their blood. I’d
already noticed several disturbing changes around town, like iron bead
curtains hanging in doorways, anti-fae stickers in storefronts, and a recent
call for magical-segregation in schools.
News that the number of reports had risen since the election wasn’t
surprising, but it was disturbing. The same thing happened right before the
Faerie Wars broke out, when tension between the humans and fae had been
at its highest. I shuddered to think how much worse the situation was
going to get come January, when Anderson was officially sworn in.
“I guess between the halfer,” O’Connell cut his eyes to Kayla, “and
the witch,” he nodded toward Emma, “you’ve got all the company you
need.” He smiled. “For now.”
Emma set a to-go cup on the counter and O’Connell stepped away
from me to grab it. He lifted the steaming container to his lips, hissing
when the hot liquid hit his tongue. Then he raised his drink in salute and
walked out the door.
“Hey, Alex.” Emma smiled. The steel ring in her lip glinted. “Want
your usual?”
I set my hands on the counter, leaving sweaty smudges on the glass.
“Was that guy bothering you?”
She frowned. “No. Why?”
I shook my head and walked back the way I’d come. Passing Kayla, I
said, “I need to make a phone call,” and hustled back through the
“employees only” door before either of my coworkers could do more than
blink.
Yanking open my locker, I grabbed my cell phone and stood with my
finger over the contacts icon. Did O’Connell really have one or more of
my friends? Or was he trying to trick me into giving someone away?
Could he have bugged my phone?
I frowned. The CSI shows on TV always talked about cloning cell
phones, but people had to steal the phones first. And even the PTF needed
a warrant for a legal phone tap . . .
I scrolled through entries, wondering who was most exposed.
My first thought when O’Connell hinted a friend had been taken was
of Kai. But O’Connell wouldn’t have called him a potential. Kai was a
fully registered fae, living at my house on a visa granted by the PTF. Plus,
O’Connell had already dragged Kai in for extensive testing.
I shivered, recalling the way Kai had screamed during those tests.
No. Kai was safe. As safe as a fae could be, considering the growing
influence of Purity.
But James—a vampire hiding in plain sight—was definitely not safe.
O’Connell knew we were friends, and potentially more. Our complicated
relationship status had come under close scrutiny when James was
investigated for murder. I’d since slammed the brakes on dating, but the
jolt of dopamine and the way my body tightened whenever he was around
made it painfully clear that my heart and my head weren’t on the same
page.
I pressed the call button. As soon as the line connected I asked,
“Where are you?”
“The nest.” The sound of James’s voice loosened some of the ropes of
tension squeezing my chest.
I rubbed my forehead, fighting back a headache. James had spent the
better part of a week preparing for the arrival of a new master vampire—
some woman named Victoria—who’d claimed ownership of the Denver
area nearly as soon as we’d put the old master down. How she’d known
about the vacancy so fast was anybody’s guess, but she’d come to town
two nights ago.
“You’re all right?” I asked. “No . . . problems?”
“I’m fine.” Worry crept into his voice, stretching his syllables. “Has
something happened?”
“It’s nothing. I’ll see you at dinner tonight.” I disconnected before he
could press me for more information. If he wasn’t O’Connell’s prisoner I
didn’t have time to waste chatting with him, and the last thing he needed
while dealing with a new, powerful vampire was to be distracted.
I scanned through my remaining contacts. Some names were missing,
like Chase and Jynx, the shifter siblings crashing at my house, and
Hortense, the tutor sent by my grandfather to fill the gaps in Kai’s lessons.
They were all full fae, and I had no way to contact them except face-toface,
but Chase had been a snoring ball of gray fur at the end of my bed
when I left for work, and Jynx had been watching television. I bit my lip. I
couldn’t imagine Hortense being careless enough to get caught by the likes
of O’Connell.
That left the wolves. I knew several members of the local werewolf
pack, thanks to my recent exploits, but I didn’t have all their numbers. One
number I did have was Marc’s. As the leader of the pack, he was sure to
know if any of his members had been picked up by the PTF.
The line rang . . . and rang. No answer.
I took a deep breath. No reason to panic yet. Maybe he was just in the
shower. Scrolling further down the list, I clicked the entry for Oz, a pack
member I’d actually known before I discovered, rather violently, that
werewolves were real.
The line rang. I bit my lower lip, my heart rate starting to climb. No
answer there either.
I didn’t have a direct line to Sarah Nazari, a werewolf detective with
the Boulder police department. And Sophie—my human friend turned
werewolf the night we both learned they were more than just stories—had
her phone privileges revoked after sneaking out to go clubbing and nearly
shifting in a building packed tight with tasty mortals.
I thumped my cell phone against my forehead. A couple missed calls
was hardly conclusive, but my gut told me O’Connell had gotten his hands
on some or all of the werewolves. Waves of dread rolled through me. I had
to know for sure.
Lifting the phone one more time, I called Maggie. A month ago,
talking to Maggie would have been the most natural thing in the world.
Now, the prospect made my insides writhe. Maggie was one of my few
remaining human friends, and the only one I’d managed to keep
completely out of the craziness my life had become. But my secrets had
driven a wedge between us, and I wasn’t sure how to bridge that gap.
Before I’d walked into the near-certain death of Merak’s nest, I’d
written a letter to Maggie explaining everything and apologizing for
keeping her in the dark, just in case. I hadn’t died. I also hadn’t given her
the letter yet. I’d stuffed it in my nightstand drawer, too afraid to face the
fallout of laying my secrets bare, especially as the gulf between us grew
larger.
“Alex?” Maggie’s voice was sharp. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I just—”
“Are you at the store?”
I looked at the employee door, then at the exit. “Yeah, but I need to
leave.”
“Bloody hell, Alex. Your shift just started, and this is the last shift
you’ve got before the two weeks you requested off during the busiest
shopping season of the year.” Her voice rose as she spoke, her London
accent becoming more pronounced.
“I know, but something’s come up.”
A loud sigh came through the phone. “Something always comes up
with you these days, and you’ve told me bugger all about it.”
“I know. I—”
“How long?”
“What?”
“How long do I need to cover? The morning? The whole day?
Forever?”
I shuffled my feet and looked up at the speckled ceiling tiles. “Better
not count on me today.”
“I can’t ever count on you anymore.”
Dead air filled the line as I struggled to find something to say,
something to make things right between us, but she was right.
“I can’t take this anymore, Alex. Not with . . .” A sharp exhale and a
shaky breath. “You’re sacked.”
The words dropped like a bomb in my head, splintering my thoughts
into a million shards of jagged shrapnel. I opened my mouth to argue, to
come clean about my heritage, to explain why I’d missed all those shifts,
but all that came out was a ringing silence.
“I’m sorry, Alex.”
The line went dead.
Pressure built behind my eyes.
I’d thought about quitting the bookstore dozens of times—usually
when I was fighting to get out of my nice warm bed before the sun came
up—but I’d never really considered it. Magpie Books had been Maggie’s
dream, but we’d built it together. I’d been there from the start, and I’d
always assumed I’d be there till the end. Magpie was supposed to be a
place I would always belong.
Dropping the phone in my purse, I blinked until my tears were no
longer in danger of falling. Somehow, I had to repair my friendship with
Maggie. I couldn’t afford to burn any more bridges. But first, I needed to
find out what, if anything, had happened to the werewolves.


  






The war isn’t over . . .

With the world clinging to a fragile peace forced on the Fae by humanity after the Faerie Wars, metalsmith Alex Blackwood is plunged into the world of the half-fae who traffick in illegal magical artifacts. Her best friend’s murder and his cryptic last message place her in the crosshairs of a scheme to reignite the decade-old war between humans and fae.

Worse, violent attacks against her and the arrival of a fae knight on a mission force Alex to face a devastating revelation of who and what she is. To catch a killer, retrieve a dangerous artifact, and stop a war, Alex will have to accept that she’s an unregistered fae “halfer” with a unique magical talent—a talent that would change everything she believes about her past, her art, and her future.

Her world is crumbling around her, and Alex will have to decide who to trust if she and the world are going to survive.

A Drop of Magic is a damned fun and original read, with sass, action, hot men, and a whole lot of magic.” —Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the Diamond City Magic, Magicfall, and Horngate Witches series

  



“A great story of murder, mystery . . . and well-developed characters.”—Margie Hager, Netgalley Reviewer on A Drop of Magic

“A Drop of Magic is a damned fun and original read, with sass, action, hot men, and a whole lot of magic.” —Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the Diamond City Magic, Magicfall, and Horngate Witches series

Deeper into the shadows. . .

The paranatural community isn’t done with Alex. She’s been summoned to the fae court, and she's got her hands full trying to prepare. But her date with the fae will have to wait. There’s been a death at the gallery, and the man she hoped would be a part of her future is the prime suspect.

Bitter enemies pull her into the middle of a paranatural war for territory that has her dodging police, swords, teeth, and claws—not to mention the truth. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and the less certain she is about the innocence of the one man she wanted to trust.

She thought she was done with murder and monsters, but she’ll have to enter the belly of the beast if she hopes to save her friend.

  


Born and raised in Colorado, L. R. BRADEN makes her home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her wonderful husband, precocious daughter, and psychotic cat. With degrees in both English literature and metalsmithing, she splits her time between writing and art. A Drop of Magic is her first novel.


  

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6 comments :

  1. Love the red hair and how it carries through your books

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love this type of book. Great covers too

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really like the cover for book 1. I think the cover for book 2 isn't quite as strong.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the cover! I look forward to reading this book because I love all things paranormal.

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