Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance Books
Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Paranormal Romance Books

Magic’s Most Wanted Prequel Bonus Scene

“Thorne is a fucking snake.”

Zaron paced the room, trying to keep his anger under control. Shadows covered his face, the only light coming from the fireplace and the remaining embers from a dying fire. It was a losing battle. As much as Zaron wished he could remain calm and collected, the pain of losing his stone to Thorne left his heart hollow and his belly filled with the heat of anger.

“I don’t think that’s in dispute,” Ryzan said as he stood off to the side, giving Zaron as much room as he could. There was no telling what Zaron would do. He was volatile at the best of times and this was not him at his best. “But it’s your fault Thorne got his hands on the stone. Yes, he double crossed you, but it never would have happened if you hadn’t shown him the damn thing to begin with.”

Zaron growled, showing his displeasure. “I know.” He only had himself to blame. Zaron got cocky. He knew that. And even with his dealings with Thorne in the past, the temptation of that stone was too much for the magical arms dealer to ignore.

Smoke gathered at the ceiling, rising from Zaron’s mouth every time he opened his mouth. There were flames in his eyes, blazing. Just the look of him would scare most people, human and Natural alike. But Ryzan knew all about this side of Zaron. The two of them went way back, even if their friendship had been discouraged when they were younger. The two were from very different Natural species and came from different backgrounds. And yet, their bond had only grown over the years, despite what each of their families did to intervene.

“I did what you asked,” Ryzan said as he held up a manila folder. There were several errant pieces of paper sticking out of the sides. Ryzan had never been the tidiest person. Zaron had always been the tidy one of the two, although that had more to do with there always being someone to clean up after Zaron. “I looked into that list of bounty hunters you gave me.”

Zaron’s face lit up in hope. There was still anger brewing inside of him, but it was now tempered by hope. It seemed like a crazy idea, but it was the perfect way to get back at Thorne. It was not just enough to see the man die. Zaron was not even sure how to do it. He knew the basics of what Thorne could do with his death sorcery magic, but there were a lot of remaining questions. Zaron’s thick skin might help, but he had a feeling Thorne’s magic would eventually win out in the end.

Knowing his weakness against Thorne was why he figured getting some help would be good. Zaron had little interest in sending an innocent man to his death, but he was not completely against it either. And it helped that bounty hunters were rarely innocent. The best bounty hunters had skeletons in their closets. They all seemed to have something to hide after spending enough time on the fringes of magical society. They served an important role, but they were often little better than the criminals they chased after.

“This isn’t going to be like the last report you gave me, is it?” Zaron asked. “You really half assed it.”

“No, you gave me nothing to go on, sending me on a fool’s errand.” There was a note of bitterness in Ryzan’s voice. “I’m happy to dig for you on this stuff, because you’re my friend and you pay well.”

“And you’re damn good at it,” Zaron cut in. “And I know you like the covert spy and research stuff.”

“That too. But don’t take advantage of me. We’re friends first. I don’t want you to ever think I’m working for you. I shouldn’t even have done this for you. This could go all kinds of bad. I don’t want to see you end up dead because you got in over your head.”

Zaron stopped pacing and looked at his friend. The long blond hair and lean figure gave Ryzan an appearance that contrasted Zaron’s bulk and size. They were both strong, although Ryzan hid his strength better. He hid everything better. It was hard to see him as an incubus as he stood there. His horns remained hidden, a choice that Ryzan often made, keeping his demon origins as much of a secret as possible. He had no problem with people knowing he was an incubus, but it had always been more fun for him, and Zaron, to keep that part of himself secret. And it was so easy to hide his horns. They only ever seemed to come out when he was feeding.

“Just show me what you’ve got,” Zaron said.

“Come into the dining room and I’ll show you.”

The two friends left Zaron’s study, which had never had much studying done in it, and entered a large stone dining room. The table sat twelve, but there was space to expand the table to seat twenty. When Zaron entertained, the table would be set, but now, there was not even a decorative centerpiece. There was no need to decorate a room that was rarely used. But now the large table was the perfect place for Ryzan to spread out his research.

There was a fireplace along one wall, but it remained dark. The other walls featured paintings of fiery scenes, depictions of battles from long ago, with glowing gold eyes peering out from the dark shadows beyond the flames. The scenes were not what normal people hung in their homes, but Zaron was not a normal person and he had a special affinity for the scenes the paintings depicted.

Zaron sat at the head of the table. He always sat there. Ryzan sat on his right. In any room, he always sat on Zaron’s right, especially in Zaron’s home.

“I ranked the hunters with the Guild local you wanted me to look into,” Ryzan said as he opened his folder. “I didn’t bother to do anything about the bottom half. They’re just scrubs, with no training or talent. Most of them barely passed their tests to join the Guild. And even of those in the top half, they aren’t much better.”

“Are there no hunters of quality?” Zaron asked, surprised by his friend’s bluntness. Ryzan was usually more diplomatic than that, even with Zaron. He never knew when he might need to work with these people and him bad-mouthing them could get around.

“There are five that stand out from the rest, but there are really only two who I think could even remotely handle what you’re proposing.”

Ryzan pulled out two photos and placed them in front of Zaron. One was of a handsome man with a smug smile on his face, wearing a leather jacket and a pair of aviator sunglasses. He looked confident, but there was something off about him. Zaron immediately wanted to turn him down upon seeing him. The man clearly thought he was hot stuff. He was overconfident and given who Zaron wanted to go after, that could get someone killed.

But then Zaron looked at the other photograph. There was a pounding in his chest the moment he set eyes on the redheaded woman. She, too, wore a leather jacket, but Zaron did not see the same overconfidence the man had. She looked fierce and maybe even powerful. It was hard to tell from the photograph as she got out of a beat up looking car with peeling paint.

“This is Duke Waringer,” Ryzan explained, pointing toward the photograph of the man. “He’s a bit of a hothead, but he’s got some skills. He’s a mage, just like the head of the local Guild, but Duke doesn’t use his magic often, which makes him an even better hunter, in my opinion. His rate of capturing bounties is high, but he’s a ladies’ man, which sometimes gets in the way.”

“And the woman?” Zaron asked, his voice slightly strained. Just looking at her photograph stirred something in him he could not fully explain.

“Tempest Ravifort. She’s a lightning elemental. I’ll be honest, it was difficult tracking down much information on her. She’s like a ghost, but then I realized she isn’t registered as a Natural. I couldn’t figure out why, but she’s crafty, although a bit impulsive. She’s been supporting her sister for the last few years, so she’s unlikely to go for your plan. She’s got too much to lose.”

“How old is the sister?” Zaron asked.

“Eighteen. She’ll graduate from high school this year. From what I was able to pull from school records, the sister hasn’t shown much magical ability. Her power is weak. But she’s got into Stormbrier, so they should be able to do something with her. It’s one of the best schools in the country, especially for those who don’t have much magical ability.”

“Also for those who show exceptional talent,” Zaron commented. Stormbrier catered to the two different types of students with amazing success.

“Yes, people like you, too,” Ryzan admitted. Although neither of them had gone to Stormbrier, both were college educated. Zaron had gone to a much better school than Ryzan, however. Their friendship endured during those years, despite their separation.

Zaron looked at the two photos, going back and forth. His head told him Duke was the choice, even though he looked like an idiot. There was something sleazy about him. Zaron could not exactly put his finger on it, but Duke looked like a guy who thought he had the world figured out, but it was all for show. Or maybe it was the feeling in his chest that kept drawing his gaze back to Tempest. Just the sight of her stirred something inside of him that he had never felt before. It was strange and uncomfortable, but undeniable.

“So you’re going to go with Duke, right?” Ryzan assumed Duke was the man to choose. The guy clearly liked the limelight, and capturing the Dark Merchant would be right up his alley. And even though Duke lacked certain character qualities that might pose a problem, like his over reliance on luck, he would not be able to push back against Zaron.

“Tempest is the one I want,” Zaron said.

“How the hell are you going to persuade her to join you?”

Zaron smiled. “She needs the cash for her sister’s college tuition. Look at the car she’s driving. Look at the clothes she’s wearing. She’s not flashing any signs of wealth, because she doesn’t have any. No, Duke is just a pretty boy. I can sense it. Tempest Ravifort is my choice. But before I approach her, I need you to go deep into her. I need to know everything you can find. For real this time. I know you’ve got it in you.”

“I’m telling you, Zaron, this chick is bad news. There’s a reason she’s unregistered. There’s a reason she looks poor as shit. She’s not someone you need to be associating yourself with. And just because you haven’t fucked a redhead in a while doesn’t mean this is the right time.”

Ryzan looked up and found himself caught in Zaron’s eyes. The intensity the man could generate with just a state was impressive. It was pure power, which Zaron had in abundance. Ryzan had never crossed Zaron for a reason. Even when they were young, before their magic manifested, Zaron had been bigger, stronger, and all around more commanding. But now that he had actual power to back it up, Ryzan knew better than to directly get in his friend’s way.

“You’re serious about this?” Ryzan asked, trying to get Zaron to back down. “Look, you know I’ve got a good sense about women. Just looking at a picture will usually tell me more than most people could get from actually meeting them. And I’m telling you, Tempest Ravifort is someone you want to stay away from. This chick could ruin you. And I say that knowing who you are and what you can do.”

Zaron continued to stare, his eyes boring into Ryzan. He was not swayed in the slightest.

“And look, I know this Duke guy is a flake. His whole life is a house of cards. But that’s the brilliance of him. He’s a patsy. If anything goes sideways, you can blame it all on him. And it’s not like the world losing Duke Waringer will create some cosmic unbalance. Everyone else’s life will go on as it should. And you’ll still get your shit back from Thorne.”

Zaron growled, a low noise that emanated deep from within his chest. It could have been the mention of Thorne, or it could have been calling the item Thorne stole from him shit. Ryzan flinched regardless. Waves of power rolled off of Zaron. The temperature in the room increased from the heat pouring out of him.

“Okay, you got it,” Ryzan said, defeated. “But after this, I’m done. I will not be a party of your downfall. I will not be a part of the trouble you get into with this woman. I’m still your friend, but I won’t—I can’t—get involved. Do you understand?”

Silence filled the dining room. Zaron simply sat there, looking at the photograph. That left Ryzan wondering if Zaron had actually listened. Was he rethinking his plans? Ryzan could hope so, but he knew his friend well enough to know when he had made up his mind. Zaron was stubborn and he was used to getting his way.

“Understood,” Zaron finally said.

“Great,” Ryzan said as he collected the pictures, returning them to his manila folder.

But as soon as Ryzan put his hand on the picture of Tempest, Zaron slammed his hand down, holding the photograph to the table.

“That’s fine. You can keep the photograph. I’ve got other copies. But just let me say this. There’s a reason why I suggested you choose Duke. You haven’t even met this woman and you’re already reacting to her. I just wish I knew what the fuck was going on inside you right now, but as always, you won’t tell me.”

With the other photographs and papers collected, Ryzan rose from his seat. Zaron made no move to get up. He did not even acknowledge that Ryzan was still there. Instead, Ryzan walked out, shaking his head. He would do what Zaron asked of him, digging deep into Tempest Ravifort, but he had a bad feeling about all of this. There was something off about the woman bounty hunter. He only hoped his research would give him the answers he sought so that he could finally wave Zaron off of this harebrained plan of his.

Once Ryzan was gone, Zaron picked up the photograph and carried it into the study. The fire was nearly out. He set the photograph on the mantle and then loaded another log onto the fire. A blast of fiery breath reignited the flames.

But rather than pick up the photograph and sit down, Zaron placed his hands on the mantle and stared at the photograph. He might have acted foolishly with his friend, but it left him wondering a similar question. What was it about Tempest Ravifort that had him almost spellbound? There was only one way to find out. Zaron would have to meet her.