Courting Darkness The Magicsmith Book 2 by L.R. Braden Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
“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. Add to GoodreadsAmazon * Apple * B&N * Google * Kobo A Drop of Magic The Magicsmith Book 1
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 Add to GoodreadsAmazon * Apple * B&N * Google * Kobo
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. Website * Facebook * Amazon * Goodreads
A Drop of Magic Excerpt
METAL DUST CLUNG to the sweat on my arms, glittering like shining scales. Even with the studio
door propped open behind me, the uncommonly warm October air did little to temper the heat of the
forge. A shower of sparks erupted as I plunged the carbon steel rod back into the annealing embers and
dragged an arm across my forehead, taking care to avoid the bulky, blackened welding glove. I’d
probably still end up with sooty streaks decorating my otherwise pale face. I always did.
Lost in the beat of my old MP3 player, I started belting out the lyrics of Robert DeLong’s Don’t Wait Up
as I prepared the next rod. Then a touch settled—light and tentative—on my arm, and the bottom fell out
of my stomach.
Tongs clutched in one hand, hammer in the other, I spun.
“Whoa, whoa.” His lips formed the words, though I couldn’t hear them over the music blaring through
An inch shorter than I was, wearing jeans and a polo shirt, I had no reason to think the man was anything
but human. But then, who could tell these days? He took a step back, hands raised, either to show he
meant no harm or to ward off the blow he thought was coming.
Behind him, near the open door, stood a second man. He wore a rumpled brown suit that matched his hair
and eyes. Average height, average build, average looks. Nothing remarkable about him.
Moving to put the anvil between us, I set the hammer down and pulled off my headphones, but kept a
white-knuckled grip on the tongs. The higher-than-average number of violent crimes this summer had me
on edge—along with everyone else—though none of the violence had come so far as my neck of the
woods. It seemed unlikely a murderer would get my attention before attacking, but my heart raced a mile
a minute as I faced the strangers. “Who are you?”
The man nearest me lowered his arms. “We announced ourselves, but it seems you didn’t hear.”
I scowled at his attempt to put the blame back on me. This was my studio, and they were uninvited guests.
“My apologies.” This came from Mr. Unremarkable. The monotone of his voice matched his appearance,
revealing nothing. “You may call me Smith. My associate is Neil. Am I addressing Alyssandra
A muscle under my right eye twitched. Most people only knew me as Alex. Alyssandra hadn’t existed
anywhere but legal documents since I was twelve and traded the name in for something stronger, more
“We’ve come to purchase an item from you, an engraved silver box.”
My shoulders dropped as the tension in them eased a little. Customers didn’t often stop by the studio
unannounced, but it wasn’t unheard of. People sometimes got my address from the Souled Art Gallery
in Boulder where I showed my work, or from previous customers, and came to commission pieces. Most
were courteous enough to call ahead.
“I’m booked on orders right now. I could maybe get to it next month.”
“You misunderstand. We are looking for an object already in your possession.”
“Oh. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have an item like that in stock.”
“We know the box came your way. If you hand it over, we can make it worth your while.” Neil had the
slick, sleazy tone of a used car salesman. Curious though I was about this box, and why they thought I
had it, I’d had enough of the conversation. Even if they weren’t killers, they gave me the creeps. I shook
my head. “You were misinformed.”
“Ms. Blackwood,” Smith said. “Be reasonable. We’re willing to pay handsomely, and considering the
other parties involved, you’re not likely to get a better offer. Surely it isn’t worth the risk?”
My breath caught as the thinly veiled threat hit me like a punch in the gut.
“You need to leave, now.” My voice trembled slightly. The studio only had one door, and they were
between it and me. I was trapped. Shifting my stance, I tightened my grip on the tongs, willing them not
Smith raised his hands in a placating manner. “I think we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot. You might not
even realize you have the item we seek. It would look quite common, like a jewelry box.”
“I told you, I haven’t got anything like that. Now get out of here before I call the cops.” It was a bluff, of
course, I’d left my cell phone in the house. Even if I could call, the police would never arrive in time to
help. That was the downside of living so far from town. I was on my own.
“Enough of this.” Neil stepped around the anvil and reached for my arm.
I didn’t like to fight, I avoided confrontations when I could, but if he thought I was going to roll over, he
was wrong. With a guttural howl, I twisted my wrist out of Neil’s grip and swung the tongs into his face.
His skin split apart like newspaper peeling back from a fire, scorched black and crinkled around the
edges. An unearthly shriek filled the studio, and I stumbled back, shocked at the damage I’d done.
Neil shimmered and seemed to melt. His skin became transparent, and a network of blue veins crawled
beneath its surface. His nose spread and sank into his face, leaving two flared slits. Below that, the mouth
emitting that horrible sound elongated until the gaping, needle-lined hole grew so large I could have put
my whole fist in without scraping my knuckles. When he reached up to cover his face, his fingers had
nearly doubled in length, the webbing between them connecting all the way to the tips. His fingernails
stretched and thickened to claws. The creature before me was straight out of a horror movie, and I added
my own scream to the cacophony.
Wielding my tongs like a baseball bat, I backed away from the writhing shape which had been the man
Neil seconds before. Even at the best of times, my stomach cramped when someone mentioned the
fae. Seeing one in the flesh was like having a bucket of ice water dumped on my head. I shivered from
head to toe, and fought the urge to throw up.
Smith crossed the space between himself and Neil in two steps and pulled Neil’s arms down to expose the
hideous gash burned across his cheek. My stomach lurched at what I’d done. White glinted where bone
showed beneath charred flesh. The eye above had swelled shut and was rapidly turning a sickly greenish
color. Smith placed one palm against Neil’s forehead, and the horrible wail abruptly cut off as Neil
sagged in Smith’s arms.
“It seems we were mistaken.” Smith spoke as he had before, without inflection or emotion. Nothing to
show surprise or concern that he was holding an unconscious, injured faerie in his arms. “Good day, Ms.
My mind went blank as I fumbled for words.
Smith took my stupefied silence in stride. Hefting Neil without visible effort, he gave a small parting nod
and carried his companion out of the studio.
I remained where I was until the sound of car doors closing and the crunch of gravel told me I was alone.
Then, still clutching my tongs, I inched to the door and took a deep breath of the outside air. The
driveway was empty, no cars in sight. No faerie goons either. My knees gave out under the weight of the
panic I’d been keeping in check, and I sank to the ground, tongs still clutched in my shaking hands. The
tea I’d had for breakfast felt like acid in my stomach, threatening to come back up.
A gray tabby with yellow-green eyes peeked around the corner of the shed with a questioning, “Meow?”
Cat had appeared on my doorstep a few months back, begging for scraps, and I’d made the mistake of
giving him some. He’d come around every day since. Despite the fact he’d already stuck around longer
than most of the guys in my life, I’d steadfastly refused to name him.
“Fat lot of good you were.”
Lifting his nose, Cat swished his tail and stalked away.
It was silly to take my anxiety out on Cat, but it was easier than dealing with the panic and adrenaline
threatening to overwhelm me. Anything to distract from the flesh seared to the tongs in my shaking
I couldn’t imagine forging more, so with a wary eye on the door I dampened the coals and stored my
tools, each in its marked place on my pegboard. The gooey tongs went on a shelf, I’d throw them in an
acid bath later.
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