Conflicted Magic by @ChristinaHerly1 is a KU Event pick #urbanfantasy #uf #dystopian #ku #giveaway
Title: Conflicted Magic
Author: Christina Herlyn
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Dystopian
Neither his business degree nor his powerful thunderbird magic could prepare Josiah Hightower for the weird chaos of the Mythical Creatures Elimination Squad in Kansas City.
He became a warden in this disorganized agency to study Evolutionaries. According to science, Evolutionaries are mutants: humans who evolved to battle the monsters that volcanoes in the West produce at high volume. But as a human with magic, Josiah knows science can't always explain monsters . . . or people. The best method to cure his ignorance of Evolutionaries is to work with them.
But before Josiah can even focus on the mystery of Evolutionaries, he's challenged by an intelligent predator that sees him as a threat, a sexy biologist who wants to experiment behind closed doors, and an Evolutionary phenom who promises to be a pain in his ass for years to come.
Josiah strolled into the Eliminators’ break room. There was a fridge, sink, microwave, and a vending machine that may have existed before Atlas arrived. He doubted the microwave even worked since the radiation—or magic—of Atlas tended to bend electronic magnetic fields to its will and smother them. Cars didn’t even work when the asteroid was on this side of the world.
The good-sized room held at least half a dozen relaxing Eliminators either alone or paired. Josiah had never been this close to so many Evolutionaries at once. He hoped he looked more composed than he felt. He cleared his throat. “I’m looking for Bochs and Chadar.”
“Over here.” The girlish voice came from the back corner. A diminutive woman with short black hair and deep blue skin waved to him. She smiled and adorable dimples appeared.
Her companion wasn’t as cheerful. In fact . . . ah, hell. Josiah had seen this woman before. Last night, in fact.
Diaz had given Josiah a tour of all the Eliminator patrol sections of the city, but he’d left Josiah for a bit when a warden tracked them down to have a word. Josiah had wandered down a street of abandoned brick buildings painted like haunted houses. Suddenly, a geyser of water shot across the street a hundred yards in front of him. The stream nailed a herd of giant, black frogs with lines on their hides that glowed red and gold. Fire shot from their mouths. They hopped away from the firehose wielded by a tall Evolutionary with a long braid that glinted red in the light of the setting sun. HER.
As he’d watched her herd the frogs then save her fallen partner from a troll that lumbered onto the scene, something strange had happened in Josiah’s chest. His dad would have called it a ‘squeeze of destiny’ or maybe even uttered his favorite romantic phrase in one of the many ancient languages he knew. Now that Josiah peered into her jaded, alexandrite eyes set in a face too hard for someone so young, he knew it had been a premonition. A premonition of the heartburn she would give him on a regular basis. Bochs.
She kept her booted feet stacked on the seat of the chair next to her, but the smaller woman hopped up to face him. “I’m D.J. Chadar.”
She didn’t offer a hand, and remembering Cooper’s reluctance to shake, Josiah didn’t either. “I’m your new warden, Josiah Hightower.” He turned and waited for the next introduction, though he was one hundred percent certain of her identity.
The stretch of her lips didn’t quite reach a smile. “Well . . . my mother and the people I hate call me ‘Andromeda.’ My colleagues call me ‘Andee,’ and everyone else sticks with ‘Bochs.’” What her friends called her was notably absent.
He leaned one hip against the counter next to him and matched her nonchalance. “Bochs it is, then. Doyen Williams wants you guys to stop stealing donuts from the Enforcers.” An unintended curl of his lip followed the name. They were called ‘Enforcers’ because they hunted down Eliminators who ran away from the job—AWOL, though the Evolutionaries didn’t sign up or register for any draft. They were born, therefore they worked for M-kes.
D.J.’s cheeks darkened to almost sapphire. “Oh. Okay.”
Bochs’ skin was a paler, hypothermic blue which probably meant she was white without the silica ingots in her chest. She bit into a puffy ball of pastry then licked a drizzle of chocolate from one long finger. She finally smiled as she finished it off in silence. The thick heels of her leather riding boots hit the floor when she sat up. “Everyone takes donuts from the Enforcers. Williams doesn’t care about donuts.”
Josiah crossed his arms. “What does he care about?”
She shrugged just enough to call attention to the handle of the sword behind her back: a katana. Interesting choice. “He cares about having the best of everything.”
“So . . . you take the best donuts?” Were they even talking about pastries anymore?
She laughed a little, and though it wasn’t a happy sound, he found the flash of her white fangs endearing. Like a kitten. “He just wanted to ruin our first impression of you.” She stood and grabbed the trash off the table. “But wardens never last long enough for first impressions to matter. Have a nice day.” She threw her trash in the garbage and strode out without a look back. Yes, she was definitely heartburn with legs. Long legs.
Chadar gasped then looked ready to crawl under the table. “I’m sorry, Warden Hightower, she—”
Josiah waved her silent. “It’s fine.” When he lasted longer than she expected, Bochs would be forced to have an opinion of him. “May I call you D.J.?”
She nodded, her amethyst eyes still wary.
“I don’t care about donuts, either. But if I were to bring in everyone’s favorite, what would they be?”
“Uhhmm, I know Jessup and Franks like Bavarian cream. I love maple glaze. A lot of the guys like the vanilla cake kind or the old-fashioned glaze.”
“Mmm-hmm. And what does SHE like.”
D.J. grimaced and whispered. “The cream puffs filled with chocolate . . . real chocolate.”
Bold. The ever-expanding, dangerous jungles to the south made chocolate difficult to harvest which equaled expensive. Conversely, the once expensive fossil fuels were abundant again after the supervolcanoes shook up deep shale layers in the Earth’s crust. Too bad Bochs loved chocolate instead of full gas cans. But he could splurge if it meant a little appreciation from his new employees.
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Conflicted Magic blends soft science fiction (i.e., it won’t hurt your brain) and fantasy in a setting where biologists and chemists study the makings of mythical monsters and the mysteries of evolutionary humans. What begins as Josiah’s personal need to know more will develop into a mission to free an oppressed group of people and keep his soon-to-be favorite Evolutionary from the clutches of ancient magic that seeks to use her. This novella from Josiah’s perspective will satisfy readers who already know Andee Bochs as well as pique the interest of those who do not.
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Christina Herlyn is the author of the Andromeda Bochs urban fantasy series as well as the Dark Fairytales series that includes Scry Wolf and Touch of Red, a dark fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. She grew up in Texas and Oklahoma but now lives in the Midwest where she earned a BA in History from William Jewell College. She writes fantasy because dragons and witches wouldn't stay out of the perfectly normal historical novel she tried to write. She worships the sun and exercises just enough to avoid being the first casualty in a zombie apocalypse. Her husband and three kids probably know she's a writer, but don't ask them to name her books. To be fair, don't ask her the names of her husband and children while she's writing.
You can find all of Christina’s books plus free stories and news of upcoming releases at Christinaherlyn.com
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