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Umbra Magic by @ChristinaHerly1 is a Best Books of '21 pick #fantasy #uf #bestbooks #giveaway
Title: Umbra Magic
Author: Christina Herlyn
Genre: Urban Fantasy Romance
The monster in her soul wants total control, but the thunderbird who holds her heart won’t let her give up without a desert showdown.
It’s been six weeks since Andee Bochs consumed the magic of an Ancient and dropped his shriveled, thousand-year-old body at her feet. No matter that he’d tried to kill her first—her shadow magic terrifies her. She doesn’t understand it, and she can’t always control it. Even worse, the power comes from a monster in her soul who doesn’t like his hostess.
When her friend Mac needs a bodyguard in the Texhoma Desert, Andee welcomes the distraction. Bonus, there are shadow mages there who can help her wield magic like a pro instead of a toddler with a light-up sword. But Andee’s problems multiply in the desert, and the mages aren’t helpful. A worried Mac calls in the man Andee prefers to avoid, Josiah Hightower.
Andee has declared the sexy thunderbird off limits but her body has other ideas, and she likes how it thinks. Josiah’s magic is meant to battle her shadow monster. But he’s vowed not to hurt her—because of principle or affection, Andee may never know, for the next time she loses control will be her last.
Silica ingot removal wasn’t really a surgery. Mac, the man who’d removed mine, held a doctorate in biology. Lian marked the eighth time I would perform the procedure, and my most recent job title was Eliminator—not something I told the parents as I gave their kids dimenhydrinate then cut open their chests. I’d eliminated monsters for M-kes, the agency that employed Evolutionaries—willing or not.
The ingots needed to be removed while Atlas glowed in the sky, ready to flood the body with magic. Mac had believed otherwise when he removed mine. My body had reacted by taking the magic from everything—and everyone—around me. Today, the heart-shaped Atlas rose before dark, so the secluded field outside of town was still lit. This usually resembled a creepy ritual while the parents either held hands or paced as the rocky ventricles of the asteroid glowed red above them.
In this case, Calla held her hands together while Ju-long walked circles around us. I sat beside a drowsy Lian—even Evolutionaries succumb to dimenhydrinate for a while—and removed my jacket. I had no clue what Lian would become, or do, once the magic gained entrance.
So far, I hadn’t done anything worse than break a kid’s finger, but Lian made me anxious. I suddenly missed Mac with a distinct pain in my chest. He always knew what to do. Thoughts of another back-up forced their way into my head, but I shook out visions of the hot yet frustrating Josiah Hightower. Distractions wouldn’t help me.
“What’s taking so long?” Ju-long stopped walking to growl at me.
I mentally smacked myself to attention. The lidocaine spread over Lian’s chest should have numbed her. Taking a sharp throwing knife from my boot, I cut a slit down one of the four scars that made a flower shape over Lian’s heart. With a deep breath and a whispered prayer to whomever cared, I squeezed the ingot out. The bloody metallic tube rolled to the ground. Lian shuddered.
Three more to go. I worked quickly, before too much blood inhibited my sight. After the final ingot squelched out, I studied her wounds. The cut tissue repaired itself, muscle fibers mending before my eyes. Light spread across her chest, and her body shook. In a twitch, her skin ignited with a bright red glow that intensified with every tremor.
“Is that supposed to happen?” Ju-long hovered so close that his breath warmed my neck.
“Yep.” The glowing part, anyway. I’d never seen red before, not even when the kid I helped turned into a fire mage. He’d only set a few trees and my shirt on fire before he’d managed control.
Lian shot into the air, knocking me on my ass. She floated ten feet above our heads. Red mist rolled off her skin to trail through the grass and surrounding trees. A tribal drum cadence was all the scene lacked. Damn it, I’d never helped a kid with flying skills—not so much as a were-pigeon. Lian’s limbs lengthened and claws grew from her digits. Two blood-red horns erupted from her skull.
Oh, shit, shit, shit.
I kept my eyes on Lian and pointed to Ju-long. “Grab your wife and run for the trees.”
“We’re not leaving her!” Calla stepped closer to her floating, catatonic daughter.
I couldn’t spare her a glance. Lian was already twice the size of my horse and still growing.
“Until she gets control, she might hurt you. Take cover, now!”
Parents. They never listened. I didn’t know why I continued to suggest things instead of skipping to the next part. I placed my palms on the ground and sent a pulse of magic into the roots below their feet. A copse of thorny bushes shot up around them, both protecting them and keeping them out of the way.
“Hey!” Ju-long’s angry voice barely broke past the thick leaves. The limbs shook violently, but the prison held.
“Sorry!” I shouted. “I’ll take care of her. I promise.”
Lian’s face elongated. Golden scales dotted her skin, multiplying as her body grew. She developed a horned, dragon head, and a long, serpent body. Josiah had killed a blue, dinosaur-type dragon a few weeks earlier, but this looked nothing like it. Once again, I squelched a desire for Josiah’s presence. Besides, this dragon was a teenage girl who trusted me to help her, not kill her.
When Lian’s transformation completed, she stretched the length of a bus with metallic gold scales and red horns. Red whiskers like those of a catfish stuck out from her snout and chin. What kind of dragon flew without wings?
Her eyes opened. The bright emerald orbs held ancient knowledge and confused teenager simultaneously. Unbelievable power emanated from her. As she focused on me with a teeth-rattling roar, what I feared the most happened.
She woke my monster.
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Christina grew up in Texas and Oklahoma but now lives in the Midwest where she earned a History degree 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. Christina hates to read. (Ha! Just checking your attention span.) 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.
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