Paranormal Romance. Rated M for Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and Violence.

Summary: A young witch discovers she has a special power, but who wants it when it makes you a target for creatures who feed on souls? Now hunted and terrorized, she turns to the king of vampires for help, but he may be more dangerous than what she's running from.

Prologue

Elizabeth Wolfe was dying. She knew this absolutely. It was decided. She was nearly 600 years old, she was tired, and she missed her husband so much it was a constant ache in her chest; always with her. She was ready to meet him again. The only thing that had kept her hanging on as long as she had was her daughters, but she knew now that they would be alright when she went. She had spent the last few years making sure of that. She had spent every day with her eldest daughter Ella, pouring over the books of their ancestors, summoning the spirit of the goddess, roaming the woods and collecting the herbs for healing, attraction, and protection. Ella was ready for the world. But was the world ready for Ella? Elizabeth thought with a slow smile.

As she made her way up the mountain where she would pass to the Unknown, she thought of her other daughters – Rose, with her sensitive nature and faith in the cosmos . . . she would always be alright. She was an old soul, that one. Rose's twin, Alex, was a different story. She was young and wild and had yet to come into her own, but Elizabeth knew she would in time.

It hurt to leave her girls so soon. She had had so little time with them, especially her youngest, Maribel. But she was grateful for the years they had spent together, and she was leaving this world with no regrets.

As she reached the top of the mountain, she felt the wind rush through her hair and whip her long skirts around her legs. It was time. She tilted her face and lifted her arms to the sky, and at that moment she knew all. She knew that her daughters would find their destinies, and she knew her own. "I'm coming Jonah," she said to the wind.

Chapter 1

Ella became increasingly annoyed as she stared at the murky brew of herbs. She was in the basement of her family's two-story mountain home, in the room her mother had used for her craft; in the room where Ella had learned her own. It certainly wasn't your ordinary basement though. Two walls were lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves filled with books, most of them centuries old and hand-written, and the other walls were covered in shelves stacked with glass jars of leaves, herbs, roots, and oils. A small door against the side wall was the only break in the mayhem, and a huge square oak table they used as a workbench was the only furniture.

This is so not working, she thought. It looked more like month-old spinach dip than magick. She wasn't a great witch – actually she was mediocre at best – but she had made this particular concoction a million times before and she knew it should have been radiating with energy by now.

She put the wooden spoon down and looked around at the ingredients she had used. Had she forgotten something? Back and forth she looked from the jars to the book . . . nope, it was all there. Then it hit her.

"Rose!" she yelled. No reply. She walked over to the door and yelled up the stairs, "Rose!"

"Yeah?" Rose appeared at the top of the stairwell, breathless, her short bob bouncing around her cheeks.

"Did you collect the rainwater in May?"

"Ummm . . . yeah."

"Did you put it in the bottle marked 'May Rainwater?'"

Rose smiled, and Ella had to smile back. Rose was too adorable with her wide blue eyes and heart-shaped face. Adorable as she might be though, she was totally unreliable.

"Of course I did. Where else would I have put it?" she asked breezily and sauntered off.

Knowing her, it could be anywhere. Wherever it was though, it probably wasn't in the bottle it was supposed to be in. No wonder this potion wasn't working. The May rainwater was probably from March. Putting Rose in charge of collecting the materials and stocking the place was like asking a child to build a sand castle of the Taj Mahal: it would get done, but it wouldn't get done right.

Their mother had given her the job though, because it was the only part they could get her to do. Rose hated studying magick but loved aimlessly wandering the acres of wooded area that surrounded their Colorado home, picking up leaves and digging up roots. Made no damn sense to Ella, but she would never figure that girl out, so whatever.

She walked back over to the table and sighed. None of her sisters were interested in magick. They were all full-blooded witches, with both of their parents having been born in the magick, but for some reason her sisters just didn't seem to care. That left all the responsibility on her shoulders.

Their mother had passed last year, leaving her to look after her three younger sisters. Their parents had left them well-provided for, as witches rarely wanted for wealth. It wasn't that she had to work to support them. Besides that, the twins, Rose and Alex, were 21 and well of age to be on their own. The problem was, well, they were witches, and there were a lot of things out there that hunted witches. They needed constant protection, and without the girls making any effort to learn the necessary magick, she worried she would always have to watch over them. Speaking of which, it was probably time to get dinner started.

She dragged herself up the stairs, not looking forward to mixing more things in more bowls. As she neared the kitchen, she could hear something sizzling, and a sweet aroma permeated the air.

"Aunt Vic!" she said when she caught sight of a bright red swarm of hair atop a tall graceful frame. Her mother's younger sister, Victoria, was a godsend. She was always stopping by to help cook, or to help Maribel with her homework or Rose on the piano. She was also a Great Healer, and could interpret the old texts for Ella. With her mother gone, Ella really didn't know where she'd be without her aunt.

"What are we having?" Ella asked.

"Teriyaki stir fry."

"Great."

"And a conversation," Victoria added with a sly smile on her softly freckled face.

Ella wasn't fooled by that smile. "Oh no. You've got ulterior motives tonight don't you?" she asked. They both knew what this was about.

Ever since her mother's passing her aunt had been trying to talk her into going to the Convention of the Covens. It was an annual event where most of the witch covens of the world convened to perform large-scale rituals, make laws, and swap spells and materials. She remembered her mother taking her once as a child, and the experience had been so terrifying she'd had nightmares for months after. Her mother hadn't taken her again after that, and Ella didn't plan on going now.

As she sank down into one of the tall oak chairs at the table, she tried to relax and enjoy the lightness of the kitchen. After spending so much time in the windowless, earth-floored basement, it was nice to come upstairs for some air. Her mother had done the whole house in light creams and beiges, and every room had so many windows and plants, you might have been outside.

For as old as her mother had been, she had certainly not been old-fashioned. The small living room was filled with overstuffed sofas and loveseats, and the coffee and end-tables all had light oak frames with clear glass surfaces. The art on the walls was soft, modern, and abstract, and above the mantle of the electric fireplace was a large flat-paneled TV. Elizabeth had loved technology and jumped on any new advance, from DVRs to solar panels, and the kitchen was as bright and modern as the rest of the house.

"Ella, it will be really good for you," Victoria said, her face serious. She was helping with dinner, but she wasn't going to let her relax, was she?

"You need to meet more of your own kind and think about joining a coven. Without your mother here, you need to have your own resources; people you can learn from and talk to when you need help."

When she received no reply, Victoria pushed a little harder.

"Your mother's old coven will be there too, and they would be so thrilled to see you again."

She felt bad denying her aunt anything, but this was so not happening.

"I love ya like a mother Vic, but no way. Just the idea of all those witches in one place gives me cold sweats."

Besides, she didn't need a coven. She was doing a fine job of protecting the girls on her own. Every day she made her magick seals and performed her protection rituals, and nothing had bothered them yet, knock on wood. Their little two-story house was practically in the middle of nowhere anyway. Though only 45 minutes outside of Denver, Morrison Colorado was tiny and isolated. There wasn't much of anything around besides boulders, trees, and small mountain town atmosphere.

Victoria looked up from the steaming Wok and out the kitchen window. "The girls are coming. To be continued."

Ella glanced over her aunt. She looked about 30, even though Ella knew her to be at least five times that age, and with her white cotton t-shirt and khaki pants, she didn't look like a witch at all. Except maybe for all that long flaming red hair. But still, her Aunt Vic was not the type of woman Ella feared she would encounter at that convention. Some of those women were straight out of a horror movie, and she was flat-out scared of them.

Her youngest sister Maribel and her best friend Dana burst through the door, all excitement and giggles. Rose came trotting down the stairs seconds later.

"Omigod you guys!" Maribel gushed. "Taylor O'Conner just asked Dana out!"

Ella tried to muster up some enthusiasm, but Dana was only 15. Should she really be dating? Maribel was 15 as well, would she start dating now? No way. Not if Ella had anything to say about it.

"Uh . . . that's great," she said, trying to sound genuine. "So did you accept?"

"Oh God no!" Dana exclaimed with a face that said how could you even think that? Relief.

"He's such a player!" Dana said. "He went out with Karen Hayes for like, 2 weeks, and then dumped her for Jenny Dawson, who he was only with for like, 3 days."

"Then he went out with Jenny's sister!" Maribel chimed in.

Back to Dana - "And the guys he hangs with are all like that. Matt Phillips was going out with Katie Jennings for 3 months before she caught him out at the mall with one of the cheerleaders. Can you believe him?"

And on and on it went through the entire meal. The girls' chatter was endless and Ella found herself relaxed and thoroughly entertained. Victoria and Rose too were laughing right along, genuinely interested in hearing about how horrible these young men were. Maribel and Dana were so young and carefree, they were just easy to be around. When you were with them, you could feel free for a while too. And it was almost comical how close the two were, finishing each other's sentences and laughing together as if on cue. They were completely in tune with each other, even though physically they were like night and day - Maribel having the same pale skin, blue eyes, and black hair as the rest of her sisters, and Dana being blonde and suntanned to a golden bronze.

After dinner, the girls went upstairs to watch a DVD, and Ella sat down on the deep suede cushions of the living room sofa with Victoria.

Here it comes, she thought. She knew her aunt was going to push her a little more on the convention thing, so she just wanted to get it over with so she could get back to her work.

Victoria took a deep breath and seemed to be collecting herself, or gearing up for something.

"Ella, I didn't really want to tell you this because I didn't want you any more stressed than you already are, but if you won't go to the convention otherwise, then I just have to say it."

"What is it?" she asked, her aunt's tone making her nervous.

"I got word that some of the old vampires are coming to town."


Ella was confused. What was Victoria looking so tense for? Who cared if some vampires came to town? From what her mother had told her, the witches had a sort of treaty with them. As long as the vampires didn't get out of control the witches wouldn't bother them, and vise-versa.

"So what?" she asked.

"Ella . . . I don't know what your mother told you or didn't tell you or what you think the situation is here, but vampires are dangerous, especially those old ones. I don't want to scare you, but . . . it would just make me feel better if you sought some additional protection for you and the girls."

"But I thought the deal was they don't mess with us, we don't mess with them? Is there something I'm missing here?"

"No, no, that's mostly true." Victoria said. "That's the general understanding we have with their king, but you have to understand that this is a relatively new idea, and not everyone or everything I should say, agrees with it. There are vampires out there, especially the elders who remember the old wars, who will never get past their deep-seated hatred of witches. That's why we just have to keep en guarde."

Ok, Ella was getting scared now. There were enough other night creatures out there they had to watch for; now she had to add the vampires to that list?

"Well what's the point in making a treaty with them if they still want to kill us anyway?"

More than scared, she was getting a little frantic. Vampires that wanted to kill them? How was she supposed to protect her sisters from that? She was not prepared for this.

"No, Ella. Relax." Victoria rubbed her arm soothingly. "It's not all of them that feel that way. The majority of witches and vampires alike are glad to have reached an understanding. A little less looking over your shoulder for everyone. I just want you to be aware that there are some out there who we need to stay on the lookout for, okay? We don't want to get too complacent."

Ella's mind was running a mile a minute.

"Why didn't my mother tell me this? She never hid things like this from me, if my safety was involved. These last years it was like she was on a mission to make sure I was protected from everything. How could she leave this out?"

Victoria sighed, shaking her head. "I don't know hun. Your mother had a thing with the vampires. She made friends with some a while back, or so I heard. She wouldn't talk about it because she said we were all too prejudiced. But whether she made a couple friends or not, I don't see why she wouldn't prepare you for the possible threat."

Ella didn't see why either. "When are they coming?"


The next evening, Ella was cooking dinner as Alex strolled in. She hadn't been home last night, or the night before.

"Look who decided to grace us with her presence," Ella called over her shoulder.

"Who?" Alex asked, pretending to look around for someone.

"Where have you been?"

"Don't worry about it Lady," Alex sneered, looking irritated by the question.

Over the last few months, Alex had adopted the nickname 'Lady' for Ella, but it was no compliment. It was Alex's way of telling her she was becoming an old maid at 26.

Ella frowned and chewed her bottom lip, not sure what to do at this point. She couldn't put the girls on lockdown without telling them what was going on, but she didn't want to freak them out either. Maribel was a minor so she was easy to keep in the house, but Rose and Alex were adults and free to come and go as they pleased. What was she supposed to say to them?

"What's wrong, Ella?" Rose asked as they sat at dinner.

Of course Rose would know something was up. She was intuitive to the point of creepy. Ella threw a glance at Alex, who was chewing her salad and looking completely oblivious to any tension in the room. If Ella hadn't been there when they were born, she would never have believed those two were twins. As soon as they had hit adolescence Alex had started wearing all black, piercing herself up, and getting into some serious fights at school.

When she thought about it though, Alex had kind of mellowed a bit over the last few years. In an effort to keep her from fighting at school and teach her some self-discipline, their mother had enrolled Alex in Jujitsu classes at the martial arts studio in town. She had excelled at it, and had competed all over the U.S., collecting chests full of trophies and medals.

Ella thought the martial arts training might be why the girl seemed so much more confident than she used to be, and so much less showy. Instead of that tall black mohawk she used to wear, her head was buzzed down to her skull, and all the heavy makeup was gone. She still wore that ring through her lower lip, but at least the black leather she was covered in served a purpose now, since she rode her Harley everywhere.

"Why you staring at me?" Alex asked, fork half way to her mouth.

"Ella, what's wrong?" Rose repeated.

"Nothing, nothing," she replied, forcing a smile. "Look, I just think we should all stick tight for the next couple weeks," she blurted. She didn't want everyone scared, but at the same time, safety was more important than peace of mind.

"Why?" Maribel whined. "Dana and I are supposed to go to the game on Sunday and we already bought matching jerseys and –"

"Shut it Maribel," Alex barked, holding a finger up at Maribel and looking straight at Ella. "What's the deal?"

"Nothing really," Ella said. "I just have a bad feeling and I think we should keep together until it passes."

"Bullshit," Alex said. "Somethin's up."

Maybe Alex was a little more astute than Ella gave her credit for.

"Is this about the vampire I saw tonight?" Rose asked.

Three chins hit the ground. They all turned toward Rose, who was looking just as casually calm as she always did.

"What did you say?" someone croaked. Maybe it was Ella.

"The vampire. Is that why you don't want us going out?"

"Where did you see a vampire? Why didn't you tell us? What did it look like?"

Alex and Maribel started pumping out the questions full speed ahead, but Ella just sat there, stunned. This was wrong. True, Victoria said she didn't know how soon they were coming, but tonight?

She jumped up from the table, nearly knocking over her chair in the process. Shit! She had to call Aunt Vic.