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Looking just as ominous as the last time she’d laid eyes on them, the two banker’s boxes with Miranda’s name written on them taunted her, daring her to open them and reveal the cursed treasure inside. She set them down on the kitchen table and took a chug from her coffee for strength. “Where’s a ‘disarm traps’ spell when you needed one?”
“No games. This is the real world. Now, rip that band aid off!” Matt cheered.
Hands shaking, she sliced the tape around the edges of the first box. Dust poofed out as she lifted the lid, and her eyes settled straight away on an item she recognized. Right on top, folded neatly, her mother’s leather jacket. Tears could not be held in check as she pulled it out and caught a whiff of perfume. The notes of bergamot and tangerine had always been the essence of happy, bringing up her mood no matter how dark, but for the first time ever, they failed to elicit that response.
“That’s a sick jacket. Put it on,” Matt demanded.
She held it close, caressing the supple leather worn buttery soft through years of use. The inner lining had a few small tears and odd seams where hasty repairs had been made. But none of that rendered the jacket unwearable. Sage slipped one hand into the sleeve. The satin lining caressed her arms, inviting her to be its new owner. The other arm slipped in just as easily. She shrugged the jacket up over her shoulders, feeling it mold to her body as if it had been meant for her all along. She’d often asked to borrow the jacket, but mother had never let her. Wearing it now almost felt naughty. She told herself if she didn’t, the jacket would never see the light of day. And that would be a betrayal of her mother’s memory.
The approval in Matt’s eyes said he agreed. He cleared his throat and twirled his finger.
Happy to play model, she spun slowly for him.
More coat than jacket, it draped below her hips, ending just above her knees. A wide notched collar with buttons that started below her breast and a slight taper at the waist gave the coat a clearly feminine look.
No need for a mirror; she knew how awesome the jacket looked.
Loops left wanting for a strap of leather said there had once been a belt, but that had been lost years ago. After a round of applause from her roommate, she dug further into the box, hoping to find the missing piece.
Envelopes filled with documents, multiple passports from various countries, and a handful of pictures made up the next layer of her mother’s things. Each new artifact stung as she pulled them out to examine, but Matt was there with a nod of solidarity and a fresh shot of Irish crème for her coffee. Liquid courage to continue, though she had yet to feel even the slightest bit buzzed.
Tucked into the side of the box was an impressive-looking knife and leather utility belt.
“Damn. Mommy was a badass.” Matt whistled appreciatively, reaching in to pull out the belt before she could. He held it up, fiddling with the fasteners and opening the small compartments. “Shit. She’s got throwing knives in here.” He opened a pocket and pulled out two slim knives with a ring on the end.
“She was a weapons expert. One of ASSET’s best.” Sage remembered her mother in demonstration fights with her effortless grace and form, as if she were dancing rather than engaging in battle. Miranda had the reputation of being able to take down opponents larger than herself and disarm them without breaking so much as a nail in the process.
Below the belt lay a soft velvet cloth. Sage unfolded it and revealed more weapons: daggers– most likely meant to fit into the pocket of the weapons belt Matt had laid claim to– and some very odd-looking needles that were clearly not for knitting.
“Do you have dark pants?” he asked. “Maybe leather?”
Sage narrowed her eyes suspiciously at her roommate. She could see the wheels turning in his devious little brain. “Why?”
Matt waggled his eyebrows at her and held up the weapons belt. “You could totally pull off this outfit.”
“C’mon. Give a guy his fantasy.”
All those years spent together – all the times she’d made passes at him when she was too drunk to know better – he’d been her rock. Never taking advantage; never judging. Matt was safe. He was gay. How could he now suggest this as a turn on? “Dude, seriously?”
“Eye candy, honey. A badass in leather is sexy no matter what the gender.”
Sage let out a very unladylike snort. “Well, in that case!” She’d deny it if asked, but part of her wanted to play dress up, to become that image of the dangerously hot chick in leather, if only for a moment.
Matt squealed like a girl and clapped his hands, offering to refresh their drinks while she changed.
Some leather pants, her best push up bra–too bad she didn’t have a corset handy–combined with a tight-fitting shirt under her newly acquired jacket gave her the look she was hoping for. She stepped into the thigh loops of the utility belt and then pulled it up to her waist, clipping it tightly.
“Something is missing.” Matt scrutinized her look. “Boots. You need kickass boots. You still have those black ones with all the belt buckles on them? Killer heels?”
Matt treated her like his personal doll, dressing her and pulling her hair into a severe ponytail. Smoky eyes and the reddest of red lipstick finished off the ensemble. By the end of it, even Sage had to admit she felt the part.
Hours passed as Irish coffee turned into full-blown shots. As much as Sage had drunk, it might as well have been water for all the numbing effect it was having on her. But the simple act of playing the part had been just the therapy she needed.
Matt succumbed to the long hours and alcohol and snoozed loudly, draped across the living room couch.
Still unable to sleep, Sage continued to look through the photos and memories her mother had chosen to save.
By the time she broke into the second box, all apprehension had faded, and she dove in with an eagerness to explore.
Buried at the bottom was a small sealed jewelry box. She opened it, and a handwritten letter bloomed from within, falling to the floor as it unfolded in the open air. Sage set aside the box and bent to retrieve the last words her mother might have written.
I am so sorry for leaving you alone in this world. There is so much I wish I could have told you, so much I wanted to prepare you for, but it is not our way. You are not ready for the darkness in this world, but you must find strength in the days to come.
Our family is special. We all share an inner light that is passed down from generation to generation. Find the light within yourself and allow it to illuminate your future.
Remember that true strength comes from determination. Like your birthmark, you must find new avenues when one becomes blocked. There is always another way. Defeat is not an option.
When the time comes, you’ll understand why I had to remain silent. But know that I have never once left you vulnerable, and even in my absence, I thought of your protection.
Enclosed is my final gift to you. Wear it close to your heart and you will never be far from the light we share.
Love always. Until the end of time.
“Way to be cryptic there, Mom.” For all the alcohol she’d drunk, her mind remained sharp, but her mother’s final message still felt like a riddle she couldn’t even begin to answer.
She retrieved the box that the letter had come with and found a necklace inside. The pendant matched the pattern of her birthmark down to the roots, but circling around it were symbols in a language she couldn’t read. Not the kind of jewelry she normally wore, but because it came from her mother, she immediately put it on. It hung from a simple silver chain, long enough to be worn under a shirt with the pendant to sitting close to her heart. Just as her mother had requested.
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Agents of A.S.S.E.T.
Get your pre-order on now, both books are nearly ready for their debut.
Fall in love with the suspense as you solve the mystery of what has turned magic into the greatest enemy.
Sage Cynwrig knows her way around a pair of twenty-sided dice, and has forgotten more spells than you’ll ever know. But when her mother is killed by a weapon of magical destruction, fantasy merges into a strange new reality. Her birthmark morphs into the Tree of Life, her boss goes full troll (warts and all), vampires start hitting on her, and shadows do more than just follow silently.
Had Sage been warned about her special lineage, before her mother's murder, she might have agreed to join the Anonymous Supernatural Security and Elimination Taskforce (A.S.S.E.T). When agent Grey Maddox shows up to recruit Sage, filling her head with stories of an ancient race of people uniquely gifted to withstand the forces of magic, she dismisses him as a fraud.
The truth about Sage’s lineage comes crashing down around her when a supernatural pick-up artist tries to kill her. Bearing the mark of the Tree of Life makes Sage special while also putting a target on her head.
With the weapon still at large, and strange Fae creatures popping up all around her, figuring out who to trust is priority number one. Only then can Sage find the key to neutralizing the weapon before its power is unleashed again.
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