Children are disappearing…
With Purity growing in political power and bigotry on the rise across the Realms, Alex’s short-term goals are to stay under the PTF’s radar and as far from the fae Courts as she can. But her plans go up in smoke when May, the younger sister of her good friend Emma, goes missing.
The fae are involved…
Alex will do everything she can to find May, but to mount a rescue she’ll have to avoid PTF raids, conquer old ghosts, and risk coming face to face with her fae grandfather again.
War is coming…
Lines are being drawn. No one is safe. To survive, Alex will have to choose a side.
Targeted Age Group:: 25-45
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Casting Shadows is the fourth book in my Magicsmith urban fantasy series. I began writing this series because I'd been reading a lot of urban fantasy novels about women who were already strong, knowledgeable, and sure of themselves, and that made me feel like I was missing part of their stories. Were they always like that? If not, how had they become so?
I wanted to experience a similar story, but from the very beginning, so I developed a character, Alex, who was a lot like me (stubborn, creative, friendly but introverted…). Then I created a world around her that was a lot like ours (modern, full of social strife and inequality), and sent her on an adventure. The resulting stories are The Magicsmith series, in which Alex continues to grow and the world continues to unfold one challenge and one secret at a time.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I took the old adage, "Write what you know," to heart.
My main character is based loosely on myself. She is strong and independent, but has trouble dealing with her emotions. She's friendly but isn't great at connecting with people. She's quiet and creative. I even gave her the same jobs and hobbies as me: Hiking, metalsmithing, working in a bookstore. Those similarities help me write her as a believable, well-rounded character.
However, Alex also has a lot of unique characteristics and experiences. For example, her background is totally different from mine. Plus, she's got magic, which I'm sad to say never developed in me ;).
Pink light filtered through my eyelids. Winter birds chirped outside. I slid my fingers over cold sheets, expecting to find skin, but the space beside me was empty. My heartbeat stuttered. I lifted my head a fraction, opened my eyes, and peered through the tangled curtain of my auburn hair.
“Looking for me?”
I swiveled to see James step out of my attached bathroom. Clouds of steam billowed behind him. His hair hung loose and wet around his shoulders. A teal towel wrapped his waist.
My gaze roamed over the hard planes of his abdomen. “If I knew you were in the shower I would have joined you.”
“I didn’t want to wake you.” He sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned over to plant a kiss on top of my head.
I harrumphed and shoved him lightly away, falling back on my pillow. “Why are you up so early anyway?”
“I have to open the gallery this morning.”
I crinkled my nose. “Isn’t that what Joe is for?”
As James’s right-hand-man, Joe handled most of the day-to-day running of the gallery.
James laughed. “Despite his super-human talent for organizing, he’s only one man. He can’t work every shift.”
I tucked my hands behind my head and considered volunteering to lend a hand. My sculptures were displayed in James’s gallery after all. It could be like a co-op thing.
I stared at the ceiling for a moment, then chuckled at my own optimism. I’d been sacked from my last job because I couldn’t be counted on to show up for shifts. I wasn’t exactly a poster child for dependability. Not an ideal candidate for, well, anything really.
James traced a finger along the underside of my arm and down my side. “I can think of something you’re ideal for.”
Sitting up, I planted a kiss on his lips.
“I really do need to go,” he whispered, his mouth still brushing mine.
“No one’s stopping you.” I stared into the icy depths of his eyes, so close I couldn’t focus properly.
Footsteps sounded in the hall outside my door. A moment later, TV voices filtered into the room.
I sighed and tipped my forehead so it rested against his. “I’ll go make some coffee.”
James graced my lips with one last kiss, then stood. “Saved by the roommate,” he said, and wandered back to the bathroom.
Rolling out of bed, I tucked my toes into the fuzzy slippers on the floor, pulled on a long, loose t-shirt, and shrugged into my bathrobe.
I checked my cell phone out of habit. One missed call from David. My stomach clenched. There was a time, not long ago, when I would have called him right back. I deleted his voicemail without listening to it. He’d called every day since I stormed out of his apartment.
Maybe someday I’d forgive him for betraying me; for conspiring with my adoptive guardian Sol to spy on me; for pretending to be my friend. Maybe. But not today.
Leaving James to his meticulous grooming routine, I shuffled out to the living room.
“Morning, Jy—” I stopped at the end of the couch and squinted at its occupant. “Shouldn’t you be at work?”
Emma pointed a remote at the television, cutting Governor Anderson off in the middle of a speech about making the streets safe.
“Maggie called, told me not to come in. Apparently someone chucked a brick through the bookstore window last night. There was glass everywhere. She’s put a piece of wood in the window, but she’s having trouble getting anyone to come fix it.”
I sank onto the end of the couch. “Is she all right? Should we go help?”
Emma shook her head. “I offered. She says she can handle it, but the store’s closed until further notice.”
“Did she call the police?”
“Yeah.” Emma’s face screwed up like she smelled something foul. “They said they’d look into it. Just like they did when the place was tagged last week.”
I bunched my fists until my knuckles hurt. The police were supposed to be impartial. They were supposed to protect everyone. But more and more these days it seemed like they were becoming a subset of the PTF, which in turn was shifting more toward the hard line discrimination practices of Purity. Since Anderson took office, businesses accused of supporting fae had been boycotted, vandalized, and in one case burned to the ground. Everyone knew Purity fanatics were behind the crimes, but no one was doing a damned thing to stop them.
“Well,” I said, looking for a silver lining, “at least you don’t have to face your daily dose of awkward silence with your mom.”
“Yeah.” She crossed her arms. “Just the regular, ‘I never want to see you again,’ kind of silence.”
All the words that came to mind sounded empty, so I just squeezed her shoulder and headed for the kitchen. “You want some—?”
The sounds of a laboring engine broke through the morning quiet. Ice crunched. Through the large front window, a silver Range Rover pulled into view and came to a stop beside my Jeep. Light glinted off the tinted windows, making it impossible to see the driver.
I frowned and glanced at Emma. “You expecting anyone?”
She shook her head and turned to look out the window. Her eyes grew wide. The color drained from her suntanned cheeks. “That’s my . . .”
Loni Yamada stomped through the snow, the sides of her dark green parka flapping open to reveal jeans and a cream-colored sweater. Her steel gray bun was hidden under a blue, red, and yellow winter cap. She marched straight to my front door and started pounding on the wood. “Emma! Are you in there? Open up!”
Emma seemed too stunned to move, so I trotted across the room and pulled the door open myself, hugging my bathrobe tight against the chill wind that snuck through the gap. “Mrs. Yamada, what are—”
She shoved past me, tracking snow across my rug. “Is Emma here? The bookstore was closed.”
I shut the door, cutting off the outside cold, but Loni seemed to have brought a storm in with her.
“Mom, what are you doing here?” Emma stood. She’d found her voice, but her coppery skin was still washed out, her eyes too wide.
Loni closed the distance between them till they were less than an arm’s length apart. She had to look up at her daughter, who was several inches taller. “Tell me she’s here.”
Emma frowned, a wrinkle creasing her brow. “Who?”
Loni shook her head in disgust. “May. Is she here? Have you seen her?”
Emma’s frown deepened, but her confusion was answer enough for Loni, whose hand whipped out to land an open slap across Emma’s cheek.
“This is all your fault!”
Emma staggered back, fingers pressed to the red welt spreading across her skin. Her eyes were wide and bright with tears.
“Hey!” I pushed between them. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
There were tears in Loni’s eyes, too. As she looked up to meet my gaze, her expression crumpled. She lifted her hands to cover her face and began to sob into a bright blue shirt, too small to be hers, that she’d been clutching in her left hand.
Emma and I shared a look. She seemed as much at a loss as I was. I set a hand on Loni’s shoulder and steered her toward one of the faded fabric chairs of my mismatched living room set.
I sat on the couch and made my voice as gentle as I could. “Do you want some water?”
She shook her head.
Emma took the remaining chair so we were each isolated on our own piece of furniture. “Mom, what happened?”
Loni dropped her hands to her lap, revealing puffy red eyes and a wet upper lip. She stared at the blue fabric bunched in her fingers. “May’s gone.”
I looked at Emma, who’d gone so still she didn’t seem to be breathing.
Emma’s little sister, May, was eleven years old. She was a straight-A student, a musical prodigy, and a great help at the family bakery. She was sweet, considerate, and even-tempered. She was the kind of daughter every parent wished for but didn’t believe actually existed. She was not the kind of kid to disappear.
“When I went to pick her up from orchestra practice,” Loni continued, “all I found was this.” She twitched her hands to indicate the blue shirt. “Her favorite hoodie. No violin . . . no May.”
I swallowed. “Could she have gone to a friend’s house and forgotten to tell you?”
Loni scowled. “You think I’d be here if it was that simple?”
I dropped my gaze.
“I’ve called around to everyone she knows.” She cut her eyes to Emma. “Not that she has many friends since getting transferred.”
Part of Anderson’s reforms had been to pass a bill segregating public schools. Paranatural students—meaning anyone with magic—and those related to known paranaturals, were now being sent to private institutions.
Emma sank lower in her seat. Taking the practitioner test had done more than just confirm that she could work magic. It had marked everyone in her bloodline as possible practitioners, including May. “You think it has something to do with—”
“Of course,” Loni snapped. “What else could it be? She’s probably locked in a PTF cell right now.”
“Did you call the—”
Loni killed that question with a flat look. “I can’t get a straight answer out of the PTF call center.” Her hands bunched into fists, straining the fabric of May’s hoodie. “Apparently discussing their detainees breaks some sort of company policy. But what else could it be? Ever since you—”
I raised a hand to get their attention and stop Loni’s tirade. Emma looked to be on the verge of collapse.
“May’s a minor. If the PTF took her in for testing, you should have been notified.”
“She’s related to a para.” She shot Emma another scathing look. “Who knows if human laws still apply?”
We were all silent for a moment.
Then Emma glanced at me. She bit her lower lip, worrying it between her teeth. Her lip ring wiggled and danced, scraping enamel. Finally, she said, “Do you think you could . . . um . . .” Emma took a deep breath. “I know you and your uncle aren’t exactly on speaking terms these days.”
It was my turn to go still.
“Don’t call him that.” The words hissed through my teeth like helium from a leaky balloon.
“Uncle” Sol was a big muckety-muck with the PTF. He’d be able to find out if May was being held. But he wasn’t my biological uncle; that’s just what I’d called him since he started coming around when I was a kid. He worked with my father during the war. He brought us the news of Dad’s death. He checked in on Mom and me once a year no matter where we moved. He became my legal guardian after Mom’s accident. He bought me the house I was currently sitting in . . . . He’d also hired David to befriend me in college for the sole purpose of having him spy on me. He’d exploited my vulnerability at a time when I had no one else to turn to and betrayed my trust. Until recently, I wouldn’t have hesitated to call on Sol for help, but I already owed him one favor for getting my werewolf friends out of a jam with the PTF. Did I really want to owe him another?
Bile burned at the back of my throat.
But Emma was staring at me, her eyes full of desperation.
I took a deep breath and let it out slow. “I’ll call.”
Loni looked between Emma and me. She didn’t know I had a direct line to a high-ranking member of the PTF. For once, she kept her mouth shut, probably sensing that something in the situation had changed. Maybe she was picking up on the hope in Emma’s expression. Hope was dangerously infectious like that.
Sighing, I crossed to the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room and pulled my cell phone out of my bathrobe pocket. I found Sol’s contact entry, took a deep breath, and pressed the call button before I could talk myself out of it.
Maybe he wouldn’t pick up. Sol went out of the country on business a lot, and he was often too busy to—
The line connected on the second ring—a first in our long history.
“Alex?” His voice rang with surprise and concern.
Sol hadn’t been as relentless about trying to reach me as David, but I’d erased a good dozen messages from him, unopened. I hadn’t returned any of his calls, and here I was asking for another favor. I shifted my feet and took another steadying breath.
“Hey, Sol.” It felt weird to leave the “uncle” off his name.
“What’s happened? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, but . . .” I gritted my teeth and looked back at Loni and Emma. “Could you check something for me?”
A beat of silence. Then, “What do you need?”
I almost smiled. Sol may not have been as altruistic as I’d always believed, but he’d never let me down when I needed something. “A friend’s daughter is missing. She’s related to a para, so we thought the PTF might have scooped her up for testing.”
Key clicks filtered through the line. Sol was typing.
“I’m glad you called.”
I bit my tongue.
“I’ve been trying to reach you.”
I rolled my eyes. “Anything on May?”
“Give me a second. I’m looking.”
A second passed. Five. Ten.
I drummed my fingers.
“Have you had any trouble since O’Connell?”
I hadn’t told Sol what happened between me and O’Connell—the PTF agent who’d been bent on bringing me down—but there’d been a series of news reports about the suspicious fire at a Purity compound at the edge of the northeast Colorado waste—a lifeless area created by a large-scale magical clash during the Faerie Wars. Sol wasn’t stupid. O’Connell’s body had been recovered from the smoldering ashes. He’d been too badly burned to be identified by anything but dental records. Luckily, that damage had also covered the evidence of how he actually died. Namely, the magic knife with which I’d impaled him.
I still couldn’t believe I’d managed to create a weapon out of smoke and magic. I could still hear the demon’s parting remark as I cut off that unexpected flow of power. Welcome.
“Alex?” Sol’s voice pulled me back to the moment.
“Did you find her?”
“I said she’s not in the system . . . . You sure you’re all right?”
“Yeah.” I glanced over my shoulder at Emma and her mother, both waiting at the edges of their seats. “Thanks for looking.”
I began to lower the phone, but Sol yelled, “Wait!”
Sol never yelled.
I sighed. He had just done me a favor. I lifted the phone back to my ear. “What?”
A heavy exhale. Was he surprised I listened, or just relieved?
“Something’s going on in the PTF. I’m not sure what. I’ve been locked out of some files I had access to a few weeks ago. I’ve been left out of meetings, given bad information . . . Someone is trying to cut me out of the loop. I don’t know what’s about to happen, but you need to be prepared. Do you have an exit strategy?”
“I’m sorry about your loss of clearance, but—”
“It started right around the time I did your last little favor.”
My teeth snapped closed.
Sol had helped me spring three werewolves from PTF custody before they could be tested—one of whom had been Oz. I blinked away sudden tears at the thought of what came after, when we’d been rounded up by Purity and taken to the compound that was now nothing but ash. Sol’s intervention hadn’t been enough to save Oz, but that was on me, not him. I still owed Sol for his help. A debt he was sure to collect one day.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going on,” Sol continued. “But I doubt it’s good. Please, Alex. Pack a bag. Make a plan. Just in case.”
I looked to the ceiling. “Fine.”
“Thank you. And Alex?”
I hung up the phone.
When I turned around, Emma and Loni were staring, statues of grief with tears running down their cheeks. They must have heard the disappointment in my voice when I’d thanked Sol.
“If the PTF doesn’t have her . . .” Loni began, but her sentence was lost in a sob.
Emma stood and placed a hand on her mother’s back. Loni didn’t pull away, didn’t yell. That worried me more than anything. Loni Yamada was a strong, outspoken woman. She yelled. Sometimes she hit. She didn’t curl up and cry. The woman huddled on my chair was broken beyond recognition.
“We’ll find her, Mom.” Emma’s voice shook, but at least she was still talking. “We’ll find her.”
I bit my lip, staring at Loni’s raw pain. Then my gaze shifted to May’s hoodie. I pointed at the fabric. “Could I see that for a second?”
Emma gave me an inquiring look. She knew I was part fae, despite my ability to handle iron, but I’d had no reason to explain exactly what my magic could do, until now. I tipped my head toward Loni, silently expressing that explanations would need to wait.
Loni glanced at me, then down at the shirt in her lap. She gave it an extra-tight squeeze, then let her hands fall open, freeing the fabric.
I took the hoodie and stepped to the side, out of Loni’s direct line of sight. Taking a deep breath, I cleared my mind and reached for the fae magic deep within me. As an imbuer, I could sometimes read memories and emotions imprinted on objects, but only if they were strong. While I wanted to help find May, part of me was hoping I wouldn’t glean anything from the hoodie. If I did, it would probably mean something terrible had happened.
But before I could find any clue May might have left behind, I had to wade through my own emotions, exposed by my magic like open wounds. I identified worry for May, sympathy for Emma, and discomfort at seeing Mrs. Yamada—usually so stalwart and stern—reduced to a quivering shell. As I sank past those emotions, the lighting around me seemed to shift, become brighter, more intense. I looked at the hoodie in my hands . . . but they weren’t my hands. They were smaller, thinner, and the same rich tan color as Emma’s.
I tried to finish the motion of pulling the hoodie on, but my arms wouldn’t move. Nothing moved. It was as if my muscles had suddenly been fused in place. Panic welled inside me as I struggled to control my unresponsive body.
“You’ve been requested for a private performance,” said a man’s voice behind me.
I would have jumped, had I not been frozen in place. I didn’t recognize the voice.
I tried to turn my head, to see who was speaking, and another wave of panic swept through me when my neck refused to respond. Some of the fear I was feeling was May’s, but mixed with it was my own terror at the feeling of helplessness. I’d been a prisoner in my own body once before, unable to control my actions. It was not an experience I ever wanted to repeat.
There was a soft, scraping noise. My violin case, which had been resting by my foot, bumped my leg as the person behind me lifted it. Then a strong hand gripped my shoulder.
“Time to go.”
There was a tug, and the blue fabric fell from my useless fingers.
I gasped and stumbled into one of the bar stools at the kitchen counter.
Emma and Loni both looked up. Loni frowned as though she’d caught me drunk in the middle of the day. Emma just quirked an eyebrow.
I swallowed the cold dread blocking my throat. May hadn’t run off. She’d been taken, and there’d been magic involved. That wasn’t information I wanted to share with Loni in her current state . . . or ever, really, considering her already militant stance on magic.
Straightening, I thrust the hoodie back into Loni’s hands.
Emma wrapped her arm around her mother’s shoulders. “Come on, Mom. I’ll drive you home.”
Loni stiffened for a moment, like she was going to argue, but instead she just nodded. She slid out of her chair, but remained hunched, making her a good three inches shorter than usual. With Emma’s help, she shuffled heavily to the door, the blue shirt once more clutched in her hands. She didn’t look around. She didn’t say goodbye.
Emma grabbed her purse and coat from the hooks by the door on her way out. The Range Rover’s engine turned over. Ice crunched again. Then silence.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Buy Casting Shadows Print Edition at Amazon
Buy Casting Shadows Print Edition at Barnes and Noble
Have you read this book? Tell us what you thought! All information was provided by the author and not edited by us. This is so you get to know the author better.