When I arrived at my uncle’s house, I expected my relatives to be like me—outcast sorcerers who don’t practice magic. I was right about the sorcery, but wrong about everything else.
Rule two: Don’t listen to the demon.
My uncle chose a far deadlier power. He calls creatures of darkness into our world, binds them into service contracts, and sells them to the highest bidder. And I’m supposed to act like I don’t know how illegal and dangerous it is.
Rule three: Don’t talk to the demon.
All I had to do was keep my nose out of it. Pretend I didn’t find the summoning circle in the basement. Pretend I didn’t notice the shadowy being trapped inside it. Pretend I didn’t break the rules.
But I did, and now it’s too late.
— From the author of The Guild Codex: Spellbound comes a new series that will plunge an unprepared young woman into the darkest magic of the mythic world.
Amalia shot me a scathing look. “We’re all summoners.”
“My parents weren’t.” I resumed stirring the batter with jerky movements. “They didn’t practice magic at all. Neither do I. I’ve never even seen a demon.” That brief glimpse in the library didn’t count.
I finished folding the batter and shakily poured it into a tube pan. My eyes were stinging—typical Robin, tearing up at the first sign of scary, scary confrontation. As I smoothed the batter into the pan, Amalia stepped back from the counter.
“Come with me,” she said.
“Come … where?”
I slid the pan into the oven, set a timer on my phone, then followed her across the kitchen. She pulled on a pair of sandals and pushed through the French doors. Her long legs carried her across the sprawling deck and onto the lawn. I stuck my feet into someone’s oversized flipflops and trotted after her on my much shorter legs, shivering in the October air, its chill resisting the afternoon sun’s warmth.
A large greenhouse was nestled among shrubbery near a high white fence, and Amalia swept into the humid interior. Confused, I peered at the rows of plants as she opened a storage cupboard dominated by a rack of gardening tools.
Then she swung that open, revealing a hidden staircase leading underground.
My pulse throbbed in my ears as I cautiously followed her down the dim stairs. She wouldn’t hurt me, would she? Hostile or not, she didn’t seem like the type who’d chop me up and use my decomposing bones to fertilize the greenhouse.
She halted at the closed door at the bottom and checked I was right behind her. With a cold smirk, she shoved the door open and stepped aside to give me an unobstructed view of what lay beyond.
Dimly lit by a single bare bulb in the ceiling, the forty-square-foot room was windowless and damp. Water stains streaked the cinderblock walls and unfinished concrete floor, and in the center of the cold, ugly square, a ten-foot-diameter circle shone silver. Lines, arches, intersecting shapes, and hundreds of runes spiraled over the ring, weaving in and out of its interior. I knew exactly what it was.
A summoning circle. A second one. Unlike the library’s circle, this one held no darkness … but it wasn’t empty.
A demon crouched inside it. Four long horns rose off its head, a pair protruding from each temple and curving upward. Enormous wings were folded against its broad back, and a thick tail lay on the concrete behind it, ending in a mace-like scale plate. Heavily muscled shoulders supported its large head and those huge horns.
Even crouched, it was massive. Standing, it would be seven feet tall and built like a linebacker. Dark, reddish-brown skin stretched across bulging muscle.
Deep-set eyes fixed on me. They glowed like lava, but instead of heat, they radiated primal hatred and zealous bloodlust. Its need to kill, to rip and tear and spill my blood across the floor, hung in the air like a poisonous miasma.
I didn’t realize I’d moved until my heel caught on something. I fell back into the stairs, slamming my elbows into the concrete.
Amalia swung the door shut, concealing the circle and beast behind it.
Annette Marie is the author of Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, its prequel trilogy Spell Weaver, and romantic fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced adventures and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad) with her husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.