Monday, April 11, 2016
Blog Tour and Giveaway: Black Jack by Mikki Kells
Goodreads Pick up a copy from Amazon, B&N or Kobo My Review: 4.5 Stars Out of 5 "I need to study," Melanie said. "I need to know this stuff if—"
"Hey," he said. "You're going to break something if you keep that up. Relax. Let's just find a place to eat. Someplace you like, that you won't accidentally burn down." From their mind-to-mind connection, Melanie felt a flicker of emotion from Jack: a dash of comfort, some humor, a hefty helping of happiness, and the relaxed satisfaction of belonging. There was only one place that filled that order: the Tattered Ear, where the local pack of Scottish-bred shape shifters met. It was also where Ignatius Bruce, the pack's alpha, and Melanie's soul mate, worked during the day.
It didn't take much prodding to get her to agree. "We'll have to sneak out," she said.
"Let's go then," Jack said. His huskiness intimidated the shape shifters enough that Melanie soon learned if any of her Vanguard would be accepted into the pack's circle, it would be Jack. Also Ignatius co-owned the local pub with his uncle, Fergusson. "Sneak out the back?"
"My thoughts, exactly," she said. Besides, it was finally warm enough to go outside without a parka, so walking wouldn't be miserable.
"Keep a lid on the weather," he said. "It's a dead giveaway whenever you are up to something."
Melanie felt her smile slip. "Right," she said.
"Mel," Jack said, stopping, "I'm sorry." He ran a hand through his short brown hair. "I didn't mean it like that."
The problem with having a Vanguard who was blood bound to her is that they could sense her emotions and her thoughts through touch. Any one of them could pinpoint her exact location as long as they were within a ten-mile radius of each other. So when her depression hit her like a two-ton brick, he felt the shockwave. Likewise, his remorse filtered through the bond, and the combination was a power-punch of teenage angst, regret, and mutual suffering, that neither of them wanted or needed more of.
"Don't worry about it," she said, forcing her thoughts away from the one thingshe couldn't think of, the one thing she kept a secret from everyone. The one thing that terrified her as much as her out of control abilities did."Let's just go."
Jack nodded and waited for her to go first, still feeling as sorry as a kicked puppy. Which made it worse, because Jack was like a puppy. He just loved everyone. When he was sad, it was like a double shot of negativity in her brew of already-hard-to-swallow latte called life.
The Manor was huge. Castle huge. It was also decorated with expensive furnishings that were the remains of Melanie's family history. Her ancestors were mostly Italian, and the frescoes and tapestries were of spreading fields of olives and grapes and European landscapes. It was all very idyllic, very much a lie compared to the truth about the S'velare's.
Under normal circumstances they would shift out, using their magical abilities to travel through the space. Lately, Melanie's magic had become a liability rather than a boon when jumping from place to place. It was safer to walk. The last time she'd made the attempt withanother person, it had been in the depths of February, soon after Valentine's Day, and she and Luciana had ended up waist-deep in a frozen pond, halfway to their destination. An emergency trip to the witch doctor had saved them both from hypothermia. Still, Melanie hadn't tried to shift since. She didn't trust her control not to accidentally drop her and Jack over a cliff, or worse, inside it.
"Let's go out the back this time. I'll throw you over the wall or something."
Melanie had to smile at the joke. She sensed his humor in her mind, and it helped.
Her smile vanished when they rounded the corner and her black-eyed brother, Owen, stood in the exact middle of the corridor, waiting for them.
Jack placed a protective hand on her shoulder, ready to draw her behind him. She could feel his pulse through the contact, his shock and the sudden instinctive fear that matched her own.
Owen's eyes were black as pitch, like an azri's, but he wasn't one. He was still a mage, but he no longer had a soul. He'd been totally exposed to the raw darkness of the noir, black magic. What looked out through his eyes was neither human nor azri, but something in-between. Melanie felt stripped down to her soul when he turned that black gaze on her, as if he could see every secret she was keeping from the coven, her Vanguard, and her boyfriend. Worse still, Owen'ssoullessness was her fault.
"Someone is looking for you," he said, tonelessly. "To give you a message. Listen carefully to what he has to say. It will be very important."
"Who is looking for me?" Melanie asked.
Owen frowned. "I don't know. I just know that someone is looking for you. I will cover your escape." Then a slight tug of power filled the air and her brother vanished, shifting as if it were child's play. He was only thirteen and such abilities should have been beyond him, or at least more difficult. But without a soul, Owen was thirteen going on infinity.
A cold sweat broke out over Melanie's body.
Let’s agree to not think about it, Melanie thought to Jack.
He nodded, his brown eyes still wide. I'm going to have nightmares tonight. I wish he wouldn't do that.
Melanie didn't respond. She always had nightmares. Ever since the Ace of Hearts had come into her life, night was rife with terror of the thing she couldn't let her waking self think about. No one could know.
The guards posted in the early spring garden were absent. Jack gave Melanie a leg up near the back wall closest to the dark forest of silver aspens and spruce spires before he pulled himself over and joined her on the other side.
Melanie took a deep breath of the free air. When she first arrived in Park City, Utah, she had hated it. At the time it had been under several feet of snow. Now, acool wind caused the trees to sway gently, and the spring shoots poking through the waves of gray dead grass from last season, rustled under foot. Park City was beautiful, and possessed a wildness all to itself that conjured images of plaid button-downs and leather boots. Everything smelled perfect, no hint of city pollution for miles in any direction. The trees and mountains parting its streets dispelled any urban feel and replaced it with artsy communities of athletic outdoorsmen. Park City itself was an elementally charged place. Even without the magical inhabitants, it was a magical place tucked away from the rest of the world.
The walk into downtown wasn't long. Soon the sounds of main street were close, the rumble of cars and conversation of people interweaved with nature's rhythms.
Jack, his hands in his pockets, sighed. "I love this town, but you know, sometimes I just wish we could leave."
Melanie smiled at him. She didn't have to say that she did too.
How many times had she wondered that? The shape shifters could do it. In fact, Ignatius, Nate for short, had done it several times when he needed a break. She'd never seen him leave before; he was always where she could find him, or finding her when she wasn't looking for him. But she knew he had escaped into the wilderness more than once. At night, when he wasn't allowed in the ManorManor, he would sit at the edge of the trees and watch over her until the moon rose high and heavy among the stars. Those were the nights when she slept until morning. For him, it wasn't anything to melt into the trees and disappear from a world that was happy to forget about him.
Perhaps that was the problem. The world was not ready to forget about Melanie S'velare, Keeper of the Ace of Hearts, heir to the S'velare throne, the strongest witch ever to live.
"I think you'd end up living in a rockslide or something," Melanie said as they stepped from the forest onto concrete sidewalk.
"Probably," he said. "But that would be pretty cool. I bet I could." Jack's reliquary was the King of Spades, meaning he was a mage gifted with power over earth. Luciana's reliquary was the Queen of Spades and she also had power over earth, but over plants instead. Together they were a badass team of nearly unstoppable power.
Melanie smiled and adjusted the bag on her shoulder. It was a warm day, the Utah sun already beating down, promising a dry and brutal summer ahead. She shielded her eyes and looked up toward the tallest buildings, the two and three story historic constructs comprising main street, a mass of artistry, talent, good food, and outrageous resort pricing. The ski lifts were still active in April due to the unusual snowfall this year. Snowboarders and skiers carried their equipment in bikini's and swim trunks. Here, the beach wasn't a sandy stretch,it was where the snow met the street. Lawn chairs were set out and people were sunbathing.
This year the resorts were doing well. Melanie's nightmares messed with her emotions enough that, for several weeks, nightly blizzards had coated the resort town in some of the best powder Utah had experienced in years. The result was a longer season and a boosted economy. So while she was damn good at destroying buildings with accidental tornadoes, many members of the coven had complimented her on the increased income her instability had brought them. Lord Rossi and her mother were decidedly not pleased by this.
"What are you looking at?" Jack asked, leaning down next to her and squinting in the direction she was looking.
"I think there's someone standing on top of the theater." With the sun behindthe person, it was hard to tell. It could be a movie gimmick, or something from one of the new indie films coming to town. The wind picked up and the man's clothes shifted. His coat, too warm for the unseasonably warm weather, swept out behind him like a cape and Melanie recognized him.
She swallowed and lowered her hand and he disappeared in a sliver of black vapor. Gavin was an azri, a soul eater. He was also her birth father.