Dark Caster Series
Genre: paranormal romance
Publisher: Mild Red Books
Date of Publication: June 20, 2015
Cover Artist: Jaycee DeLorenzo
at Sweet & Spicy Designs
Dive into the heart-pounding final chapter of the Dark Caster series!
If the Chaos Gate opens…
Demons will infest the world.
When the charismatic mayor of Auburn hires junior agent Jessa McAvoy to acquire him a very specific property, she hopes this is her big break. She’ll do anything to make her first real estate client happy, but the one favor he asks of her is impossible—convince her former friend Derek Walker to come out of hiding. Doing so will not only bring her into the orbit of dangerous casters, but force her to confront long-buried feelings for her missing friend.
After failing his tasks for the Dark Caster, necromancer Derek Walker is hiding in Alaska from his humiliating defeats as a card-carrying member of an evil dark cabal. But when his old boss begins opening the Chaos Gate, there is nowhere on earth Derek can hide. With no other options, he must return to the last place he wants to go—home.
When Derek Walker joins forces with Jessa and the entire Raleigh coven, the dark cabal’s biggest disappointment may be the only thing standing between earth and total destruction.
Available at Amazon
Bo’s voice carried over the sound of the lapping tide. "Ice is the strongest element there is," he shouted at Stubby.
They were certainly surrounded by the stuff. Bits of frost clumped in Bo’s scraggly beard, heavy snow clung to drooping tree limbs, and gray clouds swept across the sky ready to shower ice upon their heads at any moment. Derek hoped the storm would hold off a little while longer, though, at least until the men finished fishing.
"Bullshit." Bo’s friend Stubby dug through the nearby cooler but came up empty. The six-pack was long gone, and it wasn’t even ten a.m. Frustrated, Stubby spit brown tobacco juice into the mud. "Fire's stronger than ice."
Derek shifted weight from one foot to the other and skidded in the mud, catching himself on a rock. It may be August in Alaska, but the wet ground around Bear Lake at first light was cold and seeped through his sneakers.
"No it ain't," Bo argued. "Glaciers carved up the earth, you dummy. A few drops of frozen water will break boulders." He waved Stubby off. "You don't know what you're talking about."
Stubby seemed to take the argument personally. "Fire melts ice. End of story."
Derek prayed it was, but of course, it wasn't. Bo and Stubby could argue for hours over the most accurate brand of deer rifle, the stoutest superhero, or the most potent tequila. The latest debate over nature’s most dangerous element could rage on for days.
Derek sliced up two beautiful fish fillets and wrapped them in paper for his boss’s dinner. Most likely, Derek would sear them on the grill with some peppers and serve them up tonight to a small house party of world-class belchers and bearded survivalists on Bo’s deck.
It surprised Derek he could even wield a knife or a BBQ grill in his condition. The memory spell Holden Clark had hit him with four months ago had devastated his mind. Literally. He may as well have dropped him headfirst from a forty-story building onto broken glass and concrete. Holden had stolen every single memory, skill, and instinct Derek possessed, leaving him alive but hollow.
Waking in a hospital bed blank and vulnerable had been the most terrifying moment of his life. He picked up the second fish and attacked it with the knife.
Generally, the work he did as Bo’s assistant was exhausting, which suited Derek just fine. He didn’t need the money. He needed the distraction.
Actually, it wasn't that much different from the work he’d done in Auburn as Rebecca Powell's assistant. Then, he’d redecorated houses, delivered paperwork, sometimes picked up coffee and her dry cleaning, and most of the time surfed on his computer or chatted with Jessa McAvoy, the adorable junior agent working as Rebecca's protégé. Here, he bought groceries, cooked rudimentary meals, lugged trash to the dump, and drove Bo home when he drank too much.
Whether it was good living or not didn’t enter his mind. It was just living.
"All done, boss," Derek said with effort, throwing the last of the slimy scraps into the trash and tucking the fillets into the cooler. It was a constant struggle to form words and transfer them to his tongue. He was getting better, but he feared he would never be whole again.
"Anything else?" Derek asked, rinsing his bloody hands in the icy lake.
"Yeah, run into town and get another twelve pack, will ya'?" Bo asked.
"Sure." He ambled for Bo’s pickup, jingling a ring of keys as he went.
“You’re putting too much weight on your bobber again,” Stubby accused. “You’ll never catch anything that way.”
“You don’t know what you’re yammering about,” Bo shot back. “I’ve caught twice as many fish as you have, and that’s just today!”
Derek climbed into the truck before he caught Stubby’s reply.
He didn't care. He didn't care about much anymore. Even after the memory-destroying spell had been reversed, he still wasn't the same. Like tying shoelaces. He just couldn't get it. No matter how many YouTube videos he watched, he couldn't make the bunny go round the tree or the fox go in the hole or whatever nonsense he was supposed to do with ease. It worried him how much he didn't remember. What else was gone, never to return?
Kissing, for one. Surely, he must have kissed a woman at some point—he was a grown man—but he couldn't recall specifics. Or even gather the desire to try it again. It seemed silly to him. That and sex. Bizarre, pointless endeavors when he had other much more important stuff to worry about.
Like how he was…
"…A huge fucking disappointment," the spirit spat at him. "A total waste of good space. You think you deserve a second chance? What have you ever done…"
A grizzly of a dead man with a full beard and hunters cap hovered beside Bo’s truck, a gleeful smile on his pudgy face. For the past four months, the ghost had been his unwanted but constant companion.
Derek tuned out the ranting. It was getting a little easier. Night was the hardest. Trying to sleep while a nasty ghost screamed obscenities and curse words at him from the ceiling was challenging. Ear plugs only muffled the noise. They didn’t erase it completely.
The irony was, Derek was especially good at shield spells. With a spirit’s assistance, he could produce an invisible barrier impenetrable to both magic and spirit chatter. With a spirit of his own, Derek could cast banishing spells on all the ghosts the Dark Caster sent to torment his every waking moment. But Derek didn't have a spirit companion anymore. Robert had been destroyed back in Auburn, North Carolina in the magical fiasco that had stolen Derek's memories. And a necromancer without a spirit was just a man.
Almost the way a stray, foul-mouthed ghost couldn’t do any real damage without a necromancer to channel his spirit power.
He and the taunting soul were in the same boat—stuck with each other and frustrated.
It didn’t make listening to his insults any easier.
“Go away,” Derek murmured.
“What’s that, you miserable piece of crap?”
Clenching his jaw, Derek glared through the mud-streaked windshield at his new boss reclining in his favorite camp chair.
“Lost your voice?” the spirit taunted. “Loser,” he chanted. “Imbecile. Idiot.”
Alaska seemed far enough away to be safe.
So far, the worst the Dark Caster had managed since Derek’s escape was the big-mouthed ghost clinging to the inside of the truck.
Derek cranked the engine and steered away from the lake at a leisurely five miles an hour. Driving was something he had only re-learned since he’d been in Alaska. With the way Bo drank, it was a necessity.
Derek drove slow. Probably too slow. He remembered, vaguely, driving his former sports car fast on long, lonely stretches of highway, taking turns at warp speed and weaving recklessly through freeway traffic. Not anymore. Now, he was worse than an old woman. He didn't drive the speed limit. He drove under it. When Bo teased him about it, which Bo loved to do at all times about all things, Derek blamed it on the rain and snow, but it honestly had little to do with weather conditions.
Just one more thing Holden Clark had stolen from him.
He parked in front of the town's shopping center, bypassing a hardware store, a smoke-filled tavern, and the post office to pull open the heavy glass doors of a grocery store. Derek selected a twelve-pack of cheap, cold beer from the refrigerator case in the rear of the shop, and when he spun around, he came face-to-face with the eighteen-year-old checkout girl.
"Hi, Derek," she said, grinning brightly.
It was too cold, too quiet, and too depressing to be so happy.
"Hello," he returned, veering around her.
"Going fishing again?" she asked, trailing him down the baked-goods aisle.
"Bo is." Derek didn't fish. He’d never learned and didn’t see the point.
"I love to fish," she exclaimed, scampering behind the register as he set the beer on the counter. "I'll teach you how. I mean, if you don't know how. Do you know how?"
While he rearranged possible responses in his mind, he studied the girl. Lea, read her nametag. She was young and dewy, and he envied the ease with which she spit out words, but something was missing. There was no light in her. An overabundance of enthusiasm, but no inner glow.
The thought of touching her in any way, let alone kissing her, made him slightly queasy. Definitely uncomfortable. And not in a good way.
"No, thanks," he said, the same as every other time Lea had invited him somewhere.
Her face fell. "Oh. Yeah. Some other time."
He paid for the beer with Bo's credit card and turned to leave.
"You're gay, right?" Lea called after him. "That's it. You only like boys?"
He lowered his eyes and exited fast, tossing the beer in the cab of the pick-up.
Derek had been called worse in his life. It hardly bothered him anymore. He knew what kind of person attracted him. At least, he used to know. Since Holden's spell, it was hard to say what turned him on anymore because nothing did.
He just wasn't interested in being tangled up in someone else's life. Or worse, someone tangling up in his. Because his was a twisted disaster of epic proportions.
To prove it, as if Derek held any doubts, his least favorite ghost appeared in the seat beside him.
“Worthless,” he repeated, making his voice purposefully ominous. “Worthless…worthless…worthless…”
Arriving at the lake a bit distracted, Derek stomped around thick-trunked trees toward Bo and Stubby's camp chairs and silently arranged the twelve-pack in their cooler.
"Thanks, my friend," Bo exclaimed. "Come pick us up later."
"I will." Until then, Derek would be working on his cabin. Struggling, he finally spit out, "Text me if you need anything."
Once Bo and Stubby started drinking, though, they’d be arguing good-naturedly and downing cold beers for hours. Derek would have the rest of the day to himself.
“…just kill yourself already…you spineless worm…” The Dark Caster’s spirit trailed him toward the truck. “…cut your own throat, and I’ll laugh while you die…”
Or maybe not.
Anna Abner lived in a haunted house for three years and grew up talking to imaginary friends. In her professional life, she has been a Realtor, a childcare provider, and a teacher. Now, she writes edge-of-your-seat paranormal romances and blogs from her home in coastal North Carolina about ghosts and magic. You can connect with her online at AnnaAbner.com.