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Ignite: Heritage of Fire Book 1 (Ebook)

Ignite: Heritage of Fire Book 1 (Ebook)

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Book 1 of 3: Heritage of Fire


Five years ago, I died to save my family.

Through a twist of fate, I survived. Since then, I've been helping my sister run a shelter for supernaturals fleeing London's magical underworld. To fund it, I steal back dangerous magical objects that have fallen into the wrong hands. Not a simple task when I'm the only dragon shifter in London who can't turn into a dragon, but it pays the bills.

When an egg belonging to an unknown dragon species is delivered to me and then promptly stolen, however, my life is overturned. To retrieve the egg, I have to risk my neck in an underworld arena where shifters fight to survive. It doesn’t hurt that a smoking hot rogue dragon shifter has my back, but even he might turn on me when he finds out about the weird new powers I've been developing since I came back from the dead.

Five years ago, I died to save my family. This time it might be permanent…

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Five years ago, I died.

Let’s just say things have gone steadily downhill since. I scanned the plain red-brick terraced house in front of me for any signs of a trap. Pre-faerie invasion, the area would have been the definition of a safe suburban neighbourhood. The lack of shattered windows, piskies nesting in the roof, or scavenger fae waiting to jump on unwary trespassers, told me this place was one of the few safe havens that remained, isolated bubbles in a city ravaged by magic.

“This place belongs to an old human lady called Mrs Tibbs,” I told Becks. “She must have been well off.”

Becks, literal cat burglar, meowed in agreement. All the neighbouring houses were in a similar condition, neat and shiny. No anti-faerie wards either. Mrs Tibbs had been lucky up until now, but that hadn’t stopped her from unwittingly purchasing a dangerous magical device from a sketchy witch at the market, disguised as an old-fashioned record player. 

“What kind of sick bastard tries to steal little old ladies’ souls?” I remarked aloud. “You’d think she’d know better than to buy anything from a witch with no licence.”

Then again, anyone could pretend to be human. Being a dragon shifter, I should know.

Becks padded up to the windowsill, ears pricked. If persuasion didn’t work, she’d be ready to create a diversion so we could steal the record player back before it could backfire on its owner. My sister Ember had taken on the task of hunting down the witch who’d sold it to her, which left it up to me and Becks to get the device away from its innocent target.

I strode through the front garden and knocked on the red-painted front door. The door opened and a short grey-haired woman popped up, a friendly smile on her face. Like a harmless grandmother… who’d accidentally bought the magical equivalent of a live bomb and set it up in her living room.

I smiled at her. “Hey there. Sorry to disturb you. I’m here to talk to you about the record player you purchased earlier today.”

The corners of her mouth crinkled. “What’s your name, dearie?”

No harm in giving her my real name. “It’s Coriander.”

“That’s a pretty name.”

I smiled angelically. “Yes, it is. May I come in?”

“Of course.”

Ember hadn’t been fooled by my innocent little sister act in years, but I had the settings turned to max and the old lady practically fell over herself to let me in. I’d turned twenty-one six months ago, but as a younger sibling, I’d still be the baby when I was ninety. Might as well take advantage.

I kept on my smile all the way into the living room, gushing over the mahogany furniture and the hundred-year-old china as though I’d suddenly developed a passionate interest in antiques. Maybe I should’ve opted to bring in the witch instead. Calm persuasiveness wasn’t on my skill list. Brawling and running for my life, yes. Playing human, not so much. 

“Oh, is this it?” I pretended to spot the record player, which I’d taken note of the instant I’d entered the room. “It’s wonderful, but I’m afraid there’s a problem with it.”

“I don’t see a problem with it,” she said.  “I’ve always wanted a device that can absorb human souls.”

My heart missed a beat. “Excuse me?”

This isn’t how it was supposed to go. Low-risk mission, my arse.

The old woman threw back her head and screamed. The noise ripped through my eardrums, shattered the glass in the window, and caused Becks to slip off the windowsill with a yowl. The screaming went on and on, forcing me to my knees, and when I wrenched my head upright, it was to see the old woman’s friendly smile and wrinkles were gone, replaced by a younger, harsher face framed with dark curls. Her skin was pale and blemish-free, glowing with the beauty of someone whose nature was designed to lure humans into a trap. Her hair was wild and tangled, her eyes bright blue with the glint of an Unseelie fae.


The echo of her scream rendered me immobile for an instant, lingering in my ears, then she lunged at me with pointed teeth. I rolled to the side, tangling my legs with hers in an attempt to trip her. She sprang onto the sofa with lithe grace, baring her teeth. Did banshees eat people? I’d rather not find out when my head was already lodged in her jaws. The sensible thing to do was to dive out the window and run, but I’d come here for the record player and I was damned if I left without it.

I bounced to my feet, one eye on the prize, the other on my enemy. She might be fae, but shifters had an advantage over normal humans speed-wise. Hovering on the balls of my feet, I eased a binding spell from my wrist into my palm, and when she jumped, I flung it into her face. Crisscrossing red lines appeared in a halo of sparks, pushing her head over heels and pinning her body to the sofa. She screamed again, this time with less volume. Pity trapping spells didn’t come with a built-in muting function.

“Quiet,” I hissed over my shoulder, reaching out for the record player.

The banshee broke free of the trap with a wild lunge, her long fingernails scraping my cheek. I shot out an elbow, which she avoided with the same preternatural grace as before. With a swift lunge, I swept her feet out from underneath her, and she fell to the carpeted floor. Maybe this house really had belonged to a nice old human lady at one time, but the monster baring her teeth at me had never been human. And her magic had broken my trapping spell way too fast. I made a mental note to give Will a stern talking-to later and kicked her in the face. Her nose broke beneath the heel of my boot with a satisfying crunch, her scream turning into a whimper. 

I made for my prize again. “They say banshees only scream when someone’s about to die. Does that apply when you’re about to kill the person yourself?”

She spat out blood. “I don’t need to scream for you, my dear,” she said. “You’ve already passed beyond the veil.”

I stiffened, one hand on the record player. How in hell did she know that? Well, she is a death faerie. For all I knew, I had a sign visible only to death fae and ghosts hovering over my head, saying, ‘I got dragged into Death and all I got was this lousy placard.’

Flippancy aside, I had died, in technical terms, but since my soul was firmly attached to my body, Death would have to wait another day to claim me.

The banshee’s hands hooked around my ankle, and the record player and I hit the carpet with a thump. I kicked, her talon-like nails breaking the skin of my leg. With a yowl, Becks cleared the window in a flying leap and landed on her head. The banshee stumbled, hands tearing at Becks, but her wildcat shifter’s claws hung on tenaciously. I was on my feet again in a second, tucking the record player under my arm.

Time to leave.

I sprinted over the armchair and leapt through the empty window frame into the front garden. Over my shoulder, I called, “Come on, Becks, let’s get backup.”

I’d never tried capturing a full-blooded banshee even with backup, but someone at Darcy’s place had some serious explaining to do.

A guttural scream shattered the remainder of the glass in the window frame and the banshee hurtled through, tackling me to the ground. Fingers clawing at my throat, she let out another cry, a cross between a mournful wail and a predator’s triumphant screech. Greyness hazed over the corners of my vision, blurring the world, while a roaring in my ears drowned out all other sound. She was scrawny, not strong, but that scream echoed through my very bones, conjuring memories of being dragged from my body into a grey whirlwind, into a place so cold that no fire could touch me.

My hand closed around her wrist, wrenching her away from my face. Droplets of blood streamed from her broken nose, and her scream became thicker, more distorted.

I gritted my teeth and reached for another spell. 

Sparks flew and blasted her several feet into the air, mouth agape, hair flying behind her. Bye, bye, banshee. 

The fae crashed through the garden wall and landed in an inelegant sprawl, out cold. Victory was mine.

“Ow.” I climbed to my feet, checking for injuries. Scrapes, bruises, and gouge marks on my leg where the faerie had dug her nails in. Not worth wasting a healing spell on.

Becks jumped out the window, shifting to human form mid-leap. She landed at a crouch, no longer a small tabby cat but a woman in her mid-to-late twenties with light brown skin and hair tinted in the same manner as the markings on her tabby form. Her long trench coat brushed the ground as she walked to my side to look at our prisoner. “We should have done worse than knock her out.”

I adjusted the remaining band-shaped spells arranged on my wrists like a colourful display of bracelets. “If we don’t take her to Darcy alive, he’ll be able to deny sending us on a mission way beyond our pay grade and we’ll get no compensation for this crap.”

She scowled. “You’re right, but I don’t like it.”

“Didn’t you check for glamours?” I shook my sleeves down to hide the spells from sight. “She was barely pretending to be human.”

“Dude, that’s not my job. I don’t have the Sight, either. We should have brought Kit with us.”

“He’d have freaked out the instant she started screaming.” Kit, our half-faerie friend, wasn’t cut out for mercenary work. He got on much better helping Will to run the shelter for vulnerable shifters we helped run in our spare time. When we weren’t saving not-so-human little old ladies from soul-stealing record players, that is.

I tied the banshee’s hands together with a binding spell, hauling her into an upright position. Who knew, maybe her attack was a blessing in disguise. Full-blooded rogue fae were worth a decent pay raise.

Becks and I began the long walk back to Darcy’s place with our captive in tow. I kept the fake record player tucked under my arm, which made hauling the banshee along doubly awkward. I was the stronger of the two of us, but that wasn’t saying a lot. Becks was small and wiry like the cat she shifted into, while I assumed that whenever I gained the ability to shift into a dragon, I’d be the runt of the litter. The banshee’s feet dragged on the pavement and her hair tickled the side of my face like tangled vines.

The banshee situation didn’t bode well for Ember’s mission, either. There were no signs of her when Becks and I dragged our prisoner through the automatic doors of the local branch of the Official Order of Mercenaries for this district of London. A wide building of metal and chrome, it was practically state of the art compared to its predecessor. In the last few years, the mages had decided that the city’s rampant monster problem wasn’t going to clear itself up, and if plucky and desperate humans were determined to make martyrs of themselves, they might as well give them the funding to do so. Becks and I made no secret of the fact that we were supernaturals, but our skills weren’t exactly useable on the regular job market, which was why we’d wound up working with people who thought that sticking a knife in someone until they stopped moving was the height of diplomacy.

Luck wasn’t with us. Instead of Darcy, the only person in the reception area was Jake. The gargoyle hybrid thought he was hot stuff, but everyone knew he bribed Darcy to get out of the more dangerous missions. When he’d claimed to be part dragon shifter, I’d had nearly burst a lung from laughing. I was more inclined to think half-human—with the attitude of a troll.

He raised a brow when we deposited the banshee on the polished floor of the lobby. A smirk played on his mouth as he took in my bruises and Becks’s battered coat. “Run into trouble?”

“Nothing I couldn’t handle. Where’s Darcy?”

“In the back.” He moved closer to the prisoner, crouching beside her. “Huh, she’s fit. Didn’t know you were into bondage.”

“You’re a sick human being.” Where was Darcy? He knew perfectly well that leaving Jake on the door was an invitation for trouble.

“Ooh, shouldn’t have pissed off the redhead. Watch it, she might start breathing fire next.”

“Did it take you all day to think of that one or did someone hand you a prompt?” My hands fisted at my sides. The bloody cheek. The red hair is a side effect of being a dragon shifter, not the other way around. 

“Why’re you skulking around here and not out on a mission?” Becks put in. “Did you get a scratch from a wildcat shifter and call in sick again?”

He leaned against the desk as though he owned it. “You haven’t got clearance to haul in a banshee.”

“That’d be because someone didn’t tell me that’s what I’d be dealing with today.” I spoke loudly, hoping Darcy would show his face before I knocked Jake’s cocky smirk clean off. 

The back door opened, and Darcy’s broad gargoyle shifter’s frame filled the doorway. He was a balding man in his forties who preferred playing human to gargoyle most of the time, and his brows rose in apparent unfeigned surprise when he set eyes on the banshee.

“Did you order one of these, sir?” said Jake, jumping off the desk and grabbing for the banshee’s hair.

I got there first, and my fist connected with his throat. Puny I might be, but I hit hard. He went down fast, gasping for breath.

“Break it up,” said Darcy in a bored voice. “What have we here?”

“You specifically said I’d be dealing with a harmless old woman.” I waved a hand at the unconscious faerie.

“She wasn’t,” he said, frowning at the sprawling woman. “You don’t have clearance to bring in a banshee.”

Jake shot me a triumphant look, clutching his throat. 

“What, you wanted us to leave her to use this on innocent humans?” Becks deposited the ruined record player on the desk. “Thanks for the warning.”

Darcy scowled. “Third misleading query in a week. Bloody cretins. Rebecca, take that to the back room. As for you, Coriander, I have some paperwork for you to sign.”

“As long as it comes with payment.” I glanced pointedly at the banshee. “Where’s she meant to go, then?”

“I’ll put in a call for a faerie response team to handle her. She didn’t kill anyone, did she?”

“She tried. Also, that knockout spell has a time limit on it.”

“We’ll do her for attempted murder,” he muttered. “Jake, go and fetch the response team. Try not to walk into any fists on the way out.”

“Right.” Jake looked at her, then back at me. “She hit me, sir.”

“I noticed. Go on.” Darcy waved a hand, and I suppressed a grin. Darcy didn’t interfere in his employees’ battles. With my hair-trigger dragon shifter temper, it was probably the only reason I’d lasted so long working here.

Becks took the record player into the storage area for dangerous items while I stood by the desk, drumming my fingers impatiently while Darcy called the clean-up unit in to take away our wayward faerie. Every time he gave us bullshit, I got the strong urge to just… walk out. Think calming thoughts, Cori. We need the funds for the shelter.

Speaking of which. I scanned the paperwork Darcy had given me. “You owe us a raise.”

“I do not.” He put his phone into the pocket of his suit and gave the paperwork a once-over. He might look the other way when anyone started fights and bend the rules if necessary, but he was as much of a tight-fisted bastard as all the bosses I’d had.

“She was a banshee!” I said. “Not human.”

“Same difference.”

“No, it bloody well isn’t,” I said. “Banshees are to humans what dragon shifters are to… uh, cat shifters.”

“Predators?” He laughed. “Banshees are hardly high-risk.”

The banshee stirred with an inhuman hissing noise, and he darted a look at her, apparently regretting that last statement. “The clean-up people will be here soon.”

“Better hope so.” I shoved the paperwork at him. “A raise, please. It’s in line with standard rates.”

You’d better believe I had it memorised. A full-blooded banshee was on the same level as a high-ranked fae. Not that she’d had much power, really, since being away from Faerie sapped her strength.

I had no such excuse for being a pitiful specimen for a dragon shifter, but hey, maybe I’d luck out and get my claws any day now. Or maybe I’d have better luck trying to squeeze money out of Darcy.

Becks returned from the back room, minus one record player but with her glasses back on. After breaking three pairs in a week, she’d started stashing them in her pocket on missions. “That banshee’s worth more than a few pennies, Darcy. Don’t be a dick.”

He scowled and angled behind the desk, reaching for something on the lower shelf. “Got your payment right here. Also, someone left a package for you, Cori.” He held out an envelope stuffed with ten-pound notes and an oval-shaped package. “It’s from someone called You Know Who.”

“Is that a joke?”

“I didn’t know you were in correspondence with Lord Voldemort,” Becks said, taking the envelope with our payment.

I hit her in the arm with my free hand and took the package with the other. “Now you’re accepting suspicious packages from pranksters?”

Why send it here and not my home address? Weird. I turned the package over in my hands and found the opening, tugging it open.

Within the package was a giant egg, half the length of my forearm. It was covered in gleaming red scales that reflected the ceiling lights.

“This isn’t for us.” I let the packaging fall to the floor. “It’s a joke, right?” 

The egg was warm, the scales sharp, and a raging desire to break it over Darcy’s head tore through me like wildfire through a forest.

Only one person could have sent it to me. I had one enemy in all the world, and he was locked in jail where he belonged.

Lorne. The man—or rather, dragon shifter—who’d killed me.

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