They were destined to save the world from an ancient evil.
Talos is a magic wielder, born into the mage guild of firecrafters. As an agent of the Overworld Police, he has come from a secret land to protect Earth from magicians intent on enslaving humanity.
Mila has always had the gift of healing. But this very modern woman never realized that her skill was born of an ancient magic that only firecraft can fully unlock.
Together, Tal and Mila discover that the source of their powers is in unity. Love's shining light might burn them alive protecting the magic of the world, but if the Tree of Life dies, and all the magic in the world is extinguished ... will it matter?
Magic's Design is an "intricately detailed and densely complex fantasy romance" (Booklist) from USA Today bestselling author Cat Adams.
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CATHY CLAMP and C.T. ADAMS are the authors of the Sazi series as well as the USA Today bestselling Thrall series. They live in Texas.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
CHAPTER 1Darkness and fear clawed at the back of Mila’s mind, so desperate and needy that she could barely think. It pressed in on her from some distant place, as it had so often in the past. Intense feelings made it worse—whether anger, fear, or pain. Today it was worry. Her best friend Candy was sitting across the table from her, unknowingly deciding whether Mila was going to cut coupons and pay the mortgage this month, or whether she was going to be eating, but under a bridge.With a satisfied sigh, Candy removed the triplet jeweler’s loup from her eye. “Exquisite. Really, Mila. Every line is perfectly straight, the colors the exact jewel tones the client wants. This is museum quality. If the others are as good ... and I know they will be, I’ll take them all.”All Mila could do was nod as Candy turned the second pysanka, with a simple “call of spring” design, over in her hands. She wanted to feel happy that her friend was impressed with the intricately dyed “Easter eggs.” After all, she’d spent most of her life studying the craft that had been passed down in her family all the way back to pre-Christian pagan times. But even through her pride, the darkness closed in tightly, worse today than in years. Every blink of her eyes made another world appear. Blink—the warm, varnished table became icy stone with sharp edges that she could swear were cutting into her palm. Blink—the bright sunlight outside the restaurant was transformed into darkness, eased only by tiny blue dots of light in the distance. Blink—the scent of fresh-baked garlic bread and rich marinara sauce turned damp and musty. The back and forth between the sensations was making her queasy.“Okay, so how about two hundred? Will that work for you?” Slowly, Mila’s mind pulled out of the dark cavern—yes, it definitely felt like the caves she and Baba Nadia used to explore. With effort, she focused back on where she was ... turned away from the evil hiding somewhere in the darkness.But her heart fell as Candy’s words sunk home and the darkness came calling again, forcing her to dig her fingernails into her palms to keep it at bay. Only two hundred? Damn. She needed at least three to pay the bank. She’d hoped ... after all, there were five eggs, and duck eggs to boot. No. She had to stand firm. Surely her best friend would understand. It would mean more scrambling tomorrow, but the eggs were worth twice that. She felt her mouth grimace and worked not to show her disappointment too strongly. “Oh. Um ... y’know, Candy, I’m not really sure I can let them go for that. I mean, the marriage fertility egg alone took me six hours to design and dye.”Candy’s face got an odd expression. Then realization struck her and she threw back her head and laughed. Her perfect blonde mane of hair flowed and gleamed under the lamp.Mila felt a pang of envy. Candy was her best friend in the world, truly. But sometimes she couldn’t help but be a little bit jealous of the other woman’s stunning looks and size-six figure. Mila had always wanted to look like that. Instead, she was petite and curvy, with a tendency to gain weight. Her dark hair fell in unruly curls. The one feature she really did like was her eyes. They were wide and green, with naturally long black lashes.Candy shook her head. “Ohmygod, you silly goose! Of course they’re worth more than that. I mean two hundred each. And naturally, I have the cash with me, ’cause I figured they’d be perfect. You always make perfect eggs.”It was all Mila could do to breathe. Two hundred each? A thousand dollars? She could not only pay the mortgage, but she wouldn’t have to worry about badgering Sela for rent until after she came back from spending the holidays with her family. She could even pick up enough groceries and cat food to last until payday. Woo!Another snort from across the table brought heat to her cheeks. “Geez, give me some credit. You thought I meant two hundred for all of them? I know how hard you work on them, Mila. I tried to get you three hundred each, but the client topped out at two. And they’re well worth it. He’ll be pleased.” With a flourish, Candy pulled a wallet embroidered with stylized dollar signs from her tooled leather purse and counted out the money from a stack of hundred-dollar bills. “I suppose you’re going to do something horribly practical like pay bills with it. Or are you going to do what I think you should do and blow it all on yourself at the after-Christmas sales? You never seem to get around to buying anything nice for yourself.”Mila folded the cash and tucked it in the zippered compartment of her purse with a grin. “Trust me, Candy. Paying the mortgage to have a roof over my head, a warm furnace, and a fridge full of food will be nice enough.”Candy blew out a little breath onto her nails, as though they were wet. “You don’t have a mortgage. It’s not like you’ll lose the house or anything if you miss a payment. Live a little ... you get paid on the first.”She sighed. Candy never could understand the concept. “It is a mortgage—or it will be as soon as I have the deed. But since the loan paid for fixing the roof, upgrading the electrical, and putting in a bathtub, I’ll keep calling it a mortgage.” But she couldn’t deny Candy had a point. She did tend to skimp on herself and her family where the house or car were concerned. “But if there’s enough left over, I might be able to spring for a few late gifts for Mom and Sarah. And I only sent Baba a card this year. It would be nice to give her something pretty. She likes warm fluffy scarve—”A flash of pain lanced through her forehead, tearing a gasp from her throat. Then, like an icy breeze through a doorway, she felt a chill settle over her, strong enough to make her shudder. But it was when the pins-and-needles sensation overtook her toes that she began to panic. Oh God, please not now! Not in the middle of a restaurant.She fought to stay calm. Panic would only make it happen faster. Moving her head slowly toward her friend she let the barest whisper ease gently from her throat. “Candy, my toes are going numb. We need to get out of here.”Candy’s hand flew to her open mouth to prevent an alarmed screech. She had practically been a family member, growing up next door to Mila. She’d seen a number of Mila’s episodes.“Crap! Okay, yeah. We need to get out of ... but they haven’t even brought the food yet.” She blew out a frustrated breath and looked around the restaurant frantically, searching for their waiter as Mila slowly began to gather her purse and put on her coat. “Well, hell. Okay, I’ll just leave a fifty on the table. That should cover it. Maybe I can come back and get it and ... no, that won’t work either. Oh, crap.”“Shhh,” Mila warned as another spasm pounded her temples. “Not so loud.” Like the barest beginnings of a migraine, she could feel the symptoms unfurling in her mind. The slightest trigger would send her thrashing to the floor, screaming and uttering names and words that had no meaning. Anything could do it: a loud noise, a bright light, even touching something that was hot or cold. Going from a warm restaurant to the winter air outside was going to be tough.A few years ago Mila’s sister Sarah had filmed an episode on her cell phone after their mother dropped a soda and it exploded. She’d wanted Mila to see why everyone had treated her with kid gloves her whole life. Her mother likened the episodes to epileptic seizures, but the doctors and neurologists had never been able to find a physical cause.Mila fought back tears. She hadn’t had an episode in so very long. Maybe if she could ease through this, not make a scene, she might actually be able to keep her—Shit. The car. She looked toward the window as she pushed back her chair and stood. “I drove.” She could see her pride and joy out on the snowy street through the glass. The little silver Corolla was used, with high miles and a flaky heater, but it was hers. And, with another storm threatening, she couldn’t afford to be late to work every day again by taking the bus.Candy reached out to touch her hand as tears threatened. She’d worked so very hard, waited so long. “Oh, sweetie ... your license. And you just finally qualified. No, we won’t risk that. They don’t have to know. C’mon. We’ll hurry. I’ll drive you home and you can pick the car up tomorrow when you’re feeling bet—”But as the door to the restaurant opened, the bell she’d considered charming rang, seeming too loud to her ears. The sound ripped along sensitive nerves, and the icy air hit her like a club to the head. She felt herself falling ... felt Candy drop everything to reach for her.The world went black, darkness crushing her mind like an empty eggshell. Another mind, with thoughts not her own, became her reality.
Magic breathed through the air, so subtle that Talos had to close his eyes to see the flickering rune from behind darkened lids. Fire magic tickled along the birthmark on his wrist—the mark that branded him a mage. He held every muscle motionless behind the massive stalagmite, watching the escape unfold. He could tell his best friend Alexy struggled not to leap forward by the way he twitched under his cloak. But it would only be a few more minutes until Sela was in position, and then they could close in and make the capture.The obsidian wall of Rohm Prison rose to the highest reaches of the cavern, dwarfing the group of four criminals, huddled under the shimmering black silk capes that made them nearly invisible to the casual eye. The cool moist air began to smell of molten glass as they laid enchantments to cut through the thick volcanic stone. First fire enough to make the surface glow red, then icy water to crack it. The tree alone knew how long they’d been visiting this same spot, but it must have been some time, judging by how large a passage they’d carved.“Should we step in, Tal?” Alexy’s whisper was so faint that even next to his ear, Tal could barely hear. He frowned slightly. Sela should have contacted him by flaring his mark, but she hadn’t. Thus far, the Guilders hadn’t actually done anything wrong. If they stopped them now, the men could simply claim they were gathering glow moss or mushrooms to sell at market. The moss hung in thick strands from the craggy overhangs, where the obsidian stopped and the regular rhyolite began. Everybody knew the shelves near the waterfall in the distance held the best jack-o’-lantern mushrooms for miles.Tal stared at the twinkling blue lights that faintly illuminated the darkness while he thought. Imported Australian cave worms seemed to thrive here. They’d infested a lone pinon tree jutting from the stone and decorated it with sticky phosphorescent saliva. How ironic that the king’s latest method to conserve magical energy was the source of light for a prison break.He shook his head and heard a frustrated half-snort from his friend, so he twisted his lips and spoke softly. “We have to catch them entering. They need to actually breach the wall or the commander will have our skins for a coverlet.”Alexy shuddered. He knew as well as Tal did that Commander Sommersby was fully capable of doing just that. Muttering a curse, he whispered, “Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad you followed your instinct, guv. We never would have spotted them if we’d been guarding Gate Six like we were ordered.”“Bloody hell! It’s about time.” The almost imperceptible whisper from the darkness caught their attention. Tal didn’t recognize the voice, but it didn’t matter. These three Guilders had done what all the supposed experts claimed was impossible—they’d broken into the highest-security prison under the earth.Why doesn’t anyone listen when we tell them there are problems? He tightened the leather strap on his battle glove, causing Alexy to follow suit. Whether or not Sela was ready, they had to act. The horrors the human world had been subjected to by the residents of Rohm in the past would not be repeated. Not while there was breath left in Tal’s body.“Halt—Overworld Police Agency. You’re surrounded. Remove your focuses and keep your hands where we can see them.” In a rush of movement, he stood and held his palm toward the trio, emerald focus stone at the ready. Alexy was moving into the darkness to flank the lawbreakers. The men turned to face him. They likewise raised battle gloves and Talos felt his eyes widen and heart pound as the faint light refracted into a thousand pieces on one man’s palm. A diamond nearly covered the man’s glove. Nobody he knew had ever managed to tame such a complex stone. But he couldn’t get a better look at the man or the glove before he raced into the breach in the prison wall.Tal only managed to fire one blast of magic before he was forced to dive face first to the cave’s floor. White light, bright enough to blind him, hit the spot where he’d stood. The heat from his opponent’s stone melted the stalagmite he and Alexy had been hiding behind. Boiling black sludge rolled toward him. The edge of his cape caught on fire before he could see enough to put it out. The scent of molten rock, normally a comfort, was now his enemy.He heard a battle cry to his left and three heads turned as one to the sound. As usual, Alexy was diving into battle with all the caution of a rabid skunk. Thankfully, his skill matched his recklessness. One criminal was already unconscious on the ground.Tal kept his body glued to the floor as his lieutenant’s hand raised. The entire prison rumbled as formidable earth magic erupted from Alexy’s ruby focus to throw the other Guilders off balance.“Damn, damn, damn,” he muttered as bouncing bits of black glass and stalactites rained down on his head from Alexy’s attack. Not even his best shielding could keep all of the rocks from bouncing off his skull and scratching his arms. Well, if that didn’t bring the guards inside out to help them, nothing would.As the cursing fugitives erected hasty air charms and raced for cover, Tal whispered, “Trivoa svet.” He clenched his fist and concentrated. In bare seconds, he felt precious energy from the lights inside the prison dim just before it burned through his veins on the way to the maze of silica crystals overhead.Red-gold light filled the cavern, and he finally saw Sela, floating high above him with arms extended in a threatening gesture toward her opponent. “No trickery, illusionist ... or I swear by the Sacred Tree I’ll throw you from the sky.”Tal likewise aimed his focus at the man, seeing that Alexy had the water witch under control near the broken prison wall. “As she demands, lawbreaker ... drop down your glove and descend slowly, or I’ll let her do just that.” He kept his eyes moving between the two criminals, since they could finally be called that. “Mind that third man, Alexy. Keep him and anyone he’s attempted to release pinned inside and do what you can to repair the breach. We should have seen guards by now. That worries me. Sela, draw whatever power you need to from the lights to contact the commander.”Tension filled the air as the illusionist, his pockmarked face filled with hate and rage, dropped his focus glove into Tal’s waiting hand and slowly rode the air currents down to the ground. Tal raised the glove for a closer look while keeping one eye firmly fixed on the descending illusionist. The stone was a good sized dark blue lapis stone in a worn but exq...
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