Chapter 1

Darkness surrounded me.

It engulfed everything, as if something had consumed all light in the universe, leaving behind only a black void as a landscape. I inched forward, my hands in front of me, searching for a wall, my dresser, anything that would tell me I was still in my dorm room at Southern Salem University.

I found only empty air, but still I shuffled forward. I had to find my way out of here and get home. My family needed me. I didn’t know how I knew that, but I did. It resonated in my gut, my soul, my blood.

Something was coming. It was making its way toward us in silent bounds, and if we weren’t ready, if we weren’t together, we wouldn’t survive.

     Thump, tap, thump, tap.

I whirled to my left at the sound of footsteps. Someone was in here with me. “Who’s there?”

     Thump, tap, thump, tap.

I clenched my fists, and my hands tingled as frost coated my palms. I was ready to fight.

“Answer me or I’ll turn you into an ice sculpture.”

The slow, measured steps circled around me. I knew the drill. My enemy was sizing me up before devouring me whole. He’d quickly learn he was about to bite off more than he could chew.

I let loose my magic in the direction of the footsteps. Ice crackled from my fingertips, and I imagined the bastard would now be frozen solid. All it would take was a good kick and whoever he was would shatter into pieces.

     Thump, tap, thump, tap.

It hadn’t worked. How was that possible?

I uttered an immobilization spell, a sleeping spell, and even a warding spell, but nothing worked. It continued its leisurely stroll around me.

My magic was useless. Whoever or whatever was in here with me was either immune to my power or so beyond my abilities, I was little more than a mosquito buzzing around his head.

That was a terrifying prospect.

“What do you want?” I asked, embarrassed by the slight tremor in my voice.

“You will be mine.” The four words echoed in the darkness, growing louder with each reverberation until they became a deafening wail.

I covered my ears, trying to block them out, but the words sliced through me like a razor. I fell to my knees, trembling as the words continued to explode around me and as the footsteps drew closer.

I opened my mouth to speak, to utter some spell that would save me, but the only sound to escape my constricted throat was a scream.

I sat up in bed, perspiration dripping down my back. The sheets were tangled around my clenched fists, and even though I was shivering, I wasn’t cold.

Terror seized my heart in its iron grip and squeezed.

I took several deep breaths, trying to calm my jackhammering pulse. Once my heartbeat returned to normal, I could hopefully relax the muscles that refused to let loose of my bedding, which had suddenly become some lifeline that, once released, would send me tumbling into a pit of despair.

It was just that stupid dream again, so why did I want to throw the covers off my bed and turn on all the lights?

I wasn’t some cowardly mouse, hiding away in the corners of life. I was Thad Blackmoor, a warlock, and my family was one of the covens elected to protect the Gate, the source of all magic, from harm.

We’d recently fought off a vampyre, one of the deadliest and most powerful magical creatures in existence, and won. I hadn’t cowered when it attacked and almost killed me, so why couldn’t I stop shaking?

It was the voice and what it said. Its words were spoken with such conviction, such absolute certainty, they’d chilled me to the bone.

“I will never be yours,” I whispered to my empty room. “I belong to myself and no one else.”

My response jumpstarted my confidence. I wasn’t like my older brother Pierce or my father, both of whom relied on their powers or their muscles, and I sure as hell wasn’t like my younger brother, Mason, who preferred to get by on a wing and a prayer.

Their dependence on external forces made them vulnerable.

That was not who I was. I relied on myself, on my intellect, to see me to success. That was what made me different from my family and every other warlock, and I wasn’t about to let some silly recurring nightmare rob me of that.

I threw the covers off my naked body and stood up in an act of defiance against the dream I couldn’t help but feel had seeped into the waking world.

Dark forces were gathering and unseen enemies waited. I already possessed knowledge of this, but there were too many unanswered questions.

I had to find the answers, but in order for me to do that, it was time for me to go home to Havenbridge.

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