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Wraith's Revenge
Author: Keri Arthur

Chapter One



I leaned back and stared at the four men sitting on the opposite side of the table. They were all tall and thin, with silver eyes and the crimson hair of royal witches.

They all wore the same type of expensive-looking suit—though three were in gray and one in blue—and the same holier-than-thou expression that graced the faces of so many royal witches up here in Canberra when confronted by someone they considered below their station.

In my case, far below.

That they wanted to be anywhere but here was obvious—and something I could totally understand. I mean, I did have bigger problems in my life right now—a relationship with an ornery werewolf hanging in the balance, a court case against my father to testify at, and a reevaluation of my magical powers to attend, the result of which could cause me major fucking problems with the High Witch Council.

But here we were, staring at each other across the vast sea of polished wood in a room that wasn’t only soundproofed but also warded against magic.

The latter was definitely a good thing.

I didn’t want them attempting to spell me, because that might lead to a reaction from my inner wild magic and more questions than I wanted to answer right now.

The only reason we were here in the first place was their refusal to accept Clayton Marlowe’s will. To say they were seriously annoyed by the fact that I’d inherited a good portion of his estate would be the understatement of the year. It was also understandable, given said estate was worth tens of millions and that was just the property portfolio.

Of course, it was never meant to come to me. At all. My father, who’d magically forced me into the marriage with Clayton when I was below the legal age, had always intended the so-called “bride price” inheritance to be transferred to him. Then I’d gone and upset everything by not only running away on my wedding night but basically disappearing for well over ten years, sending Clayton into a destabilized mental state and ensuring my father never got his hands on the estate he’d always coveted.

An estate he still coveted.

Problem was, he’d done too good a job of tying down the will’s legalities, and there was nothing he or anyone in this room could now do to stop me inheriting. Not without challenging the will in court.

“Ms. Grace,” Ryland said, in a tone that managed to be both condescending and pitying. He was the oldest of Clayton’s two brothers and the one that looked the least like him. “Surely you must understand that if this goes to court, you will lose. One hundred thousand is more than enough compensation—”

“In what century?” I cut in coldly. “I was on the fucking run for ten years—”

“It’s hardly the fault of anyone in this room that wedding night jitters got the better of you,” another man said. Francis, a cousin, if I remembered right.

I met his gaze evenly. “You just added another million to the end cost.”

“Don’t be fucking—”

“Francis, quiet,” Ryland snapped, then gave me what I presumed was supposed to be a soothing smile but instead looked predatory.

But that was okay. After all the goddamn supernatural entities I’d fought over the last year, a human predator was something of a welcome relief.

“We’ll double the offer,” he continued. “It is more than fair given the marriage was recently annulled and there was no son produced, as stipulated—”

“Actually,” my lawyer cut in smoothly, “the requirement of a son was not tied to Ms. Grace’s inheritance on Mr. Marlowe’s death but rather the bride price. It was a bonus to be paid to her father, Mr. Lawrence Marlowe, if a male child was produced.”

Because we daughters were not valued at all in the Marlowe world. Or, at least, unpowered daughters like me weren’t.

Of course, my father’s attitude had done something of a backflip recently after discovering my ability to manipulate wild magic. Royal witches had been attempting to control it for eons, simply because the wild magic—and the wellsprings it formed—were a source of untapped but potentially unimaginable power.

But it was a power that called as easily to darkness as to the light, and if left unprotected, could cause great harm to the people and areas around the wellsprings.

It was Mom’s attempts to protect one such wellspring that had formed my connection to the wild magic. I’d been little more than a bean in her stomach, and the force that had almost killed her had fused to my DNA, forever changing me.

Not that anyone had been aware of this until Belle—my best friend and familiar—and I had set up a café in the Faelan Werewolf Reservation and subsequently come into contact with an unprotected and very old wellspring.

My link with it was now so strong I could feel its furious pulsing even though I was hundreds of kilometers away. It felt like all I had to do was metaphysically reach out, and it would answer.

Which was ridiculous, of course. While all wellsprings came from the same source deep within the earth’s outer core and were theoretically linked, there were no wellsprings within Canberra itself and therefore no means for it to answer.

“That does not discount the fact that two hundred thousand is a very reasonable offer in these circumstances,” Ryland commented.

“In these circumstances?” I echoed. Anthony Fitzgerald—my lawyer—placed a warning hand on my arm, but I shook it off. “And what circumstances would you be talking about? The magical manipulation of a minor? The attempted rape of a minor? The kidnapping and torture of my familiar? Threats to kill her if I didn’t give your brother his conjugal rights and produce the heir my father promised him?”

Ryland had the grace to look uncomfortable. “Well, no, but Clayton did pay a high price for those deeds—”

“A price you had a hand in” came a soft comment.

I wasn’t sure who said it and didn’t really care. I slammed my palms on the table and thrust to my feet. “You know what? The price is five million for me, and another five for Belle. That is my one and only offer. If you don’t like it, well then, I’ll see you in court.” I gave them a cold, hard smile. “Let’s see how well your precious reputation holds up once the details of Clayton’s actions are brought into the open.”

I grabbed my coat from the back of the chair and marched out of the room, slamming the door behind me. As the sound echoed through the empty corridor, I stopped and pressed back against the wood paneling to the right of the door, closing my eyes and drawing in deep breaths to calm the anger and inner shaking.

It probably hadn’t been a good idea to lose my temper like that, but fuck them. I was sick of people taking me for granted and looking down on me. Sick of being considered less than worthy just because I hadn’t been born as magically strong as my brother or my long-dead sister.

In fact, it had been Catherine’s death—and my father’s need to get rid of the magically challenged daughter who’d had the audacity to survive what his precious heir apparent had not—that had led to the whole Clayton mess in the first place.

The fact that Cat might still be alive if they’d trusted the strength of my psi powers was a point they continued to ignore.

The door to my right opened, and Anthony stepped through. He was tall, blond haired, and blue eyed, with a mild manner that belied a razor-sharp mind. He worked for the Black Lantern Society—a privately funded organization whose charter was to right wrongs and bring justice to those who escaped it, by whatever means necessary—and was representing me in the court case against my father. He was assisting me here as a favor to Ira Ashworth, an investigator with the Regional Witch Association, and a man who’d become a grandfather to me in all ways except blood.

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