Burned by Magic (The Baine Chronicles #1)

by Jasmine Walt

Chapter One

“Hey, shifter girl!” a human with sandy hair shouted as he leaned over the bar counter. He waved his hand as though I were a cab he was trying to flag down. “Can I get another whiskey over here?”

“Coming right up.” Fighting the urge to roll my eyes, I grabbed a glass from beneath the counter and the requisite bottle of liquor. Strobe lights bounced off the dark walls of the club as I splashed a generous amount into the shot glass and slid it across the glossy countertop. The place was in full swing tonight, shifters, humans and mages all clamoring for their shot of liquid courage so they could go rub their bodies all over each other on the dance floor and hopefully take someone home with them tonight.

“Thanks.” The human threw back his shot in one go. His pale cheeks turned bright red, and his wheezing cough told me taking shots was a new pastime.

“Another,” he gasped, slamming his glass down on the counter.

I arched a brow. “Don’t you think you should take it easy?”

The human grimaced. “I need it if I’m going to ask that girl over there for a kiss.”

He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, where a brunette in a skin-tight red dress leaned against the wall, her dark orange gaze scanning the crowd. The lack of whites in her eyes combined with the dark orange color of her irises told me she was a tiger shifter, likely here searching for a male to help her get through heat.

“Why her?” I glanced back at the human, taking in his white polo shirt and short, neatly trimmed hair, which was so different from the loud clothing and hairstyles the residents of Rowanville boasted. This boy was from Maintown, the section of Solantha reserved specifically for humans, and I doubted he’d ever set foot into the melting pot of Rowanville in his life.

The boy bit his lip. “I lost a bet, and now I have to get a shifter girl to kiss me. Unless you’d rather do the honors?”

“Ugh. No thanks.” The kid looked all of nineteen years old; at twenty-four I had some pride.

“Aww, c’mon.” The kid leaned forward, desperation in his eyes. “The guys are watching me from across the room right now. If I did it right now I could get out of here.”

“Save it, kid.” I curled my lip, exposing the fangs sliding out behind my gum line. The kid blanched. “I’m not getting involved. My advice, you hightail it outta here and go tell your mother. That girl over in the corner is looking for a lot more than just a kiss. She’ll tear you apart if you lead her on and then try to ditch her later.”

“Fine.” The boy slumped back down into his barstool and gave me a sullen glare. “Just give me the shot.”

Why did I even bother?

“Suit yourself.” I poured him another and watched him down it. He wasn’t the first to come in here on a bet. Most of the human customers were regulars who knew the deal – so long as you were within these walls you treated everyone with the same amount of respect regardless if they were shifter, human or mage. That’s how it was supposed to be in Rowanville – the only neighborhood in Solantha where shifters, humans and mages lived together. But every once in a while someone from one of the segregated neighborhoods wandered in to cause trouble. Usually they got more than they bargained for.

“Thanks.” The kid slapped a coin down on the bar. “Wish me luck.”

Yeah, right. I shook my head as he disappeared into the crowd, then turned back to my work. Tempted as I was to watch the tigress wipe the floor with him, I had a bar to tend, and it was nearly as packed as the dance floor.

I reached for the coin the kid had left for me on the counter, intending to pocket it. But as soon as I touched it, searing pain shot straight through my fingers.

“Oww!” I dropped the coin like it was a hot coal, and shook my smoking hand. Fucking Maintowner. Didn’t he know shifters were allergic to silver? The little bastard had probably left it there on purpose. I had half a mind to drag him back out of the crowd so I could beat on him myself.

“I’ll trade that for you.” Cray, the other bartender, offered. He pocketed the coin, then handed me a pandanum coin of the same value. He was a black-skinned human, and didn’t have any issue handling the silver.

“Thanks.” I smiled at him and tucked the coin into one of my pouches. Most of the humans around here were pretty decent.

“Hey. Can I get a glass of teca with a twist of lime?” a woman with ice-blue shifter eyes asked. My nose told me she was a wolf.

“Coming right up.” I ducked beneath the bar to grab the bottle of liquor. I could use a little teca myself – it was one of the few substances that could actually get shifters drunk. On another night, I could have been that wolf shifter, standing at the bar asking for a drink after a long day chasing bounties. Instead I was here serving them up.

As I reached for the liquor bottle, the inside of my forearm brushed against the crescent knives strapped to my leather-clad thigh. A familiar longing seared the inside of my chest, and I sighed.

All it would take is one blowjob, and you’d be out of here and back to your real job.

I fought the urge to shove my hands into my mass of curly hair and yank on it until I’d come to my senses again. There was no way I was wrapping my lips around that dick’s… well, dick. I’d much rather stay here at The Twilight, even if that did mean dealing with snotty little shits like that Maintowner.

Still, being stuck behind the counter like this sucked. Yeah, I could mix a decent drink, but I wasn’t meant to be a bartender. As a black panther shifter I was a natural hunter, much better suited to chasing down criminals and turning them in like every other licensed Enforcer in the city. That’s what we do – we clean the riffraff off the streets so the mages don’t have to get off their entitled asses and do it themselves. And since we get paid per head, most of us are pretty motivated about the whole affair.

Unfortunately for me, Garius Talcon, the Deputy Captain of the Enforcer’s Guild, was in charge of distributing all the mission dockets. And ever since he found out that I was only half-shifter, he’d been treating me like a lesser being. Recently he’d decided that if I wanted to continue getting jobs I needed to get down on my knees and suck him off.

I’d told him that if I ever got down on my knees in front of him he’d better run like hell because it meant I was going to rip his balls off and feed them to him. And ever since then we’d been at an impasse.