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Visions Of Magic

Visions Of Magic, February 2011
An Awakening Novel #1
by Regan Hastings

Signet Eclipse
Featuring: Shea Jameson; Torin
368 pages
ISBN: 0451232461
EAN: 9780451232465
Kindle: B00475AYIW
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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"The Salem Witch Trials are Brought Into This Century with Thrilling Results"

Fresh Fiction Review

Visions Of Magic
Regan Hastings

Reviewed by Diana Troldahl
Posted January 30, 2011

Paranormal Romance

It has been 10 years since the world discovered magic is real. Overwhelming fear of the witches among us has brought into being government enforcement of new anti-magic laws in the form of Magic Police (MPs) and the Federal Bureau of Witchcraft (BOW). Their sole purpose is locking witches away from the general population while awaiting trial. If the witch has harmed any one or is unwilling to capitulate and help the government capture others of her kind, her life is forfeit.
Shea Jameson's aunt was one of the first to die when her powers awoke to protect her against the fists of her abusive husband. She was first of many witches to be burned at the stake. Shea's face was too well-known from the news coverage of the trial for her to lead a normal life. It took years of living below the radar before she felt safe enough to take back her career as an elementary school teacher. She has managed to blend in and avoid the government scrutiny that followed until the day her own unsuspected powers burst forth and put her back on the run. The Eternals have been waiting centuries for this incarnation of the ancient circle of witches to be reborn, it is at last time for them to make atonement for the evil they wrought centuries ago with their thirst for power. Shea is thought to be the first of them to awaken. Torin has been watching over Shea most of her life, waiting for her to come into her true power. He is her Eternal lover, his duty is to guide and protect her until her ancient memories surface and reveal what her part in saving the world is to be. But there was one who awakened before Shea, and her goals are not to atone, but to rule, the fate of her Eternal mate unknown.
Thrilling action, passionate love scenes, and an interesting twist on the paranormal genre make this an intriguing read. The madness characterizing the Salem Witch trials is expanded onto a larger stage and creates a strong framework for this new series.

Regan Hastings is the pseudonym of a successful romance author with published books numbering in the double digits. Her name is to be revealed with the book launch on February 1, 2011. VISIONS OF MAGIC is the first book in the Awakening series.

Learn more about Visions Of Magic

SUMMARY

Every witch has a destined mate, an Eternal who will serve as her guardian and complete her powers. Once the first of the coven has awakened, the witches must race against time to join with their Eternals and protect the relics that will prevent the destruction of the world...

In the ten years since magic has reemerged, witches have become feared and pursued. For weeks Shea Jameson has been haunted by visions of fire. When she unintentinally performs a spell in public, she becomes one of the hunted. Her only hope is Torin, a dangerously sensual man who claims to be her Eternal mate.

Torin says that the time of Shea's Awakening has come and that they must find an artifact hidden centuries ago - or else face the end of the world. As her power manifests, and danger and death draw near, Shea must decide whether to trust Torin and the passion and power he brings her - or risk the destructino of everything she's ever known.

Excerpt

Prologue After centuries of waiting, Torin’s patience was long dead. The woman he craved was, at last, almost his. For hundreds of years, he’d wandered the far reaches of the globe, a shadow in his woman’s life, always alert for signs of the magicks stirring. Now, that the moment had come, to have the Awakening strike on a tidy suburban street in Long Beach, California seemed almost a joke. One he didn’t find amusing.

Across the street from him, a bell rang and hundreds of school children spilled from a pale green stucco building like ants from a hill. Their bright laughter was sharp to a man already on a razor’s edge. His gray eyes narrowed behind his dark glasses as he watched the kids scatter in the sunlight. The last barrier between him and his woman had fallen. His skin felt electrified with the rising of power in the air. His blood hummed and if he’d had a heartbeat, it would have been thundering in his chest.

A woman hurried past him to gather up her child and gave him a quick, appraising glance. Her steps quickened, her gaze shifted from him and she rushed her child away as if they were being chased by demons.

He knew what people saw when they looked at him.

Taller than most men, he had long dark hair that fell loose to his shoulders. He wore a black T shirt that clung to the hard muscles of his chest and abs. His black jeans and scuffed, shit-kicker boots finished off the dangerous image. His face was lean and hard, sculpted with sharp planes and angles and his pale gray eyes gave away none of his thoughts.

He looked exactly what he was.

A warrior.

A killer.

A Sentinel whose second chance had finally arrived—and this time, he wouldn’t be denied.

Chapter One “They took my mom away last night.”

Shea Jameson wanted to lock her classroom door and walk away. It was the only sane thing to do. But the tremor in her student’s voice pulled at her. The day was over at Lincoln middle school and the hallways should have been emptied. Shea knew because she always waited until everyone else had left the building before she headed home. She made it a point to avoid crowds whenever she could. As a teacher, she was faced with classes filled with kids everyday, but they didn’t bother her. It was the parents of those children that worried her.

She looked down at Amanda Hall and sympathy rose up inside her. Shea had heard the rumors, the whispers all day. She’d watched as the teachers reluctantly protected Amanda from those who only yesterday had been her friends. And she knew that the girl’s situation was only going to get worse.

“Ms. Jameson, I don’t know what to do.”

Her heart broke for the small blond girl leaning against a row of closed lockers in the empty school hallway. The child’s face was streaked with tears, her blue eyes swimming with them. Her arms were crossed over her middle, as if trying to console herself and when she looked up at Shea, stark misery and panic were stamped on her small features.

She wouldn’t be able to turn her back on the girl, despite the risks, Shea thought with an inner sigh. How could she and still live with herself?

“I’m so sorry, Amanda.” She glanced over her shoulder to be sure there was no one near. Not a soul was around though and the silence, but for Amanda’s soft sniffling, was deafening. The beige walls were decorated with posters announcing the coming Fall Festival and Shea’s gaze slid away from the drawings of cackling, wart encrusted witches burning at stakes.

The small hairs at the back of her neck were standing straight up and she would have sworn that there was someone close by, watching her. A shiver of something icy slid along Shea’s spine, but the halls were still empty. For now.

She shouldn’t have stopped, a voice in her mind whispered. Shouldn’t have spoken to the girl. No one knew better than Shea that there were spies everywhere. That no one was safe anymore. If someone should see her talking to this child, her own personal nightmarish circus would begin again and there was no guarantee that this time, Shea would survive it.

But how could she walk away from a child in desperate need? Especially when she knew exactly what Amanda was going through? Shifting her books and papers in her arms, Shea dropped her free hand on the girl’s shoulder and tried to think of something comforting to say. But lies wouldn’t do her any good and the truth was far too terrifying.

If Amanda’s mother had really been taken, she wouldn’t be coming back. In fact, it was probably only a matter of time before the authorities came to snatch up Amanda as well. And that realization pushed her to speak.

“Amanda,” Shea asked quietly, “do you have anyone you can stay with?”

The girl nodded. “My grandma. The police took me there last night. Grandma didn’t want me to come to school today, but I did anyway and everyone’s being so mean...” She shook her head and frowned in spite of her tears and a flash of anger dazzled her damp eyes. “My mom’s not evil, I don’t care what they say. She didn’t do anything wrong. I would know.”

Shea wasn’t so sure of that. These days, secrets were all that kept some women alive. But even if Amanda was right and her mother was innocent, there was little chance she’d be released. Still, what was important now was Amanda’s safety. The girl had already learned one harsh lesson today— don’t trust anyone. Her friends had turned on her and soon, everyone else would, too. Once word got out about her mother being taken, the girl would be in danger from so many different directions, she’d never find shelter.

“Amanda,” Shea whispered fiercely, “don’t come back to school tomorrow. Go to your grandmother’s and stay there.”

“But I have to help my mom,” the girl argued. “I thought you could go with me to the principal and we could tell her that my mom’s not what they think. Mom’s the President of the PTA!”

Shea winced as the girl’s voice rose. She couldn’t afford for anyone to see them. Couldn’t risk being seen helping the child of a detainee. Leaning down, she caught Amanda’s eyes and said, “Your mom would want you to be safe, wouldn’t she?”

“Yeah...”

“Then that’s the best thing you can do for her.”

“I don’t know...”

“Amanda listen to me,” Shea said, her words coming faster now as the creeping sensation of being watched flooded back into her system. “There’s nothing we can do to help your mom. The best thing for everyone is for you to leave here and go straight to your grandmother’s. Okay? No stops. No talking to anyone.”

“But—“

A door opened down the hall and Shea glanced toward the sound. Her stomach pitched with nerves as she spotted the school principal coming out of her office. Lindsay Talbot’s eyes narrowed as she looked at Amanda and Shea huddled together speaking in whispers. Instantly, Ms. Talbot darted back into her office and Shea could only wince.

“Just go, Amanda,” she said, giving the girl’s shoulder a quick squeeze. “Go now.”

The girl picked up on the urgency in Shea’s voice, nodded briefly, then turned and ran down the hall toward the back door. Once she was gone, Shea took a breath, steeled herself and walked in the opposite direction. Her heels clicked on the tile floor as she neared the glass wall of the school’s office. The front door was only a few feet away and the sunlit afternoon shone like a beacon of safety. She was leaving, no matter what, she thought, but she had to know what Ms. Talbot was doing.

Shea glanced through the office windows in time to see the principal hang up the phone. Then the woman turned around, met Shea’s gaze and gave her a cat-about-to-eat-a-canary smile.

Just like that, it was over.

All of it.

Shea had been happy here. For awhile. She liked teaching. Liked the kids and she’d been convinced that over the last year and a half she’d found safety. That her behavior, her gift for teaching was enough to prove to everyone that she was nothing more than she claimed to be. A sixth grade science teacher.

But as she met Lindsay Talbot’s hard stare, Shea felt the old, familiar stir of panic. Fear rushed through her system, churning her stomach, making her hands damp and drying out her mouth. She had to run.

Again.

She let her papers fall to the floor in a soft rustle of sound, then she tightened her grip on her shoulder bag and raced for the front door. As her hand dropped to the cold, steel bar and pushed, she heard Lindsay Talbot call out from behind her, “You won’t get away. They’re coming.”

“I know,” Shea murmured, but ran anyway. What else could she do? If she stayed, she’d end up with Amanda’s mother. Just one more woman locked away with no hope of ever getting out.

Outside, she squinted at the beam of sunlight that slanted into her eyes, and took the steps down to the sidewalk at a dead run. She dug into her purse as she turned toward the parking lot and blindly fumbled for her keys. Her only hope was to be gone before the MP’s arrived. It would take them time to find her and in that time, she’d disappear. She’d done it before, she could do it again. Dye her hair, change her name, find a new identity and lose herself in some other city.

She wouldn’t go back to her apartment. They’d be expecting her to, but Shea wasn’t that stupid. Besides, she didn’t need anything from her home. She traveled light these days. A woman constantly on the move couldn’t afford to be dragging mementoes from one place to the next. Instead, she kept a packed suitcase in her car trunk and a stash of emergency cash tucked into her bra at all times, on the off chance she’d have to leave in a hurry.

A cold wind rushed at her, pulling her long, dark red hair free of the knot she kept it in. Slate gray clouds rolled in off the ocean and seagulls wheeled and dipped overhead. She hardly noticed. Parents were still milling around out front, picking up their kids, but Shea ran past them all, ignoring those who spoke to her.

Her car was at the far end of the parking lot, closest to the back exit. She was always prepared to run and wanted to be able to slip away while her pursuers were coming in the front. She was sprinting now, her heart hammering in her chest, breath strangling in her lungs. She held her keys so tightly the jagged edges dug into her palm.

The soles of her shoes slid unsteadily on the gravel laced asphalt, but she kept moving. One thought pulsed through her mind. Run. Run and don’t look back.

Her gaze fixed on her nondescript beige two door compact, she never saw the man who leaped out at her from behind another car. He pushed her down and her knees hit the asphalt with a grinding slide that tore open her skin and sent pain shooting along her nerve endings.

Hands reached for her as a deep voice muttered, “Gimme the purse and you can go.”

Absently, she heard voices rising in the distance as parents saw the man attacking her. Oh God, not now, she thought as she turned over and stared up into the wild eyes of a junkie who desperately needed money. She couldn’t deal with this now. Couldn’t have all this attention drawn to her.

He pulled a knife as if he sensed she was hesitating. “Give me the money now.”

Shea shook her head and when he reached for her again, she instinctively lifted both hands as if to push him off and away. She never made contact with him though. She didn’t need to. A surge of energy pulsed through her and shot from her fingertips and as a whoosh of sound erupted, the man in front of her erupted into flames.

Shea stared up at him, horrified by what was happening. By what she’d done. His screams tore through the air as he tried to run from the fire. But he only fed the flames consuming him and as his shrieks rose higher and higher, Shea staggered to her feet, glanced down at her hands and shuddered.

That’s when she heard it.

The chanting.

Over the sounds of the dying man’s cries, voices roared together, getting louder and louder as she was surrounded. One word thundered out around her, hammering at her mind and soul, reducing her to a terror she hadn’t known in ten years.

She looked up into the faces of her students’ parents as they circled her. People she knew. People she liked. Now though, she hardly recognized them. Their features were twisted into masks of hatred and panic and their voices joined together to shout their accusation.

“Witch! Witch! Witch!”

Shea fought for air as the mob tightened around her. There was no way out now. She was going to die. And if the crowd didn’t kill her, then the MP’s would take her away when they arrived and she would be as good as dead anyway. It was over. The years of terror and dread, the hiding, the praying, the constant worry about survival.

“Stop!” she shouted, her voice raw with horror at what she’d done. At what they were about to do to her. “I didn’t do anything!”

A useless argument since they’d all seen what had happened. But how? How had she done it? She wasn’t a witch. She was just... her. “If I had power, wouldn’t I be using it now?”

Some of the people around her seemed to consider that and their expressions reflected worry. Not what Shea had been after. If they were worried about their own safety, they’d be just that much more eager to kill her.

Her head whipped from side to side, desperately looking for a way out of this. But she couldn’t find one. In the distance, she heard the wail of sirens and she knew that within minutes, the MP’s would arrive. And the Magic Police weren’t going to let her get away. They might save her from the mob—on the other hand, they might stand back and let these everyday, ordinarily average people solve their problem for them.

Frantic now, she stumbled back as the crowd pushed in until she realized they were herding her closer to the burning man stretched out on the asphalt. Heat from the flames reached for her. The stench of burning flesh stained the air. Shea looked from the dead man to the crowd and back again and knew that whatever happened next, she deserved it.

The fire suddenly erupted, growing until hungry licks of orange and red flames leaped and jumped more than six feet high. Someone in the crowd screamed. Shea jolted. Black cars with flashing yellow lights raced into the driveway and then screeched to a stop. Men in black uniforms piled out and pointed guns, but they were the least of her problems now.

Flames reached for Shea. Engulfed her. The roar of the quickening flames deafened her to her surroundings. She screamed and looked up into a pair of pale gray eyes reflecting the shifting colors of the fire. She felt hard, strong arms wrap around her, as a deep voice whispered, “Close your eyes.”

“Good idea,” she answered, then fainted for the first time in her life.


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