Some plans are made to be broken…

Being judge, jury, and executioner for the magical Vallen people is Kat Havelock’s hereditary duty, but she’s desperate to live a normal life. Sometimes even just a few minutes for herself would be amazing. Her plan is to enter Regency society, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Jack the Lad, the notorious smuggler, has a single-minded quest to destroy his wealthy, intolerant father, who drove Jack’s late mother to penury and despair. It has taken him ten years, but now the powerful Vallen is finally ready to put his plan into action.

When Jack tries to use his magic for revenge, Kat is obliged to stop him. He convinces her to give him another chance, entangling her into his vengeful scheme. Can Jack and Kat carryout their dreams? Or does destiny have a better plan to steer them together through the storm?

Kat could hear the hysterical tears all the way from the library. With a sigh, she stood up from the table where she’d been attempting to read through the cramped handwriting of one of her ancestors and prepared herself for the inevitable knock. It came faster than she expected.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Havelock,” said Michael, the footman, his voice shaking slightly. Kat couldn’t understand why he sounded so upset when they had been dealing with these magical problems almost non-stop for the past nine months. They’d started out with as many as twenty visitors per day, but more recently it had trickled down to no more than five, thank goodness. Ever since last summer, when her cousin Morgan had been elevated to high priest and took on the role of the Seventh—as the seventh child of the seventh child in the seventh generation, he was tasked to re-empower all the Vallen—people hadn’t been able to control this increase in their magical abilities.

Normally it would have been his job, as high priest, to help with magical mishaps, but since he was off empowering people throughout the country and enjoying being newly married, Kat was left to deal with problems in London and the surrounding area.

It was almost her job.

When Morgan had been made the Seventh, Kat, as the sixth child of the sixth child in the family, was tasked with being the Sixth, keeping the laws of their people. They were pretty simple laws—do no harm to others and don’t profit illegally through the use of magic. But now she also had to deal with this…

“What is it, Michael?” she asked the footman.

“A woman, Miss. Her hands are on fire,” he said, holding the door for her as she started down the hall.

Kat paused, and half turned back to him. “Did you say on fire?”

“Yes, Miss.”

Kat spun back toward the front of the house and walked more quickly. “Oh dear,” she breathed. As she approached the drawing room, she could smell the heat of fire.

The woman was dressed in scullery maid’s clothing, covered with soot and singed in a number of places.

“Help,” the woman cried as soon as Kat walked into the front parlor where all visitors, regardless of rank, were to be brought. “Oh please, help.”

The woman held up her hands from which brilliant yellow flames writhed and danced.

Kat approached the woman with a confidence that had grown remarkably over the past few months. Taking her elbow, Kat tried to encourage her to sit next to her.

The woman looked down at the beautiful rose brocade sofa as if it were going to attack her if she dared to sit on it. “No, oh no, I couldn’t.”

“You can, and I need you to do so. Now, please.” Kat kept her voice firm and yet gentle enough so as not to scare the young woman.

Reluctantly, she sat at the very edge. Her crying had quieted to a gentle whimper.

“Good. Now, close your eyes, if you would…” Kat let the word hang in the air.

“Peggy,” the woman supplied.

“Excellent, Peggy. Now close your eyes.” She waited a moment while the woman complied, her tears calming further.

“Now I want you to picture your hands as they normally are—not on fire,” Kat said, infusing her words with calming magic. She made sure to keep a hand on the woman’s arm to keep the connection between them, and strengthen the impact of her magic, but did her best to stay away from the fire licking Peggy’s hands.

The flames began to flicker and die.

“That’s good. Now, take a deep breath and keep seeing your hands in your mind’s eye. They look perfectly normal to you, don’t they?”

The woman nodded after taking a deep breath, her crying now completely stopped.

The flames went out altogether, leaving the woman’s hands filthy but otherwise perfectly normal.

“Well done, Peggy! You can open your eyes now.”

She did so with a gasp as she beheld her flame-free hands.

“Oh, thank you!” Peggy said, throwing her arms around Kat’s shoulders. “Thank you, thank you.”

Kat laughed and gave her a squeeze back.

“Oh, I beg your pardon, ma’am,” Peggy said, suddenly remembering her position.

Kat laughed. “It’s perfectly all right. But that’s all you need to do, Peggy. If you accidentally set something on fire, just calm yourself and imagine it without the flames.”

Peggy sniffed and nodded.

Kat took one the woman’s hands and looked at it. “I’m glad you weren’t hurt.”

“Oh, no, Miss, I never get burnt.”

“How excellent! What a special ability.” Kat gave her a smile.

The woman returned it and then stood to leave. “How can I thank you,” she said. “I… I ain’t… I don’t have—”

“Oh, no! There is no need for you to do anything. I’m just doing my job.” Kat gave her a bright smile that she wished she felt deep inside and waved Peggy out the door before things got awkward.

“Thank you. Thank you again, Miss,” Peggy said, giving her a curtsey before being shepherded out the door by Michael.

Kat dropped back down onto the sofa once she was alone again. She just couldn’t go on like this. She truly liked helping people, but it had gotten to be too much. Yes, the visits had become less frequent, but this wasn’t what Kat wanted to do with the rest of her life. She had to do something to free herself.

It was Morgan’s responsibility to see to these people, not hers. She wanted nothing more than to have a normal life, be brought out into society, and find a man she could love and marry. Morgan had fallen in love and married last summer; surely, it was only fair that Kat have the chance to do so as well?

It had been long enough since he and his wife, Adriana, had left on their combined honeymoon and trip for Morgan to reinvigorate the Vallen. If Kat wasn’t mistaken, he and Adriana were now back from their wanderings and settling into their new home, but there was no reason why they couldn’t settle into married life here instead.

That was it. She would write to her cousin and get him to come and deal with these people and their magical problems.

She strode back to the library where she pulled out a piece of paper, her pen, and ink. Twenty minutes later, she had what she believed was a well-worded letter—not accusing him of neglecting his duty, not pleading for him to come and help her—requesting him to come to London. She carefully folded and sealed it, and then checked the time.

Just barely eleven. Perfect. Now to put the rest of her plan in motion and visit her cousin Caroline quickly before another problem came through the door.

She took no more than a moment to grab her coat before heading out into the fine spring weather. Happily, her cousin lived very nearby, so there was no need to call for her carriage and await its arrival. She escaped from the house before anyone could stop her.

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Meredith Bond