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Real Magic

The Guardian: Railing against the gods won't do her any good, but it might make Jelena feel better. Why would they give her protection to a murderer--an assassin? She is to use all her magic as a Guardian to protect Drake Durand's life, worthless though she believes it to be. Never before has she done less than her duty--she won't start now. The Magician: Drake Durand, known in some circles as The Magician, is bent on revenge. He has found all those who participated in his best friend's torture--except one. Nothing will stop him from obtaining his goal, not even a sexy little witch who claims to practice real magic. Everyone knows that Guardians are mere legends. Or are they? Real Magic: Their uneasy alliance leads them to a world of magic, both practiced and perceived. But which is the real magic--the power to work spells or love?

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Lissa Michaels

    To Lissa Michaels, writing was one of those dreams meant for "other" people, one she never thought would come true, until the birth of her second child and her husband's odd schedule necessitated that she stay at home with the children. Never one to let time to go waste, Lissa was suddenly faced with the question of "What to do?" Why not write? Lissa has many likes and hobbies, but her passion is romances with a liberal dose of "something different." That passion let to avid reading of Futuristic and Fantasy romances, and then writing them. It seems only natural that CAPTIVE HEARTS has been published in a futuristic way--electronically. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her police officer husband, two beautiful daughters, and an assortment of pets.


"Lissa Michaels performs her own magic in her latest futuristic romance, Real Magic. Those who have read her previous book, Captive Hearts, will recognize many of the characters in this spellbinding sequel. For those who haven't had the pleasure, don't worry, I hadn't read Captive Hearts beforehand either. However, the minute I read the last word, I immediately rushed to the Hard Shell website to order it. A thrilling, fast-paced romantic adventure, Real Magic will leave readers sighing in satisfaction and clamoring for more. I look forward to the future works of this highly imaginative and talented author."

Sondrea Cash -- Romance Communications

5 Stars!

"Real Magic is a delight from start to finish, an exciting story that works on level after level. The writing is beautiful, the world-building consistent and richly detailed, and the characters wrenchingly real and almost painfully sympathetic. Deft pacing keeps the story moving at exactly the right clip. The feelings between Drake and Jelena grow gradually and believably out of the process of learning about each other, as they find the true humanity hidden beneath layers of necessary disguise and hard-won control. Secrets are doled out in measured doses, then more plot is built on those to create a complex and highly satisfying story. Lissa, I hope you're working on the next book in this series. I'm waiting for it."

Scribes World Review

"If you like incredible magic, love, dedication to duty, and some real humor, then Real Magic is the book for you. A world, make that cosmos, creator without peer, Ms. Michaels has done it again. Real Magic is the real deal. With well realized characters, an extremely fresh and different plot, and action galore, Real Magic can add magical enjoyment to your reading list. It's a keeper. Very Highly Recommended!"

Patricia White -- Millennium SF/F Magazine

Chapter One

ZORAN, THE worst cesspool of all the rim planets edging the Sullust Federation, it would have to be here that Jelena found her new nevash, her ward. He sat at a table, with his back to the wall. She squinted, trying to better see him in the dimly lit tavern. The smoky air burned her eyes, making it difficult to focus on his face, but she clearly saw the darkness surrounding him like a cloud.

Everything about him was black -- his long hair, cut short on the top and sides, the long flowing cape tossed over his shoulders, his shirt, the leather pants hugging his long legs. Even his calf-length boots were black.

She should move closer, where she could better observe him, but she couldn't bear to be near him. She didn't want to be here at all, but the gods willed that she protect this dark creature. She would do as they wished, no matter what she thought of him.

Blessed be! How could this -- this killer be worthy of a Nar'gadesh? The Nar'gadeshwere supposed to protect the good from the evil, not the evil from the good!

"What did I do to deserve this?" She sighed, and leaned back against her chair. "I just wish I knew why. Why him?"

Even seated, and halfway across the room from her, her nevash looked like a hulking giant -- a dangerous hulking giant. He was one of the golden ones, a Bellarissian; a race of humans known throughout the quadrant for their impressive height, muscular frames, and rich golden skin.

This Bellarissian was known for his ruthlessness.

Jelena clenched her fists. Why him? Why the Magician? He bore the name not because he had the gift of magic, like her people, but because he made people disappear.

The man was an assassin! Of course, now that the federation was restored, he worked under the pretense of being a bounty hunter. Call it what you will, the man hunted others for pay.

The back of her neck prickled, alerting her to danger. There was an unknown magic present, but that wasn't the only danger. Several pairs of eyes stared with undisguised interest in her direction.

A hairy wolvern, named after the dog-like creature it evolved from, rose from his stool at the bar and approached her, his red-pupiled gaze locked on hers.

Time to renew her camouflage spell. Glaring at the wolvern, Jelena drew an invisible circle in front of her and whispered the ancient words.

The wolvern paused mid-stride, his hackles rising. His snout lifted, sniffing the air. He'd lost sight of his prey. A low growl sounded from deep in his throat. He sniffed one last time then returned to the bar.

The others who'd watched her either looked around in confusion or shrugged and turned back to their drinks.

Jelena snickered, returning her gaze to her nevash and found him staring at her. Her smile froze as he glanced from her to the wolvern and back.

He saw through her spell? That's impossible.

A woman dressed in tight red leather, her straight white hair brushing her well-rounded buttocks, stepped in front of him, blocking Jelena's view.

"I don't like this." She snapped her fingers, exchanging tables with a human couple closer to her nevash, but she still could not see clearly. Releasing an annoyed sigh, she waved her hand. The smoke dissipated just in time for her to see the woman bend and press her lips to his.

Jelena's first instinct was to blast her away from him. "Viper!" Her furious whisper was lost in the din of the crowded tavern. "Can't she see he's not interested?"

His eyes remained open, his lips still, his body so unresponsive he could have been chiseled from stone. His rejection of the kiss made her question what she knew of him.

Among other things, she'd heard he was never at a loss for lovers. She'd taken that to mean he took whatever came his way. Apparently, her assumption was wrong. It seemed he had good instincts. Something about the woman made her uneasy.

The viper's expression was composed as she straightened. A tinge of color darkened her cheeks as she spoke to him.

The Magician's face was an expressionless mask, unchanged by her kiss. His lips formed a single word. Even from where Jelena sat, its meaning was clear. No.

Anger flashed across the woman's reddening face, turning her ugly. Jelena tensed, ready to intercede should she try to raise a hand against him. Viper glared at him for a long moment then strode away. Jelena watched her leather-clad back until she disappeared out the door then eased back into her seat feeling oddly triumphant as she turned to her nevash.

Her gaze slammed into his.

Her muscles locked, her heart diving into her feet. How could he see her? The fact that he did, despite her camouflage spell, unnerved her more than she cared to admit. She tore her gaze away.

Basha! She'd wanted to complete this job without having actual contact with him. That was going to be impossible if he saw her despite her spell. When she dared chance a look at him, she found his chair empty. "Where is he?"

She leapt to her feet, her gaze quickly scanning the tavern's occupants. She didn't see him anywhere. The door leading outside came to a rest against its frame.

Jelena dropped her head into her hands. "I'm being punished, not tested. That's the only explanation."

Zoran's moon was full and high in the night sky as she strode outside, casting everything in a wicked red glow that made even the most innocent of night shadows threatening. The perfect place for a paid killer's vicious business.

"Not while he's my nevash, he won't!" Jelena whispered, searching for some sign of the black-hearted monster. For the moment, the street was fairly deserted. Noisy, but deserted.

A furry white trill, hardly tall enough to reach her waist, scurried by, it's distressed chattering the only clear sound in the midst of the loud music, squeals, screams, and bawdy laughter from the taverns, brothels and whatnot else surrounding her.

But no tall, dark Bellarissian anywhere in sight.

"Oh, no, my friend. It won't be that easy." With a wave of her hand, his invisible footprints glowed ever so slightly, giving her a trail to follow in the moonlight.

Jelena rounded the corner and cautiously entered a dark alley, her gaze fixed on the soft glow. Very large footprints, she noted as her boot fell within one of his steps.

Halfway down the alley, the trail ended. No doors or windows to disappear through. No crates or barrels to hide behind. Where did he go?

A large hand clamped over her mouth as an arm wrapped around her waist and jerked her back against a rock-hard chest.

"You didn't try to scream." The soft rumble of his voice next to her ear sent a tremor through her body.

Jelena shook her head. Screaming was the last thing on her mind.

After another moment, he lowered his hand from her mouth. One palm, hot against her abdomen, kept her immobile as the other roamed her body.

"No!" She squirmed against his hold, struggling to break free. "Ma deme von ca mi. Take your hands from me, Magician or you will lose them."

"Be still!" he hissed in her ear.

Jelena went rigid in his grasp. He would not do this to her! Unclenching her fists, she spread her fingers wide, a spell poised on her tongue.

Then she realized that his touch was impersonal, almost businesslike. He wasn't intent on molesting her; he searched her for weapons! Even so, she couldn't stop the flood of heat rushing into her cheeks when his hand slid between her legs.

"I don't have a weapon," she ground out between clenched teeth. How much longer would she have to withstand this humiliation? Three seconds. If he didn't release her in three seconds, she would blast him herself.

He ignored her, continuing his thorough search two seconds more then released her.

Drawing herself up to her full height, Jelena spun around and glared at him. "If you ever touch me like that again, you will regret it." Even in the dim light, she saw the amusement in his gaze, saw that horrible black tattoo on his cheekbone, marking him a killer.

"You weren't planning to stab me in the back or blast me--"

"I don't need a weapon to kill you."

His white teeth flashed in the briefest of smiles as his gaze traveled the length of her body.

Her claim must sound ridiculous to him. The top of her head barely reached his chin. But, only a fool underestimated her because of her size or gender.

"So, you're not out to kill me. What do you want from me?" The suggestive way his eyebrow rose as he folded his arms over his chest sent Jelena's simmering anger to the boiling point.

"I don't want anything from you!"

"Then why are you following me?"

"I'm your Nar'gadesh, Magician. Your Guardian. I've been sent by the gods to protect you."

Drake Durand threw back his head and laughed. "Lady, you've been breathing too much charka smoke." He strode away chuckling. He knew the potent plant sometimes affected people in strange ways, but this was the first time he'd seen it cause delusions. Too bad. She was woman enough to spark his interest, and that hadn't happened in a very long time.

Not since Zanera.

The memory of that disaster was all too fresh in his mind because of that damn kiss. What the hell was Zanera doing here anyway? He'd made it clear two years ago that if she ever touched him again, he'd throttle her.

Well, she dared all right -- in a crowded bar. That showed a sense of self-preservation, but that's it. The bitch actually expected him to jump at her proposition, and thank her for it.

Not in this lifetime. Not even for Threaden.

"Magician, wait!"

Drake whirled, grabbing the little blonde by the arms so quickly she gasped, her eyes widening. "Unless you want to get us both killed, I suggest you don't do that again."

She gave a disgusted snort and jerked out of his grasp. "You're just worried that I'll alert your prey to your presence."

"What do you know about it?" He kept his tone low and neutral, despite the fact that she succeeded in riling him.

"More than I care to."

"Then we'll say goodbye right here. You're not interested in sex, and I have no other use for you. Go back to wherever you came from and leave me be."

She caught his arm. "Believe me, I'd like nothing more, but the gods have decreed that your worthless hide be spared. I'm duty-bound to protect you."

Every muscle in Drake's body went deadly still. In the nine years since he'd been banished from his home planet, only one man had dared to call him worthless. He still remembered the look on his old man's face after he'd knocked him on his ass.

Clenching his fists, Drake stepped back. "Woman, if you value that pretty neck of yours, you won't say another word."

She must have heard the warning in his low tone, because she made no comment as he turned and strode away. He figured she'd follow, and that was fine with him. Just as soon as he led her to someplace very public, he was out of here.

Jelena knew she'd said something seriously wrong. It didn't show in his expression, but the chill bumps on her skin validated the feeling that for a brief second her life had been in danger.

Why had her insult affected him so strongly? With a reputation as well-earned as his, surely he'd been called worse.

As she followed him, practically running to keep up with his long-legged stride, she kept her eyes open for any sign of someone intending to do him harm.

She also watched for any indication that he'd found his prey. She abhorred paid killers and swore no one would die by his hand while she was his Nar'gadesh.

Even from behind, he made a terrifying sight as he strode into the town square, his black cape billowing behind him. Life forms of all types scrambled out of his way, and there were many despite the late hour.

When he turned abruptly to face her, she received several pitying looks before they glanced at his dark face and hurried away. She cursed her shaking knees, a constant reminder of just how many times he'd managed to surprise her. Not scare, surprise.

"This is where we part company. Go home. I can protect my own worthless hide."

Before she let loose the cutting response hovering on her lips, he touched his wristband, blinding her momentarily with a white flash.

Astonished gasps sounded from those around her, but she ignored them, her gaze fixed on the empty ground in front of her.

The Magician had disappeared.