Authors: Dannika Dark
A Mageri World Novel
All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2016 Dannika Dark
No part of this book may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database retrieval system without the prior written permission of the author. You must not circulate this book in any format. Thank you for respecting the rights of the author. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Edited by Victory Editing and Red Adept. Cover design by Dannika Dark. All stock purchased.
imon Hunt is
a masterful Mage when it comes to knives, solving puzzles, and women. But when a Mageri Councilman asks for a personal favor, his skills are put to the test. He reluctantly accepts the impossible job of training a young Learner who is beyond anyone’s help. She’s beautiful, cunning, and disabled. If he succeeds, he’ll receive a hefty paycheck. But if he fails, more is at stake than merely his reputation.
A compelling tale about two lost souls with dark secrets and the unique connection they share. Simon is her last hope… and perhaps she is his.
What happens when a game of chance becomes a fight for survival?
While this book is a stand-alone novel, it is also an extension of the
and takes place after the events of Shine (the final book). In short: if you haven’t read the
, this novel contains
. If you are interested in reading the
books first, there are only five in the completed series. Enjoy!
RISK is dedicated to all my loyal
fans who fell in love with Simon from the start. He deserved his own story, and I hope this gives you a better understanding of the man, the myth, and the bane of my existence.
ou are not setting
one foot inside this house dressed like a manwhore, Simon Hunt.”
Sunny blocked the ornate doorway to Novis’s mansion, her arms folded and a sour look on her sweet face that Simon abhorred on a woman.
“You’re the one who sent me the invitation to the birthday party in the first place, or has it slipped your mind?” His eyes slid down to her glorious breasts.
“Silver! I can’t deal with this,” she yelled over her shoulder.
A shrill scream pealed out of a three-year-old dashing toward him—her blond curls bouncing as she stomped her little black shoes on the marble floor.
She giggled at his shirt. “Uncle Simon!”
“You see there? Zoë has no problem with my attire,” Simon pointed out, the melodic cadence of his British accent amusing the tiny human. While he’d lived in many places and could imitate any accent with ease, he’d never quite been able to shake his English roots.
Sunny tilted her head to the side, her blue eyes glittering with disgust. “A pirate shirt I would expect from you, but leather pants at my children’s birthday party?”
Simon adjusted the ruffles on his sleeves. “It’s a chilly day. And what’s wrong with my trousers?”
He casually shifted his stance and rested his left arm on the doorjamb.
This woman really needs a good shag
. Unlike Simon, an immortal Mage with an unflappable personality, Sunny was human, and humans always got wound up over the most inane things. What a shame for a spectacular body like hers to have such a sharp tongue, making it impossible for Simon to feel any attraction toward her. He admired the short waves of her silky blond hair and wondered if Novis was pinning the tail on the…
“Simon, please come in.” Novis greeted him with a tight-lipped smile. “It appears we’re bypassing lunch; the little ones have discovered their birthday cake.”
Knox flew by, flapping his arms and squawking like a deranged eagle.
“Clearly,” Simon said with an amused snort.
Novis closed the door, and Simon’s gaze skimmed the open room. Ancients acquired many artifacts in a lifetime, and visiting Novis’s house was like touring a museum. And he wasn’t the only Mage in Cognito with this grand an estate.
Sunny chased after Knox, her nerves clearly in a tizzy. She often got her knickers in a bunch over trivial matters, especially after the twins had come along. Novis had done an admirable deed in taking her under his wing despite the fact he had no ties to the mortal. A woman in her situation could receive no better offer than an invitation to live with one of the wealthiest immortals in the city—one who could not only protect her with his wealth but also with his position as a Councilman for the Mageri. He’d offered to hire a nanny to alleviate her stress, but Sunny had said she didn’t want a stranger raising her children. Simon assumed the ancient Mage was entertained by her presence, and while their relationship seemed purely platonic, a little brandy and a babysitter might remedy that.
They strolled through the spacious room toward the kitchen. Paintings encased in gilt frames lined the walls, and the décor was an odd mixture from different eras, each antiquity clashing with the next.
Novis lifted his gaze to an opulent chandelier as if deep in thought. “How is life treating you?”
Aside from the usual late night of finding a fit bird and getting pissed?
Simon kept that thought to himself as he patted Novis on the shoulder and replied, “If I’m not rotting in a cemetery, then I can hardly complain.”
Novis lowered his voice. “When you have a moment after the party, I would like to speak to you alone.”
Simon mentally rolled his eyes. Novis worked under the Mageri, the Mage form of government, which meant in all likelihood he wanted a favor on their behalf. Simon didn’t care for their elitist requests. He was a bit of a rogue—contracting his services to independent organizations such as HALO. They didn’t have ulterior motives, nor were they corrupt like all forms of government eventually become.
On the downside, Simon hadn’t received a job offer in nearly seven months.
The Mageri paid excessively well, so he gave Novis a reluctant shrug and ambled down a long hall with an arched ceiling. The ostentatious paintings glared down at him with ghostly eyes—images of men from different centuries. He wondered if any of them were immortal, but upon first glance, Simon didn’t recognize anyone. Most immortals knew better than to have their image captured, but ego sometimes overcame good sense. He grimaced, recalling the nude sculpture he’d posed for in exchange for a favor. What a bad idea that was.
Simon set two small packages on the kitchen island.
“Oh, brother,” Silver muttered, rolling her eyes when she got a look at him. Her gazed fixed on his leathers, and he adjusted himself, giving her a cheeky smile. Friend or not, he loved ruffling that woman’s feathers and almost wished he had worn his mesh shirt instead.
She waved a butter knife covered in white icing. “Simon, couldn’t you try to dress up for once? I know you have at least one nice outfit.”
“That would be like denying my existence. I hardly think these little tots mind, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, love,” he said with a provocative wink.
Simon kissed her cheek and then licked the icing off the knife. Silver tossed the silverware into the sink and slapped his wrist when he reached for the cake.
“I don’t believe that word is in my vocabulary unless it’s preceded with a
. Honestly, you make such a fuss about nothing. Why pretend I’m something I’m not? That’s such a
thing to suggest coming from a Mage.”
Silver’s Chitah mate swaggered into the room and lifted a bottle of imported beer from the stainless-steel fridge. Sunlight poured through the window behind him, illuminating his shaggy locks of blond hair, which brushed the tops of his shoulders. After cracking open the cap with a pop and hiss, he took a swig and leaned against the cabinet, his predatory eyes on Simon.
Chitahs were tall blokes with golden eyes. They could scent emotions, and it made Simon want to wear deodorant even less. Chitahs didn’t transform into animals; they simply had animalistic instincts mixed with a few peculiar traits, such as growing fangs and running at lightning speed. They were also a Mage’s natural enemy, so maybe that’s why he didn’t cozy up to them.
When Logan’s nose twitched, Simon threw out a horny vibe to confuse him.
Logan set his beer down and came up behind Silver, possessively wrapping his hands around her waist. Simon didn’t understand jealousy, but it amused him to be the cause of it—like his own little psychology experiment.
Silver admonished her mate with gentle words. “Hey, I’m icing the cake.”
Logan drew in a deep breath. A purr—barely audible—vibrated in his chest. “Lemon cake?”
“Bang! Bang! I got you!” a stout little voice cried.
Simon pivoted around and caught the little blond girl rushing toward him. She clutched his leg, attempting to use him as a shield.
“Tell Knox to leave me alone, Uncle Simon,” she whined, looking back at Knox.
Simon lifted her up and sat her down on the island, tugging at one of her curls. “And how is the gorgeous little Zoë today? Is she on her best behavior?”
She giggled shyly as she always did when he thickened his British accent. Zoë was the spitting image of her mum with those sparkling blue eyes and rosy cheeks.
“Look what I have for you,” he said, offering her a package wrapped in shiny pink paper.
She excitedly tore it open, littering the floor. “
” she said on a long whisper. Her eyes widened gleefully, and she looked over her shoulder. “Mommy, I got treasures!”
Sunny smiled and looked on. “Yes, you did, baby.”
Simon reached in the handbag of baubles and pulled out a sparkly clip, affixing it to her blond curls. He then dressed her in a matching necklace and bracelet. She could barely sit still, kicking her legs and wanting down. He set her on the floor, and off she went.
Little Knox stood on Simon’s left, a dramatic pout on his face. His ink-black hair was disheveled, and the kid had a tough scowl, even for a three-year-old. He was a tiny shadow of his father.
Simon shifted his gaze downward. “What’s with the glum face?”
His reply was a cold stare.
Simon lifted him up and put him on the countertop. “Bloody hell. When did you get so enormous?”
!” Silver slapped him on the back.
He looked at her unapologetically. “I’m only trying to determine if she’s raising a child or a titan.”
Simon handed the little man a blue package and watched his ears turn bright red. A smile wound up his face as he ripped the paper off with more vigor than his twin had with hers. Sunny drifted closer, straightening the ends of her lavender dress and looking on with curiosity.
“What’s dis?” Knox played with the stretchy fabric between his chubby fingers.
Simon held up the knit cap and turned it around, displaying the comic hero on the black material. “This is your very own
hat. When you put it on your head, you’ll have superhuman strength to fight the bad guys. I think it also makes you invisible, but I haven’t quite figured out that part since I can’t get it on my big head.”
“What’s invisra… invizzy?”
“Invisible means no one can see you.”
Simon slipped the hat on Knox’s head, and some of his black hair peeked out from the edge. He paused a moment, seeing a familiar face looking back at him. With a quick motion, he set Knox on the floor.
Simon scanned the room. “Where did he go? Did you see that? He just vanished!”
Knox waved his toy gun and scoped out the room. “Cool! I can get bad guys, Mommy.”
Sunny smiled wistfully with a faraway look in her eyes. “You sure can.” She held a ring between her fingers that hung from a silver chain around her neck. It was set with a heart-shaped diamond and two purple stones.
He glimpsed the tattoo on her wrist with the name
written in cursive.
Sunny’s original plan had been to name her son Knox—her lover’s surname—but she said it sounded too brutish combined with her last name of Malone. Instead, he took his father’s first name and became John Knox Malone. In time, everyone just called him Knox. Perhaps Simon had something to do with that.
Novis took Knox by the hand and left the room. He was good with the children, and their presence had changed him—something not easily achieved with an ancient. Novis was an easygoing chap, but he’d never been one to associate or commiserate with humans. His detachment with mortals was a common trait among those his age.
Simon stretched out his arms. “Where’s Justus?”
Silver gathered up the pieces of torn paper strewn about the floor while Logan stared at her ass. “Rose has a tummyache. I think Justus fed her sweets again. I swear… he spoils that little girl.”
“She’s going to grow up to be a handful, that one.” Simon leaned on the island and chuckled, imagining what Justus would do when Rose became old enough to date.
Justus De Gradi was his closest friend and also a Mage. They weren’t sorcerers as many human fantasy books portrayed them to be, but wielders of light—capable of harnessing and manipulating energy to move fast, heal, and a myriad of other things. Simon had known Justus for centuries. A few years back, Justus hooked up with a Relic and, through a freakish set of circumstances, impregnated her. Leave it to Justus to defy the laws of nature. In any case, it had changed him for the better and pulled that cork out of his arse.
Well, just a little.
“And everyone else?” Simon asked. “Shall I assume they
have tummyaches and dodged a fun-filled party with screaming children?”
“Adam had an emergency with a client, but Levi and Sadie are on their way.” Silver tucked her black hair behind her ear and lowered her voice. “I feel bad for Sunny. I showed up early to help out, but she’s exhausting herself with making sure everything’s perfect and the kids are happy. I think she tries harder because they don’t have a father. When they woke up this morning, Novis let them have candy since it’s their birthday, so now they’re wired up on sugar. Sunny told them they couldn’t have any cake until after lunch, and they threw a fit. And by fit, I mean they went back to their room and wailed. Kane calmed them down, but it broke Sunny’s heart to hear them crying on their birthday. The sandwich trays are in the fridge if anyone gets hungry later, but we’re having cake for lunch.”
Logan strolled toward the center of the kitchen and looked down at little Zoë. His six-and-a-half-foot stature must have made him seem like a giant to a small child. Logan made an effort not to look directly into her eyes since Chitahs had a creeptastic stare that would frighten the britches off most men.
She reached up. “Swing me?”
Logan bent down and lifted her high in the air. Zoë squealed with delight when she floated over his head, held steady in his capable hands.
Simon turned his attention back to Silver. “How’s the job as Novis’s apprentice? Any special cases he’s working on these days?”
When she brushed her hair away from her face, icing clung to a few strands. “Nothing out of the ordinary. Why do you ask?”
“No reason,” he said with a shrug.
Her fiery green eyes narrowed, making her black lashes look like Venus flytraps. “Simon Hunt doesn’t ask questions without a reason. And you never ask about my damn job.”
Sunny whirled in like a hurricane and gathered up the desserts. Simon scuttled out of the room behind her, hoping to avoid Silver’s interrogation. He eyed the dining table, and a wave of terror crawled up his spine at the culinary nightmares that awaited him. The last time Simon was invited over, Knox had stuffed peas so far up his nose that a Relic had to extract them.
He patted Kane on the shoulder. “Where’s the better half?”
Kane sat back in his chair, his hazel eyes darting up to meet Simon’s gaze. “She hung out for a while but had to take off. Work calls. The kids already opened our presents.”