Playing With Fire (Power of Four Book 2)

Power of Four

Book Two

 

 

Playing With Fire

 

 

SF Mazhar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also in the Power of Four series

 

Run To Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 SF Mazhar

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author.

 

ISBN-10: 1508479658

ISBN-13: 978-1508479659

 

 

Dedicated to my family and friends.

 

 

Playing With Fire - to act in a way that is very dangerous and to take foolish risks

- English Cambridge Dictionary

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

When I first sat down to write the beginning of Aaron’s adventure, I never imagined it would get the kind of response it did. For this reason, I would like to first and foremost thank everyone who read Run To Earth. To all those wonderful people who gave my book a chance, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Playing With Fire would probably still be in my head and not on paper, if it wasn’t for a few very special people in my life. Thank you to my mum and dad for their unconditional love. Thank you to my wonderful husband, Mazhar for encouraging me to keep on writing. A big thank you to my sisters; to Yasmeen for always being there for me, and to Samena for being the one I can always come to. To my M&Ms, mummy couldn’t be more proud of how supportive you all are. To my friends, thank you for being the best friends a girl could ask for and for sharing my excitement.

A massive thank you to Gerard Donnelly from Ginger Creative Agency, for designing the gorgeous cover. Thank you to Melissa Hyder for editing Playing With Fire, and for going beyond the call of duty to answer all my questions.

And a big thank you to all the readers that are prepared to go with Aaron on his journey.

 

 

 

1

A Ruined City

 

The purr of the motorbike cut through the air. Stationed outside the main doors of the impressive manor, the three vamages stilled, superior hearing strained to catch the growing sound. They moved as one, stepping down the stairs and onto the lush garden, to see the single bike coming towards them.

“Get Machado,” one of them instructed when he recognised the bike, and the dark-haired boy riding it.

One of three vamages turned and raced inside. The other two tensed as the bike came closer.

“Smell that?” one asked.

The other cursed. “Does he do it on purpose?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” the first replied. “Torturing us is his pastime after all.”

The doors behind them opened and Daniel Machado, the right-hand vamage of Hadrian, stepped out. His glittering blue eyes fixed on the biker approaching them. The heir to the Aedus bloodline, the only son of their leader, the boy others referred to as the Scorcher – but to Machado he was, and always would be, the insufferable Kyran Aedus.

Kyran came to a stop and cut off the engine. He lifted himself off his bike and began walking towards them.

Machado heard the starved growl behind him. “Easy,” he warned in a low voice. “Control your hunger.” He could smell the blood too, but he had learnt long ago to lock his thirst when it came to the Aedus heir.

Seeing the smirk on Kyran’s face, Machado knew the boy could see the strain on the vamages as they tried to hold back and not give in to their bloodlust. It was an old game for Kyran, but one he loved playing nonetheless.

Machado turned his head. “Leave,” he instructed. The two vamages practically ran indoors with relief.

“What’s the matter?” Kyran asked. “They squeamish? Can’t stand the sight of a little blood?”

Machado’s sharp gaze had already picked out the bloodstain on Kyran’s chest, but his enhanced sense of smell told him there were more injuries elsewhere. He grinned. “I see the charade is over,” he said. “What happened? How’d they catch you out?”

Anger glinted in Kyran’s eyes. “You should ask your
men
,” he hissed as he passed by, heading indoors.

Machado turned to follow after him. “My men wouldn’t talk,” he said. “The ones that know of your identity are trustworthy.”

Kyran stopped to glare at him. “Trustworthy? Vamages?”

Machado smiled at the familiar jibe. “We’re more loyal than you think, Kyran,” he said. He scanned the boy from head to foot. “We just need a
worthy
enough leader. One who would deserve our allegiance.”

Kyran took a step towards him, green eyes bright with anger. “You have no idea what I’m capable of, Machado.”

Machado chuckled. “You can scare the others, Kyran, but you can’t touch me and we both know it.” Machado drew himself taller. “It’s a shame you’re nothing like your father. You carry his legacy, hold his power, but you’re not half as talented as him. If you were, we’d obey your every word too.”

“Father is welcome to command you lot. I have no interest in it,” Kyran said. A slow smile spread across his lips before he reached into his pocket. “And as for how talented I am?” He pulled out a pendant and held it up for the vamage to see. “I guess
this
is enough of an answer.”

Machado stared with disbelief at the purple gem dangling from the chain. “You...you got it?” he asked. He stepped forward, his gaze fixed on the gem – the key that would unlock Hadrian’s powers. “How did you do it?” he asked, reaching towards it. The key was rumoured to always be around the neck of the fierce and powerful leader of the mages – Neriah Afton.

Kyran pulled his hand back and pocketed the gem. “I told you – you have no idea what I’m capable of.” He took a step closer, right up to the vamage’s face, holding Machado’s gaze. “And if you know what’s best for you and your
men
, you won’t make the mistake of testing me.”

Machado didn’t say anything. Kyran gave him a last look full of loathing and walked away, heading straight to his father’s room, slamming the door closed behind him.

***

The City of Salvador was in ruins. Buildings lining both sides of the street had been darkened by fire. The residents were left dazed and shaken by the events of the last few hours. The Controller, Scott Patterson, and his Hunters were standing in a huddled group, talking to Neriah.

Watching from a window was Aaron Adams. It had been four months since the fourteen year old had come to the City of Salvador in the mage realm. In that time, Aaron had seen and done things he could’ve never imagined. He’d fought demons, he’d learnt how to split the ground with his powers, he’d learnt how to use a gun, how to fight and defend himself, and he’d learnt it all from the boy who had turned out to be their greatest enemy – Kyran.

Kyran was the one who’d taken over Aaron’s training when Skyler Avira used it as an excuse to beat him bloody on a daily basis. It was Kyran who spent hour after hour teaching Aaron how to aim and fire his weapon, how to send ripples through the ground, how to control the element of Earth.

Before coming to this realm, Aaron had no idea what being a mage meant. He didn’t know mages had powers so they could fight against demons. Aaron wasn’t even aware that he was in fact an Elemental – one of the four families with complete power over an element.

In a strange world of mages, demons and elemental powers, Kyran was the only one that Aaron felt somewhat comfortable around. Aaron had even dreamt about Kyran before meeting him. It was a strange friendship that Aaron had developed with Kyran, one that he didn’t share with anyone else, not even his childhood best friends, Sam and Rose Mason.

Aaron turned to see Rose sitting on her bed, in the room they all shared, head leaning on her brother’s shoulder. Her bloodshot eyes made Aaron look away, his heart clenching painfully. Rose had just started a relationship with Kyran, only a day before she found out who he really was.

He’s the Scorcher.

Zhi-Jiya’s voice rang in Aaron’s head. Kyran was the Scorcher, the son of Hadrian, the leader of the vamages – a hybrid species, part mage and part vampire. It was a group of vamages that had killed Sam and Rose’s parents, when Aaron had unknowingly brought the vamages to his street on the dawn of his fourteenth birthday. Kyran, it had been revealed, had been there too that night.

Not only was he there when your parents were murdered, he didn’t do a thing to stop the vamages – who obey his every command.

Skyler’s taunt to Rose echoed in Aaron’s head, making his insides go cold again. Kyran had come with the vamages. He could have stopped the attack. He could have saved Mr and Mrs Mason, but he hadn’t. He’d let the vamages kill them. Why?
Because he didn’t care.
There was no other explanation. Kyran didn’t help the Masons because he didn’t care about them.

The door to their room opened and Aaron looked over to see his mum walk in, several empty duffel bags in her hands.

“Gather your things.” Kate addressed all three of them, throwing a bag each their way.

Aaron looked from the bag at his feet to his mum. “What?” he asked.

“Pack your things,” his mum said. “We’re leaving.” She stepped out of the room.

Aaron got up and hurried after her. “Where are we going?” he demanded. “I thought Salvador was the safest place in all the realms.”

“Salvador
was
the safest,” she said, walking downstairs. “It’s been compromised now.”

“Compromised?” Aaron followed her into the living room. “How is it compromised?”

Kate turned to look at Aaron with surprise. “The Scorcher can get past the Glyphs on the Gate,” she said. “That means he can drop the Gate and let his vamages in. For all we know, he could be leading his army here as we speak.”

Aaron had to force himself to stay still and not flinch at the idea of Kyran leading an attack on them. Each and every time Aaron had found himself in trouble in this realm, it had been Kyran who had come to his aid. Despite what had happened a few short hours ago, Aaron still couldn’t accept that Kyran was, and always had been, the biggest threat to the mages.

The front door opened and Aaron’s dad, Chris, walked into the living room, two packed bags in his hands. “Ready?” he asked.

“Not quite,” Kate replied. “Aaron, go upstairs and pack.”

Aaron stood where he was. “Where are we going?”

“Where it’ll be safe,” Kate replied.

“For how long?” Aaron asked. “We’re leaving Salvador because it’s been compromised, but what are we going to do when the same happens to other cities? Where do we go then? The entire realm is under threat, Mum.”

“We don’t have time for this,” Chris said. “I’ll go and pack his things.”

“No!” Aaron turned to snap at him. “I’m not leaving!”

“Aaron.” Kate stepped forward. “You can’t stay here. Neriah has ordered only Hunters to remain in Salvador.”

“You’re forgetting that I’m a Hunter too,” Aaron said.

Kate’s eyes narrowed at once. “No you’re not!”

“You don’t get to decide that,” Aaron fought back.

Kate looked like the last strand of her patience was about to snap. She took in a breath, pumping her hands into fists.

“Aaron. Go upstairs. Gather your things, or so help me, I’ll–”

“What?” Aaron challenged. “You’ll do what? Yell at me? Raise your hand again?” His green eyes slit with rage. “Go ahead. Maybe this time you’ll actually hit me.”

Kate stilled. Pink spots coloured her cheeks but she didn’t say anything.

“Kate?”

Aaron turned to find his dad looking at his mum in shocked disbelief. At this point, Aaron didn’t care about his reaction either.

“So this is it?” Aaron asked. “You’re planning on running, leaving the rest of the mages to their fate again?”

Chris’s eyes moved from Kate to Aaron, with an intensifying expression of anger. “If I have to run to keep my family safe, then that’s what I’ll do.”

“What about everyone else?” Aaron asked. “What about the rest of the mages with families? You don’t see them running to hide.”

“Aaron.” Chris stepped right up to him. “Things have changed in the last few hours. Kyran–” He choked on the name a little, but pushed past it. “He’s got the key that will unlock Hadrian’s powers. This war just became more dangerous than you can imagine. You may think you’re a Hunter but you don’t have the training to face Hadrian or his vamages. It’s not safe to stay in Salvador. We’re leaving in the next half hour–”

“No, Dad.” Aaron stepped back. “You might be leaving in the next half hour, but I’m not. I won’t abandon the other mages.” He held his dad’s stare. “I’m not repeating the mistake you made. I’m not running out on them.”

Leaving his dad looking hurt and stunned, Aaron headed out of the cottage, slamming the door shut behind him.

***

The street was filled with mages. Aaron saw a few of the younger kitchen and orchard workers carrying their belongings in cloth bags, following Hunters towards the open Gate. But as some mages were leaving through the shimmering cut in the air, more were arriving – long streams of bikers entered Salvador; Hunters arriving in the aftermath chaos of Kyran’s escape. The Hunters parked their bikes in the street and hurried towards Neriah, looks of bewilderment on their faces.

Aaron stood in the middle of the street, just watching them as the story of Kyran’s betrayal was repeated. He saw the disbelief and horror replace their confusion. After a few minutes, Neriah began to walk away, with Scott by his side. The Hunters followed after them.

“We need to make the arrangements,” Aaron heard Drake Logan, his dad’s best friend and ex-Hunter, say to ‘Mother’ Mary, as they passed him, following behind Neriah and Scott. “Neriah shouldn’t have to deal with this. We’ll sort out Ella’s funeral.”

Aaron’s heart lurched. Just for a brief moment, he had forgotten about Ella’s death.

Neriah suddenly stopped in his tracks. He turned to seek out Drake, having overheard him. The look on Neriah’s face was frightening. His violet eyes had darkened and his jaw clenched in fury.

“You have enough to worry about.” Drake spoke directly to Neriah. “Despite tradition, no one should have to bury their own.”

Scott rested a hand on Neriah’s shoulder. “He’s right,” he said. “We’ll take care of Ella’s funeral.”

“Stop it!” Neriah thundered, shoving Scott’s hand away. “She’s not dead.”

A ripple of surprise went through the crowd. Aaron stepped closer, hoping against hope Neriah was right and not just in denial over the death of his niece.

“But,” Mary started, confused, “I saw her lying in the middle of the ring. Scott said Kyran had–”

“He broke her neck,” Neriah seethed with anger, “but that didn’t kill her. I can still feel her. She’s not dead, only unconscious.”

Tremendous relief swept up in Aaron, making his knees weak. Ella was a part of Neriah’s bloodline. If she had died, Neriah would have felt it. Throughout the chaos of Kyran stealing the key and escaping, no one had thought to go to Ella. They all just assumed that she was dead.

“The way you reacted when she fell,” Scott said, “I thought...it looked like she had died and that’s why you lost it and attacked Kyran.”