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THE WITCH & THE BOUNTY HUNTER
(Federation of Magic Book 1)
by Rachel Medhurst
I didn't know I was a witch… until someone wanted me dead.
Here I am, Lyla Ford, broke and starving, minding my own business, when twin sorcerers Tinniel and Nazeriah claim that I’m a witch from an ancient line. Not only that, they request an audience. Who do they think I am? Royalty?
I would never entertain the idea of magic, let alone the request to become a tracker for the two paranormal bounty hunters who work for the Federation of Magic. That is, until the ridiculously handsome Tinniel tells me that my missing mother is the leader of the Federation. Who knew?
When Tinniel gets kidnapped, a compulsion to find them both overtakes me, forcing me to work with the Federation. I have a feeling that if I don’t do as I’m told, the ancient line I descend from will die out. With my brutal, bloody murder.
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Excerpt from The Witch & The Bounty Hunter:
What’s the difference between a human and a cat? A cat doesn’t wait in the darkness, staring at the door of a food bank. No, the cat next to me was licking its paws, purring as it occasionally glanced up.
I knew what it was thinking: Crazy human, out before dawn on the coldest night of the year with nothing but a thin denim jacket on. Just because it had a nice coat of fur, didn’t mean I was jealous. Much.
“Look,” I told it as I rubbed my hands together, cringing at the holes in my red woollen gloves. “You must understand what it’s like when a girl is starving. You can go hunting for a rat or something just as gross, but I’m not desperate enough to go through the trash of London to get a meal. Not yet, anyway.”
A shudder went through me as the cold air pinched my cheeks, seeping under my jacket. Rubbing my hands over my face viciously, I tried not to gasp when an image of a handsome man came into my mind.
“If only the images in my mind were real,” I muttered to the cat, who now slunk around my denim-clad legs and nudged me with its head.
The bark of a dog in a nearby house made me jolt. My hand went to my chest as the cat skittered away, glaring back at me with disgust in its eyes.
If anyone could see me, hovering between two houses, in the middle of a London suburb, they’d automatically think I was a criminal.
A whisper of wind made me look behind me, the chill forcing goosebumps to sprout up on my arms, the hairs standing on end. It was cold, but something else made me search the shadows of the tiny walkway.
“Hello?” I said cautiously, my voice shaking.
The soft sound of breathing reached my ear, sending me into a panic. Spinning, I checked around me before my feet took a few steps towards the street. The food bank was across the road, surely it would be open soon? Maybe if I waited outside, the person in the shadows would be too frightened to come after me.
Silence resounded around me, making my insides bounce. I had to breathe deeply, three long breaths to steady my nerves, that’s what the psychiatrist had taught me.
“Lyla.” The word was no more than a mutter as it rushed by my ears.
No, I was imagining it, like I always did.
Blinking, I turned and strode out of the alley. My insides quivered when I heard footsteps. Taking yet another deep breath, I attempted to steady the quake. I wouldn’t give myself the satisfaction of panicking.
The dark of the night was fading, the sun’s glow slowing rising into the street. My hands shook by my sides as I trotted across the road, where the cars would be beeping in an hour. A light flicked on inside the food bank, bringing me a sense of relief.
“See,” I muttered to myself. “Just paranoid. Again.”
Risking a glance over my shoulder, I froze. Standing opposite me in the mouth of the alley was the tall dark handsome man I had seen in my mind.
The click of the door behind me made me look at the food bank for a fleeting second. When my gaze sought that of the man, it found only bricks and air. Nothing was there. And yet, if he’d been there, he wouldn’t have been able to move that quickly.
“Can I help?” a kind woman said from the open doorway. “You’re a little early, but it’s cold out.”
Unable to comprehend what I had just seen, I accepted her offer to go into the building, shivering as I slunk into the warmth. It certainly was cold outside. However, it was the appearance of someone I had seen in my mind’s eye that made it impossible for me to stop the fear that shook my muscles.
“How are you doing?” the woman asked. “We haven’t seen you for a few weeks.”
Following her into the main hall, I huffed on my cold fingers and tried a smile. “I’m surviving, just about.”
Her smile was genuine, kind. She was a woman of security, I could tell. Her back was straight, her head held high. The thick cardigan that surrounded her was good material, not ratty like my own clothes.
“Any news on the job front?”
Ugh, why did well intentioned people always ask the questions that hurt the most? Ever since I had found myself on the street, my memory fuzzy and only a handful of miscellaneous items in my pocket, I had been struggling to find work.
“I just had an interview for a cleaning position. They offered me the job right away, so I’m going to start on Monday.”
I wasn’t lying, I had indeed managed to get myself a job. It was only a few hours a week to begin with, but a girl had to start somewhere.
My new friend, Jamie, had been the one who found me wandering the street, unable to remember who I was. After an investigation by the police and medical staff, it was quite clear that I had suffered from an amnesic episode. Several doctors thought I might have a mental health condition. Others reckoned that my memory would come back in time.
Until then, I was an impoverished human being, trying to make her way in the world. And with the help of Jamie, who allowed me to stay with him, I was slowly getting my life back together.
“That’s amazing,” the woman said, coming over to hug me. “Well done!”
A sharp pang burst in my chest. Was that pride? The feeling was nice, although not familiar. I had been trying to remember who I was for a few months now, but alas, my mind had remained confused.
The flashing images of people and situations had become more regular, popping up each day. A mishmash of memories that didn’t make any sense.
“And how is the search for…?”
The woman stood back, awkwardly fiddling with a packet of rice that sat on the table next to us. I resisted the urge to snatch the bag from her. Not only was I hungry, I didn’t really want to talk about my life. Not as it was right now, anyway.
“Nothing’s come up. No family,” I said, figuring that the quicker I tell her everything, the quicker I could get the food and head back to the apartment. “No husband, no known address.”
Shaking her head, she picked up a plastic bag and handed it to me. “Well, if you ever need someone to talk to, you’re welcome to chat anytime. I can’t imagine how it must feel to only know your name.”
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that I had a tattoo on my arm with my name and birthdate? It was freaky, it really was. It was like I was from one of those action films like the Bourne Ultimatum. I had even joked to Jamie when he’d made me watch it, that I was probably some sort of secret agent.
“Thank you.” Taking the bag from her, I quickly filled it with canned goods and fresh produce.
A shudder went through me as I turned towards the door. I might have crazy thoughts running through my mind on a regular basis, but I had never seen one of them materialise in front of me. Until today.
“See you next week,” the woman called as I headed to the door, unable to stop myself from peering outside.
Cars were starting to make their way down the street, rush hour fast approaching. The walkway opposite was empty, confirming my suspicion that the ominous man was purely a product from my imagination.
Turning, I waved to the woman, thanking her as I pulled open the door and thrust outside. The cold wind flung in my face, the sharp bite of it tickling my skin as I pulled my flimsy jacket around me.
The bag was heavy as I trotted across the road, plunged into the alley, and started to jog. No, it wasn’t because I was shitting a brick, it was because it was freezing, and what better way to warm myself up?
Plus, I was starving, ready to gorge on bacon and eggs. Jamie was an excellent host, kind and giving. And yet, his fridge was often empty. Living a nomadic lifestyle, he had decided that he would pay his rent whilst everything else would come to him naturally. He was a pagan. He believed that our consumerism was eating our earth. Me? I was hungry, cold and just about ready to drown my sorrows with a beer. Okay, so getting pissed wasn’t the way to solve my problems, but it would give me a buzz while I listened to Jamie’s lectures on sheep farming, a sustainable life choice. Even though he didn’t adopt it himself.
“Lyla.” The whisper travelled on the wind, the sound slinking into my ears.
Looking over my shoulder, I tensed when a man appeared behind me; his dark eyes and cropped hair the exact resemblance of the man I had seen in my mind.
Shit, something freaky was going down, and I wasn’t about to wait around to ask for his phone number. Yeah, he was hulking like Jason Momoa, and usually, any woman would fall to her knees with him in front of them, but my feet propelled me away.
Part of me wanted to stop, to turn and face the man who had haunted my mind. However, I was a puny human being with thin arms, unable to lift myself out of a swimming pool, let alone fight a bear man if the need arose.
Almost smashing into another man, I squeaked, batting him away when he grabbed my wrists. He was as tall as the man behind us, his brown shoulder length hair shaggy around his face. The scowl on his lips wasn’t friendly, nor was his energy.
Wrenching away as my heart thumped in my head, I searched for a way around him. He was too big for me to duck around; he’d stop me instantly. What the hell was going on?
“We need to talk,” the man behind said, his tone kinder than his friend’s.
Spinning to look at him, I bit my lip, ready to scream. Something clicked inside me, making me hold my legs steady and bring my arms up, ready to defend myself.
“She remembers her training.”
My gaze snapped to the long-haired guy. He really did look like Jason Momoa with his long locks and green eyes. Ugh, why was I being attacked by two extremely sexy warriors? I shouldn’t be drawn to them at the same time as my heart was going into cardiac arrest, too scared to face them.
Clearing my throat, I licked my lips as I hopped back and forth. “Who are you? What do you want?”
They had mentioned training. A couple of times since I’d been found by Jamie, I’d naturally had fighting instincts. My arms would lift, ready to punch, my feet moving to bounce in a rhythm. Did they know who I was?
And I was gone, my legs pumping as I ducked around Long-Hair Man. They both gasped as I darted past, running for my life. As if I was going to wait around and talk to men who had weapons strapped to them. My eyes had clocked the gun in Long-Hair Man’s pocket. He was someone I’d want to wake up in bed with in the morning, not someone I wanted to meet in an alleyway.
My breath huffed in and out as my short fair hair flew back from my face. A strand of the wavy mass fluttered into my eyes, causing me to blink rapidly. Shoving it out of the way, I cursed. If I had known I was going to face Superheroes, – actually, they were more like villains – I would’ve clasped my hair up. It was rude of them to interrupt me on my food run.
We know where you live, Cropped-Haired Man whispered in my mind.
Whoa, what was happening? How the hell could he talk to me in my head? Great, my delusions were getting worse.
Thrusting around the end of the alley, I darted into the road, only just missing a car. The driver beeped, swearing loudly. I clung to my bag of food, ignoring the bastard’s words invading my mind as I jumped on the opposite pavement, almost colliding with an old lady.
You’re not having delusions. Let us explain what’s going on with you.
My feet almost stumbled as I rushed down the road, my chest squeezing from the effort of running. As tempting as it was to believe that I wasn’t imagining the weird handsome men, I knew that they were a figment of my brain, probably left over from my amnesic episode.
The junction of another street lay ahead. Cars were indicating to pull out, the rush hour well under way now. Pedestrians stared at me as I slipped into the next road, slowing so I didn’t knock anyone over. Yes, I was a woman with bright red puffy cheeks and fly away hair, but I wasn’t suspicious. No, not at all.
We will help you.
There was no help to be had, I was a lost cause. Although, the adrenaline that tickled my veins made me feel just a little bit invincible. Maybe I wasn’t as useless as I believed.
You’re not useless at all.
Looking over my shoulder, I sighed deeply. They weren’t following me; they were just in my head.
A grin split my lips as I turned forward. My feet skidded to a halt as a shout of surprise left my mouth.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
“Please don’t swear like that,” Cropped-Haired man said, a smile lifting into the edge of his cheek.
There they were, standing right in front of me, side by side.
Throwing my hands in the air, I muttered even harsher profanities. There was no point in running. Apparently, my messed up mind created hot men who could teleport. I might as well enjoy their company.
“Shall we?” Long-Hair man offered his hand.
Tingles slipped over my skin as I studied his strong thick hand. His fingers were long, curved slightly upwards. The nails were short, the skin near them callused. Well, if I wanted any inspiration for sexual fantasy, he would be perfect. Not that I should be thinking that when I was having a severe psychotic episode.
“If I go with you, will you leave me alone after?”
They glanced at one another, clearly able to shut out the roaring sounds of the city as it woke up around us. A slight rise of their eyebrows made me suck in a breath. At least when I reached out to take the man’s hand, it wouldn’t make contact. I couldn’t have created these beautiful beasts into reality.
You really don’t believe we’re real, do you?
Shaking my head, I quickly grabbed Long-Hair man’s hand, a long sigh leaving my lips when our skin made contact. Wait. What?
Before I could rip my fingers away from his grip, the scenery around us changed, morphing from bricks and concrete to a lush green park.
When my feet touched the springy grass, I tumbled backwards, my arms flailing and my bag of food dropping to the ground.
“No you don’t,” Long-hair man murmured, catching me before my butt hit the dirt.
A sense of calm enveloped me as his arms came around my waist. He pulled me up, settling my feet on the ground before letting go. He stepped back quickly, hissing, almost as if I’d burnt him.
“This is crazy, Naz,” he spat at the other man. “She doesn’t remember.”
Lifting his eyebrows, Naz, the one with cropped hair, moved around his friend, picked up my food and came to face me. He didn’t reply to the man who had treated me as if I was hot – the heat type, not the good looking type. Although, a girl could wish.
“My name is Nazeriah, you can call me Naz.” Bowing his head very slightly, he looked down at me as he handed me the bag. “I promise we’re not a figment of your imagination.”
My head bent back to look up at him. Both of them towered above me, their sheer size making me swallow hard. They had just transported us to a park from a busy street. And they expected me to believe they were real?
Maybe Jamie had given me drugs unintentionally. Surely, that would explain the crazy-arse event that was going down.
“You don’t remember who you are, at all?” Long-Hair man frowned at me, the scowl returning to his face.
I sneered back, my temper flaring as heat rose up my chest. “Is this some sick joke?” Moving forward, I poked him hard in the stomach. Y-ouch, my finger almost broke from the impact. He was one rock-solid built mo-fo.
“Trust me,” Naz said, interrupting our staring contest. “This is no joke. You’ll have to excuse my brother. Tinniel doesn’t have any manners.”
Tinniel? I should write a book, my creativity was flowing brilliantly. Tinniel. And Nazeriah? Well, you don’t hear those names every day. My strange dreams and visions might have been excused by the doctors, but they wouldn’t believe me when I told them that I’d conjured sexy brothers.
Twins. And we’re real.
As Naz’s voice echoed in my mind, I closed my eyes, shook my head, and hit my skull gently with the palm of my hand.
A strong grip wrenched my arm away from my head, a snarl rushing air over me. I opened my eyes to find that I was staring into Tinniel’s vibrant green gaze. His jaw was clenched, his full lips pursed.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
The words sent a thrill up my spine, the smell of his minty breath making me lick my lips. Before I could enjoy the heady masculine scent of him, he grasped my head in his big hands and closed his eyes, saying words I didn’t understand.
Pain sliced through my brain, forcing my knees to buckle. Tinniel held me upright as my eyes clenched shut, water falling from their ducts.
Remember the memories she took from you.
The pain intensified as images of myself shot into my mind. Me as a child, my mother cradling me to her before shoving me to the ground. She stepped in front of me with something – was that a wand? – in her hand.
“Get away from her!” she barked, her stance steady and ready for a fight.
A man in long red robes appeared in my line of sight, his harsh steel expression sending shivers over me.
“She will fulfil her destiny,” he said in a loud clear voice. “You cannot stop it!”
The scene changed suddenly, taking me to snapshots of myself and my mother. I didn’t know my father, never had. Who was he?
“What’s this mum?” I called as a teenager.
I was bent over an old-fashioned wooden trunk, my arms pulling out a thick leather-bound book. Her footsteps slowed as she came into the room, the pink of her cheeks draining when she saw what I held.
“Put that down,” she pushed through her clenched teeth.
Panic crossed my features as I slowly released the book. “What’s a grimoire?”
“Nothing.” Rushing across the room, my mother slammed the trunk shut and put a gentle hand on my head.
My face relaxed, the muscles going soft. Nothing more was said as she encouraged me to go about my day.
As the last scene popped into my head, I shuddered. Why had my insides quivered? What was I about to see?
“You must run,” my mother screamed, her face contorted as she held her wand towards the man in the robes.
I was older, wait, this memory wasn’t that long ago. My hair was in its wavy blonde bob, framing my face as I turned and ran out of the door, not looking back to check on her. Why didn’t I check on her?
A blast from the house sent me flying across the garden, landing hard on the ground. My head hit something and I slumped, my body going limp.
A whimper escaped my mouth as Tinniel let me go. I almost stumbled, gasping when Naz gently took my elbow to steady me.
Questions rushed through my mind as the memories flickered in and out, not quite clear. My childhood came back to me. A normal human girl with a mother who loved her a lot. Until something happened to distance her from me.
“What’s going on? How are you doing this?”
Naz and Tinniel glanced at one another. I had never seen so much weirdness. Harry Potter did not exist. Wands, transportation spells, they belonged in the books and the films, not in my reality.
“I’m sorry to tell you this,” Tinniel said, his stoic face belaying his words. “But, you’re a witch. A very important one. And we need your help.”
Meet Author Rachel Medhurst
Rachel Medhurst grew up in Surrey, England. She writes to prove that no matter where you come from, you can be anything you want to be. Your past may shape you, but it doesn't define you. When Rachel isn't writing, she can be found reading and walking in nature.
Interview with Rachel Medhurst:
Q: Hi Rachel. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
RM: My name is Rachel Medhurst, a fantasy writer who grew up in Surrey, England. I had a tough time as a child, so reading helped me to escape and get lost in another world. I fell in love with writing my own stories when I was a teenager. It was always my dream to share my worlds with others and now that’s come true!
Q: Why paranormal? What drew you to the genre?
RM: My favourite books as a teenager were Nightworld and Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith. I also loved Kim Harrison, who wrote a character named after me – a girl can wish haha. Vampires and witches were so cool, I almost wished they were real. Those authors inspired me to write my own paranormal creatures. There’s so much I can create with magic, it’s fun to write in a world without limits.
Q: For those who are new to your books, what is the story about?
RM: The Witch & the Bounty Hunter follows the story of Lyla, a human who has lost her memories. She meets Tinniel and Nazeriah, two hot twin sorcerers who tell her that she’s a witch. Not a normal witch either, a royal one who can use her magic to track people. She can see through the bounty’s eyes, which leads the hunters to their pray a lot quicker. Her mother has been missing for a while and when Tinniel – the twin she kinda has thing for – goes missing, she will do anything to help find them both.
Q: Tell us about your heroine. What inspired her quirks and struggles?
RM: Lyla Ford doesn’t know she’s a witch until Tinniel, a bounty hunter sorcerer, gives her back her lost memory. Her mother had wiped her memory of her witchy experiences in order to protect her. Once she remembers, she realizes that her mother is missing, kidnapped by a warlock. Her mother had encouraged her to kickbox, so she can kick some butt, but she doesn’t know how to use her tracker magic. Apparently, her mother is the leader of the Federation of Magic, a bounty hunting agency. The hunters needs help tracking her, so she agrees to use the magic she never knew she had.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Rachel!