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Copyright © AJ Tipton 2017 The right of AJ Tipton to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (or other similar law, depending on your country). All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author, except in cases of brief quotations embodied in reviews or articles. It may not be edited, amended, lent, resold, hired out, distributed or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s written permission. Permission can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org
This book is for sale to adult audiences only. It contains substantial sexually explicit scenes and graphic language which may be considered offensive by some readers.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and incidents appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is purely coincidental.
All sexually active characters in this work are 18 years of age or older.
Cover art photos provided by BigStock.com, Morgue Files, Flickr.com, and Upsplash.com. Graphic Design by miai313
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Davy Bagby didn't like the look of Applejack's hoof. The unicorn threw her head with nervous energy as Davy gently held her leg and scraped away a sample of the blue fungus growing along her heel buttress. Fungus shouldn't shimmer, or at least not according to Davy's years of training as a veterinarian. But since he’d arrived at his cousin's animal sanctuary, Daisy's Haven, there were a lot of supernatural oddities he was learning to get used to.
Davy released Applejack's hoof and she stamped impatiently at the barn's wooden floor.
"Been hanging around the sphinx caves, have you?" Davy cooed as he ran a hand down her sparkling mane. He slipped some protective slippers around the infected hooves to protect them from further damage and patted her leg. "You're all set."
The unicorn started toward the exit, stopped, tilted her head, and seemed to consider the painting hanging by the door. Davy had spent hours sketching the sphinxes building a mirror to parallel universes, and for a moment, the unicorn seemed transfixed by Davy's work. The majestic animal snorted and turned away.
Davy chuckled. Everyone's a critic.
Davy stepped out of the barn, shading his eyes against the sun, and let the peaceful view relax a coil of stress in his chest. Applejack trotted out to the fields, her white coat a beacon against the lush, grassy hills that surrounded the refuge for magical creatures. Davy took a deep breath in, basking in the sense of home he felt at Daisy’s Haven. It was still an unfamiliar feeling, one he never experienced at his parents' echoing mansion or at a childhood's worth of stuffy boarding schools, but he liked it.
Daisy’s Haven was a few hundred acres of rolling green hills, specialized creature habitats, and pure, peaceful bliss as far from civilization as it could get. Davy's black sheep of a cousin, Titus, founded the sanctuary years ago to care for magical creatures who were in danger out in the world. Across the field from the barn, the centaurs were babbling about the flowers in their paddock, while a dazzling red phoenix circled overhead. Just looking at the wide, crystal-blue skies made Dany want to shift into his dragon form and stretch his wings.
Davy flexed his shoulders. He hadn't flown in a few days. Perhaps a race with the pegasus will do me good.
"What's the diagnosis, Doc?" Cleo, Davy's very pregnant cousin-in-law said from where she lounged on a hay bale in the sun. Titus had married the bear shifter in partnership with his long-time partner, Connor, three years ago, and Davy had never met a more perfect thruple.
From her perch, Cleo happily picked through a bag of trail mix for the chocolate bits, her eyes never straying far from her view of the opposite field. Titus and Connor were out delivering goods to the covens, and they'd be coming over that ridge at any moment. The blonde billionaire CEO, usually so thin, looked comically out of proportion with her enormous, protruding stomach.
"Is that glowing blue stuff on Applejack something we should be worried about?" she asked.
"It looks like khufu hoof. Unicorns can pick it up from leftover spell residue—they're sensitive that way. But the others should be fine. I'll run a few more tests." Flying would have to wait until the tests were complete, but Davy wasn't complaining. If there was one thing he loved more than flying, it was healing the dozens of animals who made their home at Daisy's Haven. It wasn't their fault the farm was so saturated in unpredictable, dangerous magic.
Davy strolled over to the area of the barn Titus had built for him as an ad hoc lab. Davy's workbench was a long, wooden table with dozens of small cabinets filled with pills, petri dishes, and anything else he might need. Davy pulled up his microscope, slid the hoof scraping onto a glass slide, and guided it under the lens. Yep, khufu hoof.
"I've told Connor a hundred times we need to pen off the sphinxes. Their experiments could have real consequences for the rest of the herd," he called over to Cleo.
"It's not Connor you need to convince. Titus is the one with a soft spot for those mad scientists. I swear, those crazies are going to burst open a parallel dimension one of these days, and I don't want to be around when they—" She stopped talking and groaned, holding her hand to her stomach.
"Are you okay?" Davy dropped the slide and rushed over to her.
She smiled. "The twins are just kicking away in there. These babies are downright inconsiderate."
“I’m sure they get that from their dads.” Davy forced a laugh even as his heart pounded in his chest. Even though he knew it made no sense, whenever anything on the sanctuary went wrong, Davy's first instinct was to blame magic. Magic turned his big brother, Tony, to ash fifteen years ago. There hadn't even been enough of Tony to bury. His parents turned distant and bitter at the loss of their eldest son. No matter how he succeeded or what he tried, Davy was never enough to win their approval.
Davy would never forget the day Titus found him at Tony's funeral and offered him a safe space if he ever needed it. Titus had warned him that Daisy’s Haven was saturated with magic—it was in the products they sold to the witch covens, it was what the sphinxes folded into their quantum experiments, and it was even the means through which they shipped their goods. It had taken a full decade for Davy to get out from under his family's thumb and take Titus up on his offer, but he never regretted making Daisy's Haven his home.
Even if it scared the bejesus out of him when shit glowed.
The sanctuary’s mascot—a three-headed dog—trotted into the barn and sat in front of Davy, all three sets of eyes pleading for attention.
“Hello there, Miss Daisy.” Davy scratched the spot behind the ears of her center head and Daisy’s back leg immediately started thumping.
Cleo grunted into her trail mix. “It’s no fair you’re her favorite. Just because you give her heartworm medicine hidden in cheese.”
“Never underestimate the power of cheese.”
“I hope these kids are as easy to please.” Cleo lumbered to her feet. Davy dashed over to help her, but Cleo waved him away. "Luckily, after a decade ruling a multi-billion-dollar company, I swear I can smelltrouble."
As if on cue, all of Daisy's three heads started to howl.
“What’s wrong, girl?” Davy asked. The hair on her back all stood on end, her tail tucked deep between her legs.
“Something's happening. Go check the portal. My men should be coming home any moment.” Cleo clutched her stomach. “I’ll be right behind you. Go.”
Daisy's howl was a spine-tingling, three-part harmony behind him as Davy sprinted out of the barn, around the centaur pen, and down the hill. The magic portal that they used to deliver their goods was set back away from the animals, out of the way so nobody would stumble upon it by accident. Davy always hated coming this way as the ominous glow of the portal made his skin crawl.
As the glowing blue circle of the portal came into sight, Davy yelled out in alarm. Titus lay unconscious on the ground just a few feet from the opening, his usually tan skin covered in bright rashes that changed color from blue to green to red to a sickly brown.
Fear churned in Davy's gut.
Connor was straining to haul Titus away from the portal, his face pale with fear. "Help!" he called.
“What happened?” Davy grunted as he grabbed under his cousin's arm and helped Connor move Titus away from the portal.
Titus's dead weight in Davy's arms made his stomach churn. This was the man who welcomed Davy into his life when their clan shunned him for choosing to become a veterinarian instead of joining the family business. Titus took an artistic vet and taught him how to maintain fences and throw bales of hay. Together they worked to apply Davy’s knowledge of animals to the supernatural tenants of Daisy’s Haven. Titus was a better, braver man than Davy would be in a hundred lifetimes.
“Did the portal do this to him?” Davy gave the patch of swirling magic a suspicious glare.
“I don’t know.” Connor shook with sweat. “He wasn’t feeling well, so we came home early from the meeting with the covens. As soon as we made it through the portal, he collapsed.” Connor pulled at his hair. “I don’t know what to do.”
“We need a witch doctor.” Cleo huffed up to them, out of breath and clutching her stomach.
“A witch doctor?” Davy asked. “Like with the big masks and everything?”
“No, a witch,” Cleo paused. “Doctor. A doctor who is also a witch.” She sighed, pulling out her phone, tapping at the screen. “Anya? We’ve got an emergency. Get to Daisy’s Haven now and…" She took a deep breath. "I’ll pay off your entire bar tab at AUDREY’S.”
Davy looked around wildly. More magic? "Is that really necessary?" he asked. "A witch might just make things worse."
Cleo glared at him. "Look at Titus! This isn’t the fucking flu! We need someone who knows magic."
A short, middle-aged woman emerged from the portal a moment later. “My whole bar tab? Cleo you don’t know what you’re signing up for.”
“Please help,” Connor said from the ground, cradling Titus’s head in his lap.
All humor left the witch's face as Anya knelt at Titus’s side. She pulled on latex gloves from her medical bag with quick, professional certainty and lightly prodded the purple splotches on Titus’s skin. The only sound as she conducted her examination was Titus's labored breathing, until she pulled her gloves off and rose to her feet.
“This is a magazi curse. It’s deadly, difficult to cast, and the symptoms are exacerbated by proximity to magic.” Anya nodded at the portal. “You’ll need to keep him away from here, for a start.”
Connor and Davy immediately grabbed Titus under the elbows and continued to haul him away from the portal. Anya followed close behind, Cleo at her side.
“Will that cure him?” Cleo asked.
Davy could hear the fear in her voice. They lived on a magical sanctuary. Magic was