Saturday, 20 February 2016

An exclusive excerpt from "One with You" (Crossfire #5) by Sylvia Day

I reached for my phone on the nightstand to call my mom when Gideon’s face lit up my screen. “Hey,” I answered.
“How’s your morning so far?”
It tickled me to hear his clipped, businesslike tone. My husband’s head was in the game, but he was still thinking of me.
“I just rolled out of bed, so I can’t really say. How’s yours? You finish buying up everything in Manhattan?”
“Not quite. Have to leave something for the competition. Otherwise, where’s the fun?”
“You do love your challenges.” I headed into the bathroom, my gaze sliding over the tub before pausing on the shower. Just thinking about my husband naked and wet made me hot. “What do you think would’ve happened if I hadn’t resisted you to begin with? What if I’d just fallen into bed with you when you asked?”
“You would’ve blown my mind, just as you did. That was inevitable. Have lunch with me.”
I smiled. “I’m supposed to be planning a wedding.”
“I hear a yes in there. It’s a business lunch, but you’ll enjoy it.”
Looking in the mirror, I saw wildly tousled bedhead and creases in my cheeks from the pillow. “What time?”
“Noon. Raúl will be waiting for you downstairs shortly before.”
“I should be responsible and say no.”
“But you won’t. I miss you.”
My breath caught. He tossed that out there nonchalantly, the way some men would say I’ll call you. But Gideon wasn’t the type of man to say anything he didn’t mean.
Still, I craved to feel the emotion behind the words. “You’re too busy to miss me.”
“It’s not the same,” he said. There was a pause. “It doesn’t feel right not having you here in the Crossfire.”
I was glad he couldn’t see me smile. There was an unmistakable trace of perplexity in his voice. It shouldn’t make a difference to him that I wasn’t working floors below his office, where he couldn’t see me. But it did.
“What are you wearing?” I asked.
“Clothes.”
“Duh. A three-piece suit?”
“Is there any other kind?”
Not for him, there wasn’t. “What color?”
“Black. Why?”
“It makes me hot thinking about it.” Which was true, but not why I was asking. “What color tie?”
“White.”
“Shirt?”
“Also white.”
Closing my eyes, I pictured him. I remembered that combination. “Pinstripes.”
He’d go with a pinstriped suit to keep the business look with that shirt and tie combination.
“Yes. Eva . . .” His voice lowered. “I have no idea why this conversation is making me hard, but it is.”
“Because you know I’m seeing you in my head. All dark and dangerous and sexy as hell. You know how much it turns me on to look at you, even if it’s only by memory.”
“Meet me here. Early. Come now.”
I laughed. “Good things come to those who wait, Mr. Cross. I’ll be cutting it close as it is.”
“Eva—”
“I love you.” I hung up and faced myself squarely in the mirror. With the picture of Gideon freshly in my mind, I found the sleepy mess looking back at me totally insufficient. I’d changed my look when I’d thought Gideon had left me for Corinne. I had dubbed the result “New Eva.” In the time since, my hair had grown past its former shoulder length and my highlights had grown out with it.
“You decent?” Cary called from the bedroom.
“Yes.” I faced him when he strolled into the bathroom with my coffee in hand. “Change of plan.”
“Oh?” He leaned into the counter and crossed his arms.
“I’m hopping in the shower. You’re going to find me a fabulous hair salon that can fit me in about thirty minutes from now.”
“Okay.”
“Then I’m going to lunch and you’re going to make a few calls for me. In return, I’m taking you out to dinner tonight. You pick the place.”
“I know that look you’ve got,” he said. “You’re on a mission.”
“Damn straight.”


One with You: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback 




Sunday, 14 February 2016

An excerpt from "One with You" (Crossfire #5) by Sylvia Day



“You’re quitting?”
Mark Garrity’s incredulous gaze lifted from my resignation letter and met mine.
My stomach knotted at the expression on my boss’s face. “Yes. I’m sorry I can’t give more notice.”
“Tomorrow is your last day?” He leaned back in his chair. His eyes were a warm chocolate shades lighter than his skin, and they registered both surprise and dismay. “Why, Eva?”
Sighing, I leaned forward, setting my elbows on my knees. Yet again, I went with the truth. “I know it’s unprofessional to cut out like this, but . . . I’ve got to rearrange my priorities and right now. . . . I just can’t give this my full attention, Mark. I’m sorry.”
“I . . .” He blew out his breath and ran a hand over his dark, tight curls. “Hell . . . What can I say?”
“That you’ll forgive me and won’t hold it against me?” I huffed out a humorless laugh. “It’s asking a lot, I know.”
He managed a wry smile. “I hate to lose you, Eva, you know that. I’m not sure I’ve ever really expressed how much you’ve contributed. You make me work better.”
“Thank you, Mark. I appreciate that.” God, this was harder than I thought it would be, even knowing it was the best and only decision I could make.
My gaze went beyond my handsome boss to the view behind him. As a junior account manager, he had a small office and his view was blocked by the building across the street, but it was still as quintessentially New York as Gideon Cross’s sprawling office on the top floor above us.
In a lot of ways, that division of floors mirrored the way I’d tried to define my relationship with Gideon. I knew who he was. Knew what he was: a man in a class by himself. I loved that about him and didn’t want him to change; I just wanted to climb to his level on my own merits. What I hadn’t considered was that by stubbornly refusing to accept that our marriage changed the plan, I was pulling him down to mine.
I wouldn’t be known for earning my way to the top of my field. For some people, I would always have married into success. And I was just going to have to live with it.
“So, where are you going from here?” Mark asked.
“Honestly . . . I’m still figuring that out. I just know I can’t stay.”
My marriage could only take so much pressure before it broke, and I had allowed it to slide to a dangerous edge, trying to find some distance. Trying to put myself first.
Gideon Cross was as deep and vast as the ocean, and I had feared drowning in him from the moment I first saw him. I couldn’t be afraid of that anymore. Not after realizing that what I feared more was losing him.
By trying to stay neutral, I’d been shoved from side to side. And as pissed off as I’d been about that, I hadn’t taken the time to comprehend that if I wanted control, I just had to take it.
“Because of the LanCorp account?” Mark asked.
“In part.” I smoothed my pinstriped pencil skirt, mentally brushing away the lingering resentment over Gideon’s hiring of Mark. The catalyst had been LanCorp coming to Waters Field & Leaman with a specific request for Mark—and therefore me—a maneuver Gideon viewed with suspicion. Geoffrey Cross’s Ponzi scheme had decimated the Landon family fortune, and while both Ryan Landon and Gideon had rebuilt what their fathers had lost, Landon still hungered for revenge. “But mostly for personal reasons.”
Straightening, he set his elbows on the desk and leaned toward me. “It’s none of my business and I won’t pry, but you know Steven, Shawna, and I are all here for you, if you need us. We care about you.”
His earnestness made my eyes sting with tears. His fiancé, Steven Ellison, and Steven’s sister Shawna had become dear to me in the months I’d been in New York, part of the new network of friends I had built in my new life. No matter what, I didn’t want to lose my connection to people I’d grown to love.
“I know.” I smiled through my sorrow. “If I need you, I’ll call, I promise. But it’s all going to work out for the best. For all of us.”
Mark relaxed and smiled back. “Steven’s going to flip. Maybe I should make you tell him.”
Thinking of the burly, gregarious contractor chased any sadness away. Steven would give me a hard time for bailing out on his partner, but he’d do it with a good heart. “Aw, come on,” I teased back. “You wouldn’t do that to me, would you? This is hard enough as it is.”
“I’m not opposed to making it harder.”
I laughed. Yeah, I was going to miss Mark and my job. A lot.



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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Snippets from "Magic Binds" and (probably) from "Grey Wolf Novel #2" by Ilona Andrews

“Julie, where is he?”
“He went out to check on horses.”
“Really? He hates horses.”
Julie’s eyes sparkled. “He said it was very important for him to check that they were still there. And that he was also there and not here when you snapped.”




I hugged Curran, still holding REDACTED in an arm lock. “Love you, I’ll be back soon. Don’t let him drink any blood.” 



“Julie, Hugh is one of the most lethal fighters I know. You’re nowhere near that. He would cut you down like grass.”

She raised her hand. I couldn’t see her magic but I felt pour out of her, unfurling like invisible wings. “Not anymore.”


First chapter from "The Beast" (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15) by J. R. Ward

Chapter 1    

The Brownswick School for Girls, Caldwell, NY

 

Ants under the skin.

As Rhage transferred his weight from one shitkicker to the other, he felt like his bloodstream had come to a soft boil and the bubbles were tickling the underside of every fucking square inch of his flesh. And that wasn’t the half of it. Random muscle fibers misfired all over his body, the spasms causing fingers to twitch, knees to jerk, shoulders to tighten like he was about to go tennis racket on something.

For the one millionth time since he’d materialized into his position, he peeper-swept the ragged, overgrown meadow up ahead. Back when the Brownswick School for Girls had been a functioning entity, the field in front of him had no doubt been a rolling lawn that had been well mowed in the spring and summer, deleafed in the autumn, and snow-covered pretty as a children’s book in the winter. Now, it was a touch-football field from hell, studded and tangled with gnarled bushes that could do more than just aesthetic damage to a guy’s crotchticular region, saplings that were the ugly, misshapen stepchildren of the more mature maples and oaks, and late October-brown long grass that could trip you like a little bitch if you were trying to sprint.

Likewise, the brick buildings, which had sheltered and provided instructional spaces to the privileged elite’s offspring, were aging badly without regular maintenance: windows broken, doors rotting, off-kilter shutters opening and shutting in the cold wind as if the ghosts couldn’t decide whether they wanted to be seen or just heard.

It was the campus from Dead Poets Society. Assuming everyone had packed up after the movie had been shot in 1988 and nobody had touched a fucking thing since.

But the facilities were not empty.

As Rhage took a deep inhale, his gag reflex did a couple of push-ups in the back of his throat. So many lessers were hiding in the abandoned dormitories and classrooms that it was impossible to isolate individual scents from the sinus-numbing stench of the whole. Christ, it was like putting your face in a chum bucket and inhaling like the world were about to run out of oxygen.

Assuming someone had added baby powder to all the day-old fish heads and goo.

For that sweet finish, don’tcha know.

As his skin went on another shimmy-shimmy, he told his curse to hold its hey-nannies, that hell yeah, it was going to get let off the chain tonight. He wasn’t even going to try to hold the damn thing in—not that trying to throw the brakes on was ever successful, anyway—and whereas giving the beast free rein was not always a good thing, tonight it was going to be an offensive bene. The Black Dagger Brotherhood was facing how many lessers? Fifty? A hundred and fifty?

That was a lot to handle, even for them—so yeah, his little . . . present . . . from the Scribe Virgin was going to come in handy.

Talk about your ringer from out of town. Over a century ago, the Mother of the Race had given him his own personal T.O. system, a behavior modification program that was so onerous, so unpleasant, so overwhelming that it did, in fact, manage to bring him back from the brink of total douche-baggery. Courtesy of the dragon, unless he managed his energy levels properly and moderated his emotions, all hell broke loose.

Literally.

In the course of the last century, he had become largely successful at making sure the thing didn’t eat his nearest and dearest, or get them on the nightly news with a “Jurassic Park Is Alive” headline. But with what he and his brothers were facing right now—and how isolated this campus was? If they were lucky, the great purple-scaled bastard with the chain-saw teeth and hollow-legged hangry was going to get his Nobu on. Although, again, a lesser-only diet was what they were looking for.

No brothers as Hot Pockets, please. And no humans as tapas or dessert, thank you very much.

The latter was more out of discretion than affection. Shit knew those rats without tails never went anywhere without two things: a half dozen of their evolutionarily inferior, nocturnally codependent, fuck-twit buddies, and their goddamn cell phones. Man, YouTube was a total pain in the ass when you wanted to keep your war with the undead under wraps. For nearly two thousand years, vampires fighting the Omega’s Lessening Society had been no one else’s business except for the combatants involved, and the fact that humans couldn’t stick to their core competencies of ruining the environment and telling each other what to think and say was only one of the reasons he hated them.

Fucking Internet.

Changing gears so he didn’t get loose too soon, Rhage GoPro’d his vision to a male taking cover about twenty feet away from him. Assail, son of Whoever-the-Fuck, was dressed in funeral-cortege black, his Dracula-dark hair requiring no camouflage, his handsome-as-sin face furrowed so tight with murder that you had to respect the guy. Talk about doing a solid—and a one-eighty. The drug dealer had come through for the Brotherhood, making good on his promise to cut business ties with the Lessening Society by delivering the Fore-lesser’s head in a box to Wrath’s feet.

He’d also divulged the location of this bolt-hole the slayers had been using as HQ.

Annnnnd that was how everyone had ended up here, up to their nuts in the overgrowth, waiting for the countdown on their V-synchronized watches to hit 0:00.

But this attack wasn’t some bullshit, buckshot approach to the enemy. After a number of nights—and days, thanks to Lassiter, a.k.a. 00-a-hole, having done recon during sunshine hours—the attack was properly coordinated, staged, and ready for execution. All of the fighters were here: Z and Phury, Butch and V, Tohr and John Matthew, Qhuinn and Blay, as well as Assail and his two cousins, Fang I and II.

’Cuz who cared what their names were as long as they showed up weaponized with plenty of ammo.

The Brotherhood medical personnel were also on standby in the area, with Manny in his mobile surgical unit about a mile away and Jane and Ehlena in one of the vans at a two-mile radius.

Rhage checked his watch. Six minutes and change.

As his left eye started to do the stanky leg, he cursed. How the fuck was he going to hold his position for that long?

Baring his fangs, he exhaled through his nose, blowing out twin streams of condensed breath that were nothing short of a bull’s charging notice.

Christ, he couldn’t remember the last time he was this juiced. And he didn’t want to think about the why of it. In fact, he’d been avoiding the whole why thing for how long?

Since he and Mary had hit this strange rough spot and he’d started to feel—

“Rhage.”

His name was whispered so softly he wrenched around, because he wasn’t sure whether or not his subconscious had decided to start talking to him. Nope. It was Vishous- and given his brother’s expression, Rhage would have preferred to be pulling a split-personality on himself. Those diamond eyes were flashing with a bad light. And those tattoos around that temple were so not helping.

The goatee was a neutral- unless you assessed it on style. In which case the fucker was a travesty of Rogaine proportions.

Rhage shook his head. “Shouldn’t you get into position—”

“I’ve seen this night.”

Oh, hell, no, Rhage thought. Nope, you are not doing this to me right now, my brother.

Turning away, he muttered, “Spare me the Vincent Price, ‘kay? Or are you trying for the guy who does the movie-trailer voice-overs—”

“Rhage.”

“—’cuz you got a future in that. ‘In a world . . . where people need . . . to shut up and do their jobs—’”

“Rhage.”

When he didn’t look back, V came around and glared up at him, those fucking pale eyes a twin set of nuclear blasts that spelled mushroom cloud forward and backward. “I want you to go home. Now.”

Rhage opened his mouth. Clapped it shut. Opened it again—and had to remind himself to keep his voice down. “Look, it’s not a good time for your one-eight-hundred psychic headquarters shit-”

The brother snapped a hold on his arm and squeezed. “Go home. I’m not fucking you.”

Cold terror washed through Rhage’s veins, bottoming out his body temperature—and yet he shook his head again. “Fuck off, Vishous. Seriously.”
No, thank you, Rhage thought. I gave at the office.

He was not interested in testing out any more of the Scribe Virgin’s magic. He wasn’t—

“You’re going to fucking die tonight.”



 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Snippet from "The Beast" (Black Dagger Brotherhood #15) by J. R. Ward

Mary tripped over something—oh, God, it was a lesser that was missing an arm—and kept going, blowing another whistle. And a third—-
The beast froze, his flanks pumping in and out, purple scales flashing in the darkness as if the thing were lit from within by an electrical source.
The fourth whistle brought its head around.
Slowing her run, Mary cupped her hands to her mouth. “Come here! Come on, boy!”
Like the beast was just the world’s largest dog.
The dragon let out a chuff and then blew through its nostrils, the sound something between a whoopee cushion and a jet engine taking off.
“Come here, you!” she said. “Leave that alone. It’s not yours...”

More >>

 
You can get a personalized copy at www.shop.wardenvs.com
 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Grave Visions (Alex Craft #4) by Kalayna Price is available now!!

"Grave Visions by Kalayna Price is the much-anticipated fourth installment in the kick-ass urban fantasy series about Alex Craft, a grave witch who can communicate with the dead.

If you want to hear voices from the dead in Nekros City, you call Alex Craft. She's a Grave Witch with reasonable rates and extraordinary powers, who specializes in revealing the secrets of the dead. But now she's the one fighting to keep her own secret. She's not human—and her newly discovered heritage is causing havoc for her both in the human realm and in Faerie. But her status as an unaffiliated fae also makes her an ideal candidate to investigate a new street drug that has surfaced in several of the spaces between the human and fae worlds.

This glamour-infused drug causes hallucinations that turn real—at least for a while and often with deadly consequences. Searching for the source of this drug—and its purpose—lands Alex front and center in the conflict brewing in Faerie and she must find answers before she's dragged so deep she loses her freedom."



Excerpt
  
The first time I raised a shade for profit, my client fainted. Since then, I’ve tried to better prepare clients for their encounter with the dead.
It doesn’t always work.
“You son of a bitch,” Maryanne Johnson yelled as she slammed her palm against the edge of my circle. “I knew you were sleeping with her.”
The shade of her late husband didn’t respond. He sat motionless above his grave, his face empty and his gaze distant. That seemed only to irritate the woman more, and she slammed her hand against my circle again.
“Ms. Johnson, calm down. He can’t understand your anger. He’s dead.”
If she heard me, she gave no indication, and I shuddered as she hit the circle again, the impact vibrating through my magic. The circle wouldn’t hold much longer, and if it failed, I’d be standing in the middle of a graveyard with my shields wide-open. Not a good thing.
“If you don’t take a step back, I’m going to have to end the ritual,” I said, moving around the grave so that I partially obscured her view of the shade.
She didn’t listen.
“This is between him and me.” She rummaged through her purse, muttering curses under her breath. When she looked up again, her smile was dark. She lifted a small revolver, leveling it at the shade. “How long were you with that hussy?”
And that’s my cue to end the ritual.
I didn’t repeat the question to the shade, because he would have answered. He would have had no choice. Shades were just memories with no will or consciousness. Matthew Johnson may have kept his mistress a secret during life, but he couldn’t hide the truth in death. And I had the feeling, regardless what his answer might be, it could only make this situation worse.
I didn’t need that.
“Rest now,” I whispered under my breath as I reached out with the part of me that sensed the dead and reversed the flow of magic that gave the shade form. The words weren’t strictly necessary, but I’d used them for so many years, they were now part of my ritual, producing a near Pavlovian response with my magic. The shade dissolved, the life heat I’d imbued in it rushing down the well-worn path of my psyche.
“No. No. Bring him back.” The woman railed against the edge of my circle. “He died too easy the first time.” Without her target of choice visible, she swung the gun in my direction. “I paid for this ritual. Now bring him back.”
I was seeing the land of the dead overlaying reality, but even if the revolver looked rusted and ruined in my sight, I had no doubt it was in fine working order in mortal reality. Ms. Johnson herself might have had enough innate magical ability that my circle stopped her from crossing into my ritual space, but unless her gun was loaded with charmed ammo—doubtful—my circle would do nothing to stop a bullet. Which meant I had to defuse this situation. Fast.
“Ms. Johnson I think—”
She cocked the gun.
Right. One shade coming right up.
I plunged my magic into the unseen corpse and pulled Johnson’s shade free again. He emerged looking exactly the same as the moment he’d died, right down to the bit of tomato soup in his beard.
As soon as the shade appeared, the woman’s rage refocused on her deceased husband. The bullet she fired passed through the shade with no effect, but that didn’t diminish her fury. She fired off two more shots and I crept to the edge of my circle, trying not to attract attention as I dialed the police.
I seriously needed to start screening my clients better.

****
“Alex, tell me you didn’t sleep here last night?”
I jerked upright at the question and my chair rolled away from my desk. The coins I’d been analyzing before I’d nodded off scattered; several rolling over the side of the desk to fall with loud plinks onto the floor. I frowned at the sound and blinked bleary eyes as I tried to focus on the speaker.
Rianna, my once-lost-now-found best friend and business partner, stood in the doorway of my office, her arms crossed over her chest as her green gaze swept over first me and then the mess that comprised my desk. At her side, the barghest who acted as her constant shadow huffed through his large jowls and shook his shaggy head.
“Morning,” I said around a yawn. My neck and back ached—no doubt from sleeping in a chair—and I stretched, trying to work out the kinks. “What time is it?”
“A little after eight. You have a . . .” She pointed to her temple and I placed a hand to the side of my face.
One of the coins clung to my skin. I peeled it off, feeling the slightest tingle of a spell in the metal. Great, one magic coin in the whole lot and I’d slept on it. Of course, maybe it would do me some good. The spell felt like a fortune charm and goodness knew I could use a little luck.
A glance over my desk turned up a blank form. I taped the coin in the provided box and jotted down my initial analysis. I’d do a more in-depth check on the spell later.
After setting down my pen, I looked up to discover Rianna still standing in my doorway, her expression somewhere between concern and disapproval.
“What? I had a lot to do.” I waved a hand to the mess of coins and forms. She cocked one dark eyebrow, clearly unconvinced. With a sigh, I slipped out of my chair and focused on gathering the escaped coins. Even through the solid wood of the desk, I could feel the weight of her stare.
“Oh, yes,” she said, drawing out the words for emphasis. “That looks like an important case. One so pressing, it warranted working through the night.”
I didn’t answer. Rianna and I both had our private investigator licenses, and as grave witches, our specialty was finding answers for our clients by questioning the dead. Analyzing charmed coins didn’t exactly fall within the typical Tongues for the Dead case description, but peering into the land of the dead to raise shades did nasty things to the eyes. So, I’d been searching out cases that wouldn’t make me blind before my thirtieth birthday. It didn’t pay nearly as well as raising shades, but it covered some bills without burning out my vision.
“My last client got arrested before paying for her ritual,” I said, as if recouping the income justified working overtime on a simple spell-identification case we both knew wasn’t pressing.
We also both knew exactly why I hadn’t gone home last night. He had a name.
Falin Andrews.
The Winter Queen’s knight was currently crashing in my one room loft. Considering we were occasionally lovers, that might have been okay, except that it was the Faerie queen’s royal decree placing him there and saying I suspected her motives was more than an understatement. He suspected them too—which was why he himself had told me never to trust him while he was under her rule. Oh yeah, and he’d told me that while holding me at dagger-point. Just after saying he loved me.
Our relationship was complicated, to say the least. In the two weeks he’d been staying at my place we’d barely spoken, by mutual consent. And besides, I was sort of seeing someone else. Can we say awkward? Yeah.
The office was a better option.
When I remained quiet, Rianna joined me on the floor. Together we gathered the coins, the only sound the clicking of my dog’s nails on the wood as he moseyed over to see what we were doing—and if we had food.
Rianna shot a glance at the small Chinese crested and frowned again. “PC’s with you, so I take it you never planned to go home last night? I thought you arranged to stay in Caleb’s guest room until you could figure out what to do about Falin.”
“I did.” And it wasn’t so much that I’d worked it out as that Caleb, my landlord, had insisted. The problem was . . . “The guest room isn’t soundproof and I don’t think Caleb and Holly ever sleep.”
“So they’ve officially hooked up?”
“Who knows if it’s official, but they go at it like bunnies.”
Rianna gave me a sympathetic glance as she passed me the last of the coins. “I’d invite you to my place, but . . .”
But she lived in an enchanted castle in Faerie. Well, actually my enchanted castle, but I’d never been inside it. I’d inherited the castle in a rather grisly way and the whole thing creeped me out. Besides, I’d have to pass through the winter court to reach limbo, where the castle currently resided, and with the Winter Queen determined to add me to her court, it wasn’t worth the risk of her finding a reason to detain me. So yeah, not currently a viable option for a place to crash.
I shrugged. “I’ll figure out something.” Climbing to my feet, I dumped the coins into a magic-dampening bag—my client thought they were cursed, and though I’d found no evidence of any malicious spells, better safe than sorry—before straightening. Rianna rose slower, levering herself up with the edge of my desk. She teetered when she reached her full height. I looked at her then, really looked at her.
When I’d first rescued Rianna, she was a wasting shadow of her former self, but in the last few months, she’d reclaimed a soft glow of health. The glow was missing today, her cheeks pale and dark smudges ringed her eyes.
“Are you feeling okay? I’m the one who passed out at her desk, but you look worse than I feel.” Though I was definitely feeling the weeks of gradual sleep deprivation.
Rianna gave me a feeble smile before shrugging. “I think maybe I caught something.”
“I didn’t know changelings could catch a cold.”
Another shrug. “Apparently. It must be going around. Ms. B. won’t be in today. She said something about the garden gnome being unwell.”
If I wasn’t frowning before, I definitely was now. When I’d inherited the castle, I’d also sort of acquired the people—well, two fae and one changeling—living in the castle. Like I said, creepy. The garden gnome I’d never met, but Ms. B was a brownie who’d tended the castle for longer than anyone seemed to remember. She’d taken a liking to me and recently decided to claim the roll of receptionist at Tongues for the Dead—I hadn’t had a say in the matter. She was gruff on the phone and some of our clients balked at her diminutive size and inhuman appearance, but I’d gotten used to having her around the office. I’d never heard of a fae getting sick, but honestly, despite the fact the fae had come out of the mushroom ring seventy years earlier, or the fact I’d recently discovered I was more fae than human, I didn’t know all that much about the day-to-day life of fae.
“Well, I hope he recovers quickly. And you too,” I said, my frown deepening. Rianna was all but leaning on the barghest. The large doglike fae stared at her, concern clear in his red-rimmed eyes. “Do you have any rituals scheduled today?”
She shook her head, swaying slightly with the movement.
“Good. Maybe you should keep it that way.”
She gave me a half nod, as if completing the movement would have taken too much energy. “I think I’ll go sit down.”
“Do you need a healer? Or a doctor?”
“No, I just . . .” She trailed off as she turned, swaying a moment before taking a breath and putting one foot very purposefully in front of the other. “This’ll pass in a minute. It’s happened a couple of times in the last week. Let me rest a moment.”
I walked around my desk and helped her into one of the client chairs. She collapsed gratefully, but I didn’t get a chance to question her because my cell phone buzzed on my desk and I had to rush back around to grab it.
The displayed number wasn’t one of my saved contacts, but I recognized the Central Precinct extension, so I guessed the caller. It had been a while since I’d heard from my favorite homicide detective, and our last few encounters hadn’t gone all that well, so I was relieved he was finally calling.
“Hey, John,” I said, tucking the phone between my shoulder and ear and heading back to Rianna.
“Craft?” a gruff male voice asked from the other side of the phone.
It wasn’t John.
I stopped in my tracks and briefly considered playing it off as a wrong number. If this was a client, professionalism was way past gone. But there was something familiar about the voice, I just couldn’t put a name to it. After an uncomfortably long pause, I confirmed he’d reached the right number.
“This is Detective Jenson. I need you at the morgue in an hour.”
He disconnected as soon as the last word escaped his mouth, leaving me no time to accept or deny his request. I pulled the phone away from my ear and stared at it like it might morph into something venomous. Because of my—largely unexplained—involvement in several major cases, John and I had suffered a falling out. But his partner Jenson? We’d never been close. And since my fae heritage had manifested, he’d been downright hateful toward me. Well, most of the time at least. It had been made clear to me that the police department wouldn’t be hiring me for a case anytime soon, so why did Jenson want me at the morgue?
“Alex?” Rianna made my name a question, concern mixing with curiosity in her voice.
I shook my head as I redialed the number Jenson had called from. The line rang four times before going to voicemail. Frowning, I ended the call without leaving a message.
“Well,” I said, shoving the phone in my back pocket. “I either have a job . . . or I’m about to walk into a trap.”



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