Saturday, May 31, 2014

Book Sample the Second

I've decided to post multiple sample chapters this time, due to the long wait.

The ms itself is going through final revisions (as in final final final) and Ivory Scars, Iron Bars should be up for pre-order by the end of this week. There will be two more sample chapters in June, and it'll go on sale July 4th, 2014

 The  first book in the series, Silver Bullet, Black Hounds, is...well, under the link.

Chapter one is here.  Chapter two is beneath the cut. Read away, my lovelies.

Chapter Two:

Raziel lived in a block of apartments just off South Padre Island Drive. De facto student housing, though it wasn't entirely taken up by Texas A&M alumni. Attractive yellow walls and landscaping heavy on the oleanders gave it a nice, comfortable atmosphere, like dryer-warmed sheets spread out on the lawn. The view of the Laguna Madre was probably the best for a few miles. You could see the round tower on the Aggie campus, Harbor Bridge’s pale ghost, and even the Lexington’s nighttime lights from here.
Raziel's silver Jag parked next to a space filled with boards and lawn chairs. In theory, it was blocked off so that people on Faerie business would have a place to park. Casey figured the woman did it to protect her car. The Spectraflare paint job broke into neon rainbows even at night, and Raziel would never allow a single scratch on her pricy baby. Casey didn’t want to get out and undo the mess, so she found a parking space not too much father from Raziel's apartment, and got out to walk.
Her right knee ached dully, though not as badly as it had a few months ago. The parting gift from her former husband: titanium steel alloy and a kneecap facsimile. He'd pulverized the natural bone, taking out on her legs what he hadn't dared do to her face. And then he'd had the gall to drag her down two flights of stairs before calling nine-one-one. Cue the crocodile tears. She fell. It was terrible. Oh, can't you please do something?
But it's over. Habits of thought slip through the mind like prayer beads through fingers; the effort is to keep those habits healthy. Hard to do, when memory surfaces with every bend of the knee. Each time she got out of a car, walked down stairs, walked up stairs. Walked further than twenty feet: He hurt me, but it's over. It's over. It's over. But it wasn't perfect. You could always build defenses around that grain of sand, but even pearls reminded you that you had been invaded. She went to the ease-of-access elevator and pushed the button for the top floor.
Raziel's apartment was on the third story, three doors down from the elevator. She rang the bell and waited a few seconds for the door to open. At first glance, the woman who answered appeared to be of mixed race leaning towards black. Then the color truly registered: gray, with a violet-and-violence tinge around the edges. A color any good Texas girl would recognize. Tornado warning. Run. Her gray gaze sharp as daggers, her makeup came in dark burgundies and gold. Her business suit was sky-blue merino, her silk shirts probably Armani.
She lives, Casey thought, not for the first time, on government assistance. I can't afford silk shirts. Until she sold that land, which had been like amputating a part of her body, she could barely afford food. And she'd been lucky to find a clean t-shirt that didn't have something cutesy on the front.
"Come in." the gray lady said, and Casey walked into her domain.
It was like walking into a web of cotton candy. Lace doilies, frills, a general, congenial  Better Homes and Gardens atmosphere. Frou-frou, pillows, bowls of glass candy. Artfully distressed picture frames. She'd hated it the first time she'd walked in, and she hated it now. If you scraped one of the artfully crackled armchairs, you'd find the text from the next page waiting beneath the ink.
They both walked through that first room without a pause. The next hall was a stark, unforgiving gunmetal, the floor black stone. Marble or granite, Casey couldn’t tell. There were no pictures on the wall, and other than a white ceramic basin on a dark-stained stand, no furniture. One left turn, and Raziel unlocked the door to her office.
It was an armory run by an obsessive compulsive psychotic. The heavy desk in one corner was still neat to the point of mathematical grid-lines, the razor-sharp dagger in the letter-opener display bare, save for that last half inch buried in the stand. A wall-mounted starburst of swords and knives, all of them gleaming, sat exactly behind Raziel's chair. When she was in place she had a halo of sharp objects, the divine emissions of a warrior goddess. An elaborate suit of armor stood over in one corner, the fox-shaped helm overlooking a pair of polished six-shooters with bullets so shiny you could see your own reflection in the tips. And for all the care, all of these objects had an aura of being well-used. Even that armor.
No, Casey thought. Especially that armor. Many monsters, animal and human alike, had fallen under the hooves of Raziel's warhorse.
Back when she had a warhorse, that is.
Uneasiness sat on Casey's shoulders. Raziel smiled down at her as if she were a particularly interesting bug with a history of adorable tricks.
Last year, Casey had been stunned to learn that she herself was...well, she didn't want to call it magically gifted. But she had a kind of window into the fairy realm. Something she'd always mistaken for writerly inspiration. There was a real place called Ambercross. There were real creatures called Elestrin, Duskin, Wym.
It wasn't a very clear window, though, and she didn't need Raziel and Marco to explain it. The core idea, some of the names and places, that was the real part. But she was a writer. That wasn't magical influence. It was years of study, research, work. By the time that core, that kernel of magical inspiration made it to her conscious mind, she'd already worked it into something completely unrecognizable.  She and Marco, and even Raziel to a lesser extent, had sat down and looked at her writing...and even with them present, it was hard to tell what was real and what she had cobbled together for good storytelling.
Which is probably why it's dragging so hard. I'm overthinking everything.
Raziel smiled down at her. "Would you like to take a seat, Ms. Winter?"
Casey did, sitting in one of the two chrome-and-leather office chairs Raziel had in front of her desk. This was a working office. Corpus Christi's Fae population came here to discuss options. These chairs were frequently occupied.
 Raziel didn't go for the throne-like monstrosity on the other side of the desk. Instead, she took the other office chair and crossed her legs like a fashion model photoshopped out of humanity.
She's being motherly. Casey thought. I am so totally screwed.
They looked at each other for a moment, Raziel's gaze steady, chin resting on hand. Casey studied her fingernails. They were a little dirty. The silence stretched on, and on. And on. Well, I'm not going to be the first to break it.
Raziel chuckled quietly to herself. "Well played, Ms. Winter. Tell me. What do you think of my little seaside fiefdom?"
"I think it's underpopulated. You lost Lyrene, Prix and Ero last year. Far as I know, nobody else has moved in." She could have slapped herself. Two out of the three had died at her hands...and she wouldn't have hesitated over the third.
The smirk darkened. The burgundy lipstick made her look as if she'd drunk the blood of her enemies a few minutes ago. "Well, you'd be wrong. We've had four applications from significant powers just in this last week alone. Two elves, one sylph, and a rather nice brownie I let down very gently. They're dears, but I don't want to foster that kind of thing."
Casey blinked. "Aren't know, nice?"
"They are nice, child. That is the problem. I don't mind having a few misfits in my city. Tim Anderson and his husband provide things, stay out of trouble--did you want to contribute something to the shower we're throwing for the baby? Leslie Feilding sent enough for a very nice bassinette--but more dwarves than that? The mineral rights in Corpus will evaporate overnight, and companies will start to ask questions. Brownies mean hobs and nixies, and that usually means brand new drugs, and bewitched lovers, and songs and stories--and you know how tender our relations are with the police here."
Oh, yeah. Casey had ringside seats for that little show last October. The Fae were the worst kept secret in human society. They'd managed to stay underground, somehow, but all the ones Casey had met had some kind of social worker. You couldn't be in social services without knowing about Faeries. Some of the local cops--like Arthur Ramirez, a very nice man--were probably in the dark. Detective Baker, however, bristled every time Marco or Raziel showed up. It wouldn't take a lot to make the local police turn on the local Fae. Another murder would probably do the trick. Drugs definitely would. Speaking of which..."There's Faerie drugs?"
Raziel rolled her eyes. "Yes. And they're not illegal in the wider world. Which means it is our job to keep a lid on it. Most of the larger cities have a couple good elves in the police department so they can turn it into PCP or bath salts when the drug tests arrive. We don't have to do that here. We have the lowest Fae population of any major American city, and I'd like to keep it that way." She folded her hands in her lap. "If for no other reason than because it's less work for me."
"So you're throwing the new ones out?" She asked.
"Oh, good god, no. Every creature--even the annoying ones--deserve to be somewhere safe, where they can at least be respected. No, I'm not going to throw the Fae out of Corpus. I'm going to invite them in."
"I think that logic gave me whiplash," Casey said.
"Didn't you wonder why I kept two Phooka in my city? They're a very dangerous thing to have around. They tend to do...well, exactly what they did last October."
"You had mercy on them."
Raziel laughed, long and loud and pure. "There isn't a merciful bone in my body, child! They kept the rest of the Fae away. Two Phooka? I can keep an eye on that. Find placement and jobs for them, feed them magic, keep them comfortable, and put them down when things go south. Twenty or thirty Wym? We'd be overrun. And as long as the world has no reason to fear Corpus Christi, the entire world will want to come in."
That's probably the most cold-blooded thing I've heard in my life. Casey shivered. "Fine. So what does this have to do with me and Boston?"
"I want something dangerous, and I think I've found a gentleman who fits the bill. Unfortunately I don't have an exact address on my quarry. I've been told only that it--he, rather--lives somewhere in Boston and is ready to move elsewhere. My contact has promised to introduce me, but only if I do him a favor. He runs a very...specialized underground auction house. Mostly serving up items of an occult nature to humans who actually know their way around a magic spell, though they do a lot of business in mundane valuables."
"I'm with you so far." Casey said.
"He needs a lot authenticated, and he requested--demanded, really--that I bring you up to Boston to perform the authentication."
"I don't know jack about magic." Casey said. Humans couldn't do it, and she wouldn't want to try.
"I understand. However, my friend was quite adamant that it must be you, and that you must be there in person."
"Can I refuse?" She said.
"Of course. If you did, I wouldn't even withdraw my protection. The McHallys aren't searching quite so close these days, but I'm sure scenting their daughter's murderer would be simple if I stopped guarding you. And you are too...interesting for me to lose just now. But I can't promise that this city will be safe for mortals much longer."
 Casey winced at that first part. She had killed Lyrene McHally at the beginning of last October's fun and games. It was justified. The Merrow had been trying to kill her at the time. But the McHallys--something like gangster mermaids--had made it clear: Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, Casey's head on a platter. The only reason they hadn't found her was Raziel's efforts to keep her hidden.
The Gray Lady softened and eased a bit forward in her chair. "Casey, I am not asking you this as if you are my subordinate. I am asking..." She sighed, rubbed the bridge of her nose. "We are not friends. We are not likely to become friends. But I do need your help."
Casey closed her eyes. Like we were saying. No spine at all. "You'd get me over a barrel eventually anyway." She sighed. "I'll do it."

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