In the third installment of the Soulwood series, Nell Ingram continues to build a life outside of God’s Cloud of Glory church, master her powers with the Earth, and expand her role as a PsyLED agent.
Publisher’s Description: Set in the same world as Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, the third, thrilling Soulwood novel stars Nell Ingram, who draws her powers from deep within the earth.
Nell Ingram has always known she was different. Since she was a child, she’s been able to feel and channel ancient powers from deep within the earth. When she met Jane Yellowrock, her entire life changed, and she was recruited into PsyLED—the Homeland Security division that polices paranormals. But now her newly formed unit is about to take on its toughest case yet.
A powerful senator barely survives an assassination attempt that leaves many others dead—and the house he was visiting burns to the ground. Invisible to security cameras, the assassin literally disappears, and Nell’s team is called in. As they track a killer they know is more—or less—than human, they unravel a web of dark intrigue and malevolent motives that tests them to their limits and beyond.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Invested Ivana says…
Like all the Faith Hunter books I’ve read, I enjoyed Flame in the Dark very much. I like seeing the characters develop and learning more about the magic and creatures in their world. Khristine Hvam does a wonderful job of voicing the characters.
Flame introduces us to a new magical creature thought long extinct, sheds a little more light on the history of creatures like Soul, and furthers Nell’s relationships with the team and with her sister, Mud. I’m really looking forward to Mud becoming a bigger part of the story. She is a pistol!
Before listening to Flame, I listened to the whole series again, including “Off The Grid,” the Jane Yellowrock short story that introduces Nell. This is a series I’ll come back to often. 5 stars.
Nervous Nellie says…
I cannot praise Faith Hunter enough. First, she got me hooked on Jane Yellowrock, and then, as Jane’s world expanded, Faith brought in Nell Ingram. This is an action-packed adventure with plenty of story and character advancement. There is no sex, no swear words, a little graphic violence, and best of all, no cliffhanger. I thought there would be, but Faith Hunter saved me from wallowing in cliffhanger self-pity.
The story was great. I don’t mean on the low side of 5 great. I mean as high on the high side of 5 as the meter will go. There were monsters. You think there maybe aren’t monsters at first, but you know better since PsyLED is involved. These are monsters that give me that feeling like the movie Jaws did to the ocean. If you listen closely, you can figure out where the monsters are coming from, but the “why” that is answered in the end is just plain dark! It was GREAT!!!
The other part of the book was fun too. Not just a little bit, but a lot! I got to ride around with Nell and live her day. I liked how she got home and had to put logs into the stove to make heat for the house. I found her life interesting in an everyday kind of way. I enjoyed how she used her “church speak” to her advantage. I loved how Nell put her own father in his place when no one else could. Not even the Mamas. Go Nell!! I loved how Nell’s love life changed and she had to do a lot of soul searching to figure out what to do. The “will they/won’t they” between Occam and Nell was palpable. I could nearly feel the tense vibes that Occam was sending. Why tense? Well, there is a new man on the scene. If you are on team Occam, you’d better dive in and see what it’s about.
You think that’s all? Um, no. There is still the whole Brother Ephram thing, the vampire tree thing, and the Mindy “Mud” thing. There is a whole lot happening in this book. I was riveted, and the conclusion was very satisfying.
Now, I read a blog that claims this is the end of the series. Oh, boy. I hope not. I still want to be a part of Nell’s life. I want to ride with her on her journey of life. In some ways, she is wiser than a woman twice her age, and in other ways, she’s as wise as a girl half her age. It’s a interesting and engrossing kind of story.
Our reviews in this series…
Whoa, baby! Author Lisa Shearin of The Myth Manifestation – sent tantalizing snippets that make me want the whole book even more! It’s releasing this TUESDAY, so we just have to hold on until then!
Earlier I posted about the fabulous Lisa Shearin releasing The Myth Manifestation. This is episode #5 of the SPI Files series. If you haven’t read #1-4, hop to it. This is not a series to be missed.
Ms. Shearin sent us chapter 1 and chapter 2 of The Myth Manifestation to share with you. Today, she’s sent us TWO snippets. Just enough to drive us crazy and make the wait until Tuesday that much harder! Come on…whatcha waitin’ for? Dive in!
Some of the delegates were strictly nocturnal, and now was their happy hour. The other delegates fell into two camps: too pooped to party, and wide awake with worry so they might as well try to have fun.
Yes, there had been a murder committed to keep anyone from leaving. The delegates didn’t know about it, and had yet to be targeted. Since the success of the summit depended on maintaining congeniality, Vivienne Sagadraco had determined that the best way to deal with the current situation would be to carry on with the summit’s meetings as scheduled, beginning in the morning. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the boss was the epitome of the whole “Keep Calm and Carry On” thing. If her tea time would not be interrupted for monsters and murder, neither would the Centennial Supernatural Summit.
Rumor had it there was one heck of a poker game going on in the room Vlad had taken for his team’s headquarters. As Ian and I headed toward the lobby, one of Vlad’s people passed us, presumably on his way to the game, and nodded a polite greeting. He had a flying monkey tucked under his arm.
“Is that the vampire version of taking a keg to a party?” I quietly asked my partner.
“More like just a growler. But yeah.”
SNIPPIT # 2
The thing slammed into the bottom of the elevator, sending the car—and our legs—up a good two feet. Kenji and I had instinctively grabbed the cable, which was all that’d kept us on our feet.
Then the car kept creeping upward, as if pushed from beneath, thumps and hisses coming from all around us.
I did not want to look, but I had to.
I shined my penlight against the elevator shaft.
Not just two, but half a dozen snakes, maybe more, trying to squirm their way up from below, pushing against each other, each one the size of my thigh and plenty big enough to crush and eat us. They were eagerly squeezing themselves through the space between the elevator car and the shaft like Play-Doh in an evil Fun Factory.
Kenji and I were in total agreement on what to do next.
Don’t forget. The Myth Manifestation releases January 16, 2018.
Follow One Book Two via:
If you were dying, and you were asked if you wanted a risky experimental surgery to save your life, would you do it? What if the surgery involved a demon’s heart?
Publisher’s Description: I’m one of those disgruntled millennials you’ve heard about on the evening news. I’ve got a master’s degree in Art History, a mountain of student loan debt and no job to show for it.
Wait, scratch that. I track down stolen pieces of art for wealthy clients and then beat whoever stole them to within an inch of their life. Say what you will, but it puts bread on the table.
Something went wrong with this last job of mine, though. I walked in on something I wasn’t supposed to see and got murdered by witches. Yeah, real, legit witches. Never saw that one coming, did you? Neither did I, and the only reason I’m writing this is because some doctor working for an ancient secret society decided it would be a good idea to use me as a science experiment.
See, he implanted a new heart in me and saved my life, but it wasn’t just any old heart. It was a demon’s heart. Nifty, eh?
Anyhow, I’m back and better than ever, except that, now and then, the demon takes over completely and I do awful things. Lose control. But enough about that. This is a story about how I (mostly) rein in the demon’s impulsive personality and seek revenge against the coven of witches that tried to kill me. Along the way, I learn a thing or two about this secret society I’m apparently now a member of and find out that there’s a lot of shit out there that goes “bump” in the night.
Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In other words…spoilers. *BEWARE*
Nervous Nellie says…
Wow. This was a great book. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started this book, but it was non-stop action until the end. This story did not have any sex. There was plenty of violence but nothing too graphic. There was no cliffhanger.
Lucian is kind of a jerk. I won’t lie and say he’s super cool because he’s not. He’s basically a thug that “repossesses” items for the uber rich. He’s just looking for a fast buck and really doesn’t care much about the whys or wherefores. He just wants the payday.
Then the demon heart happened.
The next thing Lucian knew, he was thrown into an A-Team situation where he had the temperament of a spoiled prom queen and the power of… well… a demon.
Not sure that’s a good idea, but the witch coven that is super evil is sacrificing children to work their magic. It’s up to Lucian and his Scorpion-like team to stop their end game.
By the end of the book, I got to liking Lucian a little better. That’s good writing right there. The author took a character from slug to hero in two hundred pages. I am looking forward to the next book, Roaring Blood, as it is waiting for me in my TBR pile.
Quickly, I’d like to address the narrator. Sometimes you get really crappy narrators that can’t fit their character no matter what. Not this guy. His spin on Lucian Colt was awesome. He captured Lucian’s whiny, spoiled attitude and then helped him along his way to self-realization and becoming a better guy. Super narrator. I’ll listen to him again, no questions asked!
More info on The Myth Manifestation – chapter 2!! Can you believe it! One week til publishing and then we get to read the whole thing! Where is Rake? We can’t go on without Rake! Oh, wait…
Earlier I posted about the fabulous Lisa Shearin releasing The Myth Manifestation. This is episode #5 of the SPI series. If you haven’t read #1-4, hop to it. This is not a series to be missed.
I asked Ms. Shearin if it would be all right to share with you chapter 1 of The Myth Manifestation and she granted permission. Now it’s time for the next chapter!!!
Ian and I weren’t officially on duty for another hour, but we knew we’d been unofficially so the instant we’d set foot outside our hotel rooms.
When we glanced around the lobby, it wasn’t apparent to either one of us what was wrong.
The Regor Regency was a fully restored, thirteen-story epitome of art nouveau elegance.
The hotel’s defining feature was a central atrium that rose to a pyramidal skylight on the roof, revealing the surrounding Lower Manhattan skyline. The guest rooms and many of the meeting rooms opened out onto lushly carpeted walkways overlooking the atrium. The ornate, wrought-iron railing on each floor was waist-high to keep guests from taking a dive to the lobby below. It was Darwin Award–winner prevention that also looked good.
The hotel had been reopened for business for almost five years, and in that time, the Regor Regency had become the preferred destination for the well-heeled, both human and supernatural, who needed to be close to the Financial District. The logistics for the summit required a venue that was supernatural-friendly, meaning the staff had to be supernaturals themselves or some of the select humans who were in-the-know. Most of all, the staff couldn’t be the type to scream and run at the sight of guests with tentacles, wings, tails, scales, pointy ears, and/or fangs. The hotel also had to be able to accommodate the dietary and comfort needs of said unusual guests. And, most importantly, the venue had to be able to close itself to the general public (aka clueless humans) for the duration of the summit.
That meant the Regor Regency.
Plus, it was a nice touch that last year, the Regor had achieved a five-star rating. If you wanted people and not-people to make nice and work together, you’d better be sure they were happy with their surroundings.
Part of the hotel’s supernatural-friendliness lay with what ran below its foundations—several ley lines of power. They weren’t any of the four major lines that ran through the tri-state area, but rather smaller branches. The foundations of the hotel had been embedded in the bedrock right above the ley lines, which emitted a low and actually rather pleasant hum to people and beings who were sensitive to such things. After being exposed to a rudely awakened major ley line, I was officially a sensitive. As a result, the hotel’s interior was brighter and more vibrant, its cuisine more flavorful, its guest rooms more inviting and restful. I could see why the owner chose this hotel to renovate. It was a moneymaker waiting to happen.
To cover the preparations for the summit itself, plus getting the hotel ready to reopen to the public afterward, the owner had stopped taking reservations, and closed it for three weeks, citing renovations. To say that the owner was losing a lot of money from closing his hotel was an understatement, but I was sure that Vivienne Sagadraco had made it worth his while.
The owner was Rake Danescu.
Rake was a goblin, spymaster, billionaire, and presumed playboy. I say “presumed” because while I had no evidence to support that statement, he was tall, dark, blazingly hot, and his bank accounts were loaded. I felt safe assuming all of the above equaled a chick magnet; and since Rake was hot-blooded, breathing, and male, I couldn’t see him turning down the women who threw themselves at him on a regular basis.
I’d never thrown myself at him.
Maybe that was part of my appeal to him.
I still didn’t know.
By the way, Rake and I were kinda-sorta-maybe dating, and to the best of my knowledge, Rake had turned into a one-woman goblin.
I hadn’t slept with him. Not yet.
Call me paranoid, cautious, or merely sensible. Considering who and what the object of my affection was, I thought all of the above were good ideas.
But I hadn’t had to exercise any of my caution lately.
Rake and I hadn’t seen much of each other for about two months. I’d expected him to go full speed ahead after what had happened on Bannerman Island. We’d saved Ian, prevented an invasion by a race of ancient Irish gods, and as an added bonus, had made out in the woods. When it came to taking a relationship to the next level, that was a green light combined with flashing directional arrows. Instead, Rake had suddenly become “busy.”
To tell you the truth, it’d been kind of hard not to take personally.
But the reason I was here wasn’t personal, it was business, and I needed to get down to it.
I slowly turned in a full circle, my seer and regular human senses wide open.
I didn’t see anything in the hotel lobby that wasn’t supposed to be there. And all I could smell was the bacon biscuit in my pocket. Though a second later, I did hear my stomach growl in annoyance at being denied its crispy, bacony goodness.
The goblin chief of Rake’s hotel security stood utterly still across the lobby in front of the door leading to the hotel offices. Goblins had black eyes and hair (which they usually wore long), upswept ears, vampiric fangs, and a predator’s senses. I’d been introduced to Gethen Nazar yesterday. He and all those on his staff were battle-hardened dark mages, like their boss, Rake Danescu. A lot of supernatural VIPs stayed here, and as SPI knew through copious experience, wherever supernatural VIPs went, trouble was sure to follow. Rake and his people prided themselves on being prepared for anything.
If Gethen Nazar didn’t know what was wrong, I didn’t feel so bad.
A low, rumbling growl made the marble floors vibrate beneath our feet.
It came from the hotel ballroom, not my stomach.
As did the crash of something large and extremely breakable immediately after.
I didn’t know what was going all Hulk-smash behind those ballroom doors, but I knew I hadn’t had nearly enough coffee to deal with it. Worst of all, I didn’t think I was gonna get to eat my bacon biscuit anytime soon.
One of the doors quickly opened, and two pale and wide-eyed goblin hotel staffers darted out, slammed the door, and threw their backs against it as something bigger than both of them put together times ten charged the door from the other side.
The resulting boom shook the floor under our feet again, and the door buckled, but held.
My mouth was suddenly a tad bit dry. “I always thought the Hulk was a fictional character.”
“He is,” Ian said from beside me. “Unfortunately, that isn’t.”
I was fairly certain I was underqualified to deal with whatever was in there, and I was positive I didn’t want to open that door for confirmation, but that was our job. Confirm and confront things from the other side.
Sandra didn’t have to call her commando team; they’d followed us out of the dining room. They were still on duty. SPI’s second commando team, led by Roy Benoit, was on call.
Ian and I hurried over to the wall to the right of the doors that had taken yet another hit. Whatever was in there wanted out. We needed it to stay in.
Gethen Nazar was already there, speaking in low tones to the panicked goblin staffers.
Goblins didn’t shock easily, and if they did, they kept it to themselves. Whatever was in that ballroom had made these goblins toss their reserve right out the nearest Tiffany window.
“That’s impossible,” Gethen was saying.
Those words coming from a dark mage said a lot, none of it good.
“It was there . . . then it wasn’t,” the staffer managed.
The second staffer jumped in. “Then it appeared again.”
The security chief slid aside a small wooden panel that was at eye level in the ballroom door, like you’d see in an old speakeasy, and looked inside.
“What is it?” Ian asked him.
“Well, I’ll be damned. It is a buka.”
I blinked. “A what?”
“It’s a goblin legend,” Gethen said. “They exist, but they’re rare. A monster used to frighten children.”
If the staffers’ borderline panic was any indicator, bukas worked their mojo on adults, too.
“It appeared out of nowhere,” the first staffer told us.
Ian and I exchanged a glance. We both knew that a lot of monsters could come out of nowhere, and that applied to the proverbial “thin air” as well. Not all air was thin, and when it came to portals or tears in dimensional walls, there really wasn’t such a thing as “nowhere.”
“Gethen, what’s happening here?”
The familiar voice came from behind us.
He was tall and lean with shoulder-length black hair, angular features, and cheekbones you could cut yourself on. With the hotel being closed to the supernaturally clueless, Rake had dispensed with the human disguise, so his pale gray skin, pointed ears, and a pair of fangs that he knew how to use and use well—whether for ripping out the throat of an enemy or nibbling yours truly into incoherent babbling—were on full display.
The way things were going, there wasn’t going to be any nibbling on his part or babbling on mine for the foreseeable future.
Gethen answered his boss. “There is what appears to be a buka in the ballroom, sir.”
Rake paused for a moment, as if waiting for what he’d just heard to make sense. Apparently it didn’t. “A buka?”
The staffers were nodding in unison. “Yes, sir,” staffer number two said. “We were setting up the room for tonight, and it appeared.”
Rake crossed to the doors and slid aside the panel. He looked, he saw, and he carefully closed it.
He turned to us and said calmly, “There’s a buka in my ballroom.”
Ian stepped forward. “May I?”
“By all means.”
Ian took a peek, and I stood on tiptoe to do the same.
It was about nine, maybe ten feet tall, and bore a vague resemblance to a sasquatch. And yes, they do exist. Sasquatches are shy and gentle unless provoked. I didn’t know what had set this buka off, but those yellow eyes were blazing with a feeling that was way beyond provoked. It appeared to be deciding which set of antique tables and chairs to Hulk-smash next.
A normal person would think that was something you didn’t generally see in an upscale Manhattan hotel.
We weren’t normal people, and this wasn’t a normal hotel.
I drew back. “It looks like some kind of were-sasquatch.”
“Bukas are monsters native to my world,” Rake said, “specifically my home kingdom.”
“So, it shouldn’t be here.” I didn’t ask it as a question, since it was obvious that the thing was here. I shouldn’t have said it at all, but I think my mouth was killing time while my brain caught up to what my eyes were seeing.
“No, it should not be here.”
“Whatever we’re gonna do to make it go away, we need to do it quick. You’re starting to lose furniture in there.”
Sandra shouldered her way forward to take a look for herself. “All I need to know is how to kill it.”
“They’re tough and they’re fast,” Rake told her. “But they bleed and die just like anything else.”
Sandra gave a sharp nod. “Good enough.”
“That being said,” Rake continued, “some of the delegates have already arrived. A few have never heard gunfire before. We don’t want to upset anyone.”
Ian gave Rake a flat look. “So, you’re going to ask it nicely to leave?”
“The magic I plan to use is silent—at least it will be to my guests. All that will remain is a rather unpleasant odor, which the air filtration system can easily eliminate.”
“And if it’s tougher or faster than you think?” Ian asked.
I did a little internal wince.
Rake and Ian had never been what you’d call friends. More like two alpha males who had a mutual agreement not to kill each other in the immediate future. Maintaining that no-kill stance at any time beyond that was open to negotiation.
From what I had heard from others and seen for myself, Rake Danescu was quite possibly one of the most powerful dark mages on our planet right now. Ian had witnessed Rake’s magical badassery up close and firsthand. He knew what the goblin was capable of. So, Ian wasn’t questioning Rake’s qualifications to deal with the rabid goblin sasquatch; he merely wanted to cover all his bases should this not play out the way Rake believed it would.
Fortunately, Rake now knew Ian well enough to know this about him, and didn’t take it personally.
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
“I believe my team and I will be able to deal with the threat quietly,” Rake told Ian. “However, I am never opposed to backup—even if it is not needed.”
The members of SPI New York’s two commando teams were qualified to take down any monster in many ways. We had humans, elves, goblins, vampires, werewolves, and a couple of supernatural species I hadn’t been aware existed until I’d signed on with SPI.
All could kick monster ass with an assortment of lethal weapons, by hand, and with magic. That being said, I suspected they had nothing on Rake Danescu’s black magic security team, who had now joined their commander.
There were only six of them. Three men and three women Rake trusted to be able to deal with anything that could happen. He took the security of his properties very seriously, especially after what had happened a couple of months ago with a certain brimstone-leaking Hellpit under his most profitable nightclub.
Rake knew how much was riding on the summit. He’d pulled the best of his security personnel from his properties around town. They could fight and they could fling magic better than our commandos. I didn’t like admitting it, but it was true. It was true because Rake and his people were dark battlemages. They didn’t just practice black magic; they were experts. Their magic wasn’t the sacrifice-a-virgin kind; it was the too-dangerous-to-be-tried kind.
These people didn’t try it. They did it—and lived.
They were all goblins. While Rake had no problem with other races or supernatural species, when it came to those who had his back, he preferred his own people.
Considering the power even I could feel that they were packing, I didn’t blame him.
Ian had stepped to the side to call Ms. Sagadraco to inform her of the situation. While she would be on-site this afternoon when the rest of the delegates arrived, she always wanted to be notified if a situation went south when she wasn’t there.
A buka in the ballroom definitely qualified.
Rake and his people were going to take this entrance. Sandra and her team had moved to the ballroom’s east entrance, with Roy and his folks taking up position outside the west entrance. Both had just reported that they were in position.
As the leader of his team and owner of this hotel, it was Rake’s call when to move. They would attempt to deal with it themselves with magic alone. Our two teams were backup if dark magic muscle couldn’t get the job done.
The buka had stopped pounding on the doors. While we couldn’t hear it, no one could help but smell it. The closest I’d come in my experience to a stink quite that bad was a billy goat. Don’t get me wrong, I loved goats. Cutest babies ever. But once the boys grew up . . . dang, that was some serious stink.
Rake turned to his team. “If at all possible, I want this taken care of with minimal damage.”
Meaning to everything except the buka.
“I couldn’t see the entire ballroom through that little peephole,” I told him. “That buka could have friends—or whoever brought him here.”
“There was only one,” the goblin staffer said.
“That you could see. And you said that one kept disappearing and popping back up. What’s to keep another one from doing the same thing?” I held up a hand. “I’m not disputing what you saw, merely saying it’s a possibility we should consider.”
There was silence at that.
The staffers didn’t know what I meant, but Ian and Rake did. I was a seer. My survival instinct didn’t want me going into that ballroom, but keeping our people safe by alerting them to danger that only I could see was my job. It was my job, and I was going to do it. I wasn’t asking for Ian’s approval as my partner, or Rake’s as the owner of this hotel. It was more of an FYI. I was going in there.
“Me first,” Ian said.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” I told him. “You’re the badass monster hunter. I’m here to help you aim, if needed.”
I drew my own weapon. It was the latest and greatest paint pistol SPI’s chief armorer had made for me. As a country girl who grew up in the mountains, I was a good shot. Since I’d been working at SPI, I’d become a better shot. Our agents and commandos were expert shots—when it came to what they could see.
My paint pistol and I were there to help them shoot what they couldn’t see.
SPI’s R&D department had come up with ammo for my pistol and rifle that had a much wider splatter radius than a standard paintball. Plus, the dye was brighter and had the added advantage of glowing in the dark.
If a monster was sporting any kind of cloak or veil, I tagged it so our commandos could bag it.
I’d felt silly at first, carrying guns that fired dye pellets, but after dealing with the first few veiled baddies that had nearly killed two of our commandos, I carried my lethal-by-association toys with pride and honor.
Rake was wearing a suit, a suit that probably cost a month or more of my salary. He didn’t seem concerned that things could happen to the suit that even the best dry cleaner and tailor couldn’t fix.
I found myself on the receiving end of one of Rake’s bemused glances.
One corner of his mouth twitched in a quick grin. “Worried about me?”
“You can take care of yourself. I’m worried about endangering an innocent suit.”
Rake glanced down. “Good point. At least I can preserve the jacket.” With that, he shrugged out of the suit coat with one smooth movement, tossing it over the back of a nearby chair. Then he deftly removed his cuff links, which had probably cost more than the suit, tucked them in a pocket, and rolled up his sleeves. “Shall we?” he asked.
Ian gave a sharp nod.
A rafter-shaking roar came from what sounded like the middle of the ballroom. The buka was still there, but at least it had moved away from the door.
Our opportunity to get inside without the buka getting outside wouldn’t be any better.
Rake opened the door.
Don’t forget, The Myth Manifestation releases January 16, 2018.
Follow One Book Two via:
Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip. Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.
Earlier I posted about the fabulous Lisa Shearin releasing The Myth Manifestation. This is episode #5 of the SPI series. If you haven’t read #1-4, hop to it. This is not a series to be missed.
As I promised earlier, I asked Ms. Shearin if it would be alright to share with you chapter 1 of The Myth Manifestation. She approved. Woot! Here it is:
I poked at the gelatinous mass.
“It’s not going to attack you,” my partner assured me.
“Are you sure?” I poked it again. “What is it?”
That was a question I’d asked many times in my line of work, but never while in line at a breakfast buffet. Another big difference was that I was doing my poking with a serving fork and not the business end of a …
Who was I kidding? If I’d stumbled on this in a dark alley, I wouldn’t be poking it with any kind of weapon. I’d be getting the heck out of there and calling for backup.
Poking, or its more lethal cousin, killing, wasn’t my job. I’d been hired to find and point out monsters and supernatural bad guys. As much as I wished it otherwise, I wasn’t qualified for takedowns. I left those up to my partner and our commandos.
Most of the time.
I’m like one of those little dogs who chases big trucks. In my case, though, the big trucks are bloodthirsty monsters. Occasionally I catch one, but I’m woefully unqualified to do anything past that point. I should look before I leap, or to be more exact, think before I chase. My adrenaline’s been known to override my good sense.
My name is Makenna Fraser and I work for SPI. That’s Supernatural Protection and Investigations, a worldwide organization, headquartered in New York, that protects people from predatory supernaturals. Basically, we keep people from being eaten while making sure they stay in the dark about what had just tried to turn them into its latest meal. Move along, nothing to see. In addition, we also protect various supernaturals from humans and each other.
SPI is a full-service organization.
The part of SPI where I worked was basically a supernatural police department, albeit one that had worldwide reach, which pretty much made us a supernatural Interpol. The other side of SPI was a combination of the UN and NATO. Until now, I hadn’t had much contact with that side.
That was going to change this week.
For the next three days, select agents from all sections of our New York office would be working at the Regor Regency Hotel in Lower Manhattan.
There have always been supernatural creatures on Earth; some were from our world, some were immigrants or visitors from elsewhere. In the early 1900s, Earth started looking particularly good to races from other worlds and dimensions, mainly as a sanctuary. For the first decade or so the population increase wasn’t a problem, but SPI wanted to take steps to ensure that it didn’t become one in the future. Exactly one hundred years ago this week, an agreement had been drafted to keep the off-world population from exploding and the humans of Earth from finding out about any of it.
The terms of that agreement expired this week.
Diplomats from SPI had been busy for the past year working with their supernatural counterparts around the world to negotiate any desired changes to the existing agreement. Naturally, what many supernaturals desired was everything, including the kitchen sink.
SPI was flexible, but when it came to our own prime directive—ensuring that humans remained convinced that they were still large and in charge of this planet—we wouldn’t budge.
Most of the messy work had been done. Negotiations had been satisfactorily completed, concessions had been agreed upon, fangs had been retracted and claws sheathed, lawyers had been recalled, and delegates from the various races and species would gather here for the official signing of the accords. I’d heard there were still a few holdouts here and there, but that was to be expected. It wasn’t the reason why the law enforcement side of SPI had moved into the Regor Regency.
We were here to keep the living delegates alive and the undead delegates from becoming permanently deceased. Some supernaturals got along with each other.
Most did not.
I had a feeling we were going to have our work cut out for us.
We were about to be overrun by more types and races of supernatural beings and outright aliens than had ever been in one place at one time, at least since the original agreement had been signed. July wasn’t the best time to be in New York, but supernaturals took contracts very seriously—especially those they’d signed in their own blood. And since many of them had extended lifespans, some of the same beings who had signed the original agreement would be back this time.
Most of the supernaturals were here to renegotiate territories and boundaries as well. While they really could’ve done that on their own, the agreement carried more weight if it was done through SPI. A lot of them did it to get an all-expenses-paid trip to New York, though.
The summit would also include a meeting between representatives of both the elf and goblin monarchs and the governors of their colonies here. The elf and goblin home world was under a threat of invasion, and the meeting here would be to arrange for a limited number of refugees to come to our world if that threat became a reality.
For the goblins, the sticking point was that the goblin monarchy had just experienced a violent transfer of power. The older brother in the Mal’Salin dynasty had been assassinated by his chancellor, but before the chancellor could steal the throne, the younger brother was installed in a coup.
The governor of the goblin colony here on Earth had been given that assignment by the older brother.
The younger brother—now king—was cleaning house with a vengeance.
I didn’t see the meeting between the governor and the new king’s representative being a friendly one.
As to the elves, the colonial governor here was a member of a family that was in a heap of political and legal trouble back home. The elf queen was likewise feeling an urge to take a broom to her house.
Fun times ahead on the goblin and elf fronts.
Two races that were not included in the summit were the vampires and werewolves. As the most populous and powerful supernatural beings on our world, they each warranted their own meeting.
As I said, it was SPI’s job to keep any of the summit’s delegates from killing each other, at least while they were in New York. What they did when they got home was their business. What they did while they were here was ours. If the vampires and werewolves had been added to the mix, we would have had more than we could be expected to handle.
I was part of SPI’s security detail for what was being called the Centennial Supernatural Summit.
Both commando teams from SPI New York had moved into the hotel for the week.
I wasn’t one of SPI’s commandos. I was a seer.
A seer could see through any glamour, spell, or ward a supernatural being could use to disguise their true appearance. My talent also included seeing through cloaks and veils, which could render their users invisible. It was kind of hard to apprehend supernatural criminals if you couldn’t see them, or if what you were chasing ran into a crowd and changed their appearance to look like someone else.
SPI valued their seers. Criminals wanted us all to drop dead.
My three predecessors had done just that—with a literal or metaphorical push from someone interested in keeping SPI without seers.
We were rare enough as is. There were only five seers worldwide working for SPI. I was based in the New York office. We had another out in LA. The other three were stationed in our European and Asian offices.
SPI founder and director Vivienne Sagadraco had assigned Ian Byrne to be my partner. As SPI’s top agent, Ian had the most need for a seer on a daily basis. As SPI’s newest seer, I needed SPI’s top agent to keep me alive and working. Ian was teaching me hand-to-hand (or claw, tentacle, etc.) combat, and I was getting better, but as a former special-ops guy and NYPD homicide detective, Ian would always be infinitely better. Bless his heart, he did his best to teach me all that he could.
Ian had the patience of Job and deserved a raise—and a medal.
I stuck the serving fork back into the whatever-it-was and moved down the buffet line to something I could identify as breakfast food, at least what humans considered to be breakfast food.
Now we were talking.
A white-jacketed server hurried to the buffet and with a perfectly proper murmured apology whisked the offending dish away—toward the fancy dining room where the supernatural/alien delegates were taking their meals.
Okay. Now it made sense.
That buffet was offering something for everyone, which amounted to a lot of weirdness. Some seriously funky stuff was being served to the delegates, most of whom definitely qualified for the “not from around here” moniker.
SPI’s security people and staffers had a separate buffet and dining room. We needed to be close enough for fast response, but far enough away to give us a break from what I’d been told could be like babysitting a pack of spoiled toddlers. When we weren’t on duty, we were on call 24/7, so we needed to get in, get fed, and get back to work.
It was six in the morning, and the dining room set aside for SPI agents and staff was getting crowded.
The delegates would be coming from all around our world, other worlds, and several dimensions attached to both. Some were nocturnal, others functioned during the day. Combine that with multiple time zones here on Earth, and everyone’s internal clocks were screwed up. As a result, SPI agents would be working in shifts so we didn’t drop from exhaustion.
I’d learned during my nearly two years at SPI that if you had time to eat or sleep, you took it. You never knew when the crap would hit the fan, making food and rest nothing but a fond memory.
I was piling my plate high because of that. That and because the buffet was ten kinds of awesome.
I sensed my partner’s disapproving eyes on me.
I paused in my hunting and gathering. “What?”
“I would ask if you were going to eat all that,” Ian said. “But we’ve been together long enough that I know you will.”
“Yet still, you do not believe,” I said solemnly.
I could put a hurtin’ on a breakfast buffet. It ain’t bragging if it’s true, and I had the embarrassed-to-eat-with-me friends and family—and partner—to prove it.
Ian Byrne was my partner at work, not my partner in bed. Another coworker of ours had that job covered. Ian was tall, ripped, blue-eyed, and unwholesomely handsome; and I didn’t have to be sleeping with him to know or say that. My eyes and hormones were in perfect working order, and they communicated with each other on a regular basis.
For the duration of the summit, Ian was also in charge of SPI’s security teams.
Even though he had just gotten out of bed, Ian was looking mighty fine in the SPI-sanctioned uniform for the talks, what I called “SWAT lite,” all black with a small SPI logo tastefully placed on the right side of the chest, not the left where the heart was located. It wouldn’t be a good idea for people to walk around with a target over their most vital organ. Though that only applied to most of SPI’s agents. Some had hearts elsewhere in their chest cavity; a few didn’t have hearts at all. In the physical sense, that is. My coworkers were seriously good people.
Ian and I sat next to Sandra Niles and some of her team at one of the long tables. The Jamaican native was the commander of one of SPI New York’s two commando teams. They were coming off night duty, and no doubt having breakfast before turning in for a few hours of sleep before the majority of the delegates arrived this afternoon.
“Everything quiet?” Ian asked.
Sandra speared a link sausage. “Nothing violent, if that’s what you mean.”
I refined my partner’s question. “Everyone behaving?”
Sandra tilted the forked sausage in my direction before taking a bite. “Point to the lady.”
Ian stabbed a couple of tater-tots and snorted. “Who were they and what did they do?”
“Perovians. Jumped off of Rockefeller Center.” She gave us a closed-mouth grin while she finished chewing. “It didn’t happen in the hotel, so it wasn’t our problem. The Chicago team had to deal with it. They brought our wayward guests home an hour ago. I just e-mailed you the report.”
There were entirely too many names of species, races, worlds, and dimensions being thrown around for me to follow.
I turned to Ian. “Okay, tell me again who the—”
“Perovians. Small world, breathable air, two portal jumps from here. They look like gargoyles.”
“And they like to jump off tall things,” Sandra added. “Unfortunately, New York is full of tall things. Fortunately, only two of them took the plunge before our Chicago team put a stop to their fun. The delegates claim they weren’t seen, and there weren’t any reports from Rockefeller Center of suicidal gargoyles, so we’re all good.”
Our boss, Vivienne Sagadraco, had called in commando units from three of SPI’s larger metropolitan offices. One each from Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Their job would be to cover for our two New York teams who were running security for the duration of the summit. The boss was hosting this shindig, and she wanted security folks whom she knew by name. She had handpicked each and every one of them when SPI first hired them. When you were sitting on a powder keg like this summit, you wanted people you knew and trusted to keep the fuse from being lit.
Or who you knew were qualified to clean up the mess if it went boom.
“We’re encouraging delegates to remain in the hotel for the duration,” Sandra told me. “Unless it’s on a tour we’ve organized. If they do go out on their own, they have to play by our rules.”
I knew what those rules were, even if our Perovian guests had conveniently forgotten.
When out among New York’s human population, magical veils or glamours were to be worn at all times, meaning you either had to be invisible or look human. If a delegate lacked the magical talent to veil or glamour, we issued an amulet to them when they left the hotel, to be returned when they got back. The amulets had been designed by SPI’s R&D department along with Kenji Hayashi, SPI’s Chief Technology Officer and ultimate tech guru. In addition to keeping the public from being freaked out by seeing a gargoyle bungee jumping off Rockefeller Center without a bungee, it allowed the free-roaming delegate to be tracked by SPI’s security people at the base they’d set up here in the hotel.
“One of the Perovian nobles lives in New York, and they met for dinner at the Rainbow Room,” Sandra was saying. “They were supposed to come directly back here afterward. One of our security people was charged with tracking them for the evening. He told us the instant they made a little detour to the observation deck after dessert. I notified HQ, who dispatched the Chicago team.”
I started in on my bacon and eggs. “The flyboys are grounded, I take it?”
“For the duration of the summit.”
I nodded in approval. The Perovians were guests here, as were the rest of the delegates. I was Southern, and being Southern meant you behaved yourself when under someone else’s roof. Acting any other way just wasn’t done.
“Is the dwarf delegation back yet?” Ian asked.
Sandra swallowed a sip of coffee. “Calvin reported in that they’ve extended their outing by two hours. They’ll be back by nine. The ambassador’s cousin is hosting a breakfast for the delegation.”
I glanced back and forth between the two of them. “Where’d they go?”
“The part of Manhattan that dwarves would want to see, and feel right at home exploring,” Ian said.
I smiled. “The abandoned subway tunnels.” It’d been long enough since we’d hunted grendels under Times Square that the worst of the memories were no longer nightmare fodder, at least not often. I was merely glad the dwarves had found something fun and touristy to do. Though my smile would’ve faded real quick if I’d been asked to be the tour guide.
The dwarves had been picked up yesterday afternoon from SPI’s private airfield in Westchester County. Their transportation into the city was a van with tinted windows so that no one could see in, but that also had shades to pull down if the sight of the New York skyline was too overwhelming for the cavern-dwelling dwarves.
The driver had reported that his charges had taken one look at the city and had not only closed every blind, but looked anywhere except through the windshield.
“Who took them on their field trip?” I asked.
“It was arranged by a cousin of the ambassador who works for the MTA,” Sandra said. “I asked Calvin and Liz if they’d do the security honors.”
The dwarf delegation couldn’t have been safer. Calvin had done three tours in Iraq as an army infantryman and field medic. He’s at least a foot taller than I am. Bull neck, bald head, and biceps the size of my thighs in my fat jeans. Liz was a former Marine who would’ve made a fine Ellen Ripley in Alien. That woman could rock a flamethrower. She and Calvin were a monster-hunting dynamic duo.
They knew their way around subterranean New York, and had been a big part of why the grendel infestation of two New Year’s Eves ago hadn’t made it to the surface to turn the million partiers in Times Square into a midnight buffet.
Dozens of grendels in New York’s sewers then, versus fewer than a hundred supernatural diplomats in a five-star hotel now.
It didn’t matter how demanding those diplomats got, we were living the dream this time with our cushy accommodations.
As if on cue, my phone beeped, as did Ian’s and Sandra’s.
Ian and I shared a quick “oh crap” glance.
I grabbed my coffee and chugged down as much as possible. I burned the bejesus out of my tongue, but better burnt than under-caffeinated for whatever had just happened.
I shoved some bacon in a biscuit, wrapped both in a napkin, and tucked it in my jacket pocket.
Time to go to work.
Don’t forget. The Myth Manifestation. Releases January 16, 2018.
Follow One Book Two via: