I’m so excited that the fourth book in my urban fantasy series will be released this fall! I thought it might be time to give you a peek at what Dr. Arienne Cerasola and her crew are up to this time. There’s mayhem, mishaps, and magic (natch!) in the British Isles. I’m going to be revealing the cover over the next few weeks (super excited about this one) and to celebrate the release of the latest book, there’ll be promos on the previous ones. All of the books are technically stand-alone – there are no cliff-hangers – but the stories weave together. So without further delay, here’s a preview!
I was excited to get into the living room and tell the others about our rogue decision to get rid of the magical sword. Evan held the door for me, but before I could cross the threshold, the noise of the celebration rolled out, drowning out my words.
“To the Crux Crucio Orbis!” Dr. Ezra Froelich shouted as he toasted Kingston Pon with what appeared to be a Mai Tai complete with a little paper umbrella.
“To defiance of the United Coven and Alliance!” Kingston replied, lifting a glass of scotch.
“Long live the opposition!” My grandfather, the eminent archaeologist Dr. Christopher (Christy) O’Flynn, yelled. I had no idea what Pops was drinking out of his glass, but he’d had quite a bit of it judging by the thickness of his Irish brogue.
Evan gave me a sideways glance. “It looks like it worked the way we thought it would.”
I looked at him and laughed. “I guess we don’t need to explain anything. By the way, was it just me, or was Camulus kind of a jerk?” For some odd reason, I’d expected the ancient Roman deity to at least be a little happy to see his sword again.
“He was definitely a jerk. But if you had to live in a copy of Stonehenge for all eternity, you might be a jerk too. There wasn’t even a couch in that place.”
“True.” I agreed. “Should we join the party?”
“I don’t think we can catch up with the drinking they’ve been doing, but I could use a scotch and a bed,” Evan said, sounding exhausted.
I had to agree. It had been a long week, and I was dragging myself forward on exhausted legs with my ripped cargo pants, muddy shoes, and frizzy red hair rounding out the bedraggled look I was rocking. I was sure my sage green eyes weren’t so stunning when they were bloodshot.
I glanced again at Evan, and even though he looked tired, he still looked damned good. Tall, substantial (my term for saying he was neither a wiry man nor a muscle-bound goliath), and devastatingly handsome didn’t come close to a description of him. He was also super smart, charming, wickedly funny, calm under pressure, and sexy as hell. Yeah, I had a bit of a crush on him, and it was getting bigger by the moment. Just hearing him say the word ‘bed’ made me want to blush.
Kingston saw us first because he was the soberest member of the group. “There they are! The ones who freed us.” He lifted his glass, and Evan groaned.
“I think they might be overestimating us a bit.” He said from behind me.
I turned to look at him and smiled. “Let’s bask in the adoration for a little while. It doesn’t come around too frequently.” I stepped forward and picked up a crystal decanter, pouring a bit of scotch into an expensive glass and holding it out for Evan. I briefly considered getting him liquored up and seeing what happened, but we were both too tired for it to be worth it. Besides, there were three men, an owl, and a magical blue beaver in the English country house. It wasn’t exactly a prime romantic environment.
I had just finished pouring my drink and was looking forward to relaxing for a while when all hell broke loose at the back of the house. The posh English countryside manor house we were staying in belonged to the Queen of the Southern Tier Fae. So really, the commotion could have been part of the fairy power-struggle that was being waged among the fae factions.
It could have been; until I remembered that disaster lurked just off-screen, waiting for an opportunity to steal the show in my life.
The sound of crashing glass and running feet that were headed our way pulled every set of eyes out of the celebration and toward the kitchen. Pots and pans clattered, furniture sounded as if it were being broken, and in the middle of the melee, Evan clinked his glass against mine with a sad shake of his head.
“There’s never a dull moment with you, is there?” He asked. He downed the scotch, and I felt the cool wash of his water magic bump against me as he readied himself to defend against whatever danger was undoubtedly racing at us from the kitchen.
“You don’t know I had anything to do with it,” I said, tossing back my drink and pulling at the currents of electricity that ran through the earth. I was too tired to panic. I felt Ezra’s fire magic flare and Kingston’s air magic mix in. Pops also tapped the ley lines in the earth, and without a word, the five of us moved into a tight circle as we listened to the fracas in the kitchen.
Basir, my three and a half-pound constant companion, swooped from the rafters on silent wings and tapped my shoulder before flying out of the room to check out the commotion. A moment later, a large coyote scrambled across the marble floor. He skidded into the wall and bounced off before gaining traction on the expensive carpet. With his tongue hanging out of the corner of his mouth and his tawny ears pinned back, he shot into the center of our human circle, knocking me sideways into Kingston. Basir swooped in a second before three angry looking women burst into the room.
The owl landed on the rafters behind us and settled his wings high on his back. His ear tufts were raised, and he appeared entertained by the whole situation. That made one of us. The rest of us weren’t amused at all. If anything, the blend of our magic had a brittle edge of fierceness that was probably tempered by alcohol and exhaustion.
“You cannot get away from us!” Shrieked a young American Indian girl in a bright green dress. Her sheet of black hair streamed behind her, and there was a flush to her bronze skin as she ran into the room. “Bad dog!”
The second girl (also Native American, but in a yellow dress) ran into the room and tried to dodge past me. I countered her move, stretching out my arms like we were playing basketball, and she was going up for a shot. She was considerably taller than my five feet three inches, but I undoubtedly outweighed her, by how much will remain my little secret.
I thought she’d give up after the second or third time I body checked her for trying to get past me. The fourth time I shoved her back, I was smiling because what she lacked in offensive strategy, she made up for with persistence. We looked so ridiculous that everyone else in the room backed away a little and watched us with curious expressions. The combined magic in the room continued to pop and sizzle.
The fifth time she made a move to get by me, I grabbed her around her skinny waist and, using her momentum, I spun her around behind me before flinging her away from her target and giving her a good hard shove against her bony hip for good measure. She stumbled and sprawled on the wood floor, all of her long limbs splaying out to make her look like a baby giraffe learning to walk. She stayed down, though, and I suspected she gave up out of frustration. I felt a small crackle of magic from her, so I pulled on the energy my other companions were giving off, wove it together with my own, and formed a hasty little barrier spell between my crew and the Native American contingent.
My opponent got to her feet and stepped back with an admonishing glare in her dark brown eyes just as my spell snapped together.
I wasn’t sure if her glare was for the coyote panting behind me or for me. Probably both. I could just picture the look on his face. Mouth open, tongue lolling out, and ears pinned back in a ‘come get me’ fashion. I didn’t need to turn around to know that he probably had his paws stretched out in front of him, and his rear end high in the air. It was probably his back end facing the three women with his tail wagging merrily if I knew Coyote at all.
The third woman who entered must have been composing herself in the other room during the tussle. She had yellow hair (the color of corn niblets, not blond) and a pale green shawl that was slightly askew around her shoulders. She finished pulling it into place just as her companion stood. I deduced she’d missed the show, given the perplexed look on her face when she spotted her friend brushing off her dress and glaring at me.
She apparently wanted to make a grand entrance rather than chase the coyote into the room. It had not been a dignified entrance from her companions, and I didn’t think she wanted that to be our first impression of her. I admired her restraint. She stood in front of us and crossed her arms as if we would just listen to reason because she had deigned to speak in our presence. “You know you have to go.” She said with her dark eyes fixed on the ceiling.
I looked up to see who she was talking to. Basir was sitting on a rafter behind us, and when I turned my head to look at him, he brought his wings in front of him and turned them face up. At least I wasn’t the only one confused.
“I don’t have to go, O-na-tah.” The coyote spoke from behind me. “I could make you chase me some more, or you could just tell them you couldn’t find me.”
I sent a sideways glance to Evan. His Native American features were softer than the three women who stood before us, probably because of his half-French bloodline, but there was no mistaking the high cheekbones and slightly almond-shaped dark eyes. I lifted my finger and pointed to the three women in front of us. “Those are your people. That means these are not my monkeys, and this is not my circus.” I whispered.
He slid his gaze toward me, and the corner of his mouth twitched in amusement. I looked down and realized my clothing had morphed into a fantastic ringmaster costume complete with a bright red jacket with tails. I reached up a hand and adjusted the jaunty hat that had appeared on my head.
“Classic,” Evan said, turning back toward the three women with a broad grin.
The Coyote made a soft yet lecherous groan, and I sighed dramatically.
I raised my voice. “Why?” I asked without turning around. There was only one creature in the room who had the power it required to change my clothing.
Coyote uttered a pitiful whine.
“Fine, it’s my circus.” I looked at the oldest of the three women. “What’d he do now?”
She tapped a bare foot on the marble and thought about what she was going to say. She would not look at me, almost as if she were above doing such a thing.
“I don’t have all night,” I said, making a rolling gesture with the lion-tamer’s whip that appeared in my hand.
Evan chuffed a little laugh next to me.
“He must go see the council. Kanawha is waiting for him, but he escaped. Again.”
“I’m not going in there alone,” Coyote said from behind me. O-na-tah tilted her head to the side.
“Yes. You are.” The youngest girl said, placing her hands on her hips. That small outburst earned her a glare from O-na-tah, who planned on remaining in charge of this little show.
Without looking at my team, I asked, “Can you all cover me for a second?”
The four men responded affirmatively.
I turned and faced Coyote, who was sitting behind me with his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. I crouched down next to him and, in a low tone, spoke into his tawny ear. “So when you said you were detained…” His ears flicked back. “…it was by these women?”
“So, the first escape was when?”
“When I accompanied you…upstairs. That almost makes you responsible.” He said, forming the whispered human words from his canine mouth. “Technically.” He turned his head quickly and licked my cheek.
“This day is never-ending.” I sighed.
“You have to admit it’s not boring.” He said, giving me a doggy grin.
“You vanish all the time without even saying goodbye. You didn’t call after New Orleans, you didn’t write, but when you’re in trouble, you run to me? Like I can help you out of whatever mess you’re in?”
“We’ll talk about New Orleans later. I have an excellent reason for vanishing.” He said, sounding contrite. “But yes, I ran to you because a criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.” He gave me another doggy grin, and I wanted to wring his neck.
“So, you’re implying you got in trouble because of me?” I asked, wondering how it was my fault.
“Oh my little witch, I always get in trouble because of you.” He said, laying a furry paw on my knee. “If it weren’t for you, I don’t know what I’d do with my time. You’re a lot to manage.”
“Oh, and you’re not?” I replied, trying not to smile. “Do I have any chance of getting you out of trouble, or have you done way more than I know about?”
His ears changed position again. One went up, the other went down, and he tilted his head to the side.
“Fine. You didn’t have anything to do with this adventure, so I guess it might be my fault this time.” My head fell forward, and I sighed. “Let’s get this over with.”
I turned back to the three women . “Where do we need to take him?” I dropped the barrier I’d formed, and because I was tired, it crashed into millions of little multicolored sparkles that made a tinkling noise when they hit the wooden floor before vanishing. I caught the perplexed looks of everyone in the room as the shards of my spell shattered like a glass rainbow. It was pretty, but it didn’t look quite right. I’d ponder that at a later time.
“Legal representation wouldn’t be a bad idea if they do what I think they’re going to. It is a tribal thing, and I might need to negotiate some terms.” Coyote said, padding forward and placing himself between Evan and myself.
“I’m not that kind of lawyer,” Evan said without looking down.
“You are now.” Said O-na-tah.