Absolutely, positively the last teaser chapter of Inside Straight. A short one.
I’m nearly there with the ‘ready for editor’ draft, and Lauren has booked it in for the 6th July. Gulp.
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and each teaser episode has a ‘next’ link at the bottom.
We’d been lucky. We’d been caught in a trap where we were helpless, and it’d been my fault for charging in without assessing the risks.
Maybe I wasn’t as recovered as I’d thought I was, back in LA.
“Sorry,” Flint said. “She really caught us out.”
“We need to move away,” Kane said, helping his fellow Adept to his feet. “This is all in her zone.”
We trotted back to where we left the car, increasingly nervous as we approached the Schown Apartments. There were people around now, cars, normal things. No witches appeared out of sudden snow clouds.
“What’s the time?” I asked as we got in.
I had a clock in my head I could usually rely on, but being hauled off into the spirit world by the Hecate’s coven had screwed with it. My head was telling me it was early evening, but my eyes said it was too light.
Early evening would be another major disaster of a completely different type. It would mean I was late for Mom’s dinner.
“It’s five,” Yelena said. “It feels wrong, no?”
“Time passes differently in the spirit world,” Kane said. “Sometimes really differently. We need to check what day it is.”
“Oh, God, no.”
My cell said it was still today, but his comment spooked me.
Please, I’m not a day late for Mom’s party. Please, please, please.
I dialed home.
Alex answered. “You okay?”
“Yeah. What day is it?”
“Same day it was a couple hours ago. You sure you’re okay?”
“I’ll explain later. We’re on our way back.”
Great. He probably thought I’d got a concussion or something. I could just see his expression when I told him I’d been away with the fairies.
Traffic was light and Yelena was driving, leaving me to puzzle over what the Hecate had said.
Kaothos was a friend. A strange kind of friend to have, but still. Not a devil.
What had the witch expected to gain by calling her that?
Why was she so insistent she had to speak to a ‘devil’?
Just as urgent, how exactly was I going to explain to Skylur that there was a huge association of Adepts who’d been sitting quietly right under his nose.
I could predict his reaction—he’d want to know how to get them into the Assembly.
What if Kaothos was what it took to get them on board?
What exactly was it about Kaothos they wanted?
Jen called on the cell, breaking my train of thought.
“What’s this about not knowing which day it is? You do remember—”
“We’re off to my mom’s. Yes. It was just some Adept weirdness. I’ll explain later.”
“Okay,” she said. “I’m really calling to warn you Bian’s here. I’ve tried explaining that we’re due to go out, but she wants to know what’s happening.”
“I get to tell you both at the same time.”
“Hmm. Going to happen while we’re getting dressed then,” she drawled. “We are not going to be late for this one, honey.”
I swallowed. My wife, my husband and I would be naked, or partly naked, in the same room as Bian. Who was my husband’s one-time lover and who had, several times, told me and shown me, she was keen to get in my pants too. This was shaping up to be… awkward.
It turned out to be more of a problem for Alex and me than for Jen. Bian was her usual self—at one moment all business, the next casting smoldering looks at one of us, or all three of us at the same time.
Jen took it in her stride. She got Bian to help with zippers, asked her opinion on lipstick shades, made her dry my hair after my shower.
I put it to one side and concentrated on getting as much information across about the Hecate, and the Adepts she claimed to represent.
“If the Northern Adept League stretches from the Lakes down to New Jersey, then there should be some in New York,” I said. “Skylur might be able to learn a bit more about them there.”
Bian nodded. “Believe me, I’ll make the point to him when I call later.”
She stopped fussing my hair and rested her hands on my bare shoulders.
I tensed, expecting some of Bian’s questionable humor, such as kissing me in front of Jen and Alex, but she didn’t.
Her voice was serious: “Tell me again this Gwendolyn’s exact words about why she was here.”
“She said she wanted to talk to me and Diana: Here, in Denver. Not because we think Altau is here, but because this is where Diana and the dragon will return.”
“So she knows that Diana and Kaothos aren’t dead, and that we put on a smoke and mirrors show for the Empire. And that Diana’s coming back here. And she knows Skylur isn’t going to be here. That’s a lot of inside knowledge, Round-eye. A lot of very up-to-date inside knowledge. For example, Skylur took the decision to go straight to New York yesterday.”
“Well, they’re obviously powerful, this league,” I said.
“More powerful than the Empire’s Adepts? Really? Or do they just have better intelligence?”
“The grey pants, Alex, they show off your ass better,” she said over her shoulder.
Jen laughed and handed Alex the grey pants. He put them on.
Wise choice; Bian was right.
I got dressed as I thought through what she was saying. I knew Bian well enough to follow which way her mind was working on the Adept league, ignoring the distraction about Alex’s ass.
“Have I mentioned recently, you’re paranoid, Pussycat?” I said.
“This morning, in fact. Come on, tell me what I’m thinking.”
I sighed. “There is one person who is not Athanate, and not in this room, who knew exactly what was going on and why and where. The only person, apart from Diana, who knew Skylur was going to New York even before you did.”
“Precisely. See? This paranoia is catching.”
“But you don’t like her. You’ve always had reservations about Alice Emerson. I remember you telling me she deserved to get thrown off the Mayflower.”
“So I’ve always been right. You blaming me for that?”
I had no answer. I liked Alice. And Alice was the Adept responsible for the magical shields that were hiding Diana and Kaothos from the Empire. My gut said she wasn’t working against us, but that wasn’t the same as not having any conflict of loyalty. And surely Skylur had bound her?
“Oh,” I said, remembering something else. “Alice was working with the Warders before. Skylur sort of adopted her when they were expelled after the Assembly at Haven.”
“You’re getting there, Round-eye.”
“The Warders’ mantle was New York. It’s a reasonable guess that’s where Alice is from. The Hecate said the Northern Adept League covers New York. Which would make it likely Alice is from the League, or has ties to them.”
“You get your paranoia gold star.” Bian clapped her hands.
“And we will lose all gold stars if we don’t get out the door now,” Jen interrupted.
“But we haven’t talked about what the Hecate said about Kaothos—”
“Not my monkey. That’s your domain,” Bian said, urging me out of the bedroom. “You have to work out which of Kaothos or Gwendolyn you believe in. My domain is security and paranoia, and I have my hands full.”
She demonstrated with Alex’s ass, which he totally enjoyed, the traitor.