Monday, May 27, 2013

Shadow's Edge by Jami Gray: Spotlight and Excerpt

Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…

It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts.

When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.

Shadow’s Edge: Bk 1 of Kyn Kronicles

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        With a quick twist of her wrist, Raine slipped the blade between Quinn’s ribs. His heart gave one last desperate beat then fell silent. He slid slowly down her body to his knees, ending up in a strange, lover-like tableau.
Wrenching out her blade with a soft grunt, she held him in a gentle grasp, carefully lowering his lifeless body to the cracked concrete floor of the deserted warehouse. She closed his now dull brown eyes, knowing they would join the handful of others haunting her dreams.
As she knelt to wipe her blade clean on his shirt, her hands shook slightly. Shaking hands were good. It was a sign she hadn’t yet slipped off the crumbling edge into the same deep hole holding the monsters she hunted. It was a small comfort, but a comfort all the same.
She was careful to keep her knees away from the creeping trickle of blood inching outward. Standing, she caught her breath in a near-silent hiss of pain. A reminder of a stupid mistake on her part. She knew better. Every time she thought she’d seen it all, something came along and bit her in the ass. Or in this case, distracted her enough to get past her guard. The four inch gash along her ribs was a small price to pay for her inattention. The illusion Quinn had used was good, damn good. Almost good enough to save his life.
She slipped her knife back in its wrist sheath, careful not to touch the iron blade. Not wanting to leave a blood trail, she stripped off her coat and long sleeve shirt, leaving her pale skin covered in a simple black t-shirt. She tore the shirt into strips creating a primitive binding for her ribs. Settling her trench coat around her, she moved out into the night-shrouded streets of downtown Portland.
Raine needed to get home and clean out the wound. It would probably need stitches, thanks to the spell Quinn had so thoughtfully wrought on his own weapon. Raine’s mixed heritage might help her heal faster than a human, but this was one gash that would probably need mending. Damn, how she detested needles. They always brought back the sick helplessness of being a living pincushion for a demented scientist and his distorted visions of grandeur. Her steps faltered briefly as she wrestled the destructive memories back behind their door.
She blew out her breath in a deep sigh, her long strides making quick work of the winding streets in the deserted neighborhood. In seconds, she disappeared into the shadows, leaving behind the hazy-yellow streetlights shining feebly through the misty fog.
A few blocks later, she opened the door to her dark-green SUV and climbed in just as a soft rain began to fall. The Northwest was a great place to live, so long as you didn’t mind being wet and growing mold.
Raine did a fast scan of the deserted parking lot before turning the key in the ignition. It would just complete her night to finish this assignment by getting car jacked by some tanked- up group of mortal teenagers, or a pack of hormonal shifters. They’d take one look at her five-foot-five frame—okay five- foot-seven with her leather boots—and think easy mark. It was a mistake people rarely made twice. Even Quinn had known better.
A quick glance at the dashboard clock showed it was past three in the morning. She grabbed the cell phone from the glove compartment and hit a programmed number. It rang once and was picked up on the other end.
“This is McCord,” she said. “The job’s done.”
Raine hung up without waiting for an answer. She never expected one and wouldn’t have gotten it anyway. Flicking the stereo on, she let the throbbing bass and heavy guitars pound through the speakers as she turned out of the lot and headed home.
The money she’d spent on the protection spell for her leather trench coat was definitely a good investment. Without it, Quinn’s attack would have left her with a mortal injury. She would’ve bled out before too long.
In her line of work, protection spells were just as important as a finely sharpened blade. Costly, but well worth it. Her well-funded bank account bore testimony to the generosity of her employer, Taliesin Security. However, even as the top security company in the U.S., they were now down one employee. Quinn wouldn’t be reporting in anytime soon. Truth was, she had liked Quinn. Liked him enough, she had tried to bring him in alive. Unfortunately, he hadn’t felt so accommodating.
Maybe it was the thought of facing her boss, Ryan Mulcahy, which had made Quinn attack. From personal experience, Raine knew dealing with Mulcahy created a tendency toward violence.
The man had manipulation and control down to an art form. She wondered if those two characteristics had been listed as requirements on his job application. “Wanted: one powerful, arrogant, type-A, control freak to head up the Fey population in the Northwest.” She snorted. It wouldn’t surprise her.
The SUV hit a pothole, making her wince. It pulled her thoughts back to Quinn. His name had been linked to the disappearance and bloody murders of two college students. In general, the deaths would have caused a small ripple in the human world. However, if one of the few government agencies who knew about the Kyn had uncovered Quinn’s name before Taliesin Security had—well, the ripple would have turned into a tsunami. The threat to the magical community had been too great. So Mulcahy had sent Raine, one of his specially trained Security Officers, to bring Quinn in.
She knew Quinn’s weakness—power. Wanting what he couldn’t have, hating those who had it, and always trying to obtain it. Those driving needs must have factored into his fateful decision to kill those girls. Unfortunately, Taliesin had a very literal termination policy for those who didn’t follow the one unbreakable rule. Never take out the innocents, especially if they were human. Not only was it bad for business, it would earn you a permanent demotion to a lovely, airless box six feet under.
Hell, no matter how you looked at it, Quinn’s decision had been just plain stupid.
Sirens jerked her attention back to the wet road in front of her. Glancing in her rearview mirrors, she saw the flashing red and blue lights streak toward her. Her fingers whitened on the steering wheel. She could not be pulled over right now. There were too many hidden weapons on her person and in her vehicle to get out of this with a simple ticket. She checked her speed. Nope, she wasn’t speeding. The blare of the siren rose above the pulsating music, and the spasmodic lights filled up the side mirror.
Muttering a string of epitaphs under her breath, she began to slow, pulling her SUV over to the shoulder, while frantically trying to piece together a believable story. Before she came to a complete stop, the siren and lights blasted by her, spraying a fine mist of grit and water across her windshield. Relief swept through her and she slumped against the steering wheel, watching the small red brake lights fade into the night.
As her adrenaline levels dropped, she let out a shaky sounding laugh. It would be just her luck to get stopped for speeding and arrested for the small arsenal she was transporting. Not to mention the question of whose blood was staining the metal of the knife strapped to her wrist. It wouldn’t take much to match the unusual blood on her blades to the body that would soon be found. Even humans could connect the dots.
The Kyn had managed to keep their existence quiet for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, the advent of modern technology made blending into the shadows difficult. Decades ago, some of the human governments, various high level military personnel, and a select handful of others became privy to the Kyn’s existence. The decision was made to keep the presence of creatures, that humans believed were only fantastic stories, a closely guarded secret. The humans in power didn’t want to scare the general population, and the Kyn, secretive by nature, didn’t argue.
Raine pulled back out onto the freeway. The rest of her drive was uneventful, and with a grateful sigh, she slowed to take the approaching turn off the highway. Tires crunched onto a gravel road heading into the mountains. Home wasn’t far now, and she was looking forward to a warm shower and a cup of hot tea. The SUV crossed the bridge spanning the dried-up streambed. She felt the steady vibrations of her primary wards which served as a basic magical warning system surrounding her land. They were fairly strong—a surprise since warding magic wasn’t her greatest strength. But she knew enough that she didn’t have to spend money on bringing in a Warder. The wards seemed undisturbed, and she felt some of the night’s tension begin to dissolve. She loved living out in the middle of nowhere. It was her haven, her refuge.
She parked the SUV in the detached garage and opened her door. As soon as her foot touched the ground, she felt the disturbance of her inner wards inside the house. Something, or someone, had breached them. A powerful someone, since the outer wards hadn’t been tripped. She muttered a brief oath and caught the edge of the car door before it slammed then realized her element of surprise was shot since her headlights weren’t exactly hard to miss in the inky darkness.
Easing the door almost closed until the interior light clicked off, she stood by the SUV, an unmoving shadow. The soft rhythm of falling rain and the slight rustling of the breeze running through the dense tree leaves helped to cover her movements.
She kept to the darkness of the garage, scanning her front and side yards. The lights were still off, none of the small bushes were mangled, and there were no strange cars visible. Whoever it was either flew in or parked somewhere out in the surrounding woods. Raine sent out a flicker of energy to read the house wards. Crouching down, she moved silently toward the wrap-around porch. The wards weren’t offering much help. All she could sense was one intruder. One trespasser versus her and her knives? She’d take those odds. She slipped over the porch railing, dropping softly to the deck.
She moved toward the door from the left side, avoiding the windows and keeping her back to the wall. Staying low, she approached the door below eye level, in case whoever or whatever was inside took a shot. The hope being their shot would go over her head. No sense in being an easy target. With a flick of her wrist, her blade dropped out of its sheath into her right palm, while her left hand reached for the doorknob.
A deep voice emerged from the darkened interior as the door swung open. “Raine, its Gavin. I have a message for you.”
Far from being reassured, Raine pushed the door all the way open, staying low. Her night vision functioned perfectly as her eyes swept the entrance hall. Sure enough, a large man was sprawled in her favorite cushy chair. His dark form was outlined in a reddish-orange glow. She caught his movement as he reached for the switch on the wall and blinked in preparation as the soft light flicked on, her vision adjusting rapidly back to normal. As she rose to her feet, she moved her knife down to her side. Out, but not readily visible.

Gavin Durand made her uneasy, itchy. She had overheard more than a few female conversations at the office focusing on his exotic looks. Something about the golden skin, lean muscles, and long legs sent the women all drooling. If she was honest, she’d have to admit to drooling—once or twice— herself. That well-hidden fact created a crack in her hard-won control, making her resent him. All enticing six-feet-four inches of him, to be exact.
“Deliver it and leave, Gavin.” Her voice quiet, she stepped inside, closing the door. Her eyes never left the man in front of her.
“Could I get a cup of tea, at least?” he asked, his green eyes regarding her steadily. She watched him warily as she moved down the hall to the closet. They had worked together before on a few assignments for Taliesin, and Raine’s cautious reaction to him seemed to provide Gavin endless amusement.
He leaned a shoulder against the entry way between the front room and the hall, watching her. His stance was relaxed, and his arms were crossed in front of his broad chest. His empty hands were meant to be a clear message he wasn’t armed.
She took the message at face value, deciding he was probably here to irritate her. Feeling his gaze as she turned her back to him, she slid the knife back in its sheath. His presence was unsettling because not only was he a fellow Security Officer for Taliesin but, like Raine, he was also part of the Wraiths.
Since human justice didn’t work well on the Kyn, they had their own version of the police. The Wraiths were a twelve member, highly skilled and specialized group, operating in similar fashion to human military black-ops groups. They were not publicly acknowledged, even within the Kyn society, and provided the last line of defense for the supernatural community.
Wraiths were essential in keeping the monsters at bay and holding the fragile peace between Kyn and humans. They were authorized to use whatever powers and skills necessary to get the job done.
They had yet to fail.
Wraiths did not visit other Wraiths in the dead of the morning for tea. A well-known fact to Raine as she was one of the elite twelve. Feeling the nerves blooming under her skin just pissed her off. Nerves were a sign of weakness, not desire, she assured herself. Her inner voice scoffed and a soft snarl escaped her. It ended in a slight hiss of pain when she yanked her coat off, pulling at the wound in her side. Damn it, Gavin was an attractive pain in the ass.
He hadn’t moved and stood there watching her, his thoughts hidden by a mask of mild amusement. She hated that particular expression as much as she disliked the tumultuous feelings he always managed to invoke. He was rubbing her metaphoric fur the wrong way.
“If you want tea, there’s the kitchen.” She was proud of how level her voice sounded. “Go put the water on.” She grabbed a hanger, hung up her coat, and gently closed the closet door. Stepping by him, she headed to the kitchen, deliberately keeping herself just out of his reach.
“Hurt?” His dark voice tumbled down her spine, spreading unexpected chills. She whirled, her back hitting the hall wall. The realization of just how close he was had her sucking in a breath. The damn man could move more quietly than a cat, she thought, nerves and anger accelerating her pulse.
“It’s just a scratch.” Her jaw tightened with frustration and the unwanted awareness she couldn’t hide as she met his brilliant green eyes. “I need to clean it up.”
She wasn’t going to stand here like some girly-girl, letting him crowd her. She put her hand on his broad chest and pushed him away. Surreptitiously wiping her tingling palm on her jeans, she moved warily around him, trying not to breathe in his woodsy scent as she continued to the kitchen. Her body was hyper aware of the man pacing behind her. She wasn’t used to having people in her house, especially a male who watched every move she made. Screw it, it was her house, and Gavin wasn’t here on her invite.
Moving into the kitchen, she grabbed the bottom of her black t-shirt and pulled it off, throwing it in the trash as she headed to the sink. Tattered and bloody, the t-shirt was a loss. The black tank underneath was torn, blood seeping through the binding. Raine removed both wrist sheaths, revealing old scars that traced patterns on her arms. Her wrists held a matching set of scars, circling them like bracelets. A lasting impression left from an old nightmare.
She laid the wrist blades on the counter to clean later. She knew if Gavin chose to start something, he would at least play fair and give her a chance to grab them. Besides, she still had the two in her boots. She started to unravel the make-shift bandage from her ribs.
He grabbed the tea kettle from the stove and reached around her to fill it. Trying to ignore him, she pulled up her tank top, knowing she’d flashed him a colorful glimpse of the delicate Celtic artwork of intertwining lines and lithe cats that cradled her lower back as she made a closer inspection of the wound. She opened the drawer next to the sink grabbed the first aid kit—gritting her teeth against the pain dancing across her ribs—and cleaned and disinfected the cut.
Gavin was suddenly next to her. “Here, let me do it.”
He grasped her left shoulder. The contrast of his darker skin against her own pale flesh shot a spark of heat through her bloodstream. Turning her slightly, he guided her to the kitchen table. He shifted and pressed firmly down on her right shoulder. When she balked, he kept his hand in place and pushed until she reluctantly sat in one of the straight backed chairs. His long fingers lingered over the second tattooed band of ancient knots and ravens covering the upper part of her right arm. She stiffened instinctively.
Gavin dropped his hand and pulled out the chair facing her, his sharp eyes inspecting the wound. “It needs stitches.”
“Yeah, I figured.” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “There’s surgical thread and needle in the kit.”
She watched the shadows play over the angles of his face as he scrounged through the kit, finding what he needed. From the small smile he tried to hide, Raine knew he had caught the slight grimace and her wary look as she watched him prepare the needle.
“Ready?” He made his way back to where she was sitting.
She gave a short nod and took a deep breath. Years ago she had been used as a lab rat, making her fairly immune to pain. Yet, for all the horror she had faced, needles still tended to make her cringe inside. Gavin bent over her side working the needle in and out of her flesh. She felt the tug and pull of it moving through her skin.
The dull pain triggered flashes of past tortures. The bone- searing ache of cold iron as it burned its lasting impression into her wrists, ankles, and neck. Her body seizing as rivers of fire and ice ran through her blood. Inhuman noises ripping from her raw throat as she fought not to lose her mind to the agony consuming her.
Men in white lab coats watching it all with emotionless eyes.
The shrill whistle of the teakettle snapped her back to her kitchen. Gavin finished the last stitch. He looked up and his gaze sharpened. She felt the thin film of cold sweat coating her face.
“Go make the tea,” she said, her voice hoarse. She needed a moment to pull herself together before he saw more than she wanted him too. “I’ll put the bandage on and clean up this mess.”
          He watched her for another moment, and she wondered if the tiredness she felt was reflected in her eyes. She knew what he saw. Unlike his sherry colored hair held back by a neat tie, her black hair was unraveling from its tight braid and straggling around her face. Thanks to her partial Fey heritage from her mother, she looked like she was in her late teens, early twenties. Most people mistook her for a kid until they got a good look in her eyes. Silvery gray, they held the coldness and knowledge of someone who had gone through hell—with a couple of repeat tours. She had overheard the word “eerie” used a few times. That look, along with the faint scars on her wrists and the one resembling a collar around her throat, generally made people walk cautiously around her. It was either her looks or her take- no-shit personality. Raine preferred to attribute it to her personality.
She stood slowly, a little light-headed, keeping a hand on the table until she was sure she wouldn’t embarrass herself by falling over. She grabbed some gauze and tape to cover the stitches. The delicate chimes of her teapot on her mother’s china came from behind her as Gavin poured two cups of tea. She could feel the weight of his gaze as she moved to the sink and began cleaning things up.
Turning to face the silent, disturbing man behind her, she wiped her hands on a towel. “Okay, you have your tea. Now what’s so important you had to break through my wards at—” She glanced at the clock behind him. “Three-forty-five in the morning?”
“Your wards were good, just not complicated enough.” His mouth twitched at her small flash of temper from his critique. After he took the two cups to the table, he asked in an innocent voice, “Would you like me to re-do them?”
She knew his proficiency with warding magic was legendary among the Wraiths, a gift from his very powerful witch mother.
“No.” She kept a close eye on him as she followed and sat in her chair, wondering what the truth was behind his visit. “Answer my question.”
Wraiths rarely made house calls, or to be more accurate, they were rarely caught making house calls. His unexpected appearance sent a tendril of unease through her. Thoughts of past sins flashed lightening quick, but she shoved them down ruthlessly. Her secrets were still safe. She hoped.
Her normal rock steady self-control was already shaky from the night’s earlier events. Gavin in her home on business had her on edge. He wore his usual sardonic expression, which gave nothing away. Leaning back in the chair, he crossed his long, jean-clad legs at the ankles and sipped his tea.
“Mulcahy wants you to report in tomorrow morning. There’s a new high level job waiting for us.”
This was unexpected. “High level” was just another way of saying the job was Wraith material, not a job for an S.O. Thing was, being loners by nature, most Wraiths didn’t work well in pairs. The highly secretive nature of their work didn’t help either. Only in extreme circumstances did they team up. So what did the boss consider so dangerous it required the top two Wraiths? Granted, Gavin’s main strength lay in his use of magic, his weapons skills following a close second.
Raine, on the other hand, had trained herself to be a living weapon, nearly unstoppable when armed with anything holding a sharp edge. Magic had its uses, but she didn’t have the patience needed to master such a fickle force. The one thing she and Gavin both shared was their belief that rules were merely suggestions. Mulcahy, their boss, was very aware of this fact. He’d commented on it many times, usually accompanied by gritted teeth and growls.
Gavin’s eyes may have been half closed, but Raine was certain he was judging her reaction, so she gave him nothing. Previous experience had taught her the nonchalant attitude was a front hiding his lethal mind and lightening fast body.
“Yeah, us,” he drawled. “And no, I don’t have a clue what it is.”
She took a sip of her tea, letting her mind puzzle it out. Ryan Mulcahy was the public CEO of Taliesin, the head of the Fey contingent, and more important, the captain of the Wraiths. The company housed the four heads of the Northwest Kyn Community which consisted of the Fey, Shifters, Magi, and Amanusa. The worldwide magical community had divided into regions across the globe, and each region’s power structure was determined by its ruling majority or as in Taliesin Security’s case, ruling majorities.
Raine knew the Northwest had one of the highest concentrations of Kyn, thanks to the vast amounts of untouched nature running from Northern California up to the Western edge of Canada. It provided a huge power source for those whose magic came from the natural world; the Fey, the Shifters, and the Magi.
Those in the fourth group, the Amanusa, were less able to tap into that source. Since their magic came from a darker power the other Kyn didn’t want to play with, they were on their own. Their population might be small in comparison to the other Kyn species, but the reputation of the half-demon crowd was more than enough to make the supernatural community step lightly around them.
Something big was behind the request if Mulcahy was calling in both Raine and Gavin. She hadn’t heard any unsettling rumors recently, so she was curious as to what was up. Obviously, so was Gavin, since he had hunted her down. He was probably hoping she would know what was going on. He was out of luck. The realization almost made her smile.
“Fine, what time am I to report in?” She knew her voice was far from friendly.
We,” Gavin stressed, “have to be there at seven.”
“What?” She drawled. “You lost your cell phone and couldn’t just call me?” Sarcasm coated each word.
A grin lit his emerald eyes, causing her breath to audibly hitch. His lips twitched. “Maybe I just wanted to see if I could get past your protections.” When she refused to acknowledge his double meaning, he raised his tea cup in an informal salute. “Besides I heard your tea was good.”
She snorted. “Couldn’t have been from anyone breathing.” Restless she rose, taking her empty cup to the sink. Rinsing it out, she decided to be blunt. “More like you wanted to know if I knew anything. I don’t, so you’re out a few hours of sleep for tea.”
She heard the chair shift as he stood up. She turned her head, drying her hands with a towel. “Good night, Gavin.” She gave him empty, yet pleasant eyes. “I’ll see you out. Unlike others, I like my sleep.”
Moving with a rolling gait no female could fail to appreciate, he brought his cup over, crowding her as she turned fully around to face him. She refused to give ground. Trapped between his big, hard body and the counter’s edge pressing into her spine, she was stuck there. Unless she planned on maiming him to get him to move, she grumbled mentally.
Invading the hell out of her personal space, he rinsed the cup and proceeded to dry his hands on the towel Raine still held. As he placed the cup gently on the counter behind her, he leaned down. “Good night, Raine.” His voice, low and quiet, stroked down her spine like the rub of soft fur. Chills danced up her arms. “Just to clarify, it wasn’t the tea I wanted to check out.”
He bent his head a fraction closer, his mouth just over her ear, making her visibly shiver as his warm breath caressed her. She fought to hide her body’s reaction and didn’t look away. His smile was slight, his amusement evident. “I’ll see myself out, thanks.”
She didn’t move, couldn’t move, as she watched his tall figure walk down the hall and out her door.

Growing up on the Arizona-Mexico border, Jami Gray was adopted at the age of 14 and suddenly became the fifth eldest of 37 children. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and three minors-History, English, and Theater.  Shortly after marrying her techie-geek hubby (who moonlighted as her best friend in high school) she completed a Masters in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix Oregon.
Now, years later, she’s back in the Southwest where  she’s outnumbered in her own home by two Star Wars obsessed boys, one Star Wars obsessed husband, and an overly-friendly, 105-pound male lab.  Writing is what saves her sanity.

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Yvonne Simpkins said...

Thank you for the giveaway and especially the question, it made me smile again.

Sarah Lieurance said...

What made me smile in the last week. So many things made me smile. My 14 yr old daughter who still loves bonding time, my grand kids running into my arms. Getting a text or a call from my boys who are both in the military. My momma when she calls to say...I love you! Then there's the BF who's not afraid to call & say, "I just wanted to hear your voice" The little things make me smile and feel loved. Thanks for this question. It's a reminder that I need to thank them. :-D

Sarah Lieurance said...

My favorite read right now is the book I'm reading. Visions, The Secret Watchers by Lauren Klever

PuttPutt1198Eve said...

Right now I'm reading and enjoying Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind.

Nana Prah said...

My favorite read right now is Solstice by Debbie Christiana.

Jami Gray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jami Gray said...

Awesome reads, guys, and lovely snippets of what's makes you smile.

So today I'm working on J.L Saint's Collateral Damage. Just finished Anne Bishop's Written in Red, great new UF from a wonderful fantasy author!

Thank you, Laurie for having me. I'll be stopping by to check in and see what other new reads you all are enjoying!

Happy Memorial Day

Juli said...

Take Care, Sara by Lindy Zart is my read of the decade!
Its still only $.99 on Amazon if you havent read it!!!

Mary @SweepingMe said...

Ughhh 3rd time for the comment. Not your fault all mine. Sometimes my days just don't go right!

I said I am re-reading P&P cause I just love Jane Austin that much!


Valerie R said...

Right now I'm reading Edge of Shadows by Cege Smith..and what has made me smile this past week is my son graduating and landing a state job.. right out of HS.. I smile when I don't have to worry about them.