We are coming down to the last few weeks of snippeting! If you haven’t been reading along, look here. The release date is May 1, and I have an offer for you, my friendly readers.
If you previously read and enjoyed Pixie Noir, and would be willing to review Trickster Noir on or slightly after the release date, I would be delighted to send you an eARC for review purposes. It’s not a perfectly clean copy – final edits will be happening over the next week or so – and I do ask for a public venue, like a blog or a website. If you are interested, email me with your preferred format and blog or website address, at cedarlila at gmail dot com (in the usual email format, this is altered to protect me from spambots). I really appreciate the help!
My editor sent me the ms last night, and reassured me that there is nothing major to be done. I have breathed a huge sigh of relief! I’m still working on the art for the print cover, and that release may lag behind the e-format by a week or two, as finals hit May 12 (eeek!).
Enjoy, and remember, this is not fully edited, so if you catch something, point it out in the comment.
“You blew up an ogre?” Dan grinned. “Taught you well, we did.”
“I want to lure them out of the cave.” Bella sighed. “I really really don’t want to go into a dark place with that kind of monster.”
“And then what? High explosives, near an active volcano? Flamethrowers at fifty paces?”
She shook her head. “I can make them… go away. If I’m close enough.”
Dean choked. “You want to transport live ogres Underhill?”
Bella nodded and sat down, she felt very tired suddenly, and more than a little afraid. “I don’t know if I can do it, frankly, but I also know my weapon only has six grenades, I might not hit with each one, and I don’t know, even though I had you bring them, that big guns will work.”
“So who’s gonna be bait?” Tex looked amused. “Since you aren’t sure you can kill them.”
“Oh, we’ll kill them.” Dean smiled, and pulled a cigarette out, slowly lighting it. “Bella, stop doubting yourself, you’re letting it get in your way. That’s why we drove up here, you didn’t just bubble and go. Think it through, and remember when in doubt, use fire.”
“Oh, yeah…” She remembered that, all right, and the look on Lom’s face when she came close to setting the whole Court enclave on fire.
“A firebomb at the mouth of the cave could deprive them of oxygen.” Dan mused thoughtfully, “And the ingredients for a FAE can be found at any hardware store.”
“A fay?” Fred interjected for the first time, his confusion written all over his face.
“Fuel Air Explosion.” Bella clarified. “Aerosolized fuel, like, say, propane, fill the space, and then ignite. Big boom, and bonus rips the oxygen out of the air in an enclosed space.”
“What about pumpin’ the cave full o’ carbon dioxide or liquid nitro?” Tex chipped in.
Bella shook her head. “We can’t get that amount of either in time, and I’d rather have the combination of explosion and suffocation. Belt and suspenders.”
She stood up and rubbed her hands together. “We need to do two things. One, it’s time to get out there and see what we are up against in terms of terrain and transportation, and two…”
Dean raised an eyebrow and she delivered her best evil smile. “Go shopping. This girl has needs.”
Dean shook his head, smiling. “I’m afraid to find out what they are. May I suggest that you look out the window first?”
Bella glanced toward the nearest one. “Oh. I’m still on Underhill time, I guess. Whatever that is. How about food, sleep, then shopping?”
“Deal.” Dan picked up a phone. “Pizza, everyone?”
She looked around the room. Five people, and three rowdy sprites. Plus their mystery buddy, whom presumably she was to meet… Bella wondered where the sprites were. She walked over to Tex. “How many rooms do we have?”
“Two connecting here, and one across the hall. I think Dan set it up for two nights,” he shrugged. “We had no idea what was goin’ on. Mike sends his regrets, he couldn’t get away.”
She nodded. “I’ll call him. I didn’t know if any of you would be available, and I will be paying you well…” She’d had a chance to look at the balance on the card she was given, and it was impressive.
He smiled. “Nice, but you know we’ll come runnin’ for you, girl.”
She squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll do the same.”
Bella moved on to Fred. “Feeling ok? If you want to back out…” she spread her hands in a throwing-away gesture.
He shook his head. “Uncle has showed me a little, over the years. But I never imagined,” The black-haired man looked around the room and his broad face broke into a boyish smile. “This is fun!”
Bella laughed and shook her head. “Tomorrow we’ll be out in the woods, with things that may be hunting us as we’re trying to hunt them. Keep in mind that magical beings can glamour themselves, which means they might look perfectly normal to you.”
He nodded. “I assumed as much, after all, Raven does so, and you…” he peered at her. “You have always just looked like a lovely young woman to me.”
Bella laughed again. “I’m a taken one, we haven’t had time to get a ring yet.”
“My congratulations.” he looked abashed. “I’m sorry…”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, no harm in looking.” Bella patted his arm and ended up back by Dan.
He winked at her, still talking to the delivery place. “Mushrooms, and pretty much every meat you have in the place. Ahuh… Ahuh… cash. See you then.”
He hung up, and Bella realized that she didn’t have any cash. “I need to find an ATM.” she started to say, and he gestured that away.
“Raven gave us a significant slush fund. Said he’d talk to you when you saw him, but that you ‘n Lom should consider him your second client.” He cocked his head slightly. “Which I’d like to know what that means.”
“Er… I’m not sure myself.” Bella admitted.
“Anyway, I hear congratulations are in order,” he beamed.
Bella hugged him, feeling her cheeks heat up. “I think it’s a good thing, yes. It’s… all very different, and sudden.”
“I’m just glad you didn’t lose him. That was a bad place we hauled him out of.” Dan studied her seriously for a moment, and Bella tried not to fidget.
“Your clients… You two are going to do stuff like this on a regular basis, aren’t you?” He went on, his face under the beard expressionless.
She shrugged. “I have… another job Underhill that will likely keep me from traveling too often. And I don’t know how long it will take him to get better, he’s badly injured right now.”
“And you aren’t too well organized.”
She looked at him. “If we do this more often, I’ll hire you to be our secretary,” Bella kept her voice playful, and he roared with laughter.
“Some secretary!” he gasped.
“And back-up rifle-bearer,” she added, grinning.
“You’ve read too much Haggard.” He wiped his eyes.
She walked over and grabbed her little backpack. “Which room is mine? I need to check in with home.”
“Whichever of these two you want.” Dan gestured. “I’m putting you two,” he pointed at Dean and Tex, “in the room across the hall. I don’t want you, Bella, so far away from us. I want to keep you surrounded.”
She wrinkled her nose at his fussing and headed into the room closest. It was going to be the same as the other one, she knew, hotels were rarely surprising. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, she booted the little laptop up, noting the spells that clung to it and extended into the case, affecting the inner workings, she had no doubt.
Following the directions Devon had given her got her to the chat where she could reach him.
:hello?: she typed. She didn’t expect to get an instant answer, but it was still a bit forlorn to stare at the cursor blinking slowly in front of her, doing nothing. After a couple of minutes she typed a quick summary of what had happened, sent it, and shut the computer down. She’d check in the morning for messages, but decided that sitting here willing something to come from Lom was a counterproductive thing to do.
Returning to the other room, she found the guys sitting and watching television. The sprites had come in, amazingly quietly for them, and were sprawled along the back of the couch behind Dean and Dan’s head. Ewan saw her and flew up to sit on her shoulder.
“Reportin’ in, Ma’am!”
“Did you find them?” she asked quietly, leaning in the doorway to her room so she could talk and not disturb the guy’s show. Might as well let them relax a bit before morning’s exertions.
“Oh, aye. Well, pre’y soor.” Bella felt the shrug that went with that.
“‘T enny rate, we located a t’ird cave t’ats no on t’maps. An’ we set you up w’a date to meet our pal.”
Bella snorted. “I’m taken. When and where?”
“”T’ere’s a place oot o’ town. He canna cum inna town. He said ‘bout moon-up, meet t’ere.”
“I figured as much. Thanks.”
Ewan, who seemed relieved she wasn’t going to make him talk more, flew back to his brothers, whom she hadn’t heard speak at all. For all their rowdy ways, they were a quiet bunch. Bella retreated into her room and looked out the window into the dark, wondering when moon-up was going to be, and who she would take with her. Dean made the most sense, and rather than risk his driving she’d bubble them.
This time when she walked into the room Dan muted the TV.
“What’s the plan?”
She shook her head. “After dinner, I’m going to go meet the trouble triplet’s buddy.”
Iver, she thought it was, laughed out loud at her nickname for them. Bella went on, “I was thinking I’d take Dean, no point in frightening him with all you lot.”
Fred spoke up. “I’d like to come along, actually. If he’s native to this area, I may have a rapport with him.”
Bella nodded at him. “Good thought. Dean, can you follow along and make yourself inconspicuous during the meet?”
He nodded emphatically. Her cousins looked unhappy. “Sorry, guys, but I don’t know how I’d hide you.”
The knocking at the door made them all jump. It was easy to forget, Bella mused as Dean herded her into her room while Dan went to see who it was, how much tension they were all feeling. It almost had to be the pizza guy, but careful was a good thing. She could smell the pizza, and smiled at Dean.
“We need to talk, and soon.”
He looked faintly surprised. “About?”
“Don’t play coy with me. You just pulled a bodyguard move on me. And you know things that you shouldn’t possibly know.”
He opened his mouth as Dan stuck his head in the door and announced cheerfully, “Dinner!”