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by Kelley Armstrong
p.1 “Perfect timing,” Simon said. “I’m just about to start my coffee break.” He started pulling a chair to Gloria’s workstation, then hesitated. “Can I get you something?”
Gloria smiled and shook her head. Simon moved the chair beside hers, being careful not to block her view of the digital-display city map on the side wall. That’s what Gloria loved about shamans, they were so damned considerate. You want a nice guy, you get a shaman. You want a self-centered jerk, you get a half-demon.
Her shift partner, Erin, hated when Gloria said it. Racial discrimination, she called it. Of course Gloria didn’t really believe every half-demon was a jerk--she was half-demon herself--but that didn’t keep her from saying so to Erin. Night shift in the communication hub could get deathly dull, and there was nothing like a good political correctness debate to liven things up.
p.37 “The trick, then, is not to allow him to think that will happen. It would be even better if I could convince him that my happiness with you would be beneficial to him. That the strength of our relationship might bolster, rather than tear down, the other relationships in my life.”
I nodded, as if I understood, but I didn’t. Nothing in my own life had prepared me to understand a parental relationship where a simple visit home had to be planned with the strategic cunning of a military engagement.
p.41 The Wages of Sin Pay Very Nicely Indeed
Inside, the elevator looked as if it has been carved from ebony. Not a single fingerprint marred the gleaming black walls and silver trim. The floor was black marble veined with white. How much money does company need to make before it starts installing marble floors in the elevators?
A soft whir sounded and on what appeared to be a seamless wall, a door slid open to reveal a computer panel and a small screen. Lucas’s fingers flew over the keypad. Then he pressed his thumb against the screen. The computer chimed, the panel slid shut, and the elevator began to rise.
p.58 Troy fell into position two paces behind. After a few yards, Lucas glanced over his shoulder.
“Troy? Please, walk beside us.”
“Sorry,” Troy said, striding up. “Habit.”
“Yes, well, when a tw0-hundred-and-fifty-pound half-demon follows me, it’s never a good thing. Fleeing for my life is usually involved.”
Troy grinned. “You need a bodyguard.”
“I need a saner life. Or faster feet. Right now, though, we need...”
“Wheels,” I said. “Followed by stiff drinks.”
“Lucas, I meant,” Troy said. “The parking garage is beside the office. We needed to take the walkway across to get the car.”
Lucas sighed. “Now you tell me.”
“Hey, it’s not my place to think. That’s for you sorcerer guys. Me? I’m paid to keep my mouth shut, glare at stranger, and, on a good day, break a couple kneecaps.”
“Cushy job,” I said.
“It has its moments. The kneecap-breaking gets a little stale, though. I’ve tried tossing in the occasional jaw-busting and skull-smacking, but Mr. Cortez, he’s a kneecap man.”
p.61 Definite advantage to the whole chauffeur/bodyguard deal: built-in designated driver.
p.75 He glanced over his shoulder at Troy. “You’ll have to forgive Paige’s overenthusiastic attempt to befriend the local wildlife. Not many of their type where she comes from.”
“Hey, we have gangs in Boston.”
“Ah, yes. I believe they’re particularly bad down by the wharf, where they’re liable to descend upon the unwary, surround him with their yachts, and shout well-chosen and elegantly elocuted epithets.”
p.95 There stood the world’s only female werewolf, a title that sounds more like it should describe a circus freak show than the blond woman in the doorway. Tall and lean, Elena Michaels had a werewolf’s typically athletic build, and the kind of wholesome good looks that cause men to say things like, “Wow, if she dolled herself up, she could be a knockout.” Those who dared say such things, though, were more likely to find themselves knocked out.
p.142 “What happened with your case?”
“It ended this afternoon. Once the prosecution confirmed that its new witness resided in a cemetery, they decided to move straight to closing arguments.”
“A definite advantage to working in a human court. They never subpoena dead witnesses.”
p.170 “Nobody move!” Weber screeched, his voice shrill with panic. “I’ve got the girl.”
A split second of clear, if near-hysterical, thought. Of course he’d grab the girl. They always grabbed the girl. But why did I have to be the girl?
p.195 Afterward, we talked quietly, delaying our exit from the room. At 7:45, I pulled away.
“Fifteen minutes,” I said. “We should get inside.”
“In a moment.” He kissed me. “I love you.”
“Of course you do. You have to. It’s the law.”
A smile. “Law?”
“Any girl who gives a guy a blow job in a broom closet is entitled to at least one ‘I love you.’ Whether you mean it or not, you’re morally and legally obligated to say it.”
p.211 William strode around and blocked our path. “You can’t just run out on this.”
“Sadly, no,” I said, “But I can hobble, and believe me, I’m hobbling as fast as I can.”
p.212 I was in a forest, doing a ceremony with Lucas. Someone banged on a door, which, of course, seemed odd under the circumstances, but my brain, perhaps recognizing I was asleep, overlooked the illogic, and my dream-self yelled at the intruder to leave us alone.
p.267 “Alone at last,” he murmured.
I snatched the scroll from him, unwound and read it. “So, how are we doing this? Straight-up spell-casting? Or fun and games?”
“Do you need to ask? The decision, though, should really be yours. If you’re too tired, or too sore--”
“Oh, I feel fine.” I grinned. “Fine enough, anyway. Strip spell-casting okay?”
“Better than okay.” He looked down at my kimono. “Although you would appear to be at an initial disadvantage.”
A slow grin as he pulled me to him. “No, not at all.”
p.269 Cassandra was lounging by the window, taking in the sunlight and, sadly, not bursting into flame.
p.270 “Me? Why on earth would a ghost want to communicate with me?”
“Maybe because you put him there,” Jaime said. “Dinner coming back to haunt you. Literally.”
p.274 Nothing stops a conversation deader than reminding someone that his family is responsible for sending your life swirling down the gutter.
p.298-299 Vampires are a race of city dwellers. That may seem obvious, since it’s far easier to kill undetected in a city with hundreds of annual unsolved murders, rather in a small town that might see a single homicide a year. In truth, though, that’s not a major factor in their choice.
Real vampires aren’t the marauding bloodsuckers you see on late-night TV, racking up a dozen victims every night. A real vampire only needs to kill once a year, though they must feed more often than that. Feeding is easy enough--if you ever pass out in a bar and wake up the next hangover that seems worse than normal, I’d suggest you check your neck. You may not find the marks, though. Unless you know what you’re looking for, vampire bites are nearly impossible to see, and the aftereffects are no more debilitating than donating blood on an empty stomach.
Since a vampire bite is rarely fatal, it would be easy enough for vamps to live outside the city and commune for their annual kill. It might even be safe. The problem is that pesky semi-immortality. When you don’t age, people notice. It may take awhile, but they eventually start to ask what brand of moisturizer you’re using. The smaller the town, the more people pay attention, and the more they talk. In a big city, a vampire could stay in one spot for fifteen to twenty years, and never hear more than a few snide Botox comments. Plus, there’s the whole boredom issue. Small towns are great for raising a family, but if you’re single and childless, Saturday nights on the front porch swing get a little dull after the first hundred years.
So, vampires like the city life. In North America, they also prefer the sunshine belt, with over half the continent’s vampires living below the Mason-Dixon line. Northern winters probably lose their appeal pretty quickly when you realize you could lie on the beach all day and never risk so much as a sunburn. And it’s much easier to bite someone in a tank top than to gnaw through a parka.
p.305 “Either they think I’m stupid or they just can’t be bothered to lie more creatively.”
I let out an oath.
“My sentiments exactly.”
p.338-339 Now, I have nothing against Victorian architecture, having grown up in a wonderful little house from that very era, but John’s place was everything that gives the style a bad name, plus a good dose of southern Gothic. It looked like the quintessential haunted house, covered in ivy and peeling paint, windows darkened, spires rusting. On closer inspection, the disrepair was only cosmetic--the porch didn’t sag, the wood wasn’t rotting, even the crumbling walkway was crumbled artfully, the stones still solid enough that you wouldn’t trip walking over them. The yard appeared overrun and neglected, yet even a novice gardener would recognize that most of the “weeds” were actually wild-looking perennials.
“This used to drive my mom crazy,” I said, pointing at the lawn. “People paying to have their yard look like an abandoned lot. No wonder the neighbors have high walls. He has some nice gargoyles, though. I must admit, I’ve never seen them anatomically correct.”
p.339 There, flanking either side of the walkway, were a pair of raised fountains. The base of each was a shell-shaped bowl filled with water and lily pads. Standing in each bowl was a masculine version of Botticelli’s famous “Birth of Venus.” The man stood in the same pose as Venus, left hand coyly drawn up to cover his chest, right hand down by his genitals, yet instead of covering them, he held his optimistically endowed penis, pointing it upward. Water jetted from each penis and over the path into the basin of the twin statue opposite. The water didn’t flow in a smooth stream, though. It spurted.
“Please tell me there is something wrong with his water pressure,” Cassandra said.
p.371-372 “Elizabeth Báthory,” Cassandra muttered.
My gut sank, as I understood what that meant.
Elizabeth Báthory was a Hungarian countess who lived in the sixteenth century. According to legend, she’d killed six hundred and fifty young women, most of them peasants, and bathed in their blood because she believed it would grant her eternal youth. After several decades of killing, Báthory was arrested, convicted, and put into a room. Then the door was bricked over.
It has been argued that Elizabeth Báthory was at least part of Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula, perhaps even more than the equally sadistic and better known Vlad Dracul, from whom Stoker borrowed the name. In vampire society, it was generally believed that Elizabeth Báthory had been a vampire and that she’d been seeking, not eternal youth, but her youth for eternity--in other words, an immortality quester.
It was also rumored that her experiment had succeeded, that she had found eternal life and that the story of her death had been concocted, not by human officials, but by powerful elements within the vampire community. When they’d discovered her crimes--and, yes, killing six hundred humans was a crime even by vampire standards--they’d masterminded her arrest and trial. Then, the vampires themselves walled her up, where she remains to this day, having outlived every vampire who knew where she was imprisoned.
In covering up the success of her immortality experiments, her captors had tried to ensure such crimes would never be repeated. Yet the story, true or not, had been passed down through generations of immortality questers. Most didn’t dare repeat Báthory’s work but, about every hundred years or so, somebody tried.
p.488 We spent the first half hour being escorted around the room, introduced to what seemed like every politician and business leader in the state. I know I should have been impressed, but I couldn’t help thinking that I was in the same room with quite possibly every person responsible for the Florida election snafu, and the subsequent election of George W. Bush, and somehow I couldn’t muster a proper feeling of awe.