Thanks to the generosity of the author, here's an exclusive excerpt from Jacqueline Carey's Dark Currents! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
Jacqueline Carey, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Kushiel’s Legacy novels, presents an all-new world featuring a woman caught between the normal and paranormal worlds, while enforcing order in both. Introducing Daisy Johanssen, reluctant hell-spawn…
The Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet boasts a diverse population: eccentric locals, wealthy summer people, and tourists by the busload; not to mention fairies, sprites, vampires, naiads, ogres and a whole host of eldritch folk, presided over by Hel, a reclusive Norse goddess.
To Daisy Johanssen, fathered by an incubus and raised by a single mother, it’s home. And as Hel’s enforcer and the designated liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, it’s up to her to ensure relations between the mundane and eldritch communities run smoothly.
But when a young man from a nearby college drowns—and signs point to eldritch involvement—the town’s booming paranormal tourism trade is at stake. Teamed up with her childhood crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, a sexy werewolf on the down-low, Daisy must solve the crime—and keep a tight rein on the darker side of her nature. For if she’s ever tempted to invoke her demonic birthright, it could accidentally unleash nothing less than Armageddon.
And that was a good thing, since it helped distract me while Jen went on and on and back and forth about Cody Fairfax, and whether or not he really was a jerk, whether or not he might call, whether she should go out with him if he did—
Well, that was an easy one.
“No,” I said. “I don’t.”
She eyed me suspiciously. “So he is a jerk?”
I sighed. Lying isn’t one of the Seven Deadlies, but I tried to avoid it. When you’re condemned to go through life worrying about being the spawn of Satan, you learn to avoid anything that leads you down a dark path. “Not exactly. It’s just... you know his track record.”
“Yeah, but people change.” Jen scanned the crowd, looking for her eleven-year-old brother. “Brandon! Stay where I can see you, okay?” Lowering her voice, she turned back to me. “Is it true that Cody only became a cop so he could make sure his family doesn’t get busted for growing pot in the county woods?”
“No,” I said honestly. “I’m pretty sure that’s not true.”
“They’re a little like the Joads or something, aren’t they? Like one of those inbred redneck families Mr. Leary made us read about.” Jen nibbled on a manicured thumbnail, caught herself doing it and stopped. “But Cody’s different.” She shrugged. “Anyway, who am I to talk about family?”
I didn’t say anything. Jen’s family was no prize. Her father worked as a caretaker and handyman for a bunch of wealthy families with summer homes. He could fix almost anything, and when he was sober, he had a reputation for being a reasonably decent guy. But he wasn’t sober often, especially at home. He had a chip on his shoulder that grew ten times bigger when he drank, and he took his temper out on Jen’s mother.
Still, compared to my father, that was nothing.
“Sorry.” Jen made a self-deprecating face. “You know what I mean. Your mom’s great. You know I love her.”
“Yeah.” I smiled at her. “I know.”
It was true. Ever since Jen and I had become friends in high school, when I helped her track down her older sister Bethany at the House of Shadows and make sure she was okay, or as okay as she could be under the circumstances, Mom had taken Jen under her wing, doing her best to make sure Jen didn’t get into the same kind of trouble. Which is sort of ironic if you think about it, since dating a werewolf might fall under that category. On the other hand, I knew plenty of girls who’d dated Cody Fairfax without suffering any side effects worse than common heartbreak, so I guess it’s nowhere near as dangerous as becoming a blood-slut out at Twilight Manor.
By the way, if you’re ever conversing with an actual vampire, do not refer to the House of Shadows as Twilight Manor. There’s a reason vampires aren’t known for their senses of humor. If you accidentally do so, I’d say run, but it’s probably already too late.
Los Gatos del Sol ended one song and went straight into another rollicking number. It’s hard to stay moody when you’re listening to a good Tex-Mex band, and they were cute, especially the accordian player. Funny how accordian players are dorky in a polka band, but kind of sexy playing Tex-Mex or zydeco. This one was working the whole smoldering Latino thing, tossing his head to keep an errant lock of black hair out of his eyes. Catching my gaze, he winked at me. There was a faint sheen of sweat on the brown skin of his bare throat, and I imagined myself licking it.
A jolt of lust shivered the length of my spine, making my tail twitch.
Yeah, I said tail.
No horns, no batwings, no cloven hooves, and Mom swears I don’t have a birthmark that reads 666 on my scalp. Since I trust her, I haven’t shaved my head to check. Mostly, I take after her. I have her pert nose, her cheekbones, her chin. I inherited her fair skin and that white-blonde Scandinavian hair everyone thinks comes from a bottle.
But I have my father’s eyes, which are as black as the pits of... well, you know. And a cute little tail, which I’ve learned to tuck as carefully as a drag queen tucks his package, only back to front.
For the record, I’m not actually the spawn of Satan. My father’s name is Belphegor, lesser demon and occasional incubus. Here’s another piece of advice: If you’re vacationing in Pemkowet, or anywhere on the planet with a functioning underworld, do not mess around with a ouija board. The spirit you summon might just pay a visit. Mom learned that the hard way, and I’m living proof of it.
Daisy Johanssen, reluctant hell-spawn. That’s me.
At any rate, there’s a fine line between desire and lust, and and unfortunately, lust is one of the Seven Deadlies. With my emotions roiling under the surface, it wasn’t safe to skirt around the edges of it; not to mention the fact that casual hook-ups tended to go south at some point. There are circumstances under which it becomes very difficult to conceal a tail, even a small one. Believe me, that’s an awkward conversation to have.
“Check it out.” Jen nudged my arm, jerking her chin at the accordian player. “He’s checking you out.”
“Yeah.” Ruefully, I folded up the image of my licking his throat and packed it away in a mental suitcase, zipping it closed. “But it’s complicated.”
“Yeah, I know.” Jen was quiet a moment. “I’m sorry.”
“Thanks.” I was grateful for her understanding.
In the west, the sun sank slowly behind the treeline. Los Gatos del Sol took a break. The Pride of Pemkowet, a replica of an old-fashioned paddle-wheel steamboat, churned down the river to catch the sunset, laden with sightseers. There was a splash, and then oohs and ahs from the tourists aboard the boat. They’d caught a glimpse of something this time; a flash of a naiad’s pearl-white arm, maybe, or an undine’s hair trailing like translucent seaweed. The locals stayed seated while the tourists in the park rushed to the dock to see, returning in muttering disappointment. Whatever it was, they’d missed it.
By the time the band began its last set, the dusk was luminous. I watched the children at play.
It was a lovely sight, and only a little bittersweet. I missed the careless unselfconsciousness of childhood, when a boy on the bus could be a hero and nothing more complicated. The youngest kids flitted around the park like dragonflies. There were little girls forming friendships on the spot, one in a flounced polka-dotted skirt, one decked out in tie-dye by latter-day hippy parents. There was a young gymnast showing off, turning cartwheel after perfect cartwheel. Jen’s brother Brandon was hanging out with a couple of buddies, trying to look like they were too cool to play with the little kids. He was a surprise baby, what they call a change-of-life baby.
There was a dad letting his three daughters spin around him like a Maypole, making themselves dizzy until they fell tumbling onto the soft grass. Over there, a boy who couldn’t have been older than five or six was swiveling his hips like a miniature Elvis. There was a giggling blonde girl with a doll in the crook of one arm leading another little girl in gingham by the hand toward the bushes—
My skin prickled. One of those kids wasn’t a kid. Reaching into my purse, I eased out my police ID and stood slowly.
“What’s up?” Jen asked.
My tail twitched again, this time in a predatory reflex. “Hang on. I’ll be right back.”
I followed the little girls behind the curve of the ornamental hedge, catching them just as the one was handing her doll to the other.
“Don’t take that, sweetheart,” I said to the girl in gingham. “That’s not a nice doll.”
She gave me a confused look.
“We were only playing!” the blonde said in a sweet, piping voice. She had pink, rosy cheeks and blue eyes set in a heart-shaped face.
It takes an effort of will to see through a glamour, and not everyone can do it, but I can. The angelic-looking child before me turned into a milkweed fairy, all sharp-angled features and tip-tilted eyes, a halo of silvery fluff floating around its head, tattered, translucent wings springing from its shoulder blades. The baby doll it clutched had become a ripe milkweed pod oozing sticky white sap. I held up my ID. “Play somewhere else.”
The fairy hissed at me, baring a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth. “Thou hast no authority over me! I do not yield to a piece of plastic!”
“No?” I held up my other hand, my left hand, palm outward, displaying the rune written there, invisible to mundane eyes but plain as day to a fairy’s. “How about this?”
The fairy recoiled, but held its ground. “Hel should never have granted an ill-gotten half-breed such license!”
For the record, that’s Hel the Norse goddess of the dead, unrelated to the hell from whence my father came. Ironic, I know. An eldritch community needs a functioning underworld to exist, which makes Hel the number one supernatural authority in town. And I just happen to be her agent.
“But she did.” Anger stirred in me, and this time I let it rise, molten hot and delicious. I could feel the pressure building against my eardrums. On the other side of the hedge, someone let out a startled yelp as a bottle of soda popped its lid. The scent of ozone hung in the air, and electricity lifted my hair. I bared my own teeth in a smile, my tail twitching violently beneath the skirt of my sundress. And since you’re probably wondering, no, I don’t wear panties. “Do you yield?”
With another hiss, the milkweed fairy vanished.
The little mortal girl in the gingham dress burst into tears.
“It’s okay, sweetheart.” Reaching down, I took her hand and let my anger drain away. “What’s your name?”
She sniffled. “Shawna.”
“That’s very pretty.” I smiled at her. “Okay, Shawna. Let’s go find your mom and dad, shall we?”
Within a minute, I had her restored to her parents. Mom and Dad were a nice young couple visiting from Ohio. Caught up in the idyllic mood, listening to the band and watching the antics of the many children, they hadn’t even noticed their daughter’s fleeting absence. It had been so brief, I couldn’t blame them. It was easy to let your guard down on a beautiful evening in Pemkowet.
“Listen.” Lowering my voice, I nodded toward the public restroom, a squat cinderblock building rendered charming by virtue of a colorful Seurat painting replicated on its walls. While tourists emptied their bladders inside, 19th century Parisians strolled and lounged on the island of La Grande Jatte. “This may sound strange, but I strongly recommend you take Shawna to the bathroom and turn her dress inside-out.”
Ohio Mom blinked at me. “I beg your pardon?”
I laid one hand on Shawna’s head, stroking the wispy brown hair escaping from her ponytail. “It’s just a precaution. But your daughter caught a fairy’s attention. Better to be safe than sorry.”
Ohio Mom turned pale. Ohio Dad laughed. “Relax, hon. It’s just a publicity stunt.” He winked at me. “Fairies, huh?”
“It’s not a publicity stunt.” I couldn’t keep a hint of irritation from my voice. “Trust me, you don’t want to wake up in the morning and find nothing but a milkweed pod lying on Shawna’s pillow.”
Which could very well have happened if little Shawna had taken the doll. That’s all the fairy would have needed to make a changeling. Oh, we would have tracked her down eventually – I would have known what had happened as soon as I saw the missing persons report, which is how I came by my special role in the department in the first place – but it would have resulted in some seriously bad publicity.
Plus, there’s no telling how it might have affected the kid. People who get abducted by fairies come back... changed.
It took a bit of convincing, but Ohio Mom decided to humor me. I went back to rejoin Jen.
“Errant fairy,” I explained briefly.
She nodded. “Did you get them to turn the kid’s dress inside-out?”
Jen made a face. “Tourists.”
It wasn’t entirely their fault. The Pemkowet Visitors Bureau actively cultivates paranormal tourism. They don’t offer any guarantees – most visitors never catch more than a fleeting glimpse of a member of the eldritch community, or they fail to recognize those of us who pass for human – but the PVB isn’t exactly candid about the potential dangers, either.
What with being a goddess and all, albeit a much diminished one, Hel keeps most of the eldritch folk in line. The rune inscribed on my left palm is a symbol that I’m licensed to enforce her rules and act as her liaison between the underworld and the mundane authorities. It works pretty well most of the time, at least with the eldritch who respect order. Unfortunately, there are plenty who prefer chaos.
Especially fairies, of which we have many.
Los Gatos del Sol wrapped their last set. The crowd began to disperse into the warm night. Jen retrieved her brother Brandon, and we discussed plans to schedule a good old-fashioned movie night with my mom, or maybe a Gilmore Girls marathon.
I was relieved that she didn’t mention Cody again. Generally speaking, Jen and I didn’t keep secrets from each other. My crush on Cody was a glaring exception. It was tied up with keeping his secret, which I was honor-bound to do.
By the time I made my way back to my place, the young couple in the front apartment were making loud and vigorous love, which I could hear on the landing; but on the plus side, Mogwai had decided to make an appearance. I turned on the stereo and poured myself a couple inches of good scotch, my one grown-up indulgence, then lit a few candles and curled up in the love-seat on my screen porch to mull over the evening.
Mogwai settled his considerable tricolored bulk in my lap, kneading and purring his deep, raspy purr.
“Not too bad, Mog.” I stroked him absentmindedly. “One changeling scenario, averted. Hel would be pleased.”
He twitched one notched ear in a cat-quick flick.
I sighed. “And yeah, one hopeless crush flirting with my BFF. But it’s not really any of my business, is it?”
He purred louder in agreement.
On the stereo, Billie Holiday sang good morning to heartache, her voice fragile and almost tremulous; and yet there was a fine steel thread of strength running through it, a strength born of suffering and resolve. Of all the music in the world, nothing soothes my own savage breast like women singing the blues. The year I discovered it, I was twelve, and my mom was dating a bassist in a local jazz band, the only serious boyfriend I’d ever known her to have. He introduced us to a lot of music. His name was Trey Summers, and he was killed in a car accident that winter. I still missed him, and I know Mom did, too.
Outside, the night was filled with the sounds of a resort town in full revelry; partying tourists frequenting the bars, bass beats thumping. Inside, with profoundly poignant resignation, Billie Holiday invited heartache to sit down.