The latest installment in the Agent of Hel series will hit the shelves this fall, but Jacqueline Carey provided this teaser excerpt from Poison Fruit to whet everyone's appetite! For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
The hot-as-Hel series with the “Sookie Stackhouse type of vibe” (Paranormal Horizon) is back—but this time the paranormal Midwestern town of Pemkowet is feeling a frost in the air and the residents are frozen in fear... The Pemkowet Visitors Bureau has always promoted paranormal tourism—even if it has downplayed the risks (hobgoblins are unpredictable). It helps that the town is presided over by Daisy Johanssen, who as Hel’s liaison is authorized by the Norse goddess of the dead to keep Pemkowet under control. Normally, that’s easier to do in the winter, when bracing temperatures keep folks indoors. But a new predator is on the prowl, and this one thrives on nightmares. Daisy is on her trail and working intimately with her partner and sometime lover from the Pemkowet PD, sexy yet unavailable werewolf Cody Fairfax. But even as the creature is racking up innocent victims, a greater danger looms on Pewkowet’s horizon. As a result of a recent ghost uprising, an unknown adversary—represented by a hell-spawn lawyer with fiery powers of persuasion—has instigated a lawsuit against the town. If Pemkowet loses, Hel’s sovereignty will be jeopardized, and the fate of the eldritch community will be at stake. The only one who can prevent it is Daisy—but she’s going to have to confront her own worst nightmare to do it.
Halfway up the incline, Cody held out one arm. “Hold on,” he said, nostrils working. “I smell something.”
“Bogle?” I asked.
He glanced at me, phosphorescent green flashing behind his eyes. “I’m guessing yes. Smells like moldy old leather and bracken.”
“Sounds like a bogle to me,” I said. “But what do I know?”
Cody grinned. “Let’s check it out.”
The wind picked up as we climbed higher, the sound of waves growing louder. All around us, trees creaked and groaned, branches scraping against one another. It was all very Blair Witch Project. I wrapped my arms around myself against the cold, trying not to think about the fact that that movie scared the crap out of me.
Atop the incline, the woods gave way to another clearing surrounded by outlying buildings. In the center was a jungle gym made of plastic timbers and wide tubes that looked surprisingly sinister in the darkness. Anything could be lurking in those seemingly innocuous tubes. With my right hand, I reassured myself that dauda-dagr was secure in the sheath I wore belted around my waist.
Standing in the clearing, Cody turned his head this way and that, testing the air. “It’s been here,” he said. “A lot. But I can’t tell which scent trail is fresh.” He gave me an apologetic look. “I’m going to have to shift to track it, Daisy.”
“A wolf’s gotta do what a wolf’s gotta do,” I said. “Just try to remember that if you plunge into the woods, I’m going to have a hard time following you.”
“I’ll try.” He shrugged out of his tan Carhartt jacket and handed it to me. “Here, put this on. You might as well stay warm. Be careful, the keys to the truck are in the right-hand pocket.”
“Duly noted,” I said. “And thanks.”
Cody’s jacket retained the warmth of his body and a trace of his scent, pine and musk and Polo. Engulfed in it, I watched him undress with unselfconscious efficiency, removing his off-duty shoulder holster and his Timberland boots, folding his clothing, and setting it alongside the flashlight on a rough-hewn wooden bench the Presbyterians had thoughtfully provided in the vicinity of the jungle gym.
For a moment, his naked human body was pale and luminous in my night vision, his skin stippled with gooseflesh.
Then he shifted.
It happened in the blink of an eye, one form flowing into another. Cody’s wolf form was long-limbed and rangy with tawny gray fur and alert amber eyes filled with inhuman intelligence. I’m not saying it was animal intelligence, not exactly, but it definitely wasn’t human. Cody-the-human and Cody-the-wolf overlapped, but they weren’t the same beings.
“You know, you’re the reason we can’t be together,” I said to the wolf. It cocked its head at me, ears pricked. “No offense. I know it’s not your fault. I’m just saying.”
The wolf merely continued to regard me.
I sighed. “Go on. Go hunt the bogle.”
It turned and trotted into the darkness, muzzle low to the ground.
Let me tell you, it is not easy to follow a hunting wolf, night vision or not. I did my best, stumbling after the Cody-wolf on the frozen ground he seemed to glide over with effortless ease, trying to ignore the ominous creaking trees as the wolf made a circuit of this particular area of the camp.
I caught up with the wolf on the verge of a dense thicket of woods where he’d paused to stare into the darkness. I was sure he was about to go where I’d have a hell of a time following, but to my surprise, he sniffed the ground, then turned and headed back toward the camp at that deceptively speedy trot.
The wolf made a beeline for a building with a wooden sign in the front reading “Mess Hall,” halting in front of the door.
“You’re sure about that?” I said dubiously. “Ellie said the bogle’s haunt was in the woods.”
Raising one paw, the wolf scratched at the door.
“Okay, okay.” I turned the doorknob and found it locked. “Looks like a pretty old door,” I said to the wolf. “Let’s try the credit card trick.”
I didn’t have a credit card on me, but I had my police I.D. card. The Cody-wolf obligingly got out of my way, sitting on its haunches on the cold ground behind me, panting softly and watching with its tongue lolling while I slid my I.D. card between the door and the frame and wiggled it in an effort to jimmy the lock. I was so focused on the task at hand, I forgot to be apprehensive about what I might find on the other side.
“I think I’ve almost—“
With a jerk, the door swung abruptly inward.
I let out a shriek as a tall, black figure with eyes like molten lava, pointy misshapen features and hands the size of bony catcher’s mitts lunged at me, teeth bared. I flung up a shield at the same time I hurled myself backward, tripping over the wolf and falling hard on my back on the frozen earth, knocking the wind out of me.
The Cody-wolf growled and launched itself at the figure, which staggered backward into the mess hall under the impact.
I got to my hands and knees, lungs working in a futile effort to draw breath. The sounds of battle inside the mess hall didn’t bode well. Concentrating, I willed my diaphragm to un-spasm.
It worked well enough that I was able to get to my feet and stumble into the mess hall after the wolf and the bogle. Sure enough, they were locked in combat. The bogle was on its back, long-fingered hands with too many knuckles and sharp black nails clamped around the wolf’s throat. The wolf snarled and snapped, its muzzle inches from the bogle’s face.
“Cody!” I wheezed. “Down, boy! We need to question him!”
The wolf ignored me, continuing in its efforts to lunge forward and tear out the bogle’s throat.
On the floor of the mess hall, the bogle rolled its molten-lava eyes at me. “You brought a werewolf?” he said. “Dude, that’s a little extreme.”