Sunday, March 4, 2012

Excerpt from Motor City Mage by Cindy Spencer Pape

Contest Info: Comment on any or all of my posts today to win a free download of your choice from my Urban Arcana series, including this month's new release, Motor City Mage. One entry per person per post. (Previous posts are Motor City Magic and So what do you think about series?)

Motor City Mage
Urban Arcana #4
By Cindy Spencer Pape
Available Now from Carina Press


Des looked up at the heavens and sighed. “Fine. I’ll explain everything tomorrow at Thanksgiving dinner. Now where are you parked? I’ll walk you to your car.”

“I walked from home—parking permits are too damn expensive for a waitress.”
Des ignored that. He knew she had family money and made a good bit as part owner of the club. She probably walked just to be contrary to her cousins, who’d want her protected. As an older brother himself, he considered scolding her about the idiocy of a young, attractive woman walking alone in Detroit, especially since dusk was falling rapidly. The city was a dangerous one due to unemployment and bad race relations, even before adding in the trouble caused by rogue demons and other supernatural beings. Lana should know better. Then he remembered this particular damsel could grow fangs and claws if she needed them and kept his mouth shut.

“I wouldn’t say no to a lift though, if you’re parked nearby. It’s gotten colder since I left home this morning.”

“Of course.” His parents had raised him to be a gentleman. He continued toward the lot where he’d parked. “So,” he said, just to keep his mind off her…assets. “What are you studying?”

“Computer engineering.” She climbed into the passenger side of his car without waiting for him to open her door. When he got in beside her, she snorted. “Why look so shocked? Were you expecting me to say animal behavior? Woof.”

He shrugged. “How on earth was I supposed to know?”

“Good point. Not like you’ve ever paid any attention to our lives. We’re all just possible suspects to you, aren’t we, Des?” The anger in her voice held another note. Was it…hurt? That was something he’d never meant to do. He’d always assumed she was far too confident and thick-skinned for it to be possible.

Des stuck the key in the ignition and ignored it, turning to face Lana instead. He schooled his expression to one of neutral friendliness. “I pay a lot more attention than you think I do. The problem is, most of the times we’ve met have been about saving the world, or at least somebody’s life. We haven’t exactly had the chance to talk about our hopes and dreams for the future.” He let a small smile twitch at his lips. “Besides, I’m a—let me get it right—grumpy, antisocial asshole. Just ask my sister.”

Lana laughed again. “All right, I’ll give you that.” Her voice softened and she gave him a tiny half-smile, wrinkling her classic, patrician nose. “But you’ve come through for my family when we needed you. You’re a good friend, despite your best attempts not to be.”

“Well, don’t tell anyone. My reputation will be ruined.”

She made an X across her chest. “Promise.” She studied his face before reaching up to flick a finger across his cheek. Her demeanor changed, and suddenly, the aggressive, in-your-face she-wolf was gone, replaced by the caring woman he’d always pretended not to see. “Damn, you really have been running yourself ragged. This demon thing—it’s a lot more serious than you’ve let on, isn’t it?”

He shrugged, wishing he hadn’t noticed the softness of her hand in that miniscule touch. Just a flick of one turquoise-painted fingertip made his spine tingle in a way no one else ever had—not in his whole thirty-nine years. He didn’t have the faintest idea how to respond.

“Tell me.” Her hand fluttered down to rest on his knee. Even through his heavy wool slacks, her touch all but seared his skin, he was that tuned in to her.

This was bad. Why was he responding to her so much more strongly today than usual? And why was she being so kind and—well—tactile? He bit his lip as it occurred to him this was the first time they’d had any kind of conversation alone, rather than as part of a larger group. He couldn’t ignore her, pretending she was just one of the crowd. And werewolves were into touch. Which is why he’d typically stayed at the far end of a room from her. Now though, in the small space of the car, the dynamic between them was changing so fast he couldn’t catch his breath. “What was it you wanted to know?” He’d been so tangled up he hadn’t heard her question.

“Last we heard, Nightshade was presumed dead and random species of demons were trickling into the city. I assume the Wyndewin have been busy rounding them up and trying to ship them home.”

“Pretty much. Some of them put up a fight and end up dead, others suicide when they’re captured.” Like the one today from Vatsu—a plane so dry and arid the creatures came here just because of the water that abounded on Earth. They didn’t usually hurt anyone, but because they had scaly green skin and hooves and couldn’t shape-shift, they couldn’t be allowed to roam around freely. “Until we find the gate, there’s no way to send them home.”

“That sucks.” She patted his knee and pulled her hand back. “I sometimes think it’s time for us to all come out, let the humans know that they’re not alone in this world. Then harmless beings like Vatsu wouldn’t be rounded up just because they look different.”

“Me too.” The depth of her thinking made it impossible for him to maintain his self-delusion that she was flighty and self-centered. Fine. She’s not an idiot. Get over it and move on. Another layer of defense falls away. “But then I think about the Salem witch trials and the Inquisition. History hasn’t been kind to my people, let alone yours.”

“No, silver bullets sure aren’t my idea of a good time,” she agreed. When she leaned across the armrest to lay her head on his shoulder it felt utterly natural on a physical level, though to Des, it was a near-cataclysmic shift in their relationship.


Debby said...

This books look better and better with each excerpt I read
debby236 at gmail dot com

Shawna Thomas said...

Really nice excerpt! It makes you want to read more. : )