Delphic Oracle #2
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
Feb. 22, 2011
Alayna Williams writes with power and poetry, combining old mythos with complete ass-kickery. You don’t want to miss this series.”
-National bestselling author Ann Aguirre
The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.
Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around - and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn't need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.
Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards - and Tara's increasingly ominous dreams - suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi's Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen…
Writing as Laura Bickle, she's the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket - Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she's the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.
More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here: http://www.salamanderstales.com/
Laura/ Alayna’s blogs
She’s a proud member of Word Whores.
Sparky the fire salamander from EMBERS and SPARKS has his own Twitter account, @SparkySalamandr
Excerpt from Rogue Oracle
He’d do anything to hear those voices again.
Galen’s head was too silent. The other voices in his head had drained away, leaving him alone. He pressed his cold hands over his ears so that he could hear his own blood and breath thundering, like the ocean in a shell. It was a bit less like being alone. He peered into the darkness, waiting. Waiting for the next voice to fill his thoughts and his dreams.
Through the pulse of his hands, he could hear the whir of an air conditioner and the creak of roof beams cooling overhead as sunlight drained from the day. The orange strip of light shining underneath the closet door thinned and faded. Galen brought his knees up against his chest, and a dress brushed against his cheek. The jasmine scent of his quarry’s perfume on his clothes mingled with the smell of shoe leather.
A car crunched in the driveway, followed by footfalls and the rattle of a key in the lock downstairs. Keys and purse jangled as they were cast on a hall table, and he heard the thunk of shoes being kicked off on the slate tiles of the entryway. The shuffle of mail sounded like a deck of playing cards.
Galen’s breath quickened, and he dug his fingertips into his close-cropped hairline. Not long. Not long, now.
Stocking feet padded into the kitchen. He heard the refrigerator door open, close. A microwave whirred, and a bell chimed. Galen’s nose wrinkled. Reheated rubber chicken from a trendy bistro, with tomato sauce. A television droned, comforting voices rising up through the floor. He leaned his head back against the wall of the closet. The television voices nattered on about Middle East peace talks, of a terrorism suspect captured, of the latest results from a television game show.
A fork clattered in the kitchen’s stainless-steel sink. The television turned off, plunging the house into false silence. Footsteps climbed the stairs to the second floor. Galen could hear the polyester zing of stockings on the plush carpet as his quarry walked past the closet. Light spilled under the closet door.
He held his breath.
The footsteps swished into the bathroom, opened the bathtub tap. Pipes creaked behind the closet wall. Galen smelled bath salts and citrus soap, heard the squeak of flesh against the bottom of the enameled tub. A shampoo bottle belched its last quantity of soap before it was tossed away into a trash can.
Elbows resting on his knees, Galen waited.
Like the rest of his quarry, he’d never met her. This one’s name was Lena. He’d only been led to her by the memories of others. Those memories burned bright in his mind for a few weeks and faded quickly, like a bruise. They left behind vacant space, space meant to occupy another. And another. His last victim, Carl, had remembered Lena. Through Carl’s eyes, Galen had seen Lena in all her fearless beauty: Lena, walking across Red Square with her lustrous dark hair covered by a scarf. Lena, dressed in a gown with a plunging neckline, her throat glittering with jewels…paste jewels that contained smuggled microchips in the settings. Lena, methodically taking apart a gun in a hotel room and wiping it clean of prints.
If he’d ever really bothered to admit it to himself, Lena had been the love of Carl’s life. Carl may not have seen it, but when Galen had taken possession of Carl’s memories, he could see it. Carl’s memories were twenty years old. But Galen wanted to see Lena, as Carl had. Though Carl’s voice had stopped ringing in Galen’s head, some of that feeling remained. Carl, the old spy, had carried a torch for Lena, right up until the time Galen had killed him.
The light under the closet door winked out. Galen heard Lena pull back the bedspread and climb into bed. He heard her punch the pillows and rearrange the covers. After a half-hour, all Galen could hear was the soft hiss of her breathing, moving in time his own breath echoing in his ears.
Galen nudged the closet door open. His muscles creaked as he unfolded his lanky frame. He caught his breath, certain that Lena could hear it. But the form stretched on its side in the bed didn’t move.
Galen approached the bed. Dim light from the street filtered through the curtains, illuminating Lena’s features. Age had softened her face, sketching lines that hadn’t existed in Carl’s memory. Her dark hair was streaked with silver, brushed over a shoulder that was rounder than Carl remembered. Her right hand curled loosely over the pillow, and a ring glittered behind a swollen joint. Galen recognized it: it was one that Carl had given her, many years ago.
Galen peeled back a corner of the covers and slipped into the bed behind Lena. His arms wrapped around her waist and mouth, ripping her nightgown. Lena awoke with a jerk, struggling against him. She howled and bit the hand around her mouth, drawing blood.
Galen could hear her. He could hear her swearing at him, screaming. The scream muffled as he wrapped his fingers around her throat and squeezed. He felt his fingers shattering the delicate hyoid bone in her throat, dig deeper, into her flesh. His own skin had grown porous and elastic, fingers reaching up into her jaw. Lena’s eyes rolled back in panic. She wheezed as Galen pressed his chest to her back. He could feel her warm flesh against his cold body, felt the cells in his skin growing plastic, reaching out. One of Lena’s white teeth glinted in his thumb. It disappeared as his hand lost its shape, flowed into her mouth. In his other hand, he could feel his fingers splitting apart Lena’s ribs, feeling the fluttering of her heart like a sparrow in a cage. His hand unfolded and fused with her heart, and he could feel his pulse pumping in time with hers.
Trapped in his embrace, Galen heard Lena whimper as she became part of him, melting into his flesh. He could feel her disintegrating, her skin losing surface tension as his body began its parasitic devouring of every bit of vessel and cell, like a snake digesting its prey. But this digestion was external: a slow dissolving of Lena’s body. Galen was conscious of Lena’s elbow somewhere near his lung, of her fingers wound around his ribs.
And he could hear her. The whisper of Lena’s memories suffused his head, like Carl’s had.
Whispers tumbled over each other, shards of memory cutting deep in his head where they intersected with Carl’s fading thoughts.
He wouldn’t be alone…for as long as Lena’s voice lasted. Afterward, just as Carl’s memories led Galen to her, Lena’s secrets would lead him to others.