Burning Bridges [Retrievers Series Book 4] [Secure]
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by Laura Anne Gilman
Description: Wren Valere used to be almost invisible. But now she's not only being seen, she's getting involved. Recent attacks against nonhuman Fatae have escalated into hate crimes against magic users in general--humans included. With the Mage Council distracted by internal power struggles, Wren is guilted into stepping up as spokesperson for the fragilely united Fatae and lonejack communities.... And, because the cosmos deems her without enough complications, her partner-lover Sergei is drowning in his own problems. But not only can't she help him--she's the cause. With lives on the line--including her own--Wren's going to have to break the lonejack credo, ditch her long-cherished invisibility and take a stand. But burning bridges can be deadly....
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/LUNA,
eBookwise Release Date: June 2007
53 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [628 KB]
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January 23rd 6:25pm
Fresh snow could make even the dingiest, most urban part of Manhattan into a magical place. The colors and noises all faded away, the city's usual frenetic pace slowing to a more studied waltz of snow falling, white against the bare black limbs of trees and outlines of buildings. Drifts pushed up against maildrop boxes, covered fire hydrants, and shut down traffic except for the unstoppable city buses and madman-driven taxi cabs zipping through the night.
It might have been lovely, but Wren Valere wasn't paying attention to the scenery. She was a professional working her craft. Or trying to, anyway. Two new high-end locks had hit the market, supposedly proof against the "bump-and-enter" method, and she wanted to make sure she understood how they worked before she actually encountered one in the field, when time might be against her. In her particular profession, you didn't get many second chances, and Wren was pretty sure the past twelve months had used up all the ones she was going to get in a lifetime.
Sometimes, honestly, she didn't know what got into her. For a mind-her-own-business Retriever, she'd spent a hell of a lot of time muddling around in things she should have left alone. Curses and politics and meetings, for God's sake.
Never mind that she'd done it to save her own skin, after the Mage Council tried to use her and her partner, Sergei; never mind that she'd done it to help out her friends among the fatae, the nonhuman members of the Cosa Nostradamus. All of that might have made what happened inevitable, but none of it made it smart.
"Hey, Valere." The voice came from the other side of the room, about three feet to the right and a foot down. And speaking of fatae….
Wren Valere didn't sigh, but she wanted to.
Retrieval wasn't easy. She had studied her craft, learned from masters, and kept up-to-date on all the most recent developments, not only in her own field, but anything that might come in handy. In addition to mastering the current-magic that flowed from within her, she had trained her body, as well; toning and strengthening her muscles, increasing her lung capacity, maintaining her flexibility. She had forced mind and body into partnership, more than once spending hours waiting in a cramped, close situation, anticipating the perfect moment to move on a job. She knew all about patience. About focus. About dedication.
And that focus and dedication was being destroyed, not by a stubborn client, or impossible mark, or even the weight of the snow outside and what was happening in the city beyond, but by her companion.
She didn't bother looking in the direction of the voice, not wanting to encourage him.
"Valere," the voice said again. "What does this do?"
She looked, then, briefly. "Opens locks."
The room's other occupant—and the subject of her irritation—put the tool back down on the small table next to him and picked up another. "And this?"
She reached for patience, found it. "Opens a different kind of lock."
"And this one?"
Patience threw up its hands in disgust and fled the room. "It gets the gunk out from between my teeth. Damn it, P.B., will you please leave my kit alone? Those extremely delicate tools you're paw-handling cost me a fortune, and half of them are custom-made." She reached up from her cross-legged position on the floor, and snagged the instrument in question out of P.B.'s paws. A thin ceramic shape with a non-reflective black coating, it actually did look like something that might be found in a very trendy Goth's toothbrush holder, except that the fiberglass pick at the end was attuned to more delicate vibrations than enamel generally gave off.
"Sheesh. Someone's snappy." The short, white-furred demon settled on the padded bench under the room's single window and stared at her with his dark, dried-bloodred eyes. He wandered over to the corkboard that hung above her desk and tapped one curved black claw on a color pencil sketch tacked there. "This the bansidhe-horsie you been chasing? How long you been working that case?"
"Five years." She refused to look up from her notes, hoping against hope he would finally take the hint and go elsewhere.
P.B. snorted, a wet, vaguely disgusting noise his flattened snout of a nose seemed designed to make. "That's dedication. You get paid for any of that time?"
"Five years ago, yeah," It wasn't always about money. A lot of the time, it was about reputation. The Wren never gave up. Never left a job unfinished. No matter what.
Okay, maybe some of it was about money. Her mother had spent most of her life worrying about money: how much, never enough. Having money-savvy Sergei Didier become her manager when she was a teenager had given Wren the opportunity—and the education—she needed to change that. Over the years, her reputation—and her fees—had grown. If she was careful, and kept working, her savings would be enough to buy her apartment when it finally—inevitably—went co-op. More, Wren was now in the position of being able to have ego spur her to do things, rather than need.
Financial need, anyway.
The demon and the human were occupying the spare bedroom/library of Wren's East Village apartment, surrounded by three stacks of books, a scattering of papers, and the remains of two pizzas. The air was heavy with the scent of pepperoni, cheese, and a dry heat coming up through the building's ancient radiators, making her sinuses itch.
Ego had its own need in it, too. The bansidhe—Old Sally—was the one job Wren hadn't been able to close. Yet. Her clients—descendants of the original owner—had, she suspected, long since written off their initial deposit, but she couldn't let go.
Copyright © 2007 by Laura Anne Gilman.