Title: Grave Cargo
Author: Jami Gray
Genre: Urban Fantasy
A dead mage, a missing friend, and an unpredictable alliance merge into a volatile package sending Rory careening through the Arcane elite’s deadly secrets.
Rory Costas, Arcane Transporter, is finally out from under the Guild’s thumb and ready to jumpstart her career as an independent contractor. Even better than the potential income, her promising future offers the additional perk of keeping her coveted magic out of the hands of the all-powerful Arcane Families. But when a dead mage drops at her doorstep on the same morning her best friend and roommate, Lena, goes missing, Rory is drawn out of her comfort zone and into an ominous race against time.
Retracing Lena’s convoluted path through the Arcane elite’s moneyed secrets, bitter vendettas, and lethal curses, Rory crashes into Zev Aslanov’s investigation of the murdered mage. When the Cordova Family’s enigmatic hunter reveals the dead man was Lena’s last client, Rory must convince Zev her missing friend is a victim, not a suspect. To uncover the truth and save her friend, Rory agrees to work with Zev, even though their uneasy partnership may mean revealing her hidden magic.
As the clock ticks down, can they dodge Zev’s suspicions and Rory’s secrets to expose the real evil mastermind or will they crash and burn?
Living in the desert meant everything carried a layer of dust. Between that and the unrelenting Phoenix sun, keeping a car showroom pretty was damn near impossible. That was why I paid extra for covered parking for my Mustang.
Movement on the street was followed by the soft sound of wheels over asphalt as one of the latest electric sedans rolled by, its heavily tinted windows hiding the occupants. I turned, watching it head out of the neighborhood, and got my mind back on point. I followed the flagstone path to a front courtyard guarded by an oversized door laced in wrought iron to go with the Spanish-ranch vibe. I moved up the three steps, and as I went to ring the bell, I noticed the thick door was open a couple of inches.
A sense of foreboding crawled down my spine, but I tried to shake it off, knowing my morning had left me markedly off balance. I checked my watch, noting I’d made the appointment time with five minutes to spare. I stood there for a moment, logic urging me to turn around and call Evan. Instead, I tucked the file under my arm. Being careful not to touch the door, I leaned in and braced a hand on the doorjamb. I didn’t need Keith calling the police on me. “Hello? Mr. Thatcher?”
Okay, where was the client? I tried again. “Mr. Thatcher? My name is Rory Costas. I’m with the Guild.”
Still nothing. I studied the partially opened door as tension coiled. In response, my magic stretched awake, covering my skin in a thin layer of invisible armor. My ability wasn’t showy or intimidating, but it was a hell of a defense. Right now, not knowing what lay inside, I needed that kind of reassurance. The formal designation for what I wielded was Prism, but that knowledge was something I kept quiet, mainly because it was a rare ability often coveted and ruthlessly exploited.
A Prism’s power acted like a magic-repellant armor, for lack of a better term. It wasn’t impenetrable—a purely physical attack could breach it, or a relentlessly strong magical attack could eventually overpower it—but when facing most magical assaults, it would buffer the impact. On rare occasions, I had been able to turn the strike back on the originator, but it only happened when death and I were getting up close and personal. Right now, I had no intention of stepping inside without its protection.
Moving forward was a given, because I didn’t need the skin-crawling apprehension to tell me something was very wrong inside Mr. Thatcher’s house. My desire for answers about Lena’s whereabouts smothered logic and had me giving the door a little push with my fingertips. The surprisingly thick door swung open silently, and the rush of cool air carried nothing more threatening than a pleasant floral scent. “Come in,” said the spider to the fly. Standing in the open doorway, I clutched the file in one hand, the other fisted at my side, knowing this was a very bad idea. Despite my waning hope, I tried one last time. “Hello? Mr. Thatcher? Are you home?”
I looked over my shoulder, but the street and sidewalks remained empty. My gaze skated over the For Sale sign. Maybe I was overreacting. This place looked huge enough that if they were in the midst of a showing, they would have no idea anyone was here. Yeah, even I don’t believe that one.
Taking a deep breath, I drew my magic close and stepped over the threshold, braced for anything. I stood in the tiled foyer under an unlit chandelier and waited.
Across from me, floor-to-ceiling windows that looked as if they could be pushed aside led into a stunning backyard. Talk about bringing the outside in.
Two arched entries branched off from the foyer. The one on the left led into what appeared to be a hall, and the one to the right opened into a great room. My magic vibrated against my skin, just as on edge as I felt. I strained my ears, trying to catch any indication of life, but all that came back was the soft hum of air conditioning.
With no other choice, I left the door open behind me and went to the left. I stepped through the archway and came to a halt as a wave of pins and needles washed over my skin. I knew that feeling. It was the same one I’d encountered when walking into a scene saturated by magic. For the longest time, I’d thought everyone got the same visceral warning, but careful questioning of friends revealed that wasn’t always the case. It might be a side effect of being a Prism. Not that I would know, since information on Prisms, unlike other magical abilities, was nearly impossible to find. Trust me, I looked.
Gritting my teeth, I waited for the lingering traces of magic to abate. It was akin to standing at a beach’s waterline, the echoes of power curling around my ankles like a politely persistent, thorny wave. Even the buffer of my protective magic couldn’t keep it from tugging me forward. I stood fast, ignoring it, because whatever had happened here hadn’t been caused by a run-of-the-mill spell. For a magical echo to be this strong equaled a highly complex casting, the kind that required years of training. Training a top-level Guild operative or a ranking member of an Arcane Family would have, and neither of those boded well. My pulse kicked up, and I swallowed against a dry throat. What the hell has Lena been dragged into?
Since the lingering power refused to relent, I forced my legs to work and moved deeper into the open space. I didn’t have to go far to confirm that Keith would not be making this appointment. In fact, it would be safe to assume wherever Keith Thatcher was, he was in serious trouble.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
Grave Cargo races into a new high-octane, urban fantasy thrill ride filled with unexpected turns. Catch a ride with Rory Costas, Arcane Transporter and get ready for the ride of your life.
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Jami Gray is the coffee addicted, music junkie, Queen Nerd of her personal Geek Squad, Alpha Mom of the Fur Minxes, who writes to soothe the voices crammed in her head. You don’t want to miss out on her multiple series that mix magic and mayhem with a wicked edge -- Arcane Transporter, Kyn Kronicles, PSY-IV Teams, or Fate’s Vultures.
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