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If everyone keeps secrets, no one will survive…
Six months after the nightmare in Cross Keys, Kam Ryndel is enjoying her freedom in New Orleans and doesn’t miss the constraints of Elven society. She’s immersed herself in working missions for the CIA, even if it means less time to spend with her boyfriend, Seth. Seth’s not so happy about that. Having shouldered the responsibility of his family’s obligations, he’s losing patience with Kam’s lack of commitment to her own—and to him.
Then a guild worker is attacked by an invisible assailant, and everyone suspects another portal breach by rogues from Elvenrude. As Kam and Seth look for answers, a gang-related CIA mission interrupts the investigation, and Kam is taken to a place she never knew existed—beyond the Louisiana bayou.
Angered by Kam’s new mission, Seth enlists the help of his cousin Rhyden to solve the mysterious guild-worker attack. Instead of an assailant, they discover reports of ghost sightings all over town. Not that unusual for New Orleans, but these seem…different. In a mission complicated by gangsters, feuds, failing magic, and old enemies—and the uncertain loyalty of the Elven king—Seth learns something even worse. Kam is missing. And he isn’t sure if she’s alive or dead…
Swamp water lapped against the small watercraft, rocking it gently. Kam shifted on the hard seat of the airboat’s cramped quarters, pushed a strand of dark hair away from her face, and studied the forty-something man across from her.
Noah Crain, senior agent, CIA. Sweat beaded on his forehead from the unrelenting humidity of the late July night. He wiped it away and squinted at the bundle of American one-hundred-dollar bills in his hand. The single dim lantern barely lit the enclosed cockpit—a rarity on swamp boats—but Crain was a covert operative. He didn’t like doing business in the open.
He flipped through the bills and looked up at her. “Counterfeit. As I expected. They flood our country with drugs to support their terrorist activities and then add to the insult by paying their pipeline with funny money.” With a soft plunk, he dropped the currency next to two identical packets on the extra seat beside him. “Thanks for bringing this. We’ll take it from here. Another great job, Kam. There’ll be the usual deposit to your account.”
She shrugged. The money was immaterial. Born into the wealthy Ryndel family in Elvenrude, she’d never lacked for anything. The CIA missions were merely small challenges for an Elite dark elf, amusing adventures. “I need to go. I’m late.”
“About that…” Crain frowned at her. “Rescuing the girl wasn’t part of your assignment. You could have been caught.”
“But I wasn’t. I either do these missions my way or not at all.” How could he expect her to leave a fourteen-year-old girl in the hands of the Mexican drug lords? Yes, she’d had to deactivate the invisibility magic and reveal her presence in order to lead the girl out of that stinking hole. But it had been worth it. Kam relaxed her shoulders and took the edge off her tone. “I’ll be more careful in the future.”
He sighed and shook his head. “I wish I could believe that.”
Two minutes later, Kam leaped off the boat and sped across the swamplands of southern Louisiana, headed for New Orleans. She was glad to be going home and drew in a deep breath of the moist, earthy air. Her feet skimmed the ground as she watched for alligators or vipers or unstable ground. Even at her magically enhanced speed, a misstep into a watery hole or on the wrong head or tail could lead to disaster.
Kam swung her head toward a dim flash of light, a blurry movement on her left. Alligator hunters? She wound her fingers around the invisibility amulet dangling from her neck and invoked the magic, then paused on a patch of solid ground. Now that she couldn’t be seen, she took her time peering around. Alert for any furtive movements out of sync with normal swamp activity, she had almost given up when something whipped past a few feet away, leaving only the faintest ripple in the marshy grasses.
A chill crept across her neck. A whiff of magical energy. A ghost? A vampire? She’d heard stories of all kinds of strange sightings in and around New Orleans but never seen anything supernatural except her own people. She waited. A minute crawled by. And another. When nothing else occurred, she continued toward the city.
Every sense was on edge, but she reached the outskirts without a repetition of the puzzling magical trace. As the density of buildings increased, Kam used the ancient magic in her silver wristband to leap onto the rooftops and run across the cityscape.
Ally Shields grew up in the Midwest, taught school on the East Coast, has visited forty-two of our states, and currently resides near Des Moines, Iowa, with her miniature pinscher, Ranger. Writing has always been a part of her life, and in late 2008, after a career in law and juvenile justice, she turned to full-time fiction writing. Her first urban fantasy novel, Awakening the Fire, was published in 2012, followed by six additional books in the series. She loves to travel in the US and abroad and incorporates many of those settings into her books. Ally enjoys talking with readers and is active in social media.