Excerpt from DARK ARTS AND A DAIQUIRI:
Kai followed me down the aisle of the thrift shop, and as I perused the garments for anything my tasteless teen self would’ve loved to wear, I asked, “What do we know about this Ghost guy besides him being a murdering psycho who abducts teenage girls?”
“He first came to MPD’s attention eight years ago.” Kai kept his voice low as a heavyset woman with an armload of shirts passed us in the next aisle. “He’s grown more active over the years. He’s especially involved in the black market—buying and selling anything that could be considered dark arts. Potions, poisons, artifacts, weapons. The items he buys are usually much nastier than what he sells.”
“So he’s probably built up a nice stockpile.” I added a black denim jacket with silver buttons to my collection. “Fantastic.”
Kai paused to squint at a sunhat with a giant yellow bow. “Based on that, most people assume he’s an Arcana mythic, but others insist he’s a mage.”
“Anyone can collect and use Arcana artifacts though, right?” Prime example: me with my Queen of Spades card.
“That’s why there’s so much uncertainty. Our working theory is he’s a di-mythic.” “A what?”
“A di-mythic is—”
Aaron bounded out from between shelves—or I assumed it was Aaron. A giant rubber crow head covered his face, and I recoiled so violently I stumbled into Kai.
“What the hell is—”
“Isn’t it awesome?” Aaron demanded, the mask thing muffling his voice. The crow’s blank plastic eyes stared in opposite directions.
“I can’t believe you put that on your head.” I wrinkled my nose. “Who knows where it’s been?” He pulled it off. “Maybe we should call ourselves crows instead of hammers.”
“Did you find any backpacks?” I asked.
“Umm. I didn’t see any.”
Ezra wandered out from between two tall shelves, a faded orange backpack in one hand. “How’s this?” “Perfect. Thanks, Ezra.” I added it to my pile. “This should do it. Let’s go pay.”
We headed to the front of the store and got in line. While the cashier slowly sorted through a customer’s giant stack of disintegrating romance novels, I checked that no one was close enough to eavesdrop, then turned to Kai. “You mentioned ‘di-mythic.’ What’s that?”
“A mythic who’s gifted in—and trained in—two classes,” he explained. “A mage with psychic abilities, a sorcerer with a demon contract, and so on. It’s rare. We’re hypothesizing that the Ghost is an Arcana di- mythic with abilities in another class.”
“We just don’t know which other class,” Aaron added. “Based on power alone, I’d say Elementaria.”
“A mage-sorcerer sounds terrifying,” I said with a shudder. The two most powerful magics combined in one super-evil bad guy.
“Yeah. The sooner we take him down, the better.”
Something about Aaron’s tone gave me pause. I looked across the three mages and lowered my voice to a whisper. “What’s the plan, exactly? Capture him?”
Aaron twisted his mouth. “His bounty is DOA.” I went still. DOA. Dead or alive.
“We want to take him alive,” Kai murmured. “But we can’t be too cautious or he’ll use that to his advantage. He won’t hold back.”
Did I want to participate in this plan, knowing a man might die? I thought for a moment. If the man was a teen-kidnapping, murdering sleazebag, then yeah, I was cool with it. But I wasn’t so keen on Aaron, Kai, and Ezra going up against him.
“If no one has ever gotten a decent shot at catching the Ghost,” I said, “what if he’s too much for you three?”
Ezra smiled, his contagious calm seeping through me. “We aren’t taking chances. If we can lure out the Ghost, we’ll have the best backup from our guild waiting to jump in.”
“Oh.” That was smart. Probably Kai’s idea. “I guess we can share the bounty with them.”
Aaron slid his arm around my waist, steering me to the front counter as the book buyer carted her bags off. “You don’t have to split your cut with anyone. We’ll divvy up the payout based on each person’s role.”
I frowned but he gave me a squeeze.
“You’re earning your share, don’t worry. Playing the bait isn’t the safest job.” “But we’ll have your back,” Ezra added reassuringly.
I nodded, distracted by Aaron’s warm arm around my waist. This was probably a bad idea. I was just a human. Why was I getting tangled up in a scheme to capture the baddest rogue in the city?
[su_note note_color=”#cfe2ea” text_color=”#000000″]Annette Marie is the author of Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, its prequel trilogy Spell Weaver, and romantic fantasy trilogy Red Winter. Her first love is fantasy, but fast-paced adventures and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She lives in the frozen winter wasteland of Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad) with her husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.
Author links: Website – Goodreads – Facebook – Twitter
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