Book 1: Beginnings
Excerpt from Chapter 3: Virtuous Thieves
“So…what do we do now?” she said into the silence. “Can’t we just wait until the fall?”
“No,” Sebastian said, slouched low in his seat, arms crossed. “The owner gave me a time limit. After that, the deal’s off, and he’ll find a ‘real’ professional. So, no magic books for you, and no money for me.”
They relapsed into silence.
“You know…” Sebastian said after a while, “there is something we could do.”
“Is it legal?” Lily asked suspiciously. She recognized that tone of voice. Sebastian adopted it right before he suggested something wild and dangerous that usually got them into trouble.
“Weeell, depends on how you look at it. We wouldn’t be hurting anything, if that’s what you mean.”
Lily glared. “No, that’s not what I mean. I mean exactly what I say. Is it legal?”
“No,” Sebastian admitted, and there was a pregnant pause.
The seconds stretched into a minute as Lily glared, and Sebastian maintained a carefully casual expression.
“Alright, fine,” she finally said. “What is it?”
“We could sneak in after dark and steal it,” Sebastian suggested, studying his nails.
“No! I will not commit a robbery.”
“We’d give it back when we were done! How else do you suggest we get ahold of it? Would you rather sit there for hours reading and risk getting caught?”
“No, of course…wait a minute…” Lily’s eyes lost focus as she considered a sudden idea. “If I could physically hold the book for about fifteen minutes, I could make a copy.”
“Really?” Sebastian was intrigued.
“Yes. It’s a relatively straightforward spell, it just requires extended concentration for the duration of the process. I use it sometimes to make copies of fragile documents that can’t be safely handled without risking damage.”
“So, what’s the holdup then?” Sebastian asked, excited once more. “We sneak in, you do your little bit of hocus pocus, and voila! We have a copy of the book. No harm done. Nobody will even know we were there.”
“No, no. This is insane,” she insisted. “Forget I suggested it. Breaking in is illegal, too. I’m an upstanding citizen. I will not break the law!”
Book 2: Revelations
Excerpt from Chapter 1: Unexpected Conversations
Lily woke Wednesday morning, not to the sound of her alarm clock, but to the soothing vibrations of a purring cat. She had an uncomfortable feeling she’d overslept, but was distracted from it by the warm, heavy ball of fur settled comfortably on her chest.
Groaning, she tried to push him off. “Kip, you better not have turned off my alarm again.”
Sir Kipling, however, didn’t want to move. He dug his claws into the sheets and resisted her groggy attempt to dislodge him. “Well, if it weren’t so loud and annoying, I wouldn’t have to take matters into my own paws,” he protested.
“It’s supposed to be loud and annoying to wake me—”
She froze, going cross-eyed in an attempt to see the feline perched atop her. Her muddled, half-asleep brain tried, and failed, to make sense of what she’d just heard. It’d sounded like meowing, but also like words. She stared at her cat and he stared back, eyes half-lidded.
“Did you…?” She paused, giving her head a shake to dislodge the cobwebs in her brain. “I thought I heard…good grief, I’m imagining a conversation with my cat. I need a hot shower.” She sat up for real this time, her movement threatening to spill Sir Kipling onto the bedcovers.
Twisting with cat-like agility, he launched off her chest and landed on the edge of the bed in a dignity-preserving move, then turned to lick his mussed fur into submission. “A hot shower won’t fix your problems,” he commented between licks.
Lily stared, speechless, no longer sure of her own sanity.
Sir Kipling paused his ministrations to look at her. “If you insist on sitting there being shocked, you might as well make yourself useful and pet me.”
“I—” She stopped, then tried again. “You…talk?”
A smug look was all the reply she got.
“Wait, that’s not—since when?” Lily was still shocked, but her brain at least had started working again. She’d adopted Sir Kipling as a stray kitten during her last year of college and had never gotten the slightest inkling he was anything but a normal cat.
“Since now,” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Don’t be silly. Cats don’t randomly start—” she paused, suddenly suspicious. “Was it that fragment of tablet? Wonderful. Just splendid. What did you do?”
He sniffed archly. “You’d think you weren’t happy to talk to me. Well, good morning to you, too. I’m just fine, thanks for asking.”
Lily rolled her eyes. He was perfectly healthy but probably wouldn’t cooperate unless she mollified him. Typical cat.
“I trust you’re well this morning? Did whatever you got up to last night damage anything vital?” She couldn’t resist a bit of sarcasm, but he ignored it.
“Now that you mention it, there is this place on my back that’s been itching all night—”
“Sir Edgar Allan Kipling,” she interrupted in a voice that brooked no nonsense. “To the point, please.”
“Well, if you insist,” he said, taking his time to stretch and yawn before continuing. “I did nothing at all. I was just minding my own business when that piece of dirt you’ve been staring at—”
“You mean the clay fragment?”
Sir Kipling stopped, ears tilted back in annoyance. Lily closed her mouth. After a deliberate pause, he continued. “Yes, the piece of dirt. It started glowing and then…well, let’s just say interesting times are coming, and someone thought you could use a little help.”
“What? What’s that supposed to mean? What’s coming? Who are you talking about?”
“Well, I could answer your questions, but then you’d be late for your meeting.”
Glancing at her alarm clock she yelped and jumped out of bed, heading for the shower. She had barely thirty minutes to do what normally took an hour, and she would have to skip breakfast.
Hand on the bathroom door, she turned and glared at her cat who’d settled comfortably onto the warm spot she’d just vacated. His eyes had closed, as if in sleep, and all four paws were tucked under him, making him look like a fluffy loaf of bread—a catloaf.
“This isn’t over, Sir. You and I will be having a very long conversation when I get home.”
She didn’t wait for his reply as she rushed into the bathroom to get ready.
Book 3: Allies
Excerpts from Interlude (Sebastian’s POV)
While it certainly wasn’t beyond his ability, being still had never been one of Sebastian’s favorite things to do. He was a man of action—well, words, at least, but even those required movement. Of course, he could have picked a more concealed spot further out and just used binoculars. Then he could have shifted around as much as he liked. But watching Lily through binoculars would have felt…wrong. Well, more wrong than he already felt, anyway.
Sitting with his back against the brick wall of the apartment building adjoining hers, he had to keep still for his fae glamour to work. Not being a fae himself, simply using gifted power, there was a definite limit to how effective it was. He could not turn invisible, nor completely transform his features. He could create a sort of shimmer that copied the pattern and color of an object behind him—a brick wall for instance—thus camouflaging his outline. If he sat still.
At least he was in the shade, or would be for another hour. He hadn’t expected to be there this long. Lily was traveling today to reunite with her family in Alabama, and he’d expected her to leave sometime that morning. Well, it was two o’clock and he was only just seeing signs of life, Lily having emerged a few minutes earlier to load her car. He wondered if she was delaying on purpose, and the thought made his lips twitch in a grin. He certainly didn’t blame her. If he was supposed to go see his brother, he would “lose” his watch, then drive around in circles until he ran out of gas as far away from a gas station as possible.
His grin faded, however, as he remembered what going to see her family entailed: leaving Atlanta. Which meant he could no longer keep an eye on her. It wasn’t stalking, he told himself, it was counter-stalking. A man like John Faust—powerful, obsessive, controlling—wouldn’t just shrug and give up if his prey escaped. Sebastian was sure he was having his daughter followed, probably using that creepy raven thing during the day and who knew what at night.
While he had no way to drive off John Faust’s spies—and his suggestion that she go into hiding had been summarily rejected—at least keeping an eye on her from afar kept him from worrying himself to death. And ensured he was on hand should Mr. Fancypants decide to show up.
Not that Lily knew he was there. If she ever found out, she would curse him halfway to next week. But her curses scared him far less than the possibility of losing her. He’d been lax once before, and look where it got him: she’d almost died. And that scared him more than anything ever had. His heart rate picked up and his muscles tensed in readiness at the mere thought of her being in danger. Suffice it to say, he hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep lately.
“Merrrow murph meow meow?”
Sebastian almost jumped out of his skin. As it was he fell to the side, away from the sound, and scrambled to his feet. If anyone had been looking it would have appeared that a human-shaped section of the brick wall had just detached and started flailing.
“I swear, Kip, if you scare me like that one more time…” Sebastian glared down at the entirely unrepentant feline sitting primly next to where he’d been reclining, lost in thought.
Sir Kipling just blinked at him.
Book 4: Legends
Excerpts from Chapter 1: A Hop Across the Pond
Though it was embarrassing to admit, Lily had never been to an airport before, much less flown on a plane. She’d never needed to. While she’d dreamed of traveling the world, it was done from the comfort and safety of her living room sofa with a nice cup of tea close at hand. As tempting as all those exciting new experiences were, they had the misfortune of being exciting, new, and experiences. All the things Lily tried to avoid. She didn’t have anything against excitement or new things, just as long as they kept their distance. She was a creature of habit, and excitement was generally disruptive to her routine. There was a fiery adventurer buried down deep inside of her somewhere, she was sure, but as of yet she hadn’t found it.
Thus it was with great trepidation and not a little bit of stress that she followed Sebastian through the doors of the largest and busiest airport in the world—Atlanta International. Behind her she pulled a gigantic suitcase packed with every item she might possibly need—and quite a few she wouldn’t but wanted with her just in case. In the other hand she hefted a cat carrier containing one extremely unhappy feline.
Sir Kipling had complained long and loudly at the idea of being separated from his mistress and trapped in a small crate for over nine hours. After all, he’d been able to slip in and out of no-pets-allowed areas before. Why couldn’t he simply sneak onto the plane? Lily didn’t even bother arguing. She was taking no chances, not when it involved hurtling through the air in a metal tube thousands of feet above a vast ocean.
Now, as she struggled to get her oversized suitcase up to the check-in desk, she tried not to think about how many things could possibly go wrong with said metal tube hurtling through the air thousands of feet above a vast ocean. The fact that—statistically—it was much deadlier to drive a car than to fly on a plane didn’t comfort her in the least.
Unsurprisingly, Lily looked around at her fellow travelers with bleary eyes and a frown of general discontent, brain frazzled from too little sleep and too much worry. The fact that Sebastian was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, bouncing on the balls of his feet in excitement, did not improve her mood.
“You are disgusting,” she grumbled, giving her friend’s cheery look a sideways glare.
“Come, now, Lily. Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“At home. In bed. Asleep.”
Sebastian chuckled, drawing odd looks from those around them who, like Lily, knew it was impolite to be happy this early in the morning.
“Why are you so chipper, anyway?” she asked. “You hate getting up early and usually do your best impression of a zombie until at least eleven o’clock.”
Sebastian shrugged, giving her a silly grin. “Just excited, I suppose. I mean, come on, we’re having an adventure. Anything could happen! Daring escapes from dastardly villains, life-and-death struggles with monstrous creatures, intrepid explorations of wild landscapes never before seen by the eyes of men—”
“You do realize we’re going to England, right?” Lily asked dryly, smiling in spite of herself. “England, where the biggest native animal is a deer, and the average mountain is so short they’re technically considered hills? This isn’t Africa we’re talking about, Dr. Jones.”
“Shush, you’re ruining it.” He flapped a hand at her, eyes closed as if to keep his adventure fantasy fixed in his mind. “Just because you’re a stick-in-the-mud doesn’t mean we all have to be.”