10.06 Faith Hunter Blood Cross

ISBN 13: 9780451463074

Blood Cross

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9780451463074: Blood Cross

View our feature on Faith Hunter’s Blood Cross. Jane Yellowrock is back on the prowl against the children of the night...

The vampire council has hired skinwalker Jane Yellowrock to hunt and kill one of their own who has broken sacred ancient rules-but Jane quickly realizes that in a community that is thousands of years old, loyalties run deep...

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L'autore:

A native of Louisiana, Faith Hunter spent her early years on the bayous and rivers, learning survival skills and the womanly arts. She liked horses, dogs, fishing and crabbing much better than girly skills. She still does.

In grade school, she fell in love with fantasy and science fiction, reading five books a week and wishing she could "write that great stuff." Faith now shares her life with her Renaissance Man and their dogs in a Enclave of their own. Faith is working on a new series, which Roc will publish starting in the summer of 2009, and a role-playing game, called The Rogue Mage, based on Thorn.

Estratto. © Riproduzione autorizzata. Diritti riservati.:

Chapter 1

I like the fire. Can I come play?

Molly and the kids and I were eating a big lunch when the lightning hit. The bolt slammed into the ground only feet from the house, throwing brilliant light through the windows, shaking the floor beneath us. I grabbed the table and looked up to see Molly questing with her senses to discern if the lightning had harmed her wards. She had inactivated them because lightning and wards don't play well with each other, but even a quiescent ward can be structurally damaged. She gave me an "it's fine" look, but I could tell she was uneasy. Without the wards, the house where I lived while I fulfilled my current contract with the New Orleans vamp council was unprotected.

Molly — a powerful earth witch and my best friend — and I are used to the summer storms in the Appalachian Mountains. Though they can be violent and intense, they had nothing on this monster. Outside, Hurricane Ada was pounding New Orleans, the category-two storm bringing with it wind and torrential rain, though none of the might and tidal surge of Katrina and Rita, and much less of the damage. Human memory is short; most of the natives had elected to ride out the storm, depend on the new levies to hold, and trust in the improvements to the city's infrastructure, courtesy of Uncle Sam. The only unanticipated aspect of the storm was the intense lightning and two tornados that had set down in the middle of the city's electric grid, resulting in the loss of power. The wind died for a moment and then slammed the house like a giant fist, the walls quaking. A fresh burst of rain drummed against the windows.

Without power for the air-conditioning units, it was growing muggy inside, but fortunately, I had gas-heated water and a gas stove, and the city's water supply hadn't been impacted. So the kids had sandwiches and hot canned soup and Mol and I had prime rib, mine huge and rare enough to still have a moo or two in it, Mol's daintier and cooked medium. I had even made spinach salads to placate health-conscious Molly.

Wind swirled against the front of the old house, and the noise went up a notch for a long moment, the house groaning. I had never been through a hurricane, and even a category two was pretty intense. I couldn't imagine a cat three or four, with a storm surge. It was no wonder Katrina and Rita had devastated the Gulf Coast, despite the efforts of New Orleans' witches to ward against landfall.

I finished off the steak, ate a spinach leaf, and took a tour to check for damage. The old house in the middle of the French Quarter wasn't mine — only on loan, as long as I was under contract — but I intended to keep it in the same pristine condition I got it in. Not that the vamps I worked for were making that easy.

I studied the twelve-foot-tall ceilings on both stories looking for leaks, made sure the towels at the doors were sopping up any rain that had blown in, and checked to see that the windows were secure. So far, so good — no leaks, no damage. I sniffed at the damp air to confirm that the lightning strike hadn't hit the house. No smell of smoke, just the strong odor of ozone. It had been close.

On the side porch on the first floor, my old, rebuilt, one-of-a-kind Harley, Bitsa, was safe and sound under a heavy tarp I'd bought to protect her. Out back, the granite boulders my vamp landlady, Katie Fonteneau, had brought in for the rock garden I'd needed installed were rain-slick and broken. Those were not going to survive my stay here. Already the stones were cracked and split, and one had been ground to sharp shards and piles of grit. I exchanged mass with stone when I shifted into an animal whose genetic structure and size were vastly different from my own. It was dangerous. And it always resulted in damage to the boulders. Quite a lot of damage.

The power came on for a moment and the lights flickered. The fountain in the back garden stuttered, sending water into the air, the naked vamp statue in its center glistening with wetness. The vamp sent up a last, single spurt as the power flickered and died again.

I walked from window to window, watching the wind and rain attack the subtropical vegetation and my rock garden, probably the only one in the entire French Quarter. It was beautiful, even in its current condition.

"You're pacing."

I looked at Molly, and then down at my feet.

"You need to shift. You've been in human form all week. The kids and I will not fall into the sinister hands of the evil vampires if you take the evening off." She curled on the sofa and wrapped her arms around her knees, her red hair falling in frizzy curls from the humidity, curls she hated. Angelina raced up and threw herself on the leather cushion with a gust of trapped air. Molly rolled her daughter over, keeping an eye on Little Evan, who had found his ball under a chair and was bent over, butt-in-the-air, trying to get to it. "I'll set my wards. They'll keep us safe."

"Is Aunt Jane gonna turn into Big Cat tonight? Can I watch? Please, please, please?" Angie asked. She was only six, but already the little girl was coming into her gift — and it was strong.

"No. That's private for Aunt Jane. And we do not talk about that, remember?"

Angie dropped her voice into a whisper and put a small finger over her lips. "It's a secret. Shhhhh." And then she giggled, a sound that always brought a smile to my face.

"Leo's not himself," I said, "not since I killed the thing that took over his son. He's still grieving, and my sources say grief can make vamps . . . not exactly rogue, but unstable. I don't trust him." Still, Mol was right. I hadn't shifted in too long. I could feel Beast's pelt rubbing under my skin, insistent. I needed the night.

Beast will guard kits, Beast thought at me. I am strong. And fast. And have killing claws and killing teeth. I shushed her with a calming thought.

"Leo won't violate your contract with the vampire council to find the young-rogue maker." Mol laughed up at me and added, "Of course, when you fulfill the contract, all bets are off."

"Thanks. That makes me feel oh-so-much better."

"Hunt tonight," Molly said. "Go running. End up at the Cherokee shaman's place and let her sweat you. You've been promising." She looked down and finger-combed Angie's curls. In sunlight, the baby-fine hair almost glowed with honey blond and strawberry highlights, but in the dimness of the storm, it lost its vibrancy. Angie smiled and closed her eyes, soothed by her mother's hand. It was nap time, and even a storm was powerless against the sleep compulsion Mol was thrumming through her elder child. "You might learn something new about your past," she added. "About skinwalkers."

"Yeah, like that they were all a bunch of crazed killers, and it's only a matter of time before I go nutso too." I had been trying for humor, but I could smell the tang of worry in my own words.

"You are not a killer, nor are you crazed. You are my best friend in the whole world." The faith on Molly's face when she looked up was absolute. "I'd trust with you with my life and with my children's lives any day of the week, Jane."

My heart turned over. I'd never had a best friend growing up, but I'd lucked out when I met Molly. She'd welcomed me into her small family and introduced me to the larger family of her sisters' coven without a single qualm. Her husband, Big Evan, wasn't so sanguine about me, but he was in Brazil, which was why Molly was visiting me for several weeks, despite the possible threat of trouble from Leo Pellissier, Blood Master of Clan Pellissier, the Blood Master of the City and head of the vamp council. "I'll think about shifting," I promised, knowing I was lying.

I looked over at Evan and found him asleep under the chair, his ball in his pudgy hands. I scooped up the baby and Molly gathered up Angelina, and we carried them both upstairs to their room. With the storm as protection, and the wards off, I could enter, settling the baby into his bed, placing the ball in the curve of his arms. I wasn't maternal, not at all, but I loved Molly's children.

Beast reared up in me, fierce and violent, her maternal instincts vastly different from any human ones. Will protect kits.

"I know," I said too softly for Molly to hear. Louder, I said, "Cards? Or a nap?"

Molly yawned. "Nap for me. See you in an hour or so, Big Cat."

I nodded, and as the storm outside died down and passed and the evening drew in, I went back to prowling the house and worrying. I didn't know much about my own heritage or my own past, except for the Cherokee stuff Aggie One Feather was teaching me, and that didn't include her knowing what I was: a skinwalker. The only other skinwalker I had ever seen was dead now, at my hand. He had killed, and taken the place of, Leo Pellissier's son Immanuel, maybe decades earlier, and then gone even further to the dark side, killing and eating humans and vamps. I still didn't know why. I worried that it was the nature of skinwalkers that we all went crazy eventually. I'd killed Immanuel's walker, and gotten myself into the predicament of being on the hate list of Leo Pellissier.

I'm Jane Yellowrock, traveling rogue-vamp hunter, skinwalker-in-hiding, and occasionally muscle-for-hire. I know how to fight, how to protect myself, and how to use the array of weapons that were currently under lock and key in my bedroom, safe from the attention of the children. I wasn't so good at understanding humans or witches or vampires, and I sucked at social situations, but this gig in New Orleans was giving me a chance to learn a lot about all that. And about myself.

My contract had been extended by the council, to hunt down and kill — true-dead — a master vamp who was turning scions and setting them free, feral, before the years they needed after the change to be "cured." The sire was releasing the young rogues on the populace with empty minds and unchecked desire for blood that made them crazy killing machines. I'd fought and killed two only a few weeks before. The council had asked me to get to the root of the problem, so I'd signed on the dotted line. And, though my beast was ready for mountain heights and rushing streams and deep valleys, I was beginning to like it here in the city that was made for partying.

Here, where vamps and other supernats had been for centuries, I might even discover another skinwalker. I was coming to understand that it wasn't likely, as not even the oldest of the vamps had ever smelled anything quite like me, but I could hope.

As I filled the kettle to make tea, I stilled, breathing deeply. Something smelled . . . wrong.

Between storms, New Orleans' air is heavy and wet, pressing odors against the ground, making them linger, but as the sky had cleared, the air had seemed fresh and salty. Until now.

Closing my eyes, I flared my nostrils, taking in the scent, sharp and biting. It was vamp, pungent and tangy. And more than one. Above the vamp-scent rode the stink of kerosene. And smoke.

Beast rose in me. Fire!

My heart rate bounded and my breathing sped. I looked up. Outside the kitchen window, light flickered. It all came together fast. Because of the fear of lightning, Molly hadn't woken the wards back up yet. Leo Pellissier was out to get me. The hurricane had knocked out electricity, phone, and cell towers for most of the city. I couldn't call for help.

Crap.

Flames glimmered and sparkled against the antique window glass, visible through the sheer covering. I moved with the speed of my kind, sprinting to the door overlooking the back and side yards. The chair clattered to the floor behind me. I pulled a silver cross and chain over my head and two stakes from my hair. Ripped open the door. Raced out to the covered porch. As I moved, my hair swung forward, getting in the way, and I slung my head backward, clearing my vision. I counted four torches, widely spaced. Fear shot through me. I should have gotten the guns.

I slid to a stop on the wet porch. Vamps stood in my yard. Unmoving — that dead-body immobility they do. Waiting. Holding torches. Time slowed, growing thick and viscous, the night taking on richness and depth. I absorbed the scene through my senses all at once.

There were four vamps that I could see, fangs descended, fully vamped out. At their feet were five-gallon containers, hazard signs painted on the sides. The scent of several more was carried on the fitful wind. One vamp was opening a container. The smell of kerosene rose.

The breeze was restless, the might of Ada coiled in its currents, but aimless now that the storm had passed. The sky was dark with fast-moving clouds. It was still drizzling; misty drops hit the flames and sizzled. The sound shot pulses of electricity through me. Other than that, the silence and dark of the early night were absolute. No cars, no music, no human noise at all.

I forced down my fear, knowing they could smell it, knowing their excitement would grow. Bravado was my best weapon, and I held the cross high. It glowed bright in my hand, the silver reacting to the presence of vamps. But they didn't recoil. They held their places, which meant they were old vamps, every one. The wind whipped once and went still. Shadows and torchlight flickered over them, harsh and unforgiving on their skin, pale no matter their original race. My heart rate sped. What were they waiting —

A black silhouette stepped out of the shadows, lithe and elegant. Leonard Pellissier. In evening attire. Here to . . . visit. The most powerful vampire in the city had dressed to kill. A titter started in the back of my throat and I forced it down. Would not be smart to laugh right now. Would not.

Beast rose in me, taking over my reflexes, ready to move, ready to fight. Ready to rush away, back inside to save my guests. If I could. Kits, Beast murmured, protective instincts fighting to get loose. I held her down, but close to the surface. I needed her strength and speed.

A floorboard creaked from upstairs. Thank God. Molly must have seen the flames. She would be bringing up the wards, something defensive that would burn vamp flesh, maybe. I could hope. But it would take time. Maybe too much time.

Leo stepped to the front of the small group that circled my house, his eyes holding mine. His fangs were snapped down, white in the early night, his pupils bled black in bloodred sclera. The silver cross and capering flames reflected in his pupils.

"You killed my son," he said, eyes fixed on me.

"No. I killed the creature that took his body."

His lips pulled back, exposing his teeth, a killing grimace. "You," he whispered. Vamps didn't need to breathe much except to talk, but he took a breath, deep and slow. "Killed." Anger built in him. I could smell it, strong and sour. "My son!" he roared into t...

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. 174 x 106 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. View our feature on Faith Hunter s Blood Cross. Jane Yellowrock is back on the prowl against the children of the night. The vampire council has hired skinwalker Jane Yellowrock to hunt and kill one of their own who has broken sacred ancient rules-but Jane quickly realizes that in a community that is thousands of years old, loyalties run deep. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780451463074

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. 174 x 106 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. View our feature on Faith Hunter s Blood Cross. Jane Yellowrock is back on the prowl against the children of the night. The vampire council has hired skinwalker Jane Yellowrock to hunt and kill one of their own who has broken sacred ancient rules-but Jane quickly realizes that in a community that is thousands of years old, loyalties run deep. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780451463074

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