Table of Contents
“Ann Aguirre proves herself yet again in this gritty, steamy, and altogether wonderful urban fantasy. Outstanding and delicious. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.”
New York Times
bestselling author Patricia Briggs
“An authentic Southwestern-flavored feast, filled with magic, revenge, and romance, spiced with memorable characters and page-turning action.
New York Times
bestselling author Rachel Caine
“Corine has a great narrative voice—snappy and full of interesting observations on everything around her. . . . [
is] fast-paced and entertaining.”
—Charles de Lint,
Fantasy and Science Fiction
“The fast and furious pace combined with interesting characters, powerful antagonists, and the promise of romance make for a strong first entry in the series.”
—Monsters and Critics
“Ms. Aguirre plunges readers into a fast-paced tale where her human characters are enhanced by their extraordinary gifts.
delivers a strong start to the series with a well-defined heroine, intriguing paranormal elements, and an emotion-filled romance.”
“Rising star Aguirre moves from outer space to the Southwest in this new first-person series. With murder, magic, and romance, this is an enticingly dangerous journey. Don’t miss out!”
“The first Corine Solomon urban detective fantasy is a great tale filled with magic, paranormal powers, demons, and spirits bound to the necro. The heat between the lead couple is palpable. . . . This is an enthralling romantic urban fantasy.”
Midwest Book Review
Also by Ann Aguirre
CORINE SOLOMON NOVELS
SIRANTHA JAX NOVELS
Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, April 2010
Copyright © Ann Aguirre, 2010
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
eISBN : 978-1-101-18681-7
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For my children.
If I’ve done anything worthwhile in my life, it’s you.
Each day, you make me so, so proud.
Love you guys.
Laura Bradford is the best of all possible agents. What other agent would clear her schedule when I take the bus in from Tijuana and spend the day chauffeuring me around to sign stock? That was one of the best days I can remember because she is not only my agent, but also wonderful company. She boosts me when I need it, and she always has a master plan.
I also need to cheer for Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego because they make me feel like a hometown author and show such support for my books. Big thanks to Patrick at MG for telling everybody I’m destined to be a star and that he expects to see my work in hardcover one day. Words like that from a bookseller put a writer on cloud nine!
In fact, I celebrate all booksellers who recommend my work—and here’s a shout to Sara of Fresh Fiction, who made my visit to Texas so memorable. I also owe her a margarita for telling readers that if they like Patricia Briggs, they’ll enjoy my books.
I’ve mentioned Ivette before, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. She makes my life easier in countless ways, freeing me up to write, which is what I love.
Others offer motivation and support when I need it. So thanks to Lauren Dane, Jeri Smith-Ready, Larissa Ione, Victoria Dahl, Carrie Lofty, and Lorelie Brown. It all helps. You’re there when I need you, and I’m lucky to have such an amazing group of smart, funny, talented friends.
And hats off to Carolyn Jewel and Meredith Duran for writing books that inspire me and make me say, “Now, that’s how it’s done.”
Thanks to Andres, who understands me after all these years, and to my kids, who are very good about letting me work.
Though Kilmer is set in Georgia, it’s a fictional town, so obviously you won’t find it if you drive south. I hope it feels real to you; as always, I grounded my what-if fantasy in our world, using Darien and Savannah to flavor my creation. Thanks to everyone who answered my questions about living in the South. You made it possible to enrich this book beyond what I could have managed on my own.
Finally, I must thank my readers, who are the cleverest, warmest, wittiest, and best-looking people ever to buy books. Please keep those e-mails coming; they never fail to make me smile. You can get in touch with me at [email protected]
I’m still a redhead.
Before we left Texas, I touched up the roots, and then I had some tawny apricot highlights put in. I guess that meant I intended to keep this color for a while. Symbolic—I’d made a commitment, at least to my hair.
Too bad I couldn’t do the same with Chance. I didn’t trust him entirely, and what was more, he didn’t trust me, either. He secretly thought I’d leave, which I had done; die, which I’d
done; or break his heart. I just hoped I wouldn’t combine the three.
Until we resolved the conflict between us—such as his luck, which might kill me, and the former lover he wouldn’t talk about—I couldn’t be more than a friend to him. He knew it too. I think he’d known as much even when he pressed the point back in Laredo.
The Mustang purred along, emphasizing Chance’s silence. He wasn’t happy about this trip to Kilmer, Georgia, but he’d promised, and I wanted answers. He owed me.
When he’d shown up at my pawnshop in Mexico City, asking for my help after our breakup eighteen months before, I agreed because he swore to turn his luck toward helping me find out what happened the night my mother died. This point was nonnegotiable. I needed to understand why it happened, and who was responsible. I wanted justice for her death. Now that I’d fulfilled my end of the bargain in Laredo, he was keeping his promise.
We passed the woods that encircled the town. Sometimes, when I was a kid, it had seemed to me that someone simply burnt a patch out of the forbidding forest, and there, Kilmer had been built. Over long years, the trees grew back in around it, overhanging the rutted road.
With the windows open, I smelled dank vegetation heavy in the air, and pallid sunlight filtering through the canopy overhead threw a sickly green glow over the car as Chance drove. McIntosh County didn’t get snow or earthquakes, and the median temperature was sixty-six degrees. It was also deeply historical, containing forty-two markers. I knew all about local history: how old Fort King George was built nearby in 1721; how the Highlanders voted against slavery in 1739, not that it did them any good in the long run; and how the War of Jenkins’ Ear motivated early settlers to attack Spanish forts. There were still ruins on Sapelo Island.
Just a piece up the road, there lived the only known band of Shouters, a Gullah music group. I’d seen them perform the ring shout once at Mount Calvary Baptist Church. I couldn’t remember which foster parent had taken me; there had been so many, and most of them had thought I could benefit from religion in some form or another. On paper, this seemed the perfect place to live, steeped in cultural heritage and tradition.