As promised, here’s an excerpt from the fifth novel in the Shadow World series, Shadowbound, due out on March 25. There will be another next Monday, so stick around!
From Chapter One:
Every weekend in Austin, families gathered beneath the metal shelters of city park pavilions and held barbecues, birthday parties–piles of gifts, balloons, piñatas, a cooler of beer for the adults. Laughter and the shrieks of young children would fill the air; the little ones would run back and forth from the tables to the playground. By the time they went home everyone would be sweaty and tired on a hot, humid July night, but they would be smiling after a day with their friends and family.
They would have no idea that, only two nights before, a corpse had lain on its back atop the same table where the children would sit with their feet swinging and their faces sticky with ice cream.
The pavilion’s lights were all on, and the whole park was swarming with police uniforms. A pair of overworked homicide detectives oversaw the scene.
One of the detectives, a red-headed, freckled man whose face looked like it would be far more comfortable in riotous laughter than grim determination, looked up from his notepad at the officer who had called for his attention. “What?”
“Um, Detective Maguire, there are some…people…here to see you. They said you called?”
Maguire nodded. Here we go. “Right, let them through.”
Once upon a time, six years ago, Maguire had caught a murder case that baffled APD. A chance encounter in a strange, dark part of town where the victim had been seen the night of her death brought Maguire into the sights of a vampire…lucky for him, a vampire whose help would get him promoted to detective and help him solve half a dozen cases since, when cause of death was more Halloween than Homicide. The prince of the city, ruler of the entire South, genius, warrior, and diplomat…and somehow Maguire…and his daughter…had come to call his people their friends.
The officers within the vicinity, to a one, froze in the middle of whatever they were doing as someone rolled back the yellow tape to let in the strangest people most of them would ever see in this city–and that was saying something in a place like Austin.
Four black-clad individuals surrounded a central figure, a man in a long black coat, wildly out of place this time of year. They were all pale–even the black guy looked like he hadn’t had any sun in a while.
They stuck close to their fifth member, who walked like a man who was used to getting his way; in fact, when one of the officers started to protest their presence, the man fixed her with his deep, shadowed blue eyes, and she went stark white, stammered, and moved out of the way.
Maguire held back a smile.
“Detective,” David Solomon, Prime of the Southern United States, gave him a nod of acknowledgment. “You called?”
Maguire was a decorated military man, had been a beat cop for ten years, a detective for six, and as good as he was at being intimidating, he would never understand what it was about the Prime that commanded attention so completely. Other vampires were plenty scary, but they didn’t make everyone stop and stare like God had just walked into the room.
“I need you to have a look at this,” Maguire said. He gestured at the table where the ME had already arrived and was preparing to take the body back to the morgue.
“Is it an Alpha-Seven?” Solomon asked, following him over.
“I don’t think so–it’s a little weird.”
A raised eyebrow. “Coming from you, Detective, that’s disturbing.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.”
When they reached the table, the Prime drew up short. “Son of a bitch.”
“What is it?” Maguire asked.
Solomon stood over the body, his face unreadable, looking down at the man who had been left there–a white-blond young man in his mid to late 20s. The body was badly beaten, and one wrist looked to have been slashed, but there was no obvious cause of death unless it was exsanguination; odder still, the ME hadn’t been able to estimate a time of death, because it appeared to her that the body had been kept in cold storage that delayed the onset of decay. The wounds suggested a battle or crime of passion, but keeping a corpse in a fridge suggested something else altogether.
But what had caused Maguire to call the Haven, what gave him a feeling of unease he couldn’t shake, was what lay on the man’s chest: a heavy chain, an amulet, set with the shattered remains of some kind of stone.
“This is definitely out of your jurisdiction,” the Prime said.
“I was afraid you’d say that. What do you need me to do?”
Solomon reached down and picked up the broken amulet. The ME and several of the Crime Scene Unit people started to dive toward him, each probably ready to yell something about disturbing the evidence, but Solomon merely held up his other hand, and they all fell silent.
He ignored the police completely and stared at the amulet for a minute, troubled.
Maguire moved closer so they wouldn’t be as easy to overhear. “Is that what I think it is?”
“A Signet, yes.”
Something in his face made Maguire ask, “Did you know this man?”
The Prime looked at Maguire. “He killed me.”
“Holy shit–that’s the guy? Well, do you know who killed him?”
Solomon made a slow circuit around the table, eyes narrowed. “I know exactly who killed him,” he said. “I just don’t know what they gained from it.”
“Is there any point in an autopsy?” Maguire asked quietly.
“Do not let them do an autopsy,” Solomon said firmly, pitching his voice just loudly enough for Maguire to hear. “Do whatever you have to do to make this body disappear–get it out in the sunlight and have the paperwork misplaced. I don’t want the medical examiner running tests. I would take it but I fear that would create more questions than a clerical error. You should have called me before the rest of them got here.”
“I would have, but I wasn’t the first one on the scene,” Maguire replied. “Somebody called it in to 911. They sent one unit and the officers called the cavalry. Trust me, I would have left it to you.”
“Someone called it in,” the Prime repeated thoughtfully. “Someone made sure the body was found before dawn burned it away.”
“Huh. You’re right. And that means–“
“They wanted me to see it.” Solomon nodded to himself, then said, tucking the Signet in his coat, “This is all I need, Detective. I leave the rest to you.”
“Great. This should be easy.” Maguire gave him a wry grin. “Glad to have you back in the world, Solomon.”
He smiled at Maguire–the sort of smile that made Maguire doubly glad the Prime was on his side. “I am glad to be back. Good night, Detective.”
He nodded to his Elite, who fell back into step on all sides of him, and the five vampires walked away, leaving a scene full of detectives, officers, and medical examiners staring at each other with wide eyes.