Aces Wilde

Never play the game without an Ace up your sleeve. 

During her years of finding and selling artifacts on the arcane black market, Tarot reader Sara Wilde has made a bona fide killing. Now, as the recently appointed head of an ancient Connected syndicate, she’s forced to take a truly deadly role in the war on magic.  

Within the House of Swords, every blade cuts deep. Usurpers and claimants attack from all sides, while the Magician’s insidious pull on Sara becomes ever more twisted and beguiling. As she struggles to strengthen her position and manage her new, unwieldy abilities, Sara discovers her greatest challenge yet: a master warrior determined to deliver the syndicate and everyone it protects to its mortal enemy.  

Bolstered by an unexpected Ace and a mystical sword, and faced with a round-the-world race to outmaneuver friends and foes alike, Sara’s future balances on a merciless edge. 

The cards can cut both ways when you play Aces Wilde.  

Read an Excerpt

Chapter one

In life, it is said, each of us must play the Fool.

Simon had the part down perfectly.

“Take it easy,” I muttered as he bumped into me for the third time. “You don’t want to draw attention.”

“Then move it already.” The Fool of the Arcana Council squeezed past me, squinting in the predawn gloom. Ahead of us, a recently unearthed Roman gate beckoned from its cordoned-off place of honor at the Hippos dig site, the spot still carefully brushed free of sand and gravel. “I’ve got places to go, my doppelgänger to see.”

Not this again. “You know that mask has barely a passing resemblance to you, right?”

He grinned. “I know that I’m famous, is what I know. So let’s move before my fans get here.”

Ignoring Simon’s grin, I stared hard at the Roman gate, arguably the most intriguing find of the Hippos excavation site since the discovery of the mask of Pan several months earlier. Despite my comment, the ancient mask did have a decidedly Simon-esque look about it. That artifact had put Hippos on the Arcana Council’s radar, but now, with the discovery of the Roman-era gate, the Council was in full damage-control mode. Enough to send me in with trumped-up credentials, a trowel, and my trusty Tarot deck.

And Simon.

“They found the mask right over there,” he whispered now, pointing to the left. “Did you see that? Did you see the marker? Right in that exact spot. That close to the surface, in such good shape—it wanted to be found, you ask me. You ever feel like that’s the case? Like the artifacts you’re searching for want to be found?”

“Not as often as I’d like.” I moved past the gate excavation and deeper into the remains of the fallen city. Another mound of rubble gave way to a cleared rectangular space, with columns forming a few long lines. “Here,” I said. “This is what I think this morning’s cards were trying to show us. It’s the only thing that looks close to a set of swords lined up together.”

“Totally,” Simon agreed, his awed tone evocative of the mid 1980s…which made sense, given that was when he’d taken his seat on the Council. As the Arcana Council’s youngest member, Simon might look like a shiftless twenty-something hipster in his Chucks and skinny jeans, skullcap and T-shirt, but he was a bona fide master of digital everything. Now he angled his magic-enhanced LIDAR ground-penetrating scanner between the pillars of the ancient forum.

“Yeah—something’s hollow under there,” he said. “Gotta be the chamber where the locals stashed Eshe’s platter of doom. She’s going to owe us so large.”

He wasn’t wrong. The Arcana Council’s High Priestess had apparently lost a scrying shield in Hippos during what had been a Pan party for the ages. While the ancient Pan mask discovered a few months ago had lost its mojo, however, the shield could still potentially rock the nonmagical, non-Connected world. Eshe needed that like a fourth eye.

Now Simon was buzzing with energy, his gaze sweeping the ground. “Four of Swords, you said, that’s the first of the two cards you pulled, Four of Swords.” He spoke the words like a benediction. “We got this. Four pillars, four swords.” He glanced back to me. “There’s no way down below, though. That’s a problem.”

I shook my head. “The entry’s not supposed to be obvious. Otherwise they’d have found it already.” I scanned the rest of the forum site. There were multiple collections of pillars in the wide space, lined up neatly. “Keep going.”

The voice behind us brought us up short. “Ms. Wilde, Mr. Pew. You’re up early.”

The small man’s rich Greek accent rolled over us. I pivoted as Simon stifled a giggle, the Fool’s amusement at his trumped-up surname knowing no bounds.

“Well, there are so many people once the day gets started,” I said with a guileless smile. “It’s tough to get a perspective on what this place looked like.”

Andrico Fonti’s brows lifted, white tufts of straw on his weathered face. “It’s the forum that holds your interest, though? That surprises me. We’ve gone through it piece by piece. The excavation has moved on to more interesting possibilities.” He waved at the piles of rock forming the broken-down walls. “I expected to find you at the gate. We resume digging there today.”

I didn’t buy Fonti’s casual good cheer. This international excavation was the brainchild of Israel’s University of Haifa, allowing them to move thousands of years of dirt a year from the earthquake-buried city for relatively little cost. Fonti, the dig’s communications coordinator, had stuck to us like frosting on an Oreo since we’d shown up at the site earlier this week, tracking our every move. Supposedly, we were representatives of ultra-private, ultra-rich donors to the Haifa University cause…which wasn’t exactly untrue. But there were scores of such donors from all over the world tramping these grounds. We shouldn’t have attracted our own parasite.

Simon remained blithely unconcerned. His gaze was on the forum’s pillars, and I could practically hear gears churning as his brain kicked into overdrive. To him, the world appeared as an ever-widening matrix of angles and connections and probabilities, but right now I needed him focused on the Four of Swords—three upright pillars or rocks of some kind, one horizontal. Never mind the sleeping guy the card also depicted, I suspected he wouldn’t figure into this reading. One bit of crazy at a time.

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