t’s not about the cards you’re dealt…
Mistress of the House of Swords Sara Wilde finds herself the rising star of Interpol’s Most Wanted list–accused of acts of supernatural terrorism and psychic manipulation, a new category of offenses clearly created just for her. Unwilling to drag her friends into danger, Sara’s on the run, desperate to find solutions to the coming war on magic while keeping one step ahead of the authorities.
Interpol isn’t Sara’s only problem, however. While shoring up relations with old allies and updating her intel on the gods and monsters of the Connected black market, she unexpectedly acquires tools of world-ending power…tools that place her squarely in opposition with the Magician, the one being on earth she truly loves. Worse, everywhere Sara turns, she encounters fierce young psychics who seem to know more about her actions than she does…and whose inside information comes with the hint of devastating betrayal.
As Sara struggles to master both her own abilities and those of the extended Connected community, she realizes everything she thought she knew…about the Arcana Council, the Houses of Magic, the Magician, and especially herself…was spectacularly wrong.
How you play your hand can kill you when the game is Running Wilde.
Read an Excerpt
Every bar I’d ever been to, no matter how classy…stank. Of booze, of sweat, of desperate, frantic energy. Not many of them reeked of this much blood as well.
Travel. It always broadened the mind.
I stepped inside Rift’s main doors. My eyes adjusted to the strobing lights of the dance floor, then immediately cut away to probe the darker corners. Where I needed to go wasn’t the main stage, but one of the legendary back rooms of Cape Town, South Africa’s most notorious psych-pop dance clubs. To find that, I needed to head up.
Fortunately, this place had plenty of options for up. Nearly a dozen staircases wound skyward, surely violating every fire code in Christendom, though nobody seemed to much care in this privately held bar hovering over the edge of the South Atlantic. Apparently oblivious to the bloodletting occurring elsewhere on the premises, the entire place was pulsing with a bass line strong enough to bounce it into the ocean.
As I fixed my attention on faces, I could see it wasn’t only music transporting everyone around me. From the dilated pupils and juddering gasps that passed for breathing among the most impaired, they were definitely high on…
I grimaced, still not able to say the phrase, even in my head. Whatever stoned asshat had named the newest cocktail of technoceuticals currently racing through the Connected community “Life,” he definitely had a sense of humor, but what was in that new synthetic blend quickly killed the joke. The drug promised all the usual benefits of the black market products snaking though the psychic underbelly of humanity—augmented psychic abilities, unlimited energy, and rapid recovery: all of the high, none of the crash. That was more than enough to hook the club kids. But Life went further, pulling in the older crowd as well, because it promised an extended lifespan of several weeks with each hit. That two-for-one punch had its buy rate going through the stratosphere.
Most of the life-extension bit was probably marketing spin. By the time hardened users got to the end of their natural lives, their brains would be so fried by the drugs, booze, and stress of altered psychic energy, they wouldn’t have any idea how many extra months they’d earned through the ingestion of this latest technoceutical craze. But it was a highly profitable marketing spin. Since I’d ditched my über-visible gig as the head of a crime syndicate to go on the run two months ago, Life had popped up at every Connected black market hotspot I’d visited.
Which was a lot of them. That was the problem with multiple international agencies trying to track you down by plastering your face all over the world’s top ten Most Wanted lists, it really cut down on your mainstream coffee shop options.
I blew out a breath, surveying the floor. Granted, Interpol’s interest in me hadn’t cramped my style all that much. I’d had a relatively easy time moving through Europe, lower Asia, and Africa these past few months. I’d even managed a chartered flight over to South America for a brief tour of my contacts there. None of that would’ve been possible if the net Interpol had cast around me had been aggressively tightened.
Then again, there was a whole world of criminals out there, most of them responsible for actually killing people. I was the only one being accused of “international terrorism and psychic manipulation”—so perhaps the powers that be considered me more of a curiosity than a real threat. Their loss.
Time would tell how much terror and psychic manipulation I’d be doling out here at Rift today.
Turning, I shoved my way up my targeted staircase, emerging onto a slightly less crowded platform that had the added benefit of a large bar tucked against the far wall. The bartender was serving orders with the speed of a pro, but it was the door behind him that held the real interest for me. That was where I needed to go for the highly unusual job interview I’d caught wind of three days earlier, tendered by a nut job I remembered from the bad old days. The very bad old days.
Pushing forward to the bar, I kept my attention on that door. No one had come in or out since I’d ascended the stairs, but an iron-jawed guard stood right next to it, seeming to indicate a need for a traffic guard.
I wasn’t looking for work, of course. I was looking for information. And the particular job applicants being sought by Rift’s current owner were just specific enough to trip my crazy wire. So I’d come, more or less incognito. No hoodie this time, just a leather jacket over a bloodred minidress, black knee-high boots adding a little height to my midsize frame, and my dark hair down around my shoulders. I looked like I was trying, but not too hard.
A woman slid off her stool at the bar as I approached, leaning over to give the man beside her a long, lingering kiss. She edged farther into his arms, apparently needing to get in some additional canoodling time, and I obligingly pressed through the last of the patrons to take her seat at the counter.
“Drink?” The bartender moved over to me immediately, ignoring the shouts of everyone around him. I studied the man. His accent was South African, his blond, chiseled features caught in a quasi-mid-transition between frat boy and full-fledged thug. His eyes were deep set and dark, however, and behind them sparked an undeniable surge of Connected ability. I was getting better at recognizing it all the time.
“Scotch,” I said, nodding at the back of the bar. “Glenmorangie. That one.” I was surprised to see the bottle of what looked to be eighteen-year-old scotch on the shelf, but anything beat the tainted cocktails they were serving the locals. There was definitely blood in the mixed drinks, and I didn’t need my third eye to determine it was Connected blood.
The bartender nodded. He turned back for the bottle as the woman to my right finally broke free of her partner and slid into the thrumming crowd. The patron she’d left behind hunched forward, elbows on the counter, fiddling with something in his hands almost immediately, but I was distracted by the door opening behind the bar. A man stepped out and spoke to the bouncer, who leveled his stare at a thin, bitter-looking redhead leaning against one of the high tables across the platform. Bouncer nodded at her, then the ginger was on the move, her stride confident, her chin up.
Job applicant, I thought, picking up my glass as I watched her step behind and through the door. But how did you get through the door?
And, perhaps more importantly, what had they done with the applicant who’d been right before her? There didn’t seem to be any other doors along the wall. Back entrance? Hole in the floor?