Wicked and Wilde

Hell hath no fury…

Tarot reader Sara Wilde has spent her whole life finding the lost with the use of her trusty cards–from missing kids to shifty criminals to ancient, arcane artifacts. But when her newest assignment sends her straight to Hell, she discovers more than she bargained for.

The journey through Dante’s playground forces Sara to endure a client’s bitter loss, fall victim to a vicious betrayal by her own kind, and come face-to-face with the woman she might have been–a soul capable of heartless brutality. Not even Sara’s blossoming love for the darkly sensual Magician is safe in the underworld. She’s tested in ways she never fathomed, ways that could drive her mad or utterly destroy her.

But time waits for no artifact hunter. Back in Vegas, the war on magic takes a fatal turn, with the worst of the dark practitioners focusing on all Sara holds dear. If she doesn’t escape the bonds of the underworld, scores of psychics will die. To flee Hell for good, however, the final sacrifice Sara must make may be more than she can bear.

Nothing’s ever easy when you’re Wicked And Wilde.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter one

Third day on the job, half a million dollars to the good, but something about this gig simply wasn’t feeling right. I pulled a single Tarot card and flipped it up, expecting and getting the horned demon. Again.

Nothing like being caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

In the yacht’s overheated stateroom, the sharp bite of ocean air mingled with heavy jasmine perfume. Overdressed geishas strummed their toy-sized guitars in one corner, while a subset of the elegantly coiffed women, clad in ornate kimonos and silken shoes, wielded ornamental swords and paced through the complicated steps of some ritualistic dance, all for the benefit of an appreciative audience of businessmen and dignitaries. The geisha patrol had been going at it for hours with no sign of stopping.

I tucked the card back into my purse as I watched the women float over the polished floor, and tried not to squirm in my pumps and high-collared cocktail dress. I’d wear anything if the job required it, but this assignment had gone on too long.

Beyond the open veranda doors and wide deck, the night sky was crystal clear, the Pacific Ocean as calm as it ever got off the coast of Japan. We were anchored over one of the most controversial underwater monuments the country had to offer. Our uniquely well-outfitted luxury yacht was the only vessel around for miles.

Exactly how the Japanese Imperial Guard wanted it.

“Stop scowling.” My handler strolled up to me with a perfunctory nod. He wasn’t a bad sort, this grim Imperial general who appeared to suffer great tragedy every time he spoke to me. But he was monotonous. “You darken our guests’ enjoyment of the evening.”

“It’s what I do.” I shifted my weight to my other foot. Ren Asaki wore an expensive black tuxedo and a shirt as white as the geishas’ face paint, and his lips were pressed into a thin line, his gaze constantly darting around.

He looked as stir-crazy as I felt, which made me feel slightly better. “It’s been three days, Ren,” I said. “I’ve done the work you required.”

“Work that remains unproven.” He glanced toward the far door, relief ghosting over his face. “But no longer. Come.”

Placing a gloved hand beneath my arm, he angled me across the room, our progress noted by the women, but not the men. Then again, these women were trained to notice everything. From what I’d been able to get out of Ren, they were the real deal, Kyoto-trained geishas who were experts in conversation, dance, music, and generally being perfect. According to Ren, they were also necessary to maintain the illusion that we were drifting on the open sea for pleasure alone, this night of entertainment and Old World grace a gift of the emperor to honored friends. And while the rich guys in question apparently planned to party till dawn, the real work was taking place down below.

I counted the guards as we entered the hallway. Fourteen. The yacht bristled with various ranks of Imperial soldiers in blue uniforms and white gloves, which the businessmen and dignitaries took as their due. I took them as what they were, however. Insurance against anyone venturing someplace they weren’t supposed to go.

Two guards stepped aside as we reached them at the end of the corridor, allowing us to descend a short, narrow staircase to the ship’s lowest level. Then we silently entered the most impressive room on this most impressive yacht, for all that none of the stuffed suits upstairs would ever see it.

The place was a technological marvel.

Built-in screens covered the walls and gleamed from the center table. Para-electrical scopes and souped-up X-ray devices bristled from every corner. Satellite-fed updates of magical hot spots across the globe streamed across a ribbon of monitors near the ceiling, and a dozen or so ledges were now crowded with stone samples culled from the Yonaguni monument below for further study.

But whiz-bang tech and random rocks weren’t my expertise, artifacts were. Highly specialized artifacts, the more arcane the better. For most of the world, these artifacts were merely beautiful or awe-inspiring throwbacks to another time. For my clients, they were a pure source of energy, energy they craved the way a choking man craved air.

One of those energy sources lay below us, buried in the three-thousand-year-old ruins of Yonaguni. And no less than the emperor of Japan wanted it for his own.

My gaze shifted to the table. The largest screen blinking from its surface showed a live scan of the ocean floor, directly beneath the Imperial yacht. The scan showed the most predominant underwater formations of the Yonaguni monument: two “pillars” that looked closer to sidewise slabs of bread, a separate set of two large holes apparently drilled into the rock by ancient tool wielders thousands of years ago, and a tumble of other sites—one that might or might not depict a large sea turtle, one that might or might not represent an ancient cave drawing. Nothing I hadn’t already seen on History Channel: Ancient Aliens, with a vital difference.

They were all glowing bright yellow.

The Immortal Vegas Series