It’s the end of the world as we know it…
The war on magic is here, and Mistress of the House of Swords Sara Wilde has done everything she can to prepare. The Arcana Council has recalled its most powerful members to hold the line, and the Houses of Magic are frantically strengthening their defenses. Then the first volley hits: a plague of demons freed to ravage the earth. Scrambling, Sara discovers that the war will be fought not on one front, but three—while new threats emerge at a breakneck pace.
All the magic in the world may not be enough to save it.
From an ancient coven in Chicago to the sunbaked streets of Vegas to the frozen ice fields of Antarctica, Sara rallies her closest friends and fiercest enemies to protect the earth from the gods and monsters raining down from the dark side of the veil. To succeed, Sara must confront the truths she’s been avoiding her whole life, and take on forces that have kept the Connecteds powerless for far too long. But is she willing to make the ultimate sacrifice?
When it comes to Armageddon, where there’s smoke there’s always Wilde Fire.
Read an Excerpt
“This wasn’t in my contract.” Nigel Friedman’s clipped British accent dripped indignation as he shifted in the gloom beside me, the warm scent of his skin so much more noticeable, given how much of it was exposed.
“We’ve expanded your contract. Underwear too.” I held out my hand. “Besides, I know for a personal fact that running around in the altogether is a specialty of yours, and you agreed to the terms before we got here. You want me to call Ma-Singh for the job, I can totally do that.”
“The coven would never recover.”
I didn’t even try to hide my grin. As nervous as I was about what we might learn tonight, there was something almost nostalgic about Nigel and me working a job where at least one of us was naked. The last time had been in Rio de Janeiro, almost two years ago…which had, in many ways, been the start of everything for me.
Had it really been less than two years since I’d met the Magician of the Arcana Council, since I’d first stepped foot upon the path that had led me tonight to a witch’s door, on the eve of Armageddon? It didn’t seem possible.
Nigel was clearly less interested in a walk down memory lane, at least one without socks. “This is completely unnecessary,” he muttered. “We’re going into the witch’s basement. The moon couldn’t reach us if it wanted to.”
His annoyed gaze flashed to me again. “Remind me why you get to keep your clothes on?”
“I’m not going to be part of the circle. I’m nothing more than a voice in your ear for this.”
“At least tell me you’re sneaking in your phone.”
“Wouldn’t help. Danae’s got a double-layer dead zone going here. No cell service, no psychic connection. Nothing to stand between us and the sky—other than all the concrete and stone, of course.”
“Skyclad,” Nigel grumbled. “Without actual sky. We’ll be clad in canned air.”
Still, a moment later, his BVDs safely stowed in our go bag and tucked beneath one of the ornate benches that lined the hallway, I moved forward with the Ace of Swords, who served as my highly competent jack-of-all-covert-trades. For our current op, Nigel was also a required player. Danae was summoning an informant, and as it turned out, said informant was somewhat less than politically correct. He wanted to talk with a warrior. In his mind, that meant a man.
Fortunately, Nigel was very much a man. Tonight, more obviously so than usual, though he still managed to look dignified while bare-assed naked. I wasn’t sure how he did that, but it was impressive.
We followed plush Persian carpet runners deeper into the elegant mansion at the heart of Chicago’s East Lincoln Park neighborhood. True to my word to Danae, we’d left almost everything behind in the go bag, ensuring that we didn’t defile her sacred subterranean space. My only concession to modern conveniences, other than clothing, was the small pouch on a long cord that now bumped against my right hip as I walked. I needed my cards for this particular party, and I didn’t feel like carrying them.
“Where is everybody?” Nigel asked.
That surprised me too. There’d been no one to greet us at the door of the venerable house, which we’d reached on foot, both of us still clothed, of course. Our driver had dropped us at the nearest park, and we’d mingled through several groups of pedestrians enjoying the unusually warm November night before slipping into the poshest end of the neighborhood, always keeping to the shadows.
As promised, the heavy wooden gate of Danae’s residence had opened at our approach, then locked securely behind us after we slipped through. But there’d been no one to greet us at the front door, no instructions of any type other than what Danae had sent me days ago on an expensive-looking card of stiff cream-colored stock. As a witch from one of Chicago’s oldest covens, she had her own particular style.
Now that we were inside Danae’s home and suitably attired—and unattired—Nigel and I kept advancing without any further conversation, our steps quiet inside the mansion despite its soaring ceilings and oversized rooms. An elevator stood at the end of the hallway, but Nigel scowled at it. “There have to be stairs.”
I nodded and pointed to a doorway to the right of the unit. “Seven flights, give or take. But she’s expecting us to come down in the box.”
I punched the button for the elevator, and the doors shooshed open. Nigel and I stepped inside, and my Ace scanned the elevator with thin-lipped censure. I hit the button for “B,” and the doors slid shut.
“This is recently installed,” he said, laying a hand on the stainless-steel wall. “Recently installed and…exceptionally clean.”
I glanced around the space as the elevator headed down. He was right. The walls and floor of the elevator could have been taken straight from a meatpacking plant—all of it industrial-grade steel and smelling faintly of disinfectant. It was also much colder in the unit, a fact made more noticeable by our swift descent into the bowels of the old house. I was grateful for my extra layer of clothes, and stifled another apology to Nigel. He’d more than proven himself willing to take on any job, no matter how difficult. To make more of a fuss about it would insult his well-trained sensibilities.
“Has to be a bat cave,” I said as the elevator finally slowed. “We’ve gone too deep for it to be a legit subbasement.”
Nigel didn’t have time to respond to that as the elevator doors opened again, onto a space that was decidedly not a rec room.
Easily a dozen oil torches stood in huge planters on either side of the elevator, creating a runway effect toward the center of the chamber, where more torches awaited. And these weren’t environmentally friendly torches either. Real fire blazed from their tips, warming the space and casting wildly leaping shadows on the walls and ceilings.
Bat cave wasn’t far off. We stepped onto a smooth rock floor, and Nigel craned his neck as he stared. The chamber was about thirty feet wide. The door to the stairs stood next to the elevator bay, apparently hewn out of solid rock. The stone itself looked vaguely sand colored, but it was impossible to tell its true color in the firelight.
A man strode forward between the torches, as naked as Nigel was. I’d never seen him before, but he dwarfed Nigel and myself, standing easily six foot four.
“Welcome,” he said gravely, crossing both hands over his heart, which I assumed lay somewhere beneath the mounds of muscle that passed as his pecs. He didn’t extend a hand in greeting but turned, and the rear view of him was every bit as impressive as anticipated.
“Ridiculous,” my intrepid Ace muttered again.
I didn’t feel too badly for him. The strongest members of Danae’s coven were female, and she’d have the best of the best on hand for tonight’s meet and greet. Nigel would have plenty to look at while the witches got down to the business of their summons.
We emerged from the corridor of torches a few moments later, and my presumption proved bountifully correct. A dozen of the faithful stood in a loose circle around a thickly drawn pentagram on the stone floor, all of them breathtakingly beautiful. Most had skin as dark as Danae’s, and they practically gleamed in the firelight, as if the coven members themselves were creatures of light instead of death.
I knew differently, of course.
“Welcome, Mistress of the House of Swords.”