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Sunday Snippet: Grave Ransom by Kalayna Price

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 About the Book

Grave Ransom   
Author:  Kalayna Price
Publisher:   ACE
Released:  July 4, 2017
Series:   Alex Craft #5
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Author contact links:   Website
Purchase links:  Amazon
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Snippet:

“Why am I not surprised to see you here?” an eerily familiar, and not completely welcomed, voice asked from off to my right.

I spun, my gaze darting around the busy front lobby of Central Precinct.  I didn’t see the dark-haired woman, who had always been clad in black leather during my short experience with her a few months back and who should have stood out in the precinct.  Of course, I didn’t fully expect to spot her with my eyes – she wore so many charms meant to make the gaze slide over her that even knowing who and what you were looking for, it was often hard to focus on her.  But I expected  to sense the magical armory she carried.  Any other time I’d encountered her, my ability to sense magic had zeroed in on the massive amount of weaponized magic she carried like a spotlight.

At least half the people in the lobby carried a spell or two.  Most were mundane, a couple were less so, but no one carried so many as to stand out in a crowd.  Maybe I’d been wrong.  Maybe I hand’t heard–

Briar Darque stepped directly in front of me.

I jumped, stumbling back before catching myself.

“I take it from your expression, this spell was worth every penny I paid,” Briar said, smiling a wolfish grin.  I only frowned at her.  It had annoyed her that she couldn’t sneak up on me during our previous acquaintance.  Apparently she’d found a way around a sensitive’s abilities.

Letting my ability to sense magic stretch, I mentally reached for Briar.  At first all I could pick up was a single spell surrounding her like a haze.  It was a large, but not terribly interesting or threatening, which was why my magic had skimmed over it initially.  Under that, though, when I focused on piercing that veil, I could sense her magical smorgasbord.  I’d never encountered a spell that camouflaged magic before, at least not without it shining a huge blinking light on the thing it meant to hide.

“Damn,” I whispered, my voice breathy both from being startled and from respect for the piece of magical craftsmanship in front of me.  “Who crafted that spell?  And how?”

Briar’s grin only widened.  Then her gaze moved past me and she held up her badge, flashing it at the officer approaching us.  “I need to talk to someone who can brief me on your current open cases, in particular your more bizarre or unexplained ones.”  She paused and then jerked a thumb at me.  “Probably anything she’s involved with.”

The officer, who looked young and likely fresh out of academy, didn’t say anything.  He scrutinized Briar’s badge for a moment then he turned on his heels and walked back the way he’d just come.  I assumed he was going to retrieve someone with more authority.

“So what’s been happening, Craft?” Briar asked, walking over to lean on an empty desk.  Her big biker boots and leather made no sound as she moved, as if she were more mirage than flesh-and-blood woman.  “Keeping your magical nose clean, I hope?  I see you’re still glowing.”

I cringed.  “Can we not talk about that here?”  Most people couldn’t see the telltale glow that emanated from under my skin, betraying my true heritage.  The fae chameleon charm I wore let people see what they expected to see–which for most people was just a human witch.  But once someone saw the truth of my fae nature, the charm didn’t work on them anymore.  Briar was now immune to that particular visual deception.  “How are you here already, Darque?  The weird sh** only started about an hour ago.”

She lifted one leather-clad shoulder.  “The MCIB has a robust staff of precogs.  Sometimes I get sent places a little early.  Works out better that way.  So define ‘weird sh**.”

I glanced around.  No one was paying particular attention to us, and the officer Briar had sent scurrying for someone higher in rank hadn’t returned yet.  Briar was an inspector with the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau.  When we’d first met, she’d told me she was the one they sent to clean up magical messes–and those who’d made them.  A corpse trying to steal priceless artifacts sounded to me like a “magical mess,” so I told her how I’d sense the walking corpse before it had entered the museum, about the soul I saw, and about the body’s quick decay after the soul’s departure.  I left out the part about my magic being instrumental in the body’s and soul’s separation because Briar was… unpredictable.

Briar sat with her arms crossed over her chest as I spoke, attentive but unmoving, her expression unreadable.  The situation made me twitchy, my fingers searching for something to fidget with as if to compensate for her uncanny stillness with excessive movement.  I half expected her to pull out a file of neatly written facts about he case, like the one she’d shoved under my nose the first time we met, but when I finished, she only nodded.

“And you’re sure the corpse wasn’t a vehicle for a ghoul to enter this realm?”

“Yes, I’m sure.  The ghouls we fought back in September had a tie back to the land of the dead.  Once the soul left this body, it was just a corpse.”

She pursed her lips, but I thought that there was a look of relief in her dark eyes.  No one like ghouls.  “Did you sense any spells on the body.”

“My best look at him was when we were both tied in a paralyzing spell, after he’d already successfully snatched an artifact from behind even more wards and we were inside a museum of magic–there was a lot of magic everywhere.  I didn’t feel anything I would think would make a corpse walk, but I didn’t really have time to parse it out.”

“Hmmm.  Interesting.”  She pushed off the desk, her gaze going over my shoulder.

I turned.  A visit from an MCIB investigator was clearly a big deal because the chief of police was headed straight for us, flanked on either side by a homicide detective.

“Well, if I have any more questions, I know where to find you,” Briar said, as she stepped around me.

“I’d like to talk to the man’s shade,” I called after her.

She only half turned.  “Like I said, I know where to find you.”  Then she held out her hand, greeting the chief.

I’d been dismissed.

Book Blurb:

Grave witch Alex Craft is no stranger to the dead talking. She raises shades, works with ghosts, and is dating Death himself. But the dead walking? That’s not supposed to happen. And yet, reanimated corpses are committing crimes across Nekros City.

Alex’s investigation leads her deep into a web of sinister magic. When Briar Darque of the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau gets involved, Alex finds herself with an unexpected ally of sorts. But as the dead continue to rise and wreak havoc on the living, can Alex get to the soul of the matter in time?

About the Author:

USA Today Bestselling author Kalayna Price writes the Alex Craft Novels, a new dark urban fantasy series from Roc, and the Novels of Haven from Bell Bridge Books. Her works have been translated into several languages and are available (or have been contracted for release) in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Poland, Russia, and Germany. Kalayna draws her ideas from the world around her, her studies into ancient mythologies, and her obsession with classic folklore. Her stories contain not only the mystical elements of fantasy, but also a dash of romance, a bit of gritty horror, some humor, and a large serving of mystery. Kalayna is a member of SFWA and RWA, and an avid hula-hoop dancer who has been known light her hoop on fire.

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