Series: Deadly Curiosities
Series Position: Book Three
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: SOL Publishing
Date of Publication: May 10, 2018
Number of pages: 242
Word Count: 73,000
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
To Read my review of Tangled Web please click here.
Cassidy Kincaide runs Trifles & Folly in modern-day Charleston, an antiques and curios shop with a dangerous secret. Cassidy can read the history of objects by touching them and along with her business partners Teag, who is a Weaver witch and Sorren, a 600-year-old vampire, they get rid of cursed objects and keep Charleston and the world safe from supernatural threats.
When zombies rise in Charleston cemeteries, dead men fall from the sky, and the whole city succumbs to the “grouch flu,” Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren suspect a vengeful dark witch who is gunning for Teag and planning to unleash an ancient horror. Cassidy, Teag, and Sorren—and all their supernatural allies—will need magic, cunning, and the help of a Viking demi-goddess to survive the battle with a malicious witch and an ancient Norse warlock to keep Charleston—and the whole East Coast—from becoming the prey of the Master of the Hunt.
I’d never been a fan of hunting, and I liked it even less when Teag Logan and I were the prey.
“They’re getting closer,” I yelled, as the wind swept around us, and the sound of braying dogs grew louder. Hoof beats thundered far too close, and I felt sure we’d be ridden down at any second.
Teag didn’t move. “They’re not real,” he replied, raising his head to the wind. In one hand, he held a staff carved with protective runes and wrapped with spelled rope. In the other, he gripped an iron rod. I could see the tension in the twitch of a muscle in his jaw, and I knew Teag better than to think he’d take a reckless chance. But as the pounding of horse hooves and the wild barking of dogs closed in on us, my heart thudded like our days were numbered.
“They can’t do anything if we stay inside the salt ring.” Teag knew I knew that. This wasn’t our first rodeo…or our first spectral “hunt.” But this manifestation sounded big and real; and the circle of salt that enclosed us seemed like flimsy protection, although I knew how powerful it was in the spirit world.
I held my athame—the handle of an old wooden spoon—in one hand, and in the other, I grasped a smooth agate spindle whorl, a powerful protective charm. A shake of the dog collar that wound around my left wrist, and a spectral dog appeared beside me, the ghost of Bo, my old golden retriever. Bo must not have liked the barking hounds, since he lowered his head, bared his teeth, and bristled.
“Here they come,” Teag murmured.
On the horizon, the shadows darkened, sweeping toward us in a wave with the gallop of dozens of horses, eager hounds running around and between them. If they kept their course, they were heading right for us.
I almost expected the ground to shudder beneath us, but these shadow horses glided across the grass. Even though I’m not a medium, I could pick up the disquieting energy, which felt like a gathering storm.
A horn blew, rallying the hunters. I thought about the old stories I’d heard of the Norse gods leading an eternal, infernal hunt with red-eyed horses and demon dogs. While I didn’t see a glint of hellfire in the eyes of these ghostly horses, I had no desire to get a good look up close. The cloud loomed like black roiling smoke, and sometimes the darkness took the shape of horses and other times of dogs before vanishing into the inky mass.
The hunters bore down on us, and the wind picked up, gusting hard. And when it howled past, it swept away the ring of salt that protected us from those pounding hooves.
“Run!” I yelled. But after a few steps, when I didn’t see Teag close beside me, I turned. He’s taller than I am, with long legs, and he should have been able to outrun me. Instead, to my horror, I saw Teag standing still, staring mesmerized into the roiling darkness, as the ghostly horses headed straight at him.
“Teag!” I focused my will, leveling my athame at the spectral hunters. A blast of cold white force blazed from the tip, as Bo’s ghost sprang into action, planting himself between Teag and the apparitions, barking furiously. The white force shredded the darkness, scattering the black fog. I held on tight to the agate whorl in my left hand, drawing on its protective power, and channeled everything I had into the blast of light. A few seconds later, the sound of the ghostly hunters was gone.
“Teag?” I’d never seen him freeze like that, and as I stepped closer, Teag shook himself like he was waking from a dream.
“Cassidy?” Teag was disoriented, and I put a hand on his arm to prove I was real.
“They’re gone,” I replied. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think so,” he answered. I had the feeling he wasn’t telling me everything, but sometimes Teag holds back until he’s thought a problem through. I’d just have to bide my time.
Teag looked back toward where we had set the salt ring. “They say that Geoffrey Nicholson’s horse threw him right over there,” Teag pointed to a spot near an old live oak tree, “and he broke his neck. The horse stepped into a hole and busted its leg, so it was put down, too.”
“That was in 1878,” I mused. “But from what we saw with the ghosts, Nicholson never stopped hunting.”
“All of the men in that fox hunt the day Nicholson was killed died within a year, under unusual circumstances.” Teag scanned the horizon as if looking for ghostly hounds and riders. A lock of straight, chocolate brown hair fell into his eyes, and he pushed it away.
“Do you think they still ride with him?” Part of me wondered whether their hunting dogs crossed over with them, and I hoped that the unfortunate fox wasn’t doomed to a perpetual reenactment.
“That’s what the stories say, but I thought it might be a dramatic flourish—until what we saw. Now, I’d say odds are pretty good.” Teag walked carefully around the old live oak tree, and I scoured a nearby section of ground. We both looked for trampled grass, hoof prints, anything that would suggest a physical—rather than ghostly—reason for the sightings.
“There’s been enough rain that anything out here should have left marks,” I replied. Plenty of humidity, too—enough to frizz my strawberry-blonde hair, and pink up my very pale Scots-Irish skin. “So I’m betting on ghosts. But the real question is, are they repeaters, or sentient? And what’s juiced them up enough that people aren’t just seeing them, they’re being chased?”
I’m Cassidy Kincaide, owner of Trifles and Folly, an antique and curio shop in historic, haunted Charleston, SC. Welcome to my life.
Gail Z. Martin writes urban fantasy, epic fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, Falstaff Books, SOL Publishing and Darkwind Press. Urban fantasy series include Deadly Curiosities and the Night Vigil (Sons of Darkness). Epic fantasy series include Darkhurst, the Chronicles Of The Necromancer, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, and the Assassins of Landria. Newest titles include Tangled Web, Vengeance, The Dark Road, and Assassin’s Honor. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance. Books include Witchbane and Badlands.
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The author will be giving away 3 Kindle copies of Tangled Web to a random winner during the tour.