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  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Acknowledgements

  Epigraph

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Epilogue

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Teaser chapter

  PRAISE FOR ROB THURMAN

  THE CAL LEANDROS NOVELS

  Roadkill

  “Readers will relish this roller-coaster ride filled with danger… . The unexpected is the norm in this urban fantasy.”

  —Alternative Worlds

  “Thurman has broken new ground, expanding the mythology of her world in new and ingenious ways, while offering new challenges to her heroes… . The finale of the story is perhaps the most emotionally moving bit of writing I’ve read this year … Roadkill is a great addition to the series and will delight Thurman’s growing legions of fans.”

  —SFRevu

  “A never-ending thrill-ride… . The characters are kick-ass, especially Cal, but there were certainly parts that had me tearing up. The plot was a blast to read, and I will definitely be reading the previous and future books featuring the Leandros brothers.”

  —Night Owl Reviews

  “Thurman is a master at delivering raw emotion and uncompromising danger spiced with just the right touch of sarcastic humor. Unforgettable!”

  —Romantic Times

  “The Leandros brothers series is fully realized and highly detailed, Roadkill most of all (at least so far). Each successive book shows growth not just of the characters, but of the author. Her skills keep getting better. The stories keep getting better. You do yourself a disservice if you’re not reading her. This is as good as an urban fantasy series can be. Buy it. Read it. I defy you not to love it.”

  —Horror-Web

  Deathwish

  “Fans of street-level urban fantasy will enjoy this new novel… . Thurman continues to deliver strong tales of dark urban fantasy.”

  —SFRevu

  “The action is fast-paced and fascinating, and the plot twists are delicious.”

  —Errant Dreams Reviews

  “A solid addition to a suitably dark and gritty urban fantasy series.”

  —Monsters and Critics

  “Readers will feel the story line is moving at the speed of light as the Leandros brothers move from one escapade to another adventure without a respite… . They make a great team as they battle against overwhelming odds, leaving the audience to root for them to succeed and wait for their next misadventures.”

  —Alternative Worlds

  Madhouse

  “Thurman continues to deliver strong tales of dark urban fantasy … Fans of street-level urban fantasy will enjoy this new novel greatly.”

  —SFRevu

  “One of Madhouse‘s strengths is Cal’s narrative voice, which is never anything less than sardonic. Another strength is the dialogue, which is just as sharp and, depending on your sense of humor, hysterical.”

  —Dear Author …

  Moonshine

  “[Cal and Niko] are back and better than ever … A fast-paced story full of action.”

  —SFRevu

  “The supernatural elements meld seamlessly into the gritty urban setting … Cal continues to be a wonderful narrator, and his perspective on the world is one of the highlights of this book … The plotting is tight and fast-paced, and the world building is top-notch.”

  —Romantic Times

  Nightlife

  “A roaring roller coaster of a read … [it’ll] take your breath away. Supernatural highs and lows, and a hell of a lean over at the corners. Sharp and sardonic, mischievous and mysterious.”

  —Simon R. Green

  “A subtly warped world compellingly built by Thurman … This book has an absolutely marvelous voice in Cal’s firstperson narrative. The combination of Chandler-esque detective dialogue and a lyrically noir style of description are stunningly original. The reader’s attention is captured and held from page one.”

  —Green Man Review

  THE TRICKSTER NOVELS

  Trick of the Light

  “Rob Thurman’s new series has all the great elements I’ve come to expect from this writer: an engaging protagonist, fast-paced adventure, a touch of sensuality, and a surprise twist that’ll make you blink.”

  —New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris

  “A beautiful, wild ride, a story with tremendous heart. A must-read.”

  —New York Times bestselling author Marjorie M. Liu

  “A terrific premise. It’s got Vegas, angels, demons, and a hunt for a mysterious artifact that by comparison makes Indiana Jones look like he was grubbing in the dirt for Precious Moments kitsch. If I had only three words to describe this book? They’d be: Best. Twist. Ever.”

  —New York Times bestselling author Lynn Viehl

  “Thurman weaves an amazingly suspenseful tale that will have readers so thoroughly enthralled from the first page that they’ll be unwilling to set it down. Trick of the Light is meticulously plotted, completely fresh, and one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Readers are in for a wonderful treat!”

  —Darque Reviews

  “[An] inventive new series … Trixa comes off as a strongwilled heroine with a long-standing ax to grind, yet that is only one facet of her character. The plot is suitably complex with enough clue-dropping along the way to point attentive readers toward Trixa’s true nature while still packing plenty of surprises.”

  —Monsters and Critics

  ALSO BY ROB THURMAN

  The Cal Leandros Novels

  Nightlife

  Moonshine

  Madhouse

  Deathwish

  Roadkill

  The Trickster Novels

  Trick of the Light

  The Grimrose Path

  Chimera

  Anthologies

  Wolfsbane and Mistletoe

  EDITED BY CHARLAINE HARRIS AND TONI L. P. KELNER

  ROC

  Published by New American Library, a division of

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

  New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,

  Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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  Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)

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  Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)

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  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:

  80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  First Printing, March 2011

  Copyright (c) Robyn Thurman, 2011

  All rights reserved

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may b
e reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  PUBLISHER’S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

  eISBN: 9781101481530

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  To Dakota: my own werewolf superhero.

  Where the sun always shines, the grass is always green, and the rabbits are always slow… .

  Wait for me there.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  Heartfelt appreciation to my mom for being my unpaid indentured assistant since her retirement. Thanks to J. F. Lewis for letting me borrow Fang, the flesh-eating convertible Mustang. Where can I get one?? Thanks to Kaysha and Jesse for all the computer/art assistance they provided a technologically inept writer. You earned your requested mention in this book, although it’s not often someone requests being killed by Cal. As always, a nod to my guy in the FBI, Jeff Thurman (no relation unfortunately). Kudos to my best friend, Shannon, for keeping me sane, fed, and led to the correct locations at conventions. To Linda and Richard for being invaluable medical and friendship resources. Continued good wishes to Michael and Sara, Ariel (just for being generally wonderful), all my fans (also doing their best to keep me fed), my editor, Anne Sowards, agent, Lucienne Diver, and the infallible, unbelievably efficient, incredibly hardworking Kat Sherbo. Without her, I would be lost—lost and pretty damn cranky.

  “In silent unspeakable memories.”

  —George Eliot (1859)

  “Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.”

  —Ralph Waldo Emerson (1835)

  And finally:

  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by … “

  —Robert Frost (1916)

  “… and it’s been a bitch and a half.”

  —Caliban Leandros (current day)

  1

  I was a killer. I woke up knowing that before I knew anything else.

  There was a moment between sleeping and waking where I swung lazily. The dark was my hammock, moving back and forth. One way was a deeper darkness, a longer sleep. But there was more than darkness there. There were trees past the black, hundreds and thousands of trees.

  And an ocean blue as a crayon fresh from a brand-new box. A ship rode on its waves with sails as white as a seagull’s wings and flying a flag as black as the seabird’s eyes.

  There were fierce dark-eyed princesses named after lilies.

  Waterfalls that fell forever.

  Flying.

  Tree houses.

  It was a place where no one could find you. A safe place. Of all of it, vibrant and amazing, the one thing I wanted to sink my fingers into and hang on to for my life was that last—a safe place.

  Sanctuary.

  But all that disappeared when I swung the other way, where there were sibilant whispers, an unpleasant clicking, insectile and ominous, and a cold, bone deep and embedded in every part of me. If I’d had a choice, I would’ve gone with sleep, safe in the trees. Who wouldn’t? But I didn’t have that warm and comforting option. Instead, I was slapped in the face with icy water. That did the trick of swinging me hard in the wrong direction and keeping me there. I opened my eyes, blinked several times, and licked the taste of salt from my lips. It was still dark, but not nearly as dark as when my eyes had been shut. There was a scattering of stars overhead and a bright full moon. The white light reflected as shattered shards in the water washing up over my legs and up to my chest. It looked like splinters of ice. It felt cold enough to be. There was the smell of seaweed and dead fish in the air. More seaweed was tangled around my hand when I lifted it, the same hand that held a gun—a big gun.

  A priest, a rabbi, and a killer walk into a bar… .

  A killer woke up on that beach, and that killer was me. How did I know that? It wasn’t difficult. I slowly propped myself up on my elbows, my hand refusing to drop the gun it held, and took a look around to see a stretch of water and sand littered with bodies—bodies with bullet holes in them. The gun in my hand was lighter than it should’ve been. That meant an empty clip. It didn’t take an Einstein to work out that calculation. The fact that the bodies weren’t my first concern—pissing and food actually were, in that order—helped too. Killers have different priorities.

  I could piss here. I wasn’t a frigging Rodeo Drive princess. There were only the night, the ocean, and me. I could whip it out and let fly. But food? Where would I get the food? Where was the nearest restaurant or takeout place? Where was I? Because this wasn’t right. This wasn’t home. I dragged my feet up through the wet sand, bent my knees, and pushed up to stagger to my feet to get my bearings. I might be lost. I felt lost, but I needed only to look closer, to recognize some landmarks, and I’d be fine. But I didn’t. I didn’t recognize shit. I had no idea where I was and I was not fine.

  I was the farthest from fine as those bodies on the sand were.

  That was when the killer realized something: I knew what I was all right, but I didn’t have a goddamn idea who.

  I reached for me and I wasn’t there. I took a step into my own head and fell. There was nothing there to hold me up. There was no home and there was no me. Nothing to grab or ground me—no memories, only one big gaping hole filled with a cliche. And that—being a cliche? It bothered me more than the killer part. That part I took so much in stride that I’d automatically used my free hand to start dragging the bodies farther out into the water where they’d be carried away—out of sight, out of mind. The killer in me needed no direction. It knew it wasn’t Joe Average, law-abiding citizen. It knew it couldn’t be caught with bodies—and definitely not these bodies.

  They weren’t human.

  There were monsters in the world, and that didn’t surprise the killer or the cliche in me one damn bit either. They both knew why I carried that gun. Monsters weren’t very fucking nice.

  I looked down at the one I was currently dragging through the surf. It looked like an ape crossed with a spider—not a good look for anyone. It weighed a ton, was hairy with several eyes on a flattened skull, and a thick tangle of legs sprouting below—six to eight at least. The mouth was simian, but there were no teeth. Instead, there were two sets of mandibles, upper and lower. Both were dripping with something other than water, something thicker. At the sight, the base of my neck began to throb with red spikes of pain flaring behind my eyelids each time I blinked. I released Harry—Hairy, Harry, close enough—into the waist-deep water I’d pulled it into and swiped my hand at the nape of my neck. I felt two puncture marks about three inches apart, then held my hand up to the moon. There was blood, not much, and a clear viscous fluid on my palm. It looked like good old dead Harry had gotten one in me before I’d gotten one in him.

  The venom couldn’t be too poisonous. I was alive and, aside from my neck hurting and a massive headache from Hell, I wasn’t too impaired. I went on to prove it by wiping my hand on my jeans and going back for Harry’s friends. Larry, Barry, and Gary—monsters I took in stride as much as I did the moon up in the sky. They were just part of the world. I’d forgotten myself, but the world didn’t go that easily. The world I did know, it seemed, so
I kept doing what kept you alive in this particular world. I towed all the bodies out into the freezing water—Christ, it couldn’t have been more than fifty degrees—and sent them on their way. So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen …

  Good-bye.

  I didn’t wave.

  When it was done, I slogged back to the beach and stood, shivering hard from the cold. I watched as the last body disappeared past the distant moon-spangled waves—they were nice, those waves. Scenic, too much so for monsters. After they were gone, I spun around slowly, taking in every foot, every inch of the beach, and the empty dunes behind me with suspicion. Seeing nothing moving besides me, I holstered the gun … in a shoulder holster my hand knew very well was there. As I did, my skin brushed more metal. I pulled my jacket open wide to see three knives strapped to the inside, right and left, six total. I felt an itch and weight around my ankle, but I didn’t bother to check for what kind of death-dealing device it was.

 
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