The grimrose path, p.1

The Grimrose Path, page 1

 

The Grimrose Path
 



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The Grimrose Path


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Dedication

  Acknowledgements

  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

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  About the Author

  Teaser chapter

  Praise for 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

  “Another strong offering from the author of the Cal Leandros books. Thurman is adept at creating fresh characters, and snarky heroine Trixa’s first-person exploits in Vegas have distinctive details that leave a lasting impression. Fans and new readers will be clamoring for more.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Thurman has created an enjoyable extension of her world in Trick of the Light, with a heroine who (like Cal and Niko) has an unconventional family, an antiauthoritarian attitude, and a cheerfully vengeful nature. . . . Thurman has an easygoing manner with her dialogue and description. . . . The outcome of this story opens many new possibilities for this novelist, whose work compares well with Jim Butcher and Laurell K. Hamilton. This novel heralds the launch of a strong second series, and readers of urban fantasy will have much to anticipate with Trixa’s future adventures.”

  —SFRevu

  Praise for the

  Cal Leandros Novels

  Madhouse

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

  —SFRevu

  “I think if you love the Winchester boys of Supernatural, there’s a good chance you will love the Leandros brothers of Thurman’s books. . . . 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.”

  —DearAuthor . . .

  “A fast-paced and exciting novel. . . . Fans of urban fantasy will love this series.”

  —Affaire de Coeur

  “If you enjoyed the first two wisecracking urban adventures, you won’t be disappointed with this one; it has just enough action, angst, sarcasm, mystery, mayhem, and murder to keep you turning the pages to the very end.”

  —BookSpot Central

  Moonshine

  “[Cal and Niko] are back and better than ever . . . a fast-paced story full of action. . . . The plot is complex enough to please mystery fans, with supernatural elements that put this in the company of Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris.”

  —SFRevu

  “A strong second volume . . . 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. . . . The truth is Out There, and it’s not very pretty.”

  —Simon R. Green

  “A strong first novel.”

  —SFRevu

  “Cal’s a sarcastic, sardonic narrator who pulls the reader into his world, both the good and the bad. Tightly plotted and fast-paced . . . full of twists and turns.”

  —Romantic Times

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

  —The Green Man Review

  “A damn fine book, and excellent first effort.”

  —Rambles

  “Gripping, fast-paced fantasy.”

  —Fresh Fiction

  “Engaging. . . . The characters are well-drawn and memorable.”

  —Italics

  More Praise for

  Rob Thurman

  “A touching story on the nature of family, trust, and love lies hidden in this action thriller. . . . Thurman (the Cal Leandros series) weaves personal discovery seamlessly into the fast-paced action, making it easy to cheer for these overgrown, dangerous boys.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  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

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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, September 2010

  Copyright © Robyn Thurman, 2010

  All rights reserved

  REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

  Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be 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.

  eISBN : 978-1-101-46007-8

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

  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 Michael and Sara

  (who take me to lunch when I’m out of mac ’n’ cheese).

  Acknowledgments

  To my mom, who suggested why didn’t I give my old dream of writing a go. If I become a victim of artistic Darwinism, I blame her; Shannon—best friend, designated driver for SDCC, and undesignated sherpa for various other events; my patient editor, Anne Sowards; the infallible Kat Sherbo; Brian McKay (ninja of the dark craft of copywriting); Agent Jeff Thurman of the FBI for the usual weapons advice; the incomparable art and design team of Chris McGrath (an art GOD) and Ray Lundgren; Lucienne Diver, who still astounds me in the best possible way at every turn; great and lasting friends Michael and Sara; Linda and Richard, and to fellow author Lisa Shearin, who has shown me the Light and the Way—in the church of promotional bargains—and assisted in a time of need. Plus she adopts dogs. What’s not to love? And to Dakota, my original literate dog, my werewolf superhero—life without you is a poor imitation at best.

  Prologue

  Spilt milk.

  My mama had a saying for every occasion under the sun, but even she didn’t lay claim to that one. I didn’t know who did, but everyone had heard it. It had been around forever. Don’t cry over spilt milk. There’s no point to it. You can’t change it, can’t put it back, can’t make it better. You simply cleaned it up and went on.

  Because that was life. Life wasn’t always fair. And some things in life couldn’t be undone. They could be avenged—damn straight, they could—but not undone.

  They could teach a lesson . . . if anyone was around to learn from it—or smart enough to get the point.

  Yet the bottom line was always the same—spilt milk was spilt milk. An inconvenience or a pain, an annoyance or sometimes even a tragedy. But whichever it was, it didn’t matter. You might want to, but you couldn’t turn back time. You couldn’t close your eyes and pretend it was a bad dream. You couldn’t avoid the truth and that was a cold hard fact.

  You couldn’t unspill that milk.

  You couldn’t make it better. You couldn’t make it right.

  I stood and looked at the shattered glass, jagged tears glinting in the sun. I looked at the metal coated with blood—so very much blood—the same color as the darkest crimson rose, and I decided the hell with old sayings.

  I was undoing this.

  I was making this right.

  And I’d like to see the son of a bitch who thought he could stop me.

  Chapter 1

  Life was a trick.

  That was what it boiled down to in the end; life was one big trick, one huge April Fools’. You might think that could be a bad thing . . . depending on whether you were on the giving or receiving end. But that didn’t matter as much as you’d think it would. It was what it was. At the very end of it, we all ended up on both sides. The universe was fair that way, because everyone, without exception, had something to learn. We were all naughty in one way or another.

  And tricks were lessons in disguise. They taught you right from wrong, safe from dangerous, bad seafood salad from good seafood salad. Have you ever had bad seafood salad? That’s the worst eighteen hours of your life and a lesson you’ll never forget. Have you ever put an old lady in the hospital after mugging her for her Social Security check? The lesson regarding that, you might not live long enough to remember or forget.

  Life was a trick, a trick was a lesson, and I was a teacher—the majority of the time. I didn’t teach in a school. The world was my school, and I had a zero-tolerance policy. I taught the teachable. And the others? Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t learn? What’s a woman to do in that situation?

  Apply a “Darwin’s rules” attitude and let the pieces fall where they may.

  My name is Trixa, and I’m not a woman. I’m female, most definitely that, but I’m not precisely a woman. Trixa was one of the names I’d had in my lifetime, one of many—we con artists had quite a few.This one though . . . This one was one of my favorites, because I was a trickster, born and bred of one of many trickster races. It was why I enjoyed the name so much. I’d rubbed who I was in the face of my enemies for the past ten years and not once had they seen past a simple name. Demons, some were stupid and some were bright, but all were arrogant, which made them blind. The same went for angels. As they were flip sides to the same coin, it wasn’t surprising. And humans . . . Please, don’t even get me started on humans. They were the entire reason we tricksters existed. Or since we had predated them, I guess we chose them as a reason to exist. Those of the supernatural world never were quite as much fun to fool, to put in their place, and life could become fairly pointless without a purpose. Everyone needed a purpose.

  Without a purpose, why get up in the morning? Why eat? Why not just meld with the earth that made you and wait to turn into fertilizer? Someone could grow some nice marigolds in you. I liked marigolds, but they weren’t much of a career choice.

  Taking humans down a notch or ten, that was a purpose all right, and damn entertaining too. Not that I ever received a shiny red apple for educating the masses, but taking pride—and more than occasional excessive glee—in my work, that was enough. Although jewelry would’ve been nice too. I liked jewelry better than marigolds.

  A variety of tricksters were loose in the world—pucks, also known as Pan, Robin Goodfellow, Hob, and so on. They were one race of identical brown-haired, green-eyed cocky immortals. All male—in appearance anyway. A person would need several PhDs in biology to get a handle on their actual reproduction, but you didn’t need a GED to get a handle on anything else regarding them, physically speaking. Sexually speaking . . . not speaking at all because it was rude to with your mouth full. They not only cowrote the Kama Sutra, but they posed for it as well. That’s all I’m saying.

  There was my partner at the bar, Leo, better known as Loki, who was a god first and foremost, and only a trickster because he excelled at it and enjoyed it, but not because he’d been born one. His was a calling, not a birthright. There were also those among us who were just spirit . . . energy, gossamer molecules strung together like a kite string, no more solid than the wind, and even I had trouble understanding them. And kicking back to have a margarita with them to talk work, that was completely out of the question.

  Then there was my kind—shape-shifters. We were hundreds, thousands of legends—Coyote, Kitsune, Kokopelli, Nasreddin, Raven, Maui, Veles—too many to name. Most people had long forgotten
those names, but we were still only a Wiki away. We weren’t immortal, but we didn’t have to worry about watching our cholesterol either. I’d been around to see the sky darken half a world away when Pompeii had died. My brother and I had watched it and for a moment we were put in our place. We had held hands and felt an unfamiliar feeling of mortality sharp and cold cut through us as the sky turned from blue to black. We could trick all we wanted, but nature itself would always have the last laugh.

  But now? Now I was still a trickster, but a shape-shifter no more. I was a thirty-one-year-old human—I was actually all human races on Earth. I had done that always. Genes speak to genes on a level people can’t begin to detect, and if I were all people, then I went into every situation with the tiniest of edges, my foot in the door. It had been more helpful back in the day . . . when family, clan, tribe, had mattered to a constantly warring people. They were still constantly warring, but the genes mattered a lot less now. And that was a good development for humanity in general, but I still tried to keep that edge.

 
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