Deathwish (Cal Leandros Series #4)by Rob Thurman
Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother Niko are hired by the vampire Seamus to find out who has been following him?until Seamus turns up dead (or un-undead). Worse still is the return of Cal?s nightmarish family, the Auphe. The last time Cal and Niko faced them, they were almost wiped out. Now,/b>
In a nightmarish new york city, life is there for the taking...
Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother Niko are hired by the vampire Seamus to find out who has been following him?until Seamus turns up dead (or un-undead). Worse still is the return of Cal?s nightmarish family, the Auphe. The last time Cal and Niko faced them, they were almost wiped out. Now, the Auphe want revenge. But first, they?ll destroy everything Cal holds dear...
Read an Excerpt
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Cal
Chapter 2 - Niko
Chapter 3 - Cal
Chapter 4 - Niko
Chapter 5 - Cal
Chapter 6 - Niko
Chapter 7 - Cal
Chapter 8 - Niko
Chapter 9 - Cal
Chapter 10 - Niko
Chapter 11 - Cal
Chapter 12 - Niko
Chapter 13 - Cal
Chapter 14 - Niko
Chapter 15 - Cal
Chapter 16 - Niko
About the Author
Praise for the Novels of Rob Thurman
“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.”—Dear Author . . .
“A fast-paced and exciting novel . . . fans of urban fantasy will love this series.”—Affaire de Coeur
“According to Cal’s sarcastic first-person perspective, life in New York City is just as nasty and gritty as ever in this dark urban noir tale of two brothers. The . . . adventures of the Leandros brothers continue at a rapid clip, with many a . . . twist unfolding.”
“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
“[Cal and Niko] are back and better than ever . . . a fast-paced story full of action.”—SFRevu
“A strong second volume . . . 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
“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 is stunningly original.”
—The Green Man Review
“A damn fine book, and excellent first effort.”
“Gripping, fast-paced fantasy.”—Fresh Fiction
“Engaging . . . the characters are well-drawn and memorable.”—Italics
Also by Rob Thurman
“Milk and Cookies”
in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
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
Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2,
Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124,
Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,
New Delhi - 110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632,
New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue,
Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
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 2009
Copyright © Robyn Thurman, 2009
All rights reserved
eISBN : 978-1-101-01959-7
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.
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.
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.
To Shannon, who saved my ass, but didn’t
physically touch it, I swear—my best friend, my
twin, my sherpa/pack mule. I love you, man.
I would like to thank, first and foremost, my mom, without whose incesssant nagging I would never have written my first book at all. I would also like to thank my editor, Anne Sowards; Jessica Wade, who can keep a secret; Cam Dufty, who didn’t once get annoyed when I called her asking, “What’s this copy editor’s squiggly line mean again?”; magnificent author Charlaine Harris, who has been most kind to me and my work even though she didn’t actually personally know me—an anonymous fairy godmother, and when I finally did meet her, grace herself; Brian McKay—a helluva copywriter and one who genuinely gets the feel of Cal and Niko’s world (he doesn’t even know the word “perky,” and say “Hallelujah” for that); Agent Jeff Thurman of the FBI, for advising me on something that may or may not exist; my eleventh grade English teacher, Earl Perry, who actually let us write what we wanted to write in the creative writing section of class—he inspired students when my college English teachers instead sedated them; the incomparable art and design team of Chris McGrath (an art god) and Ray Lundgren; my agent, Jennifer Jackson; doctors Linda and Richard, for being convention pals extraordinaire; Shawn Van for keeping my Web site up and running; Jordana for all the cookies; Mara for finally being recognized for her amazing talent; to Michael and Sara—congratulations on a wonderful marriage; and last but never least—my fans. Devoted, faithful, and somewhat frighteningly obsessed with the cover models. Without you . . . hell, I wouldn’t be writing these acknowledgments at all.
Once, when I was seven, I was chased by a dog.
We lived in a trailer park then, my brother, our mother, and me. There were lots of dogs around, most of them running loose. I didn’t mind. I like dogs. But dogs . . . dogs don’t much like me in return. Puppies do. Puppies like everyone. They’d crawl in my lap, chew happily on a finger or the tattered edge of my sneaker. Dogs are different—one sniff of me was enough. The upper lip would peel back, ears would flatten, and the warm brown eyes would go glassy and slide sideways as they hunched away with tail tucked beneath their legs. Dogs don’t just not like me; they’re afraid of me.
Except for Hammer. Hammer wasn’t right; not right being flat-out crazy. One hundred pounds of shepherd mixed with Rottweiler mixed with God knew what else, Hammer wasn’t afraid to look at me as the other dogs were. No, Hammer liked to look at me. He liked to think about me. If anyone thought animals didn’t think, didn’t plot, didn’t plan, then they’d never met Hammer. Two trailers down and one of the few dogs in the park kept on a chain, he watched me every day as my brother and I walked to school. He never barked. He never growled. He never even moved. He just watched.
Because of his lack of apparent aggression, any other kid might have been tempted to pet him. Not me. Even at seven, I knew a monster when I saw one. It didn’t matter whether his owner had made him into one or he’d been born one like me. Hammer was Hammer. You didn’t pet him any more than you petted a rabid grizzly bear. You just walked by and kept your eyes on the ground. You never looked. . . . Just as Hammer never moved.
Until he did.
Hammer was bad inside, wrong, and as I recognized him, he recognized me. And when drunk old Mr. McGee let the chain finally rust through, Hammer came for me. I had my dollar-store sneakers and a bagged lunch my brother had made for me, but I didn’t have my brother. He’d gone ahead, although he was still in sight. He never failed to make sure I was in sight. I’d forgotten my backpack like kids do. I’d catch up. No big deal, until Hammer made it one.
He’d been lying in the same position he lay in every day. Bowl of dirty water, gnawed club of wood. That day, like every day, I wondered why he didn’t like me. We were both twisted. Both wrong. So why? I didn’t get a chance to wonder any further than that. There was a blur of fur, jaws clamped into my backpack, and my body was thrown sideways. He dragged me several feet before he tore the pack completely off me.
I didn’t think. As I said, I’d seen monsters. You didn’t hang around and ponder the situation. I got up and ran. While I’d seen monsters before, been followed, watched, I hadn’t ever been chased by one. It was my first taste of death at my heels, my first taste of running for my life.
It wasn’t my last.
In fact, I ended up spending a vast amount of my life running. Not just living my life on the run, which I had as well, but actually running. I wasn’t seven anymore, but I was still flat-out hauling ass. Like the wind—like the fucking wind. Running from this, running from that—usually from something with teeth, claws, and the attitude of a great white on steroids. Things that made Hammer look like a toy poodle.
I hated it, the running. Hated it like poison. Which may be why I had finally decided I’d had enough and committed to staying in one place more than a year ago, and that place was New York City. A veritable Mecca for monsters like me, as well as monsters like Hammer—those that had me literally running for my life or the life of one of the few people I gave a shit about. There weren’t many of those. Part-time bartender, private investigator/bodyguard/jack-of-all-trades to the nonhuman world, and one suspicious son of a bitch, that was me. Not precisely Mr. Social. It paid to be wary in a dark world thought to be nothing more than fairy tales and ghost stories by most people—most people being the blindly oblivious, the cheerfully clueless, the ever-so-lucky assholes.
The handful of people, humans and non-, that I did give a crap about had all ended up in New York, too—in the City That Never Sleeps, a good place for us creatures of the night. Everyone I cared about, and one in particular: my brother. He had been with me since the beginning, my beginning, and now had me running through the streets to make sure my beginning didn’t bring him to an end.
The running—it always came back to that. A pity, because I was an inherently lazy son of a bitch. Burning lungs, knotting muscles, stuttering heart—I could do without any of that, thanks. But now I was running toward something, although there was plenty to run from. Death behind me; the unimaginable before me—an unholy situation, and it only made me run faster. The bus that nearly clipped me as I ran across the street? That wasn’t even a blip on the radar. I had bigger, badder, and far more destructive things on my mind.
The side of that bus brushed my jacket as I looked up at the sound of the icy hiss. For a second I saw it crouched on top, proving that mass transport wasn’t just for hygienically challenged humans. I saw metal teeth, red eyes, and hair the color and drift of jellyfish stingers. I saw a killer. I saw a monster.
I saw family.
Then I saw something more immediately relevant—the front of a cab barreling at me. I dodged to one side as it braked. I rolled across the hood, taking down a bike messenger. Vaulting the cursing man, I ran on. I didn’t look behind me. I didn’t have to. I knew what was there. I knew what was coming, and I knew it wasn’t alone. But that was the least of my concerns. What was important to me now was getting to the park, because I had other family. Real family.
My brother was at Washington Square Park, waiting for me. We were supposed to spar. “Spar” was a word Niko used when he meant he was going to beat the shit out of me for my own good. He kept me sharp and quick. He kept me evading monsters and taxis with equal alacrity. He was the reason I’d lived this long. The ones that followed me, the Auphe, knew that too. They hated him nearly as much as they hated me. And hate was like air to an Auphe. When something was as easy as breathing, you got pretty damned good at it. But the Auphe weren’t good. No . . .
They were the best.
That’s why I ran. Not because they were behind me, but because I suspected they were also in front of me. They’d been waiting for me at the apartment building at St. Marks’s, where Niko and I lived. I’d come home to see them lining the roof, and I’d felt the internal wrench as they ripped holes in reality and slithered through. The dread was instant. If they knew for sure where I lived, they knew where I went. If they knew that, they knew the same about Niko. Months ago they had said they’d kill everyone in my life before they killed me. I believed them. Reapers and rippers and older than time—living murder wrapped in cold flesh. They didn’t lie. Why would they when blood-soaked destruction was so much more entertaining?
Yeah, it had been months, but they said it, I believed it, and now was apparently the time. Long months of waiting, but, hell, I’d have been happy to wait a little longer.
No such goddamn luck.
I came off East Eighth Street, crossed Astor, then hit Broadway and kept running. This time I was hit, a big, ancient black Lincoln, but it only grazed my hip. There was the screech of brakes as I was knocked to the asphalt. As I scrambled back to my feet and kept moving, the skies opened up and dropped a waterfall of icy rain. I was soaked instantly, but the cold I felt on the outside couldn’t touch what swirled inside me. Once on Fourth, I was running through the people. The human and the non-. The blissfully ignorant and the voraciously aware. The dinner and the diner.
Among the walking, talking snacks that were now cursing the rain, I could see the occasional pale amber eye, the gleam of a bared tooth. Upright Hammers. And they knew me as Hammer had. Smelled me. Werewolves were good at that. Leg humping and sniffing out a half-Auphe—it was all a piece of cake.
There were other monsters among the unwitting, but I didn’t bother to pick them out. I didn’t have time. I didn’t have time for anything except getting to Nik. It was a fifteen-minute run, going as fast as I could. Fifteen minutes was a long time. I didn’t let myself think it might be pointless, that Nik had been at the park for more than an hour now. I just gulped wet air, tried not to think how much easier it would be if I shot the people milling in front of me, blocking my way, and kept running.
There were people in the park, but they were all leaving—running themselves, although not as desperately as me, for shelter from the unexpected downpour. When it was cold enough to shrink your balls and wet enough to prune up everything else, it tended to put an end to casual walks and Frisbee playing. Niko would be on the far side of the green. There were bunches of trees gathered around the perimeter of the park. We worked out by a particular group of them in the northwest corner. As I ran toward it, I smelled the grass crushed under my feet, the mud, the dead leaves, the acid-free oil Nik used to clean his swords. . . .
And Auphe. I smelled Auphe.
Elf and Auphe, one and the same. Proof that mythology never failed to get it wrong. How it had gotten blond, prissy, silk-wearing elves from the world’s very first monsters, I would never know. After pointed ears and pale skin, the resemblance stopped, and the steel teeth, razor claws, and lava eyes of a demon started.
I ignored the few people who gave me quick stares as they ran in the opposite direction, and tried to get more speed. I couldn’t—I was giving it all I had and more. But then I was there. I was in the trees. The leaves had all fallen and the dark branches should’ve been bare as they split from the trunk to spread against the sky. They weren’t. They were filled with Auphe, as pallid as the winter sky behind them. They were hidden enough by the rain that I could barely see them, but they were there. There had been no one behind me because they had beaten me here, the same twenty from the apartment building. From the roof to the trees—it was only a step for them. Open a door in reality, pass through, and there you were.
The one on the bus hadn’t been following me. It had been playing with me. Homicide and humor—it was one and the same to the Auphe.
And Niko faced them all.
Revealing himself, he stepped from behind a glistening black tree trunk. Jesus. Alive. Fucking alive. And he was ready, with dark blond hair pulled back and katana held high in the pounding rain. The Auphe didn’t blink, didn’t move. “Gun,” Nik said calmly.
I was already reaching under my jacket for the Glock .40 in my shoulder holster. My grip should’ve been tight and cramped with adrenaline, but I’d pointed one weapon or another so many times over the past four years that my touch was light and confident. The rest of me could’ve taken a lesson. Normally I was good at this—I saw monsters all the time and faced them head-on. Kicked ass, tail, flipper . . . whatever they had. But this . . . this was the Auphe. Half of my gene pool. They’d been not only the bogeymen of my childhood, but of my whole damn life. Outside windows at night, around darkened corners, trailing behind me from the time I was born until I was fourteen. Bad, right?
There was worse. They took me. For two years. I didn’t remember those years and I probably never would, but inside, at a level I couldn’t access, I somehow knew what they had done. Could feel it. Seeing just one was enough to have the taste of screams and blood in my mouth and a chunk of ice in my gut.
Seeing twenty of them was like seeing the end of the world.
Pointing a gun at the end of the world seems fairly goddamn futile. I did it anyway. “It’s broad daylight, assholes. Seems bold even for you,” I said tightly. I didn’t freeze, not this time. I swallowed the bile, grew a pair, and kept the Glock steady. Two-headed werewolves, mass murderers, dead bodies hanging like fruit in a tree, I’d faced all of that—I’d face this. “Or did you get the weather report I missed out on?”
“Faithless cousin.” Hundreds of titanium needle teeth bared at me as the closest one spoke. “The blind do not see us.”
“And when your eyes are ripped from their sockets,” hissed another, “neither will you.”
Jesus, family. It was a bitch.
But maybe they were right. Even if the water falling from the sky hadn’t been the next best thing to the biblical flood, it still might not have mattered. Because if you saw them, you’d have to be insane, wouldn’t you? So instead, maybe you’d just turn your head and keep moving as your brain glossed over what simply couldn’t be. Maybe your average human was smarter than I gave him credit for.
“We nearly wiped your race from the face of the earth.” We’d also gotten our asses spanked and handed to us on a silver platter in the process, but Niko didn’t feel the need to mention that. Show the enemy no weakness. A throwing knife appeared in his free hand as he continued without hesitation, “We finish what we start.”
That’s when they fell from the trees. Predators who had no equal. The hundred others we had killed had been a suicide run we’d unexpectedly survived. A big-ass explosion, a collapsing building, and the good fortune of several lifetimes; I didn’t think we’d get that lucky again.
They were like lightning as they fell—that quick, that deadly, and that inescapable. I heard steel hit flesh as Niko swung his blade, and I also heard the thud of my back hitting a tree as clawed hands lifted and threw me before I could get a shot off. God, they were so damn quick. Another one snatched at my shirt, scoring the skin of my chest, and tossed me to the wet ground and then landed on me to pin me there. I could see my skewed reflection in the mirror of its teeth as I jammed the muzzle of the gun under an unnaturally pointed chin and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit nothing but the rain. The gate, one of twenty opening, gobbled up the Auphe just as it gobbled up the others.
They were just playing with us.
Blocking the rain, the gray light of the gate shimmered above me, hypnotic in the twists and turns of it. It slowed me for less than a second—I’d seen my share—but that was long enough. The hand came through to wrap around my throat, black nails snagging in my shirt and my flesh. I didn’t wait for the muscular jerk that would yank me into the light. I emptied my clip into it instead. As the bullets vanished, the hand against my skin spasmed tight enough to cut off my air, then went limp. When it did, the gate closed, leaving a pale arm severed at the elbow lying across my chest. Dark blood pooled on my stomach as the arm suddenly twitched, fingers opening and closing before slowly stilling, this time for good. Dr. Frankenstein couldn’t have done any better. “Shit.” I pried it off of my neck and with a lifetime of revulsion threw it to one side. “Shit. Shit. Shit.”
“So”—there was no whisper of drenched grass, no ghost of the faintest of footsteps, but suddenly Niko was looking down at me anyway—“other than that, how was your day?”
Actually the day had sucked ass before the park, during the park, and it didn’t look to be getting any better.
We’d called Promise and Georgina to warn them about the Auphe. Niko spoke to both of them; my call wouldn’t have been precisely welcome on George’s part. She had cut me out of her life as of that morning. I’d worked toward that for a year now and I’d finally gotten what I’d wanted, although I’d never really wanted it. But I had bad genes, and not wimpy little alcoholic or schizophrenic tendencies either. I had the DNA of Dahmer and Godzilla combined, and I wasn’t passing that on.
Promise was a vampire and George a psychic, when she wanted to be, and they weren’t helpless against the Auphe. Not completely. It didn’t make me feel any better. The Auphe were the Auphe.
Now we were here to warn the third person in our lives. He was a cocky, annoying, conceited, lazy son of a bitch. He was also a friend, one who’d had a few bad days of his own this week. He was currently holed up in his apartment and had been for three days. No one went out; no one went in. For a chronically social, not to mention horny, puck, that was alarming behavior.
I pounded on the door of his Chelsea apartment. I was slowly drying off; the rain had stopped not long after we’d left the park. “Goodfellow, open the hell up!”
There was silence, then a muffled but cutting reply. “How did you get in the building? You can’t afford to piss on the topiary out front much less walk through the door. Go away.” I heard something hit the door with a shattering of glass. “When I want to see belligerent, fashion-impaired monkeys, I’ll go to the zoo and watch the feces fly.”
That would be Rob Fellows, car salesman of the month, year, decade. Better known to us as Robin Goodfellow . . . Pan . . . Puck, whatever name he’d been passing off at the time. Immortal, stubborn, and could talk shit with the best of them. He’d also saved our lives more than once. That made his nonstop mouth a little more bearable.
“This lost its entertainment value as of yesterday.” Niko folded his arms and leaned against the wall. “Kick in the door.”
Unlike most siblings, I listen to my big brother. I kicked in the door. It was a good door—solid, thick. It took a few tries to get it open. There was quite a bit of damage—splintered wood, locks ripped free of the frame—none of which I planned on paying for. Goodfellow was right. I couldn’t afford to piss on his bushes, and he had money to burn. Besides, tough love was tough love. And right now that’s what the infamous Robin Goodfellow needed.
“Oh, good.” Wavy brown hair disheveled, green eyes bloodshot, the puck was sprawled on his couch in pajama bottoms and an open, wrinkled silk robe. “The Hardy Boys are here to show me the light.”
I walked into the apartment, which was an unholy mess. Considering his housekeeper, Seraglio, had been killed just days ago, that wasn’t much of a surprise. As she had been trying to kill us all at the time, I wasn’t crying a river over that. On the other hand, I still remembered how she’d made me peach pancakes. It was a concept that was hard to fathom. Pancakes and assassination. What a mix.
There were empty wine bottles everywhere I looked, littering the floor, the granite counters, and there was even one embedded in the screen of the plasma TV. Damn, I’d loved that TV.
I nudged a bottle out of my path, moved closer, and winced at the sheer volume of alcohol fumes seeping through Goodfellow’s pores. I had a good nose, as good as your average dog, thanks to my Auphe sperm donor. But even a normal human nose could’ve picked this up easily. “Jesus.” My eyes watered as I squinted at him. “How are you not dead?”
“I was there when the first grape was fermented,” he grunted. “It makes for a tolerance a fetus like you couldn’t begin to comprehend.”
“So you were the one who taught Bacchus to drink?” Niko asked with a gleam of skepticism in his gray eyes that came from a year’s familiarity with Goodfellow and his . . . er . . . exaggerations. He didn’t wait for the answer, instead making his way to the kitchen.
“Actually, I did. Of course, I think he’s in AA now.” Mournfully, he lifted a bottle into the air, then drank. “It is to weep.”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” I sat on the massive rock crystal coffee table in front of him. “Okay, Robin, you deserved a little holing-up time, but now you’ve got to shake this off. The Auphe are back playing their games. They messed with Nik and me in the park. They could come here next. They were toying with us. They might be more serious with you. As in rip you open and get drunk on that alcohol you call blood. You have to be ready. Sober your ass up.”
“Gamo the Auphe.” Goodfellow had known the Auphe when people were still living in caves, gnawing on mammoth bones and picking fleas off one another. He had a healthy fear of and respect for them. Very healthy. At least up until now, apparently. “Bring them on.” He took another drink. “Lead their pasty asses hither. I’ll give them something to chew on.”
I wasn’t sure whether he meant his sword or himself, and that worried the hell out of me. He’d been through it, I knew, but I wasn’t sure how to deal with a depressed and ashamed puck. I’d never seen him less than confident—brazen as hell. Cocky and way too willing to show you why that word was appropriate in more ways than one. Anything different from that, I wouldn’t have been able to picture as of last week. Now . . . now I’d seen it and it wasn’t right. It wasn’t puck—it wasn’t Robin. I didn’t like it. Goodfellow had lived a long, long time. Now wasn’t the time to give up.
I reached over and snatched the bottle out of his hand. “Okay, fine, you fooled some people into worshipping you as a god. And, yeah, their descendants chased you for thousands of years, wanting to kill you for deserting them. So what? They failed. Get over it already.”
The glassy eyes blinked several times before he gave a slurred drawl. “You know, say it that way and it doesn’t sound so bad.” Of course it had been more than that. Two people had died—died very bloody, terrible deaths because of his massive puck ego, when he had been their “god.” He hadn’t meant for it to happen, but it had and that’s what had him in the bottle, not being worshipped and nearly killed by the last of his followers’ tribe. Speaking of bottles, he grabbed at it and missed. I’d seen Robin drink, but I’d only ever seen him drunk twice before. The first time had been when he’d met us, and the last time had been days ago. Both had been for only a few hours. This time, I would bet he’d spent every minute of these past three days like this.
“Look,” I said sharply, “we don’t care what you did back then. We only care what you do now. You’re a friend, and you were a friend to us when any person with the sense God gave a mentally challenged rock would’ve run the other way.”
He let his head flop against the back of the couch. Looking up at the ceiling, he exhaled, then reminded me with a faint note of nostalgia, “Don’t forget that you threatened to slit my throat when we first met.”
“And even that didn’t dissuade you from talking endlessly.” Niko appeared and deposited a plate on Robin’s lap. There was a sandwich on it and what looked like homemade potato salad. I tried not to think how Seraglio had no doubt made it herself. “Now eat, sober up, and face up to the fact that what you did was wrong, but not wrong enough to justify your murder as penance.”
Goodfellow remained motionless, either thinking about it or ignoring us entirely. Niko leaned in, planted a hand on each side of Robin’s head, looked down at him, and asked silkily, “Did I or did I not say ‘now’?”
Yeah, the tough love. Niko was all about it.
There was more silence, a grunt; then the puck straightened marginally and reached for the sandwich. “I hate you both.” He took a bite, chewed, swallowed, and added grudgingly, “But I’m glad the Auphe didn’t kill you. The massive hero worship you have for me brightens my day.”
“Yeah, I can imagine.” I pushed a few bottles off the coffee table and spread out a little while Niko distanced himself to stand at the other end of the couch from Robin. I doubted it helped with the alcohol reek, but I gave him credit for trying.
Making his way methodically through the sandwich, Robin looked us both up and down, and then asked between bites, “The Auphe came at you and neither of you have a scratch? How did you manage that? Are you carrying nuclear armament now, Caliban? Did you give up on the pop guns?”
“Like I said, they were just playing with us. Talking shit.” I did have a few claw marks, but in our work if you could still walk and talk, that didn’t count. “They were on the roof of our apartment building when I came home, and then they traveled to the park where Nik was practicing.”
I often thought of going through the gates as traveling now. I’d been called “traveler” repeatedly by a homicidal asshole in the past two weeks. Sawney, mass murderer and one seriously crazy son of a bitch, was dead and less than ash now, but the term had stuck with me. It was as good a description as any for what the Auphe did . . . for what I could do. And as it also covered my other half—Rom—it fit.
“And you”—he grimaced—“traveled after them?” He’d gone through a gate with me on one occasion. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation for non-Auphe; not unless you were into puking your guts out.
“No. I ran my ass off.” Traveling, once difficult, had suddenly become easy. Too easy. It put me in touch with my homicidal Auphe roots more than was good for me . . . or for anyone around me. I’d told my brother I wouldn’t do it again if I could avoid it, but if I hadn’t been in the midst of a sidewalk full of people I would’ve done it in a hot second. He was a helluva lot more important than wrestling with the wrong half of my Jekyll-and-Hyde issue. He was worth losing a piece of my soul. . . . If I had one, it was only because of him anyway.
Still, it wasn’t anything I wanted to talk about. How I felt the mental stirrings of a bloodthirsty heritage when I passed through the gray light wasn’t my favorite topic right now. The Auphe nature wasn’t mine. I wouldn’t let it be. And if I said that to myself over and over and sprinkled enough frigging fairy dust around, maybe it would be true.
Clap your hands. Clap them goddamn hard and wish like a mother.
Meet the Author
Rob, short for Robyn (yes, he is really a she) Thurman lives in Indiana, land of rolling hills and cows, deer, and wild turkeys. Many, many turkeys. She is also the author of the Cal Leandros Series: Nightlife, Moonshine, Madhouse, and Deathwish; has a story in the anthology Wolfsbane and Mistletoe; and is the author of Trick of the Light, the first book in the Trickster series.
Besides wild, ravenous turkeys, she has a dog (if you don’t have a dog, how do you live?)—one hundred pounds of Siberian husky. He looks like a wolf, has paws the size of a person’s hand, ice blue eyes, teeth out of a Godzilla movies, and the ferocious habit of hiding under the kitchen table and peeing on himself when strangers come by. Fortunately, she has another dog that is a little more invested in keeping the food source alive. By the way, the dogs were adopted from shelters. They were fully grown, already housetrained, and grateful as hell. Think about it next time you’re looking for a Rover or Fluffy.
For updates, teasers, deleted scenes, and various other extras, visit Rob Thurman's website and her LiveJournal.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Cal Leandros is half-human and half-Auphe; he looks human, but has the power to move about space and dimensions so he can travel from one plane to another. He denies his Auphe heritage and does not look in the slightest like the pointed ears, pale skin, razor claws and crimson eyes of that evil species. Mortals know the Auphe as elves from mythology. They want Cal but he and his brother Niko defeated their efforts to snatch him. Soon eighteen more arrive; Cal notices they are all females, which worries Niko as he thinks the enemy has switched tactics from muscle to something worse.
While trying to figure out how get rid of the latest infestation Cal and Niko are handed a case by the latter¿s vampire lover Promise. Her former lover Seamus the vampire feels someone is stalking him and he wants the brothers, who have opened up a preternatural private investigator firm, to find out who and why. They learn the Vigil who clean up supernatural messes are watching the flamboyant vampire; they feel he is coming close to exposing himself to humans. Their mission is to keep humans and monsters separated. While the siblings deal with these two problems, a third issue surfaces. Promise¿s daughter Cherish the thief and con artist stole something from a monster who is in town to retrieve it. Between the Auphe, the Vigil, and the theft, the siblings feel they are back in the MADHOUSE.
This is an excellent urban fantasy due to the two brothers, who love one another and will do whatever it takes to keep their sibling safe. 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. Told in the first person rotating chapters between Cal and Niko, fans know up front and in person what motivates each of them. 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.
This book follows perfectly in the footsteps of the earlier books. Some plot twists and non-stop action make this book impossible to put down. Its great to watch the way these characters develop. Cal transforms from a mouthy,angst ridden punk who kicks ass into a mouthy punk that kicks even more ass. And Niko... I'm not tellin' read it yourself.
This book was amazing. As usual, Thurman does not disappoint. Deathwish follows up and expands on the power of the books before it. Humor, friendship, loyalty, horror, action and plot twists a plenty. I couldn't wait to see what happened w/the turn of each page. And most important, the brothers bond which makes the series the unstoppable force it is. I loved how this time around we got an even deeper look into the boys as we got POV's from both Cal and Niko. Now Nik, we didn't know a lot of his inner workings before. This book opens him up. It's a whole new world for fans of the Leandros boys. I can only imagine where the road leads next, I can't wait to find out.
Published a year after Madhouse, Rob Thurman's Deathwish starts immediately afterwards. Before the characters have a chance to recover from the physical and emotional torments, they are plunged into another dysfunctional family nightmare: this time, Promise brings the brothers in to save her vampire daughter's life-or unlife. I really enjoyed that, for the first time, the chapters alternate viewpoint between Cal and Niko. We've had Cal's assumptions about his brother, but protective big brothers can conceal more than younger ones realize. Definitely satisfying, along with more puck and peri issues, old enemies, and a new one even more lethal than Niko. Read the novel, then re-read the opening chapter for ah-ha moments you wouldn't have picked up on the first time.
In the latest of the Cal and Niko series of books, Ms. Thurman proves once again that she's a magician. I don't believe I have ever read another book that was so touching and captivating while still being laugh out loud funny. **If you want to read this book, I strongly suggest starting with Nightlife, the first of this series. You won't want to miss out on Moonshine or Madhouse (#2 and #3 respectively) either. One of the most amazing parts of this book in particular is that we finally get Niko's point of view. If for no other reason, that would make this my favorite book.
The snapshot description on the back of the book really doesn't do the plot justice. If you have read the previous 3 books and are emotionally invested in the characters you'll be able to empathize and sympathize with their plight, if your unable to put yourself in their shoes however then it probably wont be enjoyable for you (but if you can't do that why are you even reading them in the first place?). This is also the first book where the author switches off from the point of view being exclusively to Cal and letting us peek in Niko's head for a change, normally I get really irritated when authors do this but Thurman made it work for me. Character development, daunting moral decisions between what is wanted, what his needed and what is right, and an inner-monologue that has me snickering as though Cal were my own younger brother that needed a good head thwap. Personally, I was not disappointed.
I love Cal, Nik & the ever horny Robin. This series has it all: action, sexy & funny all served to you in great stories.
I thinknthe book was amazing and by every other person review it must be better then i though... and it was and is