Hands of Flame (Negotiator Trilogy Series #3)

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Overview

War has erupted among the five Old Races, and Margrit is responsible for the death that caused it. Now New York City's most unusual lawyer finds herself facing her toughest negotiation yet. And with her gargoyle lover, Alban, taken prisoner, Margrit's only allies—a dragon bitter about his fall, a vampire determined to hold his standing at any cost and a mortal detective with no idea what he's up against—have demands of their own.

Determined to rescue Alban and torn between ...

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Overview

War has erupted among the five Old Races, and Margrit is responsible for the death that caused it. Now New York City's most unusual lawyer finds herself facing her toughest negotiation yet. And with her gargoyle lover, Alban, taken prisoner, Margrit's only allies—a dragon bitter about his fall, a vampire determined to hold his standing at any cost and a mortal detective with no idea what he's up against—have demands of their own.

Determined to rescue Alban and torn between conflicting loyalties as the battle seeps into the human world, Margrit soon realizes the only way out is through the fire.…

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
This is the third volume of C. E. Murphy's Negotiator series, but its title character has still not found peace. In fact, Hands of Flame finds lawyer Margrit Knight in scalding trouble: War has broken out among the Old Races, and Margrit knows that in some ways she's responsible. Bringing peace to the bloody urban scene isn't easy, especially if your only allies are an embittered dragon, a stubborn vampire, and a mortal sleuth who doesn't seem to have the vaguest idea about the trouble they're in. Fantastic urban fantasy.
Library Journal

Lawyer Margrit Knight is one of the few humans aware of New York City's otherworldy denizens; known as the Negotiator among the Old Races who dwell behind the scenes, she calls upon her allies, a fallen dragon and her vampire employer, when her gargoyle lover is kidnapped and placed on trial by his "peers." While wrapping up many loose ends, the concluding volume of Murphy's Negotiator trilogy (Heart of Stone; House of Cards ) leaves open the possibility of future explorations into an urban fantasy that brings some unusual creatures, such as gargoyles, djinn, and selkies, into the modern world. Margrit is a gutsy, resourceful heroine who can walk a fine line between the paranormal and the real world. A good choice for most libraries, with particular appeal to fans of Charles de Lint and Jim Butcher.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373802708
  • Publisher: Luna
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Series: Negotiator Trilogy Series, #3
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

C.E. Murphy is the author of more than twenty books—along with a number of novellas and comics. Born in Alaska, currently living in Ireland, she does miss central heating, insulation and—sometimes—snow but through the wonders of the internet, her imagination and her close knit family, she’s never bored or lonely. While she does travel through time (sadly only forward, one second at a time) she can also be found online at www.cemurphy.net or @ce_murphy on Twitter

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Read an Excerpt

Nightmares drove her out of bed to run.

She'd become accustomed to another sort of dream over the last weeks: erotic, exotic, filled with impossible beings and endless possibility. But these were different, burning images of a man's death in flames. Not by flame, but in it: the color of her dreams was ever-changing crimson licked with saffron, as though varying the light might result in a happier ending.

It never did.

The scent of salt water rose up, more potent in recollection than it had been in reality. It tangled brutally with the smell of copper before the latter won out, blood flavor tangy at the back of her throat. She couldn't remember if she'd actually smelled it, but her dreams tasted of it.

Small kindness: fire burned those odors away, whether they were real or not.But that left her with flame again,andforall that she was proud of her running speed, she couldn't outpace the blaze.

There was a dragon in the fire, red and sinuous and deadly. It battled a pale creature of immense strength; of unbreaking stone.

A gargoyle, so far removed from human imagination that there were no legends of them, as there were of so many of their otherworldly brethren.

Between them was another creature: a djinn, one of mankind's imaginings, but not of the sort to grant wishes. It drifted in its element of air, clearly forgotten by dragon and gargoyle alike, though it was the thing they fought over. It faded in and out of solidity, impossible to strike when it didn't attack. But there were moments of vulnerability, times when to do damage it must become part of the world. It became real with a weapon lifted to strike the dragon a deathblow.

And she, who had been nothing more than an unremembered observer, struck back. She fired a weapon of absurd proportions: a child's watergun, filled with salt water.

The djinn died, not from the streams of water, but from their result. The gargoyle pounced, moving as she had: to save the dragon. But salt water bound the djinn to solidity, and heavy stone crushed the slighter creature's fragile form.

The silence that followed was marked by the snapping of fire.

Margrit ground her teeth together and ran harder, trying to escape her nightmares.

She struggled not to look up as she ran. It had been almost two weeks since she'd sent Alban from her side, and every night since then she'd been driven to the park in the small hours of the morning. Not even her housemates knew she was running: she was careful to slip in and out of the apartment as quietly as she could, avoiding Cole as he got up for his early shift, leaving his fiancée asleep. It was best to avoid him, especially. Nothing had been the same since he'd glimpsed Alban in his broad-shouldered gargoyle form.

Margrit could no longer name the emotion that ran through her when she thought of Alban. It had ranged from fear to fascination to desire, and some of all of that remained in her, complicated and uncertain. Hope, too, but laced with bitter despair. Too many things to name, too complex to label in the aftermath of Malik al-Massrï's death.

Not that the inability to catalog emotion stopped her from trying. Only the slap of her feet against the pavement, the jarring pressure in her knees and hips, and the sharp, cold air of an April night, helped to drive away the exhausting attempts to come to terms with—

With what her life had become. With what she'd done to survive; what she'd done to help Alban survive. To help Janx survive. Her friends—ordinary humans, people whose lives hadn't been star-crossed by the Old Races—seemed to barely know her any longer. Margrit felt she hardly knew herself.

She'd asked for time, and that, of all things, was a gargoyle's to give: the Old Races lived forever, or near enough that to her perspective it made no difference. They could die violently; that, she'd seen. But left alone to age, they carried on for centuries. Alban could afford a little time.

Margrit could not.

She made fists, nails biting into her palms. Tension threw her pace off and she wove on the path, feet coming down with a surety her mind couldn't find. The same thoughts haunted her every night. How much time Alban had; how little she had. How the life she'd planned had, in a few brief weeks, become not only unrecognizable, but unappealing.

Sweat stung her eyes, a welcome distraction. Her hair stuck to her cheeks, itching: physical solace for an unquiet mind. She didn't think of herself as someone who ran away, but she couldn't in good conscience claim she ran toward anything except the obliteration

of memory in the way her lungs burned, her thighs burned.

The House of Cards burned.

"Dammit!" Margrit stumbled and came to a stop. Her chest heaved, testimony to the effort she'd expended. She found a park bench to plant her hands against, head dropped as she caught her breath in quiet gasps that let her listen for danger. She'd asked Alban for time, and couldn't trust he glided in the sky above, watching out for her, especially at this hour of the morning. Typically, she ran in the early evenings, not hours after nightfall. There was no reason to imagine he'd wait on her all night. Safety in the park was her own concern, not his.

Which was why she couldn't allow herself to look up.

If she would only bend so far as to glance skyward, he would have an excuse to join her.

Alban winged loose circles above Central Park, watching the lonely woman make her way through pathways below. She was fierce in her solitude, long strides eating the distance as though she owned the park. It was that ferocity that had drawn him to watch her in the first place, the reckless abandon of her own safety in favor of something the park could give her in exchange. He thought of it as freedom, pursued in the face of good sense. It encompassed what little he'd known about her when he began to watch her: that she would risk everything for running at night.

That was what had given him the courage to speak to her, for all that he'd never meant it to go further than one brief greeting. It had been a moment of light in a world he'd allowed to grow grim with isolation, though he hadn't recognized its darkness until Margrit breathed life back into it.

And now he hungered for that brightness again, a desire for life and love awakened in him when he'd thought it lost forever. He supposed himself steadfast, as slow and reluctant to change as stone, but in the heat of Margrit's embrace, he changed more quickly and more completely than he might have once imagined. He had learned love again; he had learned fear and hope and, most vividly of all, he had learned pain.

He thought it was pain that sent Margrit running in these small hours. She'd asked him to stay away while she came to grips with it, but she hadn't said how far away, and he was, after all, a gargoyle. He watched over her every night from dusk until dawn, even when that meant sitting across the street on an apartment-building roof, patiently watching lights turn off in her home as she and her housemates retired to bed. He ignored the others who had demands on his time: Janx, the charming dragonlord who'd lost his territory in the fight that had ended Malik al-Massrï's life; who had, in fact, nearly lost his own life and who was still healing from the wounds Malik had dealt him. Alban had helped him escape, had brought him below the streets, into the vigilante Grace O'Malley's world. Janx was safe there, but Grace and the children she helped were not, not so long as Janx remained. And yet Alban took to the skies each night, watching Margrit instead of resolving the conflicts that grew in the tunnels beneath the city.

If it were not entirely against a gargoyle's nature, Alban might say he was hiding from those responsibilities by insisting on another. But then, he'd lost his sense of what was, in truth, a gargoyle's nature, and what was not. A few months earlier he would have answered with confidence that a gargoyle was meant to keep to a well-known path, to be a rock against the changes forced by time. Now, though, now he had lost his way, or found it so reshaped before him that he had to gather himself before he could move forward. He hadn't wanted to leave Margrit when she said she needed time, but suddenly he understood. Distress might be eased when shared, but the need to understand herself—or himself, now that he saw it—could be as necessary a step toward recovery. To edge back and rediscover the core of what he thought he was, without outside influence, might be critical.

And the secluded nights did give him time to think. No: time to remember. Remembering was a gargoyle's purpose in existing, and for the past two weeks he would have given anything to be unburdened by that particular gift borne by his people.

Margrit sprinted away from a park bench without looking up, and Alban felt a twist of sorrow. Not anything: there was, it seemed,at least one thing he would not give up under any circumstances. He had killed to protect Margrit Knight, not once, but twice.

It might have meant nothing—at least to the other Old Races— had he taken human lives. But he'd destroyed a gargoyle woman with full deliberation, and a djinn thanks to devastating mistiming. Those were exiling offenses, actions for which he could— would, should—be shunned by his people. For all that he'd exiled himself centuries earlier on behalf of men not of his race, knowing he now inexorably stood outside the community he'd been born to cut more deeply than he'd thought it could. And for all of that, what disturbed him the most was the unshakable certainty that, given another chance, given identical circumstances, he would make the same choice. If he could alter the paces of the play, he would, yes; of course. But if not, if the same beats should come to pass, he would choose Margrit and the brief, shocking impulses of life she brought into his world.

He was no longer certain if he'd stopped knowing himself a long time ago and was only coming back to his core now, or if Margrit Knight had pulled him so far from his course that he had nothing but new territory to explore. He would have to ask Janx or Daisani someday; they had known him in his youth.

Startling clarity shot through him, the disgusted voice of another who'd known him when he was young: You were a warrior once. You could have led us. Biali hadn't meant it as a compliment, his shattered visage testimony to the battle skills Alban had once had. Maybe, then, the impulse to make war had always been in him, buried during the centuries of self-imposed exile. Maybe the ability to kill had waited until it was needed, or wanted: a vicious streak through a heart of stone.

Too many thoughts circling near the same ideas that had haunted him through Margrit's sleepless nights. Alban shook himself, leaping from the treetops to follow her, certain of this, if nothing else: he would not let the human woman come to harm, not after the changes she'd wrought in himself and his world. To lose her now would undo the meaning of everything, and that was a price too dear to be paid.

An impact caught her in the spine and knocked her forward. Margrit shouted with outraged surprise, hands outspread in preparation for breaking a fall she couldn't stop. But thick arms encircled her waist, and the ground fell away with a sudden lurch. A body pressed against hers,muscle shifting and flexing in a pattern that might have been erotic, had Margrit's incredulous anger not drowned out any other emotion, even fear. She struggled ineffectively, swearing as her captor soared above the treetops. "Alban?"

"Sorry, lawyer." The words spoken into her hair were gargoyle-deep, but not Alban's reassuring rough-on-rough accent. There was no sincerity in the apology, only a snarled mockery made of its form. "Hate to use you as bait, but I can't do this out in the open."

"Biali?" Margrit's voice broke into a rarely used register as she twisted, trying to get a look at the gargoyle who'd swept her up. Her hair tangled in her face, blinding her. "What the hell are you doing?"

An edged chuckle scraped over her skin. "Getting Korund's attention."

"You couldn't use a telephone like a normal person?" Margrit twisted harder and looped an arm around Biali's shoulders, so she was no longer wholly reliant on his grip around her waist. He grunted, adjusting his hold, and gave her a baleful look that she returned with full force. "This was your idea."

Exasperation crossed Biali's face so sharply that for a moment it diluted Margrit's anger. That was just as well: they were passing rooftops now, and pique might get her dropped from the killing height. With anger fading, she realized she had precious moments that could be better spent in investigation than in argument."What do you want from Alban?"

"Justice." Biali backwinged above an apartment building, landing on messy blacktop. He released Margrit easily, as though he hadn't abducted her. She bolted for the rooftop door, though seeing its rusty lock stopped her before she reached it. She spun around, running again before she'd located the fire escapes, but Biali leapt into the air and cruised over her head, landing between her and the ladders. "Don't make me have to hit you, lawyer."

Margrit reared back, staying out of the gargoyle's reach, though she doubted she could move fast enough to avoid him if he wanted to catch her again. For the moment, though, he simply crouched where he was, wings half spread in anticipation, broken face watching Margrit consider her options. He wore chain links around his waist, a new addition to the white jeans she'd seen him in before. Wrapped too many times to be a belt, the metal made a peculiarly appropriate accessory for the brawny gargoyle, enhancing his thickness and the sense of danger he could convey. Margrit found it disquieting, the dark iron twinging as a wrongness, but that, too, added to the effect.

Any real expectation of escape blocked, she resorted to words for the second time. "Justice for what?"

"Ausra."

Dismay plummeted Margrit's belly. The name conjured as many demons as flame-haunted dreams did.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Better than the first two

    This trilogy (which might end up being more than a trilogy, knowing Murphy and her heavy delving into new and fascinating worlds) ended with a bang with the book "Hands of Flame." I was extrememly impressed and loved it very much. By this book you are so emotionally involved with the characters it just about kills you trying to get to the end. All conflicts come to a head, and we see who the true good guys and bad guys are. (Some might surprise you!) Also, we finally get to find out what the deal with Grace is. (I don't know about you, but that had been bugging all through the first two books!) An excellent book all around, and an excellent end to an amazing trilogy! Highly recommended!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Terrific Trilogy Conclusion

    This book is a terrific ending to "Heart of Stone and "House of Cards." Hopefully, it won't be the last book written about Margrit, Alban and the Old Races; but, even if it is the series' finale, this trilogy will continue to resonate as a completely engaging and satisfying urban fantasy. The plot of this book is even faster paced and more imaginative than "House of Cards" and "Heart of Stone." There's more emotional investment in and by the characters and several surprising twists occur. There's plenty of action, and the tension mounts throughout the story which resolves in an unexpected and explosive way. Margrit has to deal with a gargoyle trial against Alban, a vengeful dragon divested of his criminal empire, a double-dealing vampire and a war among the selkies, the djinn and human criminals. Further, her friend Cole can't accept Alban, and her friends and family are endangered. I recommend this book, (along with the first two in the trilogy), to anyone who reads supernatural urban fiction. It's a wonderful read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2008

    C.E. Murphy is the BEST!

    I love these books, and the Walker Papers! Murphy's imagination is just so innovative and cool. This book is really wonderful. Exciting and fast-paced, and you grow to love the characters even more. I won't give anything away. Read it!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The best!

    I have to say that this book is the best of the three. First of all I love reading about Alban, the gargoyle. There are not that many books written about gargoyles which make this story line a breath of fresh air. I have to say that this book is the best out of the three and it will keep you on your toes. I love the way C.E. Murphy has the main characters, but is not hesitate to put them in danger with the possibility of killing them off. Many times I read a book and say that character isn't going to be killed off, because it is the main character. You never know with C.E. Murphy. I love this book, because it is different story line that keeps me coming back and always wanting more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2008

    HANDS OF FLAME is an engaging tale that sub-genre fans will enjoy

    Five Old Races negotiator Margrit Knight has macro and micro worries. The big issue is war is imminent between the five Old Races and in spite of her vocation she feels helpless to prevent it. Making matters more complex for the lawyer is the micro concerns that are personal to her though not on the grand scale of the war. Her lover Alban Korund the gargoyle is incarcerated and her family and friends, so innocently human, are expendable pawns.-------------- As she tries to negotiate a peaceful settlement, obtain Alban¿s release and keep the troubles from harming her loved ones, she feels all alone. However, she has met three questionable associates who on the one hand want to help her, but also two of them seem to have hidden agendas that might prove deadly to Margrit. Janx the dragon is angry and acrimonious as he wants return to the soaring highest of his species running a major underworld criminal activity not live in a hovel underground and Eliseo Daisani the billionaire vampire feels slighted as he dreams of biting respect. Finally the NYPD detective thinks gang warfare on the streets of the city is out of control. Adding to Margrit¿s woes the paranormal pair appears to look forward to the war.------------- The third Negotiator urban fantasy is a fast-paced, action-packed tale with spins and twists that make Broadway look like Lombard St. Margrit is courageous, perhaps too much so, as she dives head first into one dangerous mess after another with three goals to fuel her adrenaline: prevent the war, liberate her daytime HEART OF STONE lover, and keep her family safe even as she sees her world collapsing like a HOUSE OF CARDS. HANDS OF FLAME is an engaging tale that sub-genre fans will enjoy.------------ Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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