House of Cards

House of Cards

by C. E. Murphy

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New York City's only legal counsel to the fabled Old Races, Margrit Knight is levelheaded in all matters extraordinary. But when she's summoned to negotiate a peace treaty among rival factions, her own mortal world threatens to fall apart. Margrit's been in hot water before, but reentering the underworld brings a new set of problems. And a new set of friends and enemies, including a ruthless vampire mobster, a dragonlord who won't take no for an answer, a band of subversive selkies...oh, and Alban Korund, the sexy gargoyle who got her into this mess––and whose granite–strong touch still haunts her every fantasy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781488057687
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/16/2019
Series: Negotiator Trilogy Series , #2
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 90,288
File size: 3 MB

About 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 or @ce_murphy on Twitter

Read an Excerpt

House Of Cards

By C.E. Murphy Luna Copyright © 2008 C.E. Murphy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780373802630

Humans would call it a catch-22.

He'd read the book the phrase came from, even sympathized with the protagonist, a man desperate to avoid fighting in a war but with no recourse to do so except claim insanity. The difficulty lay in the military's own desperation for warriors. If he said he was crazy and wanted to fight, all the better; they would take him. If he didn't, that was simply normal, and they'd conscript him regardless.

Gargoyles did not find themselves in such situations.

Alban's shoulders slid down as he passed a hand over his eyes. Gargoyles didn't find themselves in such situations, and yet. And yet.

A woman ran on the pathways below him,finding her stride without fear in the March night. She ran as if Central Park were her demesne and the things that stalked it too slow or thick-witted to capture her. She'd done it before she knew he was there, watching and protecting her.She would have continued long since,had he never revealed himself to her.

But he had, and now she knew. Knew about him and his people, and knew that he soared from treetop to treetop, keeping her safe from monsters worse than he. Knew that his nature demanded he protect her, once he'd chosen her as his ward.

He'd walked away from their impossible relationship, certain that leaving was the only way to allow her a life with any meaning in her ownworld. In introducing himself to her—necessary as it had seemed—he'd also introduced an overwhelming element of danger into her human experience. She had accepted that, even embraced it, but he could not. He was a protector, and to protect her, he had to leave her behind.

Doing the right thing shouldn't leave such a taste of coal at the back of his throat, burned and ashy. For a span of a few brief hours—days, but in a life as long as his, the hours meant more than the days—he'd flown with her, shared laughter and fear, even known the touch of death and the shaking relief of life in its aftermath. Better to let it go, the memory bright and untarnished, than wait and watch as she inevitably realized she could never fit into the half-life that held him captive.

And she, with the safety her clean, well-lit world offered to her, defiantly began her late-night sprints through the park again. She seemed utterly confident—confident of her own speed, confident of the park's gentle side, confident that he would not abandon her despite his protestations.

To his chagrin, she was right.

A gargoyle should not find himself in such a situation.

Muttering a growl deep in his throat, he flexed his wings, catching the wind and letting it carry him higher into the sky than necessary. He was a pale creature against night's darkness, broad wingspan and powerful form easily visible, but humans rarely looked up. Even if someone did, he would be gone in an instant, a flight of imagination so potent few would dare voice it. Rationality and human experience demanded that he couldn't exist. No one valuing his job or social standing would insist he'd seen a gargoyle circling over Central Park, and should the park's less favorable denizens see him, well, no one would believe them, either.

And Margrit, should she look up from racing insubstantial competitors far below, would never tell.

She still watched the sky as she ran.

She knew better. She knew better for a host of reasons, the most obvious being that if a gargoyle watched her, he would keep out of her line of sight so they could both pretend he wasn't there. Twisting to catch him not only invited injury, but collided thoroughly with the other obvious reason she shouldn't watch the sky: to run safely in the park she had to move like she knew what she was doing. Aggressors wanted victims who wouldn't cause a problem. She'd learned to keep her eyes straight ahead and her chin up, ears sharpened for sounds above those of her own labored breathing. She wore no headset when she ran at night; that was a luxury reserved for daylight hours. Running made its own music in her mind, a cadence she could lose herself to. Words pounded out to her footsteps, broken down into syllables. Law review sometimes, but as often as not a single word caught in her thoughts. Ir. Ir. Ir-rah-shun-al.



Memories of the gargoyle did more than linger; they waited until she thought she was free of him, then announced themselves again with distressing clarity. Even after weeks of not seeing him, she could bring to mind his strong features and white hair more easily than anyone else's.

Margrit shook her head, trying to chase memories away. The hard motion put a wobble in her run and her foot came down badly, tweaking her knee. She dropped into a walk, swearing under her breath. Her heartbeat ached, less from the run than from wariness that bordered on fear. The park seemed a haven only when she ran through it. Walking off an injury felt like announcing she was too slow and cumbersome to avoid danger.

Worse, though, would be not giving herself the time to recover, and damaging the ligament so badly she couldn't run at all. The idea felt like prison walls closing in. Margrit shivered the thought away, flexing her quads to test her knee. The sharp ache had already faded. She slowed more, then stopped, bending to rub her kneecap. It felt normal, no swelling or stiffness telling her she'd twisted it a moment earlier.

An inconsequential injury, nothing more. Just a twinge to warn her, not something worse that healed itself more rapidly than logic could account for. It'd been the same with nicks from a razor blade, or paper cuts sliced through a fingertip, the last few weeks. The damage had been too slight to justify concern.

Margrit licked her lips as a gag-sweet taste of sugary copper rose in her throat. It carried with it the image of a slight, swarthy man opening his wrist and pressing thick welling blood against her mouth. Only after she'd swallowed convulsively had he looked pleased. Folding his sleeve back down, he'd told her what he'd shared: one sip for healing.

Such a gift as a vampire gave.

Margrit shivered, scrubbing her palm over her knee one more time. It'd been a tweak, nothing more. She straightened, chin lifted in defiance of her own disbelief, before she went painfully still, watching a blond, broad-shouldered shadow parted from the trees. not the well-cut suit Alban preferred. Anger and fear curdled Margrit's stomach as she took one cautious step back. The man had the height advantage, but she trusted her own speed. She shifted her weight again, ready to spin and run as she took one more step back.

Body heat warned her an instant too late, hands closing around her arms. Margrit shrieked and flung her head back as hard as she could. She encountered resistance and crunching bone, the hands on her arms loosening in a bellow of pain and outrage."Fucking bitch!"

Margrit flung herself to the side, powered by adrenaline and instinct, and made herself small as the first man lunged for her. She rolled to her feet just out of his grasp, heart pounding as she danced backward, making enough space to turn and run.

A bright streak fell from the trees, bringing both men to the ground. Membraned wings, so thin that park lights glowed through them, flared alabaster in the dark, then were gone. A man stood within the space they'd encompassed and lifted her attackers by their napes, clocking their skulls together with slapstick ease. One groaned. The other made no sound at all as they slid bonelessly from her rescuer's grip.

He rose, teeth still bared as if in attack. His breath came hard as he looked at Margrit, frustration darkening his eyes. She nearly laughed, able to read all the reasons for his dismay.

He'd blown his cover. She'd forced him to show his hand again, making him re-enter her life as a physical presence instead of only a wish. But a gap still lay between them, his nature against her own. He'd chosen to accept that divide, even when she would not have.

She had no more idea than he how to bridge the distance, but the desire to do so stung her.

He was beautiful. Whichever form he took, he was beautiful. Long pale hair was tied back from his face, showing clean lines of jaw and cheekbones that, even in the human shape he wore now, might have been chiseled of stone. Margrit's fingers curled with the impulse to explore that face, to slide her fingers into his hair and loosen it from its tie. Remembered warmth tingled through her hands, as if she did as she imagined. The recalled scent of him was delicious—of cool, moonlit earth. Tightness banded her chest, hungry want born from time apart and feeding on the last vestiges of fear from the attack. Nothing negated danger as exhaustively as passion.For a heady moment she thought she saw the same need rise in Alban and took one rough step toward him.

The gargoyle spread his hands, a singular admission that he had been found out, then closed them in abrupt denial. Gaze torn from Margrit's, he crouched and leapt for the trees again, a smooth motion that left no time for words.

Defeat crashed through hope. Margrit ran forward, fists clenched as she bellowed after him."Alban! Alban! Goddamn it, Alban! Come back here! Alban!"

Not so much as a whisper of branches or a flash of light on an outstretched wing came back as an answer. She whipped around, fists still knotted, and nearly kicked one of the supine men in anger. Protocol told her to call the police and make a statement, though no one would believe a story of an unknown hero dropping out of the trees to save her, much less the detailed truth. Maybe she could lay praise for her escape at the half-legendary Grace O'Malley's feet, though the tabloid-styled vigilante was known for saving teens from the street, not adult women from Central Park's violence. Still, the papers would have a field day, and enhancing Grace's reputation might help her cause.

Three minutes later Margrit made an anonymous call to the cops and stalked home, shoe tongues flapping.

"She left them tied to a tree. With her shoelaces." Alban turned on his heel, stalking across the confines of a small room, wings clamped close to his back so his abrupt turns wouldn't knock over piles of precariously stacked books. Candles flickered, their thin flames threatened by Alban's strides. There were no windows, but he hadn't lived in a home with windows in over two centuries, and the lack went unnoticed. A bed, more perfunctory than necessity, was lodged in one corner, its foot flush with a short bookcase.

A blond woman perched easily atop the shelving unit, arms looped around a drawn-up knee as she watched Alban with open amusement. "It doesn't suit you, love."

"What?" He wheeled again, wings flaring in surprise. The woman curved a broad smile and mimicked walking with her fingers.

"Pacing. Gargoyles are suited to hunching and brooding, not pacing and swearing." She hopped down, leaving the shelves without a wobble. Grace O'Malley was perhaps the most graceful human Alban had ever known, almost as unfettered by bonds of earth as one of the Old Races. She slunk around him, languid humor warming her porcelain skin and curling her full mouth. Another man caught at the center of her prowling might have felt like prey. Alban's stony form, though, stood easily a foot taller than Grace, and her slim body was no match for his in strength.

Not until she'd made a full circle around him did she come to a halt, hands in the pockets of her black leather pants. "Why fight it? Your Margrit's in it up to her neck no matter what you do. She made her own promises to the dragonlord Janx, without part or parcel of you, so there's no escaping the Old Races, not for that one. If you want her, gargoyle, pursue her."

"It is not so simple as that."

"You've said the vampire gave her blood for health. Another sip brings long life, and he's hungry to have a hook in her. You can get what you want, Alban, but not by sulking belowground. I offered you shelter in return for helping to watch over my children. I didn't mean for you to pull the streets over your head and pretend the world wasn't there. Go live. You might find it suits you."

"How do you know what you know, Grace?"

"What?" She launched herself into motion and had her hand on the doorknob before he spoke again.

"How do you know these things about the Old Races?" He had no illusions that the power of his voice might stop her, but he asked regardless. "That two sips of a vampire's blood brings long life, or that I chose Margrit over one of my own. I've told no one that. You're not one of us, just a human wo—"

"Just." Grace turned her profile to him, pale and sharp. "Now there you might have a problem with your lawyer lass, my friend. Humans don't take kindly to being just anything."

Alban gritted his teeth with a sound of stone grinding on stone. "I meant no offense. You are a human woman beneath the streets of New York. Such people aren't expected to be conversant with the Old Races at all, much less possessed of intimate details about us. How do you know so much?" and playing what you've got for all it's That's what brought you here." She turned her gaze on him, her bleached That's how we survive down here, gargoyle. I learn It's hours till dawn," she added as "Stay in like a sullen child if you will, but to step outside and take a stand." The leaving Alban to

Grace," he murmured to the echoing chamber. "As He lifted his head again, straightening to his full height and spread taloned hands to study them in the "You forget.

as if they were warm Flowing heat tickled her fingers, It contrasted deliciously with cold though the chill was only a memory. She recognized strong stone: the smell of the outdoors and wild-Raw, sensual power, housed in heart beat faster as she shifted closer to her captor, desire even through the confines of sleep. She knew the long hard his body, harder than ordinary humans had words for. She had shied away from exploring those lines more than once, uncertain of how to breach a distance she barely understood. Now, though, she let herself be bold, pressing herself closer to brush her mouth against a stony jaw. Soft skin tasted of fine grit, like the rich flavor of dark earth and iron. He was too tall, even in flight, and she pulled herself up his body, an open act of intent as she hooked a thigh over his hip. His grip changed, holding her in place, and stone encompassed her as city lights spun below her, broad wings spread to keep her aloft with the man—

Not a man, he whispered.

Is this my dream or yours? Margrit demanded. Surprise coursed through her, then a wash of laughter rough as sand in water.

Neither, I think, he replied. I hadn't meant to think so strongly of you. Memory rides us.Forgive me,Margrit.Goodbye. A faint hint of wistfulness accompanied his final word: Again.

The dream turned to falling, a short sickening plunge. Margrit jerked awake, covers clenched in her fists, breath cold and harsh. A nearly inaudible click sounded, followed by her radio alarm increasing in volume as she lay on the bed,staring through darkness at the ceiling.



Excerpted from House Of Cards by C.E. Murphy Copyright © 2008 by C.E. Murphy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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House of Cards (Negotiator Trilogy Series #2) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Oh_Yeah_Buddy More than 1 year ago
I agree with Mina_Dark who said this book was even better than the first. This was spectactular! I couldn't get enough. I love all the characters, and not just Margrit and Alban, but all the other members of the Old Races, especially Janx. He's so cool! That scene where all the Old Races were meeting by the ice rink and Tony saw Margrit with Alban: I actually felt nervous during that scene. It's like I couldn't read it fast enough, yet the only thing that kept me from not being sad at the end was the fact that there is one more book. But only one more! That won't satisfy me for more than a few days!
Mina_Dark More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved the first book, Heart of Stone, but this one somehow managed to be better! Margrit gets even deeper into the world of the Old Races, and before she knows it, she's important to all of them, not just Alban! CE Murphy's writing just keeps getting better. If I were you, I wouldn't miss any of her books! And if you're into books about regular people meeting extraordinary beings, try "Angel on my shoulder, Demon in my ear."
teharhynn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much quicker read than the first one. I love the characters, and I'm sad to see it's only a trilogy. This one was much better developed than the first.
bgknighton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Things are getting interesting now. The Old Races are seeing change happening around them and are starting to get involved in their own changes. But the plots are thickening....
reading_fox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Continuation of the story. Margrit the laywer still owes Janx the dragon and crimelord some favours - and although these were originally promised as like for like, ie information, they both seem to have forgotten this and so Margrit agrees to help protect Janx's mani henchman the djinn Malic from a series of attacks which Janx;s organisation has been subject to. Quite how a mortal human can protect one of the Djinn was uncertain to both parties, however they both though that the Vampire Disraeli was probably behind it, and it so happened that Margrit has some barginning room with him. Meanwhile of course ALban the sexy gargoyle is still around, and Tony Margrits partime police lover - at least he was until she met the Old Races. And don't forget the selkies - one of the links back from the last book was the absence of Cara. She's back. Much else remains as was the case in the previous book. Margrit is still a silly name, and she still doesn't really understand the world she's involved in. The roamnce is dialled up a bit with some actual sex. I was glad the author had thought about the physics and practicalities involved which makes such scenes more believabnle for the characters than purely thrown in as expected titilation fro the readers. Still not totally convinced though.I liek eveything else about the world though - the unusualness of ther Old Races chosen, how well they integrate with modern humanity, and how normal humans intereact with them. I was especially impressed with Margrit's housemates who managed (apart from once or twice) to appear as characters in their own right, with understanding and compassion - even if, again, they're way more tolerant than any two saints I know, if any of my flatmates had Margrit's lack of communal living skills they'd be long gone. Margrit's arguments with Tony were alos well written.Overal a very enjoyable continuation tot he series and I'm looking forward to hwo it's all resolved in the last book.
Karenbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The series continues to improve, and the characters are well defined and developing in new ways.
SunnySD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Legal aid lawyer Margrit Knight may be known for in small circles her principles and a penchant for successfully tilting at windmills, but suddenly she's one the fast track, being greeted by the who's who of political New York. But it's the gritty underbelly peopled by the secretive Old Races that brought her notoriety - can she go back to what she once was? Or is she willing to sacrifice still more for love, honor and principles? (If you know Grit, you know the answer to that one!)Great follow-up, and I can't wait to see how Hands of Flame continues.
ladycato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The second book of the Negotiator trilogy picks up soon after the end of Heart of Stone. Lawyer Margrit Knight has become all too entwined in the centuries-old threads that bind and strangle the Old Races in New York City. A slick vampire wants her to work as his assistant, a dragonlord pulls all the strings in the underworld, and if looks could kill, a djinn would have killed Margrit several times over. Then there is Alban the gargoyle, the being she loves, the one who will barely talk to her because he fears further contact will only imperil Margrit. That involvement happens, whether Alban wants it or not: the lost race, the Selkies, have returned and want a say, and Margrit is the best mediator for the job.This series continues to delight me. I liked Margrit much more in this book - she lost some of the abrasive edge that made her unlikeable at the beginning of Heart of Stone. The cast of Old Races really brings heart to this book; it's full of haggling, manipulation, and political intrigue far beyond human comprehension, and I enjoyed seeing all of the major players come together.
Canalmania on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another page turner from CE Murphy, I loved the Urban Shaman books and this series keeps up the high standard. Grit is a strong character with whom you can empathise as she feels her way through her dealings with the 'old races' where she should tchnically be at a disadvantage
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pushed her hips to ur hand. (Told ya)
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