• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

Rogue Gadda: An excerpt

 

The following is an except from Rogue Gadda, the third book in the Dream of Asarlai trilogy by Nicole Murphy. Rogue Gadda comes out on 1 July 2011. The series started with Secret Ones and continued with Power Unbound.

The trilogy is set in the world of the gadda, which is really our world. But the gadda aren’t human, they are descended from different ancestors and have access to the power of the world around them and use it to perform what we humans call magic.

They look human. They act human. They live ostensibly human lives. But they are also beholden to the council of the gadda, the bardria, and the rules of the gadda which are policed by the six guardians – Sabhamir, Heasimir, Garramir, Firimir, Coiremir and Ceamir.

The most paramount thing in the life of any gadda is keeping their true identity secret from humans – being known would just be too difficult and dangerous, for gadda and humans alike.

For centuries, this has been the case. However, Asarlai has a dream – she can’t see why the gadda, with the power they can wield, aren’t rulers of the world …

****

Asarlai

 Tension hummed through her body, but the woman who called herself Asarlai didn’t dare let Rogan Connor see it. The only relief she, the sorcerer, could find was to clench her toes in her shoes. Otherwise, she kept her hands resting on her knees and her expression blank.

Connor held the amulet up to the light, looking at the crystal suspended in the middle of the knot of wood and silver. He turned the piece around, pulled it close to his eye, held it away.

‘The gem is flawless, Anna. It should work well for your needs.’

‘Thank you, Patrick.’ They had agreed at all times to use the names they’d adopted for their human personas – Connor thought there was less risk of their real identities being revealed if they refused to use them at all.

Asarlai saw the sense in it, although it was no concern of hers. Rogan Connor thought her real name was Lisa Booker, so the mistake on his part would affect her little.

However, if the guardians found out that Rogan Connor, banished murderer, was still alive, and that he had regained some use of his powers …

She looked down at her hands to check they still looked relaxed. Every day, she cursed how her genius had backfired.

She’d experimented on Ione Hammond Gorton to finally give the young woman the power she deserved. Somehow, the incantation had gone wrong and instead, Asarlai had been robbed of her power.

More than that – she’d become some sort of sink, a place where power disappeared. When she’d come toBostonto meet Connor and he’d taken her hand, she’d sucked some of his power away before either of them could react.

Luckily for Connor, what she’d taken was most of the veil of banishment placed on him. He didn’t have full access to his own power yet, but he was a smart man and soon would.

In the meantime, her lack of power made her vulnerable. She hoped this mix of incantations she’d pulled from the Forbidden Texts would solve her dilemma.

‘A remarkable idea,’ Connor said, gently putting the amulet down. ‘I am again awed by your knowledge.’

Asarlai allowed a small smile to curve her lips. Connor had made no secret of his frustration that she had information he had never known existed. He couldn’t fathom how she knew, or from where it came. She was never going to tell him of the enthralling and intriguing notions carried within the texts. He was dangerous enough.

In this case, she’d combined a common hardening incantation with her own personal potion, created for her at birth. Using a diamond as a seed, she had taught him to create a storas – a gem that should enable her to not only store power but wield it.

Star above, she hoped it worked.

‘You have the power?’

‘I do.’ Connor put the amulet down and picked up a steel container. Over the past few weeks, the two of them had been slowly milking various plants around Boston of their power. Not enough to raise the suspicions of the gadda who lived in the city. Certainly not enough to bring their actions to the attention of the guardians.

‘Speak the incantation to turn the gem into a storas, and then put the power into it.’

Asarlai closed her eyes and listened to Connor’s deep voice. Anticipation bubbled within her, like water boiling on a stove. The steam of desire and dread spread through her body.

‘Done.’

She opened her eyes and held out her hand. ‘Give it to me.’

Connor handed it over carefully, making sure he didn’t touch her. The slightest contact of skin on skin would be enough to have his power draining into her and disappearing forever.

She waited for the thrill of feeling the power nestled in her hand, and almost cried when she felt nothing. It didn’t mean failure, but she was desperate to bathe in the warmth and strength of power.

‘Leave me,’ she said.

‘I would like to watch this, Anna.’

She looked into his dark eyes and her heart shivered. He’d treated her with respect, and kindness, but she never let herself forget what he was.

A murderer. A man capable of taking a woman’s throat within his hands and crushing the life from her. And if that wasn’t enough, she knew what was in the small room behind his bed …

‘I need to be alone.’

A pause, then he nodded and walked out of the room. The thick wooden door closed behind him, but Asarlai was sure he was listening on the other side.

She closed her eyes, focussed her attention, put her partner from her mind. This, then, was the moment.

She undid her blouse, unhooked her bra with shaking fingers and put the chain over her head so the amulet rested on the middle of her chest. There, on that spot, had once burned the invisible mark of the gadda – the six-pointed star of gulagh, with a heart in the centre.

There, she hoped again to be branded and again to be a first-order gadma.

She picked up a beaker that was sitting on the floor by the leg of her chair. She looked at the pale blue liquid within and shuddered. This was going to hurt.

She took a deep breath and then poured the potion onto the amulet, over her chest. It was like jumping into a fire – instantaneous agony that drew a scream of horror from her throat.

She closed her eyes but couldn’t close her nose to the scent of burning flesh. She’d erred. Despite all her consideration and planning, she’d made the wrong choice. This wasn’t going to save her. It was going to kill her.

‘Star above.’ She barely heard Connor’s voice.

She gripped the arms of the chair, struggling to hold her body still so the potion wouldn’t spread and burn the rest of her. She thought she asked for help, but she couldn’t be sure her lips moved.

Then she was drenched in coolness, and the fire in her chest flickered and went out. Gasping, shivering, panting, she opened her eyes and looked at Connor, who stood before her with a bucket in his hands.

‘Are you hurt?’

Tears welled – tears of frustration, tears of fear. She closed her eyes and shook her head.

She could feel the skin on her chest shrinking, pulling tight and she wanted to hunch over and cover it. She opened her eyes and looked down, needing to see the damage and yet scared to do so.

There wasn’t any. The amulet lay on her chest, as clear as it had been before she threw the potion on it. She frowned, and poked at the pink skin around it. That hurt, but it wasn’t burnt.

She pushed her hand under the amulet, pressed it to her skin, and felt warmth, and a faint tingle. Her fingertips shifted and her eyes widened.

Really?

She closed her eyes, started the process of meditation that would take her to the place where her power was stored but was stopped by a veil of white mist that hid her destination. Yet within that mist was power.

Power she could use?

She wasn’t going to celebrate. Not yet. Not until she knew it was true.

She opened her eyes, and held out her hand. ‘Touch me.’

‘Anna –‘

‘Touch me, Patrick. Just quickly. You won’t lose too much power.’

He frowned. ‘Will I lose any at all?’

‘I don’t know. Touch me.’

He sucked in a breath and then quickly whipped his fingers across the palm of her hand. Nothing. His eyes widened and he repeated the movement a little slower. Then he grasped her hand, squeezing it so tightly that the delicate bones ground together.

Nothing. His power stayed put. So did hers.

‘Bloody hell.’ He released her. ‘You did it. You’re saved. You have power.’

Finally, Asarlai allowed herself to smile. ‘Yes, I do.’

He took a step backward and she could almost see the thoughts moving through his mind. He hadn’t dared attack her before – she would drain him before he did any damage. But now that wasn’t a concern, he was wondering if he could get the information he wanted from her.

‘Yes, I have power. I also have the power to drain. Remember that.’

He smiled. ‘You are a woman after my own heart, Anna Leman.’

Asarlai stood. ‘We make a good team, Patrick Dublin. If we keep that in mind, we’ll both have what we want.’

He nodded. ‘How about some champagne to celebrate?’

‘A good idea.’ She turned and led the way from the laboratory.

‘And we must discuss what will happen next.’

Asarlai had to fight not to dance through the kitchen and up the stairs. After all her fear and concern, there was a next. Her plans were back on track.

As they reached the street-level lobby, the doorbell rang. Patrick nodded towards the stairs that led to the library on the next floor. ‘I’ll join you in a moment.’

Asarlai went up to the richly furnished room and sat down on a soft, leather armchair with a contented sigh. Working towards her goals, striving to master the texts and their often inconsistent performance, had been a journey of incandescent beauty and bone-shaking pain. But at this moment, she felt a wonderful sense of calm. The end was in sight. Soon, very soon.

She heard two people coming upstairs, a woman’s voice and realised the celebration was going to be put on hold. One of Connor’s “friends” had arrived.

The door opened and her partner looked at her. ‘I’m afraid we’ll have to postpone our discussion.’

Asarlai hated many things about living with and relying on Rogan Connor, but seeing this wild heat in his eyes was the worst. Here in the human world, Connor had found the perfect way to satisfy his urges without getting into trouble.

She hoped that the women who came to see him knew what they were getting in for.

A small face was glimpsed just past his shoulder. Asarlai knew this girl. She’d been coming here regularly for several weeks now. This one seemed to relish what Connor did to her.

‘Of course. I’ll see you at dinner.’

He nodded, closed the door and she heard a giggle as footsteps continued to the floor above.

Asarlai waited until she was sure they were in Patrick’s bedroom before she went back down into the laboratory, closing the door behind her with a definite click.

Down here, she couldn’t hear the high-pitched screams and low moans of sweet pain. She could forget what was going on.

Besides, what Connor did to the humans was no concern of hers. She had a more important mission – raising the gadda to the status they deserved.

Rulers of the earth.

Chapter Seven

Charlotte was in the kitchenette, fixing her morning coffee when the shop bell rang.

She stepped into the shop to see a newbie. But this one wasn’t reacting like any newbie she’d ever seen. Dressed from head to toe in unrelenting black, he was looking around the shop with an expression of interest and admiration.

There were few people in her experience suited to all black, but this man was one of them. He was slender but obviously strong, his features sharp and radiating confidence. This was a man who was powerful and admired and knew he deserved it.

It was generally a combination that really turned her off, but there was something about him that wouldn’t let her deny him so quickly. Perhaps it was his pale eyes, giving him an otherworldly air.

He moved over to the bottles, put his hand to his chin for a moment then reached for one and unstoppered. He brushed the scent into his nostrils, his lips twisted and he put the bottle away. He smelt two more bottles, then put them back with a frown.

He spun around. ‘Is this all the oil you have?’

Ah. No wonder he hadn’t reacted like a typical newbie. He might be new to her store but he wasn’t new to the philosophies.

‘My real oils are here.’ She went over and opened the door. He walked past her and she was surprised by the gentle sweep of his scent across her nostrils. He wasn’t wearing any cologne, but his natural smell was good. Very good.

He lifted one bottle, smelt it and nodded. Then he started to collect oil without continuing to smell them. He took the bottles over to her work table. ‘Four parts bergamot, two parts juniper berry and clove bud, one part basil and lemon. Please.’

His Irish accent rolled over her, its tone touching something deep within her. It was a moment before Charlottenodded and got out her measuring tools to make up a bottle. As she worked, the man kept wandering around the store. He picked up one of her anthames and tested the edge with a finger, then nodded and put it back. He looked at the voodoo dolls for some time. Then he turned back to her.

‘Is there any more to the store?’

Charlotte was a little taken aback by his blunt manner but she was too professional a shop keeper to let that show. ‘I have a reading room, through there.’ She pointed to the door.

He nodded and walked over, pushing the door open and stepping inside. Charlotte shook her head and finished his concoction. Then she lifted it to her nose and took a deep sniff.

It felt like her entire soul had been lifted and the air around her was filled with beautiful music. She stared down at the potion, amazed. If she bottled and sold this, she could make a fortune.

Her next thought was that she couldn’t do that. This formula belonged to her mysterious customer. But perhaps she could fiddle with it, create something unique but just as beautiful based on it. She got out a pad and wrote down the formula.

He walked out of the reading room and she pushed the pad under some papers. Then she put a sticker on the bottle and smiled at him. ‘What shall I write on it?’

‘Nothing.’ He held his hand out. Charlotte kept a smile plastered to her face as she handed the bottle over. He took a sniff and then smiled. ‘Perfect. Your oils are remarkable. Do you squeeze them yourself?’

Charlotte felt a glow within. ‘Some I do at home, with an old wooden press. That makes the difference, I think.’

Amazingly, he shook his head. ‘No, the difference is you do it with love. What do I owe you?’

‘One hundred dollars.’ She tipped her head to one side. She just couldn’t get a read on this man. He was confident, almost arrogantly so, spoke his mind, yet was connected enough to himself to recognise quality oils.

He looked at her for a moment and she wondered if he hadn’t heard her. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out ten perfectly crisp ten dollar bills. He handed them over and smiled. ‘Thank you. I shall certainly return for more of your wonderful oils.’

Charlotte looked at the brand new bills in her hand and so he was almost out the door when she realised she didn’t know his name. ‘Wait.’ She jumped to her feet and rushed around the table. ‘I don’t know your name.’

He lifted a dark eyebrow. ‘Is that important?’

‘I like to know the names of all my clients. The widening family of my life is what inspires me when I’m making my oils.’

‘Then I would hate to disturb your making of your oils.’ He held a hand out. ‘My name is Hampton Rourke.’

‘I’m Charlotte Haraldson.’ She grasped his hand and as she did, a shock of energy ran up her arm. She pulled her hand back quickly and looked up at him. He smiled at her as if he had noticed nothing.

‘Pleased to meet you, Charlotte Haraldson, and thank you for the wonderful oils.’ Then he turned, pushed the door open and was gone.

Charlotte moved slowly back to her table and slumped down into a chair. Her mind was focussed on her reaction to that simple contact. The only people she felt that with were her family: Patrick and her mother. But that idea led to the conclusion that the man she had just shaken hands with was gadda.

She pressed her hand to her thudding heart. A gadda, here, in her store. And for just a moment there, she had found him attractive. She shivered.

The scent of the potion reached her, as beautiful as it had been. She chewed on her lip as she stared her glass mixing bowl. How could a creature as morally bankrupt as a gadda create something so magnificent? Because the potion is really evil, she told herself. It’s evil and you’ve helped him.

She picked up the bowl and ran into the kitchenette, scrubbing at it. But the smell wouldn’t leave and in frustration, she threw the bowl – it shattered and small shards of glass flew around the sink. She walked backwards until she felt the wall behind her. Then she leant all her weight against it, wrapping her arms around her waist. If she had recognised the gadda, he would have recognised her. He was probably contacting his friends right now, telling them where she was, hunting her.

She ran into the shop, grabbed her bag and ran to the door. She stepped outside, locked it while looking over her shoulder to see if she was being watched. Then she ran to her car, jumped in and drove to the brownstone that had been her family home for generations.

She flung open the door and ran into the hallway. ‘Papa. Papa, where are you?’

There was a pause, then the studio door opened and Patrick stepped into the hall. ‘Charlotte, control yourself. There is no purpose to making such a scene.’

‘They’ve found me.’ She rushed forward, her hands outstretched. He took her hands as she skidded to a halt in front of him. ‘What will I do?’

‘You will calm down and take three deep breaths.’ His voice was stern but he squeezed her hands reassuringly.

Charlotte stopped herself and took three deep breaths. They worked and when she started speaking again, it was with more control and less panic. ‘Is anyone here?’ What if she’d blurted out about the gadda in front of his staff?

Patrick shook his head. ‘No, it’s just me.’

‘Good. A gadda just came into my store.’

Patrick released one of her hands and used the other to pull her up the stairs to the next floor and into the library. He pushed her down into one of the large leather chairs, then went over to the drinks cabinet and poured her a measure of scotch. He brought it back to her and stood over her, his arms folded over his chest until she had drained the glass. Then he said, ‘How do you know they were gadda?’

‘We shook hands as he left and my hand tingled, just as it does when I touch you.’ Charlotte looked down at the empty glass. The warm liquor was moving through her, relaxing her.

Patrick moved over to the matching leather armchair and sat down. He crossed his legs and leant back into the seat. His calmness soothed her further. ‘What does he look like?’

Charlotte pulled a picture of the man into her mind. ‘He’s tall, slender, dark hair and grey eyes.’ Nice eyes, actually. Very nice. She shook her head. Stop that, Charlotte. ‘He dresses totally in black, down to his socks. He said his name was Hampton Rourke.’ She focussed her attention back on Patrick in time to see the light of interest in his eye.

‘Well, well, well.’ He lifted a hand to stroke his chin while a smile began to spread across his face. ‘I didn’t expect this move. Well done, Sabhamir.’

Charlotte frowned. ‘Sabhamir? What are you talking about?’

‘The Sabhamir is a third order gadma, the most powerful gadda alive. He’s the Bardria’s watchdog, ensures the gadda keep toeing the line. The current Sabhamir is a man called Stephen Rourke. The young man you met is probably his son.’

‘The son of the Bardria’s watchdog?’ Charlotte leaned forward. ‘That can’t be good.’

‘It could well be he simply stumbled upon you by accident,’ Patrick murmured, his attention focussed on the carpet between his feet. Then he looked up at Charlotte. ‘But now he knows, he’ll report you to his father. The Rourkes were always sticklers for the rules.’

Charlotte pressed her hands together, struggling to retain her composure. ‘Then I have to leave. I have to get away, before they come for me.’

‘Perhaps.’ Patrick got to his feet and walked over to the window, clasping his hands behind his back and staring out at the garden.

Charlotte recognised the pose. He always did that when he needed to think clearly. She forced herself to lean back into the chair and relax. Patrick would come up with a solution.

After several minutes, he turned around. ‘You’re going to stay here and I’m going to go and watch the shop. I’ll see who turns up. If the Sabhamir appears then we will both have to leave, but if not, we may have some bargaining time.’

‘You can’t trust gadda.’ She solemnly recalled his refrain.

Patrick nodded. ‘Since I know that, I have an advantage. They won’t be able to take me in. Now, I want you to try to relax. I promise you, the gadda won’t get you. I won’t let them.’

Charlotte smiled. ‘I know that.’

Patrick walked over and pressed a kiss to her forehead. ‘Tell Cook to rustle up a Bourbon Stew for dinner.’

‘Yum.’ Bourbon Stew was her favourite. Patrick’s way of letting her know she would be taken care of.

Patrick nodded, then walked out the door.Charlotte sat in the chair for a few minutes, telling herself again and again everything would be all right before heading off towards the kitchen.

 *

Hampton transferred back to his office after his visit to Charlotte’s Chamber. Maggie, Kenyon and Owen jumped up from their seats on the lounge.

‘Well?’ Maggie said. ‘Did you find something?’

Hampton slumped into his chair. ‘That’s an understatement.’

He’d been impressed the moment he walked into the shop – it was a calm space, with the items well displayed. He’d felt instantly comfortable there, something that didn’t often happen in human spaces.

When he’d realised she stored her oils so well, and made some herself, his admiration for the lovely Charlotte had grown. She had an innate understanding of energy that he’d never come across in a human before.

Then he’d touched her, and discovered that the understanding wasn’t innate – she was gadda. A gadda he did not know. A gadda with their power activated.

A gadda he was instantly attracted to.

He looked up at the guardians and wondered why they were all staring at him, then realised they were waiting for an answer. He decided to inform himself before he talked. ‘Owen, what did you find out?’

‘Went to all the stores in Ireland and checked them out against the Bardria travel notices. There’s no sign of any mysterious visits or purchases.’

‘Right. Well, let me tell you what I found. I went to Charlotte’s Bower, to get a potion mixed. I thought I was talking to a normal, human girl until I shook her hand as I left. Charlotte Haraldson is gadda.’

His fellow guardians frowned at him. ‘I don’t recall any gadda called Charlotte Haraldson,’ Kenyon said.

Owen frowned. ‘Haraldson? That doesn’t sound particularly Irish.’

‘I’ve got two ideas,’ Hampton said. ‘One: she’s one of the lost gadda, who changed their names to hide from us. Two: Rogan Connor isn’t the only banished gadda to have a child that retained their power.’

Maggie leant on the desk. ‘Did you recognise her essence?’

Hampton shook his head. ‘I barely touched her long enough to register her power. She felt mine as well: she jumped and then looked at me as if I were the devil incarnate.’

‘It wouldn’t be surprising if the lost families taught their children to fear the rest of the gadda, so they wouldn’t go back,’ Owen said.

‘There’s a further complication,’ Hampton said. ‘I didn’t just feel she was gadda. I felt her power. She’s been trained, to some level at least.’

He couldn’t help but smile at the three stunned expressions looking down at him. ‘What the hell?’ Maggie said.

‘So, we’ve got a gadda we’ve never heard of before, who has access to their power and has a shop that seems to be connected to the beasts.’ As he spoke, Hampton ticked the points off on his fingers.

‘Blair has found a lost gadda. Or a banished child. Doesn’t matter. She’s found one, and she’s training them, and without Bardria guidance,’ Owen said.

‘Which Blair is capable of doing,’ Maggie said. ‘She was the head of the gadda school, remember.’

‘Take me to thisCharlotte,’ Kenyon said. ‘I need to know how she’s doing.’

Hamptonnodded, then held his hand out to Kenyon so the Garramir could touch it and follow him. Then he transferred to the tangled garden of an abandoned house near the shop.

Charlotte’s Chamber was on the next block. As they neared the store, an aura of emptiness came over Hampton. When they reached the door, he put his hand forward to push it open. The door wouldn’t move.

‘Locked,’ he said.

Kenyon moved closer, put his hands over his eyes and tried to look inside the shop. ‘All the lights are still on, so someone must be inside. But I can’t see anyone.’

‘There are three back areas; the oil room, a reading room and I guess the other is a toilet. She might be in there.’

‘Or she might have transferred out.’

Hampton looked around. There were people walking up and down the street. ‘We’ll go back to the garden and transfer into the shop.’

Kenyon agreed and they walked back to the abandoned house. This time,Hampton pushed his hands together, pictured the shop and pulled apart the space between them and their destination, so they could go in without gaining Charlotte’s permission.

They stood in the middle of the store and waited. There wasn’t a sound.

‘This is quite a nice little place.’ Kenyon looked around. ‘It would go down well at home.’

‘I’ll check out the back rooms. That is her work table, see what you can find out from there.’ Hampton pointed to the round table then made his way over to the hidden door. He pushed it open and stepped into the reading room.

It was brightly coloured and luxuriously furnished with large, silk pillows and drapes of cloth across the ceiling. It wasn’t a room to relax in but rather one designed to inflame the senses. Hampton picked up all the pillows and placed his foot on every inch of the floor but he couldn’t pick up the resonance that told him a transference had occurred here.

There wasn’t one in the oil room either. He went over to the third door and as he pushed the door open, a sweet smell washed over him. His potion.

After noting that the room was empty, he looked around. The benches were incredibly clean, every item precisely placed. He stepped closer and a glint in the sink caught his eye. He leaned over and looked down on a mess of glass shards. He reached down and carefully touched one of the larger shards. Then he lifted his finger to his nose.

‘What is it?’

He turned to look at Kenyon. ‘The bowl she used to mix my potion. She must have thrown it into the sink.’ He turned and walked back out into the shop. He stopped at Charlotte’s table and picked up a book. A writing pad lay beneath and on the paper, the recipe for his potion. He ripped the sheet of paper off the pad, folded it and put it in his pocket. Then he looked around.

‘She must have left not long after I did and seems to have done so by conventional means.’

‘Either she isn’t strong enough to transfer any distance or she was too upset to think of it.’ Kenyon walked out of the kitchenette and joined him. ‘That smashed bowl signifies someone under great emotional duress.’

‘Can you get any sense of her power?’

Kenyon shook his head. ‘Where-ever she uses her power, it isn’t here. This is as blank as a human place. Although it’s nice.’

‘So we need to find her home?’

‘Easy. Wait and watch the store, and when she next comes here, follow her home.’

Hampton frowned. ‘Will she come back? It seems I scared her off.’

‘Yeah, I can understand why.’ Kenyon grinned. ‘I often want to run from you myself.’

Hampton rolled his eyes. ‘Not helping, Ken.’

‘Sorry. Look, there’s no doubt she values this place – you don’t put this sort of care into something that’s not important to you. I think it will be damn hard for her to leave without coming back. So I think we can safely assume she will.’

‘I suppose we’ve got no other option.’Hamptonlooked around the shop. Kenyon was right – there was a very nice feel to it. ‘We have to find out who she is and what’s going on, regardless of whether she’s involved with the Forbidden Texts or not.’

‘Oxam’s peepers?’

Hampton shook his head. The incantation, known only to the guardians, enabled the caster to have a view into a space. ‘Blair is first-order gadma. She has power and control enough to sense the peepers in a non-powered space like this, and could probably even nullify them thanks to the texts.’

‘Then it seems we need to pick Maggie’s brain for human ways.’

The two men transferred back toHampton’s office and within moments, Maggie had joined them.

‘Well?’

‘There’s definitely something going on there,’ Hampton said. ‘We need to keep an eye on her, but we can’t do it with gadda means.’

‘Ooooh, a stakeout.’

It was a word that seemed familiar. ‘What’s that again?’

‘You know, when a couple of cops set up a place to covertly watch someone. Mostly in a car.’

‘Ah.’ Maggie had been both entertaining and informing he and Owen with regular viewings of human cop shows. ‘That sounds perfect.’

‘Now, the question is how. Tell me about the street.’

‘Mostly houses,’ Hampton said, sitting down at his desk. ‘There’s a few shops, although Charlotte’s is the only one with a flat above it. There’s a pub down on one corner but otherwise it’s all houses.’

‘Not sure a car is such a good idea, then. People sitting in a car all the time would be noted in a residential area. What we need is to get a room somewhere, preferably in a building across the street or even in the flat above Charlotte’s shop. What’s the address of her shop?’

Hampton gave it to her and she nodded. ‘Will be right back.’ She disappeared.

‘We’ll have to work out a roster,’ Kenyon said. ‘Take turns to watch her and be ready to back someone else if they’re summoned away.’

Hamptonleant back in his chair. ‘If you had to hazard a guess as to what’s going on, what would you say?’

‘I’d say that the work isn’t being done in that building. Blair is elsewhere. I would err on the side of thinking that Charlotte is working with Blair. It’s too co-incidental, otherwise.’

‘I didn’t feel any darkness in her when I touched her,’ Hamptons aid. In fact, touching her – even for that brief moment – had been quite nice.

‘Maybe Blair’s not allowing her apprentices to actually work with the texts any more. It certainly backfired for her here in Sclossin.’

Hamptonnodded. Blair had had six apprentices in Sclossin; all but one were now dead. Brian Mochrie had been killed when he’d been discovered using the Forbidden Texts in an effort to seduce Ione Gorton – Hampton guessed it was Blair herself who had killed him rather than be found out. The other four – Lachy Ackland, Ellen Pearce, Glen Flaherty and Grace Smyth – had died when the huge peat bog monster they’d created as a diversion while Blair escaped had been destroyed.

The only one to survive was Shauna Connell, and Shauna was now locked away in the basement of the bardria building and would never be free again.

‘MaybeCharlotte’s acting more as a lackey – supplying her with goods, driving her aroundBostonto send off monsters, that sort of thing.’

‘OK,’ Maggie said as she re-appeared in the middle of the room, ‘I have some very, very, extremely interesting news.’

‘Which is?’

‘There is a flat available for rent on that street right now. Guess where, and guess who the landlord is? Or should I say landlady?’

Hamptonsmiled. ‘So, it seems I’m going to be going back to see Charlotte Haraldson again.’

‘Maybe you shouldn’t,’ Kenyon said. ‘Maybe someone else should, since you seemed to scare the crap out of her.’

‘And let her know there’s more gadda around?’Hamptonshook his head. ‘If I make it all look innocent, then Blair might well decide I haven’t followed her, relax and then she’ll make the mistake we’re all waiting for.’

‘I agree,’ Maggie said. ‘Blair’s undoubtedly been filling Charlotte’s head with stories about the bardria. IfHamptoncan convince her that we’re the good guys, we might get a well-needed rat in Blair’s nest.’

‘Rat in a nest?’

‘Language lesson later,’Hamptonsaid, waving his hand in the air. ‘Maggie, you need to educate me on what I need to do to get Charlotteto rent that flat to me.’

‘Shouldn’t be too hard,’ Maggie said. ‘Just be your usual charming self and she won’t be able to resist.’

Hamptonhad an image of himself charming Charlotte, making her relax, making her smile, and thrust it from his mind.

He needed to be all business if this was going to work.

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One Response

  1. […] Doesn’t it just make you wonder? Why is this dark woman looking for a fragrance? Who is Charlotte, and what does she do? You can find answers to all this and more by hieing thyself out rightthissecond and purchasing Rogue Gadda for your very own. You can find it on the Kindle, at the iBook store, and on Kobo. Or, for a deeper taste of Nicole’s strange new world, you can read the longer excerpt. […]

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