The agents of Supernatural Protection & Investigations (SPI) are paid to keep the peace. But that’s not so easy when an endless evil threatens to tear that peace to pieces…
A vampire gangster’s nephew is abducted off his yacht by a bunch of low-rent Creatures from the Black Lagoon. A slew of banks are knocked over by what looks like the cast of Night of the Living Dead. All of this may seem like the movies, but, I promise you, it’s not.
I’m Makenna Fraser, seer for SPI, and I know the culprits aren’t wearing disguises or makeup. They’re real. Deadly real. Especially their leader—an ancient shapeshifter who leaves a trail of chaos and blood in his wake. Now, he’s taken my partner, Ian—and his intentions aren’t pretty.
The worst part? This is only the beginning…
The beginning of the end of the human race.
It felt downright surreal. What would the folks back home think if they could see me now?
Being on a date with Rake Danescu was getting to be a regular thing for me, but being part of a floating A-list gathering was a first. Usually when I got to go somewhere this fancy, it was entirely work related. Tonight was only slightly about my job. Rake was the one here on business. I was here mostly for fun, partly in case Rake’s business became SPI’s business.
My name is Makenna Fraser, and I work for SPI. That’s Supernatural Protection & Investigations, to the world’s paranormal community. Humans had police, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and Interpol. Paranormals had SPI. We were all of the above rolled into one. SPI was a worldwide organization, headquartered here in New York. I was one of five seers in the entire agency.
Criminals, supernatural and otherwise, often used disguises. Supernatural bad guys and gals used more advanced means of going undetected. “Advanced” as in magic. Any paranormal criminal worthy of his, her, or its rap sheet had an arsenal of wards, glamours, veils, shields, and various and sundry spells that helped them go undetected. A good seer could see through any and all of them. It was a talent that made us popular with supernatural law enforcement organizations—and a target of supernatural crime syndicates.
There were high-ranking representatives of some of the latter here tonight. It was my job to know their faces without letting them know mine. But these weren’t the people who committed the crimes. Their hands were clean and their reputations pristine. Organized crime most definitely paid, and the ladies and gentlemen at the top of those organizations were especially keen to spread goodwill through philanthropy. In fact, that was the reason for tonight’s gathering on a hundred-and-fifty-foot yacht cruising the Hudson River on a balmy evening in late June.
Some of the oldest people on board looked the youngest, and it wasn’t due to plastic surgery. Their fountain of youth was an endless series of throats and the blood that flowed through them.
The yacht’s owner was a vampire. Bela Báthory was the nephew and presumed heir of Ambrus Báthory, the head of the most powerful vampire crime family on the East Coast.
The yacht’s name was the Persephone. A little dose of vampire irony there. Demeter was the name of the ship that had brought Dracula to England. Persephone was Demeter’s daughter.
The men were in black tie, and the majority of the women were wearing high heels and even higher hemlines, or flowing gowns with slits up to there. The yacht was big, but it wasn’t big enough to be stable enough for me to walk around on high-heel-elevated-tippy-toes. For me, it was lower heels, lower hemline, and Dramamine, with no alcohol. Dramamine plus drinking would equal me falling overboard. A midnight swim was not in my plans for this evening.
Rake made sure that I could hear him walking up behind me. He didn’t want to go for a swim, either. Now that I was duly forewarned, Rake slid a hand, then his arm around my waist. My pulse kicked up for a few beats. A normal man wouldn’t have felt it. Rake wasn’t a normal man. In a satisfied response, he tightened his hold ever so slightly. When it came to Rake, my pulse—and hormones—refused to go along with my better judgment which dictated extreme caution. They were more along the lines of tossing caution to the wind—along with my undies. For now, my better judgment was in the driver’s seat.
Rake and I stood together gazing out across the river to the lights of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
“What did he say?” I asked.
“He was receptive to my offer,” Rake said. “My cards are on the table. The next move is his. Now, I wait.”
Rake’s seemingly impromptu meeting at one of the yacht’s bars had been with a private investment banker. Rake was representing a group of entrepreneurial businessmen looking for capital. At least that’s what it was on the surface. In actuality, Rake represented his government’s intelligence agency looking to get a foothold in a new technology before the competition.
However, none of the parties involved were human.
Rake Danescu was a goblin. The competition was, is, and probably would always be the elves. They hadn’t been at war for several centuries, but that didn’t mean they played nice, especially not on our world.
SPI didn’t get involved in goblin/elf politics. That being said, we’d found it prudent to know what was going on. Very often what was considered by goblin and elven governments to be a “private matter” spilled over into criminal activity affecting others. Then it became SPI’s business. Rake didn’t let us in on every aspect of his business dealings, but he had agreed to bring us into the loop when his business was about to cross the streams with our job—namely keeping the peace between supernaturals, and keeping the supernatural world secret from humans.
The streams had been crossing an awful lot lately.
Rake’s business was booming. Unfortunately, so was ours. Some of it was a direct result of goblin/elf dealings, but most of it was not.
I’d been appointed by my boss, Vivienne Sagadraco, as the official go-between. She knew that Rake and I were seeing each other, so “SPI/goblin intelligence liaison” had been added to my job description—at least, as long as Rake and I were dating. If our relationship ever went down the drain, we’d reevaluate my additional responsibilities at that time. Even my boss—who was a multi-millennia-old dragon in the guise of a fierce businesswoman who reminded me a bit of Judy Dench—recognized the awkwardness of continuing to professionally liaise when a liaison of a more personal nature had gone south.
One of the few things I’d actually managed to learn about the mysterious Rake Danescu was that you never knew which way things were going to go. Goblins were like that.
The motives of mortal men were difficult enough to figure out. Goblins—whether involved in politics, business, or interpersonal relations—made Machiavelli look like an intrigue dilettante. When it came to supernatural beings, but especially goblins, very little was actually as it seemed.
Like Rake Danescu’s motives when it came to me. I didn’t know what they were. Okay, I take that back. I knew exactly what they were. Him, me, horizontal. Or vertical. I didn’t think Rake was picky about the particulars.
Rake was gorgeous, rich, brilliant, and could charm anything off of anyone regardless of sex, race, or supernatural species. I was from a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. I was human, average height, blond hair, green eyes, and I’d been told that I looked about as threatening as a declawed kitty cat. My grandma Fraser had always told me I had “little dog syndrome”—small size, big attitude, delusions of toughness. I made enough money at SPI to keep a nice East Village roof over my head, and I was pretty much immune to charm. Though that last characteristic was probably due to an excess of caution and suspicion in my nature than actual immunity.
Rake was a dark mage, which meant he was absurdly talented in a type of magic most sane people wouldn’t mess with. Rake wasn’t most people, or even most goblins. Though as far as I’d been able to determine in the time that we’d known each other, he was sane, at least most of the time. He was also cunning, crafty, and conniving. In short, Rake Danescu was a perfect goblin. Anyone who looked at him and there were plenty of those right now, both women and men—would see a tall, dark, and unwholesomely handsome man.
As a seer, I saw past Rake’s human glamour to his pale gray skin, pointed ears, and—a goblin’s most distinguishing feature—his fangs. He was still breathtakingly beautiful, albeit in an exotic way. Unlike the vampires on board, Rake didn’t use his fangs for feeding, just defense, offense, and making women crazy. He’d slowly grazed the back of my neck once, so I could attest to that last point from personal experience. The tingles hadn’t stopped for days.
It hadn’t gone beyond that. Yet.
All I wanted was a nice guy. At least I used to think I did. Now I wasn’t so sure. There was a lot to be said about a brilliant, fascinating, inter-dimensional goblin spy of mystery with tingles-inducing fangs.
I was being cautious. Rake was being respectful of my caution. So, that was where we were. Also, we’d both been busy. Time together hadn’t been easy to come by. And SPI had been busier than normal since the first of the year, and we thought it had everything to do with what had happened a couple of weeks before Christmas, when an enterprising demon lord and his elf dark mage partner had come entirely too close to creating a direct flight from Hell to New York.
Some people would argue that it already existed. The demon-and-elf diabolical duo had opened a Hellpit directly under Bacchanalia, which had been the crown jewel of Rake’s business and spy empire and the city’s most exclusive sex club. Yes, I said “had been,” as in past tense. Bacchanalia didn’t exist anymore. It had collapsed into the sinkhole created when we essentially slammed the gate to Hell.
Yep, Rake had run a sex club. In fact, that was where we had met on my first night on the job—at SPI, not Bacchanalia.
Never one to lament losing one of his crown jewels, Rake had thrown himself into rebuilding the intelligence gathering web the demon lord and elf dark mage’s activity had damaged, and was playing catch-up with a vengeance.
The yacht had been moving at a leisurely cruising speed up the Hudson—then it wasn’t.
The engines had stopped.
I glanced at a now frowning Rake. “Are we supposed to stop?”
The yacht slowed its forward motion, but didn’t come to a complete stop. The Hudson was a tidal river, or to be more exact, an estuary. The Hudson had two high and two low tides within each twenty-four-hour time frame. The tide’s rise and fall actually changed the direction of the flow. Not that we needed to worry about that. At least I didn’t think we did.
That thought had no sooner crossed my mind when the yacht shuddered beneath our feet. It didn’t simply stop, it was jerked to a stop, and I was grateful not to be wearing high heels. I grabbed the railing. Rake grabbed the railing with one hand and tightened his grip on me with the other.
Then the lights went out, immediately followed by screams and shouts.
Rake pulled me away from the railing, but not before I saw a long, dark shape knife through the water.
I’d been out on deck long enough that my eyes were already adjusted to the dark. Those inside the salon had gone from bright light to no light. Those below decks were in total darkness until the emergency lights kicked in. Even the vampires and goblins would need time for their night vision to adjust.
It stayed dark.
Rake pulled us over against the salon windows to keep us from being trampled by panicked passengers.
I tried to further flatten myself. “Doesn’t this thing have emergency lights?”
That one word told me what I didn’t want to know.
This was no accident. And when your host was near the top of the supernatural crime food chain, any non-accident could be very bad for anyone unlucky enough to be around him. I had no intention of going from party guest to collateral damage.
A dark column as big around as a power pole and nearly as long rose out of the water and fell across the railing not twenty feet from where we stood. The tapered tip crashed through a salon window, then withdrew and flailed blindly until it found the railing and coiled around it, getting a good grip.
Power poles weren’t in the middle of rivers, and they definitely didn’t have suction cups.
It was a giant tentacle.
About the Author & Links:
Lisa Shearin is the New York Times bestselling author of the Raine Benares novels, a comedic fantasy adventure series, as well as the SPI Files novels (The Brimstone Deception, The Dragon Conspiracy, The Grendel Affair), an urban fantasy series best described as Men in Black with supernaturals instead of aliens. Lisa is a voracious collector of fountain pens, teapots, and teacups, both vintage and modern. She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her husband, three spoiled-rotten retired racing greyhounds, and enough deer and woodland creatures to fill a Disney movie.