Excerpts

From Dark Light of Day, Chapter 9

“I’ve been watching you, wondering, waiting to see where you’d end up. After all, there are other demon law schools,” Seknecus said, making a moue of distaste that made it clear exactly what he thought of them. “But I was happy to see that you chose St. Lucifer’s.”

Technically my mother chose St. Lucifer’s . . . But there seemed no reason to interrupt to clarify that bit of misinformation. Seknecus wandered around the room, picking through papers, flipping open and quickly shutting the front covers of various leather-bound books, never meeting my eye. I had no doubt, however, that his attention was fully focused on me.

“So, you see, seeing your name on my list wasn’t exactly a surprise, although it appeared much later than I would have liked.”

He did look at me then, with a frown of disapproval. I did my best to look expressionless because none seemed appropriate. It wouldn’t do to look amused, bored or, Luck forbid, rebellious. Seknecus stared at me with narrowed eyes and then went back to wandering.

“You’ve got some catching up to do,” he said, addressing a copy of Sin and Sanction: Codification & Case Law. “It doesn’t matter why or what excuses you’ve got for yourself. You will be held to the same standards as everyone else, regardless of whose daughter you are. And you’ve missed a lot of class already.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but he cut me off with a wave.

“Manipulation class,” he clarified. “You’re going to have to work ten times as hard as everyone else just to pass. Quintus Rochester doesn’t go easy on students and he’s likely to see your absence during the early part of the semester as a challenge. You know, failing is not an option. Not if you want to live . . .”

From Fiery Edge of Steel, Chapter 6

“You are familiar with Empyr wine, Ms. Onyx?” Rochester asked.

I nodded warily.

Angels were obsessed with apples. They took their love of this fruit very seriously, worshipping it as a symbol of the lost world they once ruled. A common motif in Angel art was the fallen apple that never rotted. Empyr wines were apple wines that were “enhanced” by some of the best Angel sommeliers in Halja. The enhancements were spells. Each batch had its own name, flavor, coloring, and associated spell. They were served upstairs in the Angels’ infamous restaurant on this building’s thirty-third floor.

I’d had Empyr wine exactly two times in my life. Each time it had produced life-altering effects, although in an indirect manner and not of the kind I could have guessed.

Friedrich turned back toward me and offered me the cup. Inside, the liquid was pink and fizzy and flecked with gold. I reached for the cup and there was a brief moment when I wasn’t sure Friedrich would let go. Was the spell tied to his touch? I yanked harder and the wine nearly spilled out of the cup as it broke free from his grasp. Rochester’s signature nudged mine, like a parent pinching an errant child. I glanced back at Ari, who gave me a tight smile.

I tipped the cup to my lips and drank. Immediately, a bitter, chalky taste filled my mouth. I hid my grimace, finished, and handed the cup back to Friedrich.

“This batch is called ‘Fortuna’s Favorites,’” Friedrich said. “Think you’re one of them?”

Time will tell, I thought, but said instead, “Fortes fortuna adiuvat.” Fortune favors the bold. Another of Dorio’s sayings. Maybe Fitz had the right idea.

Friedrich grunted. Ari grinned.

Rochester held off magically pinching me again. Instead, he handed me a white linen napkin.

“A gift from this batch’s sommelier,” he said. “Some words of wisdom regarding this semester’s assignment.”

I choked back a laugh. From tea leaves to wine tannins, where Angels fear not to tread . . . I accepted the napkin and wiped my mouth gently. I’d been generous in this morning’s application of Daredevil Red lip paint. Who knew what my fortune might be if I added too much of that to the mix? But the laugh died in my throat as I looked down at my napkin. Slowly, a stain of words appeared:

When traveling into the unknown, sometimes the biggest danger is the one you bring with you . . .

From White Heart of Justice, Chapter 7

I paid the cab driver his fare, and we climbed out. In front of us, on a high windswept hill on the outskirts of north New Babylon, was the Crystal Palace. We made our way up the steep stone steps that led to its entrance and I imagined how enticing this building might look during spring. With its great glass dome full of wintery winds nestled atop a hill full of grass and flowers, it would, no doubt, look like an enormous snow globe set on a colorful perch, a veritable beacon to would-be adventurers, Haljan hunters, and other wannabe travelers dreaming of something different. Today, however, there was little difference between the gray sky behind the building and the gray atmosphere within it.

Just outside the entrance was a fountain, but instead of water, this one sprayed snow. At its base was a sign:

Winter either bites with its teeth or lashes with its tail.
Make a wish and swish.
All proceeds benefit
Kalisto’s Hunters’ Widows’ and Children’s Fund

Beneath the sign was a cup for offerings. I looked up and suddenly my pulse and signature skyrocketed with the snow. High above the fountain was the wispy outline of a yeti—a snow beast. Its face materialized from the snow with black eyes the size of the cab we’d just climbed out of and an open jaw at least half the size of Timothy’s Square. It swooped toward us, teeth gnashing, just as Rafe dropped a coin in the cup. He waved his hand in the air and the snow yeti slowly dissolved. A mist of cold, wet snow rained down on us.

“Did you wish for an umbrella?” I said, wiping my cheek with the hem of my cloak.

“Nope, I made a serious wish.”

I gave him a dubious look. “Uh-huh. Let me guess. You wished that Kalisto would have a nose warmer with whiskers inside?”

He shook his head.

“Levitating snowshoes?”

Same response.

“Hot chocolate, at least?”

Rafe didn’t answer. Instead he locked his arm with mine and led me toward the iron-doored entrance. On the way, he sang softly:

“I wished I could kiss your gap-toothed smile.”

When he saw my reaction, he stifled a laugh.

“It would be bliss to do so awhile.”

He stopped abruptly and turned me toward him, keeping a hold on my shoulders.

“But you’re fierce and you’re fiery and oh so wisery.”

He lowered his head close to mine and then said sotto voce:

“So it’s certain you’d yell, ‘Go straight to hell!’”

The wind buffeted us from every direction as the snow continued to fall from above. Suddenly, I was acutely aware that Rafe was holding onto me. He stared at me and for a single second I wondered if he’d meant it when he’d said he wished for something serious.

“Wisery?” I said finally, stepping back. “Only you could come up with a word like that, Rafe.”