Read Shotgun Sorceress Online

Authors: Lucy A. Snyder

Shotgun Sorceress

W
orried anew that I was losing my ability to use white magic, I began to pace around the yard, holding my flame hand well away from my body.

“You should try to get some rest,” Pal said.

“I will, in a little while.” I was absolutely bone-tired, and wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep for the next sixteen hours, but I was afraid of what might happen once I drifted off.
If
I drifted off.

My flame hand seemed to catch on something. I looked down, puzzled. I was out in the middle of the yard; there wasn’t so much as a tall dandelion nearby. I waved my hand through the empty air. And there it was again, the sensation of an invisible seam.

“Hey, there’s something weird over here,” I said to Pal. “Can you see or feel anything?”

He came over to investigate. “No, I don’t sense anything … What is it?”

“I’m not sure.” I blinked through several views with my enchanted stone eye. One showed a faint blue rectangular outline in the air, just barely perceptible.

Acting on a hunch, I dug my flame fingers into the seam and pulled. A small door swung open midair, revealing the inside of a wooden shipping crate. It was a little bigger than a school gym locker, maybe three feet tall and two feet wide, and perhaps as many deep. Stacked inside were several plastic-wrapped bricks of white powder and compressed plant matter. The air inside was musty with a familiar sweetly weedy odor.

A
LSO BY
L
UCY
A. S
NYDER

Spellbent

Books published by The Random House Publishing Group are available at quantity discounts on bulk purchases for premium, educational, fund-raising, and special sales use. For details, please call 1-800-733-3000.

Shotgun Sorceress
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

2010 Ballantine Books Mass Market Original

Copyright © 2010 by Lucy Snyder

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

B
ALLANTINE
and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-345-52180-4

www.ballantinebooks.com

v3.1

For Sara Larson,
who, it should be noted,
bears absolutely no resemblance
to the Sara you’ll find in this book.
Well, okay, there’s one resemblance:
her kitten Fred is indeed a little devil.

Contents

Cover
Other Books by This Author
Title Page
Copyright
Dedication
Acknowledgments
Part One - Suburban Outlaws
Chapter One - A Kick in the Head
Chapter Two - Cursed
Chapter Three - Youthful Indiscretions
Chapter Four - Raising the Tent
Chapter Five - Hellement
Chapter Six - Siobhan’s Boys
Chapter Seven - Riviera
Chapter Eight - Mirror, Mirror
Chapter Nine - Cooper
Chapter Ten - Faery
Chapter Eleven - A Hole in the Sky
Part Two - The Devil in Miss Shimmer
Chapter Twelve - A Bale of Trouble
Chapter Thirteen - Texas Hold ’Em
Chapter Fourteen - Mirror Matter
Chapter Fifteen - A Little Gift from the Welcome Wagon
Chapter Sixteen - Highway
Chapter Seventeen - Meat Puppetry
Chapter Eighteen - Crazed State Unhinged
Chapter Nineteen - Exorcism
Chapter Twenty - Magus Shimmer
Chapter Twenty-One - Doppelganger
Chapter Twenty-Two - Fever
Chapter Twenty-Three - Monsters
Chapter Twenty-Four - Sprung Traps
Chapter Twenty-Five - Charlie’s Story
Chapter Twenty-Six - Grave Matters
Chapter Twenty-Seven - Izanamiko No Oni
Chapter Twenty-Eight - Shadowland
Chapter Twenty-Nine - Showdown

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank the people who helped bring this book into the world: my agent, Robert L. Fleck; my editor, Shauna Summers; and her assistant, Jessica Sebor. I’d also like to thank my publicist, April Flores, and my deepest gratitude goes to my first readers: Dan, Trista, and my ever-patient husband, Gary.

And finally, I must express my appreciation to the following molecule for helping me make my deadlines:

Image of caffeine structure courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
.

part
one

Suburban Outlaws

chapter
one

A Kick in the Head

T
he festering mob of meat puppets in their tattered Sunday best shambled aside as I rode Pal down Main Street toward the stark white columns and broad marble steps of the Saguaro Hotel. There had to be a thousand bodies in the stinking brown sea parting before us. My skull was pounding, the July heat and hard West Texas sun nearly unbearable. I tipped my straw cowboy hat forward in a futile attempt to get some of the weak breeze on the back of my head.

And in a blink, Miko was suddenly
there
on the steps, Cooper and the Warlock strung up naked and sunburned on rough-hewn mesquite crosses to either side of her. As a small mercy, their limbs had been tied, not nailed, to the twisted branches. Their heads hung forward, insensible, as their chests shuddered to pull in shallow breaths.

The devil kitten in my saddlebag was purring loudly. It could sense the impending carnage.

You ready for this?
I asked Pal.

“Ready for a slow, bloody, excruciating death followed by eternal damnation? Of
course
. What fun.”

Ignoring his sarcasm, I drew my pistol-grip Mossberg shotgun and racked a cartridge into the chamber.

“Give ’em back, Miko!” My voice was tight, shaky, a mouse’s outraged squeak at a lion.

She smiled at me, and all at once her beauty and power hit me like a velvet sledgehammer. If I’d been standing I would have fallen to my knees. I hoped I wasn’t getting wet; Pal would know and it would be a sprinkle of embarrassment on top of the disaster sundae I’d brought to our table.

“You know what I want,” she whispered, her voice floating easily over the distance between us. “Give yourself to me, and your men shall go free.”

A tiny part of me—the part that was exhausted, weary of fighting, weary of running—wondered if giving my body and soul to her would really be such a bad thing.

Oh, fuck that noise
, the rest of me replied.
Fuck that long and hard
.

But wait.

I’m getting ahead of myself … as usual.

    I should have known my life would keep going merrily to shit. The previous Friday had been busier than a dam full of beavers on crystal meth. I’d run police roadblocks, battled dragons, and literally gone to hell and back as I rescued my boyfriend, Cooper, and his little brothers from a fate considerably worse than death. Every muscle in my body ached, and I was looking forward to getting some rest, if perhaps not much actual sleep. I’d seen some things that evening that would probably give me insomnia for, oh, the next decade or so. And there was the little detail that I’d put our city’s head wizard into a coma and killed a major guardian spirit. They both richly deserved it, but I’d broken about infinity-plus-one laws and surely the authorities were going to hunt me down with extreme prejudice. So I had prison and perhaps execution to look forward to as well. Yay, go me.

But, so far, it appeared I was safe for the night. I was definitely looking forward to the late dinner my witch friend Mother Karen was making for me and the other Talents who’d helped in the rescue. Whatever she had cooking in her kitchen smelled wonderful. And I knew my familiar, Pal, was plenty hungry.

I carried a platter of savory, steaming ham and a wooden bucket of water down Karen’s back steps out into the moonlit yard. It probably looked the same as most other backyards in the neighborhood: rattan furniture and a shiny steel gas barbecue on the brick patio, a wooden picnic table on the lawn, a scattering of oak and buckeye trees bordering the tall dog-eared plank fence ringed by softly glowing solar-charged lights. However, I suspected this was the only place in the entire state of Ohio sheltering a shaggy, six-foot-tall spider monster.

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