Cross Keys: Revelation

Elvenrude 2

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 84,603
0 Ratings (0.0)

If everyone keeps secrets, no one will survive…

Six months after the nightmare in Cross Keys, Kam Ryndel is enjoying her freedom in New Orleans and doesn't miss the constraints of Elven society. She's immersed herself in working missions for the CIA, even if it means less time to spend with her boyfriend, Seth. Seth's not so happy about that. Having shouldered the responsibility of his family's obligations, he's losing patience with Kam's lack of commitment to her own—and to him.

Then a guild worker is attacked by an invisible assailant, and everyone suspects another portal breach by rogues from Elvenrude. As Kam and Seth look for answers, a gang-related CIA mission interrupts the investigation, and Kam is taken to a place she never knew existed—beyond the Louisiana bayou.

Angered by Kam's new mission, Seth enlists the help of his cousin Rhyden to solve the mysterious guild-worker attack. Instead of an assailant, they discover reports of ghost sightings all over town. Not that unusual for New Orleans, but these seem…different. In a mission complicated by gangsters, feuds, failing magic, and old enemies—and the uncertain loyalty of the Elven king—Seth learns something even worse. Kam is missing. And he isn't sure if she's alive or dead...

Cross Keys: Revelation
0 Ratings (0.0)

Cross Keys: Revelation

Elvenrude 2

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: Sensual
Word Count: 84,603
0 Ratings (0.0)
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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Swamp water lapped against the small watercraft, rocking it gently. Kam shifted on the hard seat of the airboat’s cramped quarters, pushed a strand of dark hair away from her face, and studied the forty-something man across from her.Noah Crain, senior agent, CIA. Sweat beaded on his forehead from the unrelenting humidity of the late July night. He wiped it away and squinted at the bundle of American one-hundred-dollar bills in his hand. The single dim lantern barely lit the enclosed cockpit—a rarity on swamp boats—but Crain was a covert operative. He didn’t like doing business in the open.He flipped through the bills and looked up at her. “Counterfeit. As I expected. They flood our country with drugs to support their terrorist activities and then add to the insult by paying their pipeline with funny money.” With a soft plunk, he dropped the currency next to two identical packets on the extra seat beside him. “Thanks for bringing this. We’ll take it from here. Another great job, Kam. There’ll be the usual deposit to your account.”She shrugged. The money was immaterial. Born into the wealthy Ryndel family in Elvenrude, she’d never lacked for anything. The CIA missions were merely small challenges for an Elite dark elf, amusing adventures. “I need to go. I’m late.”“About that…” Crain frowned at her. “Rescuing the girl wasn’t part of your assignment. You could have been caught.”“But I wasn’t. I either do these missions my way or not at all.” How could he expect her to leave a fourteen-year-old girl in the hands of the Mexican drug lords? Yes, she’d had to deactivate the invisibility magic and reveal her presence in order to lead the girl out of that stinking hole. But it had been worth it. Kam relaxed her shoulders and took the edge off her tone. “I’ll be more careful in the future.”He sighed and shook his head. “I wish I could believe that.”Two minutes later, Kam leaped off the boat and sped across the swamplands of southern Louisiana, headed for New Orleans. She was glad to be going home and drew in a deep breath of the moist, earthy air. Her feet skimmed the ground as she watched for alligators or vipers or unstable ground. Even at her magically enhanced speed, a misstep into a watery hole or on the wrong head or tail could lead to disaster.Kam swung her head toward a dim flash of light, a blurry movement on her left. Alligator hunters? She wound her fingers around the invisibility amulet dangling from her neck and invoked the magic, then paused on a patch of solid ground. Now that she couldn’t be seen, she took her time peering around. Alert for any furtive movements out of sync with normal swamp activity, she had almost given up when something whipped past a few feet away, leaving only the faintest ripple in the marshy grasses.A chill crept across her neck. A whiff of magical energy. A ghost? A vampire? She’d heard stories of all kinds of strange sightings in and around New Orleans but never seen anything supernatural except her own people. She waited. A minute crawled by. And another. When nothing else occurred, she continued toward the city.Every sense was on edge, but she reached the outskirts without a repetition of the puzzling magical trace. As the density of buildings increased, Kam used the ancient magic in her silver wristband to leap onto the rooftops and run across the cityscape.

* * *

Seth Lormarc stood on the riverbank above Jackson Square and looked out over the shadowed waters. He checked his phone screen and gave an impatient sigh. Late again. Where was she this time? The night breeze coming off the river cooled his skin from the sweltering heat of New Orleans. It did nothing for his growing restlessness.She had promised. Ten o’clock. Actually, Crain relayed the time when he’d called yesterday to say she’d been delayed another twenty-four hours.He glanced at his phone again. Ten twenty-five. This wasn’t the first broken promise or the first time he’d worried about her safe return. During the past two or three months, she’d spent increasing hours on risky CIA assignments, less time with him, her family’s guild business, and the Antiquities Office. Agent Crain always had another mission only Kameo Ryndel and her magic could handle. The man was taking advantage of their secret.By accident Crain had stumbled on their identity when he’d seen them appear out of an elven portal six months ago. Until that time the darkkin had remained hidden for thousands of years despite increasingly frequent visits to the human world. When the dark-elf race opened the trade guild portals in the early 1800s, the chances of discovery had increased. Still, no one would have learned the truth if a band of rebel elves hadn’t gotten involved in criminal activities that brought in the CIA and local law enforcement.Crain had kept their secret but for a price.Were Kam’s efforts worth it? Well, sure. How could he dispute that? Except for Crain, humanity still didn’t believe in elves…or magic…or the supernatural, unless you counted the ghosts and spirits that haunted New Orleans.But had her CIA work gone beyond a desire to protect Elvenrude? And become a way to distance herself?He heard soft steps behind him and turned with a sharp sense of relief. Kam walked toward him, a dark, graceful shadow in her black clothes and long, black hair. She hadn’t taken the time to change. She tipped her head, the moonlight illuminated her face, and the look in her vivid blue eyes made his breath catch.“I’m sorry.” Her voice was soft. She reached up and brushed her lips against his. “It took longer than I anticipated.”Resisting the temptation to sweep her into his arms and forget everything else, he asked, “Where were you this time?”“Mexico. Drug cartel was moving drugs and guns into the wrong hands.”“Let me guess. You ran into a problem.”“Just a small one.”She looked so tired he finally put an arm around her waist and kissed her. “You take too many chances. I worry that one day you won’t come back.”“I’ll always come back.” Her voice was light, dismissive of the risks involved in her CIA activities.“Will you?”“I was never in real danger. It was someone else who needed rescuing.” She stepped back, as if finally sensing his mood, and looked at him. “Are you angry with me?”His arm dropped, and Seth swallowed a sharp retort. “I’m worried about you. More jobs, bigger risks. Greater reliance on the magic. You’re throwing yourself into these missions and ignoring everything else. Including your guild responsibilities and the people who used to matter to you.”Her eyes widened. “Are you jealous of my work with the CIA?”“Get serious,” he retorted. “It’s your obsession with it I don’t like. Crain calls on you for everything. The commitment was for an occasional mission. Not a full-time career.”She frowned at him. “It was also supposed to be both of us. If you’d come with me, we’d have more time together.”“Don’t try to put this on me. I have an import/export business to run. And so do you.”“You think I’m neglecting mine?” she demanded. “You agreed to keep an eye on the guild while I was away. If that’s too much trouble…”“It’s not that.” He cocked his head. “What would your father say if he knew you’d delegated everything to me? He still sees me as an outsider…or at least the competition.”“Not so. Father has been quite accepting of our relationship. Better than we expected.”True enough. After centuries of feuding, the Ryndel and Lormarc clans had made tentative inroads toward cooperation—at least in his home world of Elvenrude. On this side of the magic portal, the competition for human buyers was still tough.“That doesn’t mean he wants my nose in his business. When did you last visit your guild?”“I checked the portal transfers last night.”“That’s not the same. Have you spoken with the guild master or the guards? Are you aware someone has been lurking around both guilds at night?”“What? Has there been trouble?” She squared off and stared at him. “Why didn’t someone mention this before now?”“No one knew how to reach you.” He sighed. “Nothing’s actually happened except setting off alarms. The point is you didn’t know about it.”“I’ll check on it tomorrow,” she said stiffly. “I’m tired, and I’m going home.”She turned away, but Seth caught her arm. “I’m glad you’re home. I missed you.”“And I missed you too. I don’t like being separated so much. But can we talk about this tomorrow? I really am exhausted.”Seth hesitated, tempted to finished it now. He lifted his hand. “Sure. Tomorrow. See you then.” He walked briskly away.

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