Genre: Urban fantasy/detective/light romance
Publisher: Studio See LLC
Date of Publication: October 2013
Number of pages: 292
Cover Artist: Pam See
Mike Roberts photographer
A bank robbery in Rockport, Texas, sends Corpus Christi police detective Kat Morales and her elf partner, Tevis, in pursuit of a band of nymphs and satyrs. The answer to their initial question - why nymphs and satyrs would rob a bank - only leads them into a deeper mystery in an enchanted woodland on the South Texas coast.
And while he and Kat try to save the woods from an evil wizard and a deadly wyvern, Tevis finds himself engaged in a personal struggle with potentially disastrous consequences: He is deeply, irrevocably in love with his partner ...
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/gCn0H3IlNGs
Drawn by the voice, he looked up from his paperwork, toward the source.
And met the hazel eyes of a Vision standing in the doorway to his office.
She was exquisite, maybe five feet tall, midriff-baring top and short-shorts concealing nothing of her petite little figure, the veil over the lower portion of her face revealing hints of full lips beneath a finely sculpted nose.
“Are you James Todd?” the Vision asked.
“Ah ...” He swallowed moisture into his throat. “Uh ... Yes. Yes. I am. President.” He clamped his mouth shut before any other words could spill out. He was babbling.
He never babbled. Never!
“President of this bank.” Her voice held a lilt, a hint of chimes, the soft, sultry sound of a cello.
He nodded. His breath hung in his throat. He knew what he saw: a Nymph. A real, live Nymph. In his bank ...
He'd heard of Nymphs. Never met one. Until now. Until this moment when a Vision stood in the doorway of his office.
She didn't look ... What? How old would she have to be if she'd actually lived in ancient Greece. He thought he remembered that was where Nymphs lived. Greece.
She looked like a kid, what he could see of her … eighteen, nineteen. Maybe 20. Young enough to be his granddaughter.
The feelings she stirred in him could not be called grandfatherly ...
“My sisters and I need money.”
“Certainly.” He pushed to his feet. A thought tried to stir in the back of his mind, something about Nymphs ... some kind of warning the authorities had issued ...
The thought withered and died. “Have – have you t-talked to one of our loan officers?” Todd felt a flicker of embarrassment. He hadn't stammered since high school. But he couldn't seem to get a decent breath. He'd read about Nymphs, of course. Greek mythology. Roman. He'd known they were beautiful. But he'd never realized the full extent of that beauty. Even the partial concealment of the veil couldn't hide her ... her … splendor. Her perfection. Todd's brain searched for words to do justice to her, and came up lacking. Helen of Troy, Venus ...
They could not be compared to the creature that stood in his doorway. “How – how much money do you ... need?”
“All of it.”
Of course. How could he be so dense? “My dear ...” James Todd came from behind his desk. “We're here to help you. Let's just step outside ...” He dared lay a hand on her shoulder, and a scent wafted to his nostrils: Roses ... no. Lilacs. No. Richer than lilacs – a perfume like none he'd ever smelled. For an instant he felt ... just very slightly ... lightheaded.
“Marry me,” he whispered.
She raised those remarkable eyes to meet his. Pools of hazel. “Do you not have a wife?”
“No.” Wait. “Yes.” He shook his head against the fog that seemed to envelope him. Elaine. Of course. He was married to Elaine. But … “But the children are grown. I can get a divorce.”
She smiled behind the veil – he knew she did. He could almost see those full, slightly pouty lips. But she didn't speak, just turned and strode into the bank's lobby. James Todd followed, his gaze taking in every movement of the slender body in front of him, the way her hips swayed gently side-to-side. He swallowed again. Two other small, shapely beings, veiled copies of the one who'd entered his office, stood near the tellers' counter, watching the bank's security guards and two of its loan officers empty cash drawers into large bags. Silk bags! Even from where he stood, Todd recognized the fabric. Silk … green – dark green and shimmering ...
Todd drew a breath, suddenly aware of sweat beading his forehead in spite of the bank's air conditioning. Now he noticed the tellers, all women, standing in a cluster against a far wall. A pack of small creatures surrounded them, creatures that looked like Human males from the waist up, exceptionally hairy goats from the waist down, complete with tails and cloven hooves. They leered at the women, goat tails flicking, their eyes glittering like multicolored gemstones in sunlight, and the women huddled together, trying to look anywhere but at the creatures, yet casting occasional furtive glances at them.
Satyrs. The word slipped into James Todd's memory from that one course in classical mythology he'd taken in college. He felt his mouth open – just a little. He closed it while his mind took in the sight … black and reddish-brown and gray and piebald goat legs, the creatures' human faces sporting beards the same color as the fur on their lower bodies … Satyrs and Nymphs. In his bank! James Todd found himself grinning at the Vision at his side. “I've ... I've n-never met a Nymph before.” He was babbling again. He felt unable to control his tongue. “I ... I ...”
“It's all right.” She slipped one of her delicately formed hands into his, and he felt his insides quiver and puddle into near meltdown. She raised her remarkable hazel eyes to meet his gaze. “We need you to open the vault.” The eyes sparkled with the smile he could just faintly see on her lips.
Oh. Oh! Of course! Open the vault. And whatever else she wanted him to do. Anything she wanted him to do. He wanted her to command him. Ask him to do ... anything. It took all his powers of concentration to mumble, “This way,” as he led her behind the tellers' counter and down the hallway to the vault. Some part of him noticed, in passing, that Miss Finch, the bank's prim and fussy (and very un-Nymphlike) vice president of operations, stood among the tellers, along with the bank's secretaries and a couple of its other female officers. Had they just joined the group? Or had they been there all along? He couldn't remember.
It didn't matter. He felt – it surprised him a little – a sly satisfaction that Miss Finch looked as disconcerted as the other women.
The Nymph's hand squeezed his – not hard. The merest caress of warmth. Her fragrance drifted to his nostrils, different this time, a spicy-sweet tang that reminded him of his cabin by the lake up in the Hill Country. He met the Nymph's gaze, and in a sudden surge of clarity, he realized he would need help. “Mr. Wilford, Mr. Lopez ...” He beckoned to the chief security guard and chief loan officer. “We need your assistance.”
The two men came hurrying, almost tripping over each other, both of them frowning at the way the Nymph's hand nestled in his. Jealous; they were both jealous. Todd could see it in their eyes.
It didn't matter. His was the hand the Nymph clasped. He managed to meet their scowls with calm knowing, as though his heart wasn't fluttering like a captive bird in his chest, as though Visions came through the door of his office every day and took him by the hand. “This young lady and her sisters,” with a slight tilt of his head toward the other two Nymphs, “need our money. After I open the vault, we'll need your help in carrying it out for them.”
The two men nodded, and Lopez smiled at Todd's Nymph, flashing his very white teeth in something close to a leer. It didn't do him any good; the Nymph still held James Todd's hand. Todd smiled at her and led the last few steps to the vault.
The massive, triple-walled steel door opened by means of a keypad, the code known only to Todd and a handful of other trusted employees. Such as Miss Finch, of course – but he doubted she would open the door for the Nymphs. He punched in the access code, then a second code needed to override the vault's timelock, a device that normally prevented the doors from being opened before 10 a.m. The mechanism clicked into place, and he pulled the door open.
The Nymph gasped. That didn't surprise him. Though nowhere near the size of vaults in even some of the smaller banks in Corpus Christi, the vault of the Texas State Bank of Rockport had to be the largest the Nymph had ever seen.
“Where is the money?” She looked – she sounded – anxious, and the hand holding his loosened its grip a little. “Has someone else already been here and taken it all?”
“No!” He tightened his grip on hers. “Not at all!” He couldn't let her think that, couldn't disappoint her.
He couldn't let her leave – as she seemed ready to do. “It's in these drawers.” Still clutching her hand, he stepped around the table and chairs that occupied the center of the room, to the built-in drawers at the rear of the vault, pulled one open, extracted a handful of bills so she could look at them. “See?”
She relaxed, then made a vague motion with her free hand. A bag materialized, clasped in her fingers, another green silk bag like the ones her sisters had been holding outside the vault. This one was about the size of a large pillow case, Todd thought. Dark green like the others, forest green, with a cord that gleamed like gold. Maybe, Todd's thoughts whispered, it was gold. At last, she released his hand so she could clasp the bag with pale, slender fingers, long fingers with perfect little nails, fingers merging into long, pale hands, wrists so small Todd could have easily encircled them with his thumb and forefinger, arms willow-thin and graceful. His hand actually ached from the loss of hers. He wanted her to touch him again, he wanted to touch her ...
“Fill this, please.” She extended the bag toward him.
“Ah ...” He nodded and dropped the bills he'd been holding into the bag, reached into the drawer for more. Wilford and Lopez stepped in to help him.
They emptied every cash drawer in the vault into that single bag, which should have been impossible but wasn't. And when that was done, the Nymph pointed to the rows of safety-deposit boxes. “What are those?”
“Lock boxes.” Todd swallowed against a dryness in his throat that threatened to choke him. If he didn't ... quite ... look at her, he could speak with reasonable coherence. “Some of our patrons store their valuables in them.”
“No.” He shook his head. “Jewelry. Documents that they consider important – wills, trust documents, things like that.”
“Do you want the boxes?” Lopez asked. “The jewelry can be worth a lot of money.”
Damn the man! That was Todd's question to ask. The bank president clinched hands that wanted to turn into fists.
But the Nymph shook her head. “We have no need for jewelry or ...” her barely visible mouth twitched in grimace, “documents.”
Todd couldn't restrain a broad smile at Lopez. No points for you, Mister. His expression became solicitous as he returned his gaze to the Nymph. “Do you need help with that?” he asked, with a motion toward the bag, before Lopez or Wilford could interfere again.
She smiled at him, her eyes absolutely dazzling, and he felt another sudden rush of warmth through his body, a sudden relaxing of the muscles behind his knees.
He managed to stay on his feet, and he reached for the bag. “Let me ...”
He could feel Lopez' and Wilford's eyes boring into him as she relinquished the bag to him. They were jealous, both of them, and he could almost pity them. Two young men, both in their thirties, reasonably good-looking and fit, Lopez with the kind of muscles that came from regular workouts, Wilford less toned but still lean.
And who had trumped them both, and won the Nymph's smile? James Todd, pushing sixty, with thinning hair and a few extra pounds around the middle, that was who! He threw the bag over his shoulder – considering its contents, it felt surprisingly light – no problem for him though still too heavy for a little slip of a thing like the Nymph.
She met his gaze, and gave him another of those smiles that caught his breath in his throat. “Come with me,” she said, and led him out of the vault. Lopez and Wilford trailed after them like a pair of rejected suitors, and Todd could feel their eyes trying to burn holes in his back. In the lobby, the other two Nymphs joined the procession, followed by two more security guards carrying bulging silk bags, and the bank's remaining male employees followed them all. The whole group of them trooped out to the parking lot –
Straight to the most beat-up excuse for a van that James Todd had ever seen. Had they really driven to the bank in this thing? Multiple faded coats of paint and rust covered the vehicle in equal measure; cracks traced across the couple of windows that remained intact, and the whole works sagged on tires worn smoother than a billiard ball. Todd's Nymph opened the van's rear door, and he and the two security guards eased the bags of money inside. Todd winced as the van settled even closer to collapse under the added weight.
“Thank you,” his Nymph said, and he felt another surge of warmth through his system.
Then all three Nymphs scrambled into the vehicle, Todd's Nymph behind the steering wheel. She could barely see over the top of it. He didn't hear the engine start, but he became aware that the van was in motion, gliding across the parking lot. It ran better than he'd expected, whisper-silent. He couldn't even hear the engine. As the vehicle pulled into the street, his Nymph extended a slender arm out the open window on the driver's side and waved goodbye, the motion languidly graceful. Todd waved back, aware of a thickness clogging his throat. The Nymph – his Nymph – was leaving, and some part of him knew he wouldn't see her again. The van merged silently into the traffic on Highway 35, headed north.
From behind him, a whole army of little, bearded goat-men scampered into the highway in pursuit of the Nymphs, accompanied by the squeal of brakes and the blare of car horns among the startled drivers around them.
And James Todd blinked, awash in the cold sensation of just having woke from a nightmare.
It had not – had not – been a dream. He no longer could see the van, but he could see the goat-men racing after it. Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what had he just done?
But he knew, all too clearly. He'd helped a trio of Nymphs rob his own bank, that's what he'd just done. He felt his heart pounding, a surge of lightheadedness ... a heart attack, maybe, or the onset of a stroke ...
No such luck. The robust health James Todd had enjoyed all his life hung on him like a curse. Death wouldn't rescue him from this situation.
Mexico. If he got in his car right now, he could get to Mexico. And then ...
And then what? Keep going south as far as he could. How far? Brazil? Argentina? A chill worked its way down his spine, through his legs, down to his toes, even as fresh sweat popped out on his face. The authorities would be one issue, but he had a feeling they would understand. Everyone knew about Nymphs and the effect they had on men. The sight of an unveiled Nymph stunned a man, blinded him. Killed him!
Todd felt another shiver trace down his spine, sinuous as a snake, and freezing cold. He and the bank's other male employees were lucky to still be alive. The situation would be awkward – Hell, it would be embarrassing to the point of agony. He'd probably lose his job, and even if he didn't, he'd be the butt of jokes for months. Years. He could almost hear the sniggering behind his back, the looks ranging from pity to derision. He'd have to move, try to start over someplace else.
But he could deal with that. He wasn't really worried about the authorities, or even the bank's board of directors. They'd exonerate him. The board wouldn't be happy about it, but fairness would demand it.
Which left his wife. Elaine. She wouldn't understand. He didn't think she would want to understand. James Todd swallowed against a dryness in his throat, forced his knees not to fold under him. Once Elaine found out about this ...
Argentina wouldn't be far enough. The most godawful uncharted jungle in Africa wouldn't be far enough.
He wondered if they had airports in Siberia, and if he could charge the tickets on his Visa card.
Note: This interview takes place just before, or just at, the beginning of Sister Hoods.
Tevis Mac Leod
I was born in the Realms of Magic, the world that exists alongside your own, yet in a separate dimension. I am Aalfar – what you Humans call an “elf.” I am not among the Firstborn of our people. My father is Leod, Laird Liege of the Silverdales, but thankfully I am not the heir to his duties. There is an older brother ahead of me, and his sons and daughters.
Though I appear no older than a Human in … perhaps … mid-twenties, I am thousands of years old as measured by you Humans. In my youth, when the Portals were always open, I wandered freely between your world and my own, sometimes in company with other Aalfar, sometimes alone, and I often offered my services as mercenary in Human endeavors that I deemed worthy. After the Portals were closed – through the efforts of Wizards, though I did not know that at the time – I wondered if I would ever again be able to visit your world, and when the Portals reopened – more than four of your Human years ago – I was among the first to return.
Unlike many others, I anticipated that your world would have changed in the centuries that had passed since the Portals were closed, though even I was surprised at many of the changes I saw. I have, however, tried to take such matters in stride, as you Humans say, and I have even embraced some of the changes. Through good fortune and my own skills, such as my ability to See how someone has died by laying my hands upon the corpse, I found I could be useful to the law enforcement authorities of this world. Indeed, that is where I found employment, with police forces first in New York City, later in the city of Corpus Christi on the Texas coast.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
My best quality is that I will not allow Evil to stand unchallenged, nor hesitate to engage in battle against it – which (a slight smile) some of my friends would tell me is my worst quality.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
Nothing. If I wish people to know something, I tell them. If there is something I do not wish them to know, I remain silent.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
For the past few months … my increasing love for my Human partner on the Corpus Christi detective squad, Kathryn Morales. There is pain, for either side or both, in romantic … entanglements … between Human and Aalfar. We are ageless and undying except by injury, while Humans are fragile creatures who age all too quickly.
What are you most afraid of?
Failure in performance of my duty.
What do you want more than anything?
What is your relationship status?
At the moment … single.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
I try to adapt to the styles of those around me.
How much of a rebel are you?
I do not consider myself to be a rebel at all, although I can be … unorthodox.
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
(Lips twitch in the ghost of a smile) Given my … proclivity … to rush into battle against evil, my greatest achievement is to still be alive after thousands of years.
What is your idea of happiness?
To be in a moment of serenity with no demands upon mind or body.
What is your current state of mind?
I strive always to be calm, in full possession of my senses. Of course, in my line of work, that is not always possible ...
What is your most treasured possession?
What is your most marked characteristic?
Composure. At least – outwardly. I have emotions, feelings, but I strive to keep them concealed except when I am in the company of my closest friends and companions.
What is it that you, most dislike?
Which living person do you, most despise?
Anyone who commits great evil.
What is your greatest regret?
That I cannot – that I dare not – tell Kathryn how much I love her.
What is the quality you most like in a man? Or woman?
The quality I most admire in anyone is that quiet strength that comes from the soul, strength that is so certain that the person feels no need to flaunt or brag about it. The person possessed of such strength has no need to abuse others in order to “prove” his or her abilities. Indeed, a person possessed of true strength has no fear of appearing weak when circumstances require it.
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
I have read very little of the fiction books in your Human world. I suppose … Sherlock Holmes. His self-assuredness borders at times on arrogance, yet he is analytical and observant and, when he does make mistakes, he is the first to point this out.
Which living person do you most admire?
Arvandus. He is the Wizard who heads up the team of which Kathryn and I are members. Indeed, our team, whose purpose is to fight those who wield magic to do evil, was Arvandus' idea.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
If I could change anything about myself, then I would no longer be me, and I am content with who I am. I am not without flaws, but that is true of all, whether they be Aalfar or Human, Wizard or Ogre or Dragon. If I changed myself, then … I would undoubtedly change my flaws as well.
What is your motto?
I have not thought of such a thing. Perhaps … in spite of my fear of failing … “It is better to strive, and fail, than to do nothing.”
A native of Texas, now living in Sheridan, Wyo., P.L. Blair divides her time between two careers. As P.L., she writes a series (Portals) of urban fantasy/detective books that, recently, including elements of light romance. Published books include Shadow Path, Stormcaller, Deathtalker and Sister Hoods. Her fifth book is now with her publisher, and she is working on Book 6. As Pat Blair, she's a reporter for Sheridan Media, an organization that includes nine radio stations and an online news publication at sheridanmedia.com.
She's also “mom” to three dogs and a cat, all rescues, and is an avid reader, an occasional painter, and loves doing research. A lover of horses, she researches American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred pedigrees as a hobby. Another hobby is history, and she's been the lead writer last year and again this year for Sheridan Media's “Sheridan Chronicles” history publication.
Web site www.plblairauthor.com