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Cast in Secret [The Chronicles of Elantra Series Book 3] [Secure eReader]
eBook by Michelle Sagara

eBook Category: Fantasy/Mainstream
eBook Description: Still avoiding magic whenever possible, Corporal Kaylin Neya relished investigating a regular theft once again. Until she found out the mysterious box was taken from Elani Street, where the mages and charlatans mingled, and it was sometimes hard to tell the difference between the two. But she was hoping this might be a mundane case--when in a back room Kaylin saw a lost-looking girl in a reflective pool...who called out Kaylin's name. Shaken, Kaylin tried to stay focused on the case at hand. But since the stolen item was ancient, without a keyhole, and held tremendous darkness inside, Kaylin knew unknown forces were again playing with her destiny--and her life....

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/LUNA, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2007


101 Reader Ratings:
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CHAPTER 1

Private Kaylin Neya studied the duty roster, and given how little she studied anything that wasn't somehow involved with a corpse, this said something.

The official roster was like a dartboard, except that people threw pencils at it instead. Sometimes they hit a bull's-eye anyway. Lined up in columns by day, and color-coded for the more moronic—or hungover—by district, it told the various members of the branch of law enforcement known as the Hawks where, exactly, they were meant to either find trouble or stay out of it. Kaylin could easily make out her name, although some clod with lousy aim had managed to make a giant hole in it.

If it was true that the roster could never make everyone happy, it was somehow also true that it could make everyone unhappy. Sergeant Marcus Kassan, in charge of assigning duties on a monthly basis, had a strong sense of fairness; if someone was going to suffer, everyone might as well keep them company.

As the Hawks' only Leontine officer—in fact, the only Leontine to be an officer of the Halls of Law—he presided over the men and women under his command with a hooded set of fangs in a face that was fur, large eyes and peaked ears—in that order. He also boasted a set of claws that made daggers superfluous and did a good job against swords, as well.

Kaylin had no pencil with which to puncture the paper, or she'd have thrown more at it than liberal curses.

Swearing at one's assignment wasn't unusual in the office; as far as office pastimes went, it was one that most of the Hawks indulged in. Kaylin's partner, Corporal Severn Handred, looked easily over her shoulder, but waited until she turned to raise a dark brow in her general direction. That brow was bisected by a slender, white line, a scar that didn't so much mar his face as hint at secret histories.

Secret, at least, to Kaylin; she hadn't seen him take that one.

"What will you be missing?" he asked, when her impressive spate of cursing—in four official languages—had died down enough that he could be heard without shouting. Severn rarely raised his voice.

"Game," she said curtly. "Ball," she added.

"Playing?"

She grimaced. "Betting." Which, for Kaylin, was synonymous with watching.

"Figures. Who were you betting on?"

She shrugged. "Sharks."

"So you'll save some money."

This caused an entirely different spate of swearing, and she punctuated this by punching his shoulder, which he thoughtfully turned in her direction. "You'd be betting on the Tigers, I suppose?"

"Already have," he replied. "Our shift?" He glanced at the window. It told the time. Literally. Mages had been allowed to go mad when they'd been asked to encourage punctuality, and it showed. The urge to tell the window to shut the hell up came and went several times a day.

The fact that mages had been allowed to perform the spell or series of spells seemed almost a direct criticism of Kaylin, who wasn't exactly punctual on the best of days.

"Private Neya and Corporal Handred, report to the Quartermaster before active duty." Some sweet young voice had been used to capture the words. Kaylin seriously wanted to meet the person behind it. And was pretty sure the person behind it seriously didn't want to meet her.

"Quartermaster?" Severn said, with the barest hint of a sympathetic grimace.

Kaylin said, "Can I break the window first?"

"Won't help. He's probably responsible for having the glass replaced, and you're in enough trouble with him as is."

It was true. She had barely managed to crawl up the ladder from thing-scraped-off-the-bottom-of-a-shoe-after-a-dog-fight in the unspoken ranks the Quartermaster gave the Hawks; she was now merely in the person-I-can't-see category, which was a distinct improvement, although it usually meant she was the last to get kitted out. The Quartermaster was officious enough, however, to make last and late two entirely different domains—if only, in Kaylin's case, by seconds.

"It was just a stupid dress," she muttered. "One dress, and I'm in the doghouse."

"I doubt it. You know how much he loves those dogs."

"Yeah. A lot more than he likes the rest of us."

"It was an expensive dress, Kaylin."

"I didn't choose it!"

"No. But you did give it back with a few bloodstains, a dozen knife tears, and about a pound less fabric."

"It's not like it could have been used by anyone else—"

"Not in that condition, no. And," he added, lifting a hand, "I'm not the Quartermaster, I didn't have to haggle with the Seamstresses Guild, and I don't really care."

"Yeah, but his life doesn't depend on me, so he doesn't have to listen to me whine."

Severn chuckled. "No. Your career depends on him, however. Good job, Kaylin."

They walked down the long hall that led to Marcus's desk, which just happened to be situated so that it crossed almost any indoor path a Hawk could take in the line of duty. He liked to keep an eye on things. Or a claw across the throat, as the Leontine saying went.

As the Hawks' sergeant, assignments came from him, and reports—which involved the paperwork he so hated—went to him. Caitlin, his assistant, and for all purposes, his second in command, was the one who would actually read the submissions, and she wisely chose to pass on only those that she felt were important. The rest, she fudged.

And since the Festival season was, as of two days past, officially over, most of those reports involved a lot of cleanup, a lot of official fines—which helped the coffers of the Halls of Law immensely—and a lot of petty bickering, which would be referred to the unofficial courts in the various racial enclaves for mediation.

Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Sagara West.


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