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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Heating It Up, by Elizabeth Harmon

I owe Elizabeth Harmon a big ol’ public apology–because I had her booked on Boosting the Signal LAST WEEK, not THIS WEEK, and I completely flipped her date with Ruth Casie. So I missed the window to tell you all about the giveaway Elizabeth was running for her latest novella release! AUGH! Sorry Elizabeth! Also apologies to Ruth, since I posted her too early as well.

BUT ANYWAY. Elizabeth has been here before, with Turning It On and Getting It Back. Her latest release is in this same series: the novella Heating It Up.

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Heating It Up

Heating It Up

From Elizabeth:

It’s great to be back on Boosting The Signal, to talk about Heating It Up: A Red Hot Russians Novella, the newest release in my Red Hot Russians series.

Heating It Up began with its setting, Amity Bay, a soon to be shuttered research station in Antarctica. I’ve always found the icy continent fascinating, but I’d never read a romance set there. I wanted to contrast the harsh, isolated surroundings, with the cozy warmth of a small town romance, and also add an off-beat vibe, similar to one of my favorite 1990s TV series, Northern Exposure.

Heating It Up’s Red Hot Russian hero is rugged Alexei Zaikov, Amity Bay’s station manager. Heroine Nora Bradford is a sophisticated American fish out of water who wants to spend the long dark Antarctic winter alone and grieve the devastating losses of her fiance, and career.

But Nora has a secret, one that could devastate Alexei and doom their romance. Read on, as Nora tells her story.

Everyone has that little thing that makes them crazy. For my mother, it was swearing. All I had to do to set her off was drop the f-word into a conversation. Not that went looking for ways to antagonize her. I’ve always been a peaceful person. Miss Go Along to Get Along, who rarely make waves.

Except for that once time when I did. But more about that later.

My name is Nora Bradford and I’m 26. Most people would consider that young, but not me. The last two years have felt like ten. That’s what happens when you have a perfect, beautiful life all planned out, and then one day, everything changes.

That one day was a Friday, and I was at work, at the San Francisco offices of Quinn & Associates, one of the worlds’ top firms specializing in sustainable architecture. After finishing my master’s in architecture at Stanford, I was an associate working on a plum project. I was engaged to Blake, the love of my life, who’d gone down to Belize with friends for a weekend diving trip. Life was perfect until that phone call, telling me Blake had drowned.

Just like that, my perfect, beautiful life was gone.

All that was left was my work, designing a sustainable luxury guesthouse to replace an obsolete Antarctic research station. Blake had been especially excited about this project and pouring everything I had into Glacier Ridge Lodge was a way to hold onto him. My boss Herbert Quinn, raved about my work, and told me that when the project was finished, he’d promote me to partner.

Near the end of construction, our firm traveled down to Antarctica. The beautiful building was everything I’d imagined. Antarctica, utterly breathtaking. There was even a hunky, rugged station manager, who asked me out. And though I still couldn’t picture myself with anyone besides Blake, there was something about Alexei Zaikov that drew me.

But I kept my distance. After all, I was the lead designer on the building that was going to put him, and everyone else living at the broken-down Amity Bay station, out of work. Not a good foundation for a relationship.

And within my firm, I had a growing sense something wasn’t right. My colleague Mark Jenkins, whose contributions to the project had been minimal, suddenly became the go-to guy, while I was relegated to making coffee. I’d also become too emotionally attached to the lodge, which had become my memorial for Blake and the beautiful life we would have shared. But no matter how much you want to hang onto the past, it’s gone.

Which brings me back to that thing which sets me off everytime, and any woman working in a male-dominated field knows exactly what I mean: mansplaining.

Three nights before we were to leave Antarctica, Herbert announced that Quinn & Associates’ newest partner was Mark Jenkins, not me. When I confronted Herbert, he told me that because I was young and lacked “professional authority,” it was somehow okay to take what he’d promised me, and give it to someone else who’d done less, but deserved it more, thanks to his all-important “professional authority.”

Profound grief and too much New Zealand Shiraz can really mess with your judgement. Herbert’s mansplain triggered an ugly tirade that would have horrified my poor mother. He survived it, but my career didn’t. Unemployed and alone, there was only one place I wanted to be. It took some devious finagling, but I found a way to stay behind at the now-deserted Glacier Ridge Lodge, the only place where life still makes sense.

Spending the winter alone in Antarctica…what could possibly go wrong?

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: The Highlander’s English Woman, by Ruth A. Casie

It’s been a while since I had a Boosting the Signal post to share with y’all! But my Here Be Magic compatriot Ruth A. Casie approached me about sending me a piece, and my door’s always open for my HBM crowd. Ruth’s been here before, y’all may recall, with The Guardian’s Witch. Now she’s back with another historical romance in the same series, and another character interview! And I’ll say about this one what I did about the previous: I do rather like that cover! Also, I do really rather like the NPR-ish flavor of this piece. Check it out.

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The Highlander's English Woman

The Highlander’s English Woman

The Inside Scoop
Interview with Lord Bryce Mitchell

Welcome to The Inside Scoop, Radio Transcripts of Guest Interviews. My name is Justin Case, host and executive producer of The Inside Scoop, where we interview the characters in the stories created by author Ruth A. Casie.

This was the fourth interview of characters in The Stelton Legacy series and took place in front of a live audience. I ask everyone to sit back and imagine sitting in a comfortable chair and talking with my guests. I hope my interview is informative and thought provoking and that you enjoy reading them as much as I had conducting them.

If these interviews spur questions of your own, contact me via Ms. Casie at Ruth@RuthACasie.com. She and I will work together to get you answers.

Previously Recorded

Justin Case: Thank you for joining me today at The Inside Scoop. I’m your host and moderator, Justin Case. We’re about to interview Lord Bryce Mitchell of Ravencroft, the neighboring estate to the Reynolds family of Glen Kirk Castle. To clarify, both domains are on the English side of the Scottish border. Through Lord Bryce’s service to the king, he is also a close friend of Lord Alex Stelton, the guardian of Glen Kirk Castle.

Lord Bryce makes appearances in The Guardian’s Witch, The Maxwell Ghost and The Highlander’s English Woman. You can see he’s an integral part of the Stelton Legacy story. Ah, I see him approaching now.

You can’t miss the man, always dressed in black, holding his signature black leather gloves. He has a shot of black hair and a well-trimmed beard. He walks with a commanding air that I suspect has served him well in court. He certainly looks the part of the black knight. Intimidation has served him well. He’s been battled trained through his youth alongside his neighbor and close friend, Richard Reynolds and cheered on by Richard’s sister, Laura.

(Sound of footsteps approaching)

Justin Case: Good afternoon, my Lord. I’m so glad you could join us today.

Lord Bryce: Case. (A slight nod of acceptance as he sits) Many thanks for the invitation. (He looks at the tankard by his chair)

Justin Case: I secured it from Glen Kirk Castle. (He motions toward the tankard) I understand it’s your favorite brew.

Lord Bryce: (A smile breaks his set expression) Glen Kirk is renowned for its fine ale. It’s even prized by the king.

Justin Case: I understand the Mitchell and Reynolds families have been neighbors for quite some time.

Lord Bryce: My family has held Ravencroft and the Reynolds have held Glen Kirk Castle for centuries.

Justin Case: (Flipping through notes) My sources tell me you have been fond of Lady Laura Reynolds for some time.

Lord Bryce: (His steely eyes take on a dangerous glint. Justin Case mops his brow.) It was a political strategy, I assure you. It’s the thirteenth century. Combining our houses would have ensured the safety and longevity of the castle, besides I’m sure it would please the king to have an Englishman hold the castle and not a Scottish sympathizer.

Justin Case: I understand Laura was called away to Scotland before her parents discussed your proposal with her.

Lord Bryce: Laura went with the Scottish bastard Jamie Maxwell Collins to Caerlaverock Castle to visit with her distant relations. Lord Maxwell saw an opportunity to secure Glen Kirk Castle for his family. If his nephew Jamie married Laura it would further tighten the Maxwell stronghold on both sides of the border.

Justin Case: You grew up and trained with Jamie. He was fostered to the Lord at Glen Kirk. He was—

Lord Bryce: (Bending menacingly forward toward Justin Case) I wouldn’t go there if I were you. Jamie was a filthy Scot who didn’t deserve the air he breathed.

Justin Case: I understand m’lord. That doesn’t change the fact that he married Lady Laura and that their marriage was sanctioned by the King of England himself. Not an easy thing for a Scot in the thirteenth century.

Lord Bryce: Not marrying into the family was a relief. You know the women are all witches—every last one of them. (Bryce glares at Justin Case) And you know what they do to witches.

Justin Case: Lord Bryce, surely you don’t mean—

Lord Bryce: I certainly do. As well as everyone who harbors and supports them no matter who they are or what position they hold. Do you support the arcane arts? (Bryce rhythmically slaps his gloves against his thigh)

Justin Case: I mean no disrespect, m’lord. But the healing arts which the Reynolds’ women are known for is not witchcraft.

Lord Bryce: (Stands up) You think that’s all they do? You have a lot to learn. Read the stories. It is all there, and then you tell me they’re not witches.

Justin Case: (Stands up) I will read the stories, sir. And we will meet again to discuss them. Thank you for your time.

(Retreating footsteps are heard as Lord Bryce leaves the studio)

Justin Case: (Turning toward the audience) Thank you for joining me today. I hope you enjoyed learning about Lord Bryce Mitchell and the part he plays in The Stelton Legacy.

Before you leave, I’d like to acknowledge our station and staff at WRAC for their commitment and fortitude to see this project to fruition. Many technologies had to be developed to make this happen and credit must be given where credit is deserved.

General Manager — Norma Leigh Lucid
Studio Manager — Helen Back
Maintenance Supervisors — Earl E. Bird and Ella Vada
Musical Supervisor — Kerry Oki
Electrical Engineers — Flint Sparks and Les Volt
Sound Crew — Mike Rafone and Constance Hum
Traffic Manager — Joy Rider
Legal Advisor — Sara Bellum
Researchers — Paige Turner and Rita Booke
Commissary Director — Jasmine Rice
Security Directors — Barry Cade and Anna Conda
Funded by donors Hy Price and his wonderful wife Lois Price

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Boosting the Signal

Effective immediately: Boosting the Signal coming out of hiatus

Given the political events of this week, I find myself moved to pull Boosting the Signal back out of hiatus. So, effective immediately, I am now open for submissions as outlined on the Boosting the Signal page.

I will continue to accept submissions from channels I have had open before: Carina Press authors, NIWA, the Here Be Magic crowd, authors I personally know, etc.

But moving forward, I am especially interested in submissions for progressive fiction of any stripe. If you’re a QUILTBAG author and you have some work to share, I want to hear from you.

As always, Boosting the Signal is a promotional column, not a review column. It is an opportunity for authors to get creative with putting out some hooks to interest potential readers. As such, you are not obligated to send me a copy of your work, but I will certainly not turn down free ebooks if they are offered. (I encourage you to keep print copies for reviewers, though!)

Any questions, talk to me.

Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Timeless Tales, by Various Authors

One last post to clear my Boosting the Signal queue, finally! This one comes to me from fellow Here Be Magic author Ruth A. Casie, and even though it’s May, what the hey, I’m still going to run this piece about the holiday anthology she participated in. It’s called Timeless Tales, and Ruth’s piece, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, features a heroine whose goal is going to be familiar to all my fellow writers: trying to resurrect her stalled-out muse. If you feel the need for a bit of wintry holiday goodness while the weather’s heating up outside, this might be just what you’re looking for.

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Timeless Moments

Timeless Moments

Roberta’s review was on my e-reader and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was as if she’d plunged a knife in my heart then slowly twisted it throughout her review until the end when she gave the final flourish and dug in even deeper. I must have misread her comments. How could she compare my work with this JD Watson? I crushed the paper and aimed for the basket, but missed. Was her review her revenge for that shit storm on the open chat? It couldn’t be. That was three months ago.

I know. I should’ve kept my mouth shut. But no. Not me. Like so many faceless social media participants I spewed my vitriol. Except… I’m not faceless. I’m Beth Alexander, an international best-selling romance writer. People listen when I speak. My eyes slid close. I knew better.

To distance myself from the desk I gravitated to the window and pulled back the curtain. It would be a white Christmas, but the clean snow outside Havenport Inn didn’t cover anything up. Roberta’s review of SPENT ADRIFT, the latest book in my Jo Dee series was the icing on the cake.

The notebook for my next book was blank. I hadn’t been able to write a word since September. I was back here in my home town where I fell in love with writing for a family Christmas and a book sign for said rotten book at The Final Chapter Bookstore. Final Chapter. How prophetic. I slammed the curtain shut. It would have splintered into a million pieces if it had been a shutter. Tears dripped down my cheeks. Was it over? Was that funny little muse gone… forever?

The steam quickly out of me I looked into the dresser mirror. I forced a smile and blotted the tears from my cheeks. “You write romantic comedy about women, like your Jo Dee, who are strong, smart and empowered and the men, like Jo’s Detective Ryan, who deserve them. Ten books is not a fluke. Now put on those new Jimmy Choo boots and get over the bookstore and get things set up for tomorrow.”

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Through the Hourglass, by Various Authors

I’m continuing my series of catchup posts for Boosting the Signal, to clear my queue so that I can put the feature on soft hiatus while I THEN get caught up on my own work. Since I did three posts yesterday, I’m doing a couple more today to clear the queue, and the first of these is for the anthology Through the Hourglass. Editor Sacchi Green talked to me about how to do a post for this anthology–and the theme, lesbian historical romance, definitely fits in with my interests around here. If the words “lesbian historical romance” sound like reading catnip to you, check this excerpt from Connie Wilkins’ story “The Bridge”, won’t you?

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Through the Hourglass

Through the Hourglass

Blurb from the Editor:

Women loving women have been a fact of life for as long as love and women have existed. Who’s to say some of those sculptors of full-bodied stone or ivory goddesses weren’t women? We have always been here, in every era and every area of society, even though our stories have so seldom been told.

Fiction has its own power to deepen and intensify our perceptions and beliefs. Stories that show lesbians in well-researched historical settings, with passions fully recognizable today, rescue our past from invisibility and affirm our place through all time, past, present and future.
The stories here, set from Iceland in the 10th century to New York in the mid 20th, have been written by Ann Bannon, Jean Copeland, R.G. Emanuelle, Allison Fradkin, Patty G. Henderson, Heather Rose Jones, Lee Lynch, Megan McFerren, Cara Patterson, Aliisa Percival, Doreen Perrine, Priscilla Scott Rhoades, Susan Smith, Lexy Wealleans, Connie Wilkins, and MJ Williamz.

A portion of the proceeds for Through the Hourglass will go to these charities that directly serve LGBT senior citizens: Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and The Gay & Lesbian Association of Retiring Persons, Inc. (GLARP).

Edited by Sacchi Green and Patty G. Henderson
Published by The Liz McMullen Show Publications
November 2015

——

Upstream the river riffled over stony outcroppings, but under the bridge it ran deep and clear. Reggie leaned over the wooden railing and stared down into those amber-green depths, willing herself to see only a great speckled trout balanced in perfect stillness against the current. An ordinary Midlands English stream, all green shadow and shimmering sunlight and blue reflected sky. An ordinary fish. Yet she could not block out visions of bodies submerged in other streams throughout the ravaged countryside of France, flowing ever redder with blood until they reached the Somme. Even the songs of birds in flight, spilling over with rapture, warped in her mind into cries for help, help that could never be enough.

“Shell-shock,” the doctors might say, but it scarcely mattered what one called it. Pure, searing grief, not war itself—though war would have been enough—had breached her defenses. Grief for Vic. For herself without Vic.

By what right did England bask in such a May morning, calm and lovely, while over there artillery’s thunder still shook the fields, and men rotted in muddy trenches? How could she bear to stand idle in the midst of such peace when her place was over there, even…even with Vic gone? All the more with Vic gone.

But she must adjust, must let the peace of home heal her—not that anywhere felt like home now. Or ever could again, without Vic. If Reggie could prove herself recovered, not only from her physical injuries but those of the spirit—capable once more, clear-minded—they just might send her back to the war. An experienced ambulance driver, strong as most men, skilled at repairing motorcars and field-dressing wounded soldiers; here in pastoral England she was of no use, but over there she was desperately needed.

Reggie straightened abruptly, trying to focus on the tender green of new leaves, the glint of sunlight on the flitting gold and peacock blue of dragonflies. She shook herself like a retriever emerging from deep water.

“Don’t move!” 
The low, terse command froze her in mid shake. “There’s a nest…” The voice came from below, less peremptory now, but Reggie’s mind raced. A machine gun nest? She fought the impulse to drop to the wooden planks of the bridge. Surely not gunners, not here! A nest of wasps?

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” The speaker was almost whispering. “It’s just that swallows are nesting below you on the supports of the bridge, and I’ve been sketching them, but they get uneasy when you move so suddenly and might leave the eggs.”

A flush of fury heated Reggie’s face. Forced to the verge of panic by some silly schoolgirl! She bent over the wooden railing, an angry shout surging into her throat, and saw, first, a head of tousled light brown hair cut short about the ears. A schoolboy, then! All the worse! “WHAT do you bloody mean by—”

The artist looked up. The remainder of Reggie’s words, stifled, burned like mustard gas in her mouth.

Not a boy. Not a child at all, though she might have been taken for one if it weren’t for tiny lines at the corners of mouth and eyes, and a certain look in those eyes that spoke of a share of pain in her life; rather like what Reggie saw in her own when she was careless enough to look in a mirror. Her hair was really no shorter than Vic’s pale curls had been in France, and Reggie’s own dark thatch had been cropped a good deal shorter back then, a necessity in the filth and chaos of battlefields. She realized uneasily that it was about time she cut it again. Eight months in hospital had left it just long enough to tie back in a straggly knot, which she would have hated if she had cared in the least about appearance these days.

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Street Fair, by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

Today’s third Boosting the Signal catchup post features another pair of previous guests: the writing team of Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins! They’re on hand to bring you an excerpt from Book 2 of their Fair Folk Chronicles–a series which, since this book’s release, has gone on to include a Book 3 as well! In this short excerpt from Street Fair, two characters have a very basic goal before them: figure out how to get past a barrier. Without exploding. As you do.

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Street Fair

Street Fair

After what seemed to Megan like an hour of slow, careful walking and occasionally squeezing through tree roots, they reached the first artificial support. The walls started showing fewer signs of encroaching roots, and the earth appeared more worked.

Not long after that, Ashling stopped them. “We’re getting close. It’s warded. I’m not finding a way around it.”

Megan recalled the pixie’s occasional very precise movements in the tomb before and wondered just how many traps she’d allowed them to avoid, beyond those she’d seen evidence of. “So what now?”

“Two options,” Ashling responded. “Three if we had a handy backhoe and a three-foot-thick concrete barrier.”

“That bad?” Megan couldn’t help but ask.

“Only if we cross this line,” Ashling pointed out an imaginary line on the floor, “Or mess with the ward the wrong way, or mess up with anti-magic, or maybe jump around too much, or breathe really hard in this direction.” Megan and Jude both drew back a little, careful to direct their breath elsewhere, in case.

“So, we have two options. How do we get through?” Megan asked.

“The more I think about it, the more options we have. It’s too bad we don’t have a goblin minesweeper or something.”

“That’s a thing?” Megan knew she was going to regret asking, but had to know now. “What sort of equipment do they use for that?” After seeing the goblin market, Megan was trying to imagine what sort of tech or magic might be involved.

“Running shoes,” Ashling answered cheerfully. “Hopefully really good ones.”

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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Raven’s Heart, by Shawna Reppert

Prior Boosting the Signal guest Shawna Reppert is the featured author for today’s second Boosting the Signal catchup post. If you enjoyed Shawna’s previous posts about her Ravensblood urban fantasy series–or better yet, if you enjoyed the previous books–then you’ll be pleased to see she’s come back with an excerpt from Book 3, Raven’s Heart, available now! And if you’ve read Book 1, you’ll be able to tell very quickly that Raven’s goal here ties right back to the events of that story. Because his goal is very simple: take down a very, very bad person.

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Raven's Heart

Raven’s Heart

From the Author: In this excerpt, William has just killed a clerk at Raven’s favorite bookstore, although it’s likely that the intended victim was the bookstore owner, Raven’s friend Josiah. Raven, together with his fiancé Cassandra and two Guardians, is trying to figure out who the next targets might be, and how they will ultimately deal with William.

——

It took Raven a moment to realize that Ramirez was asking for a list of his friends. Once, it would have taken a significant and believable threat of force before he allowed such an invasion of his privacy. Once, the list would have been either incredibly short, or non-existent.

“Cassandra, of course,” he said.

“Of course,” Ramirez agreed.

His tone said don’t treat me like an idiot. Despite the grimness of the conversation, Raven managed a half-smile.

“Sherlock,” he added after a moment’s thought. “But they are less likely to go after either of them, at least until they have run out of easier targets. The same goes for Ana. She taught William’s father a healthy dose of caution in the Mage Wars, and William will not have forgotten.”

Though in other respects, Ana would be a prime target, both as Cassandra’s aunt and as the person responsible for negotiating a pardon for Raven in exchange for his betrayal of William. The thought of Eric picking off the people close to him left him with a sick feeling deep in his gut.

“Other than that, it’s hard to say. It depends on how much William knows about my associates. He’s almost certainly the one behind this, with Eric just his trained attack dog. The fact that Josiah was the first targeted suggests that he is going after personal, not professional contacts, but he might not limit himself. I usually have dinner with Madeline Love at least once when she is performing in town.”

“Madeline Love?” Donovan asked.

“Opera singer,” Raven said. “Famous in the arts and culture community. I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of her.”

“Stop baiting my partner.” Ramirez said it in the same tone one might use to request someone to stop leaving the door open as it caused a draft. “Anyone else? Chuckie?”

“Maybe. We’ve worked together a few times. And of course he was instrumental in helping me prove my innocence in the theft of the Ravensblood.”

“Of course.” Ramirez’s eyes darted away.

Raven had no interest in flogging the man for past crimes; Ramirez did a good enough job of it himself. “As to others, he might target other GII members of the Wing who worked with me last year. He thought a moment longer. “The MacLeans. I would worry about them more if they weren’t all in Australia. Neither Mick nor his boys are easy targets, not by a long shot, but I’m not sure William would know that. However, I doubt William and Eric are going to travel half-way around the world to prove their point.

“Then there are any number of agents of GII I’ve worked with. It might be easier to get the list from Sherlock than rely on my memory. Generally, I am more interested in solving the puzzle than paying attention to the people around me.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” Donovan sniped.

Raven merely smiled as though he had been complimented, deliberately baiting the man. “Then there’s the handful of agents from the pub nights Chuckie finally dragged me to.”

“Pub nights?” Ramirez raised an eyebrow, clearly amused.

“Yes, well.” Now it was his turn to look away. “There were only the two times. Three maybe. Because Chuckie insisted.”

And because he could not deny his debt to the annoyingly cheerful geek mage that Cassandra had somehow managed to end up with as a partner. And because Chuckie did grow on one, though Raven would die before he admitted it.

Ramirez barely stifled a chuckle. “I’m just trying to picture you in a pub. Doesn’t GII usually hang out at the Barley Mill?”

“Usually, yes. If I am to accompany them, however, I insist on the Blue Moon. Though both are, I understand, owned by the same brothers, the Blue Moon has a certain understated elegance that I find acceptable.”

Ramirez shook his head. “Corwyn Ravenscroft in a MacMenamin’s pub. Will wonders never cease.”

“I believe we are straying somewhat from the topic,” Raven said.

“Yes, right. I’ll get the list of agents who worked cases you consulted on from Sherlock. And I’m guessing that Chuckie has a better idea of who was at those pub nights. Just in case they do decide to go after your drinking buddies.”

Ramirez said the last phrase with particular relish. Raven suspected he would be hearing about this for a long time to come.

“The thing we need to do is find William and Eric,” Raven said. “Rather than sitting around twiddling our thumbs and wondering when they are going to strike next.”

“You have any ideas on how to do that, you just let me know,” Ramirez said.

“I doubt he’s had the time to build the strength and resources for a hidden sanctuary like he had before.” Raven said. “My guess is that he’s holed up somewhere in North Portland. If I only could have managed a clearer trace on Eric’s teleport.” He ground his teeth in frustration.

“I’ll get Chuckie doing a search for any homes in the area with ownership that might trace back to William or Eric Blanchard,” Cassandra said. “If the Archmage was clever enough to hide his ownership through holding companies and the like, I wouldn’t put it past William.”

“What I want to know,” Ramirez said, pinning Raven with his gaze, “is can you take him?”

Beside him, Donovan made a choked noise of protest.

“The man is too dangerous to hold.” Ramirez answered Donovan’s objection, but his eyes were still on Raven. “We both know it. I doubt anyone on the Joint Council is going to call for an inquiry if William winds up dead rather than in custody.”

Raven rather doubted it as well. The Pro Tem Archmage had been on the front lines during the Mage Wars and had seen up close and personal what a mage like William could do. Mother Crone, with her Craft practicality, would weigh the greater good over rhetoric and the Mundane President was justly terrified of what would happen to his community if William ever achieved the rule absolute that was his goal.

Or that had been his goal the last time around. He lacked the power base now to achieve such a goal; surely even William in his madness must see that. This time, he must be after pure revenge. Which might make him even more dangerous, since he had little left to lose.

Ramirez leaned forward, deadly serious now. “My question remains. Can you take him?”

On one hand, he had the Ravensblood. And William might still be badly weakened from their last encounter.

On the other hand, William had had several years to recover. And Raven had barely won the last time.

He gave them the only answer he could. “Gods, I hope so. For all our sakes.”

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