This book kicks off my urban fantasy series, Shades of Fury, for Penguin/Ace Books. As both Fury and Chief Magical Investigator for the Boston PD, Marissa Holloway makes it a point to get mad and get even!
Hell hath nothing worse than a Fury scorned…
As a Fury, Marissa Holloway belongs to an Arcane race that has avenged wrongdoing since time immemorial. As Boston’s Chief Magical Investigator for the past five years, she’s doing what she was born to: solving supernatural crimes.
It’s far from business as usual when the body of one of Riss’s sister Furies washes up in Boston harbor. Riss discovers that the corpse’s identity has been magically altered, but as soon as she reports her findings, she’s immediately—and inexplicably—suspended from her job. Then a human assassin makes an attempt on her life, and Riss starts to realize that someone may be trying to stir up strife between mortals and Arcanes.
When a Fury gets mad, she gets even, and Riss is determined to untangle this case. Without the support of the mortal PD, Riss turns to the one man she can trust to watch her back—shapeshifting Warhound Scott Murphy. But since Scott is also Riss’s ex, she’ll have to keep a tight leash on more than just the supernatural rage that feeds her power as they try to solve a murder—and stop a war…
What they’re saying:
“Urban fantasy readers looking for something new will thrill to this exhilarating debut, populated with creatures from Greek myth…Riss is the perfect urban fantasy heroine–fresh, sassy, smart, and determined–and a cavalcade of fully developed side characters keep this twisty tale moving quickly.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review.
“An explosive new talent hits the UF market with this Shades of Fury series starter. Mackenzie introduces her heroine, Marissa Holloway, a fury and Boston’s chief magical investigator, who is at the epicenter of a case that could threaten the mortal/arcane accord. The byzantine layers of this plot are accented by kick-butt action and intriguing characterization, making Riss one captivating heroine. Money and time well spent!”
–Romantic Times Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars Top Pick, Nominated for 2010 Reviewers’ Choice Best Urban Fantasy Protagonist.
“I loved it. Kasey Mackenzie is a brilliant new talent, and RED HOT FURY is fun, inventive, and has an awesome heroine. Easily the best book I’ve read this year.”
—Karen Chance, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Cassie Palmer Series and Midnight’s Daughter.
“A fantastic, wild ride of a debut. I couldn’t put it down!”
–Nalini Singh, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter Series.
“With its fascinating new world of Furies, Harpies, Oracles and Sidhes, RED HOT FURY pulls you in from page one, and the action doesn’t stop there. Marissa is a Fury with sass, skills and red leather . . . not to mention a sexy, Irish Warhound by her side. If you’re ready for a unique spin on all things paranormal–and you’re ready to stay up a little too late reading–grab RED HOT FURY and prepare to dive in. Kasey MacKenzie’s first Shades of Fury novel sets a new standard for urban fantasy, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.”
–Chloe Neill, Author of the Chicagoland Vampire Series.
Read on for an excerpt:
Something seemed fishy about the corpse stretched out on the sand, and it wasn’t the heavy odor of Boston Harbor hanging in the predawn air. Cupping my hands around an oversized Starbucks cup to warm cramped fingers, I tried to figure out what was bugging me—other than the fact that a rare few hours of sleep had been rudely interrupted by a call from Dispatch. Smashing the hell out of the phone had been my initial instinct, but when duty called, a Fury answered. Especially when she also happened to be the city’s Chief Magical Investigator.
Yeah, long-ass hours and getting called to crime scenes at five freaking a.m. Lucky me.
Slugging back a gulp of caffeine goodness, I focused on the problem at hand. The very naked, very dead woman kissing the damp sand before me. I shone my flashlight on the tangled black hair shielding most of her back and arms from view. No, black didn’t even come close to describing the flecks of vibrant color that sparkled in her hair where flashlight beams hit it. My pulse picked up speed as the inevitable thought occurred to me.
Denial was my first instinct. No, it can’t be. Dispatch would have warned me if . . .
Then I remembered who had actually been responsible for passing the call on to me. Zalawski. That asshole. Probably hadn’t bothered to fill Dispatch in on that very crucial, not-so-minor detail.
I steeled my heart for the realization my brain had already reached. Settling onto my haunches, I brushed ebony-dark locks away from the corpse’s right arm and cursed up a storm. A brilliant, emerald-hued serpent had been tattooed on her arm, making the ID indisputable. The dead woman wasn’t just any arcane being—she was a Fury. Like me, she had been born into an ancient bloodline sworn to protect both mortals and immortals from those who would use magic to harm them. Even if it meant sacrificing her own life. Which it had.
Grief flared and tears threatened to spill, but I wouldn’t let them. I had to be strong for my fallen sister and see that justice was done. Then I could grieve.
Nothing had clued me in to the fact that the corpse called in that morning would turn out to be a Fury. True, arcane beings of myriad species had been vanishing without a trace at a higher rate than usual lately—two or three every other month or so—but no Furies had been reported among their number.
I scooted closer to the body and ran my gaze along it in a slow, considering line. The nagging sense of wrongness I’d been feeling intensified. Her tattoos looked . . . off.
An overeager uniform stepped up for a closer look, and I bared my teeth. “Back away from the vic. I’ll let you know when I need your help.” My Amphisbaena, which appeared as snake tattoos when I was in mortal or partial Fury form, and physically manifested as real serpents when I took on full Fury form—like now—arched hooded heads and hissed at the man who’d upset me. Amphisbaena were spawned from the blood of others who died violently, always in pairs, and acted as if they were two halves of one whole. Part familiars, part companions, they shared an empathic and sometimes telepathic link with Furies that only their deaths could sever.
Furies could survive losing their Amphisbaena, although technically those who do are no longer Furies. They’re monsters.
“Oh hell,” I mumbled under my breath. I caressed the crimson coils of the serpent wound around my left arm before turning my attention to the one on the right. Chaotic emotions swirled through our bond, and I did my best to soothe them. “Calm down, ladies. The man’s not a threat. Just an idiot.”
“Terrifying the rookies again?” a voice tinged with the Deep South drawled behind me. “That’s the fourth you’ve made piss his pants this month.”
My body relaxed at the familiar voice. “Well, if Dispatch would stop sending me pansies with severe fear of snakes, we wouldn’t have a problem.”
Trinity’s generous lips curved. “No pity for the mortals, huh, Riss?”
Shrugging, I turned my attention from the super-tall detective and onto the body that had us here at oh-god-early in the morning, leaning in to study the bright green snake tattoo running from the shoulder to just below the elbow. Then it hit me. “The color’s wrong.”
Trinity knelt beside me, careful not to piss off my little beauties. “I’ve seen different colors on Fury tats.”
“That’s not what’s bugging me. Three classes of Furies, three separate colors. Green for Megaera, red for Tisiphone, and blue for Alecto. Four, if you count silver for Elders.” I pointed to the bottom of the woman’s elbow, where the tattoo ended in a splash of color duller than the rest. “Green means this Fury served as a Megaera, but look here. The color’s not consistent throughout the tattoo. It’s way too patchy.”
Trin leaned back on her haunches, dark eyes glinting with interest. “So, what does that tell you about the vic?”
I winced. Vic seemed such a cold word to use for one of my sisters, although I’d used it myself. Getting emotional during investigations meant getting sloppy, something I tried to avoid when it came to the job. My love life, on the other hand . . .
“Well, other than the fact that she served the Fury patroness who gives the green-eyed monster its name, I’m not sure.”
Clearly, it was time to do something I was dreading. “Did they get all the photos they need?”
It was Trin’s job to deal with the mundanes—like the Crime Lab Unit—as much as possible. They got even more nervous around Furies than the uniforms. You’d think we bite.
She nodded. “They’re the ones who noticed the tats and insisted you be called.”
“Nice to know the Department employs the occasional nonmoron. Too bad Zalawski didn’t get the same sensitivity training.”
She didn’t rise to my bait. “Gonna turn her over?”
“Yeah. Have to ID her.”
We both knew I didn’t, but I did appreciate the gesture. “No. I’m good.”
Electric-blue energy flared when I touched fingers to the woman’s back. Directing the flow underneath her body, I motioned my hands from left to right and mentally pushed. The corpse flipped from stomach to back in one smooth motion, barely disturbing the sand beneath.
“That is so freaky.”
Trin said that at least once during every investigation. “No fuss or muss this way.”
“Yeah, but it’s still freaky.”
The habitual banter settled my jangled nerves. I glanced down at the woman’s face. Midnight-dark hair obscured it, so I reached down and brushed it to each side—and fell flat on my ass.
“Oh hell.” I stared down at the face I hadn’t seen in three long years. Not since half my family disowned me.
Trinity came up alongside me, concern marring her pretty features. “What’s up, Riss?”
I pointed shaking fingers toward the vic, then shuddered. That word seemed even colder now that I realized who the corpse was. The sister Fury I’d nearly given up hope of finding—and the reason I had subconsciously been so reluctant to turn the body over. “I know this woman, Trin. She is—she was—Vanessa Turner. My best friend.”
Trinity placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “Oh, Riss. I’m so sorry. Fuck.” She squeezed again. “I remember that case. Didn’t they think the ex-boyfriend was involved?”
My fingers clenched and I gave a jerky nod as I tried to damp down the grief welling in my chest. “He didn’t take well to the breakup at all. When she started seeing someone new, he flipped out on her. She had to get a restraining order. She disappeared not too long after that, but we could never prove he was involved . . .”
Trinity’s lips tightened grimly. An all-too-familiar tale for cops.
I could still remember our last conversation—though fight was probably a far more accurate word to use—me bitching that she had accepted her first solo assignment way too soon. It was probably my calling her an overeager virgin itching to pop her cherry that sent her over the edge . . . Okay, so maybe I could use a little sensitivity training of my own.
Vanessa’s eyes had narrowed and I recognized her mentally counting to ten before responding. “I am not a fragile mortal like David or Cori, Riss.” Kind of a low blow for her to drag my brother—her brother-in-law—and our shared niece into the argument. She’d slashed a hand through the air. “And I’m not Aunt Allegra, either.”
Okay, correction. Mentioning my dearly departed mother was way worse. So we’d parted in anger. And then she’d disappeared.
I stared down at Nessa’s body, eyes drawn once more to the tattoos on each bare arm. Emerald green where mine were ruby red. But something just wasn’t right. And then what I’d noticed when first arriving on the scene—but hadn’t given a second thought to—sucker punched me in the gut. “Her body . . . this corpse is too fresh. No way it’s been in the water three years.”
“Maybe the killer dumped it recently.” Trinity cleared her throat, licking her lips when I arched a brow in her direction. “Ah, Riss, I know you two were close, but is there any chance she . . . ran off?”
My vision grew red and hazy. Gooseflesh broke out along my skin, and magical energy raised every single hair on my body. I fought back the superhuman Rage that was both strength and weakness for a Fury, sending a brief prayer skyward that this would not be the time I lost the battle. Bit by bit my vision cleared, and my pulse slowed its thunderous crashing. For now, I got to keep my mind—and soul.
Once I could speak without growling, I tossed a sardonic look Trin’s way. “You mean she took off without telling a single person, and then just happened to wash up in Boston Harbor three years after being stalked by an ex-boyfriend?” I shook my head. “No way, Trin. First of all, Nessa would never have done that to her family or friends. Secondly, she couldn’t have done it to the Elders. Once a Fury binds herself to the Sisterhood, there’s no turning back. Not without going Harpy, and we’d be able to tell that just by looking at her. Furies who can’t control their Rage murder their serpents before going batshit insane, which means no more tattoos.”
She patted my shoulder again. “Sorry, Riss, but the question had to be asked.”
I blew out a breath and ran fingers through my hair. “You’re right. Shit. It’s so hard to do this for someone I care about.”
Trin tilted her head. “But who else is there?”
Who else indeed? Furies served as the investigators—and often judge and jury—of crimes committed by or against supernatural beings. Kinda hard to drag in most arcanes for trial if they weren’t willing to cooperate. We’d acted behind the scenes for millennia, back before the mortals learned that creatures of myth and legend were neither. Since coming out fifty years earlier, we Furies had become the bridge between mundanes and arcanes, thanks to the fact that we started out as mortals before manifesting our magical abilities and pledging ourselves to the Sisterhood of Furies.
Now, many of us juggled our duties for the Sisterhood with the jobs we had taken serving on the mortal police forces. We were spread so thin I’d been pulling fourteen-hour shifts for months. There just wasn’t anyone else I could hand this off to. Not unless a Mandate came down from on high.
I hissed in realization. “I should have guessed Nessa was still alive when no Mandate went out.”
Trinity tilted her head. “What the hell is a mandate?”
How to explain a Mandate—with a capital M—to a mortal? Especially a self-proclaimed atheist? Oh, life’s little ironies, that someone who had met several deities face to face worked with someone who steadfastly refused to admit they existed.
“Mandates are basically tasks handed down from . . . er . . . upper management for certain magical crimes. They’re fairly rare—I haven’t gotten one in a few years—and they generally only go out when a magical-related case has repercussions for either a large segment of humanity or the Gens Arcana. A Fury working under a Mandate is compelled to work that case until the crime is solved.”
“And you don’t feel compelled to solve this crime?”
I rolled my eyes. Mortals had such a gift for understatement. Compelled to solve crime—that was like saying Cats and Hounds didn’t get along too well. “Only in the sense that Vanessa was my dearest friend in the world. The fact that I don’t feel a Mandate—and no other Fury has shown up at the crime scene—means something is beyond screwed up. They almost always go out when a Fury is murdered.”
I hunched down next to Vanessa’s body. Since there were no visible wounds on the corpse, there had to be enough blood inside for me to work my mojo.
“I’m gonna run a trailer.” I motioned to Trin. “Make sure they don’t freak out.”
I paced around the corpse, tracing a circle in the sand. Not, strictly speaking, necessary for this particular spell, but circles helped focus both the caster’s attention and magical power. Something sharp bit into the ball of my foot, and I cursed under my breath. After making sure whatever I’d stepped on wasn’t embedded in my trusty leather boots, I closed my eyes and called to the Power resting beneath me. Nemesis and Nike (no, not like the shoes) hissed again, this time in pleasure at the magic pounding through all three of us. Electric-blue light danced in the air, increasing in brilliance and size until not even the mundanes could miss it.
I waited for the magic to reach a fever pitch and directed it into Nessa’s flesh and bones, willing it to seek out traces of blood. Several moments passed, moments that felt an eternity, and then magical Hell broke loose.
The full force of magic rebounded from Nessa’s body and shrieked inside my own. Agony raced along every magical and physical nerve ending. I screamed in shock, scrambling to ground myself more solidly and funnel skittering energy into the earth. Never, not even as a punk-nosed apprentice, had I experienced anything like this. Magic did not rebel against a well-placed spell.
Trinity shouted in the background, ordering the uniforms to stay back and then trying to pierce my veil of pain. It was just the bit of reality I needed to remember what I’d been trying to do. Nemesis and Nike added their strength to my own, and we fought against the magic coursing through our veins, thrusting it along the cord of energy connecting us to the earth. Amphisbaena could amp up a Fury’s supernatural abilities and possessed a few of their own. Bit by agonizing bit, the magic obeyed our combined wills, flowing through that channel in a white-hot flood of light and dissipating harmlessly.
I dropped to hands and knees, panting as nerve endings continued to roar in protest. Trinity fell to the ground beside me, hands brushing my hair back and asking urgent questions. It took several more minutes before I could form a response.
“Oh thank the gods, it’s not Vanessa. That corpse is made of pure magic. There’s not a mortal bone in its body, and there never was.” Which meant it couldn’t be a Fury, since we start out mortal. I found myself torn between relief that the body wasn’t Vanessa’s and anger that someone would dare impersonate a Fury, even if only in death. “Some son of a bitch altered another person’s corpse to look like my best friend’s. And I’m going to find out why if it kills me.”
And that’s when the mind-shaking onslaught of full-on Mandate slammed against me with the force of a freight train. Now I would have to keep that oath—even if it did kill me.