Welcome to my stop on THE GIFTED DEAD Blog Tour, hosted by Kismet Book Tours! Today I have an exclusive excerpt and an awesome giveaway of this new release, courtesy of the fabulous Jenna Black! Hope you enjoy it and feel free to show Jenna some love in the comments <3
Never in his wildest dreams had Patrick expected his meeting with Pietro di Tommaso to go so perfectly. As a mid-level member of a Parish Board thousands of miles away, Patrick had assumed di Tommaso agreed to meet with him as a formality.
Patrick met the venerable Elder at a cafe in downtown Paris, and it was clear from the first handshake that the old man had taken a liking to him. They chatted for more than an hour, and Patrick found himself pouring his heart out to this virtual stranger. It felt good to talk to someone who seemed so receptive to everything he had to say, and when he made an offhand comment about his own so far undistinguished career, he was surprised to find Pietro was familiar with his Gift for locks.
Pietro smiled at his surprise. “It’s part of an Elder’s job to keep an eye on promising young prospects like you.”
At first, Patrick didn’t know what to say. He very much wanted to think he was exactly the “promising young prospect” Pietro had called him, but there wasn’t much in the way of evidence to support the claim. Hell, if he hadn’t used his possession of a Gift as part of his campaign—something that many Gifted considered gauche—he’d probably still be struggling to get a seat on his Parish Board. It had taken him three tries to get elected. But maybe he was underestimating himself. He had obviously caught Pietro’s attention somehow, and he had to make the most of it.
“I don’t know if I’d call myself that,” Patrick said, hoping he looked properly embarrassed by the praise. “But I’m flattered. And I want you to know that appealing the verdict on my father’s consecration was never my idea. My mother was bound and determined to do it, and, well … She’s my mother.” He gave a helpless shrug, still not understanding why his mother had been so resistant to facing reality.
“It does you credit to honor your mother’s wishes,” Pietro assured him with an easy smile. “Sometimes the best one can do with an irrational woman is humor her. There was no harm in appealing, and perhaps now your mother will grieve with the proper decorum.”
Patrick was so relieved he could have kissed the Elder’s feet. He’d been so worried the ridiculous appeal would hurt his career, and Pietro had dismissed that worry with just a few kind words.
“Thank you for being so understanding,” Patrick said. Pietro had the reputation of being a real hard-ass, but Patrick was beginning to wonder if that reputation had been fostered by his political enemies. His aquiline nose and sharply intelligent eyes gave him a severe aspect, but Patrick had found him soft-spoken and kind, almost grandfatherly.
Pietro flashed him a boyish grin very much at odds with his snow-white hair and wrinkled face. “I’ve had three sisters, two wives, and one mother over the course of my life. I am more than familiar with feminine hysteria.”
Patrick returned the grin, despite a brief urge to squirm and look away. It was no great surprise that a man of Pietro’s age had lost his mother, but Patrick knew the sisters and the wives were all dead as well. All of natural causes, of course, but still … It was an odd topic to make a joke of, under the circumstances.
Patrick shook off that discomfort when Pietro invited him first for a drink, then for an early dinner.
At first, Patrick had carefully monitored his alcohol intake, wanting to make a good impression, but Pietro had ordered an insanely expensive bottle of wine at dinner, and when he kept pressing Patrick to drink more, Patrick hadn’t dared insult him by refusing.
He wouldn’t say he was drunk, exactly, but he was certainly tipsy, his stomach glowing with warmth, his eyes heavy with contented exhaustion. He had been aware of the various probing questions Pietro had slipped in once the wine started flowing, questions about Patrick’s views and about his goals within the Order. Knowing full well that Pietro was possibly the most conservative of all the Elders—and that was saying a lot—Patrick had carefully answered every question with just what Pietro wanted to hear.
Sometimes, it was easy, because Patrick and Pietro were on exactly the same wavelength. For example, Patrick agreed that the Order had made a mistake when it had decided to allow women to vote in Parish Board elections, and an even bigger one in letting them serve in the Order’s lower levels. Women were biologically engineered to be mothers and caregivers, and he didn’t understand why some of them were so bound and determined to defy biology and pursue careers outside the home. What was so wrong with staying home and taking care of their kids? It had been good enough for his mother, though perhaps she wasn’t the best example.
The phrase “separate but equal” had gotten a bad rap, but Patrick thought it was an apt description of his view of the role of women. Just because he didn’t want them running things didn’t mean he thought they should be viewed as property of their husbands and fathers. But he knew Pietro considered women lesser beings who should live under the supervision of men, so he guarded his words carefully and made sure the “separate” came through loud and clear without a hint of “equal” slipping in. He’d learned very early in his political career that it was sometimes wiser to feign agreement with someone’s opposing views than to expound on one’s own—especially when voicing one’s own views would serve no purpose.
All in all, he was pretty pleased with himself when he returned to his hotel room. He had forged a clear bond with Pietro, and the Elder had urged him to keep in touch. Nothing could have reduced the impact of his mother’s foolish appeal more than the support of an Elder, and Patrick planned to make sure everyone on his Parish Board was aware of just who he’d rubbed elbows with while he was abroad. The Elder’s favor could well be enough to secure Patrick’s eventual re-election.
All but giddy from a combination of alcohol, relief, and excitement, Patrick didn’t notice at first that the suite he shared with his mother was unnaturally silent. He fetched himself another drink from the mini-bar, now free to celebrate to his heart’s content without having to guard his tongue. He was pouring the little bottle of scotch over a tumbler of ice when he finally noticed that the door to his mother’s bedroom was ajar.
Patrick frowned and put his drink down on top of the mini-bar. “Mom?” he called, though honestly the last thing he wanted to do was talk to her. He would much rather have sipped his drink and enjoyed his little high, but something about that open door made the muscles in his stomach clench.
“Mom?” he called again, taking a couple of tentative steps toward the bedroom. He’d expected her to remain in that room all day, moping and wailing, waiting for him to come back so she could shovel another heap of guilt on his shoulders. “Are you in there?”
There was no answer, and the clench of his stomach became an icy chill.
Had he been wrong to leave her here all alone in the state she’d been in? He pictured the stricken expression on her face when he’d told her as gently as possible that the appeal had been denied. Remembered the streaks of mascara-blackened tears on her cheeks, the swollen redness of her nose, the misery in her eyes—and the hurt and anger in her voice when he’d made it clear he wasn’t going to let the news stop him from meeting Pietro.
She was weak, she was grieving, she was furious with the world in general and Patrick in particular. But surely, surely, she hadn’t totally lost herself to despair. Surely she hadn’t done anything … drastic. His heart banged against his breastbone, and he wondered how he was ever going to live with himself if he’d been out drinking when she needed him most. He’d known what a state she was in when he’d left, and he’d left anyway.
Patrick pushed open the door to his mother’s room and flipped on the light, bracing himself, halfway convinced he would find his mother sprawled over the bed with an empty bottle of sleeping pills falling from her hand.
The bed was neatly made, and his mother wasn’t in it. Patrick turned toward the bathroom door, bracing himself once again. He had no idea if movies and TV had it right, but he thought it was probably true that women who committed suicide most often did so by taking pills or slitting their wrists in the bathtub.
Patrick found he was shaking as he neared the bathroom. If his mother had done something to hurt herself—and to punish him—he was sure she’d have done it in the most dramatic way possible. Slitting her wrists in the bathtub would have a greater shock value than taking pills.
“Please don’t let her be in there,” Patrick repeated to himself under his breath, the words somewhere between a prayer and a mantra. But the more he thought about it, the more convinced he was that he would find something horrible.
She had been so furious with him this afternoon. Angrier than he’d ever seen her before. And what better way to punish him than to kill herself in spectacular fashion? The stain of her suicide would cling to him for the rest of his life, far, far worse than the stupid appeal. Forget any hope that he might someday become Board President. He’d never even get re-elected to his seat on the Parish Board. In one fell swoop, she might have ended her own suffering and shoved a knife deep into his back.
Gritting his teeth, his shaking now partly born of anger, Patrick shoved the bathroom door open so hard it banged against the wall. He slapped at the light switch, then balled his hands into fists and glared at the bathtub, so sure of what he would see that it took a moment to register that there was no naked, blood-soaked body lying there.
He exhaled a great rush of breath, his knees suddenly so shaky he put his back against the door frame and slid down to the floor. His heart fluttered erratically, and his skin was sheened with sweat.
Thank the Anima, his worst fears had not been realized. His mother hadn’t killed herself, had not doomed him to a life of shame and insignificance. She had merely gone out, although he had to admit that was a surprise. He’d have bet his life she’d have sulked in this room until the moment they had to leave to catch the plane home.
Maybe he wasn’t giving her enough credit. Maybe she was stronger than he’d realized and the knowledge that she’d done her best to get her beloved husband consecrated had now allowed her to accept the realities of the situation and move on.
The tentative swirl of hope made his head spin, and Patrick pushed himself back up to his feet, eager to return to his scotch.
And that was when it finally registered on him that the bathroom was empty—no toothpaste, no toothbrush, no make-up, no hair products. None of his mother’s usual toiletries, nor even the series of quilted bags she kept them in.
Patrick checked the closet and the drawers in the bedroom to be sure, but found no sign of his mother’s clothes or her luggage.
Where the hell had she gone?
It wouldn’t be unlike her to flounce out in a huff and find herself a new hotel room—even though they couldn’t afford it—but if so, she would at least have left a note or a message on his phone. She wouldn’t trust him to understand the angry gesture if there weren’t angry words to go with it.
Wondering if his relief had been premature, Patrick called down to the front desk to see what he could find out.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Politics and magic make dangerous bedfellows.
Deep within the Order, the seeds of corruption have taken root. While younger generations of the Gifted have embraced modern democratic values, a secret society of old-guard zealots seek a return to the past, when only European men of distinguished bloodlines held power.
Now, three venerable European families and a maverick American each plot to seize control of the Order and shape it to their will. A cutthroat game of political intrigue will decide the winner; and the stakes couldn’t be higher, for ruling the Order carries with it the power to grant—or deny—an afterlife.
What begins as a battle of wills could turn into an all-out war. And magic could prove deadlier than any missile.
Add it to your Goodreads Shelf Pre-order your copy from amazon Adult Urban Fantasy / Contemporary Epic Fantasy