Mel and her team are running out of time to extract Saleem from Mithras, realm of the mystical and powerful Djinn and the clutches of Omega and Division 7 in DEMON BONES SOULTRACKER 6.
Mysteries and secrets abound, new alliances formed, dangerous sacrifices to be made and don’t forget to keep an eye out for characters from the SKINWALKER SERIES.
1st Excerpt Follows:
SOULTRACKER 6: EXCERPT DEMON BONES
“Can someone please explain to me how an urgent mission with a man’s life—excuse me, an entire realm’s existence—hanging in the balance, has gone from departure in a matter of hours, to an extraction date that’s more a moving target than anything?” I asked, barely able to control the quaver in my voice, my fingers fisted against the sides of my jean-clad thighs.
Beside me sat Aisha, Queen of the Djinn, who was a study in elegant regality, dressed in a deep green long-sleeved gown that on anyone else would have made her look overdressed. The queen pulled it off well enough to impress even the most casual dresser.
Now, she afforded me a brief glance, cool and narrow-eyed, and then shifted her ebony gaze to study blond-bearded Sentinel Director Lazlo Gilfillan and agent Cassandra Monteith, who were seated in leather chairs across the gleaming polished mahogany table from us.
Sentinel, having been updated on their soon-to-be involvement in Saleem’s extraction and Mithras’ situation by Ivy Odel and Cassie herself, had requested a debrief with me.
As the meeting was meant to have been both an exchange of knowledge and an opportunity to formulate a more detailed extraction plan, Logan and I had elected to focus on the procurement of weapons, and on the training of our less-experienced team members.
Both agents now remained silent, as though considering their response and taking care to choose the most diplomatic wording—none of which was a surprise to me.
Within the vacuum of sound, I caught the slight twitch of Cassie’s eyebrow as she tossed her long blond ponytail over her shoulder. Did she know something she wasn’t free to divulge in the presence of the Director of Sentinel? I suspected it wouldn’t take too long for her to give us an update anyway—considering she was already on our team.
Queen Aisha—Ruler of all Mithras, not to mention mother of the very absent love-of-my-life, Saleem—and I, were at Sentinel’s Chicago HQ for what I’d believed was to be a quick run-through of the current extraction plan, and I for one was sorely frustrated with their progress.
Hell, the plan itself left a lot to be desired. They’d barely added anything of detail to the rough notes that Logan and I had put together. We’d listed our team complement, given a general idea of weapons on hand, and a brief explanation of the various stages of the mission to retrieve Saleem.
I’d expected some type of serious-looking report from Sentinel detailing dates and numbers of both operatives and weapons. So, seeing how little progress they’d made, or perhaps how little they had chosen to share with us, raised my blood pressure to dangerous levels.
But I held my tongue, grateful for the icy air within the boardroom as it cooled my heated cheeks. Too much was at stake for me to mouth off at the head of Sentinel, no matter how frustrating he was being.
We needed their agents on the ground in Mithras, we needed their arms and their tech too, and I wasn’t planning on being the reason we failed to extract Saleem from captivity.
The entire realm of Mithras was relying on us to save them from their captivity, to remove them from control of Division 7 and Omega. Ivy Odel had already aided us with info obtained from Sentinel’s archives and had assumed they would be happy enough to formally aid the mission.
Kai’s Grams had made the initial introductions via emails and had helped to set up the first meeting. Unfortunately, Ivy herself wasn’t present, for reasons beyond her control—which translated into the elder SkinWalker having gone AWOL.
Thus, Grams was no longer part of the mission, a brief revelation that Kai had handed down to me this morning no less. Worse, she’d also confirmed that Iain, her brother and current Clan Alpha, was caught up with Walker Council business, so we’d lost two able-bodied agents already.
And, adding Kai’s mother, Celeste, to the list of no-shows had been an additional blow because, although she hadn’t initially been part of the team what with her recovery process, she’d been the first person I’d thought of to fill one of the vacant spaces left by her son and mother-in-law.
Kai had avoided my eyes as she explained that Celeste had been summoned to appear before the Supreme High Council, with whispers of a mission related to the meeting.
Short a few team members, I was beginning to worry—which was why Sentinel’s involvement had become more important to the success of the mission. But Sentinel, for some inexplicable reason, appeared to be dragging their collective feet. And Aisha didn’t seem to have much of an objection to their tardiness either.
I wasn’t sure if I should be furious or disappointed. Or suspicious of her. Was she playing the diplomatic queen, patiently waiting to show them who they were dealing with?
Or was she second-guessing her decision to reveal the truth of her captivity to us, to break her word to her captors and leave the estate—ignoring the fact that had she remained she’d have been blown to tiny little djinn-queen bits.
Cassie’s voice echoed around the boardroom and I focused on the ShapeChanger’s cool gray eyes. “Agent Morgan, Your Majesty, I can assure you both that the departure date isn’t something we want to extend any further. We merely want to ensure we have all our ducks in a row. If we go in without all the relevant information, we’re blind. And blind on a mission like this is the same thing as dead.”
I still wasn’t certain that taking Baz, Lily, and Steph along was a good idea, given they could likely return home in a body bag, but neither Kai nor I could force them to do anything they didn’t want to—Steph had turned a deaf ear to me in much the same way as Baz and Lily had to Kai.
I nodded, thinking at that moment I could have done with Logan’s or Kai’s presence. “I understand that. But we’ve been debriefed, we’ve given you all the information we possess. But why do I feel like Sentinel is holding out on us? Is there any reason why our team shouldn’t be privy to all the information that Sentinel, and perhaps even the Elite, have at their disposal?”
I shook my head, meeting Cassie’s eyes for a second, then glancing over at Director Gilfillan. His steel-gray eyes held mine, face a study in non-emotion.
Talk about a poker face.
Gilfillan cleared his throat. “Agent Morgan, I can only reassure you that Sentinel is giving you everything we have in terms of information and manpower. But we also acknowledge that there isn’t time for us to be secretive or hold any cards to our chest. To be quite frank, we’re having trouble obtaining more current maps and schematics of Mithras and Kamsin. I’m certain you can appreciate that without these maps, an infiltration plan becomes rather more complicated.”
During his monologue, his patronizing tone had managed to get my hackles up. And just when I intended to challenge him on his attitude, he met Aisha’s eyes, a flash of some unknown expression revealed for the briefest instant.
Now what was that about?
Then he cleared his throat, preparing to continue, but the djinn queen interrupted, saying, “Director Gilfillan, I, too, can assure you that I’ve imparted every single iota of my knowledge of the city itself. I only wish I could give you more details, but I fear my role as ruler did not include a thorough knowledge of town-planning, or security measures. I oversaw financial decision-making, not the decisions on how wide the streets were meant to be or what the diameter of pipes for stormwater drainage ought to be. As much as I understand the general details, I fear I left the minutiae to the professionals—as I’m sure you’ll find most rulers do.”
I gritted my teeth. Had I been Aisha, I’d have given him a one-sentence response, but the queen had elaborated. And elaboration could be read as guilt of a sort.
Gilfillan was nodding as though he understood, but his jaw muscles remained as taut as they’d been since he’d sat himself down in his chair, stiff-spined and expressionless.
Cassie sat very still beside him, dwarfed by the man’s almost intimidating height and bulk, and I knew one thing for certain—she and I were due for a solid heart to heart. Soon.
I leaned forward. “Is there something you wish to say to the queen, Director Gilfillan? I get the feeling you’re placing some kind of blame on her shoulders.” I remained unmoving, holding his metallic gaze as I waited for an answer.
“What in the name of Alat are you doing, child?” came Aisha’s voice in my head.
Without blinking, I replied, “He’s got a reason that he’s not sharing. And if he’s blaming you for the crap Mithras is currently in, then I’ll happily rip him a new one for his troubles. They’re supposed to be working WITH us. And this meeting is as far from collaboration as it can get.”
Aisha’s soft sigh echoed in my mind. “They are not wrong in being suspicious, dear. They don’t know me. They don’t know what my agenda is, what my loyalties are. They’re working off what they currently know, and what they do already know doesn’t put me in a very good light, now does it?” Aisha gave a soft self-deprecating laugh.
I sent her a silent grunt. “Please. Any moron can understand what you went through and why you did what you did. Your family’s lives, and the lives of your people, were on the line. What did they expect from you? Blow up the mansion and your captors and then blast your way back into Mithras to take back your realm? I’ll admit that gives me a pretty badass picture that I quite like, if it wasn’t for the matter of the lives of your sons. One of whom I’m kinda fond of.”
“Only kinda?” was the enigmatic queen’s only response.
Any reply I may have come up with was curtailed as the door opened and a sober-faced redhead—a medic from the white coat she wore—walked in.
If what she did could be called walking.
Her movements were languid and liquid, as though she glided through water. She carried a medical bag—the kind Chloe often brought with her when treating the victims I retrieved.
Director Gilfillan glanced up at her, his brow furrowing for a moment. “Dr. Sloane, thank you for coming in.”
Sloane gave a cool, almost haughty smile. “It is only a pleasure, Director.”
Gilfillan glanced over at me briefly then addressed the redheaded agent whose flame hair was bright enough to put Larsson’s locks to shame. “We’re all concerned regarding the health and well-being of Her Majesty, Queen Aisha, and we’re eager to be assured that her captivity by Omega hasn’t been detrimental to her health in any way, though I am confident that your examination of the queen will result in a clean bill of health.”
Dr. Sloane inclined her head slightly, her lips forming a thin line in her enigmatic face. She appeared to have a poker face that could truly rival that of the Director. I had a hard time controlling the urge to smirk.
Gilfillan gave a short nod then stood slowly, his chair moving back silently as he nudged it with his knee. “Agent Monteith will show you to the medical center.”
Sloane smiled. “I’m familiar enough with Sentinel’s layout, Director. I’m quite capable of finding the MedCenter, although I certainly wouldn’t mind the opportunity to catch up with Agent Monteith. It has been too long.” This time the doctor sent a warm smile in Cassie’s direction, one that was returned with equal pleasure.
“Interesting,” came Aisha’s voice in my mind.
“What’s interesting?” I asked, curious what the queen’s take was on the doc.
“Just an interesting turn of events don’t you think? Just when Gilfillan was being dragged over the hot coals by the little SoulTracker, in walks an agent/doc that gives him tit-for-tat. I almost feel sorry for the man.”
I sent Aisha a snort then fell silent as the director gave the both of us a nod and left the room without another word.
So much for detailing the extraction plan.
DEMON BONES (SoulTracker 6) AVAILABLE NOW
In case Demon Bones is your first exposure to The SoulTracker Series and you want to catch up, below are the links to check out the rest of the series.
Also, don’t forget that the SoulTracker Series is part of the DarkWorld Universe. Explore the DARKWORLD UNIVERSE TIMELINE on my website to find out which books you’ve read and where they fit within the timeline of the other series: SkinWalker Series and the Chronicles of the Irin.
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