Kicking off our UTC After Dark event, we have an excerpt from the second book in the Soulwood series by Faith Hunter, CURSE ON THE LAND.
I pulled up to Soulwood and let the truck lights shine on my house and garden. The trees were leafless, stark branches reaching up to the sky and down to the earth, roots thick and gnarled and digging deep. Leaves were piled against the foundation and against the garden fence. The three acres of grass needed to be cut, despite the time of year. Following on the heels of an early cold spell, the fall had been warmer than usual, and a second growth spurt had left the lawn unkempt and shaggy, the garden full of raggedy weeds and dead plants. I had never let my house and garden go untended for so long. It had been four weeks since I had been home, and then only for a long weekend. Now, the week before Thanksgiving, I was finally home from the training center for the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security, known to its graduates—which I was one of, though I wouldn’t go through formal graduation ceremonies until just before Christmas—as Spook School.
I opened the door of John’s old Chevy C10 and the scent of home—rich loam, the creek out back, the tart scent of fall flowers, and the welcoming aroma of a wood fire from somewhere nearby—stopped me. I closed my eyes and simply breathed. The land around Richmond, Virginia, was practically lifeless, the air stank of exhaust, and the traffic roared from everywhere, the constant, distant drone of vehicles. Here, at the end of the dead-end road near the top of a low mountain, it was quiet and alive. The last of the leaves were falling, rustling across the ground, pushed by a steady, light breeze. The creak of the windmill that pumped my water sounded lonely but peaceful.
I left the truck door open and took two steps to the lawn, kicked off my shoes, and let my bare feet settle into the grass. Oh . . . home. Home, to Soulwood.
The earth reached up to me, knew me, and took me back into itself the way a mother hen gathers a chick beneath her wings. I stretched out on the lawn, face and body in contact with the ground, hands extended to my sides, and reached deep into the earth. I spread myself across the life there, rich and fecund and content. I didn’t know what I was, not really, not yet, but I knew my land, and it knew me. I was home.
I sensed the new cell tower on the top of the hill between my property and the church. Sensed the turning of the windmill that pumped my water. The presence of the spring that fed the rivulet and the small pool out back. Sensed deer, squirrels, rabbits, and foxes, the fox family having broken up and separated into four overlapping but individual hunting territories.
This was my magic, simple and dark as it was: to read the land that I had claimed, and that had claimed me, to know what it needed. To heal it and be healed by it. And to feed the earth—though I seldom spoke of that part of my gift, that part that felt so good, yet was sinful by every human standard I knew.
But something in Soulwood was wrong, just as wrong as when I’d left to start Spook School. Then, there had been an evil something skittering around beneath the ground, a darkness that was my fault, and that I had no idea how to fix. I had hoped the problem would resolve itself, but it was still there, the soul of a cruel, violent man I had fed to the land, a soul that my woods hadn’t absorbed, hadn’t used, and I didn’t know why.
The evil that had been Brother Ephraim was gathered tight on the edge of the woods, a hole in my awareness of the earth, deep and stark and quiet at the moment, somnolent. The foul soul now rested on the border, where my property met the compound of God’s Cloud of Glory Church, just over the crest of the mountain, the polygamous church I had grown up in.
The church, Brother Ephraim, and his cohorts had shaped, defined, and confined my life and my understanding of myself for every moment until Jane Yellowrock came into it. The rogue-vampire hunter had disrupted everything I was and everything I had by showing me that I could fight back. That I could take a stand.
It was ultimately because of her that I had fought back against the church. Ultimately because of her that I had fed the body and soul of Brother Ephraim to the land. Had taken a job as consultant with the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security, working with Jane’s ex-boyfriend, PsyLED special agent Rick LaFleur. And had later gone to Spook School so I might join PsyLED and fight evil, paranormal things. The irony of me being an evil paranormal thing wasn’t lost on me.
I still wasn’t sure if I hated or loved Jane Yellowrock for all the changes in my life.
I was careful not to make Brother Ephraim aware of me. I had a feeling that his disembodied soul was just as dangerous dead as the churchman himself had been alive. Well, not man. Creature.
To get better contact with my woods, I placed my cheek on the night-cold grass, pressing my palms flat on the ground, reaching deep, communing with my land. I breathed out, searching lower into the earth, listening, feeling the magic that was Soulwood. The old magic of the woods was a strong and profound power, a deep well of energy, strength, and contentment. The power had weight and mass and a greatness that reminded me of God, but wasn’t. And a magic that might becoming self-aware. Despite Ephraim’s dark soul, this old power still held sway over Soulwood, and it seemed more alive, more interested, and, maybe, more conscious than before I left.
I lay in the grass, eyes closed, arms out, long enough for the mouser cats to find me, one settling onto my back, one curled around my head, the third walking up and down my legs, mewling. My mousers had missed me. I returned my thoughts to the boundary of the woods and to the blot of darkness. It was different from before. It had grown in size, had taken over a larger part of the land. I had to do something about it sooner or later. I knew the land could subsume it. I had seen it happen not that long ago in North Carolina, but I hadn’t succeeded with Ephraim. Except for the blot, the land was happy and growing and satisfied. It was good to be back, peaceful, here on my land.
I tracked the energies of the earth out, and saw an odd glow to the east. Shimmering yellow with sparks of red and green and blue. I extended my senses, reaching out for it, but it faded like a candle on a foggy night.
Something trailed across my senses, like a cold, dead hand, smelling like a week-old corpse. Gripping the power of Soulwood, I whipped away from the foul sensation. Jerked myself clear. And saw the evil that was left of Brother Ephraim. It was awake, aware of me. The darkness gathered itself, shaping like an arrowhead, pointing at me. Using the land like a mental rope with knotted handholds, I began to withdraw, pulling myself back to the surface. Easing my way through stone and water and earth.
The malevolent arrowhead shot at me. Pierced me. Wrapped itself through me. Pulling me down. I yanked away, but the malicious soul twisted itself into me, stinking of death and maggots and the grave. Touching me where no one had ever touched me. Opening me. My deepest self. Violating me.
I couldn’t draw a breath, couldn’t move. My heart stuttered and missed a beat. Pain spiraled through me. My guts roiled as if the roots that had once grown inside me were twisting and stretching and growing, fast. Something electric sped through me—the awareness of death. I was dying. And I could almost hear the dark soul howling with satisfaction.
An electric spark, hot and flashing, hit me, flowed through me like electric lava. Ripped the evil thing off me, out of me. I wrenched free of the earth and to my feet. Cats tumbled off me, claws catching in my clothing, scraping my skin. Yowling.
I raced to the truck. Heart pounding, I climbed on the hood and sat, hugging my knees, trying to make sense of what had just happened. Shivering. Below the ground, I heard rumbling, as if boulders tumbled and broke in a flood, carried by massive waters. A vibration, like a small earthquake, shook and rocked the land, a battle of great forces.
It was Brother Ephraim and . . . and Soulwood.
Low in my belly, I could feel the clash of wills, a skirmish, a battle. Death and life in one place, occupying the same space, and not enough room there for both. Soulwood was trying to protect me, defend me. The wood had never done that before. I rubbed my palms up and down my icy arms, as if to remove the crawly feel of maggots on my flesh, a sensation that I usually associated with vampires or dead opossum. I sat, waiting. Breath fast, heart pounding.
Belowground, the battle ended as abruptly as it had begun. The darkness of Brother Ephraim yowled and raced away, back to his hole. Curled around himself in the small space he had carved out of the earth at the boundary of the church land. Beneath me, Soulwood settled.
Electric shocks still cascading through me, I bent my legs in a yoga posture, sitting on the warm truck hood like a child. I gulped and caught up on breathing and tried to figure out what had happened. Whatever it was, it was over.
But just in case, I stayed on the truck, trying to calm my mind and my body, both of which had gone into flight-or-fight mode—settling on flight, which seemed cowardly but had kept me alive, so I wasn’t complaining. Unwilling to touch the earth with my feet, I sat there long enough for the truck’s lights to dim. I was pretty sure it needed a new battery, or maybe a new alternator. It wasn’t holding a charge. I had the money and the plans to take it into town this week and get it checked out.
But first I needed to find the courage to get off the truck, get unpacked, and let my family and PsyLED Unit Eighteen know I had made it home safely. The special agents were already established in the brand-new Knoxville PsyLED office, where I had a tiny cubicle waiting on me. But only if I got inside the house. Right. I could do this.
Dropping my arms, I let gravity take me, and I slid off the hood of the Chevy and inside the cab. Grabbed up my shoes and yanked them on, protecting myself from the land with a layer of leather. I cranked over the engine, to let it run a bit and charge up the battery. I was underdressed for the amount of time I had spent in contact with the land, and I was shivering. But at least the maggoty sensation was gone.
Feeling the long drive in my achy muscles, I left the truck running and made trips up the seven steps to the porch, stomping to build up body heat. I carried luggage filled with fall clothing that needed to be washed and mended and I dumped it all in no particular order at the front door, along with my umbrella and raincoat. My potted pansies and sage and chives, I carried to the back porch, to be repotted. The soil in the pots had been dug out of Soulwood land, and the plants were in need of fresh soil, though that was as much for me to put my hands in when I was away from Soulwood as anything helpful for the plants. The soil and the contact it provided with my land had kept me sane while I was away for the weeks of training.
My weapons gear came next, from where I had stashed them behind the cab seat for transport. I had a newly issued service weapon, a Glock 20, locked in the plastic carrying case the weapon had come in, along with two magazines, each loaded with fifteen rounds, and a speed loader. It was a large case. There were also two boxes of ammunition, one standard, one silver-laced hollow points for vampires and were-creatures. My fitted body armor—a Kevlar and Dyneema composite, threaded throughout with a lining of thin silver foil to provide protection against weapons of all kinds, from gunfire, to vampire claws, to werewolf teeth—went on the porch floor beside the pile of other stuff. Gear, not stuff. Talking like a special agent was harder than I had expected. The silver-plated stakes—I couldn’t afford solid sterling—and the ash wood stakes in their special sheaths went beside the weapon case, with the two vampire-killers, the fourteen-inch steel blades silver-plated. As a probationary special agent, I was already expected to fight my way out of any paranormal problems with guns and blades and magic. I had the training, the bruises, and the strained muscles to show for it.
I was no longer just a consultant; I had graduated under “special circumstances” at e3/GS 2 grade level. Technically, because I had passed background checks, stringent physicals, and weapons training as well as course work, I was a special agent, with an official title, a badge, and everything. However, because of my speciation classification and because I had no undergraduate degree and only a GED, I would be a probationary employee in PsyLED. If I survived the first full year of my employment in the paranormal branch of law enforcement, I’d move up to permanent employment, a higher pay grade, and access to greater levels of classified material.
To get here, most of my deepest, most private secrets had been released to the world of law enforcement I was now inhabiting. I didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Not yet.
Now, lots of people knew that I wasn’t human. I had magic. I was categorized as “nonhuman, paranormal, undifferentiated” by the government medical experts and biologists—undifferentiated because I didn’t fit into the most common categories. I wasn’t vampire, were-creature, witch, arcenciel, Welsh gwyllgi—pronounced something like gwee-shee—or even any of the other, lesser-known paranormal creatures that were being identified. So far as the biologists at Spook School knew, my sisters and I were a genetic family singularity, with Mud and me being the most alike and least human. I’d have kept us all a secret if I could have, but a paranormal-hating group called Human Speakers of Truth had outed us. I still hadn’t told my family, proving me a bona fide coward. I was putting that off as long as possible.
The new, top-of-the-line psy-meter 2.0 I carried up the stairs all by itself. The device was the newest version, created just for field agents, and was capable of measuring far more than the previous model. They were freakishly expensive. Thirty thousand dollars for the one device. I placed it on the porch floor, carefully. I had been trained in its use and entrusted to bring it to Knoxville, but it wasn’t mine. It belonged to Unit Eighteen. The new witchy cuffs—three precharmed pairs for the unit’s witch to use—I tucked under the truck’s front seat with the strange, silver-toned ballpoint pens in a plastic lock bag. The cuffs and the pens—which scuttlebutt said contained a Spook School–created spell, though no one was talking about them—weren’t expensive, but only a witch could activate them.
I debated bringing in the weighty containment vessel that I had been charged to protect and deliver. It might be a top secret part of my job, but it was heavier than a good western saddle and a lot less manageable. Since I would know if anyone took a single step onto my land, there was no way anyone could get to it—short of parachuting in and landing on the Chevy C10, in the dark—without me knowing. With the containment vessel, I left the box full of small handheld psy-meter 1.0s. They were for use in the field when smaller was better than having more specific intel. They were each about the size of a pack of cigarettes and came with wrist or belt straps and locator key fobs, so if one was dropped, the field agent could find it easily.
At my grade level in the government, and not yet graduated, I was mostly a delivery girl.
A delivery girl with full government benefits, but still a mule, even on holidays off.
PsyLED thought my magic made me special enough to train me and give me a chance at a job. They also had offered me the opportunity to go to university on the government’s dollar, taking night classes while working full-time. And like other covert and federal law enforcement agencies, I could earn my way up the employment ladder. We’d see. Unlike normal, human American girls, I had grown up thinking I would be a wife and mother, without the opportunity for schooling or a career. Ever. Thanks to an upbringing in God’s Cloud of Glory Church, I hadn’t conceived of the idea of being a member of law enforcement. I had just hoped to survive and not be burned at the stake for the magic I carried in me. But that magic gave me value in the eyes of PsyLED, value I couldn’t help but appreciate.
I locked the truck and entered my house, expecting it to be cold and dank inside. Instead, someone had made a fire in my wood-burning stove, and the house was warm. It smelled of fresh bread and there was a pot of something wonderfully beefy-smelling on the cooker hob. There were also fall flowers—sunflowers and mums—in a bouquet in the kitchen table. I knew who had been here, and I warmed all over. My family relationships were still healing after a youth of misunderstandings and lies, but I recognized Mama’s touch in the food and Mindy’s in the flowers. Like me, maybe far too much like me, my sister was gifted with plants.
I stowed the gear away fast and checked the pot to find beef stew with barley and vegetables, Mama’s secret recipe. I gave kibble to the cats, freshened their water, spooned up the stew, and texted my boss, Rick LaFleur, the senior special agent in charge—or SAC—of Unit Eighteen, to let him know I had made it to Knoxville and had his new equipment.
Duty appeased, I called Mama while I ate. Once greetings had been exchanged and I had described the trip and the roads and the traffic and the weather, all things one did before reaching the heart of a conversation, I said, “You shouldn’t have brought me dinner, Mama, but thank you. The stew is wonderful and the house looks beautiful. Tell Mud I love the flowers.”
“Of course we should. You’un are our girl and you’un’s back after time away. Mindy and I made the stew together. She’uns learnin’ right quick-like, and turning out to be quite the cook. Some young man will snatch her up fast, unless I miss my guess. And then we’uns spent the afternoon airing out your house, putting new sheets on that fancy new bed you got, and dusting. Good heavens, those cats of yours are a noisy bunch.”
I let the comment about Mud—“Mindy” to Mama—marrying young, pass by, but I had no intention of allowing my sister to be married off before she was eighteen. Not happening. If she wanted a life of polygamy, the life espoused by the church, then fine, but it wasn’t a decision she would make until she was of legal age.
The phone call ended on a high note, with me promising to come over for lunch tomorrow, lunch with the whole family: Mama, Daddy; Mama Carmel and Mama Grace, daddy’s other two wives; my true sibs and half sibs; and my brother Sam’s new wife, according to the church and according to the law of the land, both. A girl I hadn’t met. They had been legally married, proving that his wife was of legal age. The legal marriage and the legal age together indicated that things had changed at the church, and hinted that things might be changing even more. I could always hope.
As I washed the single bowl and spoon and put the leftover stew in the refrigerator, my cell trilled out its repeating notes. I’d had exactly seven phone calls on the cell, and it was still exciting when it warbled the notes announcing a call. It was Rick, and instead of responding to my hello, he said, “Can you come in to the office?”
My childhood had me automatically trying to say yes, but all the weeks in Spook School had given me better instincts. “I just spent over nine hours on the road in a truck. In a truck,” I repeated. “It’s cold and dark and I am home and staying here.”
Rick was silent for so long that I thought we might have lost the connection, but he finally said, “We have a case that fits your special abilities. Unit’s on the way to your place. ETA thirty-five, and have my new equipment ready.”
“Oh,” I said. “Okay.” He ended the call and I sighed, not sure if I was sad or eager. A case meant that my long holiday week off was a goner, which was sad, but starting a job, a real job, chasing real paranormal perpetrators would be exciting. Well, most investigations would be predominately paperwork and making deliveries to my coworkers, but sometimes things happened, started moving fast, and that part of the job was undeniably thrilling.
At least the house was clean and dust-free, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed that guests—coworkers—would see it. I started coffee in the brand-new Bunn coffeemaker, set out small plates, cloth napkins, and spoons, sliced a loaf of Mama’s bread, and opened a jar of preserves, since I had nothing else in the kitchen to offer guests. I put the strawberry preserves in a microwaveable bowl to warm when the unit arrived. And I thought about how much my life had changed in the last few months. I had a microwave. It was practically sinful, though I did note that Mama hadn’t said anything about my changing and decadent lifestyle—other than my bed, and widder-women often bought new beds—over the phone or in the note on the table. Churchwomen didn’t have microwaves or coffeemakers. Ever.
In the last few minutes of alone time, I unpacked, showered, and dressed in fresh clothes, leaving my feet bare on the chilled floors so I could maintain contact with Soulwood.
Before I left my room, I prepared and crammed a fully kitted-out, four-day overnight gobag, with clean undies, toiletries, a faded pink blanket, and two changes of mix-and-match clothes. The personal gear was enough for a four-day trip, and included my passport, extra chargers, battery backups, a bottle of water, and high-energy snack food, for emergencies. If I needed to leave in a hurry on unit business, I would be able to. My large gobag, like all the gobags of the other unit members, would be stored at HQ. I also packed a smaller bag to use in the field, containing minimal gear, two evidence collection kits, field boots, gloves, and one change of clothes for any bloody, wet, muddy, or torn emergency.
When I was as ready as I could make myself and the house, I signed onto the house’s Wi-Fi to check my e-mail. Having tech in the house felt surreal. Having a cell phone, a laptop, that fancy-schmancy microwave, and a real coffeemaker instead of the metal percolator I had been content with for years, felt almost evil in the blatant consumption of the world’s goods. I had lived on the edge for so long that it was taking a lot of time to realize that not all convenience was the devil’s hand in the world. Growing up in God’s Cloud, and leaving it only to become a junior wife to John Ingram, had given me a skewed view of life, and I was still working through it.
Six minutes before the unit was supposed arrive, I felt the deep thrum of a four-wheel-drive truck or SUV coming up my mountain. I closed the laptop and added a log to the firebox, warmed the preserves in the new microwave, and checked the solar battery levels on the new gauges at the stairwell wall. The solar cell and battery system had been upgraded while I was at school, thanks to the sale of John’s old four-barreled shotgun—which turned out to be an expensive collectible—and I now could run up to three days on full backup power. If I was careful about fuel usage, I could even outlast the lightless days of most ice storms, when I might be trapped on the mountain with only the wood-burning cookstove and the cats for company for a week at a time.
Tossing a shawl over my shoulders, I walked out onto the front porch as the microwave pinged behind me. The SUV came to a stop and Unit Eighteen boiled out of the open doors. JoJo, who had been heard to refer to herself as the unit’s token human, also the unit’s IT specialist, was wearing a wildly patterned skirt and turban, her braids flinging out around her, the electronic tools of her trade tucked beneath her arms. T. Laine, the moon witch (one with strong earth magic affinities), was dressed in jeans, hiking boots, and a wool jacket with a hood. She moved with a deliberate slowness, as if feeling my land through the soles of her boots, and she carried what looked like two boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts; my mouth started watering. Tandy, the empath, stepped out more slowly, his face wreathed in a smile that faded into something odd in the security lights, but perhaps that was the effect of shadows on the permanent Lichtenberg lines that marked his skin from being struck by lightning three times. Occam, the wereleopard, practically danced up the stairs, and Tandy fell behind as Occam and JoJo grabbed me in a hug.
I patted JoJo’s shoulders and, hesitantly, Occam’s back, which was solid muscle under his work shirt. I’d only ever hugged family and John, my husband, and he’d been dead for years. Physical contact was not a part of my daily life. The hug by the wereleopard was strong and unexpected and the contact did strange things to my insides. I jerked back a moment too soon for good manners and, at JoJo’s surprised expression, I blurted in church-speak, “You’uns come on in. Hospitality and safety while you’re here.” The formal welcome was an old God’s Cloud saying, and though the church and I had parted ways, some things stay with a woman, like accent, hospitality, and a steady hand on the trigger.
“Nell, sugar,” Occam said in his strongest Texan accent, “we done missed you something awful.”
“What the white boy said,” JoJo added. “If you can call a dude who changes into a leopard a white boy. The jury’s still out on that one.”
Paka, a native of Gabon in the African Congo region, and a black wereleopard, slinked past us and opened the door to snatch up the house cats that raced out. “I have not missed you,” she said, her black eyes glinting at me in a cat tease, “for I have hunted on your land and eaten of its prey.”
Occam play-swatted at Paka—a cat move—as he swept me inside my own home. “The huntin’ was nice, I admit, Nell, sugar, and you’re a peach to let us hunt here on our moon-called nights.”
“Hurry up,” JoJo said. “Let me in. It’s cold out here for the humans and witches among us. Damn, Nell, look at you in pants!”
Self-conscious, I touched my hips and slid my palms along my thighs. It still felt strange to wear pants. Before I went to Spook School, I had only ever worn pants when working in the garden, and then they been a pair of Farmer John–style coveralls. I still hadn’t worn my first pair of blue jeans yet, but the knit slacks were another step in the direction of becoming a modern woman. “You like?” I asked, my uncertainty clear in my tone.
“I had no idea you had legs that long,” T. Laine said. “If I had legs like that, I’d be in pants all the time. Or a short skirt. You look like a model. And you cut your hair again.”
“I love the look,” JoJo said, reaching out and flipping my short bob. “You took a page out of Lainie’s fashion style. Nice cut for a probie. What’d they do, grab you by your hair and force you to the mat during sparring practice?”
“Pretty much,” I said. It had been humiliating and I had sworn it would never happen again. I had cut my hair to prevent that hold, and though I’d hit the mat many times afterward, it was never because my hair gave an opponent a handhold.
The group gathered inside, with Rick, Pea on his shoulder, entering last. I kept my mouth shut only by an effort of will. The senior special agent looked as if he had lost ten pounds. Deep lines ran from his nose to his chin, like parentheses cradling his mouth. He was pale. Dark circles marred the flesh beneath his eyes like bruises. Now that I knew his story, I had to wonder if not being able to shift into his werecat was wearing him down. Or maybe the relationship with Paka, which was one-sided in every way, was doing that to him. I knew a lot more about that peculiar relationship now. Paka grabbed Rick’s hand and pulled him inside. She was petite but strong, and it appeared that Rick had given up fighting her on anything. He took the seat beside her on the couch, his olive skin looking pale and drab beside her glistening dark skin and curly black hair.
Pea, the unit’s grindylow, padded across Rick’s shoulders and settled in Paka’s lap. The supernatural were-creature killer butted the werecat’s hand, demanding to be petted, just like a regular house cat, though Pea was neon green and had hidden steel claws with which she was equipped to kill were-creatures who stepped out of line. Absently Paka petted her judge, jury, and potential executioner.
Paka wasn’t a US citizen and was part of PsyLED by way of a complicated liaison agreement between her native country’s government and the State Department. I didn’t particularly like that Rick was so captivated by her, but Paka wasn’t my problem.
The rest of us gathered around the kitchen table, the group asking me questions, all of us talking over one another. It was a great reunion, and it gave me something I hadn’t expected. It gave me the feeling of being part of something special. Something important. I had almost gotten that feeling in Spook School, that awareness of significance and value and consequence. As if I was doing something worthwhile with my life instead of hiding on my mountain. I had figured out at Spook School that marriage and a future family were far less important to me than they were to my full and half sibs. I had been born an outsider, and I had finally found a home in PsyLED.
After twenty minutes of homemade bread and preserves, donuts and chatter, Rick cleared his throat. Before he could speak, JoJo said to me, “Ricky Bo’s gonna steal your time off. You know that, don’tcha?”
I ducked my head and smiled as I opened my laptop. “I assumed as much.”
“Sorry, Nell,” Rick said. And he did sound sorry. “I’ll make sure you get time with your family. But we have a case, and it falls right into your skill set.
Posted in arrangement with Roc.
Released: November 1st 2016
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Soulwood #2
Published by Roc
Set in the same world as Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, the second Soulwood novel tells the story of a woman whose power comes from deep within the earth...
Before Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she had no one to rely on, finding strength only in in her arcane connection to the dark woods around her. But now she has friends in the newly-formed PsyLED team to keep her grounded—even if being part of the agency responsible for policing paranormals presents dangers of its own...
After training at the PsyLED academy, Nell returns home to her woods to find the land feeling sick and restless. And that sickness is spreading. With the help of her team, under the leadership of agent Rick LaFleur, Nell tries to determine the cause. But nothing can prepare them for the evil that awaits: an entity that feeds on death itself. And it wants more...
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