Table of Contents
Praise for the Weather Warden Series
“The forecast calls for . . . a fun read.”âJim Butcher
“[As] swift, sassy, and sexy as Laurell K. Hamilton . . . Rachel Caine takes the Weather Wardens to places the Weather Channel never imagined!”âMary Jo Putney
“A fast-paced thrill ride [that] brings new meaning to stormy weather.”â
“An appealing heroine, with a wry sense of humor that enlivens even the darkest encounters.”âSF Site
“Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton and the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher are going to love this fast-paced, action-packed, romantic urban fantasy.”â
Midwest Book Review
“A kick-butt heroine who will appeal strongly to fans of Tanya Huff, Kelley Armstrong, and Charlaine Harris.”
“A neat, stylish, and very witty addition to the genre, all wrapped up in a narrative voice to die for. Hugely entertaining.” âSF Crowsnest
“Chaos has never been so intriguing as when Rachel Caine shapes it into the setting of a story. Each book in this series has built in intensity and fascination. Secondary characters blossom as Joanne meets them anew, and twists are revealed that will leave you gasping.”
âHuntress Book Reviews
“The Weather Warden series is fun reading . . . more engaging than most TV.”â
“If for some absurd reason you haven't tucked in to this series, now's a good time. Get cracking.”âPurple Pens
“I dare you to put this book down.”
University City Review
“Overall, the fast pace, intense emotion, cool magics, and a sense of hurtling momentum toward some planet-sized conclusion to the overarching story are keeping me a fan of the Weather Warden series. I continue to enjoy Joanne's girly-girl yet kick-ass nature.”âRomantic & Fantasy Novels
Also by Rachel Caine
THE WEATHER WARDEN SERIES
Â Ill Wind
Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, February 2009
Copyright Â© Roxanne Longstreet Conrad, 2009
eISBN : 978-1-440-66169-3
All rights reserved
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To Jean Stuntz, my dear and patient friend,
who sat with me in a humid bar
in Oklahoma City and helped me figure out
a halfway good idea.
You, my dear, rock.
To Cynthia Clarke, for services above and beyond!
My friends P. N. Elrod, Sharon Sams-Adams, and the Time Turners for extraordinary support.
To beta readers Brooke Carleton, Sonya Volkhardt, and Jesse L. Cairns for masterful commentary and guidance.
To the Victory dealership in Arlington, Texas, and the Smart Car dealership in Dallas.
IT ONLY TOOK
one word to destroy me, after millennia of living in peace and security, and the word was
I knew as I made my answer that it would not come without consequences. Had I known just how vast those would be, and how far they would ripple, I doubt I would have had the courage.
Humans say that ignorance is bliss, and perhaps that's true, even for Djinn.
For a moment, it seemed that my act of outright defiance brought with it no reaction. Ashan, the Djinn facing meâone of the oldest of the Old Onesâwas a swirl of brilliance without form, a being without the trap of flesh, just as I was.
I thought that perhaps, this time, my defiance might go unpunished, and then I felt a ripple in the aetheric currents surrounding me. The aetheric was the world in which I lived, a plane of light and energy, heat and fire. It had little in common with the lower planes, the ones tied to dirt and death. I lived in heaven, and a ripple in heaven was ominous indeed.
I watched as Ashanâbrother, father, god of my existence, newly made Conduit from Mother Earth to the Djinnâtook on form and substance. It required power to do such a thing here, in this place; I had not bothered with form in so many turnings of the world I didn't think I could even remember the shapes, and even if I did, I had not the raw force necessary to manipulate things here.
Ashan's aetheric form became ominously solid and dark, and I felt the ripples grow stronger, rocking the reality around us. The bands and currents of colors, pastel and perfect, took on sharp edges. Rainbows bled and wept.
“No?” He repeated it from a mouth that was almost human form, giving me the chance to change my answer. To save myself.
“I cannot. No.”
This time, the rainbows burned. Another ripple hit me in a wave, hot and thick with menace, and I felt a strange pulling sensation that quickly became . . . pain, as much as one could feel pain without physical form. I was in danger; every instinct screamed it.
“Last chance,” Ashan said. “Cassiel, don't test me. I can't allow your rebellion. Not now. Do as you are ordered.”
What I was doing wasn't rebellion, but he couldn't see this so clearly, and I could not explain. I had never been known for my reasonable nature, and I never explained myself.
I stayed silent.
“Then you chose this. Remember that.”
I felt the tugging inside of me turn white-hot, searing in its intensity. I felt the exact moment when Ashan ripped away my connection to the aetheric, to him, to the mother of us all, the Earth.
Beyond that, the vast and unknowable God.
I felt the exact moment when I died as a Djinn, and fell, screaming. I crashed through all the planes of heaven, shattering each in turn, a bright white star burning as it fell. I took on form.
I landed facedown in the mud and dirt.
The voice was a whisper, but it burned in my ears like acid. The slightest soundâeven my own nameâwas agonizing. I had never been hurt before, and I was drowning in the sensations, the agony of it. The humiliating fury of helplessness, of being trapped in
. Of being mutilated and emptied and cut off.
The worst of it was that it was my own fault.
I rolled away from the sound of my name being called again, and from the gentle brushing touch of a hand. My fresh-born nerves screamed, outraged by every hint of pressure. I couldn't separate my thoughts from the overwhelming, crushing burden of senses I had never bothered to master before, because I had never bothered to be human.
“Cassiel, it's David. Can you hear me?”
David. Yes. David was Djinn, a Conduit like Ashan. He would understand. He could help. He could sense the echoing emptiness inside me where my power had once been; he could tell how badly damaged I was. He could make it
“Help,” I whispered, or tried to. I don't know if he understood me. The sounds that came from my mouth sounded less like words than the raw whimpering of a wounded animal. There was no elegance to my plea, no eloquence. I had no grace. I was trapped in a prison of heavy, uncooperative flesh, and everything hurt. I tried to get away from the pain, but no matter how I writhed, changing my skin, changing inside it, the burn was constant. The agony of being
never went away.
His voice grew louder, more urgent. “Cassiel. Listen to me. You're shifting too fast. You have to choose a shape and hold on to it, do you understand? You're killing yourself. Stop shifting!”
I didn't understand. It was all flesh, and nothing felt right, nothing felt true. I kept blindly changing my formâthe shape of my face, the length of my legs and arms, my height, my weight. I abandoned human templates altogether for something smaller, something catlike, but that felt wrong, too, worse than wrong, and I clawed back into human flesh and fell on my side again, panting and exhausted. I blinked my eyesâoh, so limited, these eyes, seeing such a narrow spectrum of lightâand saw that my exhausted body had settled into a female form, long-limbed, pale. The hair that straggled across my field of vision was very pale, as wellâwhite, with a touch of ice blue. It matched the devastating cold inside of me.