Rachel Caine: Heat Stroke

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Rachel Caine Heat Stroke
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    Heat Stroke
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Heat Stroke: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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In Rachel Caine’s tempestuous follow-up to —forecast as “a fun read” by bestselling author Jim Butcher—the Wardens Association still protects the human race from extermination by climatic extremes, when they’re not turning on their own…. Accused of murder, Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin was chased across the country—and killed—by a team charged with hunting down rogue Wardens. Five days later, Joanne had a lovely funeral and was posthumously cleared of all charges. Her human life was over, but she had been reborn into Djinnhood. Now, until she masters her enhanced powers, Joanne must try to avoid being “claimed” by a human. But when a hazard that only a Djinn could sense infiltrates Earth’s atmosphere, Joanne must somehow convince someone to do something about it—or the forecast will be deadly. So who said being all-powerful was going to be easy?

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David steered me expertly out of the path of a tall, thin woman in black I barely recognized—Earth Warden, Maria something, from the West Coast. She was talking to Ravi Subranavan, the Fire Warden who controlled the territory around Chicago.

Everywhere I looked, people I knew. Not many were what I’d call friends, but they’d been coworkers, at least. The cynical part of me noted that they’d shown up for free booze, but the truth was most of them had needed to make arrangements to be here— naming replacements, handing over power, enduring long drives or longer plane rides. A lot of hassle for a free glass or two of champagne, even if it was offered at the Drake.

I kept looking for the people I was hoping to see, but there was no sign of Paul Giancarlo or Lewis Orwell. I spotted Marion Bearheart sipping champagne with Shirl, one of her enforcement agents. Marion was a warm, kind, incredibly dangerous woman with the mandate to hunt down and kill rogue Wardens. Well, killing was a last resort, but she was not only prepared to do it, she was pretty damn good at it. Hell, she’d almost gotten me. And even with that bad memory, I still felt a little lift of spirits seeing her. She just had that kind of aura.

She looked recovered—well rested, neatly turned out in a black leather suede jacket, fringed and beaded. Blue jeans, boots. A turquoise squash blossom necklace big enough to be traditional in design, small enough to be elegant. She’d gotten some of the burned ends trimmed off her long, straight, graying hair.

Shirl had cleaned up some of her punk makeup and gone for an almost sober outfit, but the piercings had stayed intact. Ah well. You can take the girl out of the mosh pit… No sign of Erik, the third member of the team who’d chased me halfway across the country. Maybe he wasn’t feeling overly respectful to my memory. I’d been a little hard on him, now that I thought about it.

David reversed course in time to avoid a collision with an elegantly suited gray-haired man, and I realized with a jolt that my little shindig had drawn the big guns. Martin Oliver, Weather Warden for all of the continental U.S. Not a minor player on the world stage. He was talking to a who’s who: the Earth Warden for Brazil, the Weather Warden for Africa, and a guy I vaguely recognized as being from somewhere in Russia.

My memorial had become the in place to be, if you were among the magical elite.

David tugged me to the right to avoid a gaggle of giggling young women eyeing a trying-to-be-cool group of young men—did I know these people? Weren’t they too young to have the fate of the world in their hands? — and we ended up walking through the mahogany doors into a larger room, set up with rows of burgundy chairs.

My knees threatened to go weak. All the place needed was my coffin to complete the scene, but instead they had a huge blown-up picture of me, something relatively flattering, thank God, on an expensive-looking gold easel. In the photo I looked… wistful. A little sad.

She’s dead, I thought. That person is dead. I’m not her anymore.

There were so many arrangements it looked like a flower shop had exploded—lilies were a theme, and roses, but it being spring I got the rainbow assortment. Purple irises, birds of paradise, daisies of every shape and size.

It hurt and healed me, thinking of all those people laying out time and money for this incredible display.

We weren’t alone in the room. Two people were sitting at the front, heads bowed, and I squeezed David’s hand and let go. I walked up the long aisle toward the eerie black and white photo of myself, and the two men I’d come to see who were seated in front of it.

Paul Giancarlo was sitting bent over with his head cradled in big, thick-fingered hands. Not crying—men like Paul didn’t cry, it was against the whole tough-guy code of ethics—but he was rocking back and forth, chair creaking, and I could feel his distress like heat from a stove. He wasn’t fat, but muscular, and he stressed the structural limits of the sharp hand-tailored suit he was wearing. I’d never seen him in a tie before. It was strangely sweet. I wanted to put my arms around as much of him as my embrace could reach. I wanted to sink into his bear-hug warmth and never come out again, because one thing about being with Paul, he made you feel safe.

Funny, considering his heritage was something straight out of The Godfather.

“Should’ve done something.” His words were muffled by his hands, but he was talking to the man who sat next to him. “You fucking well should have done something, Lew. What’s the use of being the biggest swinging dick around if you can’t save the people who matter? Answer me that!”

He slapped the question at Lewis Levander Orwell. Lewis might actually be the most powerful human on the planet, but next to Paul he looked like wallpaper. Tall, rangy, with puppy-dog brown eyes and a reasonably handsome face, he could have fit the part of an ad executive, or a lawyer, or any of a hundred normal white-collar jobs. He didn’t look like a guy who could command the weather, fire, and the very power of the earth itself. But the things I’d seen him do, the sheer force I’d felt him wield… incredible. Humbling.

“Being the biggest swinging dick around? It’s not much use at all,” Lewis said. He had a low, warm tenor voice, just a hint of roughness around the edges. He was staring down at his hands—long sensitive fingers, the hands of a pianist or a sculptor— as they pressed down on his thighs. His suit was not nearly as nice as Paul’s—serviceable, generic, forgettable. He never had been much of a fashion plate. “I tried to save her. You have to believe I tried. It was just… too much.”

“I guess I don’t have any choice but to believe you, right? No witnesses.” Paul sucked in a breath and sat up. His face hovered on the border between brutal and angelic. Gray salted his temples these days, which I hadn’t noticed before. He was ten years older than me, which put him close to forty, but the gray in his hair was the only indication he’d aged a day since I first saw him. I’d been eighteen, scared and irrationally arrogant; he’d been twenty-eight, and arrogant for damn good reason. He’d saved my ass then, when Bad Bob Biringanine had tried to stop me from becoming a Warden.

I couldn’t believe he was blaming himself for not saving my ass five days ago. I wanted to smack him one and tell him it was okay, I was right here, that the Joanne he’d known might be gone but most of her—maybe the best of her—lived on. I actually did reach out, or start to, but then Lewis’s eyes focused on me.

Unmistakably seeing me.

Oh. Well, of course he could, he’d seen me before, at Estrella’s house, when I was new-born into Djinnhood. Lewis could see, well, everything when he wanted to. Part of the legacy of who and what he was.

I shaped a silent hi. He half closed his eyes and smiled. Not surprised to find me here at all. Hi yourself, he mouthed, and the warmth in his expression made me tingle all over. Yeah, it’s like that between us. Always. Nothing either of us could control, no matter how much we wanted to.

Holding the stare, Lewis said, “She’s okay, Paul. Believe me. She’s in a better place.” About three feet to his left.

“Yeah? You got a fuckin‘ pipeline to heaven these days? I knew you were supposed to be some kind of god, but I didn’t know you had the all-access pass.” Paul’s bitterness was scorching. He wiped his face and sat back with another creak of the chair. “Whatever. Look, she never said so, but I know she had a thing for you.”

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