Rachel Caine: Thin Air

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Rachel Caine Thin Air
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    Thin Air
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Thin Air: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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After preventing Mother Earth from destroying the planet, Joanne Baldwin lost her memories thanks to Ashan the djinn-and they will remain lost forever unless Joanne can recover her identity-and destroy the demon who is impersonating her, fabulous shoes and all…

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Rachel Caine


Thin Air

Book six of The Weather Warden Series, 2007

To all the great people who have been so enthusiastic about the adventures of Joanne and David, and the world of the Wardens. It’s been a long, strange trip, but you’ve made it the best ride of my life.

So far, anyway.


The Author Wishes to Thank:


Joe Bonamassa

(www.jbonamassa.com)


Josefine Corsten and Sondra Lehman, without whom this book would not have been possible


The winners of the 2006 NaNoWriMo competition:


Janice Smith (1st place), Telaryn, Amanda M. Hayes, Rhienelleth, Carrie Miller, Mysticmoose, CKocher, Tainry, Writerfangirl, Navah Wolfe, Kaylana-Nicole, Laura Roman, Seeksadventure, Jenn Moffatt, April Urbain, Karl F. Hubert, Jennifer Carey, Zoe Winters, Jennifer Kammerer-Pulley, Jennifer Minnick, Katinka Espersen, Amanda Smith, Alexa Silver, Brian A. Crawford, Crystal Sarakas, Charity Vandehey, Carla Lee, Larinzia, Andrea Miccaver


My friends (especially P. N. Elrod, Kelley, Marla, Claire, Becky, Katie, and Becky!) and my family (especially my husband, Cat)


Grateful thanks to Donna Cummings, who fearlessly waded in on short notice to give feedback…


Speaking of fearless, kudos to my fearless agents, Lucienne Diver and Kevin Cleary


And most especially, thanks to my editor, Liz Scheier, for her tremendous faith in me

PREVIOUSLY…

I was lying on something cold and wet, and I was naked and shivering. Afraid. Something was very, very wrong with me.

I reflexively curled in on myself, protecting as much of my body as I could, as awareness of the world washed over me in hot, pulsing waves.

Biting, frigid wind. Ice-cold sleet trailing languid fingers over my bare skin. I forced my eyes open and saw my arm lying on the ground in front of me, hand outstretched, and my skin was a pallid, blue-tinged white, red at the fingertips. Frostbite.

I ached all over, so fiercely that I felt tears well up in my eyes. And I felt empty, cored and thrown out like an old orange peel.

I forced myself to look beyond my own hand and saw that I was lying in a mound of cold, slimy leaf litter. Overhead, bare trees swayed and scratched the sky, and what little could be seen between the skeletal branches was gray, flocked with low clouds. The air tasted thin in my mouth.

I tried to think where I was, how I’d gotten here, but it was a blank. Worse, it terrified me to even try to think of it. I shuddered with more than the cold, gasping, and squeezed my eyes shut again.

Get up, I told myself. Up. I’d die if I stayed here, naked and freezing. But when I tried to uncurl myself from the embryonic position I’d assumed, I couldn’t get anything to work right. My muscles jittered and spasmed and protested wildly, and the best I managed was to roll myself up to my hands and knees and not quite fall flat on my face again.

I heard a voice yelling somewhere off in the woods. Sticks cracking as something large moved through the underbrush. Run! something told me, and I was immediately drenched in cold terror. I lunged up to my feet, biting back a shriek of agony as muscles trembled and threatened to tear. I fell against the rough bark of a tree and clung to it as cramps rippled through my back and legs, like giant hands giving me the worst massage in the world. I saw sparks and stars, bit my lip until I tasted blood. My hair was blowing wildly in the wind where it wasn’t stuck to my damp, cold skin or matted with mud and leaves.

I let go of the tree and lurched away. My legs didn’t want to move, but I forced them, one step at a time. My arms were wrapped around my breasts to preserve a warmth that I couldn’t find, either within me or without.

My feet were too cold to feel pain, but when I looked back I saw I was leaving smears of blood behind on the fallen leaves. Cuts had already opened on the soles.

I kept moving. It was more of a lurching not-quite-falling than running, but I was too frightened to wait for any kind of improvement. Had to keep going.

More shouting behind me. Voices, more than one. The hammer of blood in my ears kept me from focusing on the words. Someone did this to me, I thought. Put me out here to die. I didn’t want them to find that they’d failed.

Not that they really had failed, yet.

Up ahead was a tangle of underbrush. My body was already covered with whip scratches and a lacework of blood against cold white skin. I needed a way around… I turned right, holding to a massive tree trunk for support, and clambered up a short rise.

Just as I reached the summit, a shadow appeared at the top of it. I gasped and started to fall backward, but the shadow reached down and grabbed my forearm, pulling me up the rest of the way and then wrapping me in sudden warmth as his arms closed around me.

I fought, startled and scared, but he was a big man, tall, and he managed to pin my arms to my sides in a bear hug. “Jo!” he shouted in my ear. “Joanne, stop! It’s me! It’s Lewis!”

He smelled like wood smoke and sweat, leaves and nylon, but he was warm, oh, God, warm as heaven itself, and against my own will I felt myself go limp and stop fighting. For the moment.

“Jo?” He slowly let his arms loosen and pulled back to look down at me. He was taller than I was by half a head, with shaggy-cut brown hair and a long patrician face with big, dark eyes. A three-day growth of beard was coming in heavy on his cheeks and chin. “We’ve been looking for you for days. Are you-” He stopped himself with an impatient shake of his head. “Never mind, stupid question. Obviously you’re not okay or you’d have contacted us. Listen, we’re in trouble. Bad trouble. We need you. Things have gone wrong.”

I realized, with a terrible sinking feeling, that I had no idea who he was. And then the sinking turned to free fall.

He must have known something was wrong, because he frowned at me and passed his hand in front of my eyes. “Jo? Are you listening to me?”

I had no idea who I was.

ONE

There were worse things than being naked, freezing, and alone in a forest. For instance, there was being naked, freezing, not alone, and not sure of who the hell you were. And having people depending on you.

That was worse.

Lewis-the man who’d found me, the tall, ragged-looking specimen with the cheekbones-had put my silence down to shock, which was probably not far from the truth. When I just clung to him, shivering in the frigid wind, he finally stripped off his down jacket and draped it over my shoulders. I watched him, shivering and numb, clutching the down coat hard around me. It smelled of dirt and feathers and sweat.

“Say something,” he commanded. I didn’t. I couldn’t. All I could do was shake. What was that in his eyes? Anguish? Fury? Love? Hate? I had no frame of reference for him, or for what he was feeling. “Jo, how’d you get here? Where have you been?”

Jo. I waited for some kind of internal recognition, some circuit to activate. I waited for some confirmation that Jo was my name.

Nothing.

When I kept silent, he finally shook his head and glanced around, then gathered up the backpack he’d dropped on the ground. “Come with me.” I had no reason to, but I was too cold and too weak. Lewis steered me down the gentler slope of the far side of the hill, into a small clearing. Overhead it looked like twilight, everything masked into smooth gray cotton by low-hanging clouds. Virga draped from them, veiling the treetops. “Sit,” he ordered, and I collapsed onto the cold ground in a huddle. I’d lost too much body heat; the coat couldn’t warm me. Lewis turned away and grabbed handfuls of fallen wet wood from the underbrush-good-sized logs, some of them-and began putting together the makings of a fire. Within five minutes he had cleared a space, dug down to the dirt, created a fire pit, and ringed it with rough stones.

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