Rachel Caine: Chill Factor

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Rachel Caine Chill Factor
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    Chill Factor
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    Современная проза / на английском языке
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    Английский
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Chill Factor: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin hasn't had it easy. In the previous two books in Caine's sharply written series, she "had a really bad week, died, got reborn as a Djinn, had an even worse week, and saved the world, sort of" and "died again, sort of" before waking up human. Normally, Weather Wardens must simply protect the rest of the human race from deadly weather, but Joanne, who's deeply tough, resolutely moral and highly fond of fast cars and "bitchin' shoes," keeps getting tasked with saving the world. This time, a surly teenager named Kevin has holed up in Las Vegas with the world's most powerful Djinn and is wreaking utter havoc. In order to stop him, she'll have to surrender her own Djinn and lover David, die yet again, get resuscitated, interrogated and electrocuted by members of a powerful secret society, and experience countless other injuries and indignities, all the while trying to figure out who-among the detectives, Wardens, Djinns, Ikrits (a dark, undead Djinn), former bosses and former lovers-is really on her side. It's all a bit confusing, for Joanne and readers alike, especially those who haven't followed her through Ill Wind and Heat Stroke, but it's a rollicking good ride. Caine's prose crackles with energy, as does her fierce and lovable heroine.

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Rachel Caine


Chill Factor

Book Three of the Weather Warden Series, 2005

SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT

I'd had a few brushes with how absolutely power could corrupt. The Wardens were built on solid, idealistic principles, but somewhere along the way some of us-maybe even a lot of us-had lost the mission. There were a few faithful, altruistic ones left (I didn't dare count myself among them).

It's never been my job, or my nature, to worry about whether or not what I was doing was right in the grand scheme of things. I'm a foot soldier. A doer, not a planner. I like being useful and doing my job well, and so far as the lasting satisfaction goes, owning a killer wardrobe and bitchin' shoes doesn't hurt.

I never wanted to be in an ethical struggle. It shouldn't be my job to decide who's right, who's wrong, who lives, who dies. It shouldn't be anybody's job, but most especially not mine. I'm not deep. I'm not philosophical. I'm a girl who likes fast cars and fast men and expensive clothes, not necessarily in that order.

But you do the job you're handed.


The author wishes to thank:

Good fortune, Godiva chocolates, and Slim-Fast

My long-suffering, long-haired Cat.

Jo, Kel, Glenn, Jackie, Pat, Annie, Circe, and a host of other wonderful friends too numerous to name here.

Lucienne Diver, for her magnificent support.


My friends and colleagues at LSG Sky Chefs.

Musical support: the great Joe Bonamassa,

Eric Czar, and Kenny Kramme!

www.jbonamassa.com

(And thanks to all the JB fans out there who've made me welcome in their family!)

PREVIOUSLY…

My name is Joanne Baldwin. I control the weather.

No, really. I was a member of the Weather Wardens… You probably aren't personally acquainted with them, but they keep you from getting fried by lightning (mostly), swept away by floods (sometimes), killed by tornadoes (occasionally). We try to do all that stuff. Sometimes we even succeed. It's amazingly difficult, not to mention dangerous, work.

I had a really bad week, died, got reborn as a Djinn, had an even worse week, and saved the world, sort of. Except that in the process I let a kid go who may be a whole hell of a lot worse than just a few world-scouring disasters.

Oh, and I died again, sort of. And this time I woke up human.

At least I still have a really fast car…

ONE

The sky overhead was blue. Clear, depthless, cloudless blue, the kind that stares back at you like Nietzsche's abyss. Not a cloud in sight.

I hate clear skies. Clear skies make me nervous.

I ducked and leaned forward again, trying to look straight up from the driver's seat through the most tinted part of the windshield. Nope, no clouds. Not even a wispy little modesty veil of humidity. I leaned back in the seat and adjusted my hips with a pained sigh. The last rest area I'd spotted had been a broken-down, scary-looking affair that would have made the most hardened long hauler keep on truckin', but pretty soon cleanliness wasn't going to matter nearly as much as availability.

I was so tired that everything looked filtered, textured, subtly wrong. Thirty hours since I'd caught three hours of sleep. Before that, at least another twenty-four of adrenaline and caffeine.

Before that I'd been on the road, driving like a madwoman, for three weeks, poised on the knife edge between boredom and panic. In a very real way, I'd been in a war zone all that time, waiting for the next bullet.

I was desperate for a bathroom, a bath, and a bed. In that order.

Instead, I edged a little bit more speed out of the accelerator.

"You all right?" asked my passenger. His name was David, and he was turned away, soaking up the sun that poured through the side window. When I didn't answer, he looked at me. Every time I saw his face, I had a little microshock of pleasure flash down my spine. Because he was gorgeous. High cheekbones, smooth gold-kissed skin, a round flash of glasses he didn't need but liked to wear anyway as protective camouflage. He wasn't bothering with disguising his eyes just now, and they flared a color not found anywhere in the human genome… warm bronze, flecked with orange.

David was a Djinn. He even had a bottle, which currently rested in the pocket of my jacket, cap off. And that whole three-wishes thing? Not accurate. As long as I held his bottle, I had nearly unlimited power at my fingertips. Except it also came with nearly unlimited responsibility, which isn't the supersized bowl of cherries it sounds.

He didn't look tired. It made me feel even worse, if that were remotely possible.

"You need to rest," he said. I turned my attention back to the road. I-70 stretched on to the horizon in a flat black ribbon, stripes faded to ghosts by the merciless desert sun. On either side of the car, the landscape bristled with more spikes than leaves-Joshua trees, squatty alien cacti. To a girl from Humidity Central, also known as Florida, the thin, dry air seemed too light to breathe, so hot it scorched the lining of my lungs. And it was all blurring into sameness, after days of playing cat and mouse out here in the middle of nowhere.

"Oh, I'm just peachy," I said. "How are we doing?"

"Better than we have," he said. "I don't think they've noticed us yet."

"Yet." A sour taste grew in the back of my throat, not entirely due to the lack of toothbrush and minty freshness. "Well, how much farther do we have to go?"

"Exactly?"

"Approximately."

"Miles or time?"

"Just spill it, already."

"We just passed a town called Solitude. Six more hours, give or take." David leaned back in the passenger seat, still looking at me. "Seriously. You okay?"

"I have to pee." I fidgeted again in the seat and glared at the road. "This sucks. Being human sucks, dammit." I should know. I spent a semi-glorious, spectacular, brief period as a Djinn. And I'd never had this embarrassing need to pee in the middle of nowhere.

He kicked back in the seat and tilted his head up at the blank car roof. "Yes, so you've said."

"Well, it does."

"You didn't mind being human before."

"Hadn't seen how the other half lives, before."

He smiled at the roof. Which was a shame, because the roof couldn't appreciate it the way I do. "Want me to conjure you up a bathroom?"

Bastard. "Bite me."

He gave me that raised-eyebrows expression again, over mockingly innocent eyes. "Why? Would it help?"

He was taunting me with the whole bathroom thing. Oh, he could conjure one up, that wasn't the problem; hell, he could probably conjure up one with Italian marble tile and hot and cold running Perrier. But I couldn't let him, because we had to keep a low profile for as long as we could, magic-wise. David was doing all he could to keep us unnoticed, but any big, flashy conjurations would certainly light up the aetheric like a supernova.

And that would be bad. To put it mildly.

I pulled the car over to the side of the road; Mona protested, powered down to a throaty growl, and shivered to silence when I turned the key. In seconds, heat pushed through the windshield like a bully. Had to be in the nineties already, even though it was barely mid-April. I felt sticky, unwashed, cramped, and frazzled. Nothing like a little two-thousand mile trip and spending three weeks in a holding pattern-driving nearly the whole time-to make you get that less-than-fresh feeling.

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