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Our latest Deadly Destinations stop is New Seattle. Our tour guide today is Karina Cooper’s Jessie Leigh…a not so conventional witch. BLOOD OF THE WICKED and Karina’s latest book, LURE OF THE WICKED, are already available, and today Jessie is introducing us to New Seattle. Thanks to Karina , two of you who comment on this post will win a copy of the first book! See details below.
Welcome to New Seattle
by Jessie Leigh
“Let’s get this straight,” the woman with the tired, but warm, brown eyes tells you as you duck under the curtain strung haphazardly over the door. Her voice is as tired as she looks, but her gaze is speculative, taking in your obvious tourist apparel. The hat your grandmother forced on you—“So you don’t catch your death in the rain.”—and the bag slung over your shoulder. Your shoes, which cause lifted eyebrows.
You wait, because the woman with the pale blonde hair and worn smile wants you to. It adds to the feel, you think. The witchy vibe that has to be coming from her, because the dingy one-room apartment with its bland furnishings isn’t doing it.
“You’re here to be shown around the city—” The city, you think. No one calls it New Seattle who lives here. “—and that’s it? That’s all you want?” Her eyes narrow, and for a second, you’d swear that her eyes turn to gold. Shiny. Filled with something that makes your skin prickle. But no, it’s just the light, and she shrugs lightly. “Okay, then. Have a seat.”
Will there be tea before the trip?
“My name’s Jessie. I don’t bite, although Naomi’s been teaching me how to break knees, so don’t try anything funny.” You wouldn’t dare. You like your knees. “Take my hand. And try not to, I don’t know…” She grins as you automatically enfold her hand in yours. “Scream.”
You don’t get the chance to react before the room shifts out from under you. Suddenly, the walls fade to glitter and shadow and your vision goes gray. No, wait, it’s not your vision… It’s the world! Color leaches from everything, leaving a shadowy place that’s just you, the golden-haired witch, and a thousand threads shot through with a pale light. It’s like a spider’s web. Like, you think in awe as your fingers tighten around hers, one of those funnel webs where it draws the hapless prey into the ground to be pounced upon and—
“Hey.” The woman, her pixie face lit up in a laughing smile, tugs on your hand. You turn your… head, you think, but distractedly. It’s not as if you really turned your head. You’re pretty sure you can still feel the chair under your backside. But here you are, here she is, floating in a world of glittering filaments. “Don’t get lost,” she tells you. “We’re going topside first.”
Topside. As if just by saying the word, brilliant sunlight shatters through the ghostly, washed out world. You are blinded, left to blink furiously as your eyes struggle to adjust. Slowly, your watery vision coalesces. And you gasp.
“Always a sight, isn’t it?” Jessie asks, her tone wry. “Take a second. Drink it in. This is the upper part of the city. We call it topside, ‘cause it’s the only place that gets any real natural light.”
From up in the sky—the sky, you tell yourself in half a panic—New Seattle looks like a layer cake. A giant, sky-scraping layer cake. You hover over the very center of it, just above the tallest peak of the highest tower, and you can see the multitude of layers spread out below you. Level upon level upon level, each block stacked on top of each other like a kid’s building blocks. Thousands of feet in the air. Thousands. You’re not sure how far down the city goes, but you can only see a third of it before the shadows from its own buildings blocks out the sun. Electric lights dot the base of the metropolis, and just on the edge of your vision, neon pops and fizzles. Around the whole city, a massive highway circles around and around, like a snake.
“Look.” She points, and you follow the line of her fingers to the west, where a massive metal arm has been extended out away from the city proper. The building on top of it glitters, panels of glass and metal. And blackened, smoke-charred edges, where you can clearly see the structural damage that has been left to the ravages of the open air. “That’s Timeless. Was Timeless.”
Without time? You don’t get it.
“No, I mean, that was a spa and resort. Naomi’s… er, boyfriend used to run the place. It was really high class, you know? All the rich people went there for utter privacy and total pampering. Naomi hated it, but I’d give my left arm for a chance to stay for a week. Or, like, a year.” She hesitates. “Before it caught fire.” The way she says caught fire makes you very curious, but Jessie isn’t letting you ask. Shaking her head, she then points down. You look, and realize you’re standing on the very tip of a glittering, ornate cross. “Welcome to the Holy Order of St. Dominic.”
“Not just witch hunters,” she corrects, “but everyone. The actual cathedral is inside, as is the witch-hunting Mission. This is where their library is, and based on what Naomi’s told me, also where the main armory is stored. They do all their burnings here, too.”
“Yeah, real burn at the stake stuff. Don’t worry, they can’t see you here. If they did, you’d never make it back home alive. To grandma, right?”
How did she know?
“This isn’t their only shop,” she tells you, her expression suddenly serious. “But it’s probably the only one I don’t personally know anything about. I’m not taking you inside because I don’t know what kind of wards—that’s security measures, to you non-witches—they’ve got in place. I’m pretty sure you told your grandma you wouldn’t get into trouble, so I’m going to hold you to it.”
You’re dying to know more, but before you can ask, the sky fades again to gray and those threads shimmer into view. Suddenly, you’re seeing New Seattle in an all new light—literally. As if some computer had drawn lines between every human, every location, every thought and concept and, hell, street sign. Those threads are everywhere.
Jessie reaches out and seizes one with her free hand, and you’re consciously aware of her other in yours. It feels very real. Suddenly, the visuals change, and you’re left feeling distinctly unsure of what just happened as there’s no light, no sudden shattering of the screen of your senses. Instead, there’s nothing but black. Black as far as the eye can see. Are you encased in something? Drowning? Locked in a cave? What the—
Jessie’s fingers tighten around yours. “Don’t panic,” she says, her voice oddly muffled in your ringing ears. “Silas is supposed to meet us here—Oh, there he is.” There’s a scratching sound, and then a spark in the endless night. It travels, briefly outlining a callused hand, before there’s a whoosh! Firelight leaps into the air, filming the dark over with crackling orange and gold. And outlining a large, muscled man with dark hair and serious, even put-upon, frown.
“You better be quick,” he says, his voice rumbling through the quiet like a freight train. But he’s not facing you.
Jessie rolls her eyes. “Don’t mind him. This wasn’t his idea. No, he can’t see us, he just knew to be here to light up.” Coming on the heels of burn at the stake, that seems a little flippant. Then, as your eyes adjust, you realize that you’re not standing in a cave or encased in rock. Broken pavement thrusts up in jagged pillars and crevasses around you. The orange light licks over the crumbled remains of what looks like brick and mortar, debris from old scrap metal and the vaguest hints of what used to be… cars? Walls? It’s all jumbled.
And just behind Silas, the twisted outlines of a dead tree thrusts skeletal fingers to the… the… sky?
“You’re looking at the first level of New Seattle,” Jessie says, following your puzzled gaze. The mass of metal pipes twisting, bending, tangled all together over your head drips steadily, but you don’t feel it. “When the old city fell, they put down thousands of support beams and built New Seattle right on top of it. You’re standing in what used to be Old Seattle. Nothing but ghosts and squatters, now.”
Her smile is humorless. “Mostly, witches trying to destroy the world.” What, really?
“No,” she assures you, “not really. We got unfairly nailed for that one fifty years ago, we’re done with that gig. The Coven of the Unbinding is, near as we can tell, a coven of witches all bent on bringing down the Church.”
By the fire, Silas shifts impatiently. “Time’s up, sunshine.”
Jessie glances at him, her lips curving up, then she turns back to you. “The Coven has a really nasty habit of sacrificing people for their cause. The nastier the sacrifice, the more attention or power it brings. A lot of innocent people get caught up in that mess.”
Sounds like a problem.
Jessie tips her head, then tugs on your hand. “I’ll show you.”
Suddenly, the fire goes gray, and then everything goes black as Silas kicks out the flames. This time, there aren’t many glowing filaments to see. You could count them on one hand. An empty place, this Old Seattle.
Jessie grabs one, and the world explodes into pulsing neon and rhythmic bass. Your eardrums throb in time with an industrial beat so intense, you find yourself ducking for cover. She grips your hand tight and shouts, “Don’t let go! You won’t like the feeling, trust me.” She has to put her lips near your ear just to be heard, and you stare in awe at the seething mass of people all moving, dancing, responding to the noise you assume must be music of a sort. It’s too loud, bass cranked too high, to tell.
“This is the Pussycat Perch,” Jessie half-shouts. “It’s a club I used to work at.” She pulls you through the crowd, and though you twist and turn to avoid running into anyone, you find you don’t have to. The sensation of being walked through is… off-putting.
But not nearly as off-putting as the three floor-to-ceiling poles affixed to stages within what you realize is a converted warehouse. Men and women both fill the dance floor, but it’s only women on those stages—writing, gyrating, doing things to those poles you’re sure would have grandmother on one of her fits. Safely out of the crowd, Jessie leads you to an open spot by the scarred bar and points to a few of the girls. “Ramona,” she says, “and that’s Mickey. They were here when I was.”
Was your guide a stripper? You don’t dare ask.
“Take a look, hon,” Jessie yells in your ear. “This is New Seattle. Right here. A whole lot of people from the low levels all the way to the slummers from topside, all sharing a few hours of teeth-aching, mind-rotting escape. The girls on stage are just making a buck. Most’ll spend it on the first bit of sugar comes their way, others are trying to save up enough to get their kids to a higher class of neighborhood, you know?”
“These are the ones who are suffering when the Church and the Coven go to war. These are the people caught up in the Mission’s operations and the shenanigans of the witches who don’t give a damn about body count.” And here, she smiles. It’s all teeth, but it’s a little sad, too. “And that’s the real tragic part, you know? They’re all locked inside this city together ‘cause the Order won’t let anyone out without a special permit. And all these people think it’s okay. It’s safer inside the walls. Safer under the watchful eye of the benevolent Church. But all you have to do is look around.”
You do, and you see what she means. There’s a quiet desperation amid the noisy entertainment. A kind of yearning. Desperate for escape, for release, for some peace.
You suddenly miss your grandma.
Jessie nods, as if satisfied, and the club goes to gray. This time, there are no threads. No sensations of moving. All at once, you’re aware of the chair under you and the table under your elbows, and Jessie sits back, her smile tired, but her eyes sharp. “Welcome to New Seattle,” she tells you. “Lucky for you, you don’t have to stay.”
After weaving happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (kind of) and fell in love with writing. Imagine her surprise to find that it counts as A Real Job. One part romance fanatic, one part total dork, and all imagination, she can’t help but write paranormal romance and obsess over urban fantasy.
When she isn’t writing, Karina is an airship captain’s wife and Steampunk fashionista. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a husband, four cats, one rabbit, the fantasy of a dog and a passel of adopted gamer geeks. She adores hearing from readers, so visit her website.
Want to read more from Karina Cooper?
This giveaway is provided by Karina Cooper
Two winners will each receive a copy of Blood of the Wicked by Karina Cooper
Available on May 31, 2011 from HarperCollins/Avon
About the Book:
When the world went straight to hell, humanity needed a scapegoat to judge, to blame . . . to burn.
As an independent witch living off the grid, Jessie Leigh has spent her life running, trying to blend in among the faceless drudges in the rebuilt city. She thought she was finally safe, but now she’s been found in a New Seattle strip club—by a hard-eyed man on a mission to destroy her kind.
A soldier of the Holy Order, Silas Smith believes in the cause: trawling the fringes of society for the murderous witches who threaten what’s left of the world. Forced into a twisting web of half-truths and lies, he has to stay close to the most sensuous and electrifying woman he has ever seen and manipulate her into leading him to the witch he has to kill: her brother. Silas doesn’t know that Jessie’s his enemy, only that he wants her, needs her, even as he lies to her . . . and must protect her until his final breath.
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4. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada.
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6. All Deadly Destinations winners will be announced on August 7th.
7. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.
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