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Excerpt of A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

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October Daye #2
DAW
March 2010
On Sale: March 2, 2010
Featuring: Toby Daye
400 pages
ISBN: 0756405963
EAN: 9780756405960
Paperback
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Fantasy Urban

Also by Seanan McGuire:

When Sorrows Come, September 2021
Hardcover / e-Book
A Killing Frost, September 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Angel of the Overpass, May 2021
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Calculated Risks, March 2021
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Across The Green Grass Fields, January 2021
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A Killing Frost, September 2020
Hardcover / e-Book
Middlegame, April 2020
Trade Size / e-Book / audiobook (reprint)
Imaginary Numbers, March 2020
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Come Tumbling Down, January 2020
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The Unkindest Tide, December 2019
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
The Unkindest Tide, September 2019
Hardcover
That Ain't Witchcraft, March 2019
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
In an Absent Dream, January 2019
Hardcover / e-Book
Deadlands: Boneyard, November 2018
Mass Market Paperback
Night and Silence, September 2018
Hardcover / e-Book
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, July 2018
Trade Size / e-Book
Sparrow Hill Road, June 2018
Trade Size / e-Book
Tricks for Free, March 2018
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
New York Fantastic, December 2017
Trade Size / e-Book
Deadlands: Boneyard, October 2017
Trade Size / e-Book
The Brightest Fell, September 2017
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Indigo, June 2017
Hardcover / e-Book
Down Among the Sticks and Bones, June 2017
Hardcover / e-Book
Magic For Nothing, March 2017
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
Once Broken Faith, September 2016
Paperback / e-Book
Urban Allies, August 2016
Paperback / e-Book
Every Heart a Doorway, April 2016
Hardcover / e-Book
Chaos Choreography, March 2016
Paperback / e-Book
Pocket Apocalypse, March 2015
Paperback / e-Book
The Winter Long, September 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Half-Off Ragnarok, March 2014
Paperback / e-Book
Chimes at Midnight, September 2013
Hardcover / e-Book
Carniepunk, August 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Midnight Blue-Light Special, March 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Ashes Of Honor, September 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Discount Armageddon, March 2012
Paperback / e-Book
One Salt Sea, September 2011
Paperback / e-Book
Late Eclipses, March 2011
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
An Artificial Night, September 2010
Paperback
A Local Habitation, March 2010
Paperback
Rosemary And Rue, September 2009
Paperback

Excerpt of A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

Waking up was complicated by the fact that I had absolutely no idea where I was. I opened my eyes, blinking at the ceiling. The air tasted like ashes. It wasn’t long past dawn; that was probably what woke me.

The ceiling looked familiar. There was a water stain roughly the shape of Iowa in one corner, and that was enough to convince me that I was at home, in my own bedroom and -- I glanced down at myself -- still dressed for clubbing, in skimpy lace-trimmed tank top and mini-skirt. Only the battered brown leather jacket seemed out of place. Maybe if I’d been trying out as the ingénue in an Indiana Jones movie …

I groaned, dropping my head back onto the pillow with a thump. “Oh, oak and ash.” My memories of the previous night were fuzzy, but not fuzzy enough. As drunken mistakes go, letting Tybalt carry me home ranked high on the list. And he was never, ever going to let me forget it.

Pushing myself into a sitting position, I swung my feet around to the floor, kicking one of the shoes I’d been wearing the night before in the process. The remaining shoe was sitting atop my purse with my house key tucked into the heel.

“At least he’s a considerate source of aggravation,” I muttered, and stood, walking gingerly towards the kitchen.

Three heads of roughly the same size and shape poked over the back of the couch as I approached. Two were brown and cream, belonging to my half-Siamese cats, Cagney and Lacey. The third was gray-green and thorny, and belonged to Spike, the resident rose goblin.

“Morning,” I said. The cats withdrew while Spike scrabbled fully into view, rattling its thorns in enthusiastic greeting. Adorable, if weird.

The concept of ‘name it and it’s yours’ has always been part of Faerie. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about that until after I gave Spike a name, effectively binding it to me. Luna was too busy being glad I wasn’t dead to mind my taking her rose goblin -- she has more -- and the cats stopped sulking as soon as they realized it didn’t eat cat food. I don’t mind having it around. It’s pretty easy to take care of; all it really needs is mulch, potting soil, and sunlight.

My illusions had faded when the sun rose, leaving me looking like nothing but my half-Daoine Sidhe, half-human self, pointy ears and all. I’m no more suited to the human world than Spike is, thanks to some genetic gifts from my darling, clinically-insane mother. At least I can fake it when I need to, which makes grocery shopping a lot easier.

Most breeds of fae are nocturnal, and that includes the Daoine Sidhe. Circumstance arranges for me to be awake in the morning more often than I like, and that’s why coffee has always been an important part of my balanced breakfast. After three cups, I wasn’t feeling quite ready to face Tybalt again, but it was enough of a start to leave me willing to face the day. Mug in hand, I walked out of the kitchen and back towards my room. The first order of business: getting out of my club clothes, which smelled like alcohol and sweat. The second order of business: shower. After that, the day could start.

There was a note taped to the bedroom door.

I stopped, blinking. It didn’t surprise me that I’d missed it in my pre-coffee stagger towards the kitchen; it surprised me that it existed at all. Wary of further surprises, I tugged it loose of the masking tape and unfolded it.

‘October --

You were sleeping so peacefully that I was loath to wake you. Duke Torquill, after demanding to know what I was doing in your apartment, has requested that I inform you of his intent to visit after ‘tending to some business at the Queen’s Court.’ I recommend wearing something clinging, as that may distract him from whatever he wishes to lecture you about this time. Hopefully, it’s your manners.

You are truly endearing when you sleep. I attribute this to the exotic nature of seeing you in a state of silence.

-- Tybalt’

The thought of Sylvester calling my apartment only to find himself talking to Tybalt was strangely fascinating. I stood there for a moment, contemplating its sheer unlikelihood. The idea that Tybalt had stayed in my apartment long enough to take a message was more worrisome, but since I didn’t think he’d want to steal my silver -- if I had any silver worth stealing -- I decided to let it go.

Letting go of the thought didn’t do anything to resolve my more immediate problem: Sylvester was coming to visit. I scanned the front of the apartment, taking note of the dishes on the table, the unfolded laundry piled on the couch and the heaps of junk mail threatening to cascade off the coffee table and conquer the floor. I’m not the world’s best housekeeper. Combine that with the fact that I’d been regularly pulling eighteen-hour days since getting my PI license reinstated, and it was no wonder my apartment was a disaster zone. I just wasn’t sure I wanted my liege to see it that way.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t say ‘sorry, come back later.’ For all that my fourteen-year absence means that I’m currently somewhat outside the social order at Shadowed Hills, I’m still a knight errant in Sylvester’s service. If he wants to drop by my apartment, he has every right to do so. Of course, his impending visit almost certainly meant he had a job for me. Swell. Nothing says ‘hangover recovery’ like being called to active duty.

Spike was twining around my ankles. I knelt to pick it up, wincing as it settled to the serious business of kneading my forearms with needle-sharp claws.

“Come on, Spike. Let’s get dressed.” It kept purring as I carried it to the bedroom, calling over my shoulder, “Cagney, Lacey, watch the door.” The cats ignored me. Cats are like that.

One advantage to being a changeling: my hangovers are a lot milder than they should be. Thanks to the coffee, my head was almost clear by the time I finished my dramatically shortened shower. I got dressed at double- speed, choosing practical clothing for what was bound to be a long day. I had just finished tying my shoelaces when someone knocked on the front door, the sound punctuated by the rattle of Spike’s thorns.

“At least I’m not naked,” I muttered, and rose.

Sylvester had his hand raised to knock again when I swept the door open in front of him. He stood there for a moment, looking almost comically startled. Then he smiled, offering me his hands. “October. Did Tybalt give you my message?”

“Hey, your Grace,” I said, taking his hands for a second before allowing him to pull me into a hug. A human disguise covered his true features with the dogwood flower and daffodil smell of his magic. I’ve learned to find that particular combination of scents soothing. It means safety. “Yeah, he did. I’m sorry I missed your call.”

“Oh, don’t be. You don’t sleep enough,” he said, letting me go and stepping past me into the apartment. “I had no idea you and the King of Cats were getting on so well.”

I reddened. “We’re not. He followed me home.”

Sylvester raised an eyebrow, saying more with a gesture than words could have expressed. I shut the door, resisting the urge to hunch my shoulders like a scolded teenager. There are some conversations I never wanted to have with my liege. ‘Why was the King of Cats answering your phone’ was the start of one of them.

Clearing his throat, he said, “I would have called sooner, but I only recently learned that I was needed at the Queen’s Court.”

“Do I even want to ask why?”

A shadow crossed his face, there and gone in an instant. “No.”

“Right.” We fell quiet, with me looking at him and him looking at my apartment. There was an aura of bewildered disapproval from his side of things, like he couldn’t understand why I’d choose to live in a place like this when I had all the Summerlands to choose from. For all that Sylvester’s one of the most tolerant nobles I’ve ever known, I knew that confusion was sincere. He really didn’t understand, and there was no way I could possibly explain.

Sylvester’s one of the Daoine Sidhe, the first nobility of Faerie. His hair is signal-flare red, and his eyes are a warm gold that would look more natural on one of the Cait Sidhe. There’s nothing conventionally pretty about him, but when he smiles, he’s breathtaking. Even dressed in a human disguise that blunted the points of his ears and layered a veneer of humanity over his otherwise too-perfect features, his essential nature came shining through.

All the Daoine Sidhe are like that. I swear, if they hadn’t raised me, I’d hate them all on general principle.

“October, about your living conditions--”

I clapped my hands together. “Who wants coffee?”

“Please. But really, October, you know you’re always welcome at--”

“Cream and sugar?”

“Both. But …” He paused, eyeing me. “We’re still not having this conversation, are we?”

“Nope,” I replied cheerfully, turning to step back into the apartment’s tiny kitchen. “When I’m ready to come home for keeps, I’ll let you know. For right now? It’s hard to run a business when your mailing address is ‘third oak tree at the top of the big hill.’”

“You wouldn’t have to run a business if you lived in Shadowed Hills,” he pointed out.

“No, but I like running a business, your Grace. It makes me feel useful. And it’s helping me get reconnected with everything I missed. I’m not ready to give that up yet.” I leaned out of the kitchen, passing him a mug of coffee. “Careful, it’s hot. And besides, Raysel would kill me in my sleep.”

He took the mug with a small moue of distaste, agreeing mournfully, “There is that, yes.”

Rayseline Torquill is Sylvester’s only daughter and currently, his only heir. There’s just one problem. Thanks to Sylvester’s brother, Simon -- an evil bastard if there ever was one -- she grew up in a magical prison, and the experience drove her largely insane. No one knows for sure what happened to her there, but from the look on her mother’s face when I’ve asked about it, Simon was actually merciful when he turned me into a fish. There’s something I never thought I’d say … but whatever happened to Raysel and her mother, it was worse.

Unfortunately, feeling sorry for Raysel doesn’t change the fact that she’s a sadistic nutcase. I would have been happy to keep my distance, but in addition to being the daughter of my liege, Raysel is convinced that her husband Connor -- my sort-of-ex, and her spouse for purely diplomatic reasons -- still has the hots for me. Even more unfortunately, she isn’t wrong. It wasn’t that we had an untrusting relationship; I simply trusted her to kill me if she got the chance.

I leaned up against the wall next to the kitchen doorway. “So what brings you here today? Beyond the urge to critique my housekeeping, I mean.”

“I have a job for you.”

“Figured on that part,” I said, sipping my coffee. “What’s the deal?”

“I need you to go to Fremont.”

“What?” That wasn’t what I’d been expecting him to say. I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d expected, but it wasn’t Fremont.

Sylvester raised an eyebrow. “Fremont. It’s a city, near San Jose?”

“I know.” In addition to being a city near San Jose, Fremont was at the leading edge of the tech industry and one of the most boring places in California. Last time I’d checked it had a fae population that could be counted on both hands, because boring or not, it wasn’t safe. It was sandwiched between two Duchies -- Shadowed Hills and Dreamer’s Glass -- and had been declared an independent County three years after I vanished, partially on its own merits, but partially to delay the inevitable supernatural turf war.

The fae are territorial by nature. We like to fight, especially when we know we’ll win. One of those Duchies was eventually going to decide it needed a new sunroom, and that little ‘independent County’ was going to find itself right in the middle. The formation of Tamed Lightning may have been a good political move, but in the short-term, it guaranteed that living in Fremont wasn’t for the faint of heart.

I couldn’t think of many reasons to go to Fremont. Most of them involved diplomatic duty. I hate diplomatic duty. I’m not very good at it, largely because I’m not very diplomatic.

“Good. That makes this easier.”

Diplomatic duty. It had to be. “Easier?”

“It’s about my niece.”

“Your niece?” Talking to Sylvester is sometimes an adventure in and of itself. “I didn’t know you had a niece.”

“Yes.” He at least had the grace to look sheepish as he continued, saying, “Her name’s January. She’s my sister’s daughter. We … weren’t advertising the relationship until recently, for political reasons. She’s a lovely girl -- a bit strange, but sweet -- and I need you to go check on her.” Sylvester was calling someone ‘a bit strange’? That didn’t bode well. It was like the Luidaeg calling someone ‘a bit temperamental.’

“So what’s going on?”

“She can’t visit often -- political reasons, again -- but she calls weekly to keep me updated. She hasn’t called or answered her phone for three weeks. Before that, she seemed … distracted. I’m afraid there may be something wrong.”

“You’re sending me instead of going yourself or sending Etienne because …?” Etienne became the head of Sylvester’s guards before I was born. Better yet, he’s purebred Tuatha de Dannan. He would have been a much better choice.

“If I go myself, Duchess Riordan could view it as an act of war.” He sipped his coffee. “Etienne is known to be fully in my service, while you, my dear, currently possess a small amount of potential objectivity.”

“That’s what I get for not living at home,” I grumbled. Dear, sweet Duchess Riordan, ruler of Dreamer’s Glass and living proof that scum rises to the top. “So that’s my assignment? Babysitting your niece?”

“Not babysitting. She’s a grown woman. I just want you to check in and make sure she’s all right. It shouldn’t take more than two or three days.”

That got my attention. “Days?”

“Just long enough to make sure that everything’s all right. We’re sending Quentin along to assist you, and Luna’s made your hotel reservations.”

Now it was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “You think I’m going to need assistance?”

“To be quite honest, I haven’t the faintest idea.” He looked down into his coffee cup, shoulders slumping. “Something’s going on down there. I just don’t know what it is, and I’m worried about her. She’s always been one to bite off more than she can chew.”

“Hey. Don’t worry. I’ll find out.”

“Things may not be as … simple as they sound at first. There are other complications.”

“Like what?”

“January is my niece, yes. She’s also the Countess of Tamed Lightning.”

My eyes widened. That put a whole new spin on the situation. January being Countess explained why Tamed Lightning had been able to become a full County in the first place; Dreamer’s Glass might be willing to challenge one small County, but they wouldn’t want to challenge the neighboring Duchy at the same time. Even if the relationship had been kept quiet, the people at or above the Ducal level would have known. Gossip spreads too fast in Faerie for something that juicy to be kept quiet. “I see.”

“Then you must see how it makes this politically awkward.”

“Dreamer’s Glass could view it as the start of something bigger than family concern.” I may not like politics, but I have a rudimentary understanding of the way they work.

“Exactly.” He looked up. “No matter what’s going on, Toby, I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to send help.”

“But you’re sure this is an easy job.”

“I wouldn’t send Quentin if I didn’t think you’d both be safe.”

I sighed. “Right. I’ll call regularly to keep you posted.”

“And you’ll be careful?”

“I’ll take every precaution.” How many precautions did I need? Political issues aside, it was a babysitting assignment. Those don’t usually rank too high on the ‘danger’ scale.

“Good. January’s the only blood family I have left in this country, except for Rayseline. Now, January’s an adult, but I’ve considered her my responsibility since her mother passed away. Please, take care of her.”

“What about--”

“I have no brother.” His expression was grim.

“I understand, your Grace.” The last time Sylvester asked me to take care of his family, my failure cost us both: he lost Luna, and I lost fourteen years. His twin brother, Simon, was the cause of both those losses. “I’m going to try.”

“I appreciate it.” He put his cup down on a clear patch of coffee table, pulling a folder out of his coat. “This contains directions, a copy of your hotel reservations, a local parking pass, and a map of the local fiefdoms. I’ll reimburse any expenses, of course.”

“Of course.” I took the folder, flipping through it. “I can’t think of anything else I’m likely to need.” I looked up. “Why are you sending Quentin with me, exactly?”

“We’re responsible for his education.” A smile ghosted across his face. “Seeing how you handle things will be nothing if not educational.”

I sighed. “Great. Where am I picking him up?”

“He’s waiting by your car.”

“He’s what?” I groaned. “Oh, oak and ash, Sylvester, it’s too damn early in the morning for this.”

“Is it?” he asked, feigning innocence. Sylvester’s wife, Luna, is one of the few truly diurnal fae I’ve ever met. After a few hundred years of marriage, he’s learned to adjust. The rest of us are just expected to cope.

“I hate you.”

“Of course you do.” He chuckled as he stood. “I’ll get out of your way and let you prepare. I’d appreciate it if you could leave immediately.”

“Certainly, your Grace,” I said, and moved to hug him before showing him to the door.

“Open roads and kind fires, Toby,” he said, returning the hug.

“Open roads,” I replied, and closed the door behind him before downing the rest of my coffee in one convulsive gulp.

Sending Quentin with me? What the hell were they thinking? This was already going to be half-babysitting assignment, half-diplomatic mission -- the fact that I was coming from one of the Duchies flanking Tamed Lightning made the politics unavoidable. Now they were adding literal babysitting to the job. That didn’t make me happy. After all, if Sylvester thought I was the best one to handle things, it was probably also going to be at least half natural disaster.

How nice.

Excerpt from A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
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