Cover reveal: ‘Armageddon Rules’ by J. C. NelsonPosted: September 28, 2014
Note from Cass: This is book two in the Grimm Agency series. If you want to see the equally gorgeous cover of book one, JC guest posted on my blog last month. (Also, the guest post is awesome too. Check it out!)
Marissa Locks, newly appointed partner of the Grimm Agency, has a reputation for making a mess of magical matters—although causing Armageddon is a new low, even for her…
Marissa is due for a little happily ever after. After all, she did kill the evil Fairy Godmother, end a war, and snag a sweet promotion within the Fairy Godfather’s magical-problem-solving Agency. But between maintaining a relationship with someone whose amorous advances can cause third-degree burns, dealing with a killer-poodle infestation, and helping her best friend, Princess Ari, learn to wield spells more powerful than curing a hangover, she’s not getting as much peace and quiet as she hoped.
When an enemy from her past appears to exact a terrible revenge, Marissa’s life goes from hectic to hell on earth. With Grimm inexplicably gone and Ari trapped by a sleeping spell, Marissa decides to fight fire with hellfire—and accidentally begins a countdown to the apocalypse.
With the end of days extremely nigh, Marissa will have to master royal politics, demonic law, and biblical plagues in a hurry—because even the end of the world can’t keep the Agency from opening for business…
In my defense, I didn’t mean to start the Apocalypse. It wasn’t just my personal aversion to oblivion, I had a clear financial motive: the end of the world is bad for business.
Speaking of business, that Monday began the same way almost every Monday had for the last three weeks: with a plague. Last week it was frogs.
I rolled into the office at about nine forty-five, and, as usual, the Agency was pure chaos. Rosa — our receptionist — was opening a fresh container of Taser darts and we’d only been open for forty-five minutes.
“Miss Locks, you gotta help.” A man in an orange jumpsuit with “Corrections Department” stamped in block letters down the side grabbed my shoulder as I walked past, spinning me around. “I gotta get me a wish.”
Strike one: Escaping from a garbage pickup crew. Strike two: Putting grubby fingers on my brand new top. Strike three: Calling me “Miss” instead of “Ms.” Locks. Far as I was concerned, Miss Locks left the building the day I turned eighteen and hadn’t been seen around here since.
“I’ll make a few calls.” To the police, if possible. To the morgue, if necessary.
He nodded gratefully and sat down on a bench.
I slipped through the “Staff Only” door, made it to the kitchen and almost poured a cup of coffee before the screaming started. One should never face disaster without caffeine. So I got my coffee and headed back out to the lobby, strolling through the door to see exactly what we’d been struck with.
Rats ran everywhere. They scrabbled on the walls, gnawed on the furniture and covered the floor like a shag carpet from 1973. In the middle of the lobby stood a teenage girl, six foot tall, rail thin with platinum blonde hair. Her clothes hung in tatters from bony white arms, and red blotches surrounded each of her many, many piercings. Her extravagant collection of tattoos spoke of poor impulse control and even worse decision making skills. She looked up at me with baleful eyes. “Please. I need help.”
I glanced around the room. The couple nearest the door held a cage with a amphibian I could only loosely call a frog. In the corner waited a group of kobolds. Roughly five feet tall, and with humanoid features except for their scaled skin and forked tongues, these Germanic lizard-men came every Monday to demand and be refused Grimm’s help in forming a professional soccer team. That left the homeless guy by the door, a man we called Payday George. He still hadn’t figured out this wasn’t a payday loan joint, probably because most days I felt sorry for him and just give him a twenty. I opened the staff door and waved to the girl. “Come on.”
Rosa glowered at me, mumbling curses in Spanish. She hated when I picked clients, and if she had her way, we’d take them one at a time, from number one to number six-hundred in exactly that order. Even if fifty-three was a starving fungal giant and sixty-two was a samurai with a serious shitake addiction. To her credit, Rosa kept her mouth shut. One does not argue with the boss.
We headed down the hall to a conference room, me, the girl, and enough rats to supply a hot dog factory running three shifts, seven days a week. I took a seat on one side of the table, she took a seat on the other and the rats took seats everywhere. Flicking one off my knee, I began the interview. “So what exactly do you want me to do for you?”
Tears smudged the sludge of makeup she wore, and she waved her arms around. “Duh. Isn’t it obvious?”
Absolutely. Obvious that she needed help. Figuring out which kind first, that was the hard part. I walked over and ran my fingers through her tangled, crispy hair, took a good look at all sixteen rings in her ear and the tasteful depiction on her shoulder of what was either Bob Dylan in “The Man in the Long Black Coat”, or a velociraptor playing acoustic guitar. “We can help. First, let’s take out those piercings. I’ll get you some alcohol and a prescription for some antibiotics. Your hair is crunchy from whatever you used to bleach it, and the tattoos are going to take years to remove.”
A rat jumped into my coffee and poked its head out. The girl stared as I fished it out by the tail, set it on the table, and handed it a sugar cube.
“What about the rats?”
I took another sip of coffee, which tasted Parisian, with a hint of rat. “What about them?”
“The only thing I need is for you to get rid of the rats.” She shivered.
I pushed a box of tissues across to her. “What’s your name?”
She scratched out a tissue and wiped her eyes. The tissue caught in her makeup and left shreds clinging to her cheeks. “Elizabeth. I like Beth.”
I brushed the rats out of the way and sat down on the table, my mind already made up. “Well, Beth, I have good news and bad news. Good news is I can help with the hair, the piercings, and I’ve got a lady in my wardrobe department who can teach you how to use less than a pound of cosmetics a day. The bad news, I’m not going to do a thing about the rats.”
She stared at me as her brain tried to process what I said. I leaned across and patted her hand. “You look hungry.” Truth was, she looked like one of those commercials for starving kids. I used to watch TV, and every once in a while I’d see commercials where you could mail order a kid for fifty dollars a month. Always wanted to try, but given my track record with pets, I’d signed an agreement with animal control that anything more than a goldfish required daily home visitation. Anyway, Beth reminded me of those kids.
“I can’t eat. Every time I try to eat the rats take it from me.”
I should’ve asked about her credit. I should’ve asked Rosa if her application was complete, but one look at her said I’d found my charity case for the week. “I’m going to order a pizza or two. I’ll have one of my employees bring a barrel of garbage up from the dumpster to distract your companions. I need you to sit tight for a bit, okay?”
She nodded and put her head down on the table. Walking out the door, on the way to my office, I made a mental note to have the table cleaned, or burned, or both.
A Texas transplant to the Pacific Northwest, JC Nelson lives with a family and a flock of chickens near rainy Seattle.
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