The Grimrose Path (Trickster, #2)

Written By: Rob Thurman

The Grimrose Path (Trickster, #2) by Rob Thurman


To Michael and Sara

(who take me to lunch when I’m out of mac ’n’ cheese).





Acknowledgments


To my mom, who suggested why didn’t I give my old dream of writing a go. If I become a victim of artistic Darwinism, I blame her; Shannon—best friend, designated driver for SDCC, and undesignated sherpa for various other events; my patient editor, Anne Sowards; the infallible Kat Sherbo; Brian McKay (ninja of the dark craft of copywriting); Agent Jeff Thurman of the FBI for the usual weapons advice; the incomparable art and design team of Chris McGrath (an art GOD) and Ray Lundgren; Lucienne Diver, who still astounds me in the best possible way at every turn; great and lasting friends Michael and Sara; Linda and Richard, and to fellow author Lisa Shearin, who has shown me the Light and the Way—in the church of promotional bargains—and assisted in a time of need. Plus she adopts dogs. What’s not to love? And to Dakota, my original literate dog, my werewolf superhero—life without you is a poor imitation at best.





Prologue


Spilt milk.

My mama had a saying for every occasion under the sun, but even she didn’t lay claim to that one. I didn’t know who did, but everyone had heard it. It had been around forever. Don’t cry over spilt milk. There’s no point to it. You can’t change it, can’t put it back, can’t make it better. You simply cleaned it up and went on.

Because that was life. Life wasn’t always fair. And some things in life couldn’t be undone. They could be avenged—damn straight, they could—but not undone.

They could teach a lesson . . . if anyone was around to learn from it—or smart enough to get the point.

Yet the bottom line was always the same—spilt milk was spilt milk. An inconvenience or a pain, an annoyance or sometimes even a tragedy. But whichever it was, it didn’t matter. You might want to, but you couldn’t turn back time. You couldn’t close your eyes and pretend it was a bad dream. You couldn’t avoid the truth and that was a cold hard fact.

You couldn’t unspill that milk.

You couldn’t make it better. You couldn’t make it right.

I stood and looked at the shattered glass, jagged tears glinting in the sun. I looked at the metal coated with blood—so very much blood—the same color as the darkest crimson rose, and I decided the hell with old sayings.

I was undoing this.

I was making this right.

And I’d like to see the son of a bitch who thought he could stop me.





Chapter 1


Life was a trick.

That was what it boiled down to in the end; life was one big trick, one huge April Fools’. You might think that could be a bad thing . . . depending on whether you were on the giving or receiving end. But that didn’t matter as much as you’d think it would. It was what it was. At the very end of it, we all ended up on both sides. The universe was fair that way, because everyone, without exception, had something to learn. We were all naughty in one way or another.

And tricks were lessons in disguise. They taught you right from wrong, safe from dangerous, bad seafood salad from good seafood salad. Have you ever had bad seafood salad? That’s the worst eighteen hours of your life and a lesson you’ll never forget. Have you ever put an old lady in the hospital after mugging her for her Social Security check? The lesson regarding that, you might not live long enough to remember or forget.

Life was a trick, a trick was a lesson, and I was a teacher—the majority of the time. I didn’t teach in a school. The world was my school, and I had a zero-tolerance policy. I taught the teachable. And the others? Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t learn? What’s a woman to do in that situation?

Apply a “Darwin’s rules” attitude and let the pieces fall where they may.

My name is Trixa, and I’m not a woman. I’m female, most definitely that, but I’m not precisely a woman. Trixa was one of the names I’d had in my lifetime, one of many—we con artists had quite a few.This one though . . . This one was one of my favorites, because I was a trickster, born and bred of one of many trickster races. It was why I enjoyed the name so much. I’d rubbed who I was in the face of my enemies for the past ten years and not once had they seen past a simple name. Demons, some were stupid and some were bright, but all were arrogant, which made them blind. The same went for angels. As they were flip sides to the same coin, it wasn’t surprising. And humans . . . Please, don’t even get me started on humans. They were the entire reason we tricksters existed. Or since we had predated them, I guess we chose them as a reason to exist. Those of the supernatural world never were quite as much fun to fool, to put in their place, and life could become fairly pointless without a purpose. Everyone needed a purpose.

Without a purpose, why get up in the morning? Why eat? Why not just meld with the earth that made you and wait to turn into fertilizer? Someone could grow some nice marigolds in you. I liked marigolds, but they weren’t much of a career choice.

Taking humans down a notch or ten, that was a purpose all right, and damn entertaining too. Not that I ever received a shiny red apple for educating the masses, but taking pride—and more than occasional excessive glee—in my work, that was enough. Although jewelry would’ve been nice too. I liked jewelry better than marigolds.