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Wicked Game [Paperback]

Jeri Smith-Ready

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Newbie marketing intern Ciara Griffin lands a job at WMMP, a station threatened with being sold to Skyware, a giant communications conglomerate, unless ad revenue picks up. A former con artist with a canny way with people, Ciara soon learns that the DJs are undead and specialists in the musical eras in which they were turned into vampires. One of them, Shane McAllister (turned in 1995), is really hot and dangerously tempting. In order to attract more listeners, Ciara promotes a new marketing strategy and the Sherwood, Md., station becomes 94.3 WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock and Roll, exploiting the fang factor (which no listener takes seriously) for profit. It works, until an ancient vampire cult wants to pull the plug. Also playing in is The Control, an equally ancient paramilitary group created to protect good vampires and kill bad ones. Smith-Ready's musical references are spot on, as is her take on corporate radio's creeping airwave hegemony. Add in the irrepressible Ciara, who grew up in a family of grifters, and the results rock. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Sharp and smart and definitely not flavor of the month, Wicked Game is wicked good." -- Laura Anne Gilman, bestselling author of Free Fall

"Jeri Smith-Ready blends fantasy and romance in an organic, unpredictable way, deftly weaving stories to enhance the power of her take-no-prisoners style." -- C. E. Murphy, bestselling author of Urban Shaman

"An addictive page-turner revving with red-hot sex, truly cool vampires, and rock 'n' roll soul. " -- Kresley Cole, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Needs at Night's Edge

"Smith-Ready's musical references are spot-on, as is her take on corporate radio's creeping hegemony. Add in the irrepressible Ciara, who grew up in a family of grifters, and the results rock." -- Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Jeri Smith-Ready is the award-winning author of the Shade trilogy, the WVMP Radio series, and the Aspect of Crow trilogy. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two cats. Like many of her characters, Jeri loves music, movies, and staying up very, very late. Visit her at JeriSmithReady.com or follow her on Twitter at @jsmithready.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)

Family curses never die, they just mutate. In Greek mythology, the curse of the House of Atreus began with some smart-ass making soup du jour for the gods out of his own son's meaty bits. Things went downhill from there. These days, though, the curse probably just makes the Atreus family forget to send each other birthday cards.

The curse of the House of Griffin, whatever sinister form it may have taken in the Old World, has left me with a gift for the persuasive arts. In the straight world, this means sales and marketing -- or as I like to call it, S&M.

The slim, thirtyish dude across the desk scans my skimpy resume. Short dark hair flops over his forehead as he nods along with the blues squawking from a wall speaker. His fingers tap the wooden surface between us in unconscious synchronicity.

The tiny office's clutter of memorabilia would shame the Hard Rock Cafe. Near one boarded-up window, a life-size cardboard John Lennon peers into my soul; near the other, Jerry Lee Lewis peers through my blouse.

"So, Ciara..." David slips me an earnest glance. "Why do you -- "

"It's keer-ah, not see-air-ah." I rattle off the pronunciation as politely as I can. "Not like the mountains."

"Sorry. I bet you get that all the time." He flips my resume to look at the other side. Blank. He lifts my portfolio folder, probably searching for another page. "Where's the rest of your job experience?"

I give him a wide-open smile. "In the future, I hope."

He blinks, then looks back at the resume. His eyebrows pop up. "Well, it's very readable."

Due, no doubt, to the sixteen-point font I used to fill up the page.

He inspects it again, green eyes flitting back and forth in a desperate search for an interview kickoff. "Ciara. Interesting spelling."

"It's Irish. It means 'dark and mysterious.'" I point to my tawny hair and studiously guileless eyes. "Even though I'm neither."

David's lips twitch up briefly, then he puts the resume aside and opens my portfolio. While he examines it, his thumb pumps the plunger on his ballpoint, creating a staccato of clicks that wears my nerves down to the nub. I resist the urge to wipe my clammy hands on my only interview suit.

The air-conditioning clunks on. Above my head, backstage passes begin to flutter in the breeze, hanging like Christmas decorations from the antlers of a peeved-eyed deer.

"This first project's dated six years ago," David says. "I take it you go to Sherwood College part-time?"

My shoulders tense. "I take sabbaticals." Oops, this was supposed to be an exercise in honesty. "I mean, I take breaks so I can earn tuition."

He nods in sympathy. "It's expensive. I gave the army four years of my life in exchange for a degree."

"The army, wow. Did you kill anyone?"

His gaze sharpens, and I wince at my nerve-induced idiocy. Usually when I botch an interview, it's on purpose. The fact that I actually want this job makes my stomach ache.

David's mouth relaxes into a smirk. "Shouldn't I be asking you questions?"

"Sorry. Ask anything." As long as it's not about me.

"Why do you want to work at WMMP?"

I knew that one was coming, and I've been working on a convincing answer ever since David found me through my college's job-match program.

"I love rock 'n' roll." Damn, that was cheesy. I rub my nose and look away. "I wasn't allowed to listen to it growing up, but I did anyway. I'd lie under the covers at night with my Walkman, listening to tapes I'd stolen -- I mean, borrowed -- uh, stolen." This truth thing is harder than I expected. "Anyway, I figured a radio station might suck my soul less than a corporation would. Plus it's already June tomorrow, and I'm desperate. I can't graduate without a summer internship, and if I don't get out of this town soon, I'll -- " My mouth shuts, about three sentences too late.

David blinks, and blinks, until I wonder if the airconditioning has dried out his contact lenses. He sighs through his nose, making a sound that says, Why am I wasting my time with this girl? I scramble for something else to discuss.

On the desk between us, a photo of a beribboned Chihuahua sits next to a calendar of 365 Oscar Wilde quotes. I squint to read, I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.

I glance up at David, then back to the photo and calendar. "Cute dog."

"Oh. This isn't my desk." He pushes his chair back a few

inches. "This is Frank's desk, the sales and marketing director." He shifts the Chihuahua photo's heart-shaped frame. "I'm not, you know..."

I think the word he's looking for is "gay."

"Are you the owner?"

"I'm the general manager. The owner is -- " David glances past my shoulder at a closed office door. " -- absent."

I wait for him to elaborate, but he just tugs the cuffs of his sport coat and changes the subject.

"I'm also the program director. As I'm sure you're aware, WMMP broadcasts syndicated talk shows and paid programming during the day. But at night -- " He gazes at the wall speaker like it's a holy relic. "That's when WMMP comes alive."

Huh. "Will Frank interview me, too?"

"I make all the personnel decisions. Frank would have joined us, but he hates the -- " David's glance flicks to the stairway behind me. "He hates to work at night."

I check the wooden mantel clock above the bricked-up fireplace. 9:30. "Why interview me so late?"

"I wanted any potential intern to meet the DJs. This is the only time they're all...here."

Hmmm. My first act as marketing intern would be to suggest playing music when people are actually awake to hear it.

He shuffles my resume and portfolio, rapping their edges against the desk. The motion has a finality about it, as if he's about to thank me for stopping by.

Panic jump-starts my mouth. "I know my resume is a little thin, but I can explain."

"No need." He folds his hands, steepling his fingers and tapping his thumbs together. "Do you know why I called you for this job?"

I've been afraid to ask, and I hesitate to guess.

David continues. "Your history indicates that you're sympathetic to -- how shall I put this -- the outsider's point of view."

My gut plummets. He did a background check.

"What kind of outsider?" I ask innocently.

"The kind with a lack of regard for -- " He spreads his thumbs. " -- conventional morality."

I sit back in my chair, moving slowly, as if from a poisonous snake. "I've never been charged with anything."

"I know you haven't." David extends his hands palm down, as if to hold me in my seat. "My point is -- "

"Thanks for your time." I stand and grab my purse from the back of the chair. "I've really enjoyed our chat, but I think another opportunity would fit me better." I head for the exit.

"Wait." He intercepts me, placing his hand on the door before I can open it. "What I'm saying is, I don't care about your past. Neither would anyone else here."

My mind calculates how much he could know. A legal background check wouldn't reveal anything too incriminating. My juvey record cleared when I turned eighteen, and in the six years since I've never been caught. Sort of.

"We couldn't pay you a lot, I'm afraid." He gestures toward my resume. "But judging by your address, you don't need much."

Did he just insult my neighborhood? Doesn't he realize I live above the best pawnshop in town?

"You'd work over there." He points to a smaller desk next to the fireplace, on the opposite wall from Frank's. Beyond it sits a copier so old I expect it to have a hand crank.

"Come." David moves past me so suddenly it makes me jump.

He descends a creaky wooden staircase between the two closed office doors. I follow him, trying not to get my hopes up. Maybe his hiring talk was hypothetical, as in, you'd work at that desk if all the other intern candidates got eaten by a giant cockroach. I force my mind away from the things I'll have to do if I don't get a summer job. Things I can't put on a resume.

At the bottom of the stairs, David rests his hand on the knob of a closed door. He takes in a quick, deep breath as if to say something momentous. The words don't make it out before he shakes his head.

"Probably best if you meet them without preconceptions. If they like you, the job's yours."

I nod. No pressure or anything.

David opens the door to let me pass into a small, dim lounge. A pervasive cloud of cigarette smoke gathers over the halogen lamp in the far left corner, muting the room's lurid shadows.

My stinging eyes take a moment to adjust. I strain to see a group of --

Freaks.

Exquisite freaks, to be sure, so soul-shatteringly beautiful, it's a tragedy that radio is for ears only. But they each look like they stepped out of a different time machine.

David squeezes past me through the doorway, where my feet have stopped. "Ciara Griffin, meet the pride of WMMP."

Three men and a woman are playing poker around a table scattered with plastic chips and open bottles. They examine me with a palpable distrust. Maybe it's the interview suit: navy blue makes me look like a fed.

"Spencer, Jim, Noah, Regina." David points from left to right. "And back there is Shane."

On the love seat at the foot of the lamp, a young man in faded ripped jeans appears to sleep, right arm draped over his face. One leg is bent, foot resting on the cushion, and the other stretches beyond the end of the sofa.

David touches my elbow to urge me forward a few steps. "I'm hoping Ciara will be our new intern."

The hostility fades from the faces of the four awake DJs, replaced with a patronizing politeness. I attempt a smile, encouraged by the slight thaw.

"Spencer does our fifties show," David says. "Birth of rock 'n' roll and all that."

A man in a white dress shirt and black pants stands to greet me, unfurling endless legs from under the table. His... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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