It’s that time of year again. Everyone is going back to school and so is Phillipa Bornikova’s Linnet from This Case Is Gonna Kill Me.
What happens when The Firm meets Anita Blake? You get the Halls of Power—our modern world, but twisted. Law, finance, the military, and politics are under the sway of long-lived vampires, werewolves, and the elven Alfar. Humans make the best of rule by “the Spooks,” and contend among themselves to affiliate with the powers-that-be, in order to avoid becoming their prey. Very loyal humans are rewarded with power over other women and men. Very lucky humans are selected to join the vampires, werewolves, and elves—or, on occasion, to live at the Seelie Court.
Linnet Ellery is the offspring of an affluent Connecticut family dating back to Colonial times. Fresh out of law school, she’s beginning her career in a powerful New York “white fang” law firm. She has high hopes of eventually making partner.
But strange things keep happening to her. In a workplace where some humans will eventually achieve immense power and centuries of extra lifespan, office politics can be vicious beyond belief. After some initial missteps, she finds herself sidelined and assigned to unpromising cases. Then, for no reason she can see, she becomes the target of repeated, apparently random violent attacks, escaping injury each time through increasingly improbable circumstances. However, there’s apparently more to Linnet Ellery than a little old-money human privilege. More than even she knows. And as she comes to understand this, she’s going to shake up the system like you wouldn’t believe….
You can read an excerpt here.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a copy of This Case Is Gonna Kill Me.
I looked up into the face of my vampire foster father, and business associate of my real, human, father, and felt my heart taking up residence somewhere around my toes. Normally Mr. Bainbridge was a smiling cherub of a man with a round jolly face, a paunch that set his flowered waistcoats to bulging, and curling brown hair. But right now he was looking like a centuries old vampire lord and the liege to the Ellery family. My parents would not be happy if I got sent home in disgrace.
Add to that that we were in the library. Never a good sign. Mr. Bainbridge only brought the human foster kids into the library for a “talk” when he was really mad. That turd, Stanley Delvechio, spent a lot of time in the library.
My human parents had sent me to live in the Bainbridge household when I was seven, and I would remain there until I turned 18 and went off to college. I had never been in trouble… well, really in trouble before, and now I was, and it wasn’t even my fault… not really. It was all because I’d started at a new school, and I didn’t know anybody because all my friends from elementary school weren’t going to a public school, and a blond mean girl who was thirteen, already developing boobs, and had a lot of friends. Or maybe they weren’t really friends. Maybe they were just girls who were afraid of her so they pretended to like her.
“You always told me to stand up for the weak and powerless,” I said, and my voice only quavered a little.
“And that’s what you were doing?” I nodded vigorously. “Tell me.”
“It was gym class,” I began. I was suddenly aggrieved because none of this would have happened if Mr. Bainbridge had done what I wanted. I said that.
“If you’d signed off to get me out of gym none of this would have have happened,” I muttered.
“Linnet.” The power of the vampire edged my name.
I ducked my head, and went on. “I don’t know anybody at this school, but I met this one girl. Her name is Vickie and we get along. She’s short, like me, and we both like Jeff Montolbano,” I added mentioning the latest movie heartthrob. “And she’s the only person who’s nice to me because I’m so far ahead of everybody else in my classes ‘cause I’ve been in private school… and why couldn’t I go to the Academy like everybody else?” I added.
“It’s important that you experience public school as well as the privilege of private schooling. You’re privileged in so many ways, starting with getting to live with me,” Mr. Bainbridge said.
“Well, maybe that’s how you see it, but they hate the Powers. They call you Spooks, and they yank down my collar, and say you’re biting me, and call me Suck Bait, and they’ve all known each other since kindergarten or something, and –”
A pale, plump hand was raised stopping my complaints. “Their ignorance is no excuse for your behavior. It’s your task to educate them.” I knew what he meant. No vampire would ever feed on a child in his care, and no vampire would ever, ever bite a girl.
“I try to tell them the rules, but they won’t listen.”
“The story, if you please. Now.”
I gulped and resumed. I was coming to the bad part. “So Vickie and I are changing after gym class and this girl, this Karen tells Vickie to fetch her clothes for her because she’s putting on her make-up. Karen gets to wear make-up,” and I gave my foster father another unhappy glance that he ignored. “Anyway, Vickie said no because it was going to make her late getting to history, and then Karen stands up and she’s way taller than Vickie who is even shorter than me, and she slapped her.” I had a feeling there were way to many she’s in that sentence so I clarified. “I mean Karen slapped Vickie.”
“And Vickie started crying, and went to get Karen’s clothes even though it was going to make her late, and I just decided that wasn’t okay. So I stood up — I’d finished dressing because Karen wasn’t bossing me — and I said. You don’t get to slap my friend, and she said I was a vampire freak, and she went to slap me so I… I… punched her in the nose.” I risked a glance up at Mr. Bainbridge, and thought I saw a tiny quirk at the corner of his mouth. That made me feel a little better and a little braver so I continued.
“Anyway, she went flying back across a couple of benches in the locker room, and her nose started bleeding. There was blood everywhere, it got all over her bra. She’s big enough to need a bra,” I added, and glanced down at my own pancake flat chest. “And she was screaming and crying, and all her friends were sort of gathered around her, and holding her like she was a heroine in those operas you like, and then Coach Tiny came running in, and everybody started talking and pointing at me so Coach took me in her office to hear my side because I wasn’t going to make excuses, and they were all lying a bunch saying I’d hit Karen for no reason.”
“So you told the coach why you acted as you did?”
“And how did she respond?”
“She said she wasn’t going to tell the principle, ‘cause she said Karen had been asking for it, but she told me I shouldn’t use a fist if I hit someone again. She said I should just slap like Karen did.”
The quirk in the lip was a lost more obvious now. “And did you have any reply to that?”
“I told her that was kind of stupid because you couldn’t do any damage if you didn’t make a fist.”
Mr. Bainbridge gave a shout of laughter that gave me a brief glimpse of his fangs, and I sagged with relief. It was going to be all right. He wasn’t really mad.
“Well, done, Linnet, you told me the truth. I explained to Coach when she called that perhaps I had been a bit overzealous in teaching you and Jayné personal defense, and perhaps I ought to now teach you how to moderate your responses.”
“So I’m not going to get expelled?” I asked in a small voice.
“And you’re not going to send me home?” I asked in an even smaller voice.
“Oh, heaven’s no. You’ve learned one of my lessons very well, and I’m proud of you. We do protect the weak and the powerless. Now run along. Don’t you have a riding lesson this afternoon?”
“Yes, sir.” I started toward the door, but then darted back.
It was sort of pushy, but I put my hand on Mr. Bainbridge’s arm, and stood on tiptoe. He leaned down to receive my kiss on his cheek. His skin was ice cold against my lips, but his eyes were warm and kind, and he looked proud.
“Feel better about going back to school tomorrow?” the vampire asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m not scared now. I mean, the Mean Girl is afraid of me.” A new worry intruded. “Does that make me a Mean Girl now?”
There was once again the shout of laughter. “No, Linnet, I think it makes you a powerful girl.”
Meet Phillipa Bornikova!
Phillipa Bornikova has been the story editor of a major network television series, a horse trainer, and an oil-company executive. She lives in the Southwest. This is her first novel.
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Thank you Phillipa for taking part in Literary Escapism’s School’s in!
Phillipa is giving away a copy of This Case Is Gonna Kill Me. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: If you were Linnet, would you have handled the situation with Karen differently? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered. (US/CA)
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I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.