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Otherworld Secrets

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Beschreibung

The next anthology from the #1 New York Times bestselling Otherworld series More than a decade after Kelley Armstrong first opened the doors to the Otherworld, fans are still clamoring for more. The second in the trilogy, Otherworld Secrets , features fan-favorites such as Cassandra, Savannah, and Adam in rare and never-before-published short stories--plus a brand new novella. Fans old and new will flock to this mystery-themed volume to discover the deepest secrets of this captivating world.

Praise for the Otherworld series
 
“[This] might just be the welcome diversion you need.”The Washington Post

“A witty, suspenseful, and well-paced tale…[Bitten] will both thrill and absorb you.”Houston Chronicle

"A taut, sensual thriller that grips from the first page. Elena Michaels is at once sublime and sympathetic, a modern heroine who shows that real women bite back."—Karin Slaughter, The New York Times

"[A] fast-paced story."—Orlando Sentinel

"Kelley Armstrong has long been a favorite of mine."—Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series  

Autorentext

KELLEY ARMSTRONG is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Otherworld series, as well as the New York Times bestselling young adult trilogy Darkest Powers, the Darkness Rising trilogy, and the Nadia Stafford series. She lives in rural Ontario, Canada with her husband and three children.



Klappentext

The next anthology from the #1 New York Times bestselling Otherworld series

More than a decade after Kelley Armstrong first opened the doors to the Otherworld, fans are still clamoring for more. The second in the trilogy, Otherworld Secrets, features fan-favorites such as Cassandra, Savannah, and Adam in rare and never-before-published short stories-plus a brand new novella. Fans old and new will flock to this mystery-themed volume to discover the deepest secrets of this captivating world.



Zusammenfassung
The next anthology from the #1 New York Times bestselling Otherworld series

More than a decade after Kelley Armstrong first opened the doors to the Otherworld, fans are still clamoring for more. The second in the trilogy, Otherworld Secrets, features fan-favorites such as Cassandra, Savannah, and Adam in rare and never-before-published short stories—plus a brand new novella. Fans old and new will flock to this mystery-themed volume to discover the deepest secrets of this captivating world.

Leseprobe

The Cainsville Series

Omens

Visions

Deceptions

The Otherworld Series

Bitten

Stolen

Dime Store Magic

Industrial Magic

Haunted

Broken

No Humans Involved

Personal Demon

Living with the Dead

Frostbitten

Waking the Witch

Spell Bound

Thirteen

The Nadia Stafford Series

Exit Strategy

Made to Be Broken

Wild Justice

The Darkest Power Series

The Summoning

The Awakening

The Reckoning

The Darkness Rising Series

The Gathering

The Calling

The Rising

Story Collections

Men of the Otherworld

Tales of the Otherworld

Otherworld Nights

eSpecials

The Hunter and the Hunted

About the Author

Also by Kelley Armstrong

Title Page

Copyright

PROLOGUE

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

1. MORGAN

2.

3. JESSICA

4. ELENA

5.

6. JESSICA

7. ELENA

8.

9. MORGAN

10. ELENA

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17. MORGAN

18. ELENA

19. MORGAN

20. ELENA

21. MORGAN

22. ELENA

23.

24.

25.

26.

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

TWELVE

THIRTEEN

FOURTEEN

1. HOME SWEET HOME

2. HEDGING A BET

3. CRUSADER CRUSH

4. DIVVYING UP DUTIES

5. THE FIRST RULE OF FIGHT CLUB

6. ROUND ONE

7. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN

8. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

9. UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT

10. THE ART OF BLACKMAIL

11. BROTHERLY LOVE

12. FOLLOW THE MONEY

13. HOMEWARD BOUND

14. WAKING NIGHTMARE

15. DRAGON’S BLOOD AND BUCKTHORN

16. CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

17. MAINTAINING THE CHARADE

LIFE AFTER THEFT

PROLOGUE

Sharon Avery settled her large frame into a chair on Fredrick Birkan’s rooftop deck and gazed down the mountainside at Lake Geneva. How much money did one need to own a house in the Swiss Alps? Enough that she was quickly recalculating the price of the goods she was about to offer Birkan.

Birkan came out the French door and handed her a glass of wine and then set a plate of cheeses on the patio table. He made the requisite small talk. She replied by rote. Idle chatter really wasn’t her thing, but Birkan was the kind of man who’d dismiss her as a crass American if she got right down to business.

Finally, he broached the subject himself, swirling his wine before saying, ever so casually, “I took a chance inviting you to my home, Ms. Avery. You are a stranger to me and I do not usually invite strangers here. But I made a rare exception, based on your excellent professional reputation.”

That was a lie. According to her sources, he said the same thing to every potential new business associate, to make them feel both honored and obliged to live up to his expectations. And, she presumed, so he could show off his estate—a don’t-fuck-with-me display of his wealth and power in the supernatural community.

“I will admit,” Birkan continued, “when you first contacted me, I thought it was a joke. The item you offered . . . well, it is not exactly easy to obtain.”

“I wouldn’t offer it to you if it was,” she said. “That would be an insult to the quality of your collection.”

He nodded, pleased. “Yet you believe you can obtain it? While you have a sterling reputation, I am told it is impossible, even for a master thief.”

“True, but I’ve come into some information that will make it much easier. And I have a particular thief in mind. One whose reputation surpasses even my own.”

She reached into her briefcase and passed him a file folder. As he read the first page, his brows shot up.

“Karl Marsten? The werewolf?”

“Is that a problem?”

“He is notoriously difficult to hire. I have tried myself and have not even been able to arrange a meeting with him.”

“I can get you one.”

Birkan tapped the folder. “So he has not truly retired?”

Avery smiled. “Oh, he says he has. But I believe we can persuade him to take one last job.”

ONE

As I edited the piece on chupacabra sightings, I sipped my decaf coffee and ignored the disapproving looks from the sales director. A week ago, she had informed me—complete with Web links—that even decaf contained caffeine and I was endangering the life of my unborn child. I’d pointed out that I’d drunk decaf all through my pregnancy with Nita, whereupon she’d made some snide comment about my daughter’s high activity levels. I ignored that. Nita had a werewolf and a chaos half-demon for parents—one couldn’t expect her to sit quietly for long.

I returned my attention to the article, written by an intern who apparently had managed to get through college without learning the difference between “there,” “their,” and “they’re.” I had only myself to blame, given that I’d hired him. I’m now the editor at True News, which would be far more impressive if I hadn’t been promoted during a downsizing, when they’d decided I could handle the position while still being lead reporter. But it’s a miracle we’re open at all—World Weekly News stopped publishing years ago when the Internet began fulfilling the public’s appetite for “Proof of Elvis on Mars!” stories.

When my phone rang, I answered with, “Hope Adams.” My brother, Joel, laughed and said, “You guys can’t afford call display?”

“No, I can’t afford the two seconds it takes to look at it. I’m rewriting an intern’s piece and lamenting the state of the modern education system. Which makes me feel very old.”

“Maybe so, but I’ll join you in that lament. I just hired two MBAs who don’t know how to write a proper business letter. Which segues nicely into the reason for my call. Good employees are hard to find, and when you do find one, you do everything in your power to keep him. I need you to talk to your husband.”

“I thought Karl was working out well.”

“Better than well. I had three guys working on a security plan for weeks, and they couldn’t meet the specs. In two days, Karl had it done. The client was ecstatic.”

“Okay . . .”

“Then I put him on this project protecting something called the Anatolian Hoard. It’s supposedly cursed, so figured he’d get a kick out of it, given what you do for a living.”

“So what happened?”

Silence. Then, “He didn’t tell you? He quit.”

“What?”

“I gave him the project yesterday morning. He started work on it. Then, after lunch, he tells me he wanted to go back into sales. I tried to talk him out of it, but you know your husband. I may be his boss, but with Karl that’s a technicality. Which is where you come in. Will you talk to him? Please?”

When I married Karl, I knew exactly what he was. Not just a werewolf, but a jewel thief. Hell, I’d met him because I’d been hired to foil one of his museum heists. So there were no illusions. And the fact that he retired from the life six months ago has nothing to do with me. In fact, if I had my way, he’d still be stealing jewels, because that’s his life—it’s how he’s lived since his father died when he was fifteen. More important, it’s how he works off the nastier instincts that come with being a werewolf. Instead of chasing human prey, he chases the glittering variety, getting his adrenaline rush from that. Nobody understands the importance of that sublimation better than me, as a half-demon who craves the same rush.

Karl had begun talking about retiring when Nita was born. He’d been shot in the head a couple of days before her birth, while I’d been taken captive, our unborn daughter held as “ransom” to get my father’s—Lucifer’s—attention. All that had nothing to do with Karl’s profession, but it still put things in perspective, and he’d wanted to make changes, starting by quitting the life.

I’d convinced him there was no point. He took only a few jobs a year, all out of country, and it would be years before Nita started asking questions. Then we’d started working on having another baby, and he’d barely broached the subject of quitting again when we had an . . . incident. It was at a Pack Meet. The youngest Pack member, Noah, had asked Karl to show him a few tricks, because he was taking law enforcement in college, so he was curious. Karl obliged. Nita watched. Then we returned home to discover her luggage contained two books, a stuffed animal, and a necklace that she’d stolen from the Danvers twins.

Nita had been very proud of herself, regaling her father with the story as best a three-year-old can tell one. She’d gotten a long talk about the notion of private property and a trip back to Stonehaven to return the items with apologies. The twins had been very impressed and made her show them how she’d done it—getting the books and toy from a high shelf and the jewelry from around Kate’s neck. Elena and Jeremy had been amused. Clayton was not. But one person was even more appalled than Clay: Karl. When we got home Sunday night, he’d called my brother to see if his long-standing offer of employment still stood.

TWO

After Joel’s call, I packed in my editing early and headed out to find Karl and Nita.

After Nita was born, we’d moved from a condo to a house . . . the sort of home that befits two people with very healthy bank accounts. Not some obscenely tacky modern mansion—that isn’t Karl’s style or mine. It’s an early twentieth-century two-story on an acre of land, backing onto a ravine. The money went into the location—a neighborhood dating back almost to the time my dad’s family landed on the Mayflower. And by “dad,” I mean Will Adams, the man who raised me, not my biological father. Dad’s family may be old, but compared with Lucifer’s, they’re strictly new blood.

Given the time, Karl and Nita would be at the park. Karl worked only part-time for Joel, doing as much as possible from home, because he was the primary caregiver for our daughter. As he says, there’s only a brief window before kids go off to school, and it’s an experience he’s never going to get again.

Even from the parking lot, I could see my husband. In a sea of au pairs, nannies, and mothers, the only man stuck out. Not that Karl wouldn’t stick out anyway. He’s fifty-six, but werewolves age slowly, so he looks more like a forty-year-old guy in prime condition: six feet tall, well built, wavy black hair barely touched with silver, and a face that belongs on the silver screen. Of course, being married to him, I could be biased, but the looks he got from the other caregivers said I was not.

As Karl watched Nita on the climbers, a couple of the twenty-something nannies stood nearby, trying to catch his attention and failing miserably. When Karl switches on the charm, he’s undeniable, which is why he’d made a good salesman. Yet it really is a switch, and when it’s off, that’s a hint: leave him alone or you’ll wish you had.

When he saw me, that somber expression broke into a smile and he turned . . . just as Nita attempted to leap across three bars. I yelped a warning, but Karl was already in flight, catching her as deftly as if he’d never taken his eyes off her, which he hadn’t, not completely.

“Oh, your nanny’s here,” one of the women said, adding, “Finally,” with a look that told me I really shouldn’t force my poor boss to—God forbid—take care of his own child.

As for why she presumed I was the nanny, let’s just say that every other woman of color in that playground was caring for someone else’s kids. My mother is Indo-American, and being half-demon means I get my looks from her. That’s when Nita spotted me and let out a whoop of “Mommy!” diving from Karl’s arms. I scooped her up as Karl came over and kissed me, and the nannies decided they really ought to get back to, you know, actually watching the kids they were being paid to watch.

“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” Nita sang as she hugged me tight enough to inhibit breathing. “Did you see me jump?”

“I saw you nearly fall.”

“Daddy caught me.”

“Daddy won’t always be there to catch you,” I said, ignoring the look on Karl’s face that said he damned well would be. “You need to be more careful. Or you’ll take a tumble and—”

“Break my arm,” she said, giggling. “Kate broke her arm. I want to break mine.”

“No, you do not.”

“I never broke a bone. I want to.”

“To see what it’s like? I’ll tell you. It hurts.”

She shrugged, as if this was inconsequential compared with the thrill of a new experience, and I cursed Lucifer for that. When Nita was born, my demon father said she would inherit some of my chaos hunger, making it more manageable for me. Which it is, but it’s left my daughter with a thirst for adventure that keeps us very, very busy. This is as bad as it will get, though, and if pressed I’ll admit that’s not such a horrible thing, and it’s not entirely the fault of my genes. If I were too worried, I certainly wouldn’t be having a second child.

“Park done, Daddy.” Nita twisted in my arms and launched herself back at her father. “Ice cream time.”

“I believe ice cream is on Tuesdays,” he said. “Today is Thursday.”

“Mommy’s having a baby. She needs ice cream. My book says so. Milk and cheese and ice cream for . . .” Her face screwed up.

“Calcium,” I said.

“Calcium!” she said, screeching the word like she’d found a new toy. “Calcium, calcium, calcium. Mommy needs calcium. Mommy needs ice cream.”

“You’re right,” Karl said. “So we’ll buy Mommy some. You and I will sit and watch—”

“No! Daddy watch. Mommy and Nita eat. Need calcium, calcium, calcium!” She wriggled down, saying, “Slide!” and then took off for one last ride, running and singing at the top of her lungs.

“She’s such a deeply unhappy child,” Karl said. “I don’t know where we went wrong.”

I laughed. Nita does have a temper—no idea where that came from—but the best word to describe our daughter is exuberant. I watched her run off, black curls streaming behind her. If the nannies were surprised she was my daughter, they needed glasses. Her big blue eyes are Karl’s, but otherwise she has my hair, my features, and skin only a shade lighter. Also, sadly, she has inherited her mother’s size, meaning we’ve just barely gotten out of the infants’ section.

Karl took my hand, entwining it in his as we walked. When we first started dating—after two years of being friends—he’d have no more held my hand in public than he’d have worn brown shoes with black trousers. I won’t say marriage and kids have mellowed him, but they’ve calmed something in his core. It is the realization of a goal he never allowed himself to even acknowledge. He had a stable life now—with territory and family—and public displays of affection declared that this was his choice and he was happy with it.

His hand tightened around mine. “I’d ask if you got done early, but I know that never happens. Was it work you could bring home?”

I nodded.

“Excellent timing. Nita goes for her nap after we get back home.”

“Giving me a quiet hour to work?”

He met my smile with one of his own. “Not exactly what I had in mind, but you can certainly try to work during it. I’d be rather disappointed if you managed, though.”

I laughed. I was tempted to let the job conversation wait until after sex. Four months pregnant meant I was into my favorite stage of the process, where I’m past the morning sickness, far from waddling, and enjoying the surge of hormones that make sex even better than usual, which is saying a lot.

It helps that I have a partner who very enthusiastically takes advantage of my libido upswing. Having a three-year-old, though, means scant private time. If I got the chance for an hour alone with my husband, I really did not want to spend it having a discussion that might turn into a fight. Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to push this conversation out of my mind enough to focus on sex.

As we were walking back to the house, I told Karl that we needed to talk first. Then I put Nita down for her nap, which is easier than one might think. She actually embraces the rest time, even reminding us if we forget it. She can feel her batteries running low and wants the recharge.

When I came out of her room, Karl had made tea.

“I came home early because Joel called,” I said as I settled onto the sofa.

Karl was at the bar, getting a water from the fridge. At my words, he stiffened, just a little. He uncapped a Perrier, his back still to me.

“I was going to tell you,” he said.

“I should hope so.”

“I planned to do it after dinner,” he said as he turned to meet my eyes. “Last night, we were preoccupied with Nita bumping her head, and this morning I didn’t want to hit you with it as you were heading to work.”

“Okay. I’d still rather not have heard it from my brother, but let’s move on. You liked the security work, Karl. Liked it a hell of a lot more than sales. Designing and debugging security systems is right up your alley.”

He’d been standing in front of the bar, listening. Now he came over and sat in the chair across from me. He fingered the bottle and stared out the back window, and as I watched him, turned away from me to hide his expression.

At home, Karl doesn’t dull his edges—he just keeps them covered. Working as a salesman, though, doesn’t just dull those edges—it smashes them and leaves him a little bit broken. It was killing me to watch it happen.

Worse, I had to feel it happen. As a chaos half-demon, I get a direct line to other people’s chaos. My powers may have weakened along with my hunger, but when my husband is struggling, I feel every twitch and roil of it.

I got to my feet and walked to the patio doors and out onto the back deck. Karl followed, leaving the door open so we could hear Nita’s bell. We refuse to put a lock on our bedroom door for privacy, so we put a bell over hers. We tell her it’s her princess bell, so we know when the princess is awake and her loyal servants can be ready.

I waited until he was outside. Then I turned to face him. “Tell me what I can do to make you quit sales.”

“Hope . . .”

“I know this isn’t about me. It’s about you, and what you want for your family, for your kids. You want to be able to tell them what you do for a living and have them be proud of you. But you know what, Karl? You being miserable in a job isn’t going to make them proud.”

“It isn’t about them being proud of me. It’s about having something to tell them. I don’t want my children to grow up with lies. The sales job is a temporary measure while I figure out what I want.”

“How about the security work that you just quit?”

He eased back. “I had a reason.”

“You researched the Anatolian Hoard, saw the Eye of Pldans, and knew if you designed the plans to secure it, you’d be tempted to breach them yourself. To steal it.”

He looked up sharply.

“What?” I said. “I’m your wife. I hope I could figure out at least one plausible reason why you quit after being given that specific job. I looked up the Hoard. It contains the Eye of Pldans. A jeweled amulet with a diamond center. In the human world, they say it’s cursed. But in the supernatural world, it’s believed to convey the power of fire to anyone with demon blood. In other words, for a half-demon, it adds a bonus power. That means that while it’s valuable to humans, it’s even more valuable on the supernatural black market.”

He was quiet for a minute. Then he said, “I put out a few feelers to see if anyone was looking to buy it. I told myself that was part of the research. A security system must protect against the supernatural powers of potential thieves.”

“Yes, and you can’t steal it even if you wanted to. It’s historically significant. That violates your agreement with Clayton.”

“True, but the buyer I uncovered isn’t a supernatural. He’s a Turkish national who plans to return it to his government, the rightful owners.”

“Meaning you could get the thrill plus the payday of a heist, and even Clay would admit it wasn’t a bad thing.”

“Not really my priority.”

“But still, win-win, right?”

“Except for the part where I betray my brother-in-law’s trust. And betray my own decision to retire, a mere six months after making it.”

I lowered myself into a deck chair. “I just want you to be happy, Karl.”

“I am.”

I met his gaze. “Chaos half-demon, remember? I can tell when you’re unsettled.”

“Unsettled, yes. Not unhappy. Am I as happy as I was three months ago, when you told me you were pregnant again? No. Am I happier than I was before I met you? Absolutely. The worst days since you came into my life are better than the best days that came before it, Hope.” He paused. “Except for when I was shot in the head while you were kidnapped by your psycho ex. That wins for worst day ever.”

I laughed in spite of myself.

He continued. “But other than that, I’m much happier now. Also, being shot in the head makes a man rethink his life. I didn’t want to die and have you lie to our child about what her father did for a living. Perhaps that shouldn’t have crossed my mind. But it did. It still does. I want to be able to look our children in the eye when I answer that question.”

“Getting a legit job doesn’t mean you need to stop being a thief.”

“Try to have it all?” He shook his head. “I spent fifty years thinking only of myself. I’ve had enough of that to last a lifetime. I’m only struggling a little because this is a period of transition. And it’s not as if I plan to give up every bit of adventure in my life and settle into a desk job. I have Pack missions, and I have interracial council investigations with you.”

He pulled another chair over to sit in front of me. “I’ll feed my own chaos cravings with those, and I’ll find a better position, and everything will be fine.” He leaned back in his seat. “By the way, the answer is four.”

“To what question?”

“How many kids I want. I know we keep going back and forth. Three, maybe four, no, three . . .”

“So we’re done talking about the security job?”

“You want me happy. I’ve picked a topic that makes me much happier.” He rose, picked me up, and put me on the railing, his hands on my hips as he moved closer. “You’ve said it’s up to me, and I keep waffling, which is highly uncharacteristic. But I’ve never felt it should be my choice. Yes, I know, you’ve said you don’t care, but you’re still the one who has to go through a nine-month pregnancy and childbirth. Yet I have decided that since you’ve given me the choice, and I believe I’ve proven that I’ll take on my share of the postpartum responsibilities . . .”

“More than your share.”

“Then if you are giving me the option, I need to be honest and say four. I would like four children.” His hands slid under my skirt and over my hips. “Yes?”

“I said it was your choice.”

“I’d still like to hear you say it.” He tugged my panties down and I lifted my hips to help.

“Yes, Karl, I’d like four kids, too. You realize you can’t start on number three now, right?”

He chuckled. “I can practice.”

“Uh-huh. You like that, don’t you? Particularly when I’m already knocked up.”

His nose wrinkled. “I wouldn’t put it that way.”

“Knocked up? Oh, hell, yeah.” I leaned back a little on the railing. “You like having kids. You like working on making kids. But you also really like this part.”

I eased my dress up over the bump it concealed. His hands slid up to that, fingers running over it as a smug smile played on his lips.

I chuckled. “You like that, and you like it even more when it’s big enough that everyone can see what you’ve done.”

“That would be positively Paleolithic of me.”

“Yep.”

His fingers dropped back to my legs and eased down my inner thighs, but his gaze stayed fixed on that bump, the smile growing, just a little.

“Very pleased with yourself,” I said, arching back as he slid a finger into me.

“Never. Any man can make babies. Most, anyway.”

“True.”

“Of course . . .” Another finger, working expertly, as I closed my eyes and moaned. “If I was overly pleased with myself, I would have good cause.”

“Would you?”

“Impregnating a woman is no great accomplishment. However . . .”

He paused here for more wonderful finger-work. I responded with more appreciative moaning. With his free hand, he undid the buttons on the front of my dress. His hand roamed up my stomach, pausing at my belly, and then continued to my bra, flicking open the front clasp.

“However . . .” he continued. “A brilliant and beautiful woman who agrees to have my babies . . .” He cupped my breast with his free hand and teased one nipple. “Who, furthermore, agrees to have as many as I want . . .” His lips came toward mine. “That is, I believe, cause for me to be very pleased with myself.”

He kissed me and I wrapped my hands around his neck and returned it. Then I pulled back, my hands dropping to undo his belt.

“That’s . . . not entirely true,” I said.

“No?”

I opened his button, pulled down the zipper, and reached inside. “I wouldn’t say I’m willing to have your babies. I believe the word”—I moved my lips to his ear and whispered—“is eager. Very, very eager.”

He let out a growl, grabbed my hips, and pushed into me.

THREE

A week passed, and I was once again editing my intern’s latest piece when my phone rang. I heard Joel’s voice, there was a moment of déjà vu, and I was so distracted by it that when he said, “Someone stole the Eye of Pldans,” the first words out of my mouth were, “Karl didn’t . . .” Luckily, I caught myself in time and finished with, “. . . work on that project.”

“Um, yeah, sis. That’s what we discussed last week. Baby brain?”

“No, I thought we talked about the Anatolian Hoard last week.”

“Right. Well, the Eye is the crown jewel of the Hoard, so to speak. I’m calling to see if he can help me figure out what went wrong. He has a knack for this, and I’m . . .” His voice lowered. “I’m in trouble, Hope.”

“The client isn’t holding you responsible, is he?”

“She. The necklace is insured, of course, and we don’t owe anything except a refund, but it’s a black mark on the firm, and considering we only branched...

Produktinformationen

Titel: Otherworld Secrets
Untertitel: An Anthology
Autor:
EAN: 9780452298354
ISBN: 978-0-452-29835-4
Format: Kartonierter Einband
Herausgeber: Random House N.Y.
Genre: Science-Fiction & Fantasy
Anzahl Seiten: 416
Gewicht: 300g
Größe: H23mm x B204mm x T135mm
Jahr: 2016