Lisa Shearin, National Bestselling Author

Sample Chapters – The Ghoul Vendetta

The Ghoul Vendetta
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

I was on a date, on a yacht, surrounded by New York’s glitterati.

It felt downright surreal. What would the folks back home think if they could see me now?

Being on a date with Rake Danescu was getting to be a regular thing for me, but being part of a floating A-list gathering was a first. Usually when I got to go somewhere this fancy, it was entirely work related. Tonight was only slightly about my job. Rake was the one here on business. I was here mostly for fun, partly in case Rake’s business became SPI’s business.

My name is Makenna Fraser, and I work for SPI. That’s Supernatural Protection and Investigations, to the world’s paranormal community. Humans had police, FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, and Interpol. Paranormals had SPI. We were all of the above rolled into one. SPI was a worldwide organization, headquartered here in New York. I was one of five seers in the entire agency.

Criminals, supernatural and otherwise, often used disguises. Supernatural bad guys and gals used more advanced means of going undetected. “Advanced” as in magic. Any paranormal criminal worthy of his, her, or its rap sheet had an arsenal of wards, glamours, veils, shields, and various and sundry spells that helped them go undetected. A good seer could see through any and all of them. It was a talent that made us popular with supernatural law enforcement organizations—and a target of supernatural crime syndicates.

There were high-ranking representatives of some of the latter here tonight. It was my job to know their faces without letting them know mine. But these weren’t the people who committed the crimes. Their hands were clean and their reputations pristine. Organized crime most definitely paid, and the ladies and gentlemen at the top of those organizations were especially keen to spread goodwill through philanthropy. In fact, that was the reason for tonight’s gathering on a hundred-and-fifty-foot yacht cruising the Hudson River on a balmy evening in late June.

Some of the oldest people on board looked the youngest, and it wasn’t due to plastic surgery. Their fountain of youth was an endless series of throats and the blood that flowed through them.

The yacht’s owner was a vampire. Bela Báthory was the nephew and presumed heir of Ambrus Báthory, the head of the most powerful vampire crime family on the East Coast.

The yacht’s name was the Persephone. A little dose of vampire irony there. Demeter was the name of the ship that had brought Dracula to England. Persephone was Demeter’s daughter.

The men were in black tie, and the majority of the women were wearing high heels and even higher hemlines, or flowing gowns with slits up to there. The yacht was big, but it wasn’t big enough to be stable enough for me to walk around on high-heel-elevated-tippy-toes. For me, it was lower heels, lower hemline, and Dramamine, with no alcohol. Dramamine plus drinking would equal me falling overboard. A midnight swim was not in my plans for this evening.

Rake made sure that I could hear him walking up behind me. He didn’t want to go for a swim, either. Now that I was duly forewarned, Rake slid a hand, then his arm around my waist. My pulse kicked up for a few beats. A normal man wouldn’t have felt it. Rake wasn’t a normal man. In a satisfied response, he tightened his hold ever so slightly. When it came to Rake, my pulse—and hormones—refused to go along with my better judgment which dictated extreme caution. They were more along the lines of tossing caution to the wind—along with my undies. For now, my better judgment was in the driver’s seat.

Rake and I stood together gazing out across the river to the lights of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“He was receptive to my offer,” Rake said. “My cards are on the table. The next move is his. Now, I wait.”

Rake’s seemingly impromptu meeting at one of the yacht’s bars had been with a private investment banker. Rake was representing a group of entrepreneurial businessmen looking for capital. At least that’s what it was on the surface. In actuality, Rake represented his government’s intelligence agency looking to get a foothold in a new technology before the competition.

However, none of the parties involved were human.

Rake Danescu was a goblin. The competition was, is, and probably would always be the elves. They hadn’t been at war for several centuries, but that didn’t mean they played nice, especially not on our world.

SPI didn’t get involved in goblin/elf politics. That being said, we’d found it prudent to know what was going on. Very often what was considered by goblin and elven governments to be a “private matter” spilled over into criminal activity affecting others. Then it became SPI’s business. Rake didn’t let us in on every aspect of his business dealings, but he had agreed to bring us into the loop when his business was about to cross the streams with our job—namely keeping the peace between supernaturals, and keeping the supernatural world secret from humans.

The streams had been crossing an awful lot lately.

Rake’s business was booming. Unfortunately, so was ours. Some of it was a direct result of goblin/elf dealings, but most of it was not.

I’d been appointed by my boss, Vivienne Sagadraco, as the official go-between. She knew that Rake and I were seeing each other, so “SPI/goblin intelligence liaison” had been added to my job description—at least, as long as Rake and I were dating. If our relationship ever went down the drain, we’d reevaluate my additional responsibilities at that time. Even my boss—who was a multi-millennia-old dragon in the guise of a fierce businesswoman who reminded me a bit of Judy Dench—recognized the awkwardness of continuing to professionally liaise when a liaison of a more personal nature had gone south.

One of the few things I’d actually managed to learn about the mysterious Rake Danescu was that you never knew which way things were going to go. Goblins were like that.

The motives of mortal men were difficult enough to figure out. Goblins—whether involved in politics, business, or interpersonal relations—made Machiavelli look like an intrigue dilettante. When it came to supernatural beings, but especially goblins, very little was actually as it seemed.

Like Rake Danescu’s motives when it came to me. I didn’t know what they were. Okay, I take that back. I knew exactly what they were. Him, me, horizontal. Or vertical. I didn’t think Rake was picky about the particulars.

Rake was gorgeous, rich, brilliant, and could charm anything off of anyone regardless of sex, race, or supernatural species. I was from a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. I was human, average height, blond hair, green eyes, and I’d been told that I looked about as threatening as a declawed kitty cat. My grandma Fraser had always told me I had “little dog syndrome”—small size, big attitude, delusions of toughness. I made enough money at SPI to keep a nice East Village roof over my head, and I was pretty much immune to charm. Though that last characteristic was probably due to an excess of caution and suspicion in my nature than actual immunity.

Rake was a dark mage, which meant he was absurdly talented in a type of magic most sane people wouldn’t mess with. Rake wasn’t most people, or even most goblins. Though as far as I’d been able to determine in the time that we’d known each other, he was sane, at least most of the time. He was also cunning, crafty, and conniving. In short, Rake Danescu was a perfect goblin. Anyone who looked at him—and there were plenty of those right now, both women and men—would see a tall, dark, and unwholesomely handsome man.

As a seer, I saw past Rake’s human glamour to his pale gray skin, pointed ears, and—a goblin’s most distinguishing feature—his fangs. He was still breathtakingly beautiful, albeit in an exotic way. Unlike the vampires on board, Rake didn’t use his fangs for feeding, just defense, offense, and making women crazy. He’d slowly grazed the back of my neck once, so I could attest to that last point from personal experience. The tingles hadn’t stopped for days.

It hadn’t gone beyond that. Yet.

All I wanted was a nice guy. At least I used to think I did. Now I wasn’t so sure. There was a lot to be said about a brilliant, fascinating, inter-dimensional goblin spy of mystery with tingles-inducing fangs.

I was being cautious. Rake was being respectful of my caution. So, that was where we were. Also, we’d both been busy. Time together hadn’t been easy to come by. And SPI had been busier than normal since the first of the year, and we thought it had everything to do with what had happened a couple of weeks before Christmas, when an enterprising demon lord and his elf dark mage partner had come entirely too close to creating a direct flight from Hell to New York.

Some people would argue that it already existed. The demon-and-elf diabolical duo had opened a Hellpit directly under Bacchanalia, which had been the crown jewel of Rake’s business and spy empire and the city’s most exclusive sex club. Yes, I said “had been,” as in past tense. Bacchanalia didn’t exist anymore. It had collapsed into the sinkhole created when we essentially slammed the gate to Hell.

Yep, Rake had run a sex club. In fact, that was where we had met on my first night on the job—at SPI, not Bacchanalia.

Never one to lament losing one of his crown jewels, Rake had thrown himself into rebuilding the intelligence gathering web the demon lord and elf dark mage’s activity had damaged, and was playing catch-up with a vengeance.

The yacht had been moving at a leisurely cruising speed up the Hudson—then it wasn’t.

The engines had stopped.

I glanced at a now frowning Rake. “Are we supposed to stop?”

“No.”

The yacht slowed its forward motion, but didn’t come to a complete stop. The Hudson was a tidal river, or to be more exact, an estuary. The Hudson had two high and two low tides within each twenty-four-hour time frame. The tide’s rise and fall actually changed the direction of the flow. Not that we needed to worry about that. At least I didn’t think we did.

That thought had no sooner crossed my mind when the yacht shuddered beneath our feet. It didn’t simply stop, it was jerked to a stop, and I was grateful not to be wearing high heels. I grabbed the railing. Rake grabbed the railing with one hand and tightened his grip on me with the other.

Then the lights went out, immediately followed by screams and shouts.

Rake pulled me away from the railing, but not before I saw a long, dark shape knife through the water.

I’d been out on deck long enough that my eyes were already adjusted to the dark. Those inside the salon had gone from bright light to no light. Those below decks were in total darkness until the emergency lights kicked in. Even the vampires and goblins would need time for their night vision to adjust.

It stayed dark.

Rake pulled us over against the salon windows to keep us from being trampled by panicked passengers.

I tried to further flatten myself. “Doesn’t this thing have emergency lights?”

“Yes.”

That one word told me what I didn’t want to know.

This was no accident. And when your host was near the top of the supernatural crime food chain, any non-accident could be very bad for anyone unlucky enough to be around him. I had no intention of going from party guest to collateral damage.

A dark column as big around as a power pole and nearly as long rose out of the water and fell across the railing not twenty feet from where we stood. The tapered tip crashed through a salon window, then withdrew and flailed blindly until it found the railing and coiled around it, getting a good grip.

Power poles weren’t in the middle of rivers, and they definitely didn’t have suction cups.

It was a giant tentacle.

Go to Chapter 2

This was one of those times when even I doubted what I was seeing. I felt like I’d just been dropped into the middle of a B movie creature feature from the 1950s.

Part of my agent training when I started working for SPI included watching more than a few of those movies for educational purposes. You’d be surprised at what some of those low-budget Hollywood filmmakers got right. Still, I couldn’t believe what was less than twenty feet from us.

“Is that what I—?”

“Kraken,” Rake confirmed. In one smooth move, he released me, raised his now red-glowing hands, and launched an incendiary spell.

Other than giving us a better look at what was about to drag the yacht to the bottom of the Hudson River, the spell did nothing.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Rake said mildly.

“I think we all are.”

As a seer, my job was to point out the supernatural bad guys, then get the heck out of the way so they could either be taken into custody or, if necessary, taken out. I was presently on track to become SPI’s longest surviving seer. My three predecessors had met with on-the-job accidents that had turned out to be not so accidental. Some unknown entity was trying to keep SPI without a seer. I was trying to live long enough to qualify for retirement. Lately, I’d been glad just to survive until my next paycheck.

All that being said, I had a gun, I’d been trained, and I almost had the confidence to use it. Though suddenly, I went from having one target to what SPI’s shooting instructor called a “target-rich environment.”

We were being boarded. It wasn’t by pirates, and unfortunately none of them looked like Johnny Depp. If I had to assign a movie to the things that were slithering entirely too fast up the side of the yacht and over the rail, it would be Creature from the Black Lagoon. The kraken was holding the Persephone still while the creatures swarmed over the sides. Screams from the other side of the ship suggested the starboard guests were getting their share of attention. The humans on board were probably the ones doing the screaming—the non-clued-in ones, that is. Thankfully, my training kicked in before my vocal cords could.

But call me picky. I liked to be sure that the bad guys were actually bad before attempting to fill them with holes. Seconds later, one of the creatures lashed out with a webbed hand tipped with hooked claws and ripped the throat out of one of the crewmen trying to fend it off. Dark blood sprayed the yacht’s windows.

Bad guy. Check. I opened fire.

Magic was great, but sometimes there was no substitute for lead and silver.

If it had worked.

Not only did hollow points infused with silver not kill it, the thing wasn’t even inconvenienced. That was bad.

There was now no one between us and two targets that were close enough for me to see the gills flexing on the sides of their necks. Too close. I squeezed off two more shots, one hit one miss. I forced myself to relax the two-handed death grip I had on my gun.

Rake was the poster boy for cool as he readied another spell. “Aim for the eyes.”

I had been aiming for the eyes; that part was be easy. The things were glowing yellow and were the only light on the boat, or at least the corner we were trapped on. Killing themwas the hard part. My bullets might as well have been gnats—minimal annoyance, no damage.

Rake launched a different spell. In my deep knowledge of magic, I knew it was different because it was blue and not red. This one picked up the creature in question and hurled it off the side of the yacht and out over the river at a distance the Yankees would have envied. Rake followed that up with doing the same to the next six boarders.

He was panting with exertion, but sounded pleased with himself. “If I can’t destroy, disperse.”

Rake was winded, but all the creatures had to do was swim back to the yacht, their trip across the river having merely pissed them off.

In the next instant, darkness covered everything as if a black, smothering blanket had been dropped on top of the entire yacht. I could not see my hand in front of my face. My breathing became labored, and the screams sounded unnaturally distant. As far as my ears were concerned, turning down the volume on dozens of panicked people was a good thing, but nothing else was.
I no longer sensed Rake next to me, or even near me.

He was gone.

Or had been taken.

“Rake?” I didn’t want to shout and earn the undivided attention of any remaining swamp things, but I wanted Rake to hear me.

No response.

I replaced my gun with a knife.

A hand grabbed my arm, and I slashed out. Another hand grabbed my wrist. The grip was like iron, but it didn’t smell fishy.

“It’s me!” Rake hissed.

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“Why did you yell? I was right here.”

“I didn’t yell, and I can’t see anything,” I snapped. Rake was a goblin. Cats were blind as bats compared to goblins. “Can you see?”

“Not much. It’s black magic.”

With an emphasis on black. And silent, at least on our side of the yacht. The screaming escalated on the other side.

“Old World, ancient, and black magic.” Rake sounded concerned. If my badass, dark mage, goblin superspy, maybe boyfriend was concerned, I should be terrified.

“Can you make light?” I whispered.

“Maybe, but I shouldn’t.”

“Maybe?”

“Light isn’t all that’s being smothered here.”

M

y blood went cold. When a mage at Rake’s level couldn’t use his magic, the situation was officially FUBAR. Many of the guests were either mage-level talents or supernatural beings like vampires, whose magic was part of what they were. That someone had tossed a metaphorical blanket over their magic to keep them from fighting back or even defending themselves was beyond terrifying.

No power—either engines, lights, or magic.

And suddenly no deck beneath our feet.

The yacht groaned like a living thing as the kraken pulled it nearly on its side. Rake and I slid down the deck and into the water. I made a grab for the railing, which was now in the water, but missed. I went under, swallowing what felt like a double-lungful of the Hudson.

I fought my way to the surface, coughing and gasping for what air I could find. My feet were now bare, my shoes probably sinking to the bottom of the river. Better them than me. Rake surfaced next to me, smoothly treading water. He got an arm around my shoulders and held my head above water while I coughed and sputtered.

I looked to where the yacht had been. All I could see was a yacht-sized blackness, and all I could hear were screams. We were outside the smothering darkness—if that was better than being in the water with a kraken, a horde of swamp creatures, and who knew what else.

Until tonight, I didn’t think vampires could cross running water, and I had no clue what would happen if one took an involuntary swim in a river. I saw one of the vampire guests bobbing nearby, doing a decent job of treading water, meaning vampires didn’t melt when they got wet.

Though come to think of it, that was the Wicked Witch of the West.

The last swim Rake and I had taken together had been in a Hellpit full of molten brimstone. Rake’s magic had been all that’d been between us and instant flash frying.

Whatever brushed past my legs just then felt big enough to make the shark in Jaws look like a guppy. I knew the Hudson had some salt water in it, but I’d never heard of sharks coming this far upriver. Though compared to the kraken, I think I’d prefer it to be “only a shark” regardless of size.

The whatever-it-was brushed my legs again, and I shrieked and kicked out.

Rake swore and bobbed under the water, nearly dragging me with him.

“You felt it, too?” I asked when he surfaced.

“Yes, you kicked me.”

“Sorry.”

Then Rake’s eyes went wide. Seemed I wasn’t the only one who’d just had a close encounter.

“I really don’t want to stay here for a second pass.” My teeth were beginning to chatter. I was chalking it up to cold water and night air rather than terror, but if I could get away from the things now circling us, anyone could call it anything they wanted.

“I wasn’t going to suggest it. I will, however, make us unappetizing.” Rake took a deep breath and gazed down into the water. I didn’t feel any less potentially tasty, but several large splashes and sudden shifts in the water beneath us said our new acquaintances abruptly took their attentions elsewhere.

The shouts and screams didn’t lessen; but over that, and getting closer, was a sound I wanted to hear. Sirens. The captain must have gotten off a mayday before the power was cut.

Let’s hear it for the Coast Guard.

Rake raised his eyes to mine. “Let’s hope that spell holds.”

“What did you do?”

“Made us scarier to them than they are to us.”

“That’s some serious scary.”

“And it’s just an illusion.”

At this point, I’d gladly take it.

The blanket, curtain, whatever parted just long enough to show me the Persephone on its side, with a pair of swamp creatures carrying a slumped figure between them. They slid off the yacht and into the river with their prisoner.

The kraken released the Persephone, but instead of its tentacles sliding off into the water, it actually righted the yacht, as though it had gotten what it came for and put its tub toy back the way it found it before vanishing into the depths.

The water was flowing again as it usually did as if a kraken hadn’t just tossed around a hundred-and-fifty-foot yacht like a buoy. The moon came out from behind the clouds, shining down on nothing but water—no kraken, no swamp creatures.

It was just another date as usual with Rake Danescu.

Chapter 1 | Go to Chapter 3 >

 

The NYPD was definitely on top of their “protect and serve” game tonight.

A crime had been committed on board the Persephone tonight, and the damaged mega yacht—aka floating crime scene—that belonged to the obscenely wealthy kidnap victim—aka a powerful and influential tax payer—was being escorted back to port. The Persephone was full of witnesses; some injured, others traumatized, who were also powerful and influential, though not to Bela Báthory’s level. It was enough that we were going to get treatment reserved for royalty or heads of state—after we had given our statements.

The police weren’t going to get much from anyone on the yacht. Most of the guests were supernaturals, and by necessity were very adept at explaining the impossible with the mundane. The kraken became an underwater cable that must have come loose from its moorings and the fish men became SEAL-type kidnappers in high-tech dive gear. The supernaturals had gotten their story together before the Harbor Patrol had arrived, leaving the panicked mundanes raving about sea monsters.

After hearing the more rational explanation, the humans began doubting what they had seen, or what they thought they had seen. A couple of vampiric hypnotic suggestions, a reminder about how dark it was after the kidnappers had cut the power to the ship, and the humans admitted that they couldn’t possibly have seen what they thought they saw.

As a result, the police were focused on the kidnapping of Bela Báthory.

The Báthorys were a known criminal family. That the heir apparent to the family’s “business empire” had been taken from the deck of a yacht in an elaborate kidnapping plot was completely believable.

When one of New York’s wealthiest and most notorious citizens gets snatched off a yacht in the middle of the Hudson River, the media will get wind of it and be swarming worse than mosquitoes in July. While plenty of press and more than a few satellite trucks were waiting when we arrived at the South Street Seaport, one reporter stood out.

I recognized him. He knew Rake.

Rake hadn’t gotten a chance to kill any of those swamp creatures. The snarl he didn’t even try to hide said he’d like nothing better than to satisfy those urges on the person of one Baxter Clayton.

Baxter was an investigative reporter for a local TV station. He was tall, handsome, and immaculately groomed with blond hair that gale force winds couldn’t have budged.

Baxter Clayton was also a Grade-A asshat.

Last year, he’d stalked Rake for an exposé he’d been doing on New York’s upper-class sex industry. And as the owner of the most exclusive sex club in Manhattan, Rake was on Baxter the Bastard’s radar. Bacchanalia was gone, but Baxter’s radar was always sweeping the city for the next big, ratings-grabbing story. A mob boss’s nephew kidnapped off his own yacht amidst a who’s-who of New York’s society. It was right up Baxter’s alley. And within minutes, he would get the unparalleled satisfaction of seeing Rake Danescu among the guests. And no doubt that satisfaction would increase tenfold when he saw that Rake was wrapped in a foil blanket and dripping like a wet cat.

“Do you want to jump overboard again?” I asked him. “I wouldn’t blame you in the least.”

“Not unless I can take Mr. Clayton with me.”

“If you did, you’d win the instant undying gratitude of every man and woman on board, both living and undead.”

“If we weren’t surrounded by representatives of no less than three law enforcement agencies, I would seriously consider it,” Rake said. “There are many people here who I would love to have owing me favors.”

I spotted our salvation—or at least our getaway car.

Yasha’s black Suburban.

I didn’t bother asking myself how my coworkers had found out what had happened. If it happened in New York and involved supernaturals, SPI would know minutes later.

I was grateful for it.

Even if it meant explaining to my partner, Ian Byrne, what had happened. It wasn’t that once again I’d ended up involved in what was likely to be our next big case; it was who I was with. Rake had absolutely nothing to do with what had happened tonight, but that wouldn’t stop my partner from dropping the blame right at Rake’s designer-shod feet.

The passenger side door opened and Ian got out. He and Rake locked eyes.

I did not need this.

Ian’s blame dropping wasn’t logical, but neither was his big-brother protectiveness. It was about feelings. For me. Feelings that caused him to do anything he had to do to keep me safe. It was hard to be mad about that, or at least hard to stay mad for long.

My partner was SPI’s number one producing agent, which meant if he went after a perp, he got them—one way or another. He was inhumanly qualified to bag his bad guy in every way, even though he was human. A career in a branch of the military that he either wouldn’t—or couldn’t—talk about had been followed by a stint as a homicide detective with the NYPD.

Ian’s time as one of New York’s finest came to an abrupt and brutal end one night in a high-end pawn shop that specialized in unique and estate pieces. There had been a string of robberies and murders linking stores selling high-priced estate jewelry. Ian would have been better off not investigating that particular store on that night—because Ian’s partner wouldn’t have been eaten by the gang of ghouls responsible for the string of crimes.

That’d been Ian’s first encounter with the supernatural; and when Vivienne Sagadraco had offered him a job going after creatures like the things that’d killed his partner, Ian had turned in his NYPD badge and accepted SPI’s.

Vivienne Sagadraco had assigned Ian to be my partner my first day on the job. Three of my predecessors had met violent ends on the job that hadn’t had a thing to do with bad luck but, everything to do with someone with a lot of power and a lot of pull wanting, for some still unknown reason, to keep SPI from having a seer in its headquarters’ office.

Ian had been deemed most qualified to keep SPI’s newest seer from becoming its latest casualty.

To me, it felt more like glorified babysitting; and initially, Ian agreed with my assessment. But the big boss had given him a job to do, and he was going to do it, even if he didn’t like it—or me, for that matter.

It didn’t take long for that to change—the him liking me part. What can I say? I grow on people.

Now my problem wasn’t that Ian didn’t like me; it was that he was overprotective, like big-brother overprotective.

As a Southern girl from the North Carolina mountains, I knew my way around guns. However, that knowledge only extended to target shooting and some halfhearted hunting back home. It did not include returning fire at someone or something hunting me. That was an adjustment I was still making. I appreciated Ian’s training efforts in that area as well as hand-to-hand combat, but I’d pretty much gotten as good as I was going to get, though I kept trying, and Ian kept teaching.

However, criminal creatures that went bump in the night weren’t all that Ian had deemed me needing protection from. He’d extended his attentions to the men in my life—more specifically to the goblin in my life.

Ian didn’t like Rake. Rake wasn’t particularly fond of Ian. Though in my opinion, the vast majority of their animosity was a direct result of two alpha males locking horns.

Over me.

I think Rake kind of enjoyed Ian’s reaction, though even a goblin dark mage knew when teasing was liable to get his ass kicked by Ian and his butt kicked to the curb by me. Rake most definitely wasn’t stupid. Quite the opposite. He knew when to back off.

Rake also knew that where that black Suburban was, Yasha Kazakov would be behind the wheel. Yasha was one of SPI’s drivers. In a city where there were more paranormal perps than parking spaces, having a good drop-off and pick-up guy was crucial. And even better was a driver who’d never hesitated to go above and beyond his job description to keep the streets of his adopted city clean and law-abiding. Yasha broke most of the city’s traffic laws on a daily basis so that those same streets would be safe for humans and supernaturals alike.

Yasha was a werewolf and considered me and Ian part of his pack. So if Ian didn’t like Rake, Yasha didn’t like Rake either, and both for the same reason—protecting me.

The Suburban’s rear passenger door opened and Alain Moreau got out.

Oh crap.

I shouldn’t have been surprised to find Ian, Yasha, and Alain Moreau waiting when the Persephone, with its police and Harbor Patrol escort, limped back to the South Street Seaport.

There were quite a few supernaturals working for the NYPD and the city’s municipal agencies. Many of them were SPI’s eyes in the mundane world. Cases involving supernatural criminals seldom remained separate from the mundane world. Having people on the inside was invaluable for keeping mortal police involvement in supernatural affairs to a minimum.

Having Alain Moreau show up at the scene of yet another awkward situation I’d found myself in the middle of—by no fault of my own, may I add—still put a knot in my stomach.

Alain Moreau was my manager at SPI. Normal people got a hitch in their breathing when their manager asked them to step into their office or a nearby conference room. I’ll admit to that giving me a bout of butterflies, too. But most of the time it was because I’d developed an unwanted knack for landing in the middle of what would become New York’s next paranormal crisis du jour.

It also didn’t help my nerves that my manager was a vampire. He reminded me of a really pale Anderson Cooper, which meant he was as cute as he could be, but that didn’t change the fact that humans were food and I was human. I knew I didn’t need to worry about that, but sometimes your lizard brain outvoted your logic.

I didn’t know exactly how old Alain Moreau was, but I suspected he’d been around longer than America had been a country. The first time I’d found myself in trouble with the boss was when a shapeshifter had disguised itself as me to gain access to SPI headquarters and wreak havoc. My innocence had been proven by surveillance footage showing me and my evil twin at the same time, but in separate places in our headquarters compound—with one notable difference. The shapeshifter had copied the clothes I was wearing that day, but it didn’t replicate one important accessory—powdered sugar. It’d been the week before Christmas and I’d been eating cookies and wearing some of the powdered sugar they’d been rolled in.

Saved by my sweet tooth.

Before I’d been cleared of wrongdoing, I had been afraid of losing my job. I liked my job. Heck, now I loved it. I was good at it, and lives were saved as a result. There weren’t many places where you could get that kind of job satisfaction. Alain Moreau had assured me that my continued employment at SPI as well as my continued survival were important to the agency.

All that being said, my vampire manager didn’t look happy. He didn’t look pissed, but he definitely wasn’t amused.

He and Ian made a nicely matched set.

And Alain Moreau was in charge of SPI for the next three weeks. Vivienne Sagadraco was taking her first vacation in over a century. Everyone needed time off, and a multi-millennia-old, fire-breathing dragon in charge of a worldwide supernatural protection organization needed it even more.

The press was left cooling their heels outside of a very impressive police barrier. As guests finished giving their statements, they were escorted to where their cars and drivers waited to take them home.

Rake had driven us himself in one of his cars, an older model Range Rover. It wasn’t what one would expect a rich spy master/sex club owner would tour about town in. Unfortunately, it was also parked outside of where the police had set up their no-media-allowed barricade. We’d have to walk right past Baxter Clayton to get there.

I saw Rake’s eyes go from Baxter to his car and back again.

I smiled sweetly. “Give you a lift?”

Yasha had parked inside the police barrier.

Rake glanced from Baxter to where Ian and Alain Moreau stood next to the Suburban, arms crossed over their chests, expressions set on disapproving scowl, and sighed.

Ian and my vampire manager had just been declared the lesser evil.

I linked my arm through his. “See? Now you don’t have to get a microphone shoved in your face. Your evening’s looking up.”

“That’s open for debate.”

Chapter 2

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