For those of you new to my blog, this is the first, unedited draft of the novel I'm currently working on. Typos are a given. The final product may differ from what you're reading here.
FYI - Zombie Goddess takes place in late October, four months after the events chronicled in Amish, Vamps & Thieves and Blood Sacrifice.
* * *
I stood in the
back of the dark Las Vegas showroom. On stage, Lily Bell ripped through her
updated stand-up act, and she had the audience eating out of the palm of her
wasn’t eating the audience. None of my baby zombies, as I’d come to call the
people I’d accidentally returned to life after a necromancer pulled them out of
their coffins, showed any signs of my insatiable hunger.
“So the first customer
asked to see their biggest vibrator…”
I winced even as a
chuckle bubble out of my throat. I wasn’t a prude by any stretch, but Lily was
old enough to be my great-something-grandmother. The squeaky-clean reruns of
her hit show, “Lily Loves Ari,” had been my after-school TV staple. But a scan
of the audience showed everyone having a great time.
It helped that she
looked exactly as she did at the height of her popularity. Since the Parade of Stars shows consisted of the celebrity
impersonators, the crowd wouldn’t have believed she was the real Lily Bell,
even if I showed them her empty grave back in Los Angeles. Hell, I still had
problems believing she was back from the dead.
“…and then the
manager asked, ‘Where’s my thermos?’” Raucous laughter filled the theater at
Her grin at the
audience’s response was brighter than the spotlight shining on her.
Another of my baby
zombies stood next to me and clapped as hard as the rest of the crowd while
Lily took her bows. “Damn, she’s still got it.” Bill Faith grinned at her
success. Like Lily, he had started his entertainment career in the dying days
of vaudeville. Like Lily, this show gave him a second chance. Like Lily, Bill
was less than happy about their resurrection.
The third member
of my zombie trio bounced onto the stage as Lily exited. “Let’s give her
another big round of applause!”
“Uncle Morty” to generations of fans, looked like he was in his mid-forties,
the same age he’d been when he jumped into that entertainment upstart known as
television. We still hadn’t figured out why my blood had reverted all three of
my baby zombies to look and feel as they had in their prime, not the elderly
legends they had been when they’d passed away. Out of the three, Morty was the
only one who enjoyed his resurrection and took full advantage of his restored
As he launched
into the introduction of the next act, I gestured to Bill. He followed me out
of the showroom.
Flashes popped in
our eyeballs when we stepped into the lobby. Fans screamed, waving both paper
and electronic pads in Bill’s face as they begged for autographs. In the
insanity of the modern world, the Parade
of Stars retro act had become the hottest ticket in Vegas. Bill scribbled a
few signatures before following me to the side door leading to the backstage.
The security guard nodded to us as he lifted the velvet rope to let us through.
We found Lily next
to one of the make-up tables, literally jumping up and down, her scarlet curls
“Did you hear
them?” She grabbed Bill in a bear hug.
Bill may not have
been the lech Morty had been in their previous lives, but he was known to
dabble on the side. Something about the beautiful redhead though turned him
into a blushing teen. “Yeah, doll. I heard. You kicked ass out there.”
She turned and
flung her arms around me. The rib-cracking embrace reminded me all-to-well
that, like me, these three would never be Normal again.
“Thank you, thank
you, thank you, Sam!”
I gasped for
enough air to get out, “You’re welcome.” If someone would have told me last
year that I’d be the successful agent for three dead entertainment legends, I
would have asked for a hit of whatever they were smoking.
Lily let go of me,
and we both turned to find a cute little brunette standing next to us. “Yes?” I
manages the Lily Bell retro act that was just on, right?”
I took a deep
breath. The scent of Fiji apples confirmed this girl was a Normal human. No
honey. I’d learned to be a little paranoid since my own death in January. The
fairies’ contract on my head had only encouraged that paranoia. The actual
assassination attempt in June meant it was no longer paranoia.
“Yes.” I plastered
a polite smile on my face. “Is there something I can help you with?”
She smiled and held
out a large envelope to me in one hand and another to Lily in the other. “I
represent someone who’s interested in your act.”
The second both
Lily and I took the paperwork, the mysterious woman’s smile transformed into a
toothy grin. “You’ve been served, bitches.”
mother-fucking, son-of-a—” I muttered. I wanted to kick myself. I should have
known better than to take those damn papers. I’d been a tabloid reporter long
enough to sniff out a process server.
For a brief
instant, I considered altering her memories, but my control of my mental mojo
was sketchy at the best of times. I’d accidentally left the necromancer who’d
resurrected my baby zombies in a coma.
I ripped open the
envelope and skimmed the contents. A cease-and-desist order along with a lawsuit
claiming trademark infringement by Lily and me. The worst part was the name of
“How dare you!”
I looked up from
the complaint. An older woman stalked toward us. Why the hell did The Vegas
Grand security let all the crazies back here? This would never have happened at
the Karnak, the hotel and casino my vampire hunk Duncan ran. But then, most of
the security there weren’t Normals either.
clicked. Lilianne Costas had finally given up on dying her hair black. Her
hawk-like nose had been inherited from her crooner father Aristotle, but the
dimples and eyes were pure Lily.
“How dare you
profane my mother’s career.” She literally spat the words. I could feel the
fine spray cover my face. “My mother never cursed during her act.”
spluttered. I didn’t have to imagine how she felt. Her shock at seeing her
daughter grated along my nerves.
I stepped between
the women. “Your lawsuit’s been served Ms. Costas. I’m sure your attorney
wouldn’t be happy about you confronting us directly. I know my attorney won’t be.”
“I want that bitch
to know exactly what I think. She’s a fake, and a terrible fake at that. I
won’t stand for her desecration of my mother’s memory!” Another spray of saliva
hit my face. Lillianne stabbed a finger in Lily’s direction.
The process server
soaked in the entire scene. An icy ball of rage froze my gut. This mess would
be all over the internet gossip sites five minutes after the bitch left.
“Now, wait here
just a minute, young lady.” Bill stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me.
“Lillianne, you can’t insult your mother—”
Shut up, Bill. My telepathic warning
came too late.
went supernova. “How dare you!” She exploded with enough profanity in English
and Greek to seed a couple galaxies. Finally, security noticed there was a
problem. Two burly men escorted her and the process server from the backstage
area. Her invectives died when the huge door slammed shut.
I turned back to
She shook her
head, a defeated expression on her beautiful face. “I’m ashamed to say I taught
her most of those words.” Then she burst into tears.
* * *
I kept my temper
under control while we took Lily back to the Karnak. Once we got the weeping
comedian into her suite, Bill promised to stay with her. I knew he’d keep Lily from
doing anything stupid. The budding relationship between the two old friends was
the one small favor the universe deigned to grant me lately.
Instead of taking
the elevator, I jogged down the stairs to the management section of the hotel
where I’d claimed an office. No one argued with the boss’s fiancée about the
appropriation, especially those who knew I was a zombie.
The exercise blew
off some of my fury. No sense in scaring the piss out of my secretary. Not that
much scared any canine were.
I burst into my
office. “Staci, I need you to get Colin—”
Warner glared at me from across her desk and held an index finger over her
lips. I swear since the werecoyote had gotten married and had her pup, she’d
become more of a bitch that her mother-in-law.
watching the witch in front of her desk. If his ginger scent hadn’t given him
away, the scarlet tendrils of energy streaming from his fingertips were
confirmation. He was magickally examining a white box sitting on Staci’s desk.
His shoulder-wide stance gave no indication that he was aware of my presence.
I stepped inside
and quietly closed the door. Mai Osaka, the head of Karnak security, watched
the proceedings, and I sidled over to her.
“What’s going on?”
another package.” Her words were as sharp as the black suit she wore. Her
almond eyes remained locked on the witch.
“I’m sure it’s
nothing.” I wished I believed my own words.
She shot me a
dirty look. “When you’re head of security, you may make that decision.”
tendrils sank back into the witch’s dark skin. His eyes blinked and he shook
out the tension from his hands. “You’re right. There’s a spell on the
pleased with herself.
“What kind of
spell?” Mai asked.
The silver hoop in
his left ear winked at the golden eagle in the piercing above it when he
shrugged. “That’s just it. It’s a simple motion spell. The kind you put on a
toy for kids.” He ran a hand over his close-cropped black curls. “There’s no blood
magick or ill intent I can detect.”
“I owe you one, Quinn,”
“Any time, pretty
lady. It’s been boring over at the Scheherazade.” Ah, the casino owned by the
Las Vegas witch coven. He reached out, and Mai fistbumped him.
Who was so rigid
and uptight, she made my sixteenth-century-born fiancé look like Charlie Sheen
on a bender.
Staci held up a
box cutter. “Let’s find out what it is.”
I held out a hand.
“Maybe you should let me.”
The werecoyote shook
her head fiercely. “I’m not going to explain to Mr. St. James why you got
I scowled at the
stubborn bitch. “I’m damn near indestructible. You’re not.” I tried not to
think about Alex and Bebe’s half-baked theory of what the nanites were actually
turning me into. Unfortunately, other people were latching on that self-same
idiotic idea, which led to the crazy gifts landing on my plate. “Besides, it
can’t be worse than the black roses or the skull jewelry.” Especially
considering the jewelry had been made from actual human skulls.
“Maybe I should
stick around,” Quinn murmured.
“That would be
best,” Mai said. “I may need you to separate these two.”
Staci and I turned
to glare at two security chiefs before returning to our stand-off. Finally, my
secretary handed over the box cutter. “Fine.” She practically growled the word.
more and more like Leslie everyday.” I grinned.
This time, Staci
really did growl at the mention of her mother-in-law.
I held my breath
and sliced across the tape. Inside the cardboard box was a styrofoam container,
a smaller version of the type vampires used to transport blood.
Very carefully, I
eased the insulated package up. Staci yanked the cardboard box out of the way,
and I set the styrofoam on her desk.
My lungs reminded
me I need to breathe, and I took a huge gulp of air. Ozone leaked from the
package. Steeling myself, I cut the tape holding the styrofoam lid in place and
flipped it up.
Dry ice vapor
clouded my vision for an instant. Thank god, the little mass of red inside the
container didn’t jump out. The other three crowded closer to take a peek.
“Well, it kind of
makes sense,” Staci said.
“If you’re a
psychopath,” Mai added dryly.
“Holy shit! That’s
a beating heart!”
Leave to the only man in the room to state the