Oops! I didn't post a chapter last Monday like I promised, but I didn't blog anywhere last week. When you haven't moved to a different state in eighteen years, you forget how much freaking paperwork must be filled out and delivered.
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Max Howell deleted
the three sentences he’d spent the last half-hour typing. Normally, he could
whip out a juicy story like this by now. White slavery in the heart of Beverly
Hills? The damn thing should be able to write itself.
But after talking
to one of the victim’s fathers, all he could think about was his own daughter.
His wife may be two weeks from her due date, but how the hell would he ever be
able to protect his little girl?
There were things
running around Los Angeles far worse than a pair of sick-ass rapist brothers.
A knock on his
door brought a welcome distraction. “Yeah.”
Amy, one of the
staff photographers, poked her head in. “I know you’ve got your phone on
Do-Not-Disturb, but reception says you’ve got a visitor.”
“Wouldn’t give his name, but he looks like a Flavor Flav wannabe.”
“Yeah, white tails, top hat, and big-ass clock on his chest. Except a lot
younger and without the crack teeth.”
“Aren’t you a
little young to be listening to Flavor Flav?”br>
“So are you,” she
shot back. “Reception tried to get rid
of him, but he said he was a friend of your sister’s, and it was imperative he
speak with you.”
chill raced up Max’s spine and back down again. A friend of Sam’s meant only
It wasn’t like he
hadn’t known about the secret side of the world, but since Sam died, the uneasy
truce between the fae and the vampires had been shot to hell and back. He
wasn’t stupid. With his sister under the protection of Caesar Augustine, the
Western U.S. vampire master, and his wife being one of said master’s enforcers,
Max was an auxiliary target.
She nodded and
strode toward her cubicle.
Since the Unseelie
had tried to assassinate Sam last summer, he kept a chain of steel paper clips
nearby. He opened his top desk drawer, grabbed his makeshift weapon, and shoved
it into his right pocket. It would hold a fae long enough for the paper’s armed
security to arrive.
His wedding ring
and the silver wrist band Tiffany had bought him for their six-month anniversary
would serve as a delaying tactic if his visitor was one of the rebel vampires
who had tried to oust Caesar at the end of January.
The walk to the
reception desk took forever. As Amy said, the man pacing the area dressed like
the old school rapper. What she didn’t mention was the cotton wadding stuffed
up both of the man’s nostrils or the odd black cane he carried.
“Can I help you?”
Howell!” The visitor’s accent wasn’t true French. It sound like a cross between
Cajun and French Caribbean. He swept off his top hat and bowed. “A pleasure to
see you again.”
“I’m sorry. Have
replaced his hat. “Your wedding.” His voice had a nasal quality thanks to the
packing in his nose. It ruined the charm of his accent. “Or I should say your
first ceremony.” His jovial smile faded. “Alas, I did not come to reminisce.”
The reminder of
the zombie attack did nothing to stop the unease crawling back up Max’s spine.
“So why are you here?”
glanced at the receptionist, who did her best not to appear as if she were
eavesdropping. “I apologize, Monsieur Howell, but given the delicacy of the
matter, may we speak in private?”
Max turned to the
receptionist. “Is anyone in Conference Two?”
She did a slow
blink. “Conference One is open.”
“Is anyone in
Conference Two?” he repeated.
He understood her
confusion. Two faced south, and there was no UV film on the windows. No one
ever wanted to use it. Even this late in the year, the room became a furnace.< br/>
Max gestured for
the visitor to follow him. When they entered the stifling conference room and
Max closed the door, the visitor broke into a broad grin.
“Are you satisfied
that I’m not a vampire, Monsieur?”
Max’s own stiff
smile tightened the corners of his mouth. “That’s not my only concern.” His
smile fell. “Did my sister break your nose?”
started and ran fingers over the packing in his nostrils. “No.” He dropped into
a chair. “Actually, I am here on behalf of my father. Your sister has something
that belongs to my father. I have asked her to return it, but she has refused.”
Max sat as well.
He pulled the steel links from his pocket, laid them on the table, and started
straightening the first paperclip. “How do I know you’re telling the truth,
“You may call me
Baron.” The visitor inclined his head.
“Baron of which
chuckled. “Not one you have visited yet. I am not of the Tuatha de Danann either.”
Max could hear
Tiffany now. This is so not good.
“Have you tried going to her boss? Sam’s going to listen to him before she’ll
listen to me.”
“Oh, I think
she’ll listen to you.” Baron removed his top hat, then lifted the chain to the
antique-looking clock over his head. Both pieces had the reddish hue of pure
gold. “Show her this.”
“No.” Max tried to
rise from the chair, but the aluminum and plastic flowed and trapped his
forearms and ankles. He tempered the panic threatening to engulf him. Whatever
this guy was, he wasn’t the least bit human. Putting the rest of the Times staff in danger wouldn’t help. He
forced out a sigh. “Isn’t the poor-mortal-family-member-as-hostage routine a
“But the classics
always work, Monsieur.” Baron grinned.
The clock crawled from
the supernatural’s hands and across the wood veneer of the table, a gigantic
gold inchworm. It also changed shape, growing smaller, longer. By the time it
reached Max, the clock looked like a very expensive Rolex. The cool metal oozed
across the back of his left hand and strapped itself to his wrist.
Baron replaced his
top hat once again and stood. “Tell your sister she has until midnight on the
third day to return my father’s property. Or approximately sixty hours. Thank
you for your time, Monsieur Howell.” White teeth flashed against his espresso
skin at his lame joke. “I’ll see myself out.”
The minute he
departed, the chair reformed to its normal state. Max clawed at the strange
watch, but the thing melded to his skin. All he succeeded in doing was dig
bloody furrows in his flesh.
couldn’t call Tiffany. Not this close to her due date. She wasn’t the epitome
of calm, rational thinking when she wasn’t pregnant. Her idea of fixing the
problem would be grabbing an RPG to go after this Baron character.
He should call Sam
to warn her, but she hadn’t taken Alex’s theory about the nanites turning her
into a god very well. What he needed was a solution before raising the alarm.
He was going to do
the next best thing by following his own advice. He pulled his phone out of his
left pocket and thumbed the icon for Tiffany’s doctor. “Hi, this is Max Howell,
Tiffany Stephens’ husband.”
“Oh, Mr. Howell!”
the receptionist gushed. “Has your wife gone into labor?”
“No, but I need to
talk to Dr. Zachary now.”
“She’s with a
patient. Can I take a message?”
Max rubbed his
temple at the growing headache. “Tell her it’s a zombie emergency, and I really
need to talk to her now.”
“A zombie—oh, a zombie emergency! One moment, Mr.
In less than a
minute, Bebe picked up the receiver. “What did Sam do this time, Max?”
“I’m not sure, but I’ve got a wristwatch magickally
super-glued to my wrist unless Sam coughs up something that belongs to a guy
named Baron. He’s given me sixty hours, and I’ve got a very bad feeling if he
doesn’t get his shit back, he’s going to take my soul as compensation.”