Monday, November 24, 2014

Zombie Goddess (Bloodlines #6) - Chapter 3

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.”


She shrugged. “Wouldn’t give his name, but he looks like a Flavor Flav wannabe.”

“Flavor Flav?”

Amy grinned. “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.”

The proverbial chill raced up Max’s spine and back down again. A friend of Sam’s meant only one thing.


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.

“Thanks, Amy.”

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?”

“Ah, Monsieur 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 we met?”

The stranger 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?”

The visitor 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.

Another slow blink. “No.”

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?”

The visitor 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, Monsieur…?”

“You may call me Baron.” The visitor inclined his head.

“Baron of which court?”

The visitor 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 little old?”

“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.

Dammit, he 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. Howell.”

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.”

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