Available at Amazon Audible BNExcerpt: The Morrigna
I couldn’t help feeling a little vindicated as the Captain told him his theory was pretty much paper thin, but he hadn’t even started on me yet. He dismissed Masarelli with a wave of his hand, but Masarelli didn’t move. He just stood there like he was waiting for more instructions or perhaps to hear me get chewed out. He would get neither.
“Now, Masarelli.” The tone in Matthison’s voice had me sitting up straight. “Shut the door behind you.”
Captain Matthison waited until Masarelli closed the door and was sure he had walked far enough away not to overhear our conversation before he continued. Definitely not a good sign.
“You’re not going to like what I have to say, Kincaide, but I’m going to say it and you’re going to listen. I’m putting you on paid administrative leave. Effective immediately.” He was his usual calm self as he handed out my punishment.
“For how long? Wait a minute, what the hell did I do? I came in here, tried to do my job and now you’re punishing me because I didn’t get the desired results? You never said that there would be repercussions if I didn’t produce every time when you offered me this job!” He might be calm, but I was fuming.
He lowered his head and ran a hand through his short brown hair. “I realize every case can’t be easy, that there will be times when you simply can’t get the answers we need. That’s not what this is about and you know it.”
“No, I don’t actually, so why don’t you enlighten me.” It probably wasn’t smart to get flippant with the Captain, but I couldn’t have cared less in the heat of the moment.
“There’s something going on with you. I’ve noticed things over the last couple of weeks, ever since we’ve been dealing with this demon case. Even before that, if we’re being perfectly honest. There‘s no way that witch should have walked out of here like she did.” He was mussing up his hair again, like he didn’t want to finish, so I didn’t give him the chance.
“If the arresting officer had caught that witch’s charms, we wouldn’t even be talking about her right now! And you can’t seriously think I had anything to do with any of this? That my not feeling well is in any way related to the demon running loose? So why put me on leave?” I didn’t even try to hide my disgust at the thought.
“Would you shut up and let me finish. We both know it’s more than you ‘not feeling well’. ‘Not feeling well’ implies that you’re coming down with a cold or something. That is not what is happening with you. And of course I don’t think you had anything to do with the demon. As for being related? Who knows? From what Masarelli says, our best, though admittedly thin, lead had you in some kind of trance. You were catatonic in our interrogation room for Christ’s sake! That’s never happened before. Not once in the three years you’ve been here. You have been getting stronger. I’ve seen it. You spend less and less time with the suspects and walk away with more and more information. But the witch? Charms have never stopped you before. And then you face O’Neil and it’s like you’ve got nothing, no abilities at all. He should have been a cakewalk for you. He didn’t even register on any of our psychic scans. It’s like with more power comes less control. I don’t know what’s going on with you and you don’t either. So until you figure it out, you’re on leave. I just can’t risk you being injured or blowing a case – both of which are very real possibilities and you know it. I don’t want you near the station or anywhere near this case. That’s an order.” He didn’t have the same tone in his voice as he had with Masarelli, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear what he had just said.
“Do you want my badge too?” Okay, it was slightly juvenile, but I couldn’t help myself.
“Are you offering it to me? Because as much as it would disappoint me, I’ll take it if you are,” he said.
Witch Hunt Excerpt:
Maurin Kincaide.” That was my professional greeting.
“It’s Matthison. You need to- ” I cut him off.
“Too late. You already approved the pass. You don’t get to change your mind now.” He wasn’t going back on the pass, not after I had already sent word that it had been approved.
“First, I only said yes to you. You don’t have my signature on the form yet. And second, I absolutely could go back on it if I wanted to, and there isn’t a damned thing that you could do about it. But that’s-” He didn’t get to finish.
“I could get someone to whip up a potion. I know people.” I interrupted.
I was almost to the corner. I pulled my coat a little tighter. It wasn’t officially winter yet, but the Solstice was only a week away. I could almost see the sign for the Daily Grind; coffee was almost within my reach.
“They wouldn’t and you know it. I didn’t call about the pass, Maurin. You need to come back in.” The friendly banter was over.
“Come back in? You make it sound like I’m wanted for questioning. Am I a person of interest, Captain?” I asked.
Something was up – so much for a decent cup of coffee. Looks like I’d be slurping down more of the sludge they keep in the coffee pot in the break room.
“You are one of the most interesting people that I know. I need to talk to you about a case.” I could hear him talking to someone, but his hand was over the receiver, muffling his voice.
“Wow! Sounds like you need to meet some more people. Don’t you have any cops working for you anymore, or did you transfer all of them too? Why didn’t you ask me about this when I was in your office?” Of course, I had already turned around. My curiosity was definitely peeked, but I didn’t want him to know that.
“I’m looking at it now for the first time. Just get your ass in here.” He hung up.
When I got back to Matthison’s office, he was gone. It didn’t take me that long to get there; I was right outside, for crying out loud. I scanned the desks outside his office and found him bent over a folder with my least favorite detective – Masarelli. The one good thing about not being on SPTF anymore was not seeing Masarelli’s ugly mug every day.
I walked over to Masarelli’s desk. “Captain.” I didn’t even bother acknowledging Masarelli, the prick. I did, however, try to look at the file on his desk.
Before I could get a good look at anything, Matthison scooped up the folder and waved me into his office. Masarelli turned his best thousand-yard stare on me – as if I was intimidated by him. I was a better interrogator than he was and he knew it. Of course, he would say it’s because I have advantages that he doesn’t. While it is true that I have what I would call “helpful abilities”, it isn’t my fault that I have them. Besides, I was convinced that I would be a better interrogator than Masarelli even without those abilities. I gave him a wink and a smile over my shoulder, and then followed the Captain into his office.
He dropped the file onto his desk. “I need you to make a call.”
I shut the door behind me. “I’m sorry, what?” I hadn’t expected him to ask me to make a phone call. Talk to a suspect for old time’s sake maybe, but not a phone call.
“You’re the liaison. I need you to call the Council. Mahalia, specifically.” He started rubbing his forehead, which was always his tell that something was very wrong.
“Okay, and what is it that you’d like me to ask her?” I asked. It was never good when he reminded you what your job was. Something was definitely wrong.
He dropped down in his chair. “Tell her that I’ve got a dead witch on my hands and I need her to ID the body. She can meet us at the morgue. They’ve already finished processing the scene.”
“How are you so sure it’s a witch? If they only just finished at the scene, then there’s no way you have lab confirmation. What makes you say witch?” I was really hoping that he was jumping the gun on this.
There were lots of Norms who liked to masquerade around as witches in Salem. You could find a body in front of a cauldron with a broom in one hand and a wand in the other, and it still wouldn’t mean you had a real witch. True witches have a slightly different genetic make-up than Norms, but you’d never know it without the lab work.
He slid the folder across his desk, spilling its contents. “Besides the ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’ carved into her abdomen, you mean?”
“Shit.” I picked up a photo off his desk. “Are her, are her hands cut off too?” Despite all the gross stuff I’d seen recently, I was still swallowing hard.
“Yeah, and her tongue was cut out too. Why would someone do that?” He wasn’t really asking me, which was good – because I didn’t have an answer.
I woke in a cold sweat to the sound of heavy gun fire. I grabbed the Retaliator from the empty side of the bed and bolted out of my room. My front door was open and I was out in the little stairway that led to my third floor walk up before I was awake enough to realize there was no danger. My first clue should have been Conry- a Cwnn Anfwnn, gift from my father and personal guard “dog”- just rolling over and burying his head beneath his massive paws. The sound of grenades and Dempsey’s voice coming up the stairs told me it was just my new neighbor playing COD Zombies with the TV full blast at three o’clock in the morning again. I was still in boy shorts and a tank top but I didn’t bother to go back in my apartment to change. He’d seen me in less. I stormed down the flight of stairs to Cash’s apartment with my sword in hand.
“It’s going on four in the morning! Turn that shit off or I’ll send some real zombies to your apartment!” I yelled while I pounded on the door.
How the guy on the first floor slept through it I’ll never know. But it had been me stomping on my floor and banging on Cash’s door every night for the last month.
“What’s the big deal? I figured a fanger like you would be used to staying up late.” Cash casually replied upon opening the door.
“You can be such a jerk.” I said with more venom than the insult commanded.
“Jerk? That’s the best you could come up with?” Cash said through his laughter.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not at my wittiest when I wake up to the sound of World War III at three in the morning.” I said tartly.
“It’s Modern Warfare, not World War III.” He smirked.
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not the only other person who lives here you know. I can only imagine what it sounds like downstairs. The poor guy probably has to sleep with ear plugs in.” I scolded.
“Mike works third shift. He doesn’t get home until after seven in the morning. ” He was still smirking.
“He’s only lived here for like three weeks and I haven’t even talked to him. You two are what, like best friends already?” I asked, irritated.
“What can I say? People just like me better than you.” He was past smirking and into a full grin.
I probably shouldn’t have but I couldn’t help myself. I swung the Retaliator around until the tip of the blade pressed against his Adam’s apple. “Just turn the TV down or we’ll see how good of a gamer you are without your thumbs.”
I stomped away. “And stop staring at my ass.” I said as I started up the steps. If the challenge for Alpha of the Salem pack didn’t happen soon Roul was going to start getting wake up calls at three in the morning. I didn’t know what the holdup was anyway. He was too busy to help us with the Inquisitors and the demon they unleashed a few weeks ago because of his “pack business” and now it’s delay, delay, delay. It’s been unusually quiet in Salem but I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in four weeks because of my new neighbor.
Well, it wasn’t all Cash’s fault. Aidan had a little something to do with it – too bad it was just talking. Aidan made his feelings for me clear but was still insisting we take our time. Vampires could be very patient. Having spent most of my life living more like a “norm” than an immortal I found it infuriating. He wanted to be sure the effects of Mahalia’s spell were gone. I assured him that any feelings I had for Oberon died the minute I found out he hadn’t. I thought I had killed him, pulling too much power through the tie that bound us. In order to save himself, he broke the connection and the false feelings for him Mahalia had spelled into my heart.
I tried on more than one occasion to convince Aidan that I hadn’t felt more like myself since Mahalia’s magic had been broken. That had been a monumental waste of time. It takes powerful magic to control someone’s heart and mind, he explained during one of our all night conversations. I had had other things on my mind, things that didn’t involve so much talking. I used all my feminine wiles to persuade him – unsuccessfully. He was convinced lingering magic would try to latch itself onto the next person to vie for my affections. His conviction to determine my true feelings made for more than one long and frustrating night. Not to mention my temper was becoming increasingly short. Which might explain why I was down here threatening to cut fingers off my irritating neighbor’s hands.
“No kiss good night?” Cash asked sarcastically.
I didn’t bother with a response. Cash was one of the few people I knew who had as many smart ass comebacks as me. If I didn’t walk away we’d be going at each other until the sun came up.
“How about a kiss for good luck then?” He called out as I was half way up the stairs. “The challenge is tonight.”
I turned around slowly. How weird was that? I was just ranting to myself about how Roul was dragging his ass. If I didn’t know better I would have thought Weres had suddenly developed the ability to read minds. Thankfully they hadn’t or my thoughts about Roul wouldn’t have been the only thing Cash would have glimpsed. He didn’t need any more ammunition when it came to aggravating my vampire. If Cash even suspected my frustration with Aidan it would be like arming a nuclear war head.
“The only lips she’ll be kissing are mine, wolf.” Aidan’s voice carried up the stairway from the first floor. I’d hardly seen him over the last couple of weeks. Just hearing his voice sent shivers up my spine and I silently cursed him, knowing full well we wouldn’t get further than second base again tonight.
I’m sure Cash knew he was there, hence the kiss comments but I hadn’t been expecting him. So why had he suddenly shown up on my doorstep? Curiosity over his surprise visit quieted my suddenly raging hormones. He had been working every night on some new assignment that he couldn’t talk about. It was starting to piss me off actually – not the constantly working part, the not knowing part. To be honest, my increasingly bad mood may have stemmed more from being out of the action than Aidan staying out of my bedroom. Sure the time off from saving Salem from imminent danger was great. At first anyway, but it had been almost a month of peace and quiet. After only a week I found myself wishing for some sort of Armageddon. Whatever Aidan was working on seemed to be the cure for my doldrums – and pent up sexual energy – but Agrona had me on the sidelines with no intentions of letting me play in their vampire games.
“You need to come to the station with me.” He moved to open my door, like that would get me into motion. Conry took interest in the detective again and Masarelli quickly removed his hand from the handle.
“Look, I was going to talk to you about the Salem pack. I’ll spare you the bullshit excuses and just admit I forgot. Cash is the new alpha. If I promise to come in tomorrow and tell you about it can I go? I’m already late for an appointment.” I glanced at the clock on the radio. It was the only unoriginal thing in the car, well that and the speakers. I was now ten minutes late for my meeting with Arawn.
“It’s not about the wolves. It can’t wait until tomorrow.” He backed up enough for me to open the car door.
“I’m not getting out of the car until you tell me what the hell is going on.” I started to put the window back up.
“I am not going to discuss this on the side of the road. Quit busting my balls and get out of the dammed car.”
“Quit busting your balls?” I opened the door and stepped out in a rush, thrusting my hand out. “Hello, pot, my names kettle. It’s nice to meet you. Why can’t I just follow you?”
He ran a hand over his face, across stubble that was too long, even for him. “This is exactly what I was talking about. Because I know you won’t follow me. Now would you please get in my car so I can take you to the station and get your expert fucking opinion on something?”
I relinquished any hope of salvaging my night, leaned inside the Camero, put the window up, grabbed the keys from the ignition and whistled for Conry. I glared at Masarelli over my shoulder as I walked to his car, daring him to question me about my dog. Masarelli locked and shut the car door, giving the Camaro one last approving look before heading back to his filthy unmarked patrol car.
Since I wasn’t under arrest – at least not yet, the night’s still young – I opened the car door myself and slid in behind the driver’s seat. “Remember that movie we watched last week, Conry? The one where the dog ate the nice policeman’s headrest?” I gave him a big belly rub as he stretched out over my lap and the rest of the back seat.
Masarelli gave me his best cop stare in the rear view and headed toward the station. “So you just forgot about the fact that a black ops merc killed the alpha and took control of the Salem pack? You got papers for this guy?”
“It’s a pack not the AKC.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Matthison approved his pass personally.”
“It’s expired.” He blipped the lights and burped the siren to get through the intersection.
“Cash is Alpha now. The paperwork is irrelevant at this point. Unless of course you want to run him out of town on a technicality and create a power vacuum.” I gave Conry a little nudge, my legs were falling asleep.
Masarelli spared a quick glance in the rear view mirror. “What happened to Roul? They eat him?”
“Eighteenth century France called. They wanted their superstitions back. How did you get this job again? They buried him, following pack ritual.” Not even ten minutes with him and I was already exhausted.
“And his mate?” He couldn’t know, could he? Was this what the mysterious trip to the station was really about? He needed my expert opinion on some trumped up murder charge?
“Dead.” I didn’t elaborate.
“Killing the mate isn’t covered under the Meneur de Loupes agreement.” He was fishing for something, anything to get rid of Cash.
My mouth was moving before I thought about the consequences. “It doesn’t need to be covered by the Leader of the Wolves agreement since a werewolf didn’t kill Olwyn. I did and it was self defense.”
“And that’s why you didn’t bother telling us about it? I have to file a report and take your statement. I don’t suppose you have someone to corroborate your self-defense story?”
Shit. “Besides the pack you mean?”
He shook his head. “What do you think?”
“No.” If this sounded half as bad to him as it did to me I might actually be in trouble.
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Mistletoe Meltdown Excerpt:
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like Eskimos.” Nat King Cole’s smooth voice blared from the outdoor speakers hidden in the greenery that turned the walking mall into a winter wonderland, soothing the savage holiday shopping beasts surrounding me. I tried not to overanalyze the lyrics but I’d met the Hoar Frost King once and he’d do a lot more than nip at your nose.
Besides, did anyone really have a Christmas like the ones people sang about?
The Kincaides, my adoptive family, practiced every holiday tradition from Midnight Mass to the extravagant family dinner to a house staged similar to something from a Martha Stewart Living magazine. It didn’t change anything. The tinsel and twinkling lights only highlighted the hatred.
So imagine my enthusiasm when my real father Arawn suggested we have a Christmas/Solstice dinner. With friends. At my apartment. I understood his need to create memories–he’d missed out on most of my life–but as a self-proclaimed Scrooge I’d avoided anything to do with the holidays since I’d left Beacon Hill at seventeen. But here I was layered up underneath my leather jacket, knit hat pulled down to my eyebrows, basically dressed like the aforementioned Eskimo.
The numbness in my hands increased with each block I walked back to my car. Not from the cold–my purple wool gloves did a decent job–but from the shopping bags cutting of my circulation. I loaded up the Rabriolet, an old metallic blue VW so named because the guy who sold it took all the Rabbit badges off and replaced them with Cabriolet, the convertible’s small trunk barely holding my haul of gifts and groceries for tonight’s festivities.
The temperature inside the car barely rose a degree above the outside temperature during the short drive back to my apartment. I pulled into the parking space I’d shoveled out this morning after the snow stopped but didn’t rush to get out of the car. Two pep talks later I dragged myself and my multitude of bags up the three flights of stairs which led to my place.
“You’re awake?” He sounded more than a little surprised.”I’m not really sure the state I’m in qualifies as awake.” “Here I was, terrified to poke the dragon, and you’re already drinking coffee and talking in complete sentences.” I snorted and took a sip of the aforementioned liquid gold. “Are you always like this in the morning?””If you’d let me sleep over you’d already know the answer to that question. Why aren’t you asleep?”In general or just tonight, I silently wondered. “Bad dream. I’ve been tossing and turning all night. I finally gave in and got out of bed.” Papers rustled in the background and when he spoke again, his voice was lower, intimate.”You want to talk about it?””Something tells me my nightmares are the least of our problems.””You have no idea. I need you to come down to my office.”I sighed. “Can it at least wait until after sunrise?””Would I be breaking the no phone calls before noon policy if it could wait?” “There really is no rest for the wicked, is there?”He laughed and the sound warmed me more than a hundred cups of coffee. “Apparently not, in your case. Now, there’s a dirty chai latte and a croissant for you if you’re here before Amalie. I can’t promise real coffee and pastries will survive beyond five minutes of her arrival.” “It’s four-thirty in the morning, Mas. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make sure at least one dirty chai and croissant remain unmolested.” “I’ll see you soon.” He was laughing as he hung up the phone. Three hours ago I’d practically crawled through the doorway, exhausted from cleaning up after a newbie vamp who’d broken the Jus Sanguinis Intergentes when she killed her donor. The blood pact between people and vampires had a clear no killing, no exceptions clause.It was up to the maker to ensure their child was ready to feed unsupervised. If something went wrong and the Council found out about it, we cleaned up the mess and the sire was subject to heavy fines and possible revocation of their rights to expand their blood lines. She’d been quite literally a bitch to track and take down.It had been a long night and it was shaping up to be an even longer day. I wasted little time getting dressed, opting for a slip on black jersey dress, eighteen hole Docs and a leather jacket. Jewelry was a hindrance in my line of work. My meeting with Mason could easily turn into a run. Choked with my own chain? No, thank you. Unclasping the necklace, I set it in a glass dish on my bathroom counter. I ran a brush through my hair, a toothbrush over my teeth and slipped into the between. I stepped out of the alley two buildings down from the station and walked the last block and a half. Amalie was swarmed by detectives trying to get at the goodies she brought over from the Daily Grind. She greeted me with a warm smile, shaking her head when I offered to pull her out of the fray. She had managed to endear herself to the entire department in record time. All it took was real coffee and fresh pastries. I pointed to Mason’s office. She’d make her way over once the starving masses had their fill.Mason was so engrossed in the file on his desk he didn’t hear me come in. He looked as tired as I felt – too many double shifts. Despite an uptick in activity, SPTF was short staffed due to budget cuts. Without enough man power to staff the shifts properly overtime was mandatory. “Is that for me?” I pointed at the to-go cup and white paper bag on his desk. He finally looked up and gave me a smile which lit up his whole face. “As promised.” I stole a quick kiss, grabbed the coffee and croissant, and settled in the chair across from him. I took a long sip of my latte, savoring the delicious mix of tea and espresso. “Man, I needed this. Is that the case you’re working on?” “Yeah, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.” “Don’t we always.” I tried to peak at the file. Mason closed the manila folder. “I’d rather wait until everyone is here.” “Who else is coming besides Amalie?” My curiosity was definitely peaked now. I reached across his desk, hoping to grab the file. “You look exhausted. Tell me about your dream while we wait.”I narrowed my eyes and glared at him. “I see this for the obvious distraction it is but you’re right.” Sighing, I rubbed my temple.“However, I’m exhausted, too exhausted to argue. So I’ll tell you. Prepare to be confounded.” He listened intently as I filled him in on the nightly visits from the weathered old woman who washed my clothes and hauntingly called my name. I expected him to laugh and tell me it was just a dream, that I had nothing to worry about.I didn’t expect him to look so stricken. “Bean Nighe.” He all but whispered the name. “You’ve heard of her?””Of course I’ve heard of her. How long has she been coming to you?”I stared at him curiously. “A few weeks. Why?” “A few weeks and this is the first I’m hearing of it?” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, obviously struggling to control his temper.“We talked about this. No holding things back, remember?””I thought it was just a dream.” I shrugged.“Honestly, I didn’t think it was a big deal.””It was a big enough deal for you to research it.” Agitation rolled off him in waves. When I agreed to give this thing with Mason a chance I also agreed to some conditions. No more flying solo, no more rash decisions or rushing off to play the hero. We were a team, in everything. This was just one of many set-backs.”I got curious, did a little digging. Until tonight, everything I found pointed to deep seated family issues, particularly with a mother figure. I’ve told you about my childhood, does that dream analysis surprise you?”His growl told me he wasn’t in the mood for reasonable—at least to me—explanations. “When did you discover the true meaning of the dream? How long have you known about the Bean Nighe?””Tonight. This morning. Before you called me.” I held up a hand to stop the tongue lashing I knew he wanted to give me. “I would have told you. I got the impression on the phone there were more pressing matters than my insomnia.” “Is this why you won’t let me stay at your place?” His gaze roamed over my face, searching.“Why you never stay at mine?””Is that the real reason why you’re so upset?” I arched my brows. “Because we’re not having sleepovers?””I stayed at your lovely apartment the first night we met.” I turned to watch Aidan glide into the room, stopping behind my chair. Rolling my eyes, I snorted and muttered, “In the closet.”Mason’s jaw twitched but he didn’t take the bait. “Aidan.” “It’s almost sunrise. Shouldn’t you be hunkered down for the day?” I sighed, wondering what he was doing here. I was too tired to deal with Aidan and Mason and their combined testoserone. Putting the three of us in a room together was like throwing lit matches at sticks of dynamite – eventually one of them will explode.