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My father once wrote: If you want to find the bizarre, the impossible, the fantastic, you just have to open your fucking eyes. As scientists, it's our responsibility to tell the truth. Monsters are everywhere. It was shortly after publishing that little nugget of brilliance that he'd lost his job and became the laughingstock of academia.
On the other hand, my mother once told me, "Marijuana is the world's most perfect substance. It expands one's consciousness. It restores health and balance. And it just makes me feel real fucking good."
I'm the product of those combined genes ... and minds.
I'm Sloan Skye, now starting the second month of my internship with the FBI's Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit, or the PBAU. We profile criminals, just like the oh-so-popular BAU, but our bad guys have fangs and fur ... and they aren't your average, monstrous Homo sapiens.
My father was right. There are monsters everywhere. In fact, the world was teeming with all kinds of paranormal creatures. We call them Mythics. Adzes and aswangs living in the burbs, masquerading as soccer moms. And honest-to-God, literal bloodsucking lawyers.
But on my off-hours—which are few and far between this summer—I'm just your average daughter to a tree-hugging, pot-smoking, pregnant forty-something hippie schizophrenic and a man who faked his death twenty years ago, all in the name of protecting his precious family (me and my mom).
Dad just recently resurrected. And the newly reborn Dad wasted no time getting Mom knocked up. The jury's still out on whether the whole pretending-to-be-dead thing was necessary. But I hope this time he sticks around to see his kid grow up. As far as missing my childhood—first words, first steps, first Junior Nobel Prize award—I'm not the grudge-holding type, so I've decided to let it go.
You never know, he could have been telling the truth about our being in danger. There's a lot going on in the shadows of our world. And right in front of our faces too. He should know. He was the head of security for the queen of the elves.
Don't you wish you were me?
Don't answer that question too soon. My cell phone just rang.
"Pie craving," she screamed in my ear. "It's bad."
I blinked bleary eyes at the red glowing numbers on my clock. I saw a 1, two vertically aligned dots, a 2, and a 3. I pushed myself upright and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. "Mom, should you be eating pie at this hour?"
"I. Need. Pie," she enunciated. Her voice vibrated, like she was sitting on a clothes dryer.
I didn't ask.
"Where's Dad?" I flipped the covers back and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. "Isn't he there with you?"
"No, he's not. He's doing the queen a favor—don't ask. He won't be back until sometime tomorrow. I can't wait until then. I'd drive myself to the store, but I can't find the car keys. I've looked everywhere."
I had a feeling there was a reason why the car keys were a rei absentis—aka, missing. "Okay. I'll be there in a little bit. What kind of pie do you want?"
"Something smooth and creamy and chocolaty. Mmm," she purred, like a kitten. "Oh, and something tart. Cherry. With whipped cream."
"Okay. So one chocolate cream pie and one cherry."
"You'd better get lemon meringue too."
"Fine. Bye." I ended the call, stumbled over to the dresser, grabbed the first pair of sweatpants and T-shirt I found, and stuffed my half-asleep body into them. After making myself halfway presentable, so nobody at the twenty-four-hour grocery store would mistake me for a vagrant, I shuffled out to my car, hopping over puddles in the driveway. I dove into the driver's seat, cranked on the motor, and had a myocardial infarction when someone pounded on my window.
After my heart stopped hopping around in my chest like electrons in a microwave, I rolled down the window and glared at the individual responsible for my near-fatal arrhythmia.
"What are you doing here?" I asked my ex-fiancé, whose appearance would give most girls a heart attack, and I'm not saying that to be mean.
Elmer Schmickle is a prince. How many girls grow up thinking all princes are tall, dark, and handsome, right? Not this royal.
Elmer is the prince of the Sluagh. For those who aren't in the know, the Sluagh are the spirits of the restless dead. And he is the exact opposite of a Disney prince. At least in looks. Fairy-tale princes are all handsome, tall, with perfect hair. This prince is short, with spindly arms and legs, and a face that not even a mother could love.
"I need your help," Elmer said, wringing his hands. His buggy eyes flicked back and forth from my car to my apartment building and back again. "Please."
My phone rang. Mom.
I lifted an index finger. "I'm sort of busy right now. Can it wait?" I asked him.
"Not even an hour?"
His expression soured.
I motioned to the passenger seat. "Fine. I need to run a quick errand. You can tell me what's up on the way."
In a blink, Elmer was strapping himself in; and less than a minute later, we were zooming through silent streets of Virginia, toward the nearest all-night grocery store.
Elmer glanced out the window. "Where are we headed?"
"Pie run. For Mom."
"Oh, pie." Elmer narrowed his eyes. "I love pie." His eyes became squinty. "I love pie a lot."
"I hear you."
"It's your fault that I'm still waiting to eat pie. If you had married me, I could be eating pie right now." He sighed. "I could have had pie last night too. And tomorrow. And the day after that."
"It's not my fault that you can't eat or drink, Elmer. I have no problems helping out my friends, but marrying you—just so you could eat pie—is asking a lot."
"Says the girl who can eat pie anytime she wants." He sulked the rest of the drive to the store. Because my roommate and I are poor—and we can't afford to live close to DC, where my folks' new house is located (it's more a freaking mansion than a house)—that was a long time, almost an hour.
"Are you coming inside?" I asked as I zoomed into the closest parking spot in front of the Giant grocery store.
"Are you kidding? I never go near food stores. They're hell on earth for a guy like me. Nothing like walking by mountains of food I can smell and see, but can't eat."
"I see your point." I shut off the engine and pocketed the keys. "Okay. I'll be out in a few."
"Make sure you double bag."
"Got it." My phone rang at least ten times as I raced through the store, loading pies into my cart. Mom. Elmer. My roommate, Katie. Ignoring them all, I paid, double bagged everything, and wheeled the contraband out to my car.
After dumping the load into the trunk, I flopped into the driver's seat.
"I can smell them," Elmer said on a sigh.
"I double bagged everything." Looking over my shoulder, I maneuvered out of the parking spot. Once the car was rolling forward again, I asked, "So what was so urgent that it couldn't wait until morning?"
"Uh." He gave me that you-know-what look. "You know what happens to me at sunrise."
"How could I forget? Right. You vanish." I turned the car out of the lot, heading toward my parents' swanky neighborhood in Alexandria. "Anyway ...?"
"Tomorrow night's the first night of taping. I'm not ready."
"Ah. Have a bad case of stage fright, do you?"
He slid me some squinty eyes. "It's not a 'bad case' of anything. And I do not get any kind of 'fright,' stage or otherwise."
Clearly, I'd struck a raw nerve. "Of course. What do you want me to do?"
"I could use some acting lessons."
"I'm not an actress," I pointed out. "I've never even been in a school play."
"Shouldn't your producer be helping you with this?"
"I asked her, and she told me she didn't want me taking acting lessons because then I might not come off as real. Since the show's a reality program, she didn't want that."
"Well, then, maybe you should trust her judgment."
Elmer scowled. "I don't want to make an ass out of myself."
I pulled up to a red light and glanced at him. He was looking paler than normal. And his thin lips were thinner too.
"This was your idea," he pointed out.
That was true. It was my idea. Sort of. I'd mentioned it as a joke. Kind of. But then I'd found out my father knew some people who could make the show happen for real; and before I knew it, Elmer was signing a contract to film eight episodes of Who Wants to Marry an Undead Prince?
I was hoping the show would be an answer to my prayers. Elmer was desperate to find a bride. He'd kidnapped me not too long ago, and had nearly dragged me, kicking and screaming, down the aisle. But I'd talked myself out of that close scrape by promising to help him find a replacement bride. Easier said than done. We've tried speed dating, online dating. No deal. Elmer had some physical limitations to work around—his inability to materialize before sunset, specifically—but they didn't get in his way as much as his appearance. It seemed most girls couldn't look past his Halloween-ghoulish mug to see the man inside. It also didn't help that Elmer had one very significant stipulation: his future bride had to be 100 percent elf.
I turned into the folks' driveway, parked in front of the house, and killed the engine.
Elmer's eyes glittered as he took in the glory that was Mom and Dad's new place. "Wow."
"I guess Dad felt like he had some making up to do, leaving Mom living in that rattrap apartment for twenty years." I grabbed the bag out of the trunk and hustled to the front door. On the porch, I poked the doorbell and listened to the ding dong, ding dong, of the chime.
I rang the bell again.
"Maybe she fell asleep," Elmer suggested.
"I didn't just drive over here for nothing." I poked the button a third time; when that didn't work, I handed the bag to Elmer and went back to the car for my phone. I hit 1 on my speed dial and listened to the phone ring. It rang ten times before my mother picked up.
"Hello?" Mom said, sounding sleepy.
"Mom, I'm outside. With pie."
"I called. Didn't you get my message?"
She yawned. "I'll be right there."
I clicked off and rejoined Elmer on the porch. Grimacing, he shoved the bag into my hands.
The door finally opened, and a very rumpled Mom poked her head out. "Sloan, I'm sorry. I told you not to bother. Your father called right after I talked to you. He came home early. And he brought me some pie."
I shoved the bag at her. "But I bought all of this, and I don't want to eat it."
She snorted, jerking backward, like I'd just shoved a bag of radioactive plutonium at her. "Get it away. I can't look at another pie. I ate too much already."
"But it's the middle of the night, and I drove an hour to get here. And I have to be at work by nine—"
"Not my fault, Sloan. You didn't answer your phone. I think you should hurry home and get into bed. You can still catch a few more hours if you don't waste any time." Her eyes started watering, and her face turned the shade of a turnip. "Oh, no. I told you to get that pie away from me. Gotta go. Bye." She clapped her hand over her mouth and slammed the door in my face.
My arm dropped to my side, and I slid a sidelong glance at Elmer. I give him credit. He was looking outraged on my behalf.
"I can't believe she slammed the door in your face," he said.
"That's my mother for you. She's a strange bird." I headed back to the car, dumped the bag of pies in the trunk, and climbed behind the steering wheel. Elmer was already in the passenger seat.
I glanced at the red glowing numbers on the clock. Now, I was seeing a 2, two dots, a 4, and a 9. I had almost an hour drive ahead of me before I could climb back into my bed. My eyes were gritty and blurry, my head foggy.
I started the car, shifted into reverse, then shifted back into park before the car had rolled a single inch. "To heck with this. I'm not driving home. She called me out here, so she can let me sleep over. It isn't like she doesn't have room for me. There are five bedrooms in this place." I poked my cell phone, calling Mom.
"Sloan," Elmer said, "there's something else we need to talk about. It's about a certain debt you owe me."
"Oh, yeah, right." I was hoping he'd forgotten about that.
"You remember, I said we'd meet at midnight ... several nights ago."
"Um, no. I forgot. Sorry."
Elmer's daytime invisibility had come in handy in my last case. We were chasing a bloodthirsty aswang and I had been desperate. The problem was, his help had come with strings attached. At this point, I still had no idea how thick those strings were.
"So, were you thinking cash?" I asked.
"Money?" Elmer shook his head. "I don't need more money. I already have enough of that. No, I was thinking about something else. Maybe something to add to my collection."
"What collection?" A quiver of dread wound through my insides. To be fair, my father had warned me about the dangers of striking a deal with a Sluagh. But I'd chosen to ignore his warning, in the interest of serving the greater good, of course.
My phone rang. I checked it. Katie.
Was it unusual that Katie was calling at almost three in the morning? Not necessarily. The girl kept crazy hours. But calling multiple times in the last hour? That was a reason for concern. Not to mention, I was glad for the distraction. I answered, "What's up?"
"You need to come home. Right now. Right. Now!"
The line went dead.
"Elmer, we'll have to talk about this later. Something's wrong with Katie."
Elmer humphed. "There's always something wrong. I'm not going anywhere."
I made it as far as my street before my phone rang yet again. This time it wasn't Mom. It wasn't Katie either. It was Jordan Thomas, one of my coworkers and also the subject of more than a few steamy dreams since I'd started working for the PBAU.
I answered, "JT, what's wrong?"
"Where are you?"
I suppose there was good reason for him to ask that. He probably would have assumed any normal person would be in bed at this hour, sound asleep. I'm not any normal person, though. Which is partly why I was interning for the FBI in the first place.
"I'm heading home. Why?"
"The chief needs you to get to the following address ASAP." He paused.
"Go ahead," I told him. There was no need for me to write down the address. Not that I'm bragging, but my memory is insanely good. Since taking this job a few weeks ago, I've memorized roughly half of my father's research on paranormal creatures. That's somewhere around ten years' worth of work.
He rattled off an address in Baltimore, then added, "I'll meet you there."
"Okay. I need to run home and change first. I don't think anyone's going to take me seriously in what I'm wearing right now."
I glanced down at my shirt. "Just trust me."
"Okay. But you're going to have to show me what you're wearing another time. I'm intrigued." At the hint of naughtiness in his voice, parts of my anatomy started tingling.
That was not a good thing.
Ever since my first day on the job, I've had a thing for JT. Who wouldn't? He's sexy. He's smart. He's brave. And I've been doing everything in my power to keep from throwing myself at him like a shameless hussy and begging him to take me. Because I have big hopes for a long-term future with the FBI, I have resisted the urge. But there have been times when my self-control has been pushed to the limit. Like when he'd caught me coming out of the shower, and I was wrapped only in a towel. And when he'd been taping the microphone wire to me, and the only piece of clothing between my nipples and his hands was my lace bra.
For the most part, JT has been good about respecting my wishes to maintain a respectable, professional distance. But every now and then, his voice goes low and husky, or his eyes grow come-hithery. It doesn't help that our boss, Chief Peyton, keeps pairing us together to work on cases.
Or she gives us undercover assignments where we have to sleep together.
"Gotta go, bye." I clicked off.
Elmer gave me a raised-brow look.
"Sorry, work calls."
"But we need to talk. About my acting lessons. And that debt. You owe me, Sloan Skye. You have to pay."
"I will. Say, would the acting lessons count as payment?"
Stubborn, stubborn undead guy.
"But where am I going to find an acting coach at three-thirty in the morning?" I asked. "This is no small favor you're asking."
Excerpted from BLOOD OF DAWN by Tami Dane Copyright © 2012 by Tami Dane . Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted August 17, 2013
This book had me so engaged in the story I didn't want to put the book down for even a second. I love this series and I really enjoy the characters. This book is at times more frustrating then the other books were because of all the personal issues, but that's what made this book more believable as far as characters go. I am anxious to read the next book in the series and I hope it's out soon.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 18, 2013
Liked the mystery but really annoyed by the subplot. Suddenly Sloan is ok dating/being "engaged" to another agent and JT wants to be with Hough who was gay but now not. Seriously?! I was disappointed with that part but maybe Tami will (hopefully) correct that in the next installment.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2013