Blood of Edenby Tami Dane
Sloan has a sky-high IQ, a chaotic personal life, and a dream: to work for the FBI. Her goal is within reach until an error lands her with the FBI's ugly stepchild: the new Paranormal Behavioral
This mind-blowing new series introduces Sloan Skye, an ambitious intern at the FBI's paranormal unit, where the usual rules of crime fighting don't apply. . .
Sloan has a sky-high IQ, a chaotic personal life, and a dream: to work for the FBI. Her goal is within reach until an error lands her with the FBI's ugly stepchild: the new Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. She'll get to profile criminals, but the pool of suspects is a little more. . .diverse. Yet even as Sloan tackles her first case--a string of victims, all with puncture wounds to the neck--she can't silence her inner para-skeptic.
To catch the killer she'll have to think like one. That means casting aside her doubts, and dealing with bizarre nightmares that started with the job. But the strangeness is only beginning, as Sloan pieces together the shocking truth about a case that's more personal than she ever would have guessed.
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BLOOD OF EDEN
By TAMI DANE
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Tami Dane
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMan can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable. —Oscar Wilde
Rotten eggs and sulphur. Oh, the sweet stench of home.
The gray cloud of parfum d'sewer rolled out of my apartment door as I juggled my keys, two mocha lattes—heavy on the whipped cream—and bagels. Standing in the hallway, I shouted, "Is it safe to come in, or do I need my gas mask?"
That was not a rhetorical question. My roommate, Katie Lewis, was playing with chemicals again. And I was guessing this morning's experiment was an epic failure.
She'd converted our kitchen into a chem lab last year. Made sense, since neither of us cooked food. Since then, I've learned to live with safety gear at the ready, at all times. Splash goggles. Gas mask. Fire extinguisher. Fabric deodorizer. It goes without saying, Casa Skye/Lewis isn't the average home of a couple of grad students. But every now and then, having a chemist at my beck and call, 24-7, came in handy. Especially now that Mrs. Heckel in 2B has stopped reporting us to the DEA. We've been raided twice.
"Sloan?" Katie was sporting her everyday wear—apron, goggles, heavy rubber gloves ... and slippers with stuffed Albert Einstein heads on the tops. It wasn't a look every girl could pull off, but she did—and still managed to look cute. If she wasn't such a sweetheart, I might have hated her for it. "Did you happen to get cream cheese? We're out."
"Sure did." Taking my cue from Katie, who wasn't wearing her gas mask, I hurried inside and shut the door. "Whew, whatever you just blew up reeks. Do you have the exhaust fan going?"
Grimacing, Katie waved a hand in front of my face. "Yeah. The smoke should clear up in a few minutes. Sorry." She slid her goggles to the top of her head and swiped one of the coffees from the cardboard tray.
"Did you figure out what went wrong this time?"
"Not a thing. It was supposed to do that." Katie took a slurp and smacked her lips. "Mmm, good coffee. They used just the right amount of chocolate this time. Not too little, not too much."
"Good." After I set my coffee and the bag of bagels on the coffee table, which served double duty as our dining table, I headed straight back to my room. I checked the clock on my nightstand. It was a twenty-eight-minute drive to the FBI Academy. That left me exactly four minutes to finish getting ready.
"Are you geeked about your big day?" Katie hung back, standing just outside my bedroom as I rushed around, digging out my laptop case and tossing the essentials into it. Pens, notebook, spare change, cell phone, Netbook.
"I can't tell you how nervous I am." I sighed. "I gotta pee again. This is the third time in an hour. I swear, I have the bladder of a sixty-year-old mother of twelve."
"I'm so excited for you!" As I shuffled past her, toward the bathroom, Katie caught my shoulders and gave them a quick shake. "My best friend's working for the freaking FBI. You'll tell me absolutely everything, right?"
"Sure, I'll tell you everything that isn't classified." I dashed into the bathroom and took care of my personal issue, hoping I wouldn't get the urge to go again in the next three minutes.
"Call me later," Katie yelled through the door.
"Will do." I dropped a throwaway toothbrush into my purse, zipped it shut, and, heading out into the hall, scooped up the laptop bag I'd left next to the door. Racewalking across the living room, I slung my bag over my shoulder and grabbed my lukewarm mocha latte and a dry bagel while on the way to the exit. "Don't burn the place down while I'm gone." Before heading out, I doused myself in Febreze.
Katie pushed her goggles in place and headed toward the kitchen. "You have nothing to worry about."
I'd heard that before, exactly one minute before the last explosion. And the one before that. What can I say? We both like to live a little dangerously.
With not even a second to spare, I yanked open the door and almost crashed into my mother, her hand raised to knock. She was wearing her threadbare hot pink bathrobe—and God only knew what underneath. Two different shoes poked out from beneath the ratty hem, and her hair—today it was the shade of a new penny—looked like it had been styled with an eggbeater. A huge suitcase sat next to her feet, and an unlit joint as thick as my thumb was protruding from the corner of her mouth.
Nothing new there.
I grinned, plucked the joint out of her mouth, and dropped it into my purse. "Hi, Mom. What a pleasant surprise."
"Honey, I need your help. The power's out in my building again and the landlord says it's my fault. He's exaggerating, of course."
"Of course," I echoed.
"It's not my fault the building's wiring is outdated. I was just trying—"
"It's okay, Mom. You can stay with us until it comes back on." I gave her a peck on the cheek and handed her my coffee as I hurried past. "I'm sorry, I've gotta go. It's my first day with the FBI. There's bagels inside. Your favorite. I'll call you later." After ditching the contraband in the scraggly shrubs next to the building's main entry, I sprinted out to my car, my laptop case bruising my hip and my empty stomach rumbling. I hit my mom's landlord's phone number on my cell, programmed on speed dial, prepared to give the usual "it'll never happen again" speech.
I'd already handled my mother's little problem and was in the middle of an emergency handbag repair—making creative use of a couple of paper clips and a broken pencil—when my new boss, Special Agent Murphy, finally emerged from his office. "There's been a mistake," he informed me. "We won't be able to use you this summer...."
Of course, there's a problem. There always is. The question is, what can I do—
"We've selected another intern...."
"I'm sorry." Murphy scowled and glanced down at his cell phone. "Excuse me for just a moment."
I should have known it was too good to be true. But after two decades of dreaming and studying and hoping, I—Sloan Skye, the only offspring of a schizophrenic philosopher-self-proclaimed inventor and delusional biology professor—wanted to believe I'd landed the internship of my dreams. I didn't expect it to blow up in my face my first day on the job.
As I struggled to recover from the bomb that Agent Murphy had just lobbed my way, Gabe Wagner—who should have been doing grunt work for some senator in DC, not anywhere near the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia—came strolling by.
That was it; I knew exactly what had happened. His internship had fallen through, so somebody had pulled a fast one on me.
As a few choice expressions played through my mind—all of them involving specific anatomical parts and physically impossible actions—I gave Gabe, my frenemy since freshman year, a blindingly bright smile. "Hey, Gabe, does this mean the dream job with the Waste Management Department is still open?"
"No, I'm pretty sure that one's been filled. Sorry." Looking as evil as ever, Gabe sauntered within reach, but I resisted the urge to snap his neck like a toothpick. "Why? Were you interested in applying?" Lucky for him, I possessed an iron will, an allergy to prison air, and—I'd never admit this to Gabe—I secretly enjoyed our little verbal tussles. They made life interesting. "If you're really hard up, I could ask my dad to pull a few strings, get you an interview at the meatpacking plant in Baltimore."
Argh! Animal guts gives me hives.
"Gee, thanks. I'd love to spend my summer elbow deep in pig intestines, but I'd hate to impose. I'm sure Senator Wagner has more important things to do, like slip his pet pork barrel projects into the latest bill the Senate's debating. You never know, that nineteen-million-dollar study on cow flatulence might solve the energy crisis someday."
Murphy returned, giving each of us a bland look. "Good morning, Mr. Wagner. I'll be with you in just a moment, if you'll wait over there." He motioned toward a grouping of chairs a few feet away, next to a table with a coffeepot, cups, and a mug full of primary-colored swizzle sticks. Once Gabe was out of my reach, Murphy turned to me. "Miss Skye, I tried to call you this morning, after I discovered the administrative error, but it was too late. We're looking into something else for you. I'll give you a call as soon as I know something."
Translation: Don't call us. We'll call you.
"Thanks, Agent Murphy." I fought to look cheery, but I knew I wouldn't fool anyone, especially Gabe. I was, without a doubt, the world's worst actress. In my defense, I don't think even Reese Witherspoon could have pulled this one off.
Feeling a little defeated, I slumped into a nearby chair. It rocked back, almost dumping me on the floor. Not to sound like a pathetic whiner or anything, but this was unbelievably unfair. It's not that I expect life to be one big wonderful world full of happiness and justice for all, but I'd been preparing for this job my entire life. And when I say "entire life," I'm not exaggerating. As I lay in my crib, my mom fed my brain a steady diet of everything from analytic philosophy to quantum physics, a thick joint tucked between her lips and a cloud of pot smoke circling her head like a halo. As a result, not only had I memorized the work of just about every major player in the world of psychology by the time I'd graduated from elementary school—Freud, Jung, Adler, just to name a few—but I could square eighteen digit numbers faster than most people could add two. And I could recite the Divine Comedy ... in Italian. "I'll just mosey on home and wait for your call. Thanks again."
"Good luck with the job hunt." Gabe waved from the coffee stand. "Call me if you want me to hook you up." He had the nerve to actually waggle his eyebrows.
I threw up a little in my mouth.
What a day. Thanks to Gabe, I was not only out of a dream internship but out of a steady paycheck as well. I received an annuity payment every fall, which kept us afloat for the year and helped pay my tuition. I had my dad to thank for that. But I'd promised to pay my mom's landlord a thousand dollars to cover the damage she'd caused. My bank account was on the brink of imploding. How would I pay next month's rent? Electric bill? And, more important, how would I take care of Mom? SSI barely kept a roof over her head, even when she wasn't causing minor catastrophic damage. If I didn't subsidize her pathetic income, she'd end up living under a bridge, smoking marijuana and talking to invisible zombies ... again.
All of my dreams for the summer—kicking ass and taking down bad guys, anyone?—were slipping from my grasp. But I have never been the kind to stand in stunned silence and let everything fall apart. I had to do something.
I looked down at my hands, and just like that, I had an idea.
Lucky for me, Gabe was called away to handle some super-important, top-secret intern stuff before I had to throw myself at Murphy's feet and beg for a job. Quickly, before I lost my nerve, I muttered, "In case the other thing doesn't work out, I'm pretty handy with a broom." Sweeping the Behavioral Analysis Unit's offices was better than the alternative.
"Oh?" Murphy glanced at the paper clips in my hands, then at my cheap Prada knockoff purse, its broken strap dangling off a nearby desk like a dead eel.
"And a vacuum," I added, hoping I was making my point clear. For a guy who puzzled together clues on a daily basis, Murphy seemed to be having a hard time getting my drift.
"Yeah." He nodded, glanced at his phone again, and lifted a finger. "Just a minute."
"Sure." I beamed a silent thank-you, hoping I'd soon be the recipient of some good news. Anything, and I mean a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g, would be better than last year's summer job, cleaning behind a pack of greasy, belching, middle-aged mechanics who thought the word "wash" had a letter r in it and a high-school diploma constituted an advanced degree. I have never been an intellectual snob—it's a lot more fun laughing at people who think they know everything—but come on. There was only so much a girl could take.
I'd been lucky to get that job last year, even with two bachelor's degrees and a master's in the works. And this year, things were even worse. The guy who was sweeping my uncle's garage this summer had a master's degree in mechanical engineering.
I finished up my handbag repair, and was about to tackle the broken chair, which posed a genuine threat to national security, when Murphy returned with a woman who looked like an older version of myself. The agent's dull brown hair, the same shade as mine, had been scraped back from her face and tied into a tight knot at her nape. Her nondescript polyester suit had fashion disaster written all over it, just like mine. And little-to-no makeup enhanced her unextraordinary features—also, sadly, just like mine.
"I think we've found a solution to our problem." Murphy motioned to the woman. "This is Special Agent Alice Peyton. She's chief of a new unit in the FBI, and she could use your help."
Yes, yes, yes, the angels were singing! And I was ready to join them in a lively round of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."
I had no idea what kind of work Chief Peyton's unit was involved in; I didn't care. All that mattered was I had a job, and it was within the hallowed halls of the FBI Academy. Gabe hadn't ruined my summer, after all. And dear old mom wouldn't be sharing the overpass with Crazy Connie, the bag lady—who wasn't crazy at all, if you ask me.
Sane has always been a relative term in my world.
I cranked up the wattage of my smile and offered a hand to my soon-to-be boss for the summer. "Sloan Skye."
"Alice Peyton. It's good to have you with us."
"Glad to be here." That was no lie.
Murphy turned my way. "Special Agent Peyton will take care of transferring your paperwork. I hope you have a good summer, Miss Skye."
"I will now. Thank you." I shook his hand.
Chief Peyton motioned toward the elevators. "Let me show you where you'll be working. We're one floor up."
"That would be great. I'll get my things." As I snatched up my purse and laptop case, I caught Gabe's openmouthed gawk. I couldn't help noticing he held a coffee cup in both hands.
Within Gabe's earshot, Chief Peyton said, "I'm hoping you can do more than fetch coffee. Do you have a valid passport?"
Karma was my new best friend.
I tossed Gabe a little smirk. "You mean I'll be traveling with the unit?"
"Of course, Skye. Wherever we go, you go too." Chief Peyton stopped in front of a bank of elevators. "Speaking of which, Skye is an unusual name."
"Yes, I suppose it is, statistically speaking. According to GenealogyToday-dot-com, it was the sixty thousand one hundred eighty-fifth most popular surname in the ..." I'm doing it again. "... Sorry, I get a little carried away with statistics sometimes.... Um, I was told my father was Scottish."
"I thought he might be. What does he do?" Chief Peyton pushed the elevator's up button.
"Well, my father's dead. He was a professor at the University of Richmond."
"I'm very sorry." When the elevator door opened, Chief Peyton motioned me in first, then followed.
I stepped toward the back of the car. "It's okay. He died when I was young."
She hit the button for the third floor. "I see. He was a professor of ...?"
I wondered for a second or two why Chief Peyton seemed to be taking such an interest in a man who'd been dead for more than twenty years. But I quickly shrugged it off as small talk, her way of making me feel more comfortable. "Natural science—specifically, biology." I left out the part about how he'd been shamed into giving up his position at the university after publishing an article arguing for the existence of fictional creatures—vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and goblins, that sort of thing. I was fairly certain that would be low on Chief Peyton's need-to-know list.
Excerpted from BLOOD OF EDEN by TAMI DANE Copyright © 2011 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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