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Just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
A burn hit the back of my throat and I almost snorted my vanilla latte through my nose when I caught a glimpse of Olivia’s T-shirt. Instead I choked and coughed as the PI firm’s door slid shut behind my partner with a soft whoosh over the doormat.
"You okay?" Olivia’s dark eyes looked more amused than concerned as she tugged off her blue New York Mets sweat jacket. She bypassed the two chairs in front of her desk and tossed her jacket next to her computer monitor. Her Sig Sauer was firmly in its shoulder holster.
The dark waves of her hair were swept up in a clip as usual, the style accentuating her high cheekbones and her beauty. A few strands had escaped due to a cool New York September breeze and she brushed them out of her eyes.
"You’d better be okay," she said. "I’d hate to lose my partner and go back to working for Captain Leiferman, the NYPD’s finest jerkwad."
"You’d just miss being around the Vamps." I drummed my fingers on my polished desk, made from beautiful wood a Dryad would eventually make me pay dearly for. "I saw you with that bloodsucker, Seth, at the Pit Saturday night."
Worn blue jeans and the red T-shirt tightened against Olivia’s full curves as she plopped in the black leather chair behind her desk. She put her feet up on the desk and crossed her legs at the ankles, her Keds red to match today’s T-shirt.
Olivia leaned back in her chair and raised her arms, her skin like dark golden silk. She stretched her five- foot- two frame and tilted her head back before looking at me with eyes so dark brown they were almost black. With my enhanced Drow senses I caught her freesia perfume.
"Seth and I were only talking while we had a few drinks." Her expression was one of total innocence when she added, "We’re not having sex until next Saturday night."
This time I almost spit out my latte, only it would have speckled my cream Dior blouse. "Olivia—"
"I’m kidding." She grinned as she settled herself in front of her wide- screen monitor and gel pad. "Sort of."
"Sort of, my ass."
Even though she was unassuming and down-to-earth, Olivia kept me guessing what she’d do next. She had a wit as sharp as a Drow blade and a bit of mischievousness that had gotten us both into trouble on a couple of occasions. Actually, mischievousness was too mild a word.
Olivia’s mother was Kenyan, her father from Puerto Rico, and Olivia could speak several languages. Over the past year and a half, since she’d become my partner, she’d even picked up quite a bit of Drow, especially the curse words that I used when I exploded over one thing or another.
She refused to wear anything designer and prided herself on hitting the sales racks at just the right time. She was jeans and cotton from bargain stores, and the shirts usually had amusing sayings like the one she was wearing. Today’s was perfect considering all of the paranormal dangers that existed without most norms having a clue.
The T-shirt that worried me was one she wore once to the Pit—
There’s too much blood in my alcohol system.
Those damn Vamps.
Where Olivia was sales rack, I was Neiman Marcus and designer all the way from my Hermes silk scarf to my Fendi crepe jacket, and even my leather holster, specially crafted by the Dark Elves, that held my 9mm Kahr. A girl’s got to spoil herself when she can. And I don’t mind admitting it, being who I am, I was pretty spoiled already.
I brushed my fingers over the neckband that I wore as a concession to my father, so that any Drow male would know I’m a Princess. Which meant off-limits without the King’s permission, or off with the warrior’s head.
Like some kind of morbid fairy tale.
And it wasn’t a bluff. One Drow male found that out the hard way. Not that he was around anymore to complain about it.
I drew my slim XPhone from my favorite Dolce & Gabbana handbag, which matched today’s outfit. "You’re human and you should be with some great-looking norm," I said. "There are plenty of decent guys out there." I made a sweeping gesture with one arm as if encompassing all of Manhattan before I pointed my finger at her. "But if you’re going to go for a paranorm, why not a nice Doppler? Preferably one without fangs and claws when he shifts. A Doppler beagle would be perfect."
"Ha." Olivia snorted. "Serving Purina Dog Chow for dinner isn’t in this girl’s future. Besides, Vamps are so hot," she said with a totally serious expression even though I knew she was working to get a rise out of me. She so liked to give me a hard time.
The XPhone screen felt like cool gel beneath my index finger as I touched the screen and it lit up. I wrinkled my nose when I looked back up at her. "Vamps are actually pasty, creepy bloodsuckers. You just can’t see them hiding behind handsome glamours because you’re a norm."
"We can’t all have gorgeous Elvin bosses we can screw just because we feel like it." Olivia obviously enjoyed the sudden rush of red behind the heat in my cheeks. "So how is Rodán these days?"
"I’m not seeing him in that way anymore." I cleared my throat. "He’s just my mentor and friend."
"Ah." Olivia nodded like she knew the exact reason. And of course she nailed it. "Detective Adam Boyd. You’ve had the hots for him since you met him. So why haven’t you done anything about it?"
The warmth in my face blossomed to my chest.
"He’s human. Not so sure he’d be crazy about me if he saw me after dark."
"Eh." Olivia waved me off with a dismissive gesture. "Purple and blue are cool colors. He’ll be all over you once you give him a chance."
"Amethyst, not purple." I bit the inside of my cheek. If I let Adam see me change...
Somehow I knew he’d accept me for who I am, but there was still a part of me that couldn’t get over the reaction of the norm in my first serious relationship.
My heart clenched for a moment. With Stan it hadn’t been worth the chance at all. I should never have—
Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. What difference did it make now?
The wheels of my office chair rattled over the ceramic tiled floor as I shifted so that I could set my XPhone on a clear space on my desk— which wasn’t easy considering the stacks of files, sticky notes, and pens littering it. Sometimes— make that often— I was too lazy to put the notes into my XPhone until later, so I had to scrounge.
"Tell me, what were you doing with Rodán last night?" Olivia casually examined her fingernails. "If you weren’t humping him."
The only way to get Olivia off a subject she was enjoying was to change it to something more important.
"Rodán, the other Trackers, and I have been working on finding ways to get rid of these underling Demons before they kill any more paranorms," I said.
"Underling Demons?" Olivia swung her feet onto the floor, her expression intense. "You’re telling me there are worse Demons than the ones you’ve been facing?"
I nodded. "Rodán has it directly from the Great Guardian herself that this is only the beginning."
"Just great." Olivia scowled. "I imagine your all-powerful Guardian isn’t going to deign to help the Trackers."
The way Olivia often spoke about the Great Guardian, she was lucky the GG didn’t bother with humans.
I, on the other hand, should have been worried, considering I was just as bad if not worse than Olivia when it came to my frequent irreverent attitude toward the GG.
My partner settled herself and opened a file folder on her equally loaded desk. "Developments?"
The ache in my jaws when I clenched my teeth was great enough to shoot sharp pain to my forehead. Strands of my long, straight black hair slid over my silk blouse and against my cheek as I bent my head to rub my temples with my thumb and forefinger. "A group of Demons murdered— and ate—at least a dozen paranorms in Manhattan last night."
"Oh, shit." All traces of amusement left Olivia’s voice.
"Those weren’t the words I used." No, I’d sworn in Drow, and if I hadn’t fought to keep control I would have created a maelstrom in Rodán’s conference chamber by releasing every one of my elemental powers at once.
Olivia folded her arms on her desk. "This is getting worse every day."
"Yeah." I leaned back in my chair and stared at the Drow weapons and warrior breastplates I’d mounted on the walls, reminders of home. "All of the Trackers met with Rodán early this morning after the night patrol of our territories." I let my gaze drift from the weapons to meet Olivia’s dark eyes as I continued. "Rodán asked me to contact all of the local human liaisons and let them know what’s going on. And to see if they’ve had anything unusual pop up."
"Like human- looking flesh- eating Demons." Olivia touched the long gel keyboard in front of her that brought up files on her computer screen. "I’m sure the Demons have no problem fitting in with this big melting pot of a city."
"At least they only come out around midnight." Almost absently, I brushed my fingers again over the smooth lines of my choker, with its runes that were invisible to humans. The choker had been crafted when I was a child, made from an alloy the Dark Elves mined. The alloy was imbued with elemental magic and more precious than human platinum, and it had expanded to fit me as I grew.
Olivia continued frowning but had a distant look to her eyes. No doubt she was mulling over everything I had shared. Her sharp mind had helped us solve countless cases.
I let my thoughts drift to eliminating each Demon and focused again on the wall in front of my desk. Fine diamond- headed arrows in their quivers and bows fashioned from precious Dryad wood were braced on the wall. I could have used Drow arrows or a long sword like any of the ones on my wall, but I preferred my weapons of choice, which were better for close combat. The seventeen- inch- long, two- inch-wide Drow- made dragon- claw daggers that had been designed just for me were perfect.
I drew my stylus from the slot at the side of the XPhone, my fingers pale against the navy blue of the device. "The Demons seem to have a taste for paranorms instead of humans. Like they want to eradicate the lot of us."
Before I headed out, I’d use my stylus to scribble a few thoughts on my XPhone. It was easier for me to keep organized that way since I wrote in a Drow form of shorthand and had to translate. My friend Manny, the computer whiz, was working on a program to make that part of organizing my work easier by translating Drow into English.
"It’s time I helped you on the Demon thing." Olivia’s gaze was clear when I met her eyes again. "Stop shielding me."
"This case is too dangerous. We’ve never faced Demons before." I had not ever deliberately kept Olivia off a case before, but this one— I just couldn’t let her out there. I looked up at the ornate crown molding on the ceiling before meeting her gaze again. "It’s almost impossible to kill them."
"Almost. That’s an important word." Olivia frowned at me. "You keeping me out of this case is starting to piss me off, Nyx."
"I’m serious." I rubbed my temples again. "This is really bad. To get rid of a single Demon, a Tracker has to strike and pierce a small sac of blue fluid at the hollow of the Demon’s neck."
I continued without giving her a chance to speak. "Even though they look human, it’s impossible to behead or injure any part of a Demon’s body. They’re even fire proof." Which made my fire- element power useless against them. "Only piercing that one vulnerable spot can kill these Demons."
"You know I’m a perfect shot with my Sig." Olivia touched her shoulder holster, just above her weapon. "I can nail them right where it hurts."
"Guns aren’t good for close combat," I said.
"I’ve got blades on me," she said, "which are perfect for close encounters of the third kind."
I wanted to yank my hair out in frustration. I didn’t want Olivia hurt. "This is not something like tracking down a missing Sprite, a Metamorph taking over a human, a rogue Were, or a Vamp gone bad."
"Don’t patronize me." Olivia’s eyes flashed and I knew I had a battle on my hands.
I sighed. "You know I’m not. I just worry."
"I’ll talk with Rodán." This was something I wasn’t going to win, but I could stall for time if I was lucky. "He’s the word on these things."
"You can get him to agree to anything." Her expression lightened a little. "Just fuck it out of him."
My cheeks went hot.
Since I’d started to get to know Adam, I had stayed away from sex with my lover and mentor, Rodán. He understood. He always understood me.
I avoided Olivia’s eyes as I retrieved my XPhone. "For now I’ve got to get hold of the norm liaisons."
"I’m not giving in on this," she said.
Her voice turned teasing in an instant. "Bet I know which human liaison you’ll be calling first." The glint was back in Olivia’s eyes when I looked up at her. "I’m sure Detective Boyd will be very happy to hear from you."
Memories flashed through my mind of Stan, the human male I’d cared about before he learned of my true nature. Months of a close relationship—during the day. Then all it took was one night, and he was gone.
I didn’t know if I could put my heart through pain like that again.
Excerpted from Demons not Included by Cheyenne McCray.
Copyright © 2009 by Cheyenne McCray.
Published by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction
is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.