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I was pulling out the third paper jam of the morning—and tossing fistfuls of copies of a weird combination of butt cheek and hoof—when Nina poked her head in, scanning the room, and asked, "Is she gone?"
I flopped backward and blew a few strands of my hair (done up in Clairol's Red Hot) out of my eye. "Who?"
Nina shimmied into the copy room and straightened her vintage boat-necked Balenciaga dress. She had paired this little number with black-and-purple lace tights and those peekaboo booties that make me look like a poor lumberjack while it made supermodels (and vampires) look amazingly chic.
I guess living through two world wars and umpteen clothing revolutions would pique your fashion sense.
"What do you mean, who? Mrs. Henderson. This dress"—Nina did an elegant twirl—"is not only vintage, it's irreplaceable. I wore it when I nabbed a bite of John Lennon." Nina batted her lashes and grinned, her small fangs pressing against her red lips.
I cocked an eyebrow and Nina blew out an exasperated sigh.
"Fine. It was Ringo. So, is she gone?"
Mrs. Henderson—the Underworld Detection Agency's busybody dragon and all-around most obnoxious client—and Nina have a bit of a history together. It's one that most often leaves Nina naked and hairless, with Mrs. Henderson hiccupping smoke rings and not-so-genuine apologies.
I looked down at my watch. "Oh my gosh, I'm totally late. Thanks for reminding me."
I thrust the last of the hoof-and-butt Xeroxes into Nina's hands and headed to my desk—hopping over the burnt-hole remains of a wizard, who had blown himself up, and looking away from Lorraine, UDA's resident witch and finance whiz. She tried to stop me by waving in front of my face a folder full of invoices, but I was able to dodge her, thanks in part to the seminar that HR held on "Respecting Your Coworker's Personal Space."
I flopped into my ergonomically questionable chair and blew out a deep, comforting breath, then laced my fingers over Mrs. Henderson's files. In addition to being a fire-breathing, St. John Knit–wearing dragon, Mrs. Henderson was a divorcée hell-bent on squeezing her cheating ex-husband for every last dime. As our agency detected all supernatural movement within our region, Mrs. Henderson dropped in monthly for updates and especially liked it when we were prepared for her with Mr. H's paycheck stubs and warm, fuzzy stories about his current financial woes.
Fifteen minutes later, Mr. H's statements were still undisturbed in my file folder, and Mrs. Henderson was nowhere to be found.
I buzzed the reception desk and Kale answered—I could hear the murmur of the iBud she kept continually tucked in her left ear. "Reception," she said, "what can I do you for?"
"Hey, Kale, it's Sophie. Did Mrs. Henderson call in? She's almost twenty minutes late for her appointment."
I heard Kale muss some papers on the other end of the phone and then the snap of her gum. "No, nothing. Are you sure she was scheduled today?"
"Positive. It's the fifteenth."
"Ooh, alimony pickup day. She's usually a half hour early."
"That's what I was thinking. I'll try and ring her house."
I rapped my fingers on my desk, suddenly impatient. "Yes?"
"Um," Kale started to stutter and drift off, and I could almost see her biting her lower lip, curling the telephone cord around her finger.
"What about Vlad?" I asked.
Vlad was Nina's nephew—and he was a current UDA employee, leader of the San Francisco chapter of the Vampire Empowerment and Restoration Movement (VERM for short, and for annoying Vlad incessantly), and a permanent fixture on Nina's and my couch. He had the bright eyes, video game fetish, and disdain for folding clothes that most sixteen-year-olds had.
Except that he was 112.
"Do you know if he is seeing anyone?"
Kale had been in love with Vlad since he first blew into the city—moody, restless, and dressed like Count Chocula. The Vampire Empowerment and Restoration Movement required that its adherents stick to the "classic" dress code of the fearsome vampires of yesteryear (more Bela Lugosi, less Edward Cullen) and also preached a staunch code against vampire/nonvampire mixing. That left Kale—a Gestalt witch of the green order—to pine relentlessly and call me on numerous occasions to ask about Vlad's dating status.
"No, Kale, I don't think so."
She let out a loud whoosh of relief. "That's what his Facebook status said. I just wanted to make sure. Bye, Sophie!"
The hangup sounded in my ear as I pulled up Mrs. Henderson's phone number. I was in the middle of dialing when Nina stalked in, slamming the door behind her. "So what did the big lizard have to say today? She needs more money for crickets?"
I hung up the phone and rubbed my temples. "She's a dragon, not a lizard, and she still hasn't shown up. That's not like her."
Nina whipped out a nail file and gave her perfectly manicured nails the once-over. "Maybe she lit herself on fire. One can only hope. "She snorted, her smile lingering. "I want to go shopping. What do you think? Boutique in the Haight or mainstream on Market?"
I frowned. "I'm kind of worried about Mrs. Henderson."
"So send her an edible arrangement. Don't they have one with staked mice or something? Anyway, boutique or mainstream? I need your financial prowess to point me in the right retail direction."
I pulled out my calendar and flipped back a few pages. "Last week I had two missed appointments."
Nina pouted. "Are you doubting your popularity at UDA now? You know everyone here adores you and we don't even consider your ... issue."
I felt a blush rise to my cheeks.
My "issue" was my breath. Not that it was bad (at least I don't think it is); it is that I have some. The Underworld Detection Agency not only caters to the demon community—providing transfer papers, tracking paranormal activity in the city, detecting demon activity, and protecting from demonic or human threats—it is also staffed by demons.
Except for me.
Which is why there is currently a bologna and cheese sandwich wedged between two blood bags in the office fridge and why there is a constant CAUTION: WET FLOOR sign in front of the hobgoblin receiving line (hobgoblins are constantly slobbering demons and seem to have better traction than I do).
I rolled my eyes. "I know no one cares about me being human. I've been working here forever. It's the appointments. No cancellations, no phone calls, nothing. I called the last two for follow-ups and couldn't reach anyone."
Nina shrugged. "Who cares?"
"Where do you think they're going? It's not like there is another company out there protecting demons."
"Like a demon Walmart undercutting our fees?"
I crossed my arms in front of my chest. "Yes, Nina, I'm really worried that we're losing business to Walmart."
"Bring it up with Dixon."
I gnawed my bottom lip. "I guess I could. We do have an all-staff meeting at four."
Nina's coal black eyes went wide. "I had totally forgotten about that."
"Cuts into your shopping time?"
"No." She clapped a hand to her forehead and started a rigorous massage. "Do you know how awkward that's going to be? Me and him in the same room together after what happened!"
I leaned forward. "What happened?"
"Ohmigod, you and I live together, Soph! Have you not paid any attention? Me and Dixon?" she enunciated. "The whole dating thing? It totally didn't end well."
"Oh, right. That's probably because it was all in your head. Nina, he's our boss. It's expected that he'd call you. And asking you to collate his copies means just that. The man needs staples."
Nina narrowed her eyes. "Oh, and I suppose you're going to tell me that him asking me to boot up his hard drive was completely innocent, too!"
Nina leaned over to gather her coat and enormously gaudy Betsey Johnson bag. "So you never told me. Shopping on Market or Haight?"
"I don't know. Both. I can't make a decision."
Nina raised an eyebrow and grinned salaciously. "Ain't that the truth?"
I pursed my lips and straightened the already-straight selection of Post-it notes and general office tchotchkes on my desk. "Bite me."
Nina dumped herself into my office chair again and lolled back. She kicked her Via Spiga booties up on my desk, crossing her ankles. "Hey, I'm not judging. If I had two hot otherworldly creatures ready to duke it out to save my afterlife"—and here she splayed a single pale hand against her chest—"I'd do my damndest to keep them both around, too."
She swung out the nail file again. "So about that shopping trip ..."
I gathered a few files from my cabinet. "Give me a half hour and I promise to be your couture mule all the way through San Francisco. Deal?"
Nina cocked her head, her long, newly colored sunshine-blond hair swishing to her elbow. "Deal."
I poked my head into the outer office, where I used to sit (back in the Pete Sampson–werewolf-boss days), and mustered up my most harmless human smile for the vampire sitting at the front desk. He was heavily interested in whatever Cosmo had to say, but I saw his nostril twitch. When I sucked in a breath, he stiffened.
I am pretty well used to living a vampire-filled life, but having coworkers who could smell me at fifty paces is still a little unnerving.
Eldridge Hale raised his perfectly manicured eyebrows—mine looked like mating caterpillars most often—followed by icy silvery eyes.
I waggled my files. "Dixon in? I need to talk to him."
Eldridge flicked a page of his magazine, effectively letting me know he was bored. "He's busy. You'll have plenty of time to talk to him at the staff meeting."
I straightened, clenching my jaw. "I need to talk to him now. It's official UDA business."
"Send her in, Eldridge!" Dixon Andrade's voice was spun silk even as he called from his inner office. His hearing was 100 percent killer vamp, as was his olfactory skill, which meant he got a whiff of my Lady Speed Stick as I nearly jumped out of my pants. Disembodied voices never cease to creep me out.
Though it's been over a year, I found that walking into Dixon Andrade's office still pricked a little pang of sadness in my heart and gave me a small shudder of fear. I don't think I'll ever be able to walk into this part of the UDA again and not think of Pete Sampson, not think of the day I walked in and found my desk smashed to smithereens and his office—including the steel wrist and ankle cuffs used to hold him through full-moon nights—destroyed. The worst thing about that night was that Sampson was missing, blood was spilling in the streets, and Sampson—my Sampson, who had given me my first job, took me under his wing, and brought me more morning donuts than my pants could stand—was the chief suspect.
Now Dixon was lounging behind a desk the size of a Hummer, dressed, as usual, in a top-notch Italian suit that hugged every inch of his six-foot-plus frame. He looked formidable with his dark hair slicked back, his eyebrows pinched in a cautionary scowl. And that was before he showed his fangs.
"Dixon, hi. Thanks for seeing me." I flopped down in his visitor's chair and slid Mrs. Henderson's file across the desk. "Mrs. Henderson didn't show up for her appointment today, and neither did two other regulars over the last week. No answers when I call, no cancellations, nothing."
Dixon's dark brows rose, his eyes catching on something over my left shoulder. I turned and sighed.
If Dixon was San Francisco chic, Vlad LaShay had all the chicness of Castle Drac, circa 1850. His black pants were a heavy wool blend, his red damask vest was resplendent, and his frilly white ascot made him look like a dork.
"Nice ascot," I said.
"Are we making the announcement first, sir?" Vlad asked, effectively ignoring me.
My ears perked. "Announcement?"
Dixon and Vlad shared a look; my head ping-ponged between them.
Finally Dixon shrugged; his broad shoulders nipped his ears. "She'll find out soon enough. Ms. Lawson, Vlad is the Underworld Detection Agency's new head of operations."
Dixon grinned and Vlad beamed.
I wasn't sure what caught me more off guard, the sight of Vlad smiling like someone who wasn't perennially sixteen and mad at the world, or the fact that Vlad, with his face full of smooth planes and soft hints of baby fat, was going to be my manager.
I scratched my head. "Come again?"
"Vlad will be replacing Mr. Turnbow. Mr. Rosenthal will be shifting from support staff to finance, and Eldridge"—Dixon gestured to the blond vamp outside–"will be the new head of internal organization."
"What happened to Mr. Turnbow? And the former head of operations?"
Dixon shrugged dismissively. "It was time for them to move on. We had a cake on Friday."
Leave it to me to miss the one day that management sprang for cake over blood bags.
"Something wrong, Ms. Lawson?"
"No," I said, swinging my head, "not at all. Congratulations, Vlad. This is a really great step for you."
"So you said something about some missed appointments?"
"You know," I answered, snatching the file from Dixon's desk, "it's really not that big a deal."
Exiting, I shut the door to Dixon's office and Eldridge looked up at me from behind his magazine, one eyebrow quirked, lip turned up and slightly parted to show off the scissor-fine edge of a fang.
"See you around, Sophie," he said.
I hopped in the elevator and mashed the UP button. My heart was thudding underneath my Nina-approved button-down blouse; pricks of sweat were breaking out all over.
"Come on, come on," I whispered to the metal box as it lurched its way up—we're thirty-six floors down—to the outer world. There was a jaunty ding and the doors split open to sunshine streaming through the front vestibule of the San Francisco Police Department. The squawk and buzz of department radios and telephones littered the air. That was when I smashed—chest to cardboard box—into Alex Grace.
"Hey, Lawson." Alex grabbed my arms to steady me and I wanted to crawl back against him—sans the box—and sink into those arms.
"Oh, hey, Alex. Sorry, I guess I'm just a little bit distracted."
I blinked, then looked up into those cobalt blue eyes of his. Oh yes, I was definitely distracted.
Alex Grace was heavenly. His milk-chocolate dark hair curled in run-your-fingers-through-it waves, which licked the tops of his completely kissable ears. Those searing eyes were framed by to-die-for lashes. His cheeks were tinged pink, and his lips were pressed into his trademark half smile, which was all at once genuine and cocky, with just a hint of sex appeal. A man like this was otherworldly.
And Alex had the two tiny scars just below his shoulder blades to prove it.
Alex was an earthbound angel. Fallen, if you want to be technical. But he lacked the certain technicality that made other fallen angels so annoying: He didn't want to kill me. Most of the time.
I tried to tear my eyes away from his beautiful, full lips—lips that I distinctly remembered kissing—and focused hard on my rogue clients; but even though we had decided to be "just friends," almost six months ago, there was still a sizzling something between me and Alex. Call it forbidden love or my addiction to Harlequin novels, but Alex Grace was not an easy man to get over.
After all, he was an angel.
"Oh, this?" Alex shifted the box and I rolled up on my tiptoes and lifted the lid.
Excerpted from UNDER SUSPICION by HANNAH JAYNE Copyright © 2012 by Hannah Schwartz . 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 12, 2012
In this chapter of the Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles, Sophie has noticed that several of her clients have not arrived for their monthly appointments, including hot-headed dragon Mrs. Henderson. Since Mr. Dixon, new vampire head of UDA, doesn’t share Sophie’s concerns, she takes it upon herself to check on Mrs. Henderson only to find her home trashed and dragon’s blood smeared everywhere. When even Sophie’s on again/off again love, fallen angel and FBI agent, Alex Grace doesn’t believe her, Sophie decides to tackle what she believes is a supernatural killer on her own.
With the help of her best friend, roommate and vampire, Nina LaShay, Nina’s brooding nephew Vlad and Sophie’s sexy Guardian, Will Sherman, Sophie tries to locate the killer; if only she could get everyone focused on the problem at hand.
Currently, Nina is falling in love with Harley Cavanaugh, author of the new book Vampires, Werewolves and Other Things that Don’t Exist, and Sophie can’t convince her that she can’t get to happily ever after with a man who doesn’t believe she even exists.
Vlad is still busy fighting for the Vampire Empowerment Movement (VERM) so that all vampires are in charge and are free to dress like Count Chocula; and breaking VERM rules by dating a breather himself.
And with things off again with Alex and his being on a stakeout across the country, things are starting to heat up between Guardian Will and Sophie in his absence. (“Guardian—and not in that “until your eighteen” sort of way, but in an “until the balance of power has been restored between the good and the fallen, I will protect you” kind of way).
While Sophie stumbles through another investigation in her bumblign way, you will again be laughing and chuckling at the snarky comments and zippy one-liners. Once again, Hannah creates a world and characters that are so charming and delightful.
This story was fun as well as entertaining and just thoroughly enjoyable. I continue to look forward to where she will take us next. I am also looking forward to seeing how this will play out with the Sophie/Will/Alex triangle. Sophie has been “ready to lay down my soul” in love with Alex from the beginning, and although he is noticeably attracted to her, he is standoffish in his “I’m trying to get back to heaven” way. Will he change his mind now that the competition for Sophie’s affection has heated up? Oooo, I can’t wait to see.
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Posted May 6, 2012
I love this urban fantasy serie for many reasons, the humor, the suspense, the romance to name a few. A lot of the mainstream zany sleuth mysteries are a little too contrived. Usually these types of books (which are about as funny as an episode of Full House) involve the requisite zany granny, an eccentric sidekick and a snarky protagonist. But in this series, the humor isn't forced. The author clearly has a silly side and it comes through in Sophie's goofy antics. Once again Hannah Jayne delivers a tightly-plotted mystery jam-packed with humor, hijinks and off-the-wall characters. She does a fine job keeping the pace and tying all the plot threads together in the final pages. Fans of Juliet Blackwell, Charlaine Harris and Victoria Laurie can't go wrong with a Hannah Jayne mystery. Can't wait to sink my teeth into Sophie's next big adventure!
Go to Chick Lit Cafe for the full review!
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Posted April 7, 2013
Ok addition to the series
Sophie Lawson has gotten a promotion at the Underworld Detection Agency. She’s the new Head of the Fallen Angel Division. Since that job doesn’t really take up a lot of her time she’s also taking care of other clients. Until some of her clients start turning up dead and many of her still alive clients decide it would be wiser and safer to see someone else. Now, Sophie has even more time to investigate why demons are being attacked or outright murdered.
During all of this her vampire roommate Nina has fallen in love with an author. An author who researches and writes about how vampires and other paranormal creatures aren’t real. How ironic that he’s dating a vampire and he’s clueless. Alex Grace, the Fallen Angel and police detective, has taken off to parts unknown for some stake out and only her Guardian Will is sticking close to her while Sophie goes from one close call to another.
Well-written with a bit of a faster plot than the last two books, I’m still not feeling the love of the characters that I would like this far into a series. After everything that has happened to Sophie the last two books you would think her friends and colleagues would show a little less disbelief when she insists something bad is happening to demons. Instead they pooh pooh her and tell her the incidents are just coincidence. Then there’s Sophie herself. She still cries too much and now she’s always talking about peeing her pants. Again, after everything that has happened to her, why hasn’t she grown a set of balls or something? Still not liking Alex, so I’m very glad he’s not in this book much. The one character I really like is Will. I hope we continue to see a lot of him. The ending was a bit of a shocker. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book.
*Book source ~ Many thanks to Kensington for providing me with a review copy. Please see disclaimer page on my blog.
Posted July 30, 2012
I will say it was a great plot and a great idea for a story however the character Sophie and Vlad made me want to smack not only them but my computer. Thankfully I didn't. Sophie after about the fifth repeat of what she believed was hapening in the underworld, to the same people I started seeing that Sophie was acting a little bit obssesed and crazy. I half expected her to start twitching and spasming along with drinking too much coffee. Then she has these melt downs that became all too frequent. The cover of the book poses a woman with the air of strength and danger however the girl in the book was more of a chicken than anything. She spent more time crying and feinting that I was begining to think she would become a shriveled prune with a concussion. The jokes and the rest of the characters where great and had me laughing quite a few times but I couldn't even finish the book. I dont like someone being portayed as a levelheaded person when their actions say they are overdramatic and irratic oh and she repeats herself way too much.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2012
The book was nothing more than a stumbling, fumbling, farce from beginning to end. Nobody believes that a dragon is dead when the room is fiiled with blood, other supes are disappearing or being attacked yet the "detection" agency thinks there is no problem. Really??? It seems so contrived just so the heroine could single-handedly once again stumble her way through to be the hero. I realize this is urban fantasy but I can't make myself stupid enough to even partially get into this story line. Even the other characters seemed to have dumbed-down since the last book. And now we have a love triangle. This is no urban fantasy--it's a romantic comedy. The first book was very promising; the second not as much but still ok but now--definitely on the downhill fast train. I don't think I can force myself to buy the sequel as I could only make it through the first 50 pages if this one until I skipped ahead to the last 20 pages to get it over with. Surprisingly enough I didn't really miss anything by doing so.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 9, 2012
Reviewed by Alice D. for Readers Favorite
Sophie Lawson is human but she is privileged to work for the Underworld Detective Agency, administered by vampire Dixon Andrade, which solves underworld crimes. The UDA is located floors below the San Francisco Police Department and the police don't seem to mind their down below neighbors. Sophie's room mate back home is the beautiful vampire Nina and her guardian angel is handsome Will who lives across the hall from them. Sophie finds Nina's nephew Vlad and UDA receptionist Kale in a compromising position in her apartment, but that is nothing compared to what is ahead. Mrs. Henderson, the dragon, is murdered; Kale is run down by a car; banshee Bettina is brutally attacked; and someone tries to run a stake through Sophie's heart even though she is not a vampire. Will takes his job seriously and tries to keep Sophie safe as she investigates who wants underworld creatures banished. Could the culprit possibly be Nina's new lover, the human author Harley?
"Under Suspicion" is a well-conceived and well-written story of vampires, vampire-friendly humans and other demons as they battle against someone who wants them all gone. The use of Harley as an author who writes a best-selling book on why underworld creatures don't exist is an excellent literary device that makes the story's plot line exciting. San Francisco is an excellent setting for this story whose characters of Sophie, Nina the vampire, her nephew Vlad, Will, Kale and so on are totally believable even to the readers who are not drawn to vampire stories. Sophie Lawson stories will appeal to many readers, vampire story fans or otherwise.
Posted May 8, 2012
The cover I guess is supposed to be ironic. Sophie is hilarious but not a leather wearing crime fighter, well maybe in her head. This is a great series.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 21, 2013
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Posted October 7, 2012
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Posted May 24, 2012
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Posted November 4, 2012
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