Blue Reynolds has nabbed his fair share of criminals—with and without the help of his alluring half-fairy partner Isabella Davis—but this one is proving to be more slippery than most. As Blue and Izzy investigate who might have wanted a lowly intern dead—and why—they begin to uncover a diabolical plan that could put both of their lives in danger…and unearth shocking secrets that stretch deep into Blue’s shadowy family history.
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The Lady in Pink
A Deadly After Ever Mystery
By J. A. Kazimer
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 J.A. Kazimer
All rights reserved.
The stench of charred flesh wormed its way into my nostrils, bringing tears to my eyes. Wisps of smoke curled up from the blackened corpse lying on the floor at my feet. Not enough, though, to obscure the taut flesh left on the face. A pair of glasses—thick, black, and round, the kind favored by hipsters as well as the legally blind—was fused to the skull. The poor guy on the floor fell into the latter category. I should know. James Wild, a misnomer to anyone who knew him, was (or rather, used to be) my intern at Reynolds & Davis Securities.
And now he was one hell of an overcooked critter.
Surprisingly enough, given my tendency to "accidently" electrocute my employees, I had nothing to do with James's current extra-crispy consistency. Not that the two cops glaring at me believed a single word of my emphatically delivered plea of innocence.
Detective Goldie Locks, the lead on the case, glanced from James to me and then to my gloved hands. "Mr. Reynolds, do you—"
I cut her off. "Blue."
"Call me Blue." I shot her an innocent smile. "After all, Detective, we're practically family."
Her lips thinned. "How's that?"
"You're a detective." I motioned to the gun on her hip. "And I'm a licensed PI. Two peas in a similar pod."
Her snort of laughter filled the room. "Not quite. My partner"—she motioned to the second detective, a man in a boring brown suit named Peter Rabit—"and I are real detectives. The kind who protect and serve. You"—her eyes locked on mine—"are a blue-haired menace with power problems and a pink-winged fairy sidekick."
"Half fairy," I mumbled.
I rubbed the bluish stubble on my chin, which stood out in direct contrast to the paleness of my skin. I really needed to get out more. Get some sun. Maybe take a nice vacation on some sun-soaked beach. Hell, I couldn't remember the last day it hadn't rained in New Never City. I cleared my throat and repeated my statement, "I said half fairy. Izzy is partially human." Not that my statement mattered. People, especially cops, saw things only in black and white, no shades of pink fairy wings. To them, my business partner, Isabella Davis, would always be one thing—the former freaking Tooth Fairy. A failed one at that.
But I knew better.
Izzy was much more than a nice set of wings, even though she did have a hell of a nice pair. Since we'd reluctantly joined forces a little more than a year ago she had taken my fledgling PI business to unprecedented heights. Reynolds & Davis Securities had raked in more over the last quarter than I'd made my entire career, which, given the state of my career prior to Izzy's and my joining forces, wasn't a whole hell of a lot. But I now had hope for a prosperous future.
Three months ago we'd solved the missing-jewel-encrusted-mittens case, one of the biggest cases of my career. Why some rich asshole had given a pair of mittens encrusted with billions in jewels to his latest mistress was beyond me, but it paid off for our company. The media attention alone made us a household name, even if that household was shaped like a shoe and filled with cheating spouses and embezzling kids no one knew what to do with.
Thanks to that case, we now employed seven full-time investigators, three secretaries, a bitchy receptionist, and James, my recently hired intern whose body was currently smoldering on my apartment floor. Good, still-breathing employees were so hard to find.
How the hell James had ended up fried to a crisp on my shag carpet was a mystery. The last time I'd seen him was yesterday afternoon in my corner office at Reynolds & Davis. He was nagging me about this or that. I never paid much attention to the kid. As I'd said to Izzy a million times, what did I need with an intern? But she'd refused to listen, and now poor James was one large charcoal briquette.
Not that one had a thing to do with the other.
I was fairly sure.
Okay, 80 percent.
My gaze traveled from the corpse to the other side of the room, noting small, barely discernable white clumps of debris along the path. I ran my gloved finger over the closest cluster, studied it, and then drew my finger to my tongue.
I spit the crystallized powder out.
I had a pretty good idea what had happened to James.
And it wasn't good.CHAPTER 2
"Mr. Reynolds, did you just eat evidence?" Detective Locks frowned, her eyes suspicious and a little confused. She glanced from my finger to the body on the floor, her mouth flattening into a thin line.
I held up my gloved finger, showing her the crusty white stuff before she called the guys in white coats to take my ass away.
"So?" she asked, peering closer at the substance. "You don't wash your floor." She gestured around my less-than-spotless apartment. In my defense, I hated housework, which was why I'd hired a maid. Sadly she'd quit two weeks ago after I'd accidently shocked her for the fourth time. Locks lifted her shoulders in a shrug. "Color me shocked."
I rubbed the crystals between my fingers. Tiny particles drifted to the floor, sparkling in the shaft of sunlight beaming through my half-open curtain. "You're missing the big picture, Detective."
The corner of her mouth lifted, softening her normally beautiful albeit stern features. "Is that so? Why don't you be a good little blue-haired boy and tell me just what I'm supposedly missing?"
I ignored her blue-haired-boy dig and instead focused on the matter at hand. "Murder."
I pointed to the white deposits sprinkled across my floor. The trail led from James's charred corpse to a few feet from the body, where a barely discernable size-eleven footprint was preserved in the debris. Locks's gaze followed my finger, her eyes growing wider. "Someone stood right there as this"—I rubbed my fingers together again—"was thrown on the floor."
"And that proves what?" She shook her head. "We already know James Wild was inside your apartment before the accident. He must've dropped his bottle of water on the electrical cord"—she motioned to the twelve-ounce plastic bottle lying on its side—"and it shorted out, electrocuting him in the process. Happens all the time."
"Not quite," I said, stepping over the body to examine the scene closer. There was an electrical cord from a nearby lamp running under the body, the plastic coating slightly frayed. In itself not a huge deal, but add water and a conduit, and anyone standing there for more than a few seconds would turn a nice golden brown.
The white stuff, which turned out to be rock salt, was the smoking gun, though.
For without it James's death looked like an accident—tragic, but nothing more than bad luck for my blackened intern. But rock salt wasn't a common household item, especially in my house. Which meant two things.
The killer had brought the salt with him or her.
And James wasn't the intended victim.
I smiled at the thought.
Twenty minutes after my big reveal, Detective Locks allowed the coroner to stuff James's charred body into a large, black ziplock baggie and carry it off on a stainless steel stretcher. I watched through dispassionate eyes as the corpse was rolled past, the wheels creaking with each rotation.
The poor guy.
James's only sin was working for me.
And doing a fairly bad job, at that.
Hell, the kid couldn't file worth a damn.
I sighed. If he hadn't let himself inside my apartment, James very well might still be alive. Guilt sparked deep inside me. He'd walked into my murder. I owed it to him to find the killer. Not to mention how much I would enjoy exacting my own revenge. I cracked my knuckles in anticipation. It had been far too long since I'd felt the joy of fist meeting facial bones.
A loud shriek from the hallway drew my attention.
Izzy had arrived in fully pink-winged glory.
"No!" she shouted. I peeked around the doorway in time to watch her charge the gurney where the body bag lay. Her face was as white as snow. And not the kind sold by Mary and her band of little thug lambs. "Blue ... Oh, God ... Blue ..." Big, dripping tears rolled down her cheeks, highlighting the whiteness of her delicate skin. The tears quickly dried, and her expression twisted from grief to rage. Her eyes burned violet with it. "Damn you! I told you to move out of this deathtrap." She followed up her statement with a right punch to the wall a foot from my doorway. Plaster crumbled, leaving a shapely hole in the wall.
"There goes my security deposit," I said, stepping into the hallway to stop her from further assaulting my premises.
Her gaze flew to mine, slowly moving up and down as if checking for bullet holes and bloodstains. Something flickered in her eyes, something I didn't like at all, though I couldn't figure out exactly why. "I ... I don't understand ..." she murmured.
A smile lifted the corners of my mouth. "Well, Izzy, it's fairly simple. I'm not dead."
"Then who ..." She pointed to the gurney and the two terrified attendants standing on each side of James's charbroiled body. Both looked as unhappy as two guys could be while carrying a dead body.
"James," I said.
"James? James who?"
I rolled my eyes. "The intern. The one you hired to torture me. That James."
A wrinkle formed on her forehead, a wrinkle that did nothing to detract from her beauty. "You electrocuted the intern?" Her hands flew to her hips as if she was scolding a naughty child rather than a full-grown man. "Damn it, Blue. Do you know how hard it was to find someone willing to work for you in the first place? I had to beg James to take the job."
"I didn't kill him," I said through clenched teeth.
I raised a bluish eyebrow. "Is that all you have to say?"
Her wings fluttered behind her. "Good?"
Again I rolled my eyes. A habit I found myself doing more and more around Izzy. She exasperated me in so many ways, drove me to drink, even more than normal. And yet, I still loved walking into the office and seeing her in all her bossy glory. Apparently I held some latent masochistic tendencies.
I shook my head. Her fairy dust must be giving me a contact high. Why else would I sound like a schoolboy with a crush? I didn't think of Izzy that way. She was like a sister to me. I didn't want her in the slightest way. We were partners. Some might even say friends, if they didn't know anything about our rocky past.
"So what happened?" Izzy's softly delivered question drew me from my thoughts. "How did James end up dead inside your apartment? Was it the wiring again?" The wiring she referred to was the bane of every tenant in the building. The lights often flickered, turning off and on at will during odd times throughout the day and night. About 70 percent of the time the flickering had absolutely nothing to do with yours electrically.
The building was old and inexpensive, which was why I'd first moved in. I'd stayed for a variety of reasons since making it big in the PI business. The biggest of which was, it pissed Izzy off to no end. "Wasn't the wiring"—I paused, weighing my words—"exactly."
Her head tilted to the side, showing off the slender slope of her neck. "What's that supposed to mean? What aren't you telling me, Blue?" Her eyes narrowed on my face. I tried not to squirm. There was so much I wasn't telling Izzy. Things I would never tell her, for both our sakes.
I cleared my throat. "James's death wasn't an accident. He was murdered."
"Murdered?" She shook her head, her mouth a thin line. "Are you crazy? Who would want James ..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes grew wide. "He wasn't the one they wanted dead." She grabbed a fistful of my shirt, shocking herself in the process as her skin met mine. The small spark didn't seem to faze her. "What the hell did you do now, Blue?"
A good question.
Just one I didn't have a ready answer to.CHAPTER 3
With Detective Locks's stern warning not to leave the city ringing in my ears, I gave Izzy the slip, ducking out of my apartment while she was down the hall talking to my supposedly psychic neighbor, Gizelle. I headed to the street, lighting a cigarette as dusk slowly shifted to night. A few blocks up I stopped, my gaze scanning the turrets and stained glass covering New Never City's only Catholic church, Our Lady of the Tramp. It had been a very long time since my last confession. I doubted the priest had enough time to hear all of my sins. Hell, I'd committed four of the deadly ones by breakfast. And probably would commit a few more before bed.
That was life in the big city for a PI.
On his day off.
Crushing my cigarette under the heel of my boot, I headed farther up the street. A princess in a tight leather dress called to me, offering more than true love's kiss. Had I not just left the scene of a violent murder, I might've considered taking her up on her offer. That was until I noticed the excess bulge in her tights. "Thanks anyway," I said with a wave.
"Your loss," she said in a deep voice.
Be that as it may, I didn't feel even an ounce of regret as I arrived at my final destination a few blocks up—the Mother Goose. My usual watering hole. What it lacked in atmosphere, cleanliness, and customer service—and it did lack a lot in each—it more than made up for in degenerate clientele and cheap albeit watered-down whiskey. I opened the door, letting the stench of years of smoke, stale beer, and body odor wash over me. For a minute, I felt completely at home.
I was careful to keep my back to the wall as I moved inside. No point being an easy target. If someone wanted me dead he'd damn well have to work for it. I wouldn't succumb to an "accident" like James had, not anytime soon, I hoped. My mind flashed to my intern's burned flesh and I shivered.
My mind drifted to the look in Izzy's eyes when she saw that I was alive earlier this afternoon. I wasn't sure whether it was pleasure, fear, or something much, much worse in her gaze. I shook off that thought. Izzy wasn't the stage-an-accident kind of killer. If she wanted me dead, two things were clear. One, she'd use her hands and/or wings to do it. And two, I'd be dead. No question about it. Izzy wasn't a fairy to be messed with.
So just who wanted me dead?
Another group of winged assholes came to mind. The fairies blamed me for everything, from restarting the bloody hundred-year war with the Shadows to losing their Tooth Fairy. Of course, I held quite a few grudges against the winged devils too. After all, they had tried, desperately at times, to murder me. Not to mention their constant lying, cheating, and shooting off my pinkie toe.
My foot still ached when it rained.
Which it often did in the city.
"Well, well," a gravelly voice called from a ripped barstool a few feet away. "Little Boy Blue. Where you been, sugar?"
Rather than answer, I walked passed the speaker without pausing and flagged the bartender down with a wave. Not one to be ignored, the willowy woman on the stool, her skin yellowed from years of bar smoke and liver disease, slammed her drink on the bar top to gain my attention. "Don't be rude, Blue. Buy a lady a drink."
I licked my lips, slowly turning to face Fern with a raised eyebrow.
She let out a loud snort. "One drink, luv. And I'll make it worth your while."
A shiver of disgust rolled over my flesh. Thankfully I'd yet to get drunk enough to find out if what Fern promised would in fact be worth more than the shots of penicillin I'd need afterward. "I'm good. But thanks anyway."
Her snort was louder this time, echoed by her twin sister, Fern, planted on the barstool next to her. "Not what we heard."
I winced. Had one of my electrified one-night stands been talking out of turn? "And just what have you heard?"
The first Fern sat straighter on her stool, downed the brown liquor in her glass, and smiled with satisfaction. "Many things," she whispered as she waved the bartender over. "A bottle of your finest mead and I'll tell you a story." She paused, licking her thin lips. "About a certain boy with a price on his blue-haired head."
Fern finally had my complete attention. I strode to her stool and leaned down so she could hear my every word. "You better not be playing me." I emphasized my warning by rubbing my hands together, generating glowing blue sparks of electrical current.
Excerpted from The Lady in Pink by J. A. Kazimer. Copyright © 2015 J.A. Kazimer. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Blue/James was a licensed P I and his intern had been electrocuted to death in Blue’s apartment. Isabella- Iggy was Blue’s business partner and was ½ fairy. They had started Reynolds And Davis Securities together a little over a year ago. Blue was suppose to be the victim . Blue was trying to find his birth parents who had left him on a doorstep when he was an infant but someone doesn’t want Blue to find out hence the contract out on him. Also he was looking into fairies that were being kidnapped for their fairy dust. Izzy was the former tooth fairy and the fairies are mad at Blue because of this. Izzy and Blue are attracted to each other but Blue doesn’t want to take it past the partner/friend line. This was definitely a different take on a fairy tale type story. I laughed but liked the fairy tale characters in this story as well as names of some of the places in the story. Throw in a little paranormal and you have one very entertaining story that I liked. I like the twists and turns of this story. I recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
The Lady in Pink by J. Z. Kazimer is the second book in the Ever After series. Blue Reynolds is not having a good day. He came home to find a very crispy intern in his flat. James Wild had only been working as an intern for Reynolds and Davis Securities for a few months. Blue knows the first person the detectives will blame is him. He cannot help his little electrical problem (he was born with electricity running through his body). He has taken to wearing leather gloves to prevent shocking employees and clients. Detective Goldie Locks (I am not kidding) is the lead detective on the case. She does think that Blue might have had something to do with it until he points out that he would not have left the body in his own apartment. Then Blue notices the rock salt on the floor, water, and a lamp with a frayed cord. This was deliberate. That means someone was trying to kill Blue! Isabella “Izzy” Davis is half human and half fairy with beautiful pink wings. She was the Tooth Fairy until she stepped down and convinced them to start a democracy government. She is now working with Blue and is rapidly expanding his business. She has hired Clark Boyer III to be their new Vice President of Marketing. Blue dislikes him on sight and even more so when he catches Clark ogling Izzy. Blue and Izzy are attracted to each other, but they refuse to acknowledge it. After someone sets Blue’s office on fire, Blue realizes someone does not want him pursuing his investigation into his parents. Blue was left at an orphanage as a baby. He has been working to find out more about his birth family. When a copy of the file is found at Izzy’s, her apartment is torched. Blue and Izzy set out to find the culprit. The Lady in Pink is a cute book, but I was not in love with it. I liked how the writer changed the fairy tale information around to fit a human world. There is a Wonderland, gnomes, fairies (with nasty attitudes), etc. Blue is Little Boy Blue and he lives in New Never City (a take on Neverland). I just wish there was more mystery and less lust. Blue is constantly getting his knickers in a twist because Clark or another man is looking at Izzy (which leads to scorching and fires). I was hoping for more paranormal book with mystery and less romance (sex). I like some romance in a book, but I think this was just over the top. I give The Lady in Pink 3.5 out of 5 stars. I liked the idea, but I did not enjoy the whole book. There is also a case of the missing fairies (which was not solved in this book) and problems with Izzy’s family (Clayton and Peyton who like to cause trouble). The Lady in Pink can be read without having read the first book in the series. I received a complimentary copy of The Lady in Pink from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.