Right on the heels of The Nefarious Necklace, here comes The Halloween Haunting! And yes, I know I published The Nefarious Necklace months ago. Right on the fictional heels is what I meant. As in, the fourth book ends and the fifth book begins. Our heroes barely have time to shower the smoke from their hair – and they’re off!
***Raw and unedited, just for you! Snip begins. (updated 11/25/2017)***
Surviving a fire? All in a day’s work. Smoke inhalation? No big deal. At least, that’s what my vamp roommate Wembley and my sometimes partner Alex and I had decided.
It’s possible we had a tiny case of FOMO. Fear of missing out. It’s an affliction that the three of us shared. In this instance, none us wanted to miss our buddy Bradley’s scheduled appointment with his shady hacker contact.
She preferred to work locally, lived in a retirement community, and had invited Bradley to bingo night for the info handoff. All intriguing choices in the context of shadowy information freelancing. Intriguing enough that Alex, Wembley, and I took just enough time to shower off the stink of smoke that had permeated our hair and clothes and were ready to roll again.
Not that Bradley was excited to have us.
It’s possible he’d relented because I looked so pitiful that he couldn’t say no. Having big adventures were hard on a lady, especially if they included a near-death by immolation experience and losing a few cups of blood to a zombie girl.
Yeah, that also just happened. Fire, smoke, blood loss. It had been a big day, even by my very skewed vampy standards. I hadn’t even slept. Contrary to popular opinion—primarily Alex and Wembley’s—sleep was a requirement for me, not a luxury. And if it was eight hours, all the better.
But sleep or no sleep. I was ready to go. Ready to tackle the next big outing. Ready for exciting—
“Slow down with the coffee, Mallory.” Alex retrieved a bottle of water from the fridge and handed it to me. “Just because caffeine doesn’t make you want to leap tall buildings, doesn’t mean you should drink an entire pot.”
“Hey, that happened one time,” Wembley grumbled. “A guy thinks he can fly one time and some people never let him forget it. Besides, she sees ghosts and hears colors when she over-imbibes.”
“Traitor.” I stuck my tongue out at him. That’s what happened when I spent too much time with my sentient sword Tangwystl. I started to pick up some of her more juvenile behaviors. At least I didn’t blow a raspberry. Tangwystl loved blowing raspberries. “Unlike Wembley, I can drink coffee and keep my head.” I smirked at Wembley.
Bradley watched the interplay between us with some concern. “Do you all have to go?” Bradley asked with a skeptical look. “One person is back-up. Three people is babysitting.”
When had Bradley gotten so smart? People smart, he’d been a brain as long as I’d known him. Because it wasn’t just the grandma hacker we wanted to meet. I think we all wanted to keep a bit of an eye on Bradley…but mostly meet hacker grandma.
“No way I’m missing this,” Wembley said.
“If she’s going, I’m going.” Alex said, indicating me with a nod of his head. Maybe he was turning more into my partner-partner than my sometimes-partner.
Boone, my bloodhound nudged my hand with his cold nose. I absently rubbed his silky red ears. “Boone’s staying home. So we’re not all going.”
A quick examination of Boone’s eyes showed them to be less bloodshot than just an hour ago. He had more than a touch of magic, left over from a magical bond he’d had with his Djinn handler. Boone still mourned her loss. In his houndy head, her absence wasn’t improved by the fact that her killers had been brought to justice.
I worried that without the bond, his magic would fade. But he still healed faster than a normal dog and still understood human speech, at least when he was around me.
Alex knelt next to Boone and examined his eyes, as well. Then checked his gums. “He seems just about back to normal.”
Boone’s tail thumped vigorously in agreement. Apparently, smoke inhalation wasn’t enough to slow him down more than a few hours. Thank goodness. I thought at one point he wasn’t going to make it.
Boone sighed and wondered off to sleep—and drool—on either the guest bed or mine.
“Your dog is smarter than you,” Bradley said. He looked us, in all our ragtag glory, and said, “You should take the night off.”
“But then you wouldn’t have any back-up for your big bingo adventure.” Wembley waggled his full eyebrows. I almost missed the bushy version. He’d taken up with my mother recently and had assumed a more groomed appearance.
He’d also lost almost all of his paunch due to regular sword training sessions with Alex, something they’d done in the past but that Wembley had let slide in recent years.
I glanced at Alex, who was just finishing of the last of an orange. I was pretty sure Alex could kick Wembley’s butt. Ex-Berserker Viking or not, Wembley didn’t have Alex’s dedication to training.
“Wembley, do you have a secret passion for Bingo?” At his sheepish look, I added, “My mother would not approve.”
But he just shrugged. “Maybe you don’t know your mom as well as you think you do.”
Bradley sighed. “It’s time to go.”
While Alex washed his hands in the sink, he said, “Are you guys sure this is a good idea? Bradley doesn’t think he needs backup, and he’s right: we’re all beat.”
Wembley and I both replied as one, “Yes!”
First, Bradley always needed back-up. But mostly Wembley or I refused to miss our chance to meet a dark-web cruising, retirement-home-living, hacker grandma.
If you haven’t checked out the series yet, this is book one…