Home > Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(4)

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(4)
Author: K.F. Breene

I crinkled my nose at that visual. “So much for me getting him back,” I muttered. “You expect me to believe you didn’t know about a mass entrance of old vampires? Give me a break.”

“I don’t care what you believe. That is the truth. I’m no happier than you are. That mark was supposed to come in alive. The bounty is void. But…” A flash of confusion crossed his features. “I did get a note. It was taped to my office door when I got in this morning.” He reached into his drawer, extracted a piece of paper, and pushed it across the desk. “The head arrived via parcel, so the note was delivered independently. We checked the security cameras, but we didn’t see anyone deliver it.”

I grabbed the note. “Come on, everyone knows vampires don’t show up on film or video.”

“Not everyone. Humans, for example, don’t even know they exist.”

I flipped the note open. “You know what I meant.”

“The video didn’t show any doors opening or things moving around. One second, the door was clear, and the next, the note was on it. Why not leave the head at the same time?”

I scanned the note as my heart sank into the abyss of my body, which somehow didn’t stop it from thumping manically. I met his assessing stare. “The leader was an elder. He could open and close a door between frames. Getting past your shoddy security wouldn’t be a problem for him. He brought a host of upper-mid levelers last night. I’m sure he had his people attend to the head.” I shook the note. “And in answer to this—” I huffed. “No. Hard no. No way. Not on your life.”

“It wouldn’t be on my life. It’d be on yours.”

My clenched fists matched my jaw. “How the hell did you get this position?”

“Stating the obvious really goes a long way. Idiots tend to ignore the thing staring them right in the face.”

I put a boot on the door, a little reminder of the destruction I was capable of. “Are you calling me an idiot?”

“Again, just stating the obvious. Do you want another case?” He tapped a brown file on the edge of his desk. “Eight hundred bucks, dead or alive. Unless you take a desk job, I’m afraid this is all I have.”

“I can’t take a desk job.” I stuck out my hand. “I don’t have legit paperwork for the Brink. You know that.”

“You merely have to buy some. You know that.”

“With what? My beatbox broke, so I can’t take to the curb for money.”

“I don’t know what any of that means.”

I flipped open the file and my heart sank even lower. The thing felt like it was trying to squeeze into my boots. “All this risk for a measly eight hundred?”

“He only bothers the magical community. A couple of his neighbors got together to raise the money. It isn’t on the government’s dime, so I can’t send my people. It’s either you or no one.”

I groaned and dropped the hand holding the file. “Why not the shifters?”

“They have their hands full with the vampires. That’s what they said, anyway. Word is, they tried, but lost two of theirs. This is heavy magic, and they don’t have that kind of arsenal. Neither do I, if you want to know the truth. This guy has dabbled in the dark arts. He’ll throw hexes at you that you might not be ready for. Word of caution.”

I shook my head and tapped the folder against my leg, thinking about the vampire’s note. “I have to eat,” I said vaguely.

Pity crossed his features for a brief moment, but was wiped away immediately. “That’s all I’ve got, kid. Sorry about the vamp trouble. Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

I blew out a breath.

A silent beat. “So, you going to do it?” he asked.

We both knew he wasn’t asking about the file.

I glanced at the note again. I didn’t know. I said as much.

“In addition to that note, I got the official notice of a bounty.” The captain nodded toward his computer screen. “They’re doing it by the book, though the actual mark is not yet known. There’s a catch, though. If you accept the bounty, they’ll be assigning you a vamp partner.”

“Wait.” I let my confusion show on my face. “What?”

“Together, you’ll track down the mark, bring him in alive, and collect the bounty. You will take half. The vamp will take half.”

“They’re going to take back half of the bounty they put up? That doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s our system. Otherwise, they’d have to personally hire you. This way they’re doing it through us.”

“Why bother?”

The captain smirked. “Working through us means the wolves have to leave them alone. They’re using you and my department as a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s pretty clever, really.”

I shrugged. “With the power I saw last night, the wolves wouldn’t stand a chance. Not unless they pulled in bigger numbers from other parts of the country.”

“Which they’d do for a chance to take out an elder. Roger would be all over that.”

I swore under my breath. “Still. Why me? Why not Garret?”

“I have no idea. Maybe something you did last night impressed them.”

“Doubtful.” I scrubbed my fingers through my hair before redoing my ponytail.

“So…you going to do it?”

“How much?” I asked, thinking of running away and joining a circus instead. It would make more sense than my life.

“Your cut would be fifty grand.”

The muscles in my jaw went slack. A wash of tingles worked down my body. That was a lot of money. That would let me disappear for a good long time. I needed that.

“I don’t know,” I said honestly, defeated. “Have you ever heard of anyone going into the vampires’ lair and coming out alive?”

“No. But then, I’ve never heard of anyone being invited, either.”

“I was more commanded than invited.”

“People don’t boss you around. That’s an invite if anything is.”

He knew me well.

“The elves don’t have jurisdiction within that lair.” I bit my lip. “Anything could go on in there.”

The captain tapped his fingers against his desk, something he did when he was working out a problem. “Does he need your help, or is he curious about you? Maybe he’s testing you. There is no way to guess what a vampire that old is really up to.”

“You’re sure it was the elder?”

He nodded slowly, his eyes surveying me. “He probably wants to know if you’re magical, and if so, what breed you are.”

I’d come to the same conclusion. “I should’ve showered to get rid of the weird stench,” I joked.

The captain’s gaze turned piercing. He’d said it once and never repeated himself: I looked human but didn’t smell it, I was chock-full of powerful magic, and most people would guess, correctly, that I was a hybrid of some sort, but I wasn’t a type that had ever been catalogued before. He’d ended his analysis with, “Reagan, that doesn’t add up. People notice.”

No, it did not add up. Yes, people did notice. Luckily, as long as I kept to myself, meaning no magical BFFs or drunken gabfests about my ancestry, I would be in the clear.

After a moment, he huffed and glanced beside me. “I’m going to have to dock you for that door.”

“It wasn’t me. It was the one-armed man.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “Actually, I bet it was the vampire. They are damned clumsy, aren’t they? Surely he knocked it off the hinges when he was putting up that note.” He nodded decisively. “I’ll write that up.”

I couldn’t help a smile. “You’re an asshole, but you’re my asshole.”

His grumpy expression turned quizzical. “Is that from a movie?”

“I feel like it is, but…I’m not really sure, to be honest. Fits, though, no?”

“Too touchy-feely for my taste. Now get out of here. And leave Garret alone when you walk past. Every time you break one of his body parts, we get behind.”

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