Home > Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(9)

Born in Fire (Fire and Ice Trilogy #1)(9)
Author: K.F. Breene

“The vampire thing was a joke, and yes, it is. I don’t cart dead people around when I go on jobs.” After a quick decision, I set Big C on his stomach so he was still hiding the book, and darted for his laptop. Weird porn searches aside, the machine was pretty new, and I’d make good use of it. Once it was stowed in its computer bag and slung over my shoulder, I bent for Big C again.

Margaret started, giving me room, her eyes somewhat glassy. Clearly she’d known him before he’d gone crazy, and now she seemed to feel a bit squishy in the middle from his passing. But I didn’t have much sympathy for someone who’d tagged a bounty notice with dead or alive. She’d made her bed, and I’d help her lie in it.

I started for the door. “All right, then. Have a good one.”

“Wait, you’re taking his computer?”

“Evidence,” I mumbled as I hastened down the steps.

At the sidewalk, I grabbed my duffel bag. I would put my weapons and everything into it later. I didn’t want to give Margaret time for more questions.

With a body on my shoulder that, happily, wasn’t leaking blood, I quickly headed down the street. I went a couple blocks away, making sure I wasn’t followed, before stopping by a sprawling bush. I set the dead body on the ground and jabbed my app for Lyft, the ride-share service that made my life so much easier. That done, I stowed all my weapons and rearranged Big C so he looked like he was lounging near the plant. Finally, I sat down next to him, really hoping the person whose yard we were crashing wasn’t home. That’d be an awkward conversation.

When the driver pulled up, I hopped to my feet and opened the back door.

“Can you pop the trunk?” I asked innocently. “I have a couple bags.” Thank heavens Lyft drivers never helped with the bags.

“Yeah, sure.” He bent for the button.

I moved quickly, picking up the body and stashing him in the clean trunk. I followed that up with my duffel and pushed down the lid. I slid into the back seat, adjusted my seared tank top so a nipple didn’t accidentally pop out, and waited.

“Hi,” the driver said, glancing back at me, also waiting.

“Hi. I’ve loaded the destination.” I pointed at his phone.

“Right, yes.” He studied his phone to communicate his knowledge of the coordinates before glancing back again. “Is the other guy coming too, or…?”

“What other guy?”

Confused, the man turned his girth in order to check the back seat, and then looked out the passenger window. “Oh. Wasn’t there someone laying in the grass?”

“No?” I made a show of looking out the window. “Where? Just where I was sitting?”

“That’s…” His brow furrowed. “That is so weird. I could have sworn you had someone laying next to you when I pulled up. I thought maybe he was drunk or sleeping or something. Ha! But yeah, he’s gone. Wow. That’s a trip.”

“I hope it wasn’t a ghost.” I rubbed my arms and gave a dramatic shiver. “Yuck.” I pulled my tank top up again. I had a sneaking suspicion I’d flashed Margaret without knowing it.

The car pulled away. “That’s crazy. I really thought I saw someone. Like, a solid form, too. I specifically remember thinking—”

The ride consisted of various ghost stories and his growing certainty that he had, in fact, seen a ghost.

At the office, I took the body out of the trunk, set it on the street behind the car, really hoping the guy didn’t randomly back up, and picked up my duffel. I stepped to the side and waved. “Thanks again. Hope you don’t see any more ghosts.”

He waved, laughed, shook his head, and took off.

I grabbed the body quick-like and hurried to the side, but there was a flash of taillights in my peripheral vision. He’d seen me in his rearview, and now, instead of a ghost, he’d always wonder what he’d transported in his trunk.

I threw the body over my shoulder and stepped into the safety of the magical division. “And that’s how you get a dead body across town without calling the removal service,” I said with pride.

The removal service was pricy and took forever. This was definitely the faster, cheaper option if it could be pulled off.

As I started toward the dead mark drop-off area, my good mood drained away. The time for procrastination was coming to an end. I needed to decide if I’d go to the Dungeon. Sure, there was a big payoff at the end, but it might be a trap. Once I went through the vampires’ doors, I’d be at their mercy.

Chapter Four

A couple hours later, I sat on the porch in front of the run-down house I rented. I was just high enough to see over the wall of the St. Roch cemetery across the street, but the real viewing pleasure was through the gate directly in front of me. Being a little off the beaten track and in a tough neighborhood, my neighbors and I didn’t see as many tourists stopping through. We did, however, see a lot of thrill-seekers and wannabe witches.

I loved when, like now, the sun drifted toward the horizon and the shadows elongated, eating up the light. In this confusing time between day and night, I got to watch the magical people, or humans trying to be magical, creep between the gravestones with their supplies. They’d draw circles or pentagrams on the ground, among other things, and mutter spells on the breeze. Occasionally, I witnessed a great possession by a voodoo priestess or priest, and ate popcorn as they slithered along the ground, or spoke in unfamiliar tongues. I loved New Orleans. All manner of magic was expressed here—the traditional and the not so much. The hobbyist and the believer. I saw it all come through, and usually enjoyed it.

The exception, of course, was when idiots tried to summon demons. It happened every so often, and usually the culprit had no idea what they were messing with.

Once I had watched a coven of witches correctly call a level-one demon. The thing had been loosely trapped, and it was working on breaking free when they finally sent it back. With such little power, it wouldn’t have done much damage, but it surely would’ve ripped through one or two of the casters before it weakened and disintegrated.

I’d had a long day before witnessing their idiocy, but that sort of deed shouldn’t go unpunished—so I’d ducked across the street and hidden among the gravestones. When the witches were ready to leave, I jumped out at them with a snarl and a knife.

“How could you summon my kind and send it back!” I’d yelled, thumping and thrashing at them in turn. “I am the master of this domain. You are insignificant humans. Rawr!”

I only said the word “rawr.” I couldn’t summon the energy to actually growl.

They didn’t notice the lack of effort. Half of them even dropped their witch kits, as I call them, with their sage and their chalk and candles, and ran like hell.

Demons don’t laugh like humans do—they give a dry cackle more than anything—but I couldn’t contain belly chuckles as they sped out of the graveyard. It had almost made the effort worth it.

I softly chuckled to myself, remembering, and leaned further into my chair. Tonight all was quiet. Peaceful.

My thoughts drifted to the elder vampire, and the note he’d left in Captain Lox’s office. Tall, muscular, powerful—he moved like the world was a stage and he was the diva, arrogant as all hell and coated with a thick layer of ego. I bet it was bugging the hell out of him that he didn’t know what I was.

Or maybe he did.

Elder vampires had been around a long time. They’d survived some pretty troubled eras and seen all manner of things. It was quite possible this vampire would be resourceful enough to piece together the clues of my heritage. I was a secluded sort of person, with a strong overhang of mystery, but being that I needed money, I wasn’t a recluse.

I blew out a breath, thinking that possibility over.

It would be pretty hard to get all my details, though. Captain Lox would know some, the agents at the office would know a little, my neighbors would know a few things, and the shifters a bit more, but out of all of those people, only the agents might actually talk to a vampire. I didn’t have any birth records, and something that annoyed the captain to no end, no paperwork, so…

No, he didn’t know about me. He couldn’t.

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