A Bewitching Woman on a Mission…
Feisty witch Maggie enjoys her work as a paranormal law enforcement officer—that is, until she’s assigned to protect a teenager with major attitude and plenty of Mayan enemies. Maggie’s never going to survive this assignment without the help of a half-fire demon who makes her smolder…
A Hotter-Than-Sin Hero with an Agenda…
Declan is a proprietor of an underground club and busy demon portal. No way he’ll allow his demon race to be blamed for the malicious acts of some crazy evil Mayans. But he’s already got his hands full when the sexy witch offers him a challenge he can’t refuse…
Chapter 1 (with permission from Sourcebooks)
“Oh yeah, just another Saturday night hitting the clubs, watching the dancers, feeling blood stream out of my ears.” Maggie O’Malley winced as Static-X’s Destroyer screamed from the state-of-the-art speakers embedded in the club’s walls. Still, she couldn’t stop her hips from moving to the throbbing music. If she wasn’t there on business she would have been out there dancing. “Why don’t you just shoot me now?”
“Any females get naked yet?” the voice of Frebus, one of her team members, rumbled from the mic in her ear. “It’s only a matter of time ’til somebody gets caught up in the moment and starts tearing off their clothes. You gotta love shapeshifters cuz they’re always the first to get down and dirty.”
Maggie played idly with the crystal earring that dangled almost to her bare shoulders. She considered her jewelry a much better look for a mic and earpiece than the usual spy gear. If only she could mute the music for an hour. Or ten.
“Sorry sweetie, I’m only seeing half-naked, but think positive. The evening’s still young.” She grinned as she heard the low groan in her ear. Frebus and her other backup, Meech and Tita, were strategically placed around the interior, on the lookout for one particular degenerate in the sea of questionable characters.
She made her way through the hordes of glassy-eyed, gyrating dancers, skillfully avoiding the groping hands on her ass and breasts. She muttered a spell against any who returned for another feel. Nothing like a magickal zap to the genitals to spoil the mood. Judging from the yelps that followed her there were at least five who tried.
Maggie didn’t believe in giving anyone a second chance.
She viewed the large creature-populated underground club with an expression of distaste and the desire for her olfactory senses to be on the fritz.
“Haven’t some of these guys ever heard of deodorant?” she muttered, passing one scaly creature that fell in the ‘totally gross’ category. It peered at her through red slitted eyes and hissed, its forked tongue flicking toward her. Maggie hissed back and moved on.
The club’s name, Damnation Alley, fit the interior with its glossy black walls, black glass bars pulsing with neon, ice blue and black lights casting an unearthly glow on the preternaturals thronging the interior. Any unlucky human who managed to get past the door ran the risk of exiting in a body bag—or someone’s stomach.
She’d planned to spend tonight with a bowl of popcorn and DVDs at home, but one of her team members got word that a fugitive they’d been after for the past month would be at the club tonight. Maggie and her team were sent here to bring it in.
She locked gazes with a vampire she remembered going up against a year ago. He flashed fang. She responded with a smile that promised a repeat of what had happened before. The vamp wisely turned away.
At first glance, Maggie looked like a typical party gal in her barely-there black skirt and bandeau top. Shiny silver glitter accents covered the fabric that bared her shoulders and taut midriff and only she knew of the protective spells woven into the fabric. A dazzling diamond-encrusted black widow spider with ruby eyes was tattooed on one bicep. Dangerous bling. Don’t leave home without it. Her chin-length pale blonde hair was sleeked back with glittery gel, making her features look sharper than usual tonight. She smiled at one man, who focused his attention on her legs and her black stilettos.
Maggie believed in themes and tonight it was dangerous sexy female on the prowl. The better to destroy you with, my dear.
She cast her senses wide, searching for her prey. Her gaze skittered to a halt when it reached a man standing in the doorway leading to the private rooms.
A few inches taller than her almost six feet, he was also dressed in black, but he didn’t look like the typical club goer. The silk shirt and slacks looked well-tailored and suited his tanned skin, dark eyes, and spiked hair. He oozed danger. Judging by the hungry looks women were directing his way, they didn’t mind the danger part at all. Maggie didn’t miss that most of the females were much more generously endowed than she was. She normally didn’t mind her slender athletic figure, but there were times it would be nice to have more to stuff into her bra than a middling B cup.
No time to play, pretty boy. Maggie’s got other creatures to fry. But stick around and maybe we can fit in a dance later on.
What a concept. Your everyday witch having an evening out where she could flirt with a gorgeous guy, get in some dancing, and just talk. When was the last time she’d had a date? Did she have enough fingers and toes to count back that far?
She purposely looked away until her stare slammed into an odd-looking creature standing at the rear bar.
“Okay, that thing is butt ugly.” Maggie noted the bloated body dressed in rags. She was positive he wouldn’t smell all that good either. Not that it seemed to bother those around him.
“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, blondie,” Meech’s disembodied voice reminded her. She caught a glimpse of the big blue-skinned monster on the other side of the room, guarding a side door. He was grinning as his voice continued through the mic. “While some think you’re smokin’, all I see is that you’re damn scrawny, your nose is out of place, and those pearly whites aren’t jagged enough, plus they’re not healthy unless they’re gray or yellow.”
“Aw, baby, you know just what to say to make a girl feel good about herself.” She took a quick glance down to make sure the girls were at their best advantage. Nothing like giving a perp something to look at while she took him down.
Not that anyone around here would notice. They’d just think it was another S&M show. Another thing Damnation Alley was known for. Although at present she wasn’t seeing the kind of sex shows that had gone on here when Ratchet owned the club.
“Oh Frebus, you bring me to the classiest of places,” she purred.
“Better than that tavern two months ago. Plus, this one needs to be put down quick before he causes any more trouble. Him being here tonight is pure luck for us.”
“Just stay on alert in case I need back up. Bloaters aren’t the type to go quietly.” Maggie put her hips to work as she glided over to the bar. She could feel the dark-haired man’s eyes on her with a searing intensity, but she kept him on the back burner.
“Hi.” She flashed her sultriest smile at her quarry.
The creature looked up, revealing a puce-colored fleshy face, round chartreuse eyes, and a dark slit for a mouth.
“You are witch.” His hissing words resembled a serpent’s sound as he looked at her from the top of her head to the tips of her shoes.
“No one’s perfect.” She rested an arm on the bar top, acting as if the putrid stench emanating from his skin didn’t assault her olfactory senses. “Buy me a drink?”
“Witches do not drink maiden grog.” His gray claws wrapped around a clay goblet.
“The main element in the grog is a virgin’s urine,” Tita whispered in her earpiece.
Maggie’s smile didn’t slip even as her brain screamed euuwwww!
“You’d be surprised what I drink.” She cocked a delicate brow. “They have private rooms here.” She ran a scarlet polished nail over his claws while moving forward enough to brush her breasts against his arm.
At the same time the creature’s gaze fastened on her bare skin, she whipped iron-laced restraints out and slapped them on his wrists.
“Aw, now you’re just sweet talking me.”
The Bloater roared, rearing back and striking her with his chained claws, sending her sailing up onto the top of the bar.
Maggie didn’t have time to react, finding herself thrown down the slippery slab. Drinks scattered everywhere and ear-splitting shrieks rose above the din. As she slid to a stop, she saw her quarry trying to escape, scrambled to her feet, and ran after him while others tried to stop her.
“Cerberus Guard!” she shouted, even as she knew there would be those who didn’t appreciate the authorities being there.
Before her prey reached an exit door, Maggie launched herself with a leap worthy of a football player and tackled him to the floor.
“You are under arrest,” she began even as she realized he was inflating like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon, and it didn’t look like he intended stopping any time soon.
“We’re on our way!” she heard Frebus shout from her earring.
The second her three team members shouldered their way through the watching crowd, Maggie’s prisoner had reached the breaking point.
And that’s when he blew up, splattering pea-green goo everywhere.
“‘Easy peasy,’ he says.” Maggie’s fulminating glare sliced through Frebus as she and the hulking creature crossed the parking lot to the waiting SUV. Everyone else stayed out of range as the thick liquid dripped off her body. No wonder. She’d be a mile away if someone was walking around with Bloater goop on them. “‘It’s just a Bloater. We’ll be in and out in seconds. No one will even notice what’s going on. No mess,’ he assures me.” Her fingers flicked angry magick in his direction.
He hunched his shoulders up around his large head. “Intel told me—”
“Your Intel sucks rocks.” A shower of said stones rained on the furry beast. She wiped the pea-green liquid cement from her chest. A few muttered words turned it to puke green ash. She wasn’t happy she couldn’t do the same to the glop that coated her skirt and top. No way she’d go naked in front of her crew. “Frebus, I am not happy about this. Plus, he managed to explode, so I don’t have anything to take back but this!” She flicked the glop at him.
He hung his head in shame, his shaggy blond fur draped around his wide face.
“Where do I send the bill?” A new voice reached her from behind.
Maggie’s temper was already at the boiling point. Turning around to face the sexy man she had locked eyes with in the club was all she needed, considering her look was now somewhat less than “dangerous sexy female.” She only wished they could have danced before she got slimed.
“I am impressed, Cerberus Guard,” he commented silkily. “You were in my club barely ten minutes and you managed to destroy one of my bars and the surrounding walls.”
“Two words. Soap and water.”
His dark eyes glinted with laughter under the orange phosphorous lights that dotted the parking lot.
“Is this something you do on a regular basis? If so, I will have to look into sturdier furniture. I’m also curious. Where exactly did you hide those restraints?” His gaze swept over her with an alarming thoroughness. “Tell me something. Do people tell you you look cute when you’re carrying a weapon?”
“Not if they don’t want to end up seriously hurt.”
Maggie walked toward the man. Her nostrils flared as she caught the faintest hint of sulfur before it drifted away to be replaced by a whiff of sandalwood and male.
“And you are?” She already knew he wouldn’t reveal his true name, since demons held them close to the vest. A body held too much power if they knew a demon’s real name.
His voice washed over her head like a warm shower. Not good at all.
Says you. The words raced across her skin, meaning Elegance, her spider tattoo, was making her feelings known.
She lifted her chin.
“Just Declan.” He tucked his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. Just another guy looking to make time with a pretty girl, who just happened to splatter Bloater goop all over the main floor of his club. Oh well, no one’s perfect.
His eyes flashed red for a moment. “No one’s perfect… witch.”
“Aw, and here we were just getting to know each other.”
“Are you this brave when your muscle isn’t close by?” Declan asked, his gaze briefly resting on the creatures lounging against the SUV.
A smattering of laughter and guffaws sounded.
Maggie waved a hand. Bubbles of protective power enclosed each team member, but Declan had no doubt that they didn’t hide behind the protection if their leader was in trouble.
“I’m the muscle, sweetheart. But I wouldn’t discount my backup, because they don’t like it if anyone makes me cranky.” She cocked a shapely hip. “I suggest you vet your clientele more thoroughly if you don’t want further visits from the Guard.”
“We don’t exactly run background checks.” His dark gaze wandered over her body, sending prickly heat along her nerve endings. “Perhaps you’d care to come back in for a drink and we could discuss how to better safeguard my club?”
She glanced toward the door where an oversized guard stood glaring at her. “It’s not your club that needs protecting, Declan. The Cerberus Guard is always ready to help those who need our skills, but we defend the innocent from… well, from the kind of riff-raff that frequent your club. And once we’ve finished our job…”
Maggie’s smile brightened as she lifted her hand and snapped her fingers. The parking lot lights winked out leaving the area in total darkness, as though a heavy blanket had dropped over him.
“Fuck me!” Declan widened his eyes and even then he couldn’t see a thing.
Before he could draw a second breath, the lights came back on.
Maggie and her team were gone.
His shoulders shook with his laughter. “I must say the witch knows how to make an exit.”
“I loved this outfit!” Maggie wailed, tossing the goop-covered skirt and bandeau top in the pink wicker wastebasket. “This is why I can’t have nice clothes. Every time I have an outfit that rocks, some creature destroys it.” She pulled yoga pants, a t-shirt, and clean underwear out of a dresser drawer. She glanced ruefully at the Barbie doll leaning against the lamp on her dresser. Her witch friend Blair had done a great job of making the doll look like Maggie, with a blond bob, black tank top and khaki cargo pants, complete with a variety of tiny blades and a wicked looking rifle slung over her shoulder. There was even a tiny ankle bracelet with a broom charm around her booted ankle. Yeah, that was her, all right.
She paused for a moment, looking down at a small painted portrait set in the place of honor on her dresser. Her fingertips trailed gently over the surface and she whispered a few words before she moved away. She momentarily dropped her clothing on the rose patterned bedspread so she could dig her fingers through the goo-covered helmet once known as her hair.
“And you looked very sexy in it, too.” Sybil, a delicate-looking elf, was perched on a corner of Maggie’s bed. Sybil’s lavender wings wafted back and forth, emitting the faintest hint of French vanilla with lilac undertones. “You had protection spells woven into the fabric, didn’t you?”
Maggie considered her friend better than any air freshener.
“The spells made the fabric stronger than Kevlar, but for some reason they didn’t do anything to deflect this gunk.”
“You’re not the only one who’s a mess.” Elegance detached herself gracefully from Maggie’s skin, scuttled down her arm and landed on the dresser. She stopped at a delicate china bowl to gather up a scrap of blood red silk before she moved up the wall to a corner in the ceiling where a web sparkled like diamonds. A small square in the center glowed blue as Elle activated the screen, pushing the silk scrap together into a comfy cushion. In no time she was surfing the World Wide Web. “Some of that disgusting goo ended up on me too.”
“Yeah, well, you didn’t ruin clothing, Elle,” Maggie muttered. “I’d like to know how it slid so easily off you.”
“I am special.” The black widow preened. “Ah! This could be it!” The tiny computer screen glowed an eerie blue against her face.
“Elle, you’ve been searching for the right hex to keep your lovers alive for centuries,” the witch told her. “And so far, they’ve all been either a total bust or a hoax.”
“The perfect hex is there. I know it. And now the web can be cast world-wide. If you can’t come up with one, I will.” She clicked her tiny mouse and read away.
“There’s nothing like a lovesick black widow spider,” Sybil said.
Maggie half closed the bathroom door and stepped into the shower. The witch had no trouble washing off the protection sigils written on her bare midriff, but she found the thick mucus harder to deal with. “I’ll need a blasting spell to get this crap off! For Fates sake, it’s even in my hair!” She dumped half a bottle of shampoo on her head and dug her fingers into the mess, yelping when the bubbles dribbled down her face and into her eyes.
“Zap it out.”
“This muck is so bad if I did that I could end up bald.” Maggie’s words were garbled under the strong shower spray.
Sybil examined her nails, painted a shimmery lilac to match her wings. “It’s times like this I’m glad I don’t work in the field.” Her iridescent lavender hair hung in thick waves down her back. “Although there are moments when I think you have more fun than I do working here in the compound.”
While she looked as fragile as a paper-thin china teacup, Sybil’s sweet smile and calm nature made her an effective interrogator. If the smile didn’t work, she always managed somehow to make their prisoners cry a lake of tears while giving up whatever she wanted to know. In her own way, the elf was as strong as Maggie, and just as formidable.
This branch of the Cerberus Guard lived on a base outside Houston, Texas, near a typical American suburb. It was as close to a home and family as Maggie had known since being kicked out of the Witches’ Academy with her classmates some seven hundred years ago. She’d come a long way from the frightened little girl Eurydice, the Head Witch, had rescued from the disaster of a plague-stricken town.
“Now I’ll have to clean out the shower, because there’s no way I’m leaving that for the brownies to scrub when they come in to clean,” Maggie grumbled, walking out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped snugly around her clean body and her hair wrapped in a second towel. Thanks to the brownies that performed all the domestic tasks for the Guards, she never had to worry about dusting, vacuuming, and laundry. But brownies were touchy and secretive—they didn’t like you to acknowledge their work, and there was a limit to how big a mess they’d allow.
“I heard that the club has a hot-looking owner.”
Maggie ignored her friend’s gentle probing, even if she knew she would eventually have to comment. The delicate elf had a stubborn streak that made a mule look downright malleable.
Wouldn’t you know it? I meet a cute guy and he turns out to be demon and owner of a club that’s always been on the Guard’s watch list of shady locales.
Not exactly boyfriend material. Like she’d know what a boyfriend was.
Dating didn’t seem to be in Maggie’s cards.
If she was smart, she’d get a new deck.
“Demon.” She pulled the towel off and rubbed her hair partially dry before she ran a comb through it, leaving it hanging loose around her face. “I’d guess no more than half demon,” she corrected herself. “But even a half demon is too much trouble.”
“All males are trouble. That’s why we females were made.” Sybil peered closely at her BWFF (best witch friend forever) who was standing there pensively. “I can’t believe it. You’re blushing! He’s that cute?”
“Am not. It’s from my hot shower. I practically had to put the water on boiling to get that cement off me.” As if she wanted a male to mess up her life. Even a hot-looking one with a face made for sin and a body obviously created for…
Don’t go there, Mags.
“The witch doth protest too much.” Sybil’s lyrical laughter rang in the room like silvery wind chimes. She stood up and raised her arms over her head in a lithe stretch. “Come on, we’ll do some yoga before you go to bed and you’ll feel loads better.”
“I just want a night out with dancing and maybe even dinner,” Maggie muttered, following her friend out of her quarters into the hall. “I want to dress up and come home with my clothing intact.”
“I want Orlando Bloom, but that won’t be happening anytime soon,” Sybil said serenely.
“O’Malley, why are you maiming my recruits again?” The roar echoed down the hallway and seemed to bounce off the walls.
“I believe you’re being paged.” Sybil’s wings fluttered faster. “I’ll be in the fitness center waiting… with bandages.”
Maggie cursed under her breath. “Jeez, one tiny cut. Okay, more than a tiny cut, but the idiot needs to learn to move faster if he doesn’t want to get killed. I was actually very easy on him.” She waved her hand over her head as she about-faced and headed outside the living quarters and across the compound’s central courtyard to the administration building. She jogged down the stairs to what the team less than affectionately called the Dungeon.
Except this dungeon looked more like a Grecian temple complete with white marble columns and the soft sounds of lyres in the background. In the middle of the ancient elegance was a desk piled high with papers that every once in a while fluttered onto the gold marble floor, then floated back up to reside once more on the desk’s surface.
Maggie wrinkled her nose at the harsh scent of cigar smoke permeating the air. While she didn’t mind the aroma of a good cigar or pipe smoke, she did object to something that smelled like old wet rope. Add in the haze of magick filtering through the air in purple coils and the boss’s office needed a good aromatherapy session.
“You shouted, old esteemed one.”
A round face edged with a mangy white beard peered over the stacks of paperwork. “Bite me, O’Malley.”
Maggie waved her hand in front of her face. “For Fates sake, Mal, can’t you buy a cigar that costs more than a penny? That smells worse than goat poo.”
“Whaddya talkin’ about? This sucker cost me a whole buck. They don’t come cheap anymore.” He held up the offensive item. “And don’t think you can get me off the subject either. What the fuck did you do to Arius? It was his first training session with you!”
“So the wuss did come whining to you?” She pushed papers off a chair and parked her butt. “You only needed a baby size Band-Aid for the cut. Trust me, it was way less than he’d get in battle.” If there was one thing Maggie would not allow, it was that anyone she was responsible for should go into a fight unprepared.
“He’s threatening to file a grievance.” Mal hopped out of his chair, revealing his three-foot height, and waddled around the desk. Faint wisps of white hair floated along the tips of his ears like antennae as he looked up at the witch who kicked ass and didn’t bother taking names on a regular basis. The purple cloud of magick followed him. He made a face. “And you know how I hate paperwork.”
Maggie’s gaze drifted over the papers that covered the desk, floated in the air, and eventually escaped out the door. “Yes, I can see that. Tell Arius if he files a grievance against me I will mop up the floor with him the next time he’s in my class.”
Mal’s face, the color of aged oak, reddened to the point of explosion. “You do that and he’ll only file another grievance.”
“No, he won’t, because he wants to be on one of the major teams. So anything else, oh great lord and master?”
Mal snorted. “Cut the shit, O’Malley. Just tell me what happened at Damnation Alley.” Dark brown eyes peered at her with a sharpness that could cut titanium.
“I entered the club, encountered my prey, arrested said prey, and he exploded all over me. You do know this will all be in my report, don’t you?” She kept her gaze centered on him. No way did your eyes stray from Mal if you didn’t want him digging into your brain, which he had a habit of doing if he thought you weren’t telling the truth.
Mal waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “And Declan? What can you tell me about him?”
Maggie felt that warmth deep down again. So gorgeous he’s got to be illegal. Talk about eyes that make you wet. A smile that makes you flat out melt. He could even be better than chocolate. “I haven’t had a chance to do any research on him. Since he’s new to the area I don’t know if he owns the club or just manages it.”
“Then what are you doing loafing around here when you should be looking into him?” Mal didn’t blink when a towering stack of papers suddenly appeared on his already cluttered desktop. “We need to know why this Declan took the club over after Ratchet disappeared and just what Declan is, other than a run-of-the-mill demon. And we need to know it all yesterday.”
Maggie already had the answer to one of those questions. She knew just where Ratchet had disappeared to. Actually, into. There was nothing like a psychotic losing the battle to a cursed chipper to make a witch’s evening.
Blue Plate Special – Demon Burger on a toasted sesame bun with seasoned fries on the side.
“I think he’s half demon, but then that’s nothing new since whoever runs Damnation Alley has always been demon. I’ll need Kittan if you want more intel on him.” She named one of the compound’s most thorough researchers. “I’m sure he’ll come up with everything we need to know in no time.”
Mal shook his head. “No can do. Kittan is busy with another project, plus we need the personal touch here.” He grinned, displaying tobacco-stained teeth.
Maggie sat up straighter. “We? Whenever you say we, Mal, you really mean me. I have enough work of my own. You wanted me to go to Mexico and check on that new nest of chupacabras.” Please let me go somewhere and blow something up. Or even cut off a few heads.
Mal smiled. Maggie knew that smile meant she wasn’t going to like what he was about to say.
“I’m sending Calaban and his team to Mexico. Arius can go with them. He needs to get out into the field.”
“Oh no!” She shot out of her seat so fast she almost flew. “Exterminating chupacabras is one of my specialties, not Calaban’s. He excels in Europe and I do better South of the border. He loves going after trolls in the Black forest.”
“Then the next time I need to send a team to Europe I’ll send you, and you’ll be even.”
“Yo boss.” A two-foot streak of black fur burst into the room. “Maja wants sigs on these papers like three seconds ago.” The ferret hopped up onto the desk and leaned against a stack of papers, which threatened to fall over on him. He pulled a tiny ferret-sized travel coffee mug out of a hidden pocket and swigged down caffeine. A small purple baseball cap with the word Cubs embroidered on the front in bright green adorned his head. “And Sand asked me to drop this off.” Out of yet another invisible pocket the critter pulled out a small red silk pouch and handed it to Mal. Colors depicting a protective spell covered the pouch, indicating no one could open it except the recipient. Anyone else who tried would end up losing a few fingers at best, the whole arm at worst.
Ferret messengers populated the compound. Their energetic sleek bodies could slide through the tightest spaces, making them excellent gofers, and the invisible pouch in their bodies was perfect for tucking away messages. All the high-octane caffeine they drank made them sound like demented chipmunks.
Mal sighed and waved his fingers over the papers. Each page fluttered as his signature scrolled across the bottom then disappeared as swiftly as it had appeared.
“The damn paperwork alone will kill me. You’d think after all this time we could go digital, wouldn’t you?” he muttered. He glared at Maggie. “Why are you still here?”
“To explain to you why I should be the one to take out that chupacabra nest.” Maybe she could use witchflame this time. Once they were destroyed her team could finish up with an old-fashioned wienie roast and marshmallow toasting for s’mores. Maybe even a sing-along around the bonfire. She could really get into that. “I should be the one to go and you know it.”
“You need to remain here to keep an eye on Declan,” Mal spoke around his cigar.
“My team can have the job done in one night. I’d be back before you know it.” She feared she was starting to whine. She really hated whining, too.
“Fire demon Declan?” the ferret asked. “Catrina was talking about him. She couldn’t stop drooling. Said she saw him at Damnation Alley a few nights ago and he could light her fire any time.”
“Fire demon? No wonder I smelled sulfur.” Maggie turned to the ferret. “What else do you know about Declan, Trickie?”
“The obvious. That he’s one hot guy,” he chortled.
“Go.” Mal waved his hand in his usual get the Hades out of my office gesture.
“I need to be the one who goes to Mexico,” she muttered, leaving the room with Trickie trotting at her heels.
“Don’t think that’s happenin’ no matter what you say.”
“Why is your Cubs cap purple, Trickie? Their colors are blue.” Maggie eyed the garish cap.
“Forget Chicago. We’re talking the New Orleans Cubs, babe. Those shifters know how to play serious ball.” The ferret whistled a high-pitched tune as he raced off on his next task.
Maggie left the building and walked outside. She paused and looked up to admire the night sky dotted with stars and breathed in the crisp scent of sage. She’d lived in the five-hundred acre Texas based compound for the last hundred years and loved it. As the years passed, it continued to grow with additional teams and many Guard members starting families. Protection wards meant their human neighbors couldn’t detect the large area and kept it safe from supernatural predators. Not that any would dare to sneak onto the grounds, unless they wanted to be turned into a pile of ash.
The main buildings involving administration, the dining hall, fitness center, and armory were set in a semi-circle at the heart of the compound, with living quarters for single members of the Guard and bungalows for families set off to the side. She headed to the fitness center, where she found Sybil seated on a workout mat with a pile of bandages arrayed around her. She looked up and grinned.
“Mal must have been barking rather than biting since you’re still in one piece.”
Maggie reached down and pulled her friend to her feet. “Yeah, well, that doesn’t mean I don’t need some serious therapy.”
Sybil’s gossamer wings fluttered a calming scent. “Therapy as in…?” She raised a delicate eyebrow as they left the building and crossed the large compound that even past two a.m. was bustling with messenger ferrets busy with their tasks, some teams coming back from assignments and others preparing to head out. The Cerberus Guard worked 24/7 and was sent not only worldwide, but also to other realms. Their work would put the Navy SEALs, Marine Recon and Army Green Berets combined to shame.
Maggie nodded at some and spoke to others as she and Sybil made their way to a sprawling one-story building near the far end. She breathed in deeply, enjoying the scent of burning mesquite and smoked meat that permeated the air. She thought of the mega barbecue pit set up behind the dining hall. Yum! Gonna be a barbecue later on.
Sybil smiled at an Orlando-Bloom-as-Legolas look-alike, even spinning around and walking backwards to watch him stroll away. The wild scent of the forest followed him.
“Focus, Syb,” Maggie muttered with a grin.
“I am. But Elweard is seriously hot.” Sybil returned her grin. “And his name means elf guard. How perfect is that?”
“Yeah, gorgeous, eyes that make you melt, a smile that’s downright sinful.” Maggie grabbed her friend’s arm and pulled her along. “Forget the testosterone, woman. We have better things to do, as in girl bonding over an ice cream sundae.”
“Shopping would be even better. We could take one of the jets and fly to New York City for a lovely breakfast, then hit the stores.”
“Why do all my friends have this need to shop?” Maggie wondered if she missed out on that girl gene when she was born. She’d rather spend time training than at the mall. For now she wasted no time heading to the building that housed a series of eateries depending on your species. A well-fed team was a happy team and all the teams in the compound were extremely happy. “It’s more fun to go out and enjoy the great outdoors. And you don’t need a snappy wardrobe and lip gloss to do it in, either.”
“Because you wouldn’t be so well dressed if we didn’t brave the boutiques on your behalf. All you’d buy are more jeans, t-shirts and yoga pants.” Sybil followed her through the heavy glass doors. “So what are we indulging in before you’ll feel more like yourself?”
Maggie immediately headed for the dessert corner that emitted mouth-watering fresh baked smells. “The hard stuff. I’m talking about a Snow Queen sundae that’s over six feet tall.”
The image of sexy Declan covered in yummy marshmallow crème popped into her mind.
Ha! I wonder what a fire demon would make of that?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda Wisdom has published more than 70 novels with 13 million copies sold worldwide. Her bestselling books have been nominated for RT Book Reviews awards and the RWA RITA Award. She recently won the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Hex in High Heels. Linda lives with her husband in Murrieta, California, where she is working on her next book, A Demon Does it Better, set to release in January 2012.