Death and relaxation, p.32
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       Death and Relaxation, p.32

           Devon Monk
 

  When the sign to Netarts came into view, I turned left toward the tiny community pressed up against the bay.

  Curly’s was a chocolate-colored cedar shake one-story beach house with frothy white trim that perched at the highest end of a wide parking lot ending on a narrow beach and a couple boat ramps. The ice cream store had expanded by adding a barbecue smoker on the side porch, and the painted wooden sign declared desserts, espressos, and sandwiches were now served.

  I smiled and got out of the Jeep. It was almost noon, and the day looked like it was going to warm up nicely.

  Perfect day for ice cream.

  I walked up the wooden stairs and across the covered porch. I stepped into the shop and the cheerful server, a young woman who didn’t know me, my job, my town, or my crazy life, guided me over to a table by the window.

  I took the chair that put my back to the door and let me stare out over the bay and the ocean and blue sky beyond.

  I ordered ice cream first because life is unpredictable. After that, I settled in for a sandwich. Since the shop wasn’t too busy, I ordered a coffee and let time drift as I stared out at the sand and sky and ocean and didn’t think about Ryder.

  Much.

  “Mind if I join you?”

  I hadn’t expected anyone to find me here. My heart tumbled hard against my ribs, pumping out a flood of feelings too tangled to name.

  “Ryder,” I said, my voice almost a whisper. “I don’t think I can do this here.”

  “Do what?” he asked quietly. “Have dessert with me?”

  I looked up at him. He wore a soft T-shirt and worn jeans, his work boots traded in for a pair of running shoes. His dark hair was mussed from the wind, hazel eyes almost gold in this light. He stood with his weight on one foot, as if uncertain that I would tell him to stay or to go.

  He held a caramel sundae in one hand, his other hand tucked in his back pocket, leaving his elbow out at an awkward angle. He used to stand that way in high school when he had to read in front of the class.

  “Did you follow me?”

  “No. I just thought…” He glanced out the window, and something like sadness passed over his features. “I just thought you might be here. You told me you missed it. Missed this. I saw you leave town. So maybe. Maybe yes, I followed you. I almost didn’t, but then… Maybe I should go.”

  Yes.

  No.

  “You’re here,” I said. “Sit down before your ice cream melts.”

  He took the chair across from me, the blue sky and sand framing him as he stole their beauty.

  I was still angry. But I’d known him all my life. It wasn’t like we hadn’t argued before. Gotten into fights. We both knew how to apologize, how to keep our friendship a friendship.

  I wasn’t sure if that was what we had anymore, if we even had anything to keep.

  “So Myra fired you,” I said over the top of my coffee as I held the cup to my lips. I didn’t drink, but I needed the illusion of a barrier between us.

  He dug his spoon into the ice cream, mashing and mixing it beneath the caramel, gaze fixed on it, but not eating. “We knew this was a temporary thing.”

  I wondered if he meant the job or us.

  I took a sip of my coffee. It was cold. I set the cup down and we both stared carefully at the table between us.

  “You said Old Rossi was right.” Ryder stuck his spoon in the melting mess of sundae and picked up the paper napkin, wiping his fingers on it. His gaze lifted to catch mine. “Right about what?”

  “I don’t think that matters now.”

  Gold. His eyes were pools of mossy gold ringed by deep green. I’d been looking into those eyes for so many years. Looking for the man I thought I could love.

  “Please, Delaney.”

  Myra said he had come home a different man than when he had left. But this man in front of me was the man I’d always known. My once-friend. My always-and-never love, Ryder Bailey.

  “He wasn’t happy we hired you. Thought you would be trouble.”

  “He said that?”

  “Yes.”

  “I wasn’t trouble.”

  I raised my eyebrows. He winced and looked down.

  “I wasn’t trouble at work,” he clarified. “I was good at the job. Would still work there if you need—if the department needs more hands.”

  “I’ll keep it in mind. But for now I need some space, Ryder. It’s been a shitty week.”

  “Not all of it.” His eyes on mine again. Soft. Warm with the kindness I knew, and aching with something I’d only glimpsed.

  Desire.

  He couldn’t still want me. Not after he broke up with me. Did he only want the things he couldn’t have?

  Nope. I would not play that game. I was taking my heart and going home.

  “It’s getting late,” I said.

  He reached across the table, his calloused fingertips brushing the back of my hand. “Old Rossi isn’t what he seems to be.”

  That stopped me cold. Did he know that Old Rossi was a vampire? A very old and powerful one. Or did he know the secrets of Ordinary? Was that why Old Rossi thought Ryder would be trouble?

  “What do you mean?”

  Ryder bit his bottom lip, looking angry at himself for having said that much.

  “He’s…involved in some business. I don’t know the details. Nothing I can prove. But I’ve heard enough to know he isn’t what he seems to be, Delaney. He has the attention of some people who do not appreciate his way of doing things. Stay away from him. I don’t want you—anyone getting hurt.”

  Okay. So both the vampire and the architect thought the other was dangerous. Which one was right?

  “You’re doing business with Old Rossi?” I asked.

  His jaw locked. “No.”

  “I am a police officer. You can tell me what you think is going on, and I might be able to help.”

  “No. It’s… No.” He swore under his breath and looked over his shoulder out the window, away from me.

  “What are you afraid of, Ryder Bailey?”

  He dragged his palm over his face, then back over his hair. When he met my gaze, he seemed in control, gave me an easy smile that did not reach his eyes.

  “You were shot, Delaney.” His gaze searched mine, seeking understanding there.

  I waited. He didn’t say anything else.

  “I know,” I finally said. “I was there when it happened. Lots of crappy things happened that day.”

  That, apparently, wasn’t the response he wanted. He shook his head and glanced back out the window, frowning, then returned to me with a sigh.

  “I could have handled that better,” he admitted. He wasn’t apologizing, nor was he asking for forgiveness. This was just a statement of facts.

  It was always our first step in trying to rebuild our friendship. Facts.

  “I’m angry,” I said.

  That was a fact too. But what I didn’t tell him, what I would never tell him, was how much he had hurt me and how hard it would be for me to trust him again.

  “Is that why you followed me here today?” I asked.

  “I just…I need you to know Old Rossi might not have your best interests in mind,” he said.

  “And you do?”

  I clamped my mouth shut. I hadn’t meant to ask that. Hadn’t meant to let the hurt out where he could see it.

  My heart was pounding.

  Don’t answer that, don’t answer that.

  His voice was low, intimate. “I always have.”

  Then don’t leave me.

  “I need to go,” I said in a rush, all the air in my lungs used up, all the space in my chest pounding, pounding.

  All I had wanted was ice cream. How had this gotten so complicated?

  I stood and pulled my wallet out of my purse.

  Ryder stood too, reaching for my hand. “Wait, let me—”

  “No, that’s fine, I got—”

  Our hands collided, and I dropped a few bills on the table.

&
nbsp; “Sorry.” He quickly scooped up the bills. “Let me pay…”

  Lying on top of a twenty-dollar bill was Spud, the little origami dog Ryder had folded and left beside my pillow. He held it in his palm for a long moment, staring at it.

  “Oh,” he said, the word holding far too many emotions. “Delaney, I—”

  Not now. Not here. No.

  I plucked the little dog out of his hand. His eyes followed it, watched as I carefully tucked Spud back inside my wallet, but in a safer place behind my driver’s license.

  He opened his mouth, shut it, words lost to what seemed like regret.

  Join the club.

  I leaned forward and kissed him. It was fleeting, just a brush of my lips against his. I felt the surprise in his inhalation, the tightening of his body, his mouth opening on the shared breath that stuttered between us before I pulled away.

  “Goodbye, Ryder.”

  His hand, just his fingertips, stretched as if to reach me, as if to hold on to a quickly fading ghost.

  But I kept moving, turning, walking. Until sunlight surrounded me and the breeze dried tears I refused to let fall.

  I got in the Jeep and started the engine.

  “You can do this, Delaney,” I told myself. “You can move forward without him.”

  Liar, my heart whispered.

  “He is sorry, you know.”

  I jerked at the voice. Herri—or rather, the goddess Hera—sat in the passenger side of my Jeep. She still looked much like her mortal self. But instead of wearing a tank top and jeans, she wore a beautiful flowing gown that seemed to catch whole galaxies in the folds, like peacock feathers glittering.

  “Who’s sorry?”

  “Ryder.”

  “Is that why you’re here? To tell me he feels bad about breaking up with me while I was lying in a hospital bed? I wasn’t the one who wanted to end this.”

  She smiled, and it was filled with both sorrow and warmth. “And now what is it that you want?”

  I rubbed at my forehead, trying to corral ragged thoughts. “He’s made it clear where he stands. I just need some time to get over it.”

  “The heart never abandons its desire.”

  Really not helpful, since my heart’s desire doesn’t desire me back.

  She gently placed her hand on my hand. I could feel the warmth of her skin, but also a sort of electric vibration, her power poised and vibrant beneath her touch.

  “There is more to Ryder than you know, Delaney.” Her bronze gaze burned and held me captive. Even with the Reed immunity, I felt pinned beneath the presence of her power.

  I wanted to ask her what she knew. Wanted to ask her why Ryder had left me before we’d had a chance to find each other.

  Wanted to ask her if maybe there was still something there, in his heart that echoed my need for him. But I could not speak.

  “There is more to the push and pull of power amongst the hungry. Ordinary will play its role in the days to come. You will play your role. I do not wish to see you or your family falter.”

  “Falter?”

  “There is a war coming. Rising on the winds, lapping at the shores of Ordinary.”

  “War?” Everything inside me went tight with panic, my broken heart momentarily set aside. War was way above my pay grade. I was trained to transfer god powers and keep the peace. I wasn’t trained to fight any kind of battle.

  “What am I supposed to do about it?”

  “Choose your allies carefully,” she said, as she released my hand, her eyes still holding me in place. “And fight.”

  Then she was gone, leaving the faint scent of pomegranate perfume behind.

  My heart was pounding too fast, the echo of her touch on my hand tingled with heat. There was no doubting that she had been here, in my car, warning me.

  War.

  “Great. As if the last week wasn’t crazy enough.” I lowered my head onto the steering wheel and just sat there for a minute, the warm afternoon sunlight pooling heat on my shoulders.

  It reminded me of my dad’s wide, warm palm, comforting, steady.

  I could do this. No, we could do this. My carefully chosen allies and I. All I had to do was figure out who those allies might be.

  I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and straightened. “I got this. Whatever is coming toward Ordinary, will have to get through me first.”

  And then I put the car in gear and followed the road home to face the storm.

  READY FOR MORE ORDINARY MAGIC?

  Police Chief Delaney Reed loves the busy days of summer, even though the small town of Ordinary Oregon is overrun with mortal, and not-quite-so mortal tourists. Staying busy keeps her mind off Ryder Bailey, the man she is desperately trying to fall out of love with.

  But when a god power goes missing, and the creatures in town gear up for war, she finds herself forced into a difficult decision: trust the devil with a dark past, or trust the man with an even darker future that might kill them all.

  DEVILS AND DETAILS

  Ordinary Magic - Book Two

  Coming July 2016

  Acknowledgment

  I first stumbled upon the idea of Ordinary, Oregon in a short story I never published. As often happens with my short stories, this world grew bigger than I could easily squeeze into a few words. So I finally sat down and gave Delaney, Ryder, Myra, Jean, Than, Crow and the rest of the town a novel.

  Is there a real Ordinary, Oregon? Well, yes and no. Ordinary Oregon is sort of a happy mishmash of Lincoln City, Depot Bay, and Newport, Oregon. When I needed a place for vacationing gods and unusual creatures, my mind instantly went back to my childhood visits to Lincoln City, Oregon. I’d always expected magic to be hidden in the sandy nooks and crannies of that sleepy little beach town.

  There is, however, a real city of Boring, Oregon. I think if Ordinary were real, Boring and Ordinary might have quite the friendly little rivalry.

  I want to thank my beta readers, Dejsha Knight, for listening to my wild ideas and being willing to read all of the really rough drafts and Dean Woods, who stuck with me and always had great and patient advice. Thank you to Sharon Thompson, who not only has heard about this story for years, but also agreed to read the book when it was still full of errors. Crazy and brave, all of you.

  Thank you, Deanne Hicks, for telling me to stop messing around and bake the cakes, Eileen Hicks, for loaning me her sharp eyes, and Arran at 720 Editing for a quick and thorough read through. That beautiful cover is all Lou Harper who didn’t give up on the project when we were trying to nail down the tone. Thank you Lou for being awesome!

  Thanks to the Deadline Dames for being supportive and amazing–your friendship means the world to me. Thanks and love to my biggest fan, husband Russ Monk who is shamelessly proud of this writing thing I do. I’m shamelessly proud of you too. Thanks and love to my sons, Kameron and Konner for that ridiculous weekend where you tried to name my characters by combining street signs we drove past, for helping me pick decent titles, and for so much more. You Monk men are the very best part of my life.

  But the biggest thank you goes to you, dear reader. I am so happy that you gave this story a whirl. I hope you enjoyed the people and world of Ordinary, Oregon and that you’ll come back soon to see the not-so-ordinary surprises Ordinary has in store for us all.

  About the Author

  Devon Monk is a national best selling writer of urban fantasy. Her series include Ordinary Magic, House Immortal, Allie Beckstrom, Broken Magic, and Shame and Terric. She also writes the Age of Steam steampunk series, and the occasional short story which can be found in her collection: A Cup of Normal, and in various anthologies. She has one husband, two sons, and lives in Oregon. When not writing, Devon is either drinking too much coffee or knitting silly things.

  Want to read more from Devon?

  Follow her online or sign up for her newsletter at: http://www.devonmonk.com.

  Books by Devon Monk

  Ordinary Magic:

  Death and Relaxation


  Devils and Details

  Gods and Ends

  Shame and Terric:

  Backlash

  House Immortal:

  House Immortal

  Infinity Bell

  Crucible Zero

  Broken Magic:

  Hell Bent

  Stone Cold

  Allie Beckstrom:

  Magic to the Bone

  Magic in the Blood

  Magic in the Shadows

  Magic on the Storm

  Magic at the Gate

  Magic on the Hunt

  Magic on the Line

  Magic without Mercy

  Magic for a Price

  Age of Steam:

  Dead Iron

  Tin Swift

  Cold Copper

  Short Fiction:

  A Cup of Normal (collection)

  Yarrow, Sturdy and Bright (Once Upon a Curse anthology)

  Table of Contents

  Title page

  Death and Relaxation

  Dedication

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  READY FOR MORE ORDINARY MAGIC?

  Acknowledgment

  About the Author

  Books by Devon Monk

 


 

  Devon Monk, Death and Relaxation

 
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