Chasing daybreak, p.19
Chasing Daybreak, p.19Ranae Glass
I played the scenario in my head, trying to figure out what angle Xavier was working. It was possible he didn’t want it known that he was helping me. I could understand that. Even so, the cloak-and-dagger routine was just a little melodramatic for my taste.
Shane was in a mood when we got back to the house. He didn’t have to say anything. His body language screamed at me not to go to the meeting. I knew I’d have been just as hesitant to let him do something like that alone. But he was moving out soon, cutting ties with me and the business. At some point, I’d have to go it alone and really, why postpone the inevitable?
So while he slammed drawers in the kitchen, I took the extra time to go over the case files again.
“Hey,” I called across the house.
He walked in, nursing a mug of blood. “Yeah? What’s up?”
I held up the case file. “Did Lisa’s sister mention why nobody told the police about the husband’s gambling problems?”
He nodded. “Said she was the only one who knew besides Lisa. Didn’t tell the police because, well, she didn’t want to accuse him. Also, she seemed pretty convinced that he didn’t have anything to do with Lisa’s disappearance.”
“She’s probably right, but just to cover our bases, do you think you could look into that angle?”
“You want me to talk to the local bookies, just try to follow the cash?”
I reached into my drawer and pulled out my new, slim-line tracking device. “Literally.”
I handed him the microchip. It was no bigger than the tip of my finger and impressively thin. Nearly paper thin.
“You can pull out three hundred bucks from the business account. See if you can find the bookie Welch used, place a bet, and we can track the money back to the boss.”
“Or I could just beat the information out of him,” Shane offered, handing the tiny chip back to me.
“There you go again, ruining my fun.”
He winked. “You’re just mad because I make all your silly gadgets obsolete.”
“Fine. Do it your way. But I’m not bailing you out of jail, again.” I said with a huff.
After changing into something a little less combat ready, I headed for Muse.
The chichi restaurant was already filling up at ten after five, which was when my oh-so-punctual sister arrived. Her long dress was startlingly red and low cut. She looked more like a Hollywood starlet than a tree-hugging vegan.
“Thanks for meeting me.” Heather flipped her dark brown hair over her shoulder.
How can we possibly be related? “Yeah, well, I have a few questions,” I said as gently as I could under the circumstances.
She picked up the menu, blocking my eye contact with her. “Ask away.”
I took a sip of my seven-dollar soda. “Fine. Let’s start with, ‘Where the hell have you been?’ and work our way to ‘What do you know about Phoebe’s new boyfriend and how do you know it?’“
She put the menu down and folded her hands on top of it. “Well, I was traveling. You know, seeing the world.”
“While you were seeing the world, Dad died,” I blurted, more harshly than I’d intended. “Mom was devastated. We got left to pick up the pieces.”
Heather frowned. “I know. I’m sorry about that. When I heard about Dad, I wanted to come straight home, but he was already gone, and I was having a really hard time. I was in a bad place for a while, sis.”
“So were we.”
“Yes. But I had to deal with it my way. If I’d come home then, I just would have made things worse. We both know that.”
She was probably right. Still, that didn’t make it okay.
The waiter made his way over.
“I’ll have the tofu penne with the braised crème sauce, please,” Heather ordered, handing over her menu. “And a glass of chardonnay. Thank you.”
I blinked, still unprepared to order despite my ten-minute head start on reading the menu. “Um, I’ll have the Ahi. Thanks.”
He took our menus and walked away without a word.
“And as for Duke,” Heather continued, “it’s pretty obvious, at least to those of us who are sensitive to that sort of thing.”
“Explain,” I demanded before taking a drink of water.
She sighed. “Well, I’m a little psychic, you see. I discovered it while I was in Virginia studying focus meditation with this yogi—”
“Focus,” I said, cutting her off before she could get too far off track. “Duke.”
“Right. Anyway, I can feel him. Or, well, the air around him. It’s warmer than a regular human.”
“Yeah. It’s like, his aura burns hotter. I can sort of feel it. Not like a vampire. They don’t actually have auras. Makes them pretty easy to spot, too.”
“So, how have you been?” she asked with a smile. “Is it weird, living in Dad’s old office? Are you planning to go back to school?”
I gaped at her. “I can’t go back to school. Mom’s bakery barely pays for itself, and Dad’s life insurance only covered funeral expenses. Mom gets his pension, but I have to help pay for Sarah’s tuition. UCLA is expensive. Add in the expenses around the office, and there isn’t much left over.”
“Well, I’m back now. I can help Mom out.”
I cocked my head. Heather was planning to actually work? Was it Opposite Day? “What do you mean? You? Looking for a job?”
“Actually, I’m opening my own business.” She gave me a ‘don’t-act-so-surprised’ look.
Oh, that wasn’t good. I could actually feel the verbal blow coming in the air. I carefully set the soda back on the table so I wouldn’t lose my temper at whatever she was going to say next and end up with a fist full of broken glass.
“I’m going to open my own fortune-telling shop—with Tarot cards, tea leaves, and palm reading. I’ll sell candles and oils, too. I know how to make the best patchouli oil…”
She kept talking but I quit listening, a subtle but painful throb developing behind my left eye.
“Where?” I asked when she stopped to take a breath.
“I have a little cash stocked away. I’m gonna buy a space down by the Old Slave Market. There’s a place next to the Haunted Tours office for sale. It’s the perfect location really—”
“Where did you get the money?”
She flicked her hair again. “Sold some stuff.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What stuff?”
“Pirate gold. What does it matter? Point is, I’m making my dreams come true. And I’m happy to help Mom out with whatever I can. You know, once I get some steady business coming in.”
There was so much I wanted to say, all of it bitchy and judgmental. I held it in, though I still couldn’t manage the kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm she obviously had about the venture.
She was talking about furnishings when our meal came. I let her ramble on, chewing my food slowly. My mind was going back and forth between what I was going to do about her and what I was going to do about my meeting with Xavier that night. And wondering if I was going to get any more dead guys on my doorstep as gifts.
“Maybe I should get a dog,” I interrupted, thinking out loud.
Heather laughed, taking a drink of her wine. “Why not? Phoebe did.”
I decided to change the subject, once we stopped laughing, that was. “Okay Heather, spill it. Why the dinner invite?”
I took a drink of my soda as she twisted the fabric napkin in her hands before lowering her head.
“Truly? Izzy, I see death all around you.”
I snorted a laugh. “Yeah, I live with a dead guy.”
“I mean it,” she whispered. “I’m not talking about Shane. What I’m trying to say is that I feel like trouble is coming for you. That body they found at your house, it’s just the beginning. Someone is watching you, maybe right now. You aren’t safe.”
I gaped at her. “Seriously? I guess it must be Tuesday then.”
She sat back, t
“Okay,” I agreed grumpily. “Say I believe you. Can you put a face to this mysterious danger? A name?”
“It doesn’t happen like that. It’s just feelings, impressions.”
“Look, Heather, I know you’re trying to help. But vague warnings don’t do me any good. My business, hell, my life, is dangerous. I appreciate you looking out for me, but unless you have something a little more solid, keep it to yourself, okay? I can’t afford to be jumping at shadows.”
She swallowed the last of the contents of her glass. “Fine. But like it or not, I’m home now, and I’m going to look after you and the rest of the family.”
The idea of little Heather looking after anyone was so sad it was almost funny.
“Oh,” she continued, “and don’t be too hard on Duke today. He’s a good guy.”
I just gaped at her, mouth full of tuna.
After dinner, I drove over to the firehouse where Duke worked. I’d managed to get a vague schedule from Phoebe without sending up any red flags on her end, so I knew he was supposed to be on duty. How Heather had known about my plans still had me scratching my head. I’d just have to get used to her psychic abilities. That was, if the whole thing weren’t totally insane.
The firemen had probably just gotten back from a call when I arrived because three men in jeans and fire department T-shirts were cleaning and re-stocking one of the fire engines.
“Excuse me,” I said, poking my head around the door to where one man was hunched over the front seat.
He turned to me. “What can I do for you?”
He’s cute, was my first thought. Dark, wavy hair and a solid, square jaw. Was that a requirement?
Then another man, this one short, with a weird, black mustache and thinning hair that smelled vaguely of chicken walked over, and I knew I had my answer.
“Um, I’m looking for Duke. Is he around?”
Mustache Guy answered, “He’s upstairs. This way.”
I gave Cute Guy a wistful half-wave and followed the other man up the stairs to some sort of apartment. Duke was sitting on a beige couch playing Xbox with another fireman.
“Duke, you got a visitor,” Mustache Guy announced.
With a bright smile that dimmed just a fraction when he saw me, Duke turned my way. He tossed the controller to Mustache Guy and leapt over the back of the sofa, landing in front of me.
“Can we talk? Privately?” I asked in a low voice.
That didn’t stop the two other guys from making the noise twelve-year-old boys made when someone was scolded by a teacher. Part snicker, part whistle.
“Sure,” he said, stuffing his hands in his pockets.
He led the way to the kitchen, which was empty and impeccably clean. Even the chrome faucet shined. I was admittedly surprised. I expected more of a gross dorm-room feel from a bunch of guys.
“What can I do for you?” He propped a hip against the counter.
Where did I begin this conversation? I debated for a minute before deciding just to blurt it out. I was good at blurting. “Are you a werewolf?”
The uncomfortable smile fell from his face instantly. “What are you talking about?”
“Okay, so here it is. You know I’m a PI. My partner is a vamp. I recently ran into a were in town. I know they’re pretty rare, but Heather is, sort of psychic or something, and she said you felt different, whatever the hell that means, so I did some digging and…” I took a breath. “I found an article about you. Bear attack, minus the bear? Kinda suspect. So I figured I’d just ask you.”
I stood there, breathing hard after my mini-speech. His mouth was hanging open, but I couldn’t read his expression.
“I… you… This is insane. What did you say to Phoebe about all of this?” he demanded finally.
“Nothing. Even if it’s true, it’s not my place to tell her anything.”
“Look, Duke. You seem like a decent guy. Phoebe digs you. Great. Whatever. I just want to make sure you aren’t putting her in danger. I know some of the local were are working for the vamps, and I just—”
“Wait. Go back a step. What?”
Oh. He didn’t know. Interesting.
“Yeah, so there’s some kind of inter-species cooperation going on here in Charleston. No idea what or why. But I know that it’s a dangerous gig, getting involved with those people. If you’re in a position that puts my sister at risk…” I let that hang between us.
He shook his head slowly. “I moved here to get away from the pack lifestyle. No way would I jump into bed with the vampires. I can’t imagine it.”
I snorted—couldn’t help it. “So, you’re what, a lone wolf?”
He smirked. “Something like that. Look, the locals don’t know about me, none of them. I’d like to keep it that way.”
I shrugged. “I’m good with that, as long as you answer a few questions for me.”
He looked at me suspiciously.
“Where do you spend your full moons?”
He frowned. Weres could often control the changes, at least after the new wore off, but they still ran a bit hotter during their cycle. A PMS-ing were was a dangerous creature.
“I go camping, far away from the general population.”
“And your, uh, lineage?” I asked, feeling uncomfortably like my mother.
Being a were was usually from an infected bite, but two infected people could produce a full-blooded were child. They were crazy rare, crazy powerful, and according to Dad’s notes, mostly just crazy. But the bottom line was the children of a full-blood were and a human were almost always born weres, at least for a few generations, until the gene sort of faded out. So if he was a full blood, or the child of a full blood, then my potential nieces and nephews were prone to the furry.
“I was infected.”
I nodded. “I assume you plan on telling Phoebe?”
He frowned. “At some point.”
“You have two weeks.”
His head snapped up.
“Look. My sister doesn’t do anything halfway. If she’s committed herself to you, it’s with everything she has. It’s a rare thing, a person with that capacity for love and forgiveness. So if you aren’t serious about her, cut her loose now. If you are serious, then tell her. She deserves to know the truth.”
He nodded silently.
“Oh, and we never had this conversation. If she says to me in a week, ‘Hey, sis, my boyfriend’s a werewolf.’ I say, ‘Really? I had no idea.’ Get it?”
“Got it. Thanks, I guess.”
I tipped my head and left the kitchen, walking past the men playing Mario Kart, and headed back to the house, ready to tackle the next thing on my Impossible-Crap-To-Do list.
Chasing Daybreak by Ranae Glass / Actions & Adventure / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on36 votes