Flight from mayhem fly b.., p.6
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       Flight from Mayhem (Fly by Night #2), p.6

           Yasmine Galenorn
 

  “What’s with her? And why’s Alex so grumpy?”

  “Glenda sent a message.” He glanced over his shoulder, making certain that the door was still shut. “I was here early, working on some new software for the system, and I heard something in the outer office. I knew the doors were locked, so it had to be someone with a key. Which Glenda apparently still has, because when I got out there, she was just leaving. She snickered and told me to tell Alex she had left him a gift. I decided to take a look, just in case she decided to booby-trap his office, and sure enough, she left him a gift all right. An absolutely gorgeous silver stake sitting on his desk.”

  I grimaced. That it was a stake was bad enough, but a silver one? That was adding insult to injury. “At least she didn’t leave it rigged up to stab him, but I’d say that’s a clear threat.”

  And the kicker was, if she made good with it, nobody would convict her. Vampires had no legal rights and could be murdered without recrimination from the courts. While the Seattle Vampire Nexus was working on putting a stop to that, vamp-hate groups were numerous, and the religious fervor was a small but vocal—and active—minority.

  “Yeah. He came in when I was examining it, making sure it wasn’t triggered with a spell or anything of that nature. I had to tell him about it—this wasn’t something I could just keep quiet. What if she tries for blood next time?” He cleared his throat. “She’s persona non grata around here, obviously, but you should be careful, too. She’s not happy with either of you.”

  I nodded, realizing that being in a relationship meant you were saddled with baggage no matter what—whether it was your own past or your partner’s past. “I will be. Meanwhile, is there a way to get that key back from her?”

  “No, but Alex has a locksmith coming out tonight to change the locks. And the building is warded against anybody just popping in. I don’t know if you knew that.”

  I nodded. “Vaguely, though it was never clearly explained to me. Somebody named Ysella?”

  Ralph motioned for me to follow him. “We’d better get in there, and yes. Ysella’s a sorceress. She’s Fae, and she hires herself out as a warding expert for a number of people. We met her through Carter. Let’s go, or Alex will chew our heads off.”

  We filed into his office. He glanced at Ralph, then at me as we took our seats next to Lydia. She seemed a bit cowed, and I felt rather sorry for her. Alex could be intimidating when he wanted to be, and right then, he wasn’t in a very diplomatic mood.

  I leaned forward. “Lydia, I’m Shimmer. Would you like a cup of coffee, or some water or something?”

  She gave me a grateful smile. “Thanks, coffee would be great. No cream, one sugar.”

  I quickly exited. Bette swiveled around in her chair as I poured the coffee and added the sugar. “The girl’s terrified, or looks it,” I said. “Oh, and I don’t know if Ralph told you, but Glenda was here. She left a silver stake for Alex. Locksmith will be here to change the locks pretty soon.”

  “I found out about it. Alex is madder than a hornet and has every right to be. I’ll keep an eye on things out here, then. You’d better get back in there.” She waved me off.

  I hurried back in, handing Lydia her coffee, as I gave Alex a concentrated look to say, Lighten up, dude.

  He stared at me for a moment, then relented. “I’m sorry, Miss Wagner. I had a rather unpleasant surprise waiting for me when I arrived at the office this evening. I don’t mean to take it out on you. Please, accept my apologies for my behavior.” When he wanted to, Alex could pull off the boyish rogue act pretty easily, and Lydia bought it up. He genuinely meant it—Alex wasn’t a player at all—but the stake had obviously unnerved him.

  Lydia ducked her head and flashed us all a smile. “That’s all right. My day hasn’t been too great either. That’s why I’m here. I need your help.”

  “Shimmer, when you and Bette arrived, Lydia was telling Ralph and me that she’s set something in motion that she can’t control. She’s a witch. Lydia, why don’t you elaborate now that we’re all here?”

  I pulled out my notebook and pen, as Ralph set up his iPad to record the conversation. “Please, go ahead when you’re ready.”

  Lydia swallowed, hard. “I really fucked up. I was practicing opening gates—portals. And I let something through that I couldn’t control. I can’t send it back and it’s loose in the city now.”

  I groaned. “What did you summon?”

  “This morning I was out in Wedgewood Park, and I opened a gateway to the realm of Fire. I invoked a salamander. I was just hailing it, I didn’t mean for it to enter through the gate, but one barged through anyway. I just was trying to . . . salute it, I guess. Anyway, it broke through, destroyed the gate behind it, and ran off into the park. It’s about the size of a giant crocodile or Komodo dragon. I tried to follow it, but the damn thing is fast. If we don’t find it and send it back, it’s going to do some damage.”

  I rubbed my forehead. I knew something about salamanders, thanks to Chai, who came from the realm of Fire himself. They were magical beasts and they had voracious appetites. And they had no compunction about eating people, pets, or anything else that fit in their mouths.

  “Great. When was this?” Alex leaned back, shaking his head. “And what on earth were you doing opening a gateway to the realm of Fire?”

  “Around five this afternoon. And it was part of my lessons. I’m an apprentice with a witch who lives out near Talamh Lonrach Oll—the Fae Sovereign Nation. Only I wasn’t supposed to do it on my own. I was supposed to be supervised, but I thought there wouldn’t be any harm to it. I haven’t told her yet.” She grimaced. “She’s going to be so pissed. I thought, if I could find the salamander first and send it back . . .”

  Alex finally broke into a light laugh. “She might go easier on you? Oh, girl, we all try that one—depending on what mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Fine. We’ll help you. We need a retainer of two hundred dollars, though.”

  I glanced at the girl’s clothes. They were clean and neat, but not really in style, and her shoes were scuffed. I could sense the conflict running through her. “That two hundred would probably be part of your rent money, wouldn’t it?”

  She bit her lip, but shook her head. “No, but it’s my electricity money and bus fare for the month. I was hoping . . . you might take payments?”

  I shot Alex a long look. He rolled his eyes, but shrugged.

  “Fine. You can pay us ten dollars a month till it’s paid off. How about that?”

  As she nodded, a grateful smile on her face, he motioned for her to go with Ralph. “I want you to give Ralph all the information on where exactly you were, and when this all happened. He’ll fill out a payment form for you to sign. Then we’ll do what we can to track down the critter. Now go on.” As he shooed her out of the office, with Ralph following her, I closed the door behind them and turned back to Alex.

  “You did the right thing.”

  He let out a snort but pushed back his chair and motioned for me to join him. I slid behind the desk, facing him as I straddled his lap. Our lips met, and his soft, chill touch registered against my own warm skin. As his tongue slid between my lips, he wrapped his arms around my waist, his hands slipping under my shirt to caress my back. I moaned gently, leaning in, my arms around his neck as the kiss wound on and on. I wanted him—here, now.

  Alex pulled away. In a ragged voice: “Lock the door.”

  I jumped up and hurried over to the door, locking it. But he was at my back, pressing my breasts against the cool reinforced steel as his lips brushed the back of my neck. I managed to turn around, breathless, my back to the door, and reached down, fumbling for his buckle as he unzipped my jeans. In a flurry of movement, I slid my hand down the front of his pants and wrapped my hand around him. He was thick and hard, and all I could think of was how much I wanted him inside me. My breath short, I gave him a slow squeeze, and—as he moaned—pushed him away as I leaned down to take o
ff my boots and kick off my jeans.

  The moment I was free of them, Alex pinned me against the door again, and I wrapped my legs around his waist as he cradled my butt. My breasts ached, and I yanked up my shirt. While holding me fast with one hand, he reached for my breast with his other and kneaded the flesh, his fingers pinching my nipple and sending a sharp ache of pleasure knifing through me.

  “I wish I could stay with you when sunrise comes.” He pressed his lips against mine, crushing my mouth with his, catching my lip on one of his fangs. A drop of blood welled up and his eyes grew wide as he flicked it away with his tongue, but he didn’t press the issue.

  My stomach was a barrel of knots as I whispered, “Fuck me before we’re interrupted.”

  “You want it, love? You want me in you, all hard and sweaty?”

  I let out a low laugh. “You don’t sweat. Get your cock inside me, Radcliffe.”

  Alex shifted, and I slid onto him, my legs still wrapped around his waist. He began to grind against me, his thick, hard shaft driving me back against the door as we rattled it with our rhythmic thumping. I let out a low groan as he filled me full, and then—before I knew what he was doing—we were on the floor and he was above me, shifting as he drove deeper and deeper.

  I closed my eyes, the tidal wave of sensation taking me out of myself, out of my head. Everything except his touch melted away. His mouth on my breasts, his body sliding against mine—that cool, icy feel of him deep inside me, stoking my need. My hands were on his back, his muscles taut beneath my fingers as I drew him closer, my breasts pressing against his chest as his hips swiveled until it felt like he was in the very center of my core. He reached down with one hand, fingering me, and the room began to spin as my thoughts vanished and everything became a wash of desire. I tried to catch my breath but couldn’t—the hunger was so deep and the ache so vast—and then, like sea foam crashing against the shore, I came, cresting as the wave filled my need.

  Alex let out a low moan, his back arching, and then he slumped in my arms, still deep within me, and softly kissed my nose. “My woman.”

  I shifted beneath him, kissing him gently. Those two words made me vaguely uncomfortable and yet . . . they made me feel needed. After a moment, I sucked in a long breath and let it out slowly.

  “I suppose we had better get dressed. I’m pretty sure Ralph’s done with Lydia by now.”

  “You always have to be so logical.” But he slowly pushed himself away, then rolled over and let out a satisfied snicker. “Think Ralph might have an eye for the girl?”

  “Not really. Ralph will find somebody, don’t you worry about that.” I sat up, then pushed myself to my feet. I hadn’t planned for sex, but Alex had a box of wet wipes in his desk and I quickly cleaned up, then dressed again as he pulled up his pants and fastened his belt. “I’m not that comfortable, you know. Having sex here. It doesn’t feel . . . appropriate.”

  “Romantic, aren’t you?” But his voice was light, and the bad mood seemed to have passed. “You’re right, and really—this shouldn’t happen. We should keep it professional at the office. But, damn it, Shimmer. You’re so . . . I don’t know. Every time I’m around you, all I can think about is how much I want you.” He stroked my arm, then leaned over to kiss me again, this time gently and on the cheek. His eyes met mine, and for a moment, it felt like I was seeing myself reflected in his gaze—lovely and turbulent and slightly wanton. “I like being with you. I like being around you.”

  I paused. The tone in his voice felt almost poignant and set my stomach to quivering. But all I said was, “Practicality can be a good thing. I learned that the hard way in the Dragon Reaches.” I kissed him on the nose, and then—making sure everything looked neat and tidy—I unlocked the door. As we headed out to the waiting room, I saw Ralph sitting with Lydia in the conference room.

  He flashed us a look that told me he knew exactly what we’d been up to, but said nothing except, “I have all of the information we need from Lydia. I’m going to make certain she gets back to her car all right, and then we should start searching for this creature. From what she tells me, salamanders can be very dangerous.”

  The sex haze drained away posthaste. “Yeah, she’s right.”

  At that moment, the locksmith arrived and Bette took him in hand. Ralph walked Lydia out to her car, while Alex and I glanced over the info that he had taken from her. Wedgewood Park was near a cemetery. Which meant . . . fresh bodies, possibly, which might just be attractive to a big fiery lizard.

  “We should check the Wedgewood Cemetery. Lizards can be scroungers. While you pull up the coordinates on that, I’m going to call Chai and see if he has any advice. If anybody knows anything about salamanders, it’s going to be him.” I headed into my office. Truth was, I needed to regroup. As much as I loved my time with Alex, if I didn’t get a handle on what our personal rules were, it was going to drive me crazy. This was the third time we’d had sex at the office, and I swore it would be the last. While I wasn’t shy or embarrassed, I didn’t want to make Bette, or Ralph, or any clients uncomfortable.

  Plus, there was another fact I couldn’t ignore.

  Alex was my boss, and essentially my parole officer. And now, my lover. Things had gotten convoluted very quickly. Hell, I barely knew how I felt about being Earthside, let alone suddenly in a relationship. I had never had a boyfriend in my life, though I had plenty of temporary lovers. No dragon worth his station would ever have considered me as relationship material given my lineage.

  I shut the door to my office and dropped into the chair behind my desk. As I swiveled around, staring out into the dark alley, it occurred to me that I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I had no long-term plans. I didn’t even know what I would do if they reinstated me to the Dragon Reaches when my time Earthside was over. Even though the Wing-Liege had promised me some sort of standing if I came through this all right, the fact was, I’d always be an orphan and outcaste to the people who mattered. Unless I found my parents—which seemed as far away as the moon. I had left the Lost and Foundling determined to seek out whatever information I could on them. Centuries later, I still had no clue. But then . . . what if I happened to make friends with a dragon who could look into things for me? I knew a couple of dragons who lived in town. And at least one of them had a great deal of standing in the Dragon Reaches.

  The whirl of thoughts was cut short by the jangle of my phone. I glanced at it. Chai.

  “Just the person I wanted to talk to, my friend.” I put him on speaker so I wouldn’t have to pop in the earbud. I hated that thing.

  “I’m cleaning out your refrigerator. When I get done, you won’t have any food left—it’s all pretty rank. Don’t you ever get around to tossing out old stuff?” Chai let out a snort. “So you might want to go shopping unless you’re willing to let me fill the fridge after I’ve cleaned it.”

  “All you ever want is spicy food and I don’t like it.” That was the truth, too. Spicy food stirred up my stomach and not in a good fashion. Not only did it give me heartburn, but it made me feel gassy and I would puff smoke if I burped loud and deep enough. All dragons did, even if we couldn’t breathe flame in human form. “I’ll go shopping later. Bette will take me, I guess. Listen, I was going to call you anyway. I need to ask you a question. What do you know about salamanders?”

  “They’re lizards?” Chai sounded preoccupied.

  “I know they’re lizards. I mean the ones from the Elemental plane of Fire. We’ve apparently got one loose and running around the city, and now we need to go find it and send it back to its own plane. How would we go about searching for such a creature?”

  Somehow, I had my doubts that Alex had thought that far ahead yet. Lydia as good as told us she couldn’t banish it back to where it came from, and none of us could. Which meant we were going to need either a higher-powered sorceress, or . . .

  “Say, Chai . . .”

  He let out an exasperated sigh. “Yeah, yeah. I know. You need help. You can’
t ask me. The djinn thing. I’ll be down there as soon as I wash out the shelves here. Remind Alex, Bette, and Ralph not to ask for my help. By now they seem to have it down, but you never know when somebody’s going to slip.” And with that, the line went dead.

  Satisfied—Chai could help us all he wanted as long as we didn’t ask for it—I set my phone down. At least one thing was going right. And I kept that thought until I stepped out into the outer office to find Bette weeping at her desk, where Chase Johnson—director of the FH-CSI—stood, looking uncomfortable.

  CHAPTER 5

  Bette turned to me, swiveling her chair around. “They found her. They found Marlene.” Her face crumpled, and I realized I had never seen Bette when she was sad. She might be pissed or irritated or even just contemplative, but in the time I had worked for the agency, I had never seen her look this upset.

  By found, I assumed they meant body. I turned to the detective. “Dead?”

  “I’m afraid so. Homicide. And this is the tip of a much bigger problem.” He motioned to Alex. “I need to discuss something in private with you and your team. When you’re ready . . .” Alex locked the door and turned the CLOSED sign around. Wordlessly, Bette looked up at him and he moved to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and kissing the top of her head gently. The gesture made me want to cry—she looked so bereft.

  Chase cleared his throat, and Alex helped Bette stand. “We’ll meet in the lunchroom. Shimmer, will you escort the detective there? Bette and I’ll be along in a moment.”

  Ralph followed me, with Chase following him. I led them into the lunch room, where I motioned to the coffeepot. “Would you like a cup of coffee, Detective?”

  He nodded. “I can fix it myself, thank you.”

  I glanced down the hall. Alex was talking to Bette and I could sense the connection between them. It went back years, and I was glad he was here for her. I let them be. “Detective Johnson—”

 
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