Vortex Blues, page 1
Books We Love
192 LakesideGreens Drive
Chestermere, Alberta, T1X 1C2
Copyright 2011 Tina Gerow
Cover art by Michelle Lee 2011
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
Thanks to Nancy Wilson, the Administrative Assistant at the Sedona, Arizona Police Department for patiently answering all my questions about the Sedona police. She was wonderfully patient and thorough with my million emails and strange questions. (I’m sure they now have some sort of stalker file on me in Sedona…lol.)
Also a big thank you to the city of Sedona, Arizona—one of my favorite places in the world. If you haven’t been there, I definitely recommend it! And the parts of my story about the beautiful red mountains, the breathtaking views, and the magic in the air—all of those are just facts about an amazing city.
Just a disclaimer—I did take liberties with police procedure in many places, after all, my supernatural characters don’t always do well with rules—just like their creator! Any mistakes in the book are definitely mine, and no reflection on Nancy’s patient tutelage.
Special thanks to my critique group, the Butterscotch Martini Girls (www.butterscotchmartinigirls.com), who not only keep me sane, but are the best set of friends and fellow writers anyone could have. I definitely can’t forget my word count buddy and our honorary new Butterscotch Martini Girl, Cheyenne McCray, who helped me ease into this new life as a full time author with her constant encouragement, and great sense of humor.
Last, but never least, to my two favorite men—Jon and son Darian—for living with a woman who argues out loud with her characters, would rather plan devious ways to kill off annoying characters than do housework, and whose idea of gourmet cooking is cereal, anything microwavable or ordering out. Thanks for putting up with me!
“Fuck you, Cleo.” Molly Beck scowled across the meticulously arranged desk at her captain, and fought the urge to throw something at the infuriating woman. Not that it would do any good—people had been trying to kill this bitch for centuries.
Get a badass reputation as Queen of the Nile, and even centuries later, people still fear you. Go figure.
Cleo smiled, her dark gaze danced with mischief as she leaned back in her chair. “Everyone but you already has fucked me, sweetie, and besides, I’m not really into women.” She licked her lips. “What can I say? There’s nothing like a nice, thick cock, you know?” She closed her eyes as if savoring the last of a decadent treat, and made a blatantly orgasmic sound in the back of her throat.
Molly resisted the urge to roll her eyes at Cleo’s habitual habit of bringing everything back to how much she loved “cock.” Gee, a succubus who loves cock—I get it already. Please don’t start telling me about Marc Anthony’s girth again, or I’ll have to slit my wrists.
She decided to cut her boss off at the pass. “Can we get back to the subject at hand?” Molly rushed on before Cleo could disagree. “I don’t need a partner—especially one who doesn’t know the first thing about the supernatural community.”
Cleo tapped a blood-red nail against glossy lips and shrugged the mane of brunette hair off her shoulder. Molly resisted the urge to grind her teeth—this was Cleo’s way of pretending to consider what you said, when in reality she only did it to make you feel better. The bitch had already made up her mind.
Her next words confirmed Molly’s thoughts. “Really. I think a partner might be exactly what you need. This serial killer’s cock-remnant rate is climbing, and it’s time to bring in fresh eyes.”
Please don’t start talking about dicks again! “Damn it, Cleo.” She smacked her palm down on the woman’s desk. Pencils, towering stacks of files, and a few sundry office supplies jumped and shifted. “This is my case. I can’t believe you think I need some fuckup from another department coming in—especially a human.”
“This human is special. He’s a sensi-freak, a very powerful one.”
Molly wasn’t fond of the slang term, but it was commonly used in the supernatural world.
“Do you know how rare it is to have a full-blooded human who can sense and psychically communicate with supernaturals?” Cleo pursed her shiny red lips. “Besides, the whole reason he got booted out of the Phoenix PD—other than he decked his boss, that prickless wonder Dodson—was because he stopped the drug dealers and his own undercover team from raping a water dryad.”
Cleo leaned her forearms on her desk, accentuating her overabundant cleavage ready to burst from a very low cut, blood-red designer suit. Then she pinned Molly with a laser stare. “Hell, if the dryad hadn’t picked up on it and started it through the supernatural gossip grapevine, we would’ve missed a great opportunity. And as you know, sweetie, I never miss opportunities. He risked his career and the undercover operation to save a supernatural. That should count for something.”
This time Molly did grind her teeth. “How heroic,” she said dryly, although she couldn’t help a flash of admiration. Not many humans would risk their lives, let alone their careers, for a non-human. Congress may have passed legislation that gave supernaturals the same rights as humans, but it would be a long time before it was commonly accepted. Right now, they were still on the fringes, considered the dregs of society by most of the world.
“I don’t care if he’s the next Gandhi, that doesn’t qualify him to horn in on my case.”
Cleo smiled, her perfect white teeth flashed, and her gaze danced with amusement. “No, me hiring him and assigning him as your partner does.” Cleo pushed away from her desk and stood, a sign Molly clearly recognized as the end of the conversation. Any attempt at bargaining with Cleo past this point would only make the ancient bitch more manipulative and devious. Two things her eclectic captain didn’t need any more of.
“Fine,” Molly said to Cleo’s back more out of stubbornness than anything else. “But I’m not sitting around here waiting for Mr. Stupendous to stroll in. I’ll be at the Vortex.” She ground her teeth when Cleo flashed a smug grin over her shoulder before disappearing down the hallway.
“He’d just better hope he doesn’t piss me off, or I’ll have his ass for lunch…”
Mitch Guthrie squared his shoulders and clenched his jaw as he pulled open the front door to the Sedona, Arizona Police department.
Just get it over with, damn it! At least you’re not off the force entirely.
He bit back a curse. Who was he kidding? This post may well be worse than if he’d been fired—at least then, he could collect unemployment and retain some tattered shred of dignity.
Too late for that, Guthrie. Quit stalling!
He stepped inside, and as the door whooshed closed behind him, the sudden impression that he’d stepped into another universe prickled up his spine, and he checked the instinctive urge to pull his gun.
He blinked and let his rioting senses calm. This looked like every police station he’d ever served in—too many fluorescent lights, desks regurgitating paperwork in growing piles, and the sounds of cursing, phone calls and fingers typing on keyboards long since out of date.
Hell, it even smelled like a police station, tangy disinfectant barely covered the stench of sweat, cheap cologne and lef
Small hairs on the back of his neck stood at attention.
Gooseflesh marched down his arms, while a fresh surge of adrenaline rushed to every cell of his body.
Before he could squelch the impulse, the comforting weight of his Glock sat in his hand like a familiar lover. He pointed it toward the blank wall to his left, his finger resting against the side, his gaze riveted for movement or the threat his internal alarm system knew existed.
He’d been trained not to draw unless he was ready to kill, but hell, he’d take a reprimand. This place was damned creepy, and ending up like his father wasn’t an option.
“Squid, stop teasing Officer Guthrie before he shoots you and damages the wall I just replaced after the shape shifter brawl last month.”
The authority and pure sex in the very feminine voice teased Mitch’s senses, but he kept his attention on the wall, even as he entertained the thought that he was on some kind of reality show or had truly stepped into the Twilight Zone.
Maybe it’s not too late to take up some nice boring profession like an academy instructor or an accountant…
He spared a quick glance to the side and noted a tall brunette with golden skin who could stop traffic at a hundred paces.
Her arms were crossed under her impressive cleavage, accentuated by the blood-red business suit and skirt she wore. She stared at the blank spot on the wall where he still pointed his gun.
Since his internal alarms didn’t consider her a threat, he turned his attention back toward the empty wall just as it shimmered like oil on water. After a few moments, it solidified into a small gnarly man-like creature with skin the color of mud—one who reeked of urine.
What the fuck? He had a millisecond of relief that he wasn’t actually losing his mind before his adrenaline pumped even higher from the unknown threat. Being out of control definitely wasn’t Mitch’s favorite thing—and this place slammed his fight or die response into overdrive.
“I just needed a snack, Cleo. I didn’t know you’d hired a sensi-freak.” The small man shrugged and smiled. The expression reminded Mitch of a child caught stealing candy.
Mitch started at being called “a sensi-freak,” since he wasn’t sure what that entailed, but he had a strong suspicion it wasn’t good.
Conflicting emotions he couldn’t quite name roiled inside his stomach like lava, making his insides burn and his temples throb. He hated being surrounded by the unknown, not to mention his banishment to Spook Central. Talk about rubbing salt in the still open wound of his father’s death. It might’ve been twenty years, but being surrounded by all this supernatural shit brought it all back with unique clarity.
He pushed the bitter memories aside and made a mental note to add what the fuck a sensi-freak was to his growing list of questions—after he made it through his first day in his new job.
The killer brunette took a few steps forward, her long hair slipping over her shoulders. “You can put your gun away, Guthrie. A shot through the skull wouldn’t kill Squid unless your bullets are treated with holy water. But it would damage my police station, and make his urine stench worse, which would piss me off. No pun intended.” Once again, her voice wrapped itself around him like liquid sex. It didn’t cause a physical reaction, but the definite promise of one was more than there.
He clenched his jaw in irritation. He didn’t like all this supernatural shit, it gave him the creeps, but since he’d lost his temper and decked his last boss, he was most likely stuck here for the duration.
Before meeting Cleo, he’d entertained the notion of decking this boss too, and maybe get some unemployment, but one look at Cleo and he knew he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t just that she was a woman—if his life were in danger, he’d kick a woman’s ass along with the rest—but some gut feeling told him Cleo would make his life a living hell if he tried, and it probably wouldn’t hurt her a bit.
The small stinky man had shuddered at the mention of holy water, but otherwise appeared harmless, so Mitch lowered his gun.
However, he kept the comforting weight of the Glock in his hand. “What the hell are you, Squid?” He thought being direct might be the best way to learn. His father had gotten too friendly with the supernaturals without knowing anything about them, and he’d paid the price. Since then, Mitch had done everything he could to avoid them.
Dark eyes that seemed to suck in all the light around them blinked at Mitch in surprise, then scaly brown lips lifted in what Mitch thought might be a smile. “Well, I’m the records clerk here at the station, and I’m a fear demon. I didn’t realize Cleo’d gotten herself a true sensi-freak, or I wouldn’t have played with you, human.” He shrugged in what could probably pass for an attempt at innocence. “No hard feelings, officer?” Squid held out his bark-like hand.
The skin on Mitch’s hand grew clammy at the thought of touching the demon, so he didn’t offer to shake. “I’ll pass on the handshake before the skin crawls off my hand and walks across the room on its own.”
At Cleo’s chuckle, he faced her, keeping the demon in his peripheral vision. “Good choice, Guthrie. Fear demons feed on fear, which they generate in others. When physical touch is freely given, they can intensify the effect, even from a distance. It’s sort of like inviting a vampire over the threshold, although you can’t undo a touch freely given. You’d have to kill him to negate it.”
A small squeak escaped from Squid as he shimmered and disappeared, although Mitch sensed the demon hadn’t moved. He made a mental note to read up on fear demons when he got home, wherever home was going to be in this town.
“Thanks for the tip. I’m assuming you’re my new Captain.” Mitch slipped the Glock back in the holster at his waist, then held out his hand in greeting before his brain caught up with the practiced gesture, and he hesitated.
Cleo wasn’t exactly human, but he wasn’t quite sure what she was.
Did physical contact with her give her some supernatural power over him as well? It would’ve been nice if his asshole ex-boss would’ve sent him for some training before he dropped him into this dead end assignment.
Cleo’s full red lips curved, and amusement danced in her bright blue eyes. “Don’t worry, Officer Guthrie. I’m a succubus, not a fear demon. We feed off sexual energy and fluids, nothing about your hand says ‘dinner and dessert’ to me. Besides, it’s not department policy for me to feed off the officers who report to me. If you return the favor and do your job, we’ll be fine.”
She held out her hand, and when his internal alarms remained silent, he shook. Her grip was firm and dry. Power vibrated up his arm from the contact, almost as if she couldn’t help it—that it was just part of her. Just another reminder that he’d entered the Twilight Zone.
“I’m sorry, Cleo, is it? I haven’t had any fucking training for this type of duty, and I’m not so sure I’m comfortable being dropped into supernatural central. But if you’ll point me toward my new sergeant or lieutenant, I’ll go start pissing them off and stop wasting your time.” He met her penetrating gaze and tried not to show his frustration when her smirk of amusement continued undaunted.
Not bothering to answer, she released her grip and motioned for him to follow. Cleo turned a pointed glare toward the wall where Mitch suspected Squid still stood, before she turned and headed down the long hallway.
He shrugged and followed in her wake, the sharp click of her red stilettos echoed around them.
Her matching suit seemed painted on and lovingly caressed every generous curve and dip. Her mid-thigh length skirt highlighted legs so long he thought it would take hours to explore their sleek length. In fact, she reminded him of a high-class escort he’d arrested several years back—unconsciously sensuous and not afraid to show it. Her outfit was anything but police-issue.
Her hips swayed enticingly, and each step brought his attention down to the most perfect female ass he’d ever seen.
Mitch waited for the inevitabl
What the hell is wrong with you, Guthrie? She’s a fucking goddess!
From the little he’d heard about succubi, he’d expected something much different—maybe an unquenchable lust or a sudden erection that could break through concrete. He squared his shoulders and reminded himself he was probably better off without that added complication. He’d made enough of a mess of his life without adding a woman into the mix—they always spelled trouble, and they always wanted to change a man.
When she reached the office at the end of the hall, she stepped inside without looking back and slid into her office chair with the languid movements of a feline predator.
“Please, sit, Officer Guthrie.” Cleo gestured across the top of her desk at one of the empty worn office chairs facing her. She tapped a perfectly manicured nail against the arm of her leather office chair while she waited for him to comply.
Mitch wasn’t sure what to say, although her open blue gaze seemed to penetrate him completely, and he resisted the urge to squirm.
“Yes, I’m the Captain here. The name is Cleo, short for Cleopatra.”
When Mitch’s brows rose as she held up her hand, palm out. He knew supernatural creatures were long-lived, but her revelation caught him off guard.
“Yes, I’m that Cleopatra. We succubi live a long time. However, to everyone here, I’m Captain Cleo—no last name.” She pointed at him, the tip of her long red fingernail reminding him of fresh blood. “No Nile jokes or I’ll put you on your ass, got it?”
Her suddenly angry gaze pinned him in place better than the nuns at Catholic school, and he resisted the urge to hide his knuckles before they got smacked with a ruler. Again—he waited in vain for the teacher/school boy fantasy involving the whip and Cleo wearing a very short school uniform.