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Vortex blues, p.5

Vortex Blues, page 5

 

Vortex Blues
 


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  He held his hand out to touch the railing and the stone throbbed under his fingertips, pouring energy through his body like an electrical current. When the energy arced and sizzled up his arm, he jerked back and examined his skin for any marks. His fingertips tingled, but showed no visible signs of the experience.

  He hurried to catch up with Molly, and noticed the large red stone door that loomed at the base of the stairs. Molly stopped when she reached the bottom, and placed her hand on the security pad identical to the one at the top of the stairs. When the indicator flashed green, she stepped aside while Mitch pressed is hand to the pad too. As soon as the indicator flashed green again, the stone door rumbled aside like a large pocket door, the sound reminding him of Rocky’s stone teeth gnashing together.

  He clenched his jaw until the nails-on-chalkboard sound stopped. “Damn, how do you stand that noise all the time?”

  “Believe me, given enough time, you can get used to anything.”

  He frowned at the bitter edge in her voice. He opened his mouth to ask what things she’d had to get used to, but he stopped short when they stepped through the door.

  If he didn’t know better, he’d think they’d just walked into a long hallway of an apartment building. Doors punctuated the hallway on either side as far as he could see, and two-inch brass numbers graced the front of each door. “How big is this place?”

  “There are two hundred rooms on this level, but remember, you’re dealing with magic. You can’t think of space down here in the same terms as you would upstairs.” She strode toward a door with a brass zero on the front and pushed it open.

  Mitch followed behind her, surprised to find a fully functioning office complete with at least twenty grey metal desks, a large multi-line phone, filing cabinets, credit card machines and a coffee maker. Not to mention a staff of a few dozen, who by the way Mitch’s skin tried to crawl off his body, were definitely not human. The room buzzed with energy so thick he could almost see it, and he swallowed hard as a wave of nausea threatened. The smell of sweets intensified, reminding him of being locked inside a candy factory.

  “We really need to teach you how to block before you pass out.” Molly’s grey eyes darkened with concern, and she motioned to one of the staff.

  “Here you go, handsome.” A shapely barely clad woman with blue skin the color of cotton candy handed him a bar of chocolate. “Eat that, it’ll help counteract all the supernatural energy in here.” She pushed her floor-length snow-white hair over her shoulder and tsked at Molly. “You trying to kill this one, Molly? It’d be a shame. Hell, nicest ass I’ve seen in a century.” She winked and smiled, baring a row of tiny razor sharp teeth.

  “This is Detective Guthrie, my new…partner.” Molly pulled a chair out and pushed Mitch into it. Since his rubbery legs threatened to give out anyway, he didn’t resist. She studied him as if assessing how badly he was affected. “She’s right, go ahead and eat the chocolate, it’ll help. I’m not used to having to factor in a sensi-freak’s reaction to what’s a normal day for me.”

  Mitch didn’t need to be told twice. He peeled off the wrapper and took a bite, letting the rich dark chocolate melt in his mouth. As soon as he swallowed, his head cleared and his stomach settled, leaving him with only a warm buzz of energy that reminded him of the last time he’d had too many tequila shots.

  As if Molly sensed he was past the worst, she turned away to address the blue-skinned woman. “Okay, Aria, what happened?”

  The woman pursed her glossy blue lips before answering. “Someone broke into one of the rooms and knocked Denali out—a succubus from the leftover energy. When he came to, enchanted fire bonds kept him immobile and blocked his vision, and the intruder had started without him, if you get my meaning.” She scowled, her almond shaped eyes, the same shade of blue as her skin.

  “I rang Denali’s room about an hour ago. No one answered, and by the time I went to check, the succubus had disappeared.” She shrugged, the motion doing interesting things to her barely covered breasts. “Cleo’s with Denali now.”

  “Why did you call Cleo, and not me?”

  “I didn’t. When I got back from Denali’s room, Cleo was already here.”

  Mitch hid his sudden surprise and glanced at Molly. Her mouth was set into a thin firm line, and he knew she was thinking about Cleo’s energy signature at the last scene. In fact, now that his reaction to this place had calmed down, he detected her faint energy trace here as well.

  “Let’s go see Cleo, and I’ll answer your questions on the way.” She grabbed Guthrie’s arm and half dragged him out the door and down the hall.

  “Damn, they sure make succubi strong these days. You wanna slow down before I trip, and you end up dragging me by the hair?”

  She dropped his arm as if it were a hot potato. Then she turned to face him with her arms crossed under her breasts, and her face dark with anger. “It’s just a coincidence. Cleo is not a murderer.”

  “Calm the fuck down, Molly, and think.” He brushed the wrinkles from his sleeve where her fingers had gripped them, trying to ignore the warmth that still lingered from her touch. “Any good cop would be suspecting Cleo about now. If she’s truly not guilty, then it’s up to us to find evidence that clears her and leads us to the real killer.”

  Her full lips parted in surprise, but she quickly regained her composure and squared her shoulders, her hands fisted at her sides.

  “Before you decide I’m the enemy, take a step back from the succubus sorority and look at this objectively. Cleo’s been around for a long time. Do you seriously think she never killed anyone in Egypt or in her other…” he searched for the correct word and finally gave up, “jobs?”

  “That’s different.” Her eyes sparked and her anger radiated off her in thick waves that buffeted against him. “We’ve come a long way. Digesting men just isn’t done anymore.”

  “The dick in a body bag from our last scene not withstanding.”

  They stood toe to toe for a moment, with Mitch trying and failing to think of anything but pulling her against him and plundering her lush mouth. Then finally, Molly huffed out a breath, and her lips curved slightly. “Fine, you got me with that one.” She brushed the dark bangs from her eyes. “Look, Cleo is a total and complete bitch, and she’s been a pain in my ass for the last two hundred years, but you really get to know someone after all that time. I know she didn’t do this.”

  Mitch nodded, more to let her know he heard her than to agree. “All I’m saying is that you aren’t doing her any favors by not looking at all angles. What if we miss evidence that could clear her because we aren’t looking for it?”

  “I never said I wasn’t looking at all angles and all evidence. I was just making sure you benefited from my time and expertise.”

  Mitch’s thoughts turned to vivid scenarios of just how he could benefit from her time and expertise, and his erection screamed to life.

  Molly shook her head and tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile. “You may want to remember where we are and keep a leash on that thing.”

  “I thought this was sex central. I’m sure it won’t be out of place.”

  Anger sparked inside her eyes, and Mitch resisted the urge to wince.

  “If you’re finished, we need to talk to Denali.” Her voice lashed out at him like a whip. “And although you may have interviewed rape victims in the past, supernaturals, especially those who have been violated, won’t react like humans. So follow my lead and stay out of my way.”

  “Yes, ma’am, Detective Beck,” he returned with the same heat in his voice. “Would you care to elaborate? Or are you just going to get bitchy every time I don’t see eye to eye with you?”

  She ground her teeth, a frequent habit from what he noticed. “Supernaturals will either totally lose themselves and retreat inside their minds or will handle it almost as if it happened to someone else. They have different coping mechanisms than humans, so I thought you should be aware.”

  “So what do you
think this one will do?”

  She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. When she spoke again, her voice sounded soft and vulnerable. “I’m not sure. But either way—sex in the supernatural world means energy, sustenance and power. So even a violation will leave them with an energy burst—until it wears off.”

  “I’ll follow your lead.” Damned frustrating woman! He appreciated the information, but he was starting to think that all succubi had the lightning mood swings. He’d only met two, but so far they both fit his theory.

  She turned away and glared at him over her shoulder. “Come on, Cleo’s waiting.”

  “Great, sample number two in the flesh,” he muttered under his breath.

  ****

  Molly walked the long length of the hall with Guthrie’s overwhelming presence behind her. At least, for once, he stayed silent and didn’t taunt her. Damn, but the man was infuriating. When he wasn’t causing her to think of things best forgotten, he was questioning her police work. Not to mention, his constant awareness drained her power reserves. In all her long years as a succubus, she’d become very adept at blocking other’s energies out—until now.

  Damned…human!

  She ground her teeth and fisted her hands at her sides before she stubbornly returned her mind to the situation at hand. Even as she’d been insisting on Cleo’s innocence, she’d been filing away evidence and forming theories of all possible scenarios. In fact, she wasn’t even sure why she’d defended Cleo so vehemently. After all, Cleo was a big girl and could defend herself.

  Liar!

  She cursed as her conscience made her face reality. She’d been so busy being overwhelmed by her sudden awareness of her new partner and wanting him not to condemn her for being a succubus that she’d blindly defended Cleo and missed her energy signature at the last scene. Angry embarrassment settled in the pit of her stomach like a led ball, bringing all her stress back in a rush. She needed to keep her mind on her work and off the very sexy and very tempting Mitch Guthrie. Besides, she didn’t care what he thought of her.

  Men are only good for food or customers, remember?

  Yeah, her body wasn’t buying it in this case. She took a deep breath and brought herself back to the facts. She hadn’t sensed anything out of place at the two previous murder scenes. However, Cleo had arrived on scene before she had, so having her energy there hadn’t seemed out of the ordinary.

  It did seem too convenient that Cleo suddenly appeared wherever men were being forcibly separated from their favorite body parts. She made a mental note to visit the coroner and view the “remains” as soon as she could.

  As she approached room forty-four, the room where Denali worked and lived, she opened her senses, alert for anything. The door slammed open, startling Molly, and she jumped back, colliding with Guthrie’s solid warm chest. A jolt of energy sizzled through her from their contact—half sexual, half pure power—and her body wanted to sit up and beg for both.

  “It’s about time you two got here.” Cleo’s acidic voice whipped through the room lashing everyone it its path, and pulling Molly out of her sexual haze.

  “Sorry, Cleo. We were out checking on all the detached penises in town.” Mitch stepped past her and into the room clearly ignoring the fire and brimstone in Cleo’s expression.

  Cleo’s arched brow and critical stare told Molly she didn’t appreciate Mitch’s sarcasm.

  Molly ignored her and followed Mitch inside. The last thing she needed right now was Cleo’s energy buzzing around the crime scene along with Mitch’s. “We’re here now, so thanks for calling.” She closed the door with Cleo still on the other side. She expected outrage or worse, but she heard only silence—which could be worse.

  Denali sat on the bed Indian-style, with his arms wrapped around his upper torso as if he were cold. In the normal manner of wood elves, his skin resembled smooth-sanded reddish-brown bark of cherry wood, and his long dark hair flowed to his waist accentuating his pointed ears. His striking cerulean blue eyes were the only hint of his half-human heritage. His aristocratic features seemed almost regal, even with his furrowed brow and his sensuous mouth set into a thin line.

  She crossed the room in a few strides and sat hip to hip with the elf.

  When he raised his chin to meet her gaze, the pain and betrayal shining in those beautiful eyes hit her full force, and her heart constricted inside her chest. Denali had been one of the first half-humans to join her when she set up the Vortex over sixty years earlier. He’d been an outcast from his own people, and because of his distinct beauty, was able to make a very profitable living by offering his services to the succubus community. Over the years, they’d become friends, although Molly had never shared his bed—he’d been alternately like a brother or a son to her.

  At a loss for words, she opened her arms and folded her long-time friend into a firm embrace. She breathed in his scent—forest with just a hint of berries. Anger burned through her at anyone abusing such an innocent creature. He might be one of the world’s most skilled courtesans, but in all other respects, he was an innocent in a world full of evil.

  His gentle energy buzzed against her own, and she immediately recognized a stronger energy intertwined with Denali’s. She consciously kept herself from stiffening in his arms as recognition of the very distinct and powerful energy signature slapped her—Cleo.

  She looked up at Guthrie, his green eyes turned suddenly stormy. She nodded at his unasked question and noticed he clenched his right fist as if envisioning Cleo’s throat under his squeezing fingers.

  Damn you, Cleo.

  Denali gently pulled away, leaving his hand in hers. “Thank you, Molly. For being here.”

  She nodded. “Can you tell me what happened?”

  He gestured toward Guthrie. “Who’s the stormy-looking sensi-freak?”

  “Mitch Guthrie, he’s my new partner.” She was surprised at how easily it tripped off her tongue after the last several dozen denials.

  Denali studied Guthrie for a moment. “And an empath with your energy all over him.” A wan smile curved his lips. “If the situation were different, I’d be pumping you for juicy details about now.”

  A wave of relief swept through Molly, loosening the knot in her stomach. There was still a spark of humor in Denali. She’d been very afraid that all traces of her friend would be shattered from this ordeal. She’d underestimated him—something she’d apologize for…later.

  Denali leaned back against the wall that bracketed the side of his bed. “Today’s my day off, so I’d just gotten out of the shower and was getting dressed to…go out. Then someone from behind me hit me with a very powerful thrall.” He shuddered as if reliving the memory. “When I came to, I was restrained with fire bonds, and a succubus rode me. And since it was painful to climax, I knew she’d been digesting me for at least a few hours.”

  Molly glanced at Guthrie, anticipating his question. “Once the male runs out of seminal fluid and the body begins to break down other body tissues and organs, climax becomes painful—although within a full thrall, still very erotic from what I’ve heard. As for the fire bonds, Denali’s a wood elf. They render him powerless and not just from using his powers—it also renders him immobile.”

  “It doesn’t burn him?” Guthrie continued to sweep the room with his penetrating gaze, a sign she now recognized as him picking up some type of energy. She expanded her senses to see if there was anything she’d missed, but nothing had changed.

  “Elves are of the earth element, each one has an opposite, depending on what species they are. For a wood elf, fire is their opposite. Think of it like Superman’s kryptonite.”

  “Terrific.” Guthrie pulled a chair out from Denali’s small desk across the room and took a seat.

  Molly wondered if he realized he’d just put Denali more at ease by not towering over him to ask questions. He alternated between confusing, frustrating, tender, thoughtful, and sexy as hell.

  Damn him!

  “Denali, did you recogn
ize the succubus?” Guthrie leaned forward, his voice soothing, a calm energy that eased the tension between’s Molly’s shoulder blades. “Can you describe her?”

  Denali shook his head, his long waterfall of dark hair sliding around his shoulders. “The fire bonds render me blind as well. Whoever it was—they came specifically for me. I’m the only wood elf here.” He sighed. “Their energy tasted familiar, but I was so out of it from the full-out thrall, I’m surprised I was conscious at all.”

  “Don’t the succubi use thrall on you during your…” Guthrie faltered, as if not quite sure how to phrase it.

  “Daily duties?” Denali suggested softly. “Yes, some of them do employ a certain amount of thrall, and as part elf, I’m immune to a certain amount of its effects. However, whoever attacked me was extremely powerful, which in succubus terms equals ancient. Their full-out thrall went way beyond my innate ability of immunity.”

  Guthrie nodded and rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger. “You said the energy tasted familiar. Could it have been Cleo?”

  Denali’s eyes rounded as his sharp inhale echoed throughout the room. A poker player, Denali wasn’t. “Why would you ask me that?”

  Guthrie’s gaze softened as he leaned forward. “Cleo’s energy signature is mixed in with yours.”

  Denali licked his lips before raising his chin in an almost defiant gesture. “Molly, you can’t actually believe that Cleo did this. She was there for you when you were cursed, and many times since.”

  Molly swallowed hard ignoring Guthrie’s inquisitive stare. “Denali, we have to cover all bases, even if it’s to clear Cleo as a suspect.”

  The elf studied her for a long moment before nodding. “Her energy is twined with mine because we took the blood oath.”

  Molly bit back a gasp of surprise followed quickly by a wave of fear for her friend. None of the half-humans who worked here used that term lightly. Their business might be sex and sustenance, but who they chose to spend time with outside of work, and who they gave their hearts to was an entirely different matter.

 
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