Book 8 of the Storm Chronicles is Live
Prologue: 1887 Quell Street, Seattle, WA
Music thudded through speakers so big they could have housed a family of four, if they were friendly and didn’t mind going deaf in a matter of seconds. The bass made Raven Storm’s teeth ache as she made her way across the dance floor of the Shadow Gallery, a vampire-owned preternatural club on the outskirts of the Seattle-Tacoma metroplex. Leather-clad men and women brushed against her as she passed, dancing to the music. Some, she knew, glanced appreciatively at her legs, visible beneath her short leather skirt, while others recognized her for what she was and moved away, out of fear, deference or both. Sometimes being Fürstin to the Mistress of Boston-Chicago had privileges. If only they didn’t come with six inch heels and a bustier so tight her ribs hurt.
On the far side of the floor Raven paused to sip the drink she held and survey the crowd. It was a good night, even for a Friday, and there were a few hundred people crowding the first and second floor bars as well as the dance floor. A dee-jay stood behind his turntables at the far end of the club, spinning music Raven had never heard of and hoped she never would again. Whatever techno-industrial-death-dance was, she wasn’t interested.
“Got anything?” Rupert Levac asked in her ear. He was outside in his FBI issue sedan. It was a step up from the Nash.
Raven resisted the urge to touch her earpiece. “A serious draft around my ass and these shoes are killing me.”
“That skirt makes your legs look amazing and you run in those shoes like most women run in trainers,” Aspen said.
Raven kept walking, trying to look everywhere at once. “Easy for you to say, you don’t have to run in them. Where are you?”
“Above you, just over your left shoulder,” Aspen said.
Raven took another sip and half-turned. Aspen leaning on the second floor railing holding an empty glass. Where Raven had dressed in a short skirt, bustier and jacket that hid her pistol and knives, Aspen had chosen a one-piece catsuit made from black leather. A silver belt hung low on her narrow hips and her purple hair was pulled into pigtails that made her look far more innocent than she was.
“Wow,” Raven said. “You look gorgeous, Asp.”
“If you two are done comparing vampire fashion, can we get back on the job?” Levac groused.
“You’re just jealous you can’t see all this tail,” Aspen said.
“I won’t deny it, but I also want to get back home. The cheeseburgers out here taste funny. The sooner you two find this Trent Bloodstone character, the sooner I can get a real burger,” Levac said.
Raven met Aspen’s eyes then turned back to the club. Levac was right, they had a job to do. King had called them in from Chicago because he needed someone who could pass as a preternatural and be unmolested at the clubs. Though Raven and Aspen spent over a year living in the city, it had been as FBI agents, not as a vampire and her familiar.
Trent Bloodstone, the lycan they were after, was a high-end thief who specialized in art and precious gems and the prime suspect in a string of museum thefts that stretched from Seattle to Prague and back again. Word in the underground was that Bloodstone was meeting his contact tonight at the Shadow Gallery. Raven had no idea what Bloodstone looked like, but she knew he was meeting a vampire named Juno, a fence and fixer. Juno, Raven knew, if only in passing. She was an older vampire, with silver hair she pulled back from her face in antique combs and eyes so pale they were almost white. It was an unmistakable look, even in this see of weird.
Raven finished her drink and continued through the club, her eyes on the curtained booths at the back of the first floor. In most clubs, the private areas were so that vampires could feed without attracting the attention of any vanilla partiers. But they also made excellent places to meet without attracting attention. She spotted Juno sitting in one near the club’s emergency exit. The curtain was pulled back and Juno was watching the club, one foot rocking to the rhythm of the music.
“I’ve got Juno,” Raven said. “Back booth, silver and gold outfit.”
“I see her, do you want me to tag her with a spell?” Aspen asked.
“Not yet, hold your position, Asp. Rupe, what’s going on outside?”
There came the rustle of a fast-food wrapper, then, “Not much, there is still a line at the door but nobody matching our boy’s description…” There was a pause, then Levac came back on, his mouth sounding full. “A limo just pulled up, looks like it is from a local service. A big guy in a black suit just got out with a couple of women dressed in white leather or latex or something. Can’t preternaturals ever wear anything normal?”
“No. We have to sign an agreement at birth to avoid cotton and polyester on pain of death,” Raven replied.
“Speak for yourself, latex underwear chafes,” Aspen said. “I’m a tighty-whitie girl.”
The sound of Levac choking on his cheeseburger came over the radio and Raven couldn’t hide her smile. “When she wears any. Is this too much info, Rupe?”
“You two are trying to kill me, aren’t you?” Levac asked.
“Nah, Sloan will do that slowly over the next thirty years of your marriage,” Aspen said. “I see your guy in the suit, he just passed through the VIP entrance. Ray, I’d bet good money that the women with him are also lycans, they have the eyes of predators.”
Raven took a seat at an empty café table and crossed her legs. Across the club she could see that the crowd on the dance floor was parting like the red sea as Bloodstone made his way across.
“Rupe, cover the rear. If this guy bolts, that’s his closest exit.”
“Roger that, Ray. Moving to the rear.”
“What about me?” Aspen asked.
Raven glanced at the railing above her. “See if you can get to the floor above Juno, I want to know what they talk about. We can’t move in until we know for sure.”
From the corner of her eye, Raven saw Bloodstone and his entourage step into view. Bloodstone was a small man, for a lycan, with close-cropped brown hair thinning on top and a dancer’s physique.
The two women with him were so similar they might have been twins. Both were pale, the sort of pale you get when it is freezing outside and you spend six months indoors. They weren’t vampires, they didn’t smell like the undead, but they also weren’t werewolves. Not with that skin, ice-blue eyes and the pale blonde hair that trailed almost to the floor behind them.
One of the women spotted Raven and whispered something to Trent, who glanced in her direction. Raven feigned disinterest and turned her attention to the cocktail waitress serving this part of the club. The waitress hurried over and Raven ordered a cranberry club soda then turned to look back at the dancers.
It was an accented voice, Scandinavian, if Raven was any judge. She smiled at the lycan woman who had stepped up beside her and raised her sunglasses.
“Hello, can I help you?”
The lycan smiled. “I saw you looking at me, are you alone?”
“For now,” Raven said out loud. “You look like you have your hands full, though.”
The lycan glanced at Bloodstone, who had continued through the club to his meeting with Juno. “Mr. Bloodstone is my employer, not my lover. I have other tastes. May I join you?”
Raven felt Aspen tug on their familiar connection.
Is she… hitting on you? Aspen asked.
Yes. I didn’t expect that.
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