MADHOUSE: Book 3 Excerpt
I hated kidnapping cases. Hated them with an unholy passion.
And trust me, unholy was something I knew about—hell, I wore it like a faded old T-shirt. One I’d had since birth. There were those who said I couldn’t let go of that, and that it was long past time I did. But, hey, if you can’t bitch about your monster half, what can you bitch about?
As for kidnappings, no surprise there on how I felt about them. Several months before, someone I knew had been kidnapped—two someones actually. Although the second taking had lasted less than an hour, the first had lasted two weeks. Despite the difference in time, they both had left their mark, physically and mentally. My shirt and jacket hid the first. I wasn’t sure anything hid the second, but I gave it my best shot with caustic sarcasm, brittle bravado, and good old-fashioned denial. That was a triple threat that had done well by me for a long damn time, and I had no plans to give it up now.
A swat smacked the back of my head briskly. “I’m curious, Cal, do you plan on paying attention anytime soon or would you like to have the kidnappers reschedule? I’m sure they’ll be amenable. Kidnappers so often are.”
Niko. He had been one of those who had disappeared on me, even if only temporarily. As brothers went, he was a good one, despite a horrifying obsession with health food, meditation, and things generally not revolving around pizza and beer. But we all have our crosses to bear…mine was to be smacked when I wasn’t with the program, and his was to be over-educated, as self-aware as the Dalai Lama, and to keep my ass alive. Poor bastard.
“I’m paying attention,” I lied instantly, rubbing the back of my head with a wounded glare.
He snorted, but didn’t call me on it as sharply as I deserved. Apparently the swat was punishment enough. “Then let’s move on before you pay so much attention that you fall asleep where you stand.”
Like I said, a good brother, and good brothers, besides keeping your ass alive, also don’t let it get away with much. But there was no denying he was letting me slide a little. Why? Because he knew me, and he knew a case like that wasn’t going to trigger any good memories. Grunting in reply, I moved along at his side. “So they kidnapped the mistress of a vampire,” I grumbled. “She’s a lamia. I’ve seen lamias and I don’t know why the hell anyone would want that back.” Lamias were similar to vampires in that they fed on blood. These days vampires had found a better way, most of them anyway, but lamias weren’t looking to improve themselves. And although they fed on blood, there the similarity to vampires ended. A lamia’s bite, usually on the chest—or if they were really into you, other, more sensitive parts—had a chemical in their saliva that paralyzed their victim. Like a leech they would stay fastened to you and drain your blood…very, very slowly. It could take days—days in which you couldn’t move, couldn’t scream, couldn’t beg for a faster death.
Sure, that’s my dream girl. Bring her on.
But obviously a vamp felt different and here we were.
“I think it matters less about his taste in bed partners and more about us getting paid.” I didn’t see his dark blond head move, but I knew Niko was scanning the area unceasingly.
“I keep telling you if you’d go with the whole trophy boyfriend thing, life would be a lot easier,” I pointed out helpfully.
From the narrow eyed look shot my way, apparently I wasn’t as helpful as I’d thought. Niko was tight with a vampire of his own, Promise. Promise was, to say the least, loaded. Five excessively rich, as well as excessively elderly, husbands in the past ten years had her set up for…well, not life—after all she was a vampire. But it would keep her comfortable for a long, long time. And Niko absolutely refused to take advantage of it, not that he had some sort of macho hang up. He simply would make his own way as we both had all of our lives. Right now, making our way revolved around an agency we’d set up with Promise. Kidnappings, bodyguard work, cleaning some killer clowns out of carnival…we were up for all of it. The fact that it didn’t quite cover our expenses yet had us working second jobs. Niko was a teacher’s assistant at NYU (pity the kid that walked late into one of his classes. Decapitation is a big deterrent for tardiness.) As for me? I tended to move around a lot. Mainly bars. It wasn’t good to get attached. I’d learned that from a lifetime of running from my relatives…the ones with claws and hundreds of teeth. And although the running had stopped, habits were hard to break. Which, I guess, is why we’d made monster hunting a career instead of an occasional necessity.
And Central Park was full of them.
They liked the park. It was big, and it was full of snacks. No one notices if a mugger, murderer, or rapist goes missing. It was a good place to hit the human buffet and not be noticed. We’d once had an informant here of the very same opinion. He was gone now, dead by Niko’s sword. Somewhere to the north lay a mud pit empty of a boggle with the worst New Yawk accent I’d ever heard. I kind of missed him sometimes. If nothing else, he’d been entertaining. Bloodthirsty and homicidal, but amusing—up to a point. Trying to kill Niko had been that point.