I’ve just put the final words on the end chapter of Sinner’s Gin. My brain’s kind of lean and I swear to God, my eyes are a blurring liquid in my head. I am going to let it rest and plot out Dirty Laundry (Tentative title for Cole and Jae’s next book) then off into the editing purge to see if SG makes any sense. I’ll be posting excerpts from SG once I get my head in place.
So to keep you company, I’m going to drop a bit of Black Dog Blues to hopefully entertain you. Tonight’s dinner is steak. I’m very lazy. Like I said, no brains left. Without Further Ado… BDB: Kai meets Ryder.
To hear Poe tell it, doom gently raps on the door. In this case, I’d have to say Poe got it so very wrong. Doom does not rap-rap gently on my chamber door. Instead, it pounds furiously on the carved door I’d gotten at a street fair in Borrego, and from the sounds of it, aimed to shatter the delicate knot work I’d grown fond of.
The cool of the sheets had worn off, and the breeze coming from the open jalousies above me kissed at the sweat on my belly. Blinking, I found the world still steeped dark, familiar sensor lights shining up from the lower level. Laying there in the dark, I waited, hoping the pounding was something I’d dreamed or even some domestic dispute across the street, although only a few of the warehouses had been converted for residential use.
“Squatters, maybe,” I reasoned, listening carefully for the familiar high pitched screaming of a couple reaching for a disagreement. “Hell, visitors even.”
The hard pounding started up again, rattling my door. Bleary-eyed, I struggled to reach the end of the bed, looking for something to put on without actually getting out of bed. I couldn’t find my jeans at first and Newt was in no hurry to move off of my shoulder where he’d sprawled. Wiping off cat drool from my arm, I finally located a relatively clean pair of black denims under a blanket that I’d pushed off the bed at some point. The dots on the wall cut into focus when I blinked and I growled, sounding much like my cat.
“Is there some sort of conspiracy against me?” Buttoning my jeans as I walked, I nearly tripped down the stairs, grabbing at the wall before I slammed headfirst into the lower level. The pounding started again, making my head throb from the lack of sleep. “Hold on! Shit, I’m coming.”
Being shirtless wasn’t an issue. Being unarmed concerned me more. Snagging one of my shotguns from the rack next to light switch, I held the muzzle down and peered through the privacy screen at the idiot determined to knock down my front door.
I’d gotten my first gun directly from Dempsey’s hands. We’d been in an old camper truck and were caught unawares by a herd of nightmares thundering across the Arizona desert. Grabbing the shotgun from behind the seat, he told me to aim out the window and shoot anything that came near. I’m pretty sure he would have told me to drive if my legs had been long enough to reach the pedals but at the time, beggars couldn’t be choosers and all he could hope for was that I didn’t shoot the engine out as he pushed the truck’s engine to the limit.
My first kill was a nightmare stallion, his fangs clenched down into the truck’s door and ripping the steel. Close-up, an iron slug did serious damage, even more so when the muzzle is placed directly above a creature’s eye socket. I was too scared to close my eyes when I pulled the trigger and the next thing I knew, the stallion’s head was flopping against the side of the truck, still attached by the teeth to the door and I’d been blown back into Dempsey’s shoulder.
“Keep shooting, boy,” He’d growled, shoving me back over the bench seat. “We’re not out of this yet.”
I’d gone back to the window understanding that the shotgun was all that was going to keep me alive and if I didn’t aim right, the devil-horses would overtake us and eat us as we screamed for mercy.
That’s pretty much how I felt when I saw the sidhe lord standing outside of my door.
He’d made some attempt to tone down his lordliness but if there was one thing that years of crawling around my father’s boots taught me, it was how to spot a sidhe lord.
There was some resemblance between us due to race, high cheekbones, almond eyes and smooth ageless skin, but it wasn’t much. He’d dressed down, wearing human clothes rather than the elaborate dress of a Court lord but the arrogant air remained in the tilt of his head and the set of his mouth as he looked around the cul-de-sac as if someone would come out of the shadows to open my door for him so he wouldn’t dirty his hands on the knob.
A silver band queued back his gold-streaked light brown hair, indeterminate symbols running around the clasp. The brightness of his hair meant Dawn Court, with none of the tell-tale Dusk Court whites or blacks striped through a rainbow hue or metallic. I couldn’t make out what the clasp said but guessed it was a token of his House. A brown leather jacket fit over his shoulders and fell down to his hips, the skin much finer than I could ever afford. In the white of the door light, his buttoned shirt appeared to be sage and his pants were dark but neither looked like something bought off the back of a cart.
He was handsome and strong faced. Eons of fine breeding carved his face into the beauty an elfin was known for; a sensual mouth and strong, aquiline nose provided a foundation for his deep green eyes. In a human, they’d be unnatural, a fiery emerald with flickers of opal and black set into the folds of his pupil. For a sidhe, they were pretty but unremarkable, save for their thick dark lashes.
At that exact moment, I’d rather have faced the nightmares than open the door for him.
Newt patted my foot, letting loose a yowl that more than likely meant his belly was empty but I took it for sympathetic distress. Nodding, I told him solemnly, “I’ll open the door and shoot while you make a run for it. Save yourself, Newt. Head over to Mickey. She’ll protect you from the monster.”
I held the gun loosely; ready to swing it up in case I needed to. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door and let the night air in.
“Yeah?” It came out sounding gruffer than I’d intended and there was more than a small helping of Dempsey in my voice but the sidhe didn’t even flinch. Instead he looked me up and down as if he’d never seen another of his kind before, a glimmer of surprise in his eyes.
“Kai Morgan?” He spoke with an elfin accent, sidhe tainted with a regional inflection I didn’t know. It was fluid and bright, matching his mannerisms and looks. I didn’t like the way he looked down my naked chest and belly, or the time he took to come back up to my face but his smile never faltered. “Stalker Morgan?”
The last time I’d been around another sidhe, I’d been a bit under the weather. Everything I heard about the tingle of sidhe when they met, the blood of our race singing and the aching need to touch was true. He made me itch and want more than Mickey did. More than any whore ever had. I wanted to crawl into his mouth, down his body and possibly under his skin.
If I hadn’t already decided I hated him on sight, it would have made me start.
“Yeah?” I repeated, bringing the shotgun up to rest on my bare shoulder. Newt stood besides me, a tiny sentinel of fur and teeth. I didn’t have much hope in his capabilities in a fight but the gesture was heart-warming, if only I didn’t believe he was just waiting for one of us to fall down dead so he could feast on our eyeballs.
What came out of his mouth next would have made me throw up if I’d had anything left in my stomach. His words were pure liquid gold, hammered soft and undulating. I’d not heard elfin in nearly a lifetime and lost most of the language. There were possibilities that I could tell someone up or down but beyond that, I didn’t understand anything the lord said. But the memories… the feeling of that language pouring over me sickened me and I wanted to slam the door in his face, anything to shut out the images haunting me.
“Singlish,” I needed to stop the elfin torrent picking at the scabs in my mind. The sidhe he spoke was too close what I had heard in my past, and since I didn’t want to see anything but the present, I needed him to stop flinging memories at me. “I don’t do…elfin, sidhe or unsidhe. Speak Singlish, damn it.”
“If that’s what you prefer, of course. Sarah Marks from ORMS told me you’d picked up the listing.” The lord cocked his head, switching easily into the common tongue. “May I come in to talk to you about the job?”
“What’s wrong with uploading the specs like everyone else?” It was getting chilly and the wind nipped at my bare chest. I never considered myself a proud or vain man but I was fond of my nipples and they were in danger of falling off from the cold. I needed a shirt. “You have any verification that Sarah sent you?”
He moved forward as if expecting me to give way and stopped short, unsure if he’d heard me correctly. “How many sidhe lords show up on your doorstep asking about a job?”
“Happens all the time,” I replied, hoping I didn’t sound as ragged as I felt. “Just last week, at least two.”
“She said you’d be difficult,” He said, looking at me as if he were measuring me for something. If I’d had to guess, I would have said a leash but that was probably just memories whispering in the back of my head. “She also told me that you’d gone…native, I think was the term she used.”
Native was Sarah’s way of saying I was human. I’d heard her comment on my lack of elfinness over the years, joking that Dempsey beat anything of the Courts out of me. I could have told her that someone had gotten to me long before the old man did but some secrets were my own.
“Come in,” I stepped back from the door. “Let me get a shirt on. I wasn’t expecting company.”
I offered him nothing as I grabbed an old pub shirt off of a chair and pulled it over my head, keeping my back to the wall so I could watch him. The elfin had odd customs around food. Human legends contained foolish people who ate something offered to them in Underhill and then were doomed to stay forever. Someone only ate at an elfin dinner table if they were allies and it was considered no-strings attached courtesy to offer food and drink to visitors.
“I see you chose Dusk Court black for your hair. Interesting choice,” He said, looking around the living room area and then back at me. His glance set me on fire. There was too much to read into what he wanted and not all of it promised to be a good time. “Trying to distance yourself from the Dawn?”
“The black sort of chose me. It had nothing to do with the sidhe,” I said, leaning against the back of the couch to watch him pace off my space. “You got a name? All I got on the listing was a jumble of titles.”
“It’s interesting how un-elfinlike you are. I’ve seen others stray human but there’s always something that remains; their speech or how they move. Small things that we can’t quite shake off but you’ve nearly eradicated everything. It’s nice you still keep to natural materials. Although this…” Another measuring intense green look came my way and then he stopped in front of the engine block. “Is this what I think it is?”
“If you think it’s a Pontiac 455 V8 engine, then you’re right. And if you thought that specific, then I’ve seriously misjudged you.”
“Running a combustion engine is illegal,” He said, squatting to get a better look at the piston assembly. “I didn’t realize they were silver.”
“If there was a car around it, then it’d be illegal.” I asked. “There’s nothing unlawful about possessing an engine. Think of it as art. How about we get back to the original question; your name?”
“I’m sorry. I’m being rude and I don’t mean to be,” He said, executing a brief bow which I wasn’t sure if he did to mock me or out of habit. “It’s… just fascinating to see someone so immersed in the human culture.”
“I’m still missing a name here, your lordship.”
“Ryder, Clan Sebac, Third in the House of Devon.” He chased his words with a smile. “And now I am High Lord of the Southern Rise Court, San Diego. Yourself?”
“Me what?” I knew what he wanted. I had no intentions of giving it to him, even if I knew all of it. Newt joined me on the back of the couch, sniffing curiously at our visitor. His white whiskers trembled as he opened his mouth. I gathered he was plotting which finger he would start on first.
“Your House?” Ryder finally stepped away from the block, joining me on the scramble of rugs I used to define my living room. “Your Clan? Or have you gone so deeply human that you don’t share your bloodline anymore?”
“Yep, that’s me. More human than human.” Anything that I had been was gone and I was going to leave it there. “This is a job, not a tea party. We don’t need place holders to know where we sit at the table.”
“Alright, if that’s how you prefer it.” He pointed at Newt, unwisely moving his hand within inches from the pointy end of my cat. “Is that a gargoyle? I’ve never seen one so small before.”
I stared at him, wondering if he’d just insulted Newt. I’d hunted down gargoyles and most of them were fouler than a Wild Hunt dog. “Um, no. It’s a cat.”
“He’s…rather, let’s say interesting.” The lord examined Newt who stayed the course of his disagreeable nature and hissed when Ryder brought his hand up to pet him. There was a flash of something sharp and the sidhe drew back his hand, sucking at the puncture wounds on his thumb. “He bit me.”
“He does that,” I agreed. “Usually when he’s hungry. Which is always.”