Kai is back Tomorrow!
Ever since being part of the pot in a high-stakes poker game, elfin outcast Kai Gracen figures he used up his good karma when Dempsey, a human Stalker, won the hand and took him in. Following the violent merge of Earth and Underhill, the human and elfin races are left with a messy, monster-ridden world, and Stalkers are the only cavalry willing to ride to someone’s rescue when something shadowy appears.
It’s a hard life but one Kai likes—filled with bounty, a few friends, and most importantly, no other elfin around to remind him of his past. And killing monsters is easy. Especially since he’s one himself.
But when a sidhe lord named Ryder arrives in San Diego, Kai is conscripted to do a job for Ryder’s fledgling Dawn Court. It’s supposed to be a simple run up the coast during dragon-mating season to retrieve a pregnant human woman seeking sanctuary. Easy, quick, and best of all, profitable. But Kai ends up in the middle of a deadly bloodline feud he has no hope of escaping.
No one ever got rich being a Stalker. But then few of them got old either and it doesn’t look like Kai will be the exception.
Excerpt from Black Dog Blues
A real Stalker knew all the tricks and never played them. Having a firm reputation for being reliable and honest was nearly as good as being a keen shot. Dempsey might be an asshole, but he never shorted anyone or ran off on a job. He’d left Stalking behind with his head held high, and people still spoke about runs he’d done along the coast. Other than a warm woman at night, it was all he’d wanted. Well, he also told me he wanted to die in his bed at the age of ninety-eight from being shot by a jealous husband, but a warm woman at night would be good enough.
Dempsey took over shoveling chunks of dog meat into the pit with his bare hands. He worked quickly, keeping his contact with the acid down to a minimum. Grinning unevenly, he stopped long enough to ruffle the hair at the back of my head, getting gore and guts on my neck. “You can hose yourself off outside. You stink like the dog-hugger you are, and that black mop of yours is all dusty, like you were rolling in a barn. There’s some of your clothes in the back room. I’ll bring ’em out for you.”
I didn’t argue. I’d spent the night in the truck’s cab, parked under one of the tall trees, after getting to Lakeside at nearly three in the morning. The sun was barely up when Dempsey knocked on the truck window to wake me up with a cup of coffee as pitch black as the dogs I had lying in the truck bed. The tarp I’d spread over the truck’s seat wasn’t very comfortable to lie on, but it kept the fabric clean. I had a crick in my neck and stank from cutting open gullets filled with rotting meat. The coffee in my belly was a distant memory, and I still needed to drive back into San Diego. A shower would go a long way in shaking me awake.
The outside shower’s water was cold, leaving me with pinpricks on my skin and shivering when the wind hit my bare ass. The dog’s weight left me sore, and I was covered in purple and black bruises. Moving to the side was a bit painful, and I was sure my back had suffered as much as my legs had, perhaps even more, from being rubbed against the rocky hillside. A few spots of dog blood had made it through my jeans, scorching the two hand-size Asiatic dragons tattooed on my hip and back. The blistered skin didn’t look like it had lifted up any ink, but I’d have to wait a few hours to see if it healed smoothly or whether I’d have to make a trip down to the Flying Panther to fix it.
“That last damned dog was a bitch to move. Must have been an escapee from a Wild Hunt. Damned elfin can’t keep track of their own hunting packs, and we always got to go out and wipe up their messes.” Dempsey gave me a once-over as he handed me a worn towel, frowning at the bruising on my thighs. “What the hell did you do? Ride the damned thing to death?”
“If I’d ridden it to death, I wouldn’t have been under the damned thing when it died,” I said, taking the towel and trying to use its sparse pile to soak up the water on my naked belly. The air whistled between the outdoor spigot and the trees around it, catching on every icy drop on my skin. He stood staring at me for a moment too long, and I started to wonder if he’d switched the side of the street he walked on. “What?”
“Haven’t really looked at you in a few years. Grown up a bit. You’re not as skinny as you used to be. Muscled up nice.” He moved his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. “Finally got some meat on that stick body of yours. Hell, I could have waited a few years and pimped you out for money instead of teaching you to Stalk.”
“Nice of you to have a backup plan in case the job gets too hard for me,” I muttered, grabbing at the clothes he held out for me. I looped the wet towel over a branch then slid on my jeans, shaking out the water from my hair as best I could.
“Not like I didn’t have offers for you before. That face of yours and those purple-blue eyes,” he scoffed, leaning on the tree. “Lots of folks thought you were tasty, even with you being elfin, but whoring’s too much work for too little. Stalking’s easier, and you don’t have to worry about someone not paying up. Well, not as often.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Part of being a Stalker meant having to take private jobs when Government Issue was lean. We’d both been burned too many times to count after a run.
“’Sides, not like you wouldn’t have stabbed anyone who pissed you off,” Dempsey said. “You cut enough people with your teeth when I first got you. Savage little cat-bastard.”
Dempsey’s words didn’t bother me. We’d been down this road before. He’d been suckered into taking a mostly wild elfin in a poker game, calling a bluff that resulted in the bluffer passing me over the table as payment. I hadn’t understood a word of Singlish, and up until that point, I’d spent more time bleeding than eating. Over the years, I’d heard him wonder if it wouldn’t have been more profitable just to sell me to whoever would give him a good price. But sponsoring me as a Stalker was one of his better ideas, especially on those mornings when his fondness for drink kept him in bed. I was more motivated by the hunger in my belly, where Dempsey needed only a fifth to survive on for a week.
Considering where I’d come from, Dempsey was a godsend, no matter which god sent him.