A new dark shadow envelops Dakota Combes’s strange world as personal collides with paranormal once again. Her friend at the office develops an illness with symptoms of fatigue and undeath. Her mate leads her to someone who might know, a doctor with more up his sleeve than a stethoscope. Together the group of strange friends must go against a phantom that intends to rejoin the living, even if the effort costs their lives.
Today would be the day. I would do it. I would go out into the world a free woman and chain myself to the shackles of office work.
Today was Tuesday. And it would be gloriously boring and free from paranormal stuff.
“But why?” David persisted as he followed me down the stairs like a lost puppy.
He was robed in his-well, robe and some fuzzy bunny slippers I don’t ever recall seeing before. A predator dressed in the stuffed imitation of their kill had a certain hilarious irony to it, but this morning I wasn’t laughing. No, this morning I was dressed to kill a day’s worth of office work.
We reached the front doors. I spun around to face him with a frown. “I told you I’ve missed a day of work already, so I’m going today.” I set my hand on the knob. A jolt of something cold flowed over me. I shuddered.
David frowned. “Is something wrong?”
I shook my head and smiled at him. “No. I just-”
I pursed my lips and furrowed my brow. “I don’t know. It felt like somebody splashed cold water on my soul.”
David frowned and set his hands on my shoulders. “I’d much rather you stay here with me.”
I snorted and removed his hands. “And grow fat and have twelve children?”
He grinned and leaned down to peck a kiss on my lips. “Is that so bad?”
I pushed him away and smiled softly at him. “Babies later, work now. I’ll see you after five.”
I hurried on my way to work in my ancient machine that was once called a car. Now it was more like several thousand pieces of metal that were kept together with rust and might take me from Point A to Point B.
I didn’t remember the tracking device issue until I stopped at the same intersection where Latro had kidnapped me. I swept my eyes over the area, but didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary. Puer had probably put it in the gas tank or some other place I couldn’t get to. Sneaky butler.
This day I made it safely to work and plopped myself down in my chair. I leaned back and breathed a sigh. The cold jolt from that morning still lingered with me, but I took solace in the normalcy of the office building. There were no vampire vexations, no witch worries, no paranormal problems here. Just me and my paperwork.
Her head popped over our dividing wall and she had a big grin on her face. “Hey!”
I started and nearly fell out of my chair. The only thing that kept me in my seat was the desk which my knees hit on their way to the stratosphere.
“Damn it!” I hissed as I clutched at my throbbing knobs of sinew and bone.
Ruth winced and half hid herself behind the wall. “Sorry.”
I sighed and shook my head. “It’s fine. The pain will wear off sometime next year.”
She slunk further down. “I really am sorry.”
My eyes flickered to her and I arched an eyebrow. Ruth never apologized twice, at least not in a row. “Something up?”
Her head disappeared out of sight and her muffled voice floated through the wall. “It’s fine. I’m just a little tired.”
I frowned and stood. A quick peek around the corner of the shared wall showed my friend seated in her chair with her back turned to the doorway. She slouched. Ruth didn’t slouch except when she was disappointed.
I walked over to stand beside her. Her face was a little pale and she clutched her hand on her chest over where her heart lay. I knelt beside her and set my hand on her free hand.
Ruth gave me a ghost of a smile. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m not dying. I just haven’t really felt that well since Friday.”
“When you had your date with whats-his-name?” I asked her.
Her smile widened and she sighed. “Mr. Douglas Gardi, but he says to call him Doug.”
I patted her hand. “That’s nice, but about you looking like you’re death warmed over. Did you catch something at a restaurant? Have you see a doctor?”
She laughed and waved her hand at me. “I’m not that bad, silly, and we didn’t go to a restaurant. We went clubbing all night long.”
I pursed my lips as I studied her face. There were circles under her eyes and her skin felt clammy. I smiled up at her. “Must be a hell of a guy.”
She nodded and gazed off into the distance of her flying-toaster screen saver. “Yeah. I only get to see him at night because he works all day, but he’s handsome, strong, and a good kisser.”
“You’ll have to introduce us some time, but during the day how about I treat you to a nice, hot lunch?” I suggested.
Ruth’s eyes widened and sparkled. I cringed. I’d seen that look just before she gave me her work last Friday. “That’d be great! We could get somebody for you and have a double-date!”
I cringed. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.”
She jumped to her feet. “Of course it is! We can get together tomorrow night!”
“That sounds like a great idea.” My eyes widened. That voice. I whipped my head around and looked over my shoulder.
David’s head popped into the doorway of Ruth’s cubicle. The mischievous twinkle in his eyes and the sly grin on his delicious lips made me want to kiss him and kill him.
Ruth’s eyes widened and a squeal escaped her trembling lips. “Mr. Dives!”
He chuckled at her exuberance and my scowl, and stepped into Ruth’s square. “A double-date would be great.”
Ruth blinked at him. “Y-you want to go on a date with one of us?”
He nodded. “I’d be honored to take one of you lovely ladies on a date.” His eyes fell on me and his smile widened. “You seem to be the odd-woman out in this match, lovely young woman. Would you care to accompany this old man on a date?”
I tried to block out images of throttling my mate. It didn’t work. Instead I slapped a tense smile on my lips and nodded. “I guess I can go for that.”
David smiled and bowed his head. “Then it’s a date, Miss-?”
I held out my hand. “Miss Dakota Combes. And you are?”
Ruth rattled my shoulders with her hands and leaned close to my ear. “You know who he is!”
I shrugged. “Actually, no. He looks like a hobo in a suit.”
Ruth’s face grew paler and her words were more tense. “He’s-”
“David Dives, professional hobo,” David finished for her. He took my hand and gave it a good shake that left my fingers ringing. “At your service.”
I stood and looped my arm through his. “Actually, I was looking to get advice on tramping. If you could step this way we can talk.”
Ruth’s jaw dropped open and her eyes widened as she watched us stride from the cubicle. I directed David not to my own little square sphere but to the supply closet in one corner of the floor. I tossed him in, shut the door, flicked on the light, and glared at him.
“What are you doing here?” I growled.
He sat atop a couple of boxes of printing paper and shrugged. “Only inspecting my company. A billionaire playboy can do that.”
I crossed my arms and arched an eyebrow. “After ignoring your company for so long you’re now interested in visiting it more than once a year?”
“I had some encouragement,” he admitted.
My face fell and I narrowed my eyes. “You followed me here to stalk me, didn’t you?”
He wagged his eyebrows. “Perhaps.”
I pulled David from his ream seat, spun him so he faced the door, and gave him a good shove. “Out.”
He stumbled to the door and set his hand on the knob before he turned to me with that mischievous grin. “Of the closet or the building?”
I snapped a finger at the door. “Both, and we’ll talk about this later.”
He chuckled and bowed his head. “I look forward to it.”