Fanged After Forty, Book 6

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Excerpt

Chapter One 

“Surely, there’s something here.” Luke tapped his foot impatiently as we looked over the officer’s shoulder. We’d been at the police station for what seemed like hours and none of the missing kids we saw were Goldie. Luke was right, she had to be in the system somewhere, but nothing was coming up. Every girl her age that scrolled across the screen was clearly not Goldie. 

“I’m sorry.” Officer Oake shrugged and smiled apologetically up at me. “There’s just nothing in a hundred-mile radius that matches her description.” 

I sighed, and Luke huffed, frustrated. “Move over and let me do it.” 

Officer Oake shrugged and let Luke scroll through the pictures. He expanded the search first by miles, then by age, starting with a younger girl. Maybe Goldie had been missing longer than we thought. He’d been so sure that this was the answer. Heck, I had been, too, but it looked like we were back to square one. She wasn’t in any missing persons reports for a hundred miles. 

Luke finally pushed back from the desk, disappointment etched into his body language and on his face. “She’s not there.” 

“Can I ask why you’re looking for her?” The officer queried as she logged out of the system and stood up from her desk. Of course, we couldn’t tell her the truth, even under compulsion. If, for some reason, she remembered all this happening, or someone questioned it, we could make up some story or something. However, if we gave her the real information, we’d also have to explain why it was so unsurprising a child like Goldie wasn’t reported missing. 

Goldie was a shifter. A little kitten, all alone in the world. I’d been told horror stories about shifter children going missing, but they couldn’t easily report a child missing they’d never registered as living. The shifter community preferred to stay off the grid. I didn’t know much about them other than what my friend Ava had told me. She lived near a large-ish shifter community. 

Well, Goldie had been all alone. Now she had us for as long as she needed us. And for us, that could be an extremely long time. We did live forever, after all, as vampires. 

How far could Goldie have traveled? We’d asked her every which way from Sunday, but she wouldn’t talk. She was likely too traumatized to think about anything that happened to her before we’d found her hiding out in cat form at a notorious mob boss’s house. 

Looking deeply into the officer’s eyes, I compelled her again. “You don’t need to know. You aren’t even curious about why we’re looking for her.” 

“I’m not curious why you’re looking for her,” she parroted back to me. 

“You’re happy you were able to help us look, but once we leave, you’ll forget we were here.” My voice came out all singsong, like I was a Jedi using mind tricks. 

In a way, I was. Using mind tricks, not that I was a Jedi. 

“I’m happy I was able to help you look, but once you leave, I’ll forget you were here.” She blinked slowly, then turned and walked back to her desk without another word. Well, at least the compulsion had worked.  

“Are you sure that was a good idea?” Luke whispered as we made our way out of the police station. “What if someone asks her about us?” 

I shrugged. “We can always say we were looking for a friend’s child or something. No one needs to know the truth.” 

“I guess you’re right.” He still sounded uncertain, but he didn’t say anything else as we made our way back to the car. “What now?” Luke asked. He looked just as defeated as I felt. 

“I don’t know.” I sighed, getting into the passenger seat. “We’ll just have to keep looking, I guess.” 

“But where?” He asked, starting the car. “She could be from anywhere.” 

“I know.” I was getting frustrated. We had been searching for Goldie’s origins for weeks with no luck. It was as if she had appeared out of thin air. 

“Could your friend Ava be any more help?” Luke asked. 

“No,” I said glumly. “She doesn’t know all that much about the shifter community herself. And we talked to shifters from her area of Maine. They’re not terribly organized. They don’t have like, a network or anything.” 

“Damn it.” He turned on the blinker and glanced at me. “I want to keep her, but it’s not right to not do everything in our power to find her people.” 

“I agree.” 

We drove in silence for a few minutes while the street lights flickered past as Luke sped down the freeway toward the outskirts of Philadelphia and our neighborhood. “Not to change the subject, but I’ve been wanting to talk to you about the possibility of me joining the Bond Girls.” He didn’t look at me as he spoke, but I could see the muscle in his jaw twitch as he waited for my reaction. 

The Bond Girls was a business I’d started with my friends Cleo, Paige, and Kendra. We went after bond skips and brought them back. Humans were easy for us to catch, as Paige and I were vampires, and Kendra was a witch. Cleo was human, but she was a darn good bounty hunter. I’d met her when I first got to Phily. She had gotten shot while bring in a skip and needed a nurse. We’d started the business to supplement my income when my nursing jobs were sparse, and it had been doing well. 

Bounty hunting wasn’t foreign to me. My ex-husband was one and still is. I sometimes had helped him with skips. So when the opportunity came up for me, I ran with it. 

I thought about Luke’s request for a moment, then nodded. “I’ll have to talk to the girls, but I don’t think they’d mind if you helped us on a case or two.” 

“No.” He swallowed hard, then glanced at me. “I want to join the team.” 

I frowned. “I don’t know, Luke. We’re a pretty tight group. I’m not sure if we’re ready to take on someone new yet.” It was really more that I wasn’t sure Luke was ready to take us on, but I didn’t want to tell him that. He could be a little overly sensitive sometimes. Just a tad. Drama queen he was. 

“I can be helpful.” He gave me a pleading look, and I knew I would end up giving in. Dang it. 

“I understand that, but I definitely have to check with the other girls before I give you a real answer.” 

“Fair,” he said. “I can live with that.” He seemed a little more upbeat now that he knew there was a possibility he could join us. I had to admit, it would be nice having someone with super strength on our team… if we could get him to learn how to use it. 

So far, he’d been kinda… terrible. Clumsy didn’t even cover it. 

As soon as we pulled into the driveway, Kendra and Paige jumped into the backseat of the car. “Jordan wants us pronto,” Kendra said. “Let’s go.” 

Luke looked at me and shrugged, then pulled out of the driveway. 

“Good,” I said. “We can talk about what Luke just said.” 

I repeated his request to Kendra and Paige, then surreptitiously texted Jordan. Luke wants a skip. Please assign him something ridiculously easy. 

Thankfully, Luke didn’t see my texts, as he was merging back on the interstate to get us into Philly. Jordan replied with an eye-rolling emoji but said, Fine. 

I eyed Kendra over my shoulder. “You look rough.” Kendra had massive dark circles under her eyes. 

“I am,” she said. “This cold is kicking my ass.” I hadn’t realized she was sick. Good thing the rest of us in the car were vampires and couldn’t get human colds. 

“You should have called in sick today,” Paige said, patting her on the shoulder. 

Kendra shrugged. “I don’t like to miss work.” 

“I know the feeling,” I muttered. “We’re so busy with skips none of us can afford to miss.” 

“Can’t you make a potion or something?” I asked. “Surely, in this day and age, a smart witch like you can cure a common cold.” 

She stared at me and snorted, then coughed. “I wish. I’ve made some herbal teas that help, but magic doesn’t work on viruses unless it was magic that created them.” 

That made sense, I guessed.  

We arrived at Jordan’s office a few minutes later and filed into the room. 

“I’m glad you’re all here,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to discuss.” 

Jordan took a seat behind his desk, then gestured for us to do the same. “First off, I wanted to let you know that one of my best bounty hunters is out on paternity leave.” He huffed and rolled his eyes. “In my day, men waited in the lobby, passed out cigars, then went back to work.” 

Luke snorted. “In your day? You’re what, sixty? You act like you’re Ward freaking Cleaver.” 

“Well, anyway, I’m down a bounty hunter. I need to assign your team more cases.” 

I sat up straight. We’d already been busier than ever, but extra money never hurt. Even though I really didn’t need it. Then again the holidays were coming up and it would be nice to surprise Jax with something I bought with my own money. “We’ll take them. Luke wants to sign on with us anyway, so we have an extra person. And we can call on our friends to help if things get difficult.” 

Jordan beamed at me. “Good.” He opened one of his desk drawers and pulled out a huge stack of manila folders. “This was Boomer’s caseload.” 

As he slapped the files down on the desk, my jaw dropped. “Geez, how did this guy have time for all this?” 

“He did it full time, unlike you lot who only seem to want to work at night.” He shrugged. “I can call your friend Howard to take them?” 

“No,” I said quickly. “If we need help, we’ll call Howard ourselves.” I reached out and took the stack of cases. “We’ll be in touch for our money!” 

As we walked out of his office, Luke was practically bouncing on his feet. “I can’t believe I get to work with you guys!” 

“Just remember,” I said, holding up a finger. “You do what we say.” 

He grinned at me. “Yes, ma’am.” 

In the car, I shuffled through the folders until I found one that was just Luke’s speed. “Here you go.” 

He opened the folder with an expression on his face like I’d just handed him a Faberge egg. Then he read the description and his face fell. “Seriously? This is my first assignment?” 

I pointed toward the road. “Let’s go.” 

Slapping his hand onto the steering wheel, he gritted his teeth and slowly turned to look at me. “You’re coming with me?” 

“It’s your first assignment,” Paige said. “Of course, we’re coming. We don’t do many assignments alone.” 

“Fine,” he said with a clenched jaw.  

I looked over my shoulder and winked at my friends as Kendra yawned and nodded. “Got it.”