Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Date of Publication: 11/24/2014
Number of pages: 250
Word Count: 94,500
Cover Artist: Croco Designs
All Sydney Kildare wants is a minute in the slow lane, some time to decide where she’s going with her vampire lover, Malcolm Kelly. But after sitting out the last battle, the powerful Master Bronson is giving orders again, and he isn’t above blackmailing his former courier to get what he wants.
With Mal sent to track a vicious killer, Syd is forced to infiltrate a pharmaceutical company responsible for a drug that turns vampires into real monsters. She’s unprepared and alone, but fiercely determined. If her investigation doesn’t satisfy the Master, Malcolm will pay the price. A wrong turn throws her into the middle of a vampire power play. Caught between twisting forces, with their freedom at stake, she’ll have to decide what’s more important: love, power or revenge. But choosing what feels right might turn out all wrong.
Goya’s warehouse sat on the other side of the parking lot from the office campus. Instead of grass, it was surrounded by scrubby dirt. Instead of fountains, it had banged-up box trucks. And, instead of a soaring lobby, there was a yellow metal cage outside the side door where, presumably, the warehouse folks could trap people and watch them cook to death for their own amusement. Luckily, it was early so it was only really hot rather than fatally hot.
I tossed my fake hair away from my neck and aimed my face at the camera, hoping my murderous glare was softened by a pink smile and midnight-blue eyeliner.
“You the new person?” a voice asked through a tinny speaker. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female.
“That’s me,” I said, trying to make the alias sound natural, “Andrea Franklin.”
The door clicked open.
“You’re late.” It was a woman, her voice low and rough from years of smoking.
I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the darkness and, when I could see again, found myself inside another metal enclosure. Maybe the entire world was just a series of cages laid end to end.
“Nothing to say for yourself?” The woman who stalked up was about my height. She wore a dark blue shirt with the white Goya logo, a smudged oval with a couple of wispy legs, over one small breast.
“I was told to start at nine.”
“Pshhhh. Corporate jackasses start at nine. We start at six, which means you’re late.” Her hair sprayed from the top of her head to her shoulders like a fistful of wheat stalks. Her face was a series of lines. Jagged lines around the eyes. Deep lines around the nose and mouth. A soft, curved line where her first chin met her second, even though she was thin. The uniform shirt billowed around knobby elbows.
“Well, I’m sorry for that.” I showed her my nicest smile. “It won’t happen again. Unless you’re planning to keep me in this cage.” That earned me a humph. She jabbed her thumb against a button to open the door and gestured for me to follow.
“I’m Andrea,” I said.
“I know.” She sounded like she was regretting me already. “I’m Lil. No ‘miz,’ no ‘ma’am,’ just Lil.”
There were four tall stacks of shelving covered in scabby orange paint that stretched to the overhead doors at the far end of the building. Hazard chevrons had been painted in what seemed like random squares every once in a while on the floor, places to park equipment and places where equipment shouldn’t drive. The building was noisy, with big fans fighting the hot air at the top of the building, and bigger AC units roaring away on the wall.
On the main floor two men worked a forklift, one spotting as the other pulled a pallet three rows up. They paused and watched as we approached. When Lil looked at them, they glared back for a moment before resuming work. Before the hair and the designer clothes, the only time I got a second look was when I was in full runner gear and makeup, and then I didn’t have to worry because even when people were looking at me, they didn’t see me.
“I’m not only your shift supervisor, I’m your direct superior.” Lil said superior like the title was a fact separating our worth. “You sick, dying, or thinking of working somewhere else, you come to me first. The cages are for visitors and drivers or anyone pretending to be a driver. We got schedule-four and -five substances in here. You know who came up with the schedules?”
Since I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, I didn’t have a clever answer. “No.”
“The DEA. That’s the Drug Enforcement Administration. Street junkies kill each other and a lot of good people to get their hands on that shit.” She jabbed her thumb toward the white cage. “You a junkie?”
Lil peered at me, hands on hips. I tried to look as unjunkie as possible.
“Do a lot of people try to get jobs in places like this so they can steal narcotics?”
“They try.” She sounded smug.
“But you catch them and bury them where even the buzzards can’t find them?”
She grinned. Her teeth were crooked and her mouth smelled of tobacco. “We do worse. Come on, newbie. I’ll show you your office.” A couple of guys wandered out from the stacks, one carrying a clipboard, the other moping along behind him. We veered toward a darker area partially enclosed by a stack of empty pallets on one side and a yellow metal cabinet on the other.
“Corner office for the day. I hope it’s to your liking, Miss Andrea Franklin.” Lil dropped her hand onto the back of a fabric chair, sending up a cloud of dust. A tiny combo TV/VCR sat on the school desk in front of it, next to a stack of videotapes.
“Safety and procedure training. Finish those tapes and bring any questions to me. Don’t ask these people, ’cause they don’t know anything. You got any questions now?”
I wanted to ask if the chair had been tested for hantavirus, but that would probably irritate Lil. “Where’s the bathroom?”
“Shitter’s back there.” She pointed vaguely toward a shadow far away.
“Don’t care.” She scooted away and I blew out a long breath. I knew that spying might be perilous. I hadn’t expected to have to deal with a shitter.
Regan Summers is the author of the romantic urban fantasy Night Runner series. As a native Alaskan, she’s used to long, cold nights but thinks they’re better with a helping of sexy vampires. Don’t Bite the Messenger, the first in the series, was a finalist for the 2013 EPIC eBook Awards in the paranormal category.