Read chapter one now and meet Sidney:
Chapter One–The Assignment
A witch needs safety
You shall provide
Go to Burberry
And there you’ll hide
Sidney Cross lazed in the chair across from the Lost Souls ParaAgency’s head honcho and flicked the end of the toothpick clenched between his teeth. He mulled over the assignment Sparsh had read out loud twice—as if vampires needed it read twice—and pulled the piece of timber from his mouth. “That’s not a predictive rhyme from the Council’s seers, is it?”
Sparsh’s hands fluttered into his lap. The piece of parchment didn’t poof into a colorful pile of confetti, which sealed Sidney’s theory into fact. The Council on Crimes Against Humans liked theatrics such as poofs. The lackluster display didn’t fit their style.
Sidney straightened. Sparsh didn’t fluster easy. Finally, something interesting. Wait. He didn’t care about interesting. He cared about making it through the last few weeks of probation to his freedom.
“The agency may need to work outside the confines of the Council for the foreseeable future. Is that a problem for you, Mr. Cross?” Sparsh asked.
“Hips on a walrus, that’s not a problem.” Sidney cringed as the words left his mouth. Hips on a walrus? When would Sparsh remove the stupid spell that wouldn’t allow Sidney to say a single curse word? How he missed those colorful expressions. He’d learned so many in the past one hundred and some odd years. Yet, one stupid F-bomb in front of Sparsh’s wife, Tippie, ten years ago and he’d been relieved of his ability to swear like a New York cabbie with a broken air conditioner during a heat wave. The words wouldn’t even manifest as thoughts. Freckled yaks, Sparsh.
The edges of Sparsh’s lips curved into what could almost pass as a smile. Unwilling to allow the man who wore the most ridiculous neckties get the one up, Sidney relaxed into the well-worn leather chair. It smelled of human, weres, and a whole host of paranormals combined. In the early days after he’d been turned, the combination would’ve forced his fangs to pop out. Now rarely anything got his paranormal side excited.
“What’s in it for me?” Not that it mattered, but he didn’t want to go along too easily.
Sparsh opened the top drawer of his desk and removed a black box. Fuzzy ones like that usually held jewelry. “First, we’ll remove the Council’s magical tracking tattoo on your arm. Second, on this particular assignment, you will wear an agency amulet to restore the majority of your powers and allow you to daywalk.”
Sidney’s fingers twitched. Not since the Council had stripped him of his powers and imprisoned him in the early 1900s had he been allowed to daywalk. He leaned forward and ran his index finger across the velvety top of the box. “Not that I’d turn down a chance to stroll on a sidewalk during the day for a change, but aren’t the Burberry Witches Lex’s problem?”
Everyone had heard the rumors about the powerful trio of witches and their even more powerful aunts hiding out in the small town in South Carolina. Calex Dimas, known as Lex by most of those working for and in the LSP, had been sent on assignment a month or so ago to stop a witch from exposing herself and other witches to the mortal world. Somehow that had ended with Lex dating a witch and taking her on as a partner.
“He’s busy.” The dramatic pause that followed meant no chance of an explanation. Sparsh adjusted the knot on his tie. Bright yellow rubber duckies decorated today’s horror. “And it’s only the one Walker witch. Two of the sisters are leaving town with their aunts, and the one left behind needs a watcher. While the Council hasn’t sent an assignment, our own seers have predicted that she’s not as safe as we’d like her to be. I’ll handle any Council issues while you focus on the assignment.”
“And there’s no catch?” When had that ever been the case? He lifted the top of the jewelry box and stared at the leather thong and platinum Celtic knot charm with a small amber gem in the middle.
“Keep both eyes on the witch and don’t let her know you’re there. Simple. If she is in any danger that you can surmise, contact us immediately and I’ll step in.” He leveled his sharp gaze on Sidney. “Don’t get involved on any level other than watching or you’ll deal with me directly.”
No doubt he’d end up with another thrilling curse. Ugh, like being forced to wear ridiculous ties. Was Sparsh forced to wear them by his wife, Tippie? He didn’t think the agency grump wore them willingly.
Anyway, not getting involved sounded effortless enough. He shut the small case with a snap. “I accept.”
Sparsh pushed a file folder across the desk. “Everything you need to know about the Walker sisters is in this dossier.”
He lifted the thick file. Judging by the weight, the witches were either really bad or really good. Either way, he’d dump it the first chance he got. Studying wasn’t his thing. Clipped on the outside was a 3x5 photograph of a smiling blonde woman with intelligent blue eyes. His assignment. Not bad if one liked witches or contemplated getting involved even when they’d expressly been forbidden. “Anything else?”
“Tippie has your details packet with transportation and expense money.” Sparsh raised a heavy eyebrow. “Remember, observe and report anything out of the ordinary. There is no reason to engage with Ms. Walker unless she is in immediate danger.”
He tapped the photo. “Is she in danger?”
Sparsh opened his mouth to answer but his phone trilled and he refocused his attention.
Tippie appeared at the door, shimmering from top to bottom with her silver hair and matching pantsuit. “Mr. Cross. If you’ll follow me?”
The witch wouldn’t be in danger or they’d send a real agent or at least one allowed to act. Sidney pushed his large frame out of the chair and joined Tippie at her station outside of Sparsh’s office. He couldn’t resist her siren call. Literally. She handed him a white envelope.
He sifted through the contents and groaned. “The flick-flack bus? Really?”
“It’s not a punishment, Mr. Cross. It’s part of your cover.” Her smile said differently.
He opened a folded piece of paper. “What’s this?”
“The list of the powers you’ll regain once you put on the Agency amulet.”
He read the list and pointed to the fifth line item. “I can’t glamour but I’ll have my bloodlust. That’s probably not the smartest thing to give back.”
“There are some things that even the amulet can’t control. You’ll have to do that on your own.” The lines around her eyes softened and she sighed. “You’re almost finished with your probation, Sidney. Then you’ll have to control the bloodlust on your own anyway or you’ll go right back to prison. Or worse.”
In this case, the worse didn’t mean a stake in the heart. The Council on Crimes Against Humans would permanently defang him and he’d return to his human form. And the disease he’d outrun for years would also return, allowing him to deteriorate and die in agony. So yes, some punishments were worse than a quick death. Plus, being a vampire suited his style of keeping to shadows and avoiding contact with the rest of the world if at all possible. He could do that for a hundred more years.
He skimmed the rest of the list. Super strength and speed—yes. Ability to shift to mist and glamour—no. Glamour always came in handy to erase minds or persuade a person to do his bidding. But whatever. He didn’t need those powers for a simple observe and report job anyway. The next slip of paper gave a detailed description of his cover. Work-for-hire vagrant passing through town looking for odd jobs. At least he wouldn’t have to change clothes. He rifled through the stack of hundreds, somewhat relieved they didn’t expect him to sleep on the ground.
“There’s a car waiting outside to take you to the bus station.” Tippie turned her attention to her laptop. “Inside is a duffel bag with enough synthetic blood to see you through a week’s time. There’s also a cell phone to call me if you need more.”
Dismissed, he put the amulet around his neck and tucked it under his t-shirt. At the door to the exit he hesitated. Used to only roaming at night and staying in the LSP’s underground training and living quarters during the day, the stark fear of melting in the sunlight smacked against his chest. He pushed the door open and stuck his hand into the light. Warmth grabbed his icy skin and when he didn’t disintegrate into a pile of ashes, relief flooded him. His skin continued to warm.
When he’d been given the choice to become immortal in exchange for giving up something as taken for granted as the sunlight, he hadn’t realized how much he’d miss it. He flexed his arms and with a sting, the Council’s tracking tattoo written in Latin disappeared from his bicep. Double Awesome. The freedom exhilarated him.
A town car with tinted windows pulled to the front drive. A woman in a dark suit with equally dark skin stepped out and opened the rear passenger door. He walked past her to the front passenger door and grinned. “I don’t do back seats. I’ll sit up front with you.”
The woman huffed “vampires” under her breath and rolled her eyes toward the sky. Sidney settled into the soft leather seat and flipped open the file on the Walker witches. Since he had some time on his hands, he’d at least get a read on his assigned Walker witch.
Ally Walker, middle daughter and elementary school teacher, didn’t dabble in the magical arts like her sisters. In fact, the file mentioned in several places that Ally had zero intentions of joining the LSP like her older sister, Amira, or practicing witchcraft under the tutelage of her aunts like her younger sister, Ris.
Her interests and hobbies were listed, and if this were a dating app he’d have already swiped left to move on. Perfect. Boring witch, boring assignment, and boring small town all meant passing the time without incident. He’d ace this and win at probation.
Sidney tossed the file into the back seat and leaned his head back, allowing the sunlight to warm his face. One more month and he’d be a free vampire. Then he’d get lost in a big city somewhere and stay far away from the Council and agencies who’d ruled his life for more than a hundred years.
I hope you're ready to read more!! Happy reading ~Kizzie