Welcome to Day 19!


Quentin Heart 200

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Chapter One

With a sinking feeling, Quentin Heart sat at his dining room table and regarded the tall stack of medical bills.

Sneaking into Trina Heart’s house to steal them had been depressingly easy since his mother had been admitted into the hospital that morning. The cancer had returned, and Quentin could only stand by and watch his once-vibrant mother fade away. She’d been getting better after the last round of chemo eradicated a lump under her arm, but the most recent test results revealed an aggressive return.

He brushed away the tears sliding down his face. There wasn’t time to feel sorry for himself. He had to be strong for her. After several sniffs and a few more eye rubs, Quentin’s vision cleared well enough to focus on the painfully high numbers printed on the invoices before him. When he reached the end of the pile, he almost lost control. Even if he sold her house and every other asset they owned, it still would barely make a dent in the staggering figure.

Although the company his mother worked for had extended her medical insurance, it didn’t cover some of the new experimental spell drugs the doctors were using in the hopes they could stop the spread of the virulent disease.

Fuck. Quentin slashed out his arm. The bills flew off the table and scattered, almost covering the entire tiled kitchen floor.

For months, he’d tried to keep it together for his mother’s sake. He stood by her while doctor after doctor told her further bad news, and he held her when she cried over her lost hair and fading energy.

“Fuck this.” He needed a distraction. He would go to his lab and do some work for a while. He still had a doctoral thesis to finish, and his mother would never forgive herself if her illness interfered with Quentin’s future. Right then he didn’t give a damn about college, but he couldn’t handle disappointing her, and she didn’t need the added stress of worrying over him.

Maybe concentrating on easy things like theoretical spell creation would be better than pointlessly wishing he’d gone into healer magic. Although his power had exceeded most everyone’s expectations, Quentin didn’t have healing-compatible magic. His energy crackled instead of soothed. It made for good light shows but not internal healing.

From previous comments, Quentin suspected the older professors couldn’t wait to tear him down for the slightest mistake in his spell casting. He had many academic enemies—one of the downsides to being the youngest student ever to master potions and spells at the doctoral level.

Quentin stood and yanked his coat off the back of the kitchen chair. He pulled it on, then grabbed his keys and phone off the table and made a point of stomping across the fallen invoices on his way out the door. They would be there when he returned, and crumpled or not, they would still show the same soul-draining amount. The pencil pushers wouldn’t care if the print of Quentin’s sole marred the surface of their paper as long as a big fat check accompanied it.

The cool winter-afternoon air slashed at his face with its icy breath, but Quentin didn’t care. He enjoyed the frigid breeze. Anticipation lightened his steps. Maybe this time he would come up with the perfect potion to cure his mother. The previous three hundred attempts had failed, but maybe today would be his winning try.

Magical healers and scientific doctors had told Quentin he couldn’t stop his mother’s disease with magic, but he refused to listen. Amazing things could be done with the right combination of chemicals and magical energy, so why not a cure?

Luckily, his mother’s house stood close enough for him to walk to campus. With anger roiling through him, using magic to transport himself might have unfortunate side effects.

Quentin didn’t bother trying to save up to buy a car for when he was too tired to use magic. He didn’t need an accounting degree to know he lacked the money. His funding grant covered food, housing, and books, but little else. He had considered getting a job, but it would cut into his studies. Besides, even if he accepted one of the offers thrown at him by the leading spell creation companies, it wouldn’t be enough to dig his mother out of debt.

“Maybe I should ask for a signing bonus.” Quentin laughed as he imagined the recruiter’s face if he suggested such a thing.

A flyer stapled to a telephone pole caught his gaze; the picture looked like something out of a child’s nightmare. The words below the image tore his attention away from the frightening visual.

“Need Cash? We Need People. Catch the Bad Guys and Get Paid.”

A phone number was displayed beneath the headline.

Catch the bad guys?

Quentin had heard of paranormal bounty hunters. They hunted down the worst of the worst and returned them to jail or wherever they were detained. Usually creatures like vampires, trolls, or giants were the type to escape. The regular police didn’t have the manpower to recapture them, so they hired out.

“I wonder how much they pay?” Quentin glanced around, but no one stood beside him on the street corner or even close by. With a decisive yank, he pulled the ad off its perch. “I might not be supernaturally strong, but I’m not a wimp either.”

Quentin could always use magic to supplement his lack of muscle. As his mother always said, he wouldn’t know until he tried. He folded the flyer, then tucked it into his jacket pocket. He would look into this bounty hunter business later, after he finished his work at the lab. As he walked, images of confronting frightening creatures flashed through his head. He shook them off. First, he’d see how much they were offering before he considered dipping a toe into the bounty hunter pool.

“Mom would kill me.”

Trina might be sickly and throwing up every day, but she had a core of strength a master sorcerer would envy. She’d raised Quentin all alone after the guy who got her pregnant dumped her for a family-approved mate. Quentin never got to know his father because the man hadn’t been interested. Quentin’s mother had received child support until he turned eighteen, and then even that had stopped without so much as a letter to Quentin. He’d long gotten used to the idea his father didn’t care, but that didn’t make the situation less painful.

The sight of the lab building soothed his ruffled emotions. At least here he could hide from the outside world. All his troubles vanished once he buried himself in his spells and potions. He could get lost in his own head for hours until someone reminded him eating wasn’t optional if he wanted to stay alive.

His phone rang. He scrambled for his pocket while his heart beat extra fast. Ever since his mother had gone to the hospital, he couldn’t stand phone calls, dreading it being the doctor telling him she’d passed on.

When Quentin had refused to leave her bedside, his mother had the hospital throw him out. He had strict orders not to return for at least two days. She claimed it wasn’t healthy for him to spend all day obsessing over her. He thought it was because she didn’t want him to see her wasting away. She took his sorrow over her illness harder than dealing with the cancer.

He really had the best mother in the magical world.

After a quick glance at the display, Quentin relaxed. “Hey, Glenn.”

“Hey, Q-Boy, want to go out tonight?”

Glenn Rhodes’s cheerful voice made Quentin smile.

“I’m just about to head to my lab.”

“Oh no, man. You can’t bury yourself. Once you go in there, you’ll never come out.”

“It’s not a black hole,” Quentin protested.

“You’ve got until ten, and then I’ll meet you at the lab.” Glenn’s firm tone indicated he wouldn’t be put off.

Quentin glanced at his watch. He still had five hours. “Deal. Call me when you get here, and I’ll meet you outside.” No one without clearance was allowed inside.

Glenn sighed. “You’d better. I don’t want to be waiting for you to remember the proper formula for lightning or something.”

“I’ll have to go home and change before we go out. It might be better to meet me at my apartment.”

“No. By then you’ll come up with some excuse of why you can’t go out. This way, I can help you pick something to wear.”

Quentin decided not to argue. Glenn never approved of Quentin’s clothes choices. Better to let Glenn pick, and avoid an argument later.

“See you then.” Quentin didn’t really look forward to a night of loud music and questionable dancing, but maybe hanging with friends would take a bit of stress away. Lab then dancing could be the perfect combination. He couldn’t go back to the hospital until tomorrow anyway. His mother had informed the nurse that Quentin wasn’t to be allowed in until nine tomorrow morning. Even on her deathbed, she mothered him.

Quentin disconnected the call and shoved the phone back into his pocket. The huge warning signs outside the lab building always made him smile. If anyone was unaware this was a spell lab, the huge words warning people to wear eye protection, spell-blocking bracelets, and proper potion-proof work boots would have tipped them off.

Quentin pressed his hand against the access panel. A sizzle of electricity traced his palm before the red light turned to green. He grabbed the door handle, then pulled it open. He had to hurry. There were only five seconds after unlocking and opening before the door relocked automatically.

A waft of rotten eggs greeted him. Quentin choked on the smell. Someone’s formula had failed spectacularly.

“Damn it, Daisy, are you trying to kill us!” Professor Rendall’s voice reached Quentin through the layers of protective glass.

Quentin didn’t look. Being caught staring would draw Rendall’s attention to him, and Quentin made a healthy scholastic career out of avoiding the professor, whose strident personality had stripped more than one academic of their pride and sent them fleeing from the school.

Quentin couldn’t hear Daisy’s reply. It was probably only a matter of days before she dropped out. She’d confided to Quentin last week that she didn’t think she was meant for academia. Looking at her grades, Quentin had to agree. Daisy was a bright girl, but she didn’t have a natural aptitude for spellmaking to go along with her book smarts, and her magic was decidedly underpowered.

Quentin headed for the wall of lockers, then stopped in front of the one with his name on it. He traced a design on the locker door with his finger while whispering an incantation. The soft ringing of a bell confirmed he’d spoken the right spell. Opening the door revealed a pair of work boots and hand covers. Quentin bought the more expensive brand of finger protection because the spell sank into his skin so well that he didn’t feel like he was wearing gloves.

A few minutes later, Quentin was suited up. He didn’t bother with goggles because when he’d gotten his master’s degree, his mother had splurged on a pair of spell-blocking glasses for him. With spell stamps on the frames, Quentin could wear them for the rest of his life, only replacing the lenses when he needed. He doubted he would ever be able to afford another pair. The occasional night out was as splurgy as he got, and then only if they were having happy hour.

Quentin shoved his worries out of his mind with determined focus. A wandering brain could cause major trouble while creating new spells, and he refused to screw things up because of his distraction.

He shut his locker, then headed to the second security door. This one took a retina eye scan and a small spell. Without magic, no one could get to this point in the building.

A soft beep indicated Quentin’s clearance had been approved, and then the door slid open. He went through and tried not to gag on the stench.

“That idiot Daisy ruined another potion,” Rendall growled.

Quentin nodded but didn’t comment. He refused to pour more fuel on Rendall’s self-righteous fire.

“What, nothing to say? I thought you, of all people, would have something to say about your colleague’s incompetence.”

“Why me?” Quentin didn’t approve of negativity. He had no wish to come down hard on the girl. Anything he said wouldn’t be as bad as whatever she thought of herself or as harsh as Rendall’s comments.

Rendall scowled. If it wasn’t for his unpleasant expressions, the professor might be considered attractive. He grumbled at Quentin, “Because you’re the best potion master here besides me. We shouldn’t have to put up with fools.”

“Well, I’m sorry if I’m not perfect!” Daisy screamed. Tears ran down her cheeks. “I quit!” She cast Rendall a watery glare before stomping past.

It wasn’t until she’d gone through the security door that Rendall spoke again. “Well, that flunks out another one.” He rubbed his hands together with glee.

Yep, Rendall was a complete bastard.

“Don’t you get tired of terrorizing students?” Quentin asked.

“Nope.” Rendall grinned. “They have to be tough if they plan on making it in the world of academia.”

“They don’t get combat pay.” Any student who had to work with Rendall should get a special medal for heroics if they didn’t kill the jerk first.

Rendall shrugged. “Daisy was a good researcher, but she lacked imagination. She didn’t come up with a single idea that hasn’t been developed before. She wouldn’t get far with such a lack of imagination.”

Quentin couldn’t remember the last time Rendall created something new, but he had heard rumors about the professor stealing ideas from his students. It was one of the reasons Quentin always kept his workspace locked up tight and spell protected.

“I’ll call her later and make sure she’s okay.”

“Such a chivalrous man. Does she know you’re gay?” Rendall sneered.

“I’m not sure why that makes a difference.” Quentin stared the professor down, daring him to pursue that line of thought. If the dean heard of Rendall saying anything derogatory, he would be in trouble, tenure or not.

Rendall raised his hands, palms out. “Just asking. No offense meant.”

Quentin nodded, pretending to take Rendall at his word. “I’m going to my lab. Good luck with whatever you’re working on.” He waved a hand to encompass the smoky work area.

“Anything you need a more experienced opinion on?” Rendall asked. “Even geniuses have help from time to time.”

“No thanks, but I appreciate your offer.” Quentin forced a smile. He didn’t want anyone to be able to say he wasn’t polite to the staff, even if it took all his energy not to throttle the man in front of him.

Quentin scooted past Rendall, then headed down the hall. He could feel the professor’s gaze like an itch between his shoulder blades, but Rendall didn’t call him back.

Quentin placed his right hand on the scanner pad beside the door to his lab. Security for his workspace didn’t include a retina scanner because he was still a student. He wasn’t considered important enough to be working on the high-level projects that needed extra protection—good thing they didn’t know exactly what he did.

He entered his workshop, then closed the door behind him with a decisive click and turned around to place his hands on the doorframe, whispering a blocking spell. The powers that be might think Quentin’s work not worth spell security, but there were no rules against Quentin adding his own. Rendall wouldn’t be able to make a quick buck on Quentin’s work. He made all his protection spells inclusive. A person could come in, rifle around, and even take pictures, but on the way out, their cameras would be cleared, the papers would vanish, and their memories of being inside the room would be wiped away.

Quentin took his security seriously.

Satisfied he had protected his door, Quentin sat on his wheeled stool. He examined his table of potion mixtures with an assessing gaze. Quentin was working on a spell that would allow magical law enforcement to stop people with a freezing bomb. Unfortunately, it still didn’t work as he needed it to. Anything frozen wouldn’t unfreeze. He still hadn’t worked out all the kinks in the magic, and he had to cast a warming spell to resuscitate the poor rat he practiced on.

“Sorry about that again, James.” Quentin tapped a pencil against the rat’s cage.

James’s twitchy rodent face didn’t show any expression, but Quentin still felt the power of his ratty disapproval—or maybe he imagined it.

Quentin walked over to his whiteboard to pick up his favorite black marker. This one made a delightful squeak when he wrote with it. It annoyed his colleagues during meetings, but that only made it more precious to him.

With a flick of his hand, Quentin turned on his streaming music station, and then he got to work. He lost track of time as he wrote and rewrote his formula, testing out different bits and pieces to find the flaw in the spell. Just when he thought he might have found the problem, his phone rang and snapped him out of his introspection.

Quentin stretched, relished the cracking of his back muscles, then walked over to his desk chair and searched the pockets of the jacket he’d abandoned there. “Hello?”

“Hey, Q. I’m outside and ready to party!” Glenn shouted.

It took Quentin a minute to pull his mind out of spell theory and focus on the call. A quick glance at the clock on the wall told him he’d been working far longer than he thought. “I’ll be right out.”

He disconnected then returned the phone to his pocket before sliding the jacket back on.

“Well, James, I didn’t get much done today.” He dropped some apple pieces and nutritional pet food into James’s cage before heading for the door. “Be nice to the janitor.”

Quentin had caught the facility’s janitor, Joe, feeding James a few times. He let it slide. As long as Joe didn’t let James out of his cage, wipe off Quentin’s whiteboard, or move any of his papers, Quentin didn’t care.

After locking the door behind him and resetting his wards, Quentin left the building to join his friend.

No one was outside.

Quentin looked left, then right. Nothing. Where had Glenn gone?

Tired and not willing to play games, he pulled out his phone and dialed his friend. The sound of Glenn’s ringtone came from behind the bushes. Quentin laughed. Idiot.

Glenn should turn off his ringer if he planned to surprise him.

He was two steps from the bushes, when behind him a voice called out, “Mr. Heart!” He froze at the sound of Dean Mearson’s voice. Quentin spun around to face the head of his department.

Candi Mearson had the body and the bright blonde hair of a college cheerleader, and a mind that could destroy the world. If Quentin had been the least bit interested in women, he would have tried to date her for her mind alone. To Quentin, a smart person was ten times sexier than a beautiful one. He tried to stay on her good side and always treated her with the respect she deserved. Many people underestimated the dean and learned too late of her brilliance after she had neutered them intellectually and left them crying into their shredded doctoral thesis.

“Dean Mearson, how are you doing tonight?”

The dean came to a stop in front of him. “I’m doing well, Mr. Heart. How is your mother?”

Quentin swallowed back the lump in his throat, refusing to cry in front of his boss. “She’s not doing well. The cancer came back.”

The dean squeezed Quentin’s arm. “I’m sorry to hear that. If you need to take some time off, let us know, and we’ll make an exception in your program.”

“No, it’s better that I work. My mother would feel guilty if she thought she’d negatively affected my future.” He knew that because she’d told him about a thousand times.

Mearson gave him a watery smile. “She sounds like a wonderful woman. I lost my father a few years ago. If you need someone to talk to….” She let her words trail off.

“I appreciate that, but I’m doing fine.” He wasn’t. He never would be if this evil disease killed his mother, but he didn’t want the dean to treat him like a charity case either. “What are you doing here so late? Is there something I can help you with?” Quentin almost winced after the words left his mouth. Everyone knew better than to volunteer for anything around the dean.

She tucked a strand of blonde hair behind her ear, then flashed him her best smile. Quentin’s stomach roiled with morbid fascination. He liked the dean, but he knew when he was about to be suckered into a project.

“What’s up?”

“I had a visiting professor cancel on me for tomorrow. He was going to discuss the pluses and minuses of spell circles. I was hoping you could take his place.” She patted Quentin’s shoulder. “I know, I know, it’s beneath your expertise, but it would really help me out. Their usual instructor went on vacation because he thought we were having a substitute, so now the sub cancelled and I’m at loose ends. I’d be happy to give you the stipend I was going to pay him.”

She named an amount. It wasn’t much, but it was more than Quentin made doing nothing.

“Sure, I’ll do it.” He held back the sigh that was itching to escape.

“Great.” Mearson’s perfect white teeth gleamed in the dim lighting. “It’s at nine tomorrow morning.”

“I’ll be there.” He must not have kept the groan out of his voice because the dean laughed.

“Have a good night, Mr. Heart. I’ll remember this.” With those words, she spun on her stilettos and scurried away at a pace most would consider impossible in four-inch heels.

As much as Quentin didn’t want to teach a spell-circle class, it always helped to have the dean on his side. And she’d said she would remember him helping her out in a pinch. She would also remember if he said no.

A low growl from the direction of the bushes put Quentin on alert. He glanced around, but no one else appeared to be wandering around. Maybe one of the students had let their dog run free. Even as he made up that excuse, Quentin couldn’t make himself believe it.

If it were just him, he would have walked away, but his friend’s phone had rung from that direction. “Glenn!” he shouted. “If you’re over there, come out. This isn’t funny.”

Glenn had a twisted sense of humor, and Quentin could only hope his friend was playing another one of his pranks.

The growls became louder. “Glenn, I mean it. If you don’t stop, I’ll curse your car to only turn right.”

Glenn’s biggest pride was his cherry-red antique Porsche. Just the suggestion of harming it should have brought his friend out of hiding. A sick, twisting sensation of dread churned in Quentin’s stomach. He tucked his phone back into his pocket. He had a feeling he’d need two hands for whatever waited for him around the corner. The cool evening breeze brought the smell of rotting food to his nose.

“Fuck,” he whispered.

Please let me be wrong.

Now would be a great time to have a familiar. His mother always told him he’d made a mistake going the modern route and not keeping a sidekick. Not for the first time, he suspected his mother had been right again. If he got out of this, he was going to go down to the pet store and get the biggest damn familiar he could find.

A louder growl sounded, then a bark. An answering bark responded close by. Quentin planted his feet, closed his eyes, and sent out his senses. Earth magic snapped through him as he used the ground beneath him as his scout. Along his path, bugs rose to the surface responding to his call. Ants, beetles, and tiny mites swarmed across the grass and disappeared behind the bushes.

After a few minutes, they returned to give their report.

Wolves. Four wolves.

Images flickered. A bit here and a bit there popped into Quentin’s mind as he absorbed the messages given to him by his earthbound comrades.

For the first time, Quentin was glad of this particular ability. These weren’t the fluffy, gorgeous creatures from a nature show—these wolves were the kind necromancers used to scout out prey. These canis lupus were bone wolves made from the carcasses of dead animals and held together with spells and blood magic.

Quentin held up his right hand and concentrated until a ball of energy began to form. Few wizards had the ability to create lightning balls through their will alone. When he created his first one many years ago, his spell-casting professor had told Quentin it was impossible.

When he was younger and a bit stupid, Quentin had paid a tattoo artist to imprint rows of glyphs along the base of his palms in invisible ink. He could see them when he channeled power. Unfortunately the runes worked a bit too well, and Quentin could cause a great deal of damage if he wasn’t careful.

A howl rang out again.

This wasn’t one of those times to be cautious. Quentin didn’t want to be careful. He wanted to destroy these beasts that lived beyond the laws of nature, because the ants had also reported back that Glenn lay on the ground behind the bushes, not breathing.

The first of the pack crept around the shrubs. Blood coated its muzzle. Quentin blocked out whose blood it most likely was, because if he thought about Glenn now, he would lose his concentration. He had to stay focused, both to channel magic and not get killed. Maybe he should’ve gotten a silver blade like his mother told him to when he went to the university. All of Quentin’s defensive strategies were through magic, so he didn’t carry weapons. Knives and guns could be turned back on you. No one could take his magic and use it against him.

The other three wolves joined the first one, and they eyed Quentin’s ball of energy with more caution than he would expect. Bone wolves were known not for their intelligence, but for their ruthlessness in carrying out their master’s will.

A patchwork of different types of fur covered the wolves’ frames, held together with irregular jagged lines of stitching. What had sent them here? What were they after? Glenn couldn’t have been their target—Quentin’s friend didn’t know much about magic and had none of his own.

“Shoo!” Quentin waved them away. “Go back to your master.”

He should just kill them. They were an affront against nature, but Quentin hated to take a life, even one magically created. He wouldn’t fry them unless they attacked him first.

Why aren’t they attacking?

The bone wolves spread out in front of Quentin as if they wanted to get a good look. He tossed the energy ball from hand to hand, letting them get an idea of what waited for them if they stuck around. “Go home!”

When they didn’t move to either attack or flee, Quentin stepped closer. He needed to see if Glenn was truly dead. Bugs weren’t necessarily the best determiner of a human’s status. The wolves showed no sign of either attacking or retreating. He decided to take a chance.

When he approached the wolves, they parted. Quentin turned and walked backward, not wanting to give them his spine as a target. The wolves didn’t even growl. What was going on?

A soft whisper had Quentin spinning in its direction. The wolves were all but forgotten beneath the hope that Glenn might still be alive.

“Glenn!” Quentin ran over and dropped down beside his friend. Blood coated Glenn’s stomach and chest in a macabre sea of crimson.

Glenn opened his eyes. “I guess we can’t go dancing, after all.”

“No, I think we’re going to have to pass for tonight.”

“Whatcha got there?” Glenn’s words slurred together as he pointed at the ball of energy cradled in Quentin’s right hand.

“I was using it to scare off the wolves.”

“W-wolves didn’t do it.” Glenn coughed and spurted up blood. Red spittle dripped down his cheek. Quentin’s pristine friend would be embarrassed if he weren’t on the verge of dying.

“Who did this?” Quentin had never experienced intense hate before. If he found the person who’d attacked Glenn, he would happily fry them with a lightning spell.

Glenn opened his mouth to speak again. A red spit-bubble formed between his lips. His eyes glazed over.

“No! Stay with me! Glenn, don’t you fucking die! Who will drag me out of my lab and make me go have fun?” Tears filled Quentin’s eyes, obscuring his vision.

Glenn didn’t move, he didn’t speak, he didn’t breathe. He would never breathe again.

Sobs shook Quentin’s body. As he lifted his hand to wipe away a tear, he accidentally dropped the ball of energy. The glowing orb sank into Glenn’s chest. A crackle of lightning jolted his friend and then went dull.

“I guess that didn’t bring you back, huh?” He brushed Glenn’s hair away from his face.

Quentin stood. He would have to call and tell someone about Glenn’s death—a coroner, at least. Glenn didn’t have any family. They’d died years ago and left him with a stack of bills and an old car.

A soft woof snapped him out of his reverie. The bone wolves stood in a circle as if waiting for him to give a command. “Go home,” he said again, and waved a hand at them in a shooing gesture.

Quentin had no hunger for battle. If they hadn’t killed Glenn, he didn’t need to kill them for revenge.

The wolves sat down on the grass and stared at him. It would’ve been unnerving if he was in the mood to let psycho-killer beasts bother him. Quentin pulled his phone from his pocket and called the police.

He explained that his friend had been attacked, and they promised an officer and an ambulance would arrive soon. Quentin thanked them, then took a seat beside Glenn. “I’m sorry I didn’t come outside sooner.”

If he’d met Glenn at home instead of having him come to the lab, Glenn would never have been in danger. A soft whine drew his attention back to the wolves. One of them began crawling toward him.

“Go back to your owner!” he shouted. “Go away.”

They didn’t move.

Quentin lost track of time until he heard a siren. The wolves began to howl and lined up to surround him as if protecting their master. “Settle down!” he ordered.

An ambulance and a car with cop lights pulled into the lab parking lot. The EMTs were pulling out a stretcher as two men exited the cop car. The cops wore suits instead of uniforms and had the cool expression of people who’d seen too much.

Quentin stood and shifted his feet uneasily as they approached.

“Are you the guy who called this in?” The larger of the two men examined Quentin as if measuring him for prison garb.


“I’m Detective Ivan Forrester and this is Detective John Hanson.” He pointed to his partner. “What happened here?”

Quentin spent the next twenty minutes telling the detectives about what he’d seen and heard. While they spoke, the EMTs examined Glenn’s body and pronounced him dead.

“What’s the deal with the bone wolves?” Hanson pointed a thumb at the animals lying beside Quentin.

Quentin shrugged. He didn’t have a good explanation for them. “They aren’t mine, but I can’t get them to go away.”

Forrester frowned. “Maybe their owner died. You’ll have to register them.”

Hanson snorted. “And it’s going to cost you a fortune. There’s a penalty of five hundred a head for creating them, and then a thousand-dollar licensing for future domestic disturbance. If you don’t, animal control will take them away.”

Quentin opened his mouth to tell Hanson to go ahead and have the wolves taken, but the wolves took that moment to pin Quentin with their eerie gazes and the words died in his mouth.

“I don’t think the wolves killed him. If they had, there’d be more pieces,” Forrester said.

“You don’t deal with a lot of live people, do you?” Quentin asked.

Forrester flushed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive.”

“Glenn didn’t get a chance to tell me what killed him before he died.” Quentin clenched his fists in his pockets. “He doesn’t have any family. Where will they take him?”

“The EMTs will take him to the city morgue. They’ll cremate him there and take care of the remains.”

Hanson’s sympathetic smile didn’t make Quentin feel any better.

“How long before they bury him?” He mentally evaluated whether he could come up with any cash to rescue his friend from an unmarked grave or at least pay for cremation and scatter Glenn’s ashes. Quentin might be the only person who cared about what would happen to Glenn.

“It will be a couple of days. There’s a rash of attacks in the city, and the bodies are adding up.” Forrester pointed at Glenn. “He’s our fifth this week.”

“What’s killing them?” This was the first Quentin had heard of a killer.

“We think there’s a rogue vampire out there, but we haven’t had much luck catching it,” Hanson said.

“Oh.” Quentin didn’t know much about vampires, but he didn’t see how one was making its way around the city without someone catching it in the act.

“Don’t worry. We’ll catch him soon,” Forrester said.

“Not soon enough.” Quentin crouched down and ran the back of his fingers against his friend’s cheek. “See you in the next life,” he whispered. He straightened and turned to find the cops watching him carefully. “What?”

“How close were you?” Forrester asked.

“Not as close as you’re thinking. Glenn was my friend. A good friend, but he preferred women.”

“And did you ever wish he hadn’t?” Hanson asked.

“No, Officers, I didn’t kill my friend because I wanted him to fuck me. We were friends. Just friends. Now, if you’re done with this conversation, I’m going home.”

The detectives nodded.

Quentin headed away from the scene. A clatter of bones and soft barks followed him. “I’m not taking you home,” he shouted over his shoulder.

But a quick glance proved the wolves still followed him. Damn it.

What the fuck was he going to do with a pack of bone wolves in his small apartment?

22 thoughts on “Welcome to Day 19!

  1. And another one hits the re-read list. Good thing January is long and cold. Picture this warm fire, comfy couch, cuddly throw, glass of wine and my kindle!

  2. This is an Amber story at her best. It is almost as good as Trials of Tam which I think of as funniest story until the next one. I am still waiting for the next one.

  3. This is one of my favorite books and I reread it often. Still waiting for the sequel. Pretty please with sprinkles?

  4. This is an awesome book, I’m crossing my fingers that there will be more books in this book universe to come.

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