Read an excerpt:
Sweat stuck my skin to the surface of the exercise machine each time my back touched it. The discomfort, when combined with the headache from the rush of blood to my head and the even older bruised bone feeling from my shins only encouraged the voice whispering in my head that I should stop. But four repetitions weren’t enough. I wouldn’t be twenty again, and that bullet or stake or set of fangs, teeth and claws that came for my throat or belly or thigh wouldn’t care in the slightest how hard I had worked, or how many crunches I’d done.
I had a reason I played my iPod at volumes that would ensure the bones of my inner ear would fail first.
The sound of breaking glass came from downstairs. I ripped off the head phones. They fell to the carpet of the converted master bedroom like white, mating snakes. The house stilled except for the tinny music from the buds. I turned off the MP3 player and true silence returned. With it, something expectant waited for me downstairs.
I unhooked my ankles, and let myself fall backward to my feet. The alarm panel I had installed showed nothing wrong. The sheer amount of green LCD lights should have been comforting, but my gut still told me I had company. Then, with a sense of deliberation, the sound of breaking glass came again.
The light indicating the backdoor flickered red, just for an instant, but then went back to comforting green. Someone had my codes, or enough magic that they didn’t need them. One terrified me more than the other. I didn’t give my codes to anyone.
I would like to think that I had made it all the way down to the bottom of the stairs on my own, and not sucker punched so that I fell down the last three or four stairs. But that wasn’t important for anything other than posterity. When I came to, the back of my head ached something fierce, and plastic tubing wrapped around my wrists was tied tight enough to cut off circulation. I knelt, and two men had solid grips on the other end of the taut tubing.
I didn’t look at the goons. They all smelled the same way. Like stale sweat and suits that had not been dry-cleaned in a good long time. The boss man stood somewhere behind me at the edge of my dining room, which hadn’t been used to dine in for ages. I’d converted it to an office years ago, and this was just another day in it.
“Where’s my cat?” I demanded. The other questions, like “Who are you?” and “What are you doing here?” are all rookie mistakes. Taking the breath necessary to speak stirred up a wave of dizziness I didn’t know I suffered from. I fought with my stomach to behave and won.
A laugh came from a different corner than I expected. I stopped glaring at the shadow of the huge, long-dead ivy plant that I hadn’t had the heart to remove.
The real shadow, the one over by my computer, separated itself from the wall. Boss man stood tall, well over six feet, but had muscle built up on his shoulders and chest in a way that the fey never developed. A huge human, then, or human enough like me where his diluted blood counted for nothing. “Of all the questions you could be asking, that is the only one you are wasting your breath on?”
“Just answer it,” I snarled.
Boss man’s eyes grew wide. He opened his mouth to speak a couple times before realizing he couldn’t. In fact, just thinking the words probably stung just a little bit. “Your cat is fine. He ran out the cat door at the sound of breaking glass.”
Boss man put his hand over his mouth, then pulled it away. I am told lying to me, or at least trying to lie to me, produces a mild, uncomfortable stinging sensation. I always try to catch people who hire me in a lie, so they don’t try it again.
The goons holding the tubing tightened their grips. If I possessed any other talent than just preventing people from lying to me, and if the tubing was natural material, I could do something. But I didn’t, and it wasn’t. I couldn’t have stopped my shoulders from almost dislocating if I wanted to and, trust me, I did.
I couldn’t even stop the grunt of pain as the tubing tightened. Boss man waved away the goons. “He is of no use to us broken.”
I almost cheered. Guys like me love hearing things like that. The tension slacked off enough so that my shoulders didn’t feel about to pop and I slumped forward in relief.