All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Joe Malone’s party was rocking. The sound of music and laughter echoed through the thick night air. A couple of girls, drunk off their asses, staggered by, laughing.
Stephanie Barnett tugged down her top, exposing as much boobage as possible, and adjusted her skirt so it barely covered her ass. “How do I look?” she asked, doing a three-sixty for her friend Megan.
“Like a total whore.”
“Good. So do you.”
“I hope Nate’s here tonight,” Megan said as she smoothed some gloss on her lips.
“He will be. Let’s go.”
Together, they sauntered up the front walk. As they were clunking up the steps, a bolt of lightning sliced through the still night, followed by an earsplitting
and a resonating
Startled, Megan and Stephanie jumped, grabbed the door, and scurried inside, just as the sky opened up and a torrent of rain saturated the house, the street, and the weedy yard.
“Whew. We got here just in time,” Stephanie said, glancing outside. The wind picked up, catching the branches of the mature oak tree standing between the sidewalk and street. The two drunk girls who’d stumbled by them screeched, then started laughing hysterically as their hair whipped around their heads and their clothes became sodden.
“Whoa,” said someone behind them. A male.
Stephanie turned around.
It was Derik Sutton. “Hey,” he said, giving her a look that made her skin crawl.
“Yeah. Whatever. Megan!” She shrugged past him, following Megan. “Wait for me.” They wove through the thick crowd, working their way toward the kitchen, where the keg would be. “See anyone yet?”
“Not yet,” Megan said over her shoulder. “Whew, it’s hotter than hell in here.”
At the end of the hall, they shoved through a wall of people, only to face another wall. And another.
“Damn, this place is packed,” Stephanie yelled, wincing as someone elbowed her rib cage. “I’m getting claustrophobic, and we just got here.”
“Matt Shelton tweeted about the party this afternoon,” Megan yelled over her shoulder. “He has something like five thousand followers.”
Something or someone tapped her ass and Stephanie jumped. If that was that psycho Sutton, she was going to kick him in the nuts. She jerked around.
It was Kyle.
“You’re here.” She flung her arms around his neck, pressed her body against his, letting him know, under no uncertain terms, how glad she was to see him.
He kissed her back.
When they came up for air, Kyle slid his arm around her waist, pulling her tighter against him. “That was nice. How about we go somewhere else and do some more of that?”
“I’m game. Let me tell . . .” She looked left, right. No Megan. Figuring her bestie was on the hunt for Nate, Stephanie dug her phone out of her purse and hit speed dial. The call went straight to voice mail. After screaming a message to the friend who had deserted her, she clicked off, shoved her phone back in her purse, and smiled. “Let’s go.”
With Kyle following closely, she wove through the packed kitchen and ducked out the back door, sucking in some much needed air. Then, turning a one-eighty, she smashed her body against him and tipped her head up for another kiss. The air was thick and warm and smelled like wet grass. The rain had stopped. So had the thunder. But she was burning up inside. Tight and hot and buzzing with energy. “How’s this?”
“Hmm. Better.” He cupped her chin, brushing his mouth over hers. But just as he was about to kiss her again, some asshole slammed into him. He jerked a look over his shoulder, wrapping a protective arm around her. “Let’s go somewhere quiet.”
“We can go to my house. Mom’s out of it by this time of night. She takes sleeping pills. A 747 could land on our roof and she wouldn’t hear it.”
The walk was short. It was only a handful of blocks. Her dad’s house was closer, but he’d be awake. They stopped a couple of times, crushed their bodies together and kissed until they were dizzy and aching and breathless. Once, next to a big lilac bush, which made the air smell sweet, he nipped and nibbled on her neck and her earlobe. She’d nearly crumpled to the ground right there. By the time they’d made it to her mom’s house, she was nervous and excited. Her legs were a little wobbly; her heart was thumping hard against her rib cage. She knew what was about to happen. There could be no doubt. It would be her first time.
Moving carefully, to be quiet, she unlocked the door and led Kyle up the steps to her room. Nothing from Mom. Not a peep. Exactly as she had expected.
She scurried down the hall to her room, with Kyle on her heels, and closed the door. As she twisted the lock, her hands were shaking a little. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” Trying to keep on the sexy, she swung her hips as she sauntered toward the bathroom. Once she had herself safely shut in, she freshened up, dug out the condoms she’d stashed in the bottom of her makeup drawer, and brushed her teeth. Outside, thunder boomed and lightning flashed in the window. Rain pounded on the roof, the storm making her even more anxious and jittery. She’d never liked storms—especially at night.
A brilliant bolt zigzagged through the sky, and in a blink an eardrum-splitting bang followed. Startled, she flung herself through the door, into her bedroom. “That was too close!” she muttered to herself.
“There you are.” Kyle was standing next to her dresser, shoulder against the wall.
“Sorry it took so long. I wanted to freshen up.” Running her palms down her legs, she went to the window. She needed some fresh air, but the storm was scaring her. She inched it open a crack.
Kyle stalked closer, stopping right behind her. “Are you nervous?” he whispered in her ear as he flattened his body against her back.
A wave of heat crashed through her body. He was so close and he smelled so good. And—oh, my God—she was about to have sex for the first time. She nodded. “Yes.”
Reaching around her, he cupped her chin, tilting her head to one side. “You should be.” His voice was strange. Cold.
A blade of icy dread shot up her spine. What did he mean by that? Was he joking? Trying to scare her? The hairs on her nape stood on end. Goose bumps prickled the skin of her arms and shoulders. Twisting, she glanced over her shoulder. “What are you trying to do? Talk me out of it?”
His lips curled into a toothy smile, and the faint light seeping into her room through her window flashed on his pearly whites. “Why would I do a thing like that?” He licked his lips, and her gaze locked on his mouth, on the fangs that hadn’t been there a fraction of a second ago. “You taste so good.”
The air around her crackled.
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.
—Louis Hector Berlioz
My father once wrote:
If you want to find the bizarre, the impossible, the fantastic, you just have to open your fucking eyes. As scientists, it’s our responsibility to tell the truth. Monsters are everywhere.
It was shortly after publishing that little nugget of brilliance that he’d lost his job and became the laughingstock of academia.
On the other hand, my mother once told me, “Marijuana is the world’s most perfect substance. It expands one’s consciousness. It restores health and balance. And it just makes me feel real fucking good.”
I’m the product of those combined genes . . . and minds.
I’m Sloan Skye, now starting the second month of my internship with the FBI’s Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit, or the PBAU. We profile criminals, just like the oh-so-popular BAU, but our bad guys have fangs and fur . . . and they aren’t your average, monstrous Homo sapiens.
My father was right. There are monsters everywhere. In fact, the world was teeming with all kinds of paranormal creatures. We call them Mythics.
living in the burbs, masquerading as soccer moms. And honest-to-God, literal bloodsucking lawyers.
But on my off-hours—which are few and far between this summer—I’m just your average daughter to a tree-hugging, pot-smoking, pregnant forty-something hippie schizophrenic and a man who faked his death twenty years ago, all in the name of protecting his precious family (me and my mom).
Dad just recently resurrected. And the newly reborn Dad wasted no time getting Mom knocked up. The jury’s still out on whether the whole pretending-to-be-dead thing was necessary. But I hope this time he sticks around to see his kid grow up. As far as missing my childhood—first words, first steps, first Junior Nobel Prize award—I’m not the grudge-holding type, so I’ve decided to let it go.
You never know, he could have been telling the truth about our being in danger. There’s a lot going on in the shadows of our world. And right in front of our faces too. He should know. He was the head of security for the queen of the elves.
Don’t you wish you were me?
Don’t answer that question too soon. My cell phone just rang.
“Pie craving,” she screamed in my ear. “It’s bad.”
I blinked bleary eyes at the red glowing numbers on my clock. I saw a 1, two vertically aligned dots, a 2, and a 3. I pushed myself upright and rubbed the sleep from my eyes. “Mom, should you be eating pie at this hour?”
“I. Need. Pie,” she enunciated. Her voice vibrated, like she was sitting on a clothes dryer.
I didn’t ask.
“Where’s Dad?” I flipped the covers back and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. “Isn’t he there with you?”
“No, he’s not. He’s doing the queen a favor—don’t ask. He won’t be back until sometime tomorrow. I can’t wait until then. I’d drive myself to the store, but I can’t find the car keys. I’ve looked everywhere.”
I had a feeling there was a reason why the car keys were a
aka, missing. “Okay. I’ll be there in a little bit. What kind of pie do you want?”
“Something smooth and creamy and chocolaty. Mmm,” she purred, like a kitten. “Oh, and something tart. Cherry. With whipped cream.”
“Okay. So one chocolate cream pie and one cherry.”
“You’d better get lemon meringue too.”
“Fine. Bye.” I ended the call, stumbled over to the dresser, grabbed the first pair of sweatpants and T-shirt I found, and stuffed my half-asleep body into them. After making myself halfway presentable, so nobody at the twenty-four-hour grocery store would mistake me for a vagrant, I shuffled out to my car, hopping over puddles in the driveway. I dove into the driver’s seat, cranked on the motor, and had a myocardial infarction when someone pounded on my window.
After my heart stopped hopping around in my chest like electrons in a microwave, I rolled down the window and glared at the individual responsible for my near-fatal arrhythmia.
“What are you doing here?” I asked my ex-fiancé, whose appearance would give most girls a heart attack, and I’m not saying that to be mean.
Elmer Schmickle is a prince. How many girls grow up thinking all princes are tall, dark, and handsome, right? Not this royal.
Elmer is the prince of the
For those who aren’t in the know, the
are the spirits of the restless dead. And he is the exact opposite of a Disney prince. At least in looks. Fairy-tale princes are all handsome, tall, with perfect hair. This prince is short, with spindly arms and legs, and a face that not even a mother could love.
“I need your help,” Elmer said, wringing his hands. His buggy eyes flicked back and forth from my car to my apartment building and back again. “Please.”
My phone rang. Mom.
I lifted an index finger. “I’m sort of busy right now. Can it wait?” I asked him.
“Not even an hour?”
His expression soured.
I motioned to the passenger seat. “Fine. I need to run a quick errand. You can tell me what’s up on the way.”
In a blink, Elmer was strapping himself in; and less than a minute later, we were zooming through silent streets of Virginia, toward the nearest all-night grocery store.
Elmer glanced out the window. “Where are we headed?”
“Pie run. For Mom.”
“Oh, pie.” Elmer narrowed his eyes. “I love pie.” His eyes became squinty. “I love pie
“I hear you.”
“It’s your fault that I’m still waiting to eat pie. If you had married me, I could be eating pie right now.” He sighed. “I could have had pie last night too. And tomorrow. And the day after that.”
“It’s not my fault that you can’t eat or drink, Elmer. I have no problems helping out my friends, but marrying you—just so you could eat pie—is asking a lot.”
“Says the girl who can eat pie anytime she wants.” He sulked the rest of the drive to the store. Because my roommate and I are poor—and we can’t afford to live close to DC, where my folks’ new
is located (it’s more a freaking mansion than a house)—that was a long time, almost an hour.
“Are you coming inside?” I asked as I zoomed into the closest parking spot in front of the Giant grocery store.
“Are you kidding? I never go near food stores. They’re hell on earth for a guy like me. Nothing like walking by mountains of food I can smell and see, but can’t eat.”
“I see your point.” I shut off the engine and pocketed the keys. “Okay. I’ll be out in a few.”
“Make sure you double bag.”
“Got it.” My phone rang at least ten times as I raced through the store, loading pies into my cart. Mom. Elmer. My roommate, Katie. Ignoring them all, I paid, double bagged everything, and wheeled the contraband out to my car.
After dumping the load into the trunk, I flopped into the driver’s seat.
“I can smell them,” Elmer said on a sigh.
“I double bagged everything.” Looking over my shoulder, I maneuvered out of the parking spot. Once the car was rolling forward again, I asked, “So what was so urgent that it couldn’t wait until morning?”
“Uh.” He gave me that you-know-what look. “You know what happens to me at sunrise.”
“How could I forget? Right. You vanish.” I turned the car out of the lot, heading toward my parents’ swanky neighborhood in Alexandria. “Anyway . . . ?”
“Tomorrow night’s the first night of taping. I’m not ready.”
“Ah. Have a bad case of stage fright, do you?”
He slid me some squinty eyes. “It’s not a ‘bad case’ of anything. And I do not get any kind of ‘fright,’ stage or otherwise.”
Clearly, I’d struck a raw nerve. “Of course. What do you want me to do?”
“I could use some acting lessons.”
“I’m not an actress,” I pointed out. “I’ve never even been in a school play.”
“Shouldn’t your producer be helping you with this?”
“I asked her, and she told me she didn’t want me taking acting lessons because then I might not come off as real. Since the show’s a
program, she didn’t want that.”
“Well, then, maybe you should trust her judgment.”
Elmer scowled. “I don’t want to make an ass out of myself.”
I pulled up to a red light and glanced at him. He was looking paler than normal. And his thin lips were thinner too.
idea,” he pointed out.
That was true. It was my idea. Sort of. I’d mentioned it as a joke. Kind of. But then I’d found out my father knew some people who could make the show happen for real; and before I knew it, Elmer was signing a contract to film eight episodes of
Who Wants to Marry an Undead Prince?
I was hoping the show would be an answer to my prayers. Elmer was desperate to find a bride. He’d kidnapped me not too long ago, and had nearly dragged me, kicking and screaming, down the aisle. But I’d talked myself out of that close scrape by promising to help him find a replacement bride. Easier said than done. We’ve tried speed dating, online dating. No deal. Elmer had some physical limitations to work around—his inability to materialize before sunset, specifically—but they didn’t get in his way as much as his appearance. It seemed most girls couldn’t look past his Halloween-ghoulish mug to see the man inside. It also didn’t help that Elmer had one very significant stipulation: his future bride had to be 100 percent elf.
I turned into the folks’ driveway, parked in front of the house, and killed the engine.
Elmer’s eyes glittered as he took in the glory that was Mom and Dad’s new place. “Wow.”
“I guess Dad felt like he had some making up to do, leaving Mom living in that rattrap apartment for twenty years.” I grabbed the bag out of the trunk and hustled to the front door. On the porch, I poked the doorbell and listened to the
ding dong, ding dong,
of the chime.
I rang the bell again.
“Maybe she fell asleep,” Elmer suggested.
“I didn’t just drive over here for nothing.” I poked the button a third time; when that didn’t work, I handed the bag to Elmer and went back to the car for my phone. I hit 1 on my speed dial and listened to the phone ring. It rang ten times before my mother picked up.
“Hello?” Mom said, sounding sleepy.
“Mom, I’m outside. With pie.”
“I called. Didn’t you get my message?”
She yawned. “I’ll be right there.”
I clicked off and rejoined Elmer on the porch. Grimacing, he shoved the bag into my hands.
The door finally opened, and a very rumpled Mom poked her head out. “Sloan, I’m sorry. I told you not to bother. Your father called right after I talked to you. He came home early. And he brought me some pie.”
I shoved the bag at her. “But I bought all of this, and I don’t want to eat it.”
She snorted, jerking backward, like I’d just shoved a bag of radioactive plutonium at her. “Get it away. I can’t look at another pie. I ate too much already.”
“But it’s the middle of the night, and I drove an hour to get here. And I have to be at work by nine—”
“Not my fault, Sloan. You didn’t answer your phone. I think you should hurry home and get into bed. You can still catch a few more hours if you don’t waste any time.” Her eyes started watering, and her face turned the shade of a turnip. “Oh, no. I told you to get that pie away from me. Gotta go. Bye.” She clapped her hand over her mouth and slammed the door in my face.
My arm dropped to my side, and I slid a sidelong glance at Elmer. I give him credit. He was looking outraged on my behalf.
“I can’t believe she slammed the door in your face,” he said.
“That’s my mother for you. She’s a strange bird.” I headed back to the car, dumped the bag of pies in the trunk, and climbed behind the steering wheel. Elmer was already in the passenger seat.
I glanced at the red glowing numbers on the clock. Now, I was seeing a 2, two dots, a 4, and a 9. I had almost an hour drive ahead of me before I could climb back into my bed. My eyes were gritty and blurry, my head foggy.
I started the car, shifted into reverse, then shifted back into park before the car had rolled a single inch. “To heck with this. I’m not driving home. She called me out here, so she can let me sleep over. It isn’t like she doesn’t have room for me. There are five bedrooms in this place.” I poked my cell phone, calling Mom.
“Sloan,” Elmer said, “there’s something else we need to talk about. It’s about a certain debt you owe me.”
“Oh, yeah, right.” I was hoping he’d forgotten about that.