Playing with Fire
by R.J. Blain
(Magical Romantic Comedies #1)
Publication date: January 30th 2017
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What do you get when you mix gorgons, an incubus, and the Calamity Queen? Trouble, and lots of it.
For Bailey, catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day, but she has few other options. She can either keep spiking drinks with pixie dust to keep the locals happy, or spend the rest of her life cleaning up some of the world’s nastiest magical substances.
Years after helping Police Chief Samuel Quinn escape an unhappy marriage, Bailey is once again entangled in his personal affairs. To make matters worse, Quinn’s ex-wife is angling for revenge, tossing Bailey into the deep end along with her sexiest enemy.
Warning: This novel contains excessive humor, action, excitement, adventure, magic, romance, and bodies. Proceed with caution.
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My shift should have lasted six hours. The chaos ebbed to a trickle, but when the pixie sisters should have arrived, the shop remained quiet, the lull before the lunchtime storm. I considered killing the pair, who provided most of the shop’s dust and worked the midday hours. No one would miss Evita and Lea Anne in a city full of bubbly pink pixies, right?
The door bells tinkled, and instead of the tardy duo, I got Chief Quinn’s former brother-in-law. If I closed the shop really quickly and ran for the hills, would he go away? Before I could escape, Magnus McGee stepped to the counter.
Well, crap. At the rate I was going, my face was going to freeze into a permanent smile. “What can I get for you, sir?”
“Large coffee, black, no dust.”
I loved simple orders. It made maintaining a pleasant demeanor in the face of a living nightmare so much easier. I fetched his drink, and he slid a twenty across the counter. I glared at the bill and snatched it up. Why couldn’t people carry smaller bills instead of decimating the register’s change?
Better yet, I’d really appreciate it if they started using their debit and credit cards. Plastic made things nicer for everyone, especially me. I offered his change by setting it in front of him so I wouldn’t have to touch him. “Have a nice day, sir.”
McGee took his money, crammed a five into my tip jar, and stared at me. Instead of leaving like a good little customer, his eyes tracked my every move, and I contemplated turning a toothpick into a lethal weapon.
Of all the people on Earth, Magnus McGee came third on my list of those to avoid. His sister came in second.
The polite, professional me took over, and still smiling, I chirped, “Is there something else I can get for you, sir?”
How about a murder: his. I could do that. I had a spoon within easy reach. Surely I could kill someone with a spoon. I blamed my bad Monday morning shift for my inclination towards violence.
“Audrey said you can find anyone or anything. Is that true?”
Oh, God. Why me? Why was the woman I had caught having sex in Central Park telling her brother about me? Who had told her I’d been the one to inform her husband—with photographs—of her deed? I really wanted to kill them, whoever they were. “No, sorry,” I lied.
“She seemed pretty convinced.”
Of course she probably believed I could find anyone or anything after I caught her cheating on one of the sexiest men alive. The mental image of Samuel Quinn’s wife and her college stud would never, ever fade. Every time I thought I could forget, someone had to remind me.
At least I could hide the truth behind the truth. “I’m a vanilla human, Mr. McGee. Sorry.”
On paper, I was as vanilla as they got, with my only recorded abnormality—or talent, as they liked to call magical abilities—being my immunity to pixie dust and a few other magical substances. Sometimes the cops called me in and paid me a cute little pittance to deal with some of the nastier substances, including gorgon vomit.
No one wanted that job, especially me, but since a gorgon’s bile didn’t turn me to stone like it did everyone else…
“That’s not what I heard. I really need your help. You’re good at finding people who don’t want to be found, right?”
That was one way to put it, but instead of voicing my agreement, I pulled out my driver’s license and showed it to him. “V for vanilla. I’m qualified to handle dangerous substances, but that’s it.” Guilt, the type born of having ruined a man’s marriage, reared its ugly head. “Tell you what. I know a few people. Give me the info, and I’ll see what they can do. No promises. I’m not what you’re looking for, but maybe one of my friends knows something.”
I was such a miserable, horrible liar. What friends? What help? I needed a life, one outside of making coffee and asking how high when the cops ordered me to jump.
McGee pulled out a slender black cell phone and handed it to me. “Everything you need to know is on here. I’ll pay seventy-five thousand if you find him, and an extra twenty-five if you do so within the next forty-eight hours. Please. I’ll call you tonight, so keep the phone on you.”
I gaped at him. He wanted to pay how much for me to find someone? Seventy-five thousand was more than twice what I made in a year, and that included all the buckets of gorgon bile I’d shoveled up so some cop didn’t get turned to stone trying to do it. Seventy-five thousand meant I could make good on my never-spoken threats of quitting.
“Oh, and Miss Gardener?”
“What?” I asked, tensing as I waited for the catch. There was always a catch. I should have known there’d be a catch.
“This talk never happened.”
Of course. I should have known. Someone willing to pay a fortune for someone to be found wouldn’t want anyone else to know he was looking. I sighed. “That’s going to make it difficult to ask my friends for help.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be smart or something? Figure it out.” He turned and headed for the door.
I fumed. “If I were so smart, do you think I’d be working as a barista in a pixie dust shop?” Why did rich men always insist on ignoring me? Magnus McGee left without acknowledging my question. “Screw you, too, buddy. And your sister sucked at the reverse cowgirl, in case you were wondering!”
Ah, well. It was probably for the better he couldn’t hear me. Who could he need to find so badly he’d pay so much for me to do the work for him? Had he missed the memo? I found people all right, in the worst positions possible.
I blinked, and a thought struck me. What if he hadn’t missed the memo?
Muttering curses, I shoved the black phone into my pocket to deal with after my hell shift ended.
RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning. In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until satisfied.
Author links: https://www.thesneakykittycritic.com/ https://twitter.com/RJ_Blain https://www.facebook.com/rjblain.author/ https://www.instagram.com/rj.blain/ https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7190903.R_J_Blain