it is release day… woo who… I am extremely excited to have book two out in the world… the Finder’s Keepers series has two finished books out Shocking Finds & Southern Discoveries… and book three (rough draft only) is in the works… to celebrate, let’s check out ch 2 of Southern Discoveries…
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All joking aside, Quaidin had feared that the SUV would be too small to hold all five of his squad, plus the driver. Other than Yolland, they were all good sized men with wide muscular shoulders.
Quaidin rolled down his window and allowed his arm and shoulder to hang out. They may have fit in the vehicle, but that didn’t make the arrangement comfortable. Yolland and Zander were stuffed in the back with all of their satchels, both the larger equipment satchels and the smaller ones for potions. Vloran had to lean out of the window on his side of the middle seat, while Casfin had the front-passenger seat reclined to the point that his head rested in Quaidin’s lap, making the middle seat feel even smaller. Quaidin feared he would lose feeling in his legs if the ride took much longer.
As soon as possible, they needed to acquire a few vehicles with hidden enlargement spells placed on them. It was either that or expect Vloran and the Captain to start riding strapped to the top.
Their driver, a guy named Cedric, seemed to bounce in his seat to music that only he could hear. “So… what are you guys here for? You’re Fianna troops, right? You guys are always on a mission.”
Quaidin did his best not to laugh at the pup’s rapid-fire excitement. Cedric couldn’t be more than a few decades old. Once Cedric reached his two-hundred-fiftieth year, things would look a little differently. The hidden mercenary troops of the Fianna would lose their allure once he had that many years weighing on his shoulders.
Casfin didn’t look at the pup as he answered, “We are on the trail of a Danshue. One responsible for three kidnappings.”
That was the party line. They were under strict orders to keep the true details of their mission under wraps. The fewer people that knew, the fewer problems they would have to deal with while carrying out their mission to protect the Princess.
Cedric glanced at Casfin, turning most of his body to make eye contact, and freaking Quaidin out in the process. “You came to the right place. Anton has some of the best Finders to be found in all the realms.”
Quaidin felt his buddies stop breathing for a moment, each of them glancing away from the pup. Cedric’s shoulders started to visibly tense up, his body moving to glance in Casfin’s direction again.
Clearing his throat, Quaidin prepared to do what he did best. Persuade and distract. “That is true, but be a good sport and keep the knowledge to yourself. We need the public to see us as strong. Especially with the larger than average number of Danshue coming out of the woodwork. If we are seen as unable to Find our prey without traveling to another realm to ask for help, there could be panic. Personally, I would like your take on the information we have managed to gather so far.” Giving a self-deprecating laugh, he looked into the rearview mirror, meeting Cedric’s gaze, and gave a small shrug.
Cedric didn’t revert back to his bouncing excitement but at least the tension left his shoulders. “If the case is that difficult, you may want to ask Anton to get the Princess to take a look.”
Casfin’s seat managed to lay back even further, but Quaidin didn’t need the warning. “Is she better at Finding than you or your boss? Perhaps we should wait and see if your boss can help, before we bother the Princess.”
Cedric went back to speaking a million miles a minute, while moving around in the driver’s seat like a jumping bean. But at least, Casfin pulled his seat up an inch or two, allowing blessed circulation to return to Quaidin’s legs.
Listening to the pup chatter about anything and everything, Quaidin allowed his eyes to scan the passing streets. Now they just needed to get past Anton and they were free to go about their business in secret. Just the way they liked it.
Anton Slade watched his office fill up with mercenaries. Man did he hate dealing with the second rate police force. He could feel their power radiating from their pores, where the Sentinels would have been hiding their strength. But power alone wasn’t enough to enforce Queen’s Law.
Normally, Anton wouldn’t be able to guess a Fae’s parentage, at least not on the first meeting. But the Lower Fae tended to wear their genetics on their skin. The Fianna had little, if any, Elder Fae in their bloodlines.
One glance and Anton could see that he was dealing with Vloran, a slow moving Rock Fae; Yolland, a Dryad and Captain Casfin, an Ogre – two species best known for being pacifists; and Quaidin, a damn Incubus. Zander was the only unknown, with his midnight skin and light brown hair, leaving Anton at a loss until he noticed that the man had a tendency to fade into the background. Anton had to search for Zander more than once, which meant that he was most likely a Shadow Fae.
Anton shook his head. This was the crackpot team sent to protect the Princess? That girl obviously had some enemies in high places. No matter what the Fianna claimed, he would be stupid to believe that they weren’t interested in the new royal. “Gentlemen, please, have a seat.” Anton moved to shut his office door as his visitors got comfortable in the seating area. Though comfortable was a bit of a stretch with Vloran and Casfin making the couch look like a love seat.
He watched Cedric’s hands as he approached the seated Fianna troops. Cedric signed discreetly by his hip. Anton wanted to throw them all out as he read the message loud and clear. The Fianna were holding something back. And there was only one group he could think of that would send these men on a mission to another realm.
“Let us get straight to the point, gentlemen. What do you want with the Princess?” Anton settled in the last remaining chair.
The men froze, all but Quaidin. He sat back in a relaxed position, his hands waving through the air as he met Anton’s eyes with his earnest expression. “Oh course, we would be honored to meet the Princess. If there is time that is. But our main goal is to locate and stop the Danshue attacking our children. I am sure the Princess is very busy, Antonius.”
“Please, call me Anton. And say what you will, but there is a large number of people that would be displeased if you decided to upset the Princess on behalf of the Elders. No matter how well-meaning their intentions are, of course.”
“As you say, but we-” Quaidin’s words stopped short as the door to Anton’s office flew open.
Makayla LaPine sauntered into the room, ignoring his guests. “Hey, Sugar… since when do ya shut your office door? For any-thang? Ya wouldn’t be workin’ yourself to hard, now would ya?”
This was the Makayla Anton was used to dealing with. It was almost a relief not to be forced to watch hunched shoulders that lived to be thrown back, or shuffled feet that were more at home strutting across a room as if Makayla owned the place, and everyone in it. Hair tossing and swinging hips… this was the Makayla he knew. “Can I help you with something, Makayla?”
“Sorry, hon. I thought ya were holdin’ one o’ your private times with our little Marin.” Anton wanted to growl at the Fianna as each man gawked at him, most with raised eyebrows, but Makayla wasn’t finished. “I know ya want to personally help the girl out, but some fokes are startin’ to get the wrong impression from all dat closed door attention she’s been gettin’. I wouldn’t want people to start talkin’ about the poor thang.”
Of course not. If someone else was spreading the gossip, what would Makayla do for fun? “Then I guess it is a good thing that you have Marin’s best interest at heart. For now, be a dear, and show these men to the empty office over in the west wing. All but Quaidin, here. I think that I can get just as much information from one man as I can five.”
Quaidin smirked. “That sounds wonderful. Then we can also discuss the fact that your employees are running around on a first name basis with the-”
Anton all but shouted, cutting Quaidin off. “The best Finders to be found in all of the world.” Clearing his throat, Anton ran a hand over his perfectly placed tie. Lowering his voice, he said, “I am sure that you have many questions about Finder’s Keepers and its employees.”
Anton ground his teeth and waited. Was the man trying to break the Queen’s Law, bringing up Fae secrets in front of an unknown? Every Fae knew that unknowns were dangerous, and if you weren’t 100% sure that someone knew about the Fae already, they were an unknown. Makayla had worked for him for years, but as far as he knew she was Human with only the enhanced senses that most were born with. Better hearing or sight didn’t make her Fae.
Anton could see the lust in Quaidin’s eyes as his gaze followed Makayla’s swaying hips out of the room. She waited for the men to exit, before turning back to grab the doorknob. “I’ll get these fokes settled right quick, but then I’ll be needin’ ta speak with Marin. If ya would be so kind an’ point me in her direction.”
Anton flinched at her increased southern twang, but quickly threw Marin to the wolves. “I believe she is working from home today.”
Makayla shot him a withering glare and whipped out of the room, slamming the door on her way. Her muttered, “Daggon good fer nuthin’ pole cat,” reaching his sensitive ears as she went. Anton made a mental note to warn Marin that Makayla was looking for her, and to look up southern uses for the phrase pole cat. For the moment he turned to face a more pressing issue.
Moving smoothly to his feet, Anton walked around his desk and took his seat. Getting comfortable, he waited for Cedric and Quaidin to swallow their laughter and follow. Makayla was a disruptive pain but she was damn good at her job. Not to mention the number of men that would follow her in off the street and pay top dollar for a Find they didn’t really need, just for the chance to watch her walk across a room.
Cedric immediately moved over and took one of the guest chairs facing Anton’s desk, but Quaidin took his time. The man had a way of working his masculine frame that put all of Makayla’s sexual moves to shame. His chocolate eyes and copper tan seemed to glow in the low lighting of the office table lamps. Anton smirked, thinking that the man would be hard to look at if he continued to glow like that. He didn’t know how Norms and Humans managed to miss some of the things the Fae could do.
Anton knew what was happening. It was a part of the Incubus’s innate magic; a shine that drew and held the eyes of their prey. “Cut the light show.” The sexual energy that Quaidin could pull from simple attraction could help to make his words more persuasive.
“My apologies. It is as natural as breathing. My power is always reaching out, seeking to draw in energy that could be the difference between life and death in a fight.”
Anton didn’t know if he believed that. Oh, he knew that an Incubus’s power was always hungry, ready to light a fire to passion. Even the male appreciation that usually comes across as envy when another man sees someone with a stronger jaw, more muscles, or attention from the female that they desire. “If you are old enough to be one of the Fianna, you are old enough to control you gifts. I know that the Fianna do not abide by the two-hundred-fifty-years rule, that you could be as young as fifty and still be inducted into their numbers, but fifty years is still old enough to learn control.”
Quaidin was about to sit. He froze, hovering over the cushion before flashing a brilliant smile. “I see you know more about the Fianna than most, but crossing over to Earth-side took a lot of energy. Especially once the Captain decided that we should followed our Danshue quarry through a rogue portal, so that we could stay on his trail and shut down the portal from this side.”
“And what is so important that your innate gifts are breaching your control?” Anton watched Quaidin, waiting for any sign of misdirection, but the harder he looked the more he saw a Male-Makayla. He wanted the Fianna out of his building and on their way back to Out-realm. He wanted them out of his hair.
Quaidin delivered his words without another misstep. No more pauses, no flinches, and he never avoided eye contact. Even Quaidin’s emotions were under control. It was maddening. The more believable Quaidin’s story became, the harder it was for Anton to trust him. “We need a favor. My squad used to contain a man that moved frequently through the realms, but he is … unavailable. A fight last month turned out poorly for us, leaving us a man short. We need someone that can move through Earth-side knowledgeably, but it needs to be someone that can keep their mouth shut. In the current climate, we need the supernatural community to believe that we are infallible. One of your Human employees would be best. Blind to the Supernatural world, they would be more likely to be unaware of the Supes around them, and will have never even heard the word Fianna.”
Anton thought it over. But no. That would be wrong. Sooo wrong. The more Anton thought about what he should do, and what he wanted to do, the harder it was to keep a grin off his lips. Clearing his throat, he did his best to look forbidding. “Fine. You can catch up with your squad and tell Makayla that she has been assigned to assist in your Find. Perhaps she will even be able to help you locate the Danshue you are tracking. But be careful not to break Queen’s Law. She knows nothing of the Fae, especially not that Marin is our lost Princess.”
Anton held his breath as Quaidin nodded and moved to leave the room. He waited for the office door to shut behind his unwanted guest before throwing his head back in laughter. Holding his side, he glanced at an all too quiet Cedric, his lips firmly shut. “What?”
Cedric cracked a smile, as he fought to keep from joining Anton’s mirth. “You do know that this could back fire.”
When Anton cocked his head to the side, Cedric finally allowed an evil grin to grow on his face. “What will you do if they become mates, instead of killing each other?”
Pulling out his cell phone, Anton shuddered as he called to tell Marin about Makayla. Glancing at Cedric, he simply said, “Then they will have to move to Out-realm, otherwise I will be forced to kill them both.”
There was no way that he could put up with two of Makayla. Not even the trickster God, Coyote, would be so cruel. At least Cedric would be spending the next few weeks working with the SBI, learning from Kennith and the other Supernatural Bureau of Intelligence agents. Anton didn’t want to deal with the other man’s delight should everything blow up in his face.
Quaidin made it to the squad’s appointed office and watched as the most glorious woman he had ever seen wrapped his squad members around her little finger. It was almost funny to watch as the normally taciturn Vloran stood before Makayla’s raven haired perfection grinning like a loon.
He listened as Makayla pointed out all the different ways that Finder’s Keepers interacted with their clients, and what exactly it was to be a Finder.
“Boss man says to show y’all around, but seeins how he’s puttin’ y’all in one of our last restin’ spots, I’s assume ya know that Finders are responsible for all information pertainin’ to the cases ya work. We go after no account, good for nothin’ murders and scum when the officials come callin’. And those are details y’all need ta keep your peace about. Our clients mainly want Finds for lost items, nothing too strainin’.”
“Sure thing.” Vloran’s eyes looked a little glazed, his words coming even slower than usual. The woman was a walking, talking aphrodisiac.
Zander sat in the corner, nodding his head to every word out of Makayla’s mouth, while Yolland hummed a little every time she paused to take a breath. Not that the woman seemed to need much air.
“We take in all manner of cases. Should ya hear sump’n one of the others are workin’ on, Lord a-mercy, keep it to ya’self.”
Though truth be told, Quaidin had trouble understanding every other word out of her mouth, her accent getting thicker the longer she spoke. He assured himself that his lack of attention had nothing to do with a need to fall into her sky-blue eyes.
Cocking her hip to the side, she continued to point out all the lower level people working for Finder’s Keepers that were there to help a Finder complete their mission in a timely and thorough manner. “Seein’ how Finders are sum-times on da clock to get things done. We hafta have a comprehensive amount of information. Which reminds me. Y’all get yourselves settled in. I have a rascal office girl ta pin down.”
Makayla flipped her hair over her shoulder and turned to leave. Quaidin stood frozen, blocking the door. He found himself dumb struck as much as, or maybe even more so, than the others. How in the name of the Lower Reaches could one woman radiate so much sexual appeal and not be one of his kind? He would have known within seconds if Makayla was one of their rare Succubus. Their births were even rarer than those of the male Incubus children. So rare that their Elders demanded that the females be housed in Fae Boarding Schools, and then married off as soon as possible.
Crossing his arms, he looked to the ceiling. It was a callous decision on the part of their leaders. Quaidin had never figured out how the parents could allow it so easily, but he had to agree that it usually kept the girls safe. It was-
Quaidin’s thoughts scattered as the feel of delicate fingers danced across his chest. Having Makayla so close he realized that she stood a few inches taller than his own six-foot frame.
Glancing down, he followed the line of long, delicious, porcelain-skinned legs and noticed the four inch heels gracing her feet. Eyes flowing back up legs that he wanted to feel wrapped around his waist, he felt his heart begin to race.
“Hey, darling, ya mind scoochin’ over a bit,” she purred.
Clearing his throat, Quaidin did his best to pull his thoughts back to the matter at hand, but his mind had gone blank as he watched her pink little tongue peek out to wet her full, red lips. “Uh-huh.” He was pretty sure he needed to tell this vixen something, but nothing seemed more important that reaching up to see if her raven locks were as soft as they looked.
Makayla allowed him to tuck some of her waist length strands behind her ear. She placed her delicate hands on his hips. Quaidin could feel her maneuvering him up against the doorframe.
He should have been taking control of the situation but why bother.
Instead Quaidin closed his eyes as those lush red lips got closer to his own. His breathing accelerated to the point of heart attack territory. Her hands traveled up his sides and then slid away. Impatient to feel this mysterious woman’s lips on his, Quaidin leaned in to claim what he wanted. Only to snap erect as his squad mates burst into laughter.
Blinking his eyes open, Quaidin whipped around to watch the curvy hips of his dream woman swinging from side to side as she disappeared around the corner. He had just been bested by the Pied Piper of Horney Men. Blushing scarlet, Quaidin barked, “Oh, shut it. Like you guys were doing any better resisting her.”
Casfin held his side, doing his best to speak through his wheezing laughter. “But you are our seduction expert.”
Working with that woman was going to kill him. Quaidin ran his fingers through his hair, wanting badly to rip out a few of the brown and blonde strands. Either Earth-side had developed its own version of a Succubus or he was losing his Incubus powers. “I really do hate this place.”
Quaidin stepped into the hallway, mumbling and fisting his hands the entire way.
“Where are you going?” Casfin yelled after him.
If anyone else had tried to stop him, Quaidin would have ignored them. Falling back on decades of training, he stopped and turned to his Captain. “Anton said that we would be working with Makayla. So I plan to work with her.”
“You mean you plan to follow her.” Casfin leaned in the doorway of their temporary office space, his arms crossed and a smirk permanently affixed to his face.
Yolland sauntered up behind Casfin, grinning like a fool. “Perhaps our Lover Fae enjoys making a fool of himself. Why else chase after the one woman in all the realms that appears to be able to resist his charms?” Yolland threw his head back, roaring with laughter.
Casfin ignored the other man and walked out into the hallway. “So what is your plan? Or is Yolland right?”
Quaidin scrubbed his hands over his face and started to pace. “I admit that getting to the bottom of that woman’s power over men is high on my to-do list. But we can also use her to get closer to the Princess. Using Anton would be a mistake, but Makayla is going to meet with her. She is even on a first name basis with Princess de Platadreki. I can follow from a discreet distance, taking note of all Humans, Norms, and Fae that they interact with.”
Casfin was shaking his head, but it was a still chuckling Yolland that said, “I am pretty sure that everyone calls the Princess by her first name. I have heard a number of her co-workers talking about her, and they always call her Marin. I overheard a group of the SBI agents planning to drop by so they could spend time in the Princess’s gardens. Not sure why, but it sounded quite casual.”
“Fine. We could use one of the others.” Quaidin shook his head. “No. I have to learn more about Makayla. It has to be her.”
Zander shimmered into view, stepping out of the shadows to stand by Casfin, blocking Yolland’s smaller frame. “If her power is greater than yours, things could go poorly for you. Perhaps your powers are useless when Earth-side.”
Quaidin heard the clip of high heels and turned to watch as a blonde in a three-piece suit stamped down the hallway, her eyes glued to the paperwork in her hands. Glancing in his direction, she headed his way but refocused on her paperwork.
Without paying him any attention, Miss Prim and Proper started reading from a list of restrictions. Keep the Fae secret, watch out for hidden Danshue traps, any magic exposed to Humans or Norms was to be reported to the SBI immediately… and on, and on.
Quaidin felt like throwing something, stomping his foot, or maybe he should just run back to Out-realm and look for a new line of work.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped up to the woman. Lightly touching her on the shoulder, Quaidin whispered, “Not to worry. We are acquainted with the Queen’s Laws.” He watched as her paper-laden arms lowered and her glazed eyes came up to his.
As the buttoned down, picture of professional women everywhere smiled up at him and one of her hands moved to release her perfectly coiffed hair, Quaidin removed his hand from her shoulder and took a huge step back. It looked like his powers were working just fine. “Alright then, I need to dash.”
Quaidin ignored the barks of laughter following him down the hallway as he rushed off to track down Makayla. He may have used a little too much of his gift on the office girl, but how else was he supposed to know what to expect of the females of Earth-side.
Gritting his teeth, he vowed that he would get the upper hand with Makayla if it killed him.