Friday, November 27, 2020

Making the Rent the Hard Way - 19


Before I could react, we were somewhere else. Where? I had no clue and I was certain he wouldn't tell me.

"You could have warned me," I grumbled, looking around. We were in a small, but well-furnished, living room. "Yours?"

"For the time being." Luca went over to a desk in the corner of the room, came back with a laptop, then sat in one of two armchairs facing a stone fireplace. He gestured for me to take the other chair.

"Okay, let's hear what you have," I said.

Luca nodded, and a moment later I heard several men talking. I recognized Farnham's voice. They were discussing the upcoming election, specifically the candidates for mayor.

One of the men said, "We have to make certain our man wins, no matter what it takes."

"It won't be easy," another man replied. "With five people on the ballot, including the incumbent" His voice faded out momentarily. "What do we have that we can use to damage her reputation?"

I figured the 'her' was a councilwoman who had decided to join the mayoral race.

Farnham replied, "I'm not worried about her. She's running a distant last in the polls. The mayor is the problem. He's got the backing of the Businessmen's Association, among other groups. We have to—" Again, Luca had missed the tail end of whatever was being said. I glanced at him to see him shaking his head.

"They were seated halfway across the room from the bar. If they lowered their voices, or turned away..." He shrugged.

"I can see that would have been a problem. Do you know which of the other three candidates is Farnham's man?"

"No. They only talked about him as 'our man'."

Luca played the rest of what he'd managed to record before they'd discovered he was there.

It was damned all, and, as he'd said, Farnham's candidate wasn't mentioned by name. Actually, no one was, as they were trying to figure out a way to deal with the mayor—to the point of one of them suggesting he have a fatal accident. Farnham quickly put the kibosh on that idea, saying it was asking for trouble of the wrong kind.

"Now what do we do?" Luca asked when the recording ended.

"It would be nice if I could get into that room and set up some bugs, but I know that's not happening. I wish you knew which one is his stooge."

"I'm not sure 'stooge' is the right word—and I don't," Luca said. "But you could find out easily enough, once you meet all the candidates."

"Just what I want to do, attend campaign rallies," I muttered, even though I knew he had a point. "Of course, there's one big stumbling block, when I figure it out. It's not against the law for a shifter to run for office."

"I know. In the first place, since he's doing it without revealing he's a shifter, humans would not be happy when they found out. It is illegal for a shifter to run for office without letting it be known he is one. That would end his run for mayor."

"Why didn't other shifters let that information out when he first decided to run? It seems to me they'd love to have their own candidate in the race."

"What part of humans would not be happy didn't you get?" Luca replied scathingly. "Like I said, he'd have been screwed then, and more so if it came out now."



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

It's release day for 'The Half-Elf and the Dhampir'!

 The Half-Elf and the Dhampir


GENRE: Gay Paranormal Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 38,943 words
RATING: flame rating 4

When half-elf Gideon's elf brother Braden runs afoul of a powerful old vampire, Gideon steps in to help him, suggesting it might be a good idea to recruit a dhampir. Reluctantly, because the only one he knows enjoys flirting with his lover, the witch Delilah, Braden agrees. Thus sexy Edan joins the team, and immediately sets his sights on Gideon.

Vampire Vicario lives in New Orleans, so the team heads down there, staying at a B&B owned by another witch, Maeve. She agrees to help them, and together they come up with a plan to destroy Vicario. A plan complicated by the fact Vicario's tame sorcerer can see dhampir when they're invisible, thus potentially making it impossible for Edan to take Vicario's head.

To succeed in saving Braden will require all their combined skills. At the same time, Gideon is facing a personal battle: how to deal with his growing attraction to Edan. The sex is great, but there is more to a relationship than that, as he well knows. Can the two of them move beyond the physical -- if they survive the conflict with Vicario -- or will their differences tear them apart?


          "All right, what's going on that you needed to visit?" Edan asked.

    Braden puffed out a breath. "For starters, I'm in deep shit with Vicario because of something I did."

    "So I've heard." Edan smirked. "Stole a lot of cash from one of his casinos."

    "Not stole so much as took advantage of a couple of weaknesses." He paused, shrugged, and said, "Okay, yeah, technically I stole it, but it was for a good cause." He went on to explain what he'd done with the money.

    When Braden finished, Edan said, "Very admirable of you. I'm impressed, and I mean it. Yeah, I know, don't faint." He chuckled when Braden lifted his middle finger. "I take it you need me to get him off your back. Let me tell you, it won't be easy getting to him, even for me. He's an Old one, as in very old, and well protected. Sure, he visited your brother with only two of his goons -- that he saw." He shot a look at look at Gideon. "Would you have known if there were other vampires around and invisible?"

    "Probably not," Gideon admitted.

    "Exactly. I'm sure Vicario knows that Braden's a full elf and fairly powerful in his own right. Fairly being the operative word of course, but Vicario's not known for taking chances where his life is concerned so he's undoubtedly taken that into consideration."

    Gideon leaned back, took a sip of his coffee, and then asked, "Why haven't you dealt with him? From what Braden said you're no small shakes in the dhampir department."

    "I also don't have a death wish. As I said, he's been around for a hell of a long time. Little old me, all on my lonesome, up against a vampire like him would be suicidal. However, perhaps, just perhaps, between the three of us we'd stand a chance."

    Edan tried not to smile when he saw Gideon swallow hard before saying, "I'm not so sure I'd be an asset. My magic isn't terribly strong and I'm not a fighter."

    "Do you know which end of a sword to use?" Edan asked.

    "Well, duh."

    "Can you cast a glamour to hide yourself?"

    Gideon waggled his hand. "For a while."

    "I can hide both of us," Braden put in. "I'd say all three of us but I know you're quite capable of hiding your presence from vampires. It's part of what you are."

    "True. We're not walking into his lair, however, and that's presuming we can find it. So far, I haven't been able to. Gid, before you ask, and your brother is probably aware of this already, Vicario never goes to his clubs without two or more powerful vampire hangers-on."

    "Like a rock star with his groupies?" Gideon replied, not reacting to Edan's familiarity in using his nickname so soon after they'd met. Or so Edan presumed. He'd done that to find out if it would be as easy to push Gideon's buttons as it was Braden's. Apparently not.

    "He makes it appear that way, but they're all well trained to protect him while keeping their eyes open for any possible trouble from someone like me."

    "How could they detect you when you're able to conceal your whereabouts?" Gideon asked.

    Edan smirked. "They can't."

    "So what's the problem? Find out which club he's visiting and take him out."

    "In all this discussion I've sort of neglected to mention one very big problem," Edan replied. "He always travels with a powerful sorcerer who can see me when I'm invisible, the same way I can see any vampire if they go invisible."

    "Neglected?" Braden said, scowling.

    "Okay, I hate the idea I'm not able to get to Vicario because of the sorcerer. It's my one big failure, which pisses me off."

    "Hurts your ego?" Braden smiled knowingly. "I guess I understand since I've got a big one too when it comes to some things."

    "Don't we all," Gideon said under his breath before asking, "Do you know if he, I'm presuming he's male, could also see through any glamour Braden or I put up?"

    "Honestly, I haven't a clue," Edan told him. "I've never seen him. I've only heard stories passed on by dhampir who got the hell away from Vicario and his gang when they found out this sorcerer had seen them and told the others they were there."

    "This isn't going to be easy," Gideon commented sourly.

Making the Rent the Hard Way - 18

Saturday came and went with no word from Luca. I did tail my client's husband when he left his house late that afternoon. He drove halfway across town to a small club I knew catered to gay men. I followed him in, finding a seat at the bar as I wondered what excuse he'd used to get away from his wife. He went to a table in back. About fifteen minutes later a young man joined him—one I recognized from the other club the husband had visited. Things must have progressed beyond using the men's room for a down and dirty assignation, because they had a couple of drinks, then left together, ending up at a downtown apartment building. I waited for half an hour, decided he was going to be there for a while, and went home.

Sunday I spent cleaning, doing laundry and grocery shopping. I ended the day watching a couple of movies and going to bed early.

Around three in the morning, my phone rang. I answered, Luca gave me an address, then hung up. "Okay," I said to the dead phone, "that was suitably cryptic."

Without turning on any lights, I dressed, then got my gun from the safe. Yes, I have gunstwo, actually. One I keep at the office, the other one here. Anyway, I got it and the MOB holster, hooking it on the waistband of my jeans. Not that I thought I'd need it, but there was no way I was venturing out to a rendezvous with a shifter that half of Farnham's cronies were undoubtedly looking for without some protection.

I left the apartment and the building very carefully. I didn't spot anyone who seemed interested in me. Hell, I didn't spot anyone, period. Still, I drove with one eye on the rearview mirror as I took the highway out of the city. When I knew I wasn't being followed, I turned on my GPS, programmed in the address, then, at its orders, veered off onto the road that circled Westerden Lake. The lake was large enough that it took half an hour to reach the far side from the city. My GPS told me when I was supposed to turn left off the main road onto a side road that headed into the Westerden Forest Preserve. My trusty, very talkative navigation system told me to keep driving for five miles before turning right. I did and kept going for another three miles. By then I was totally lost. This was a section of the county I'd never been to before. Hell, I didn't even know the Preserve existed—to say the least of the farmland I was driving through now.

It was close to four-thirty—after several turns onto roads running through corn fields—when I came to narrow one-lane dirt road. The GPS ordered me to get on it. At this point, for all I knew, I could have been in the next state over. "Your destination is two-point-five miles ahead on your right," the GPS announced. 

All I found when I got there was a pull-off with a weather-worn sign listing what once might have been a house number. The area was just large enough to hold my car, with a narrow path off it to the right. "Where the hell am I?" I asked the universe as I got out of the car.

The universe didn't answer, but Luca did as he stepped into view from behind the lone tree at the side of the pull-off. "Half a mile from where I'm staying for the time being."

"In the middle of corn country?" I asked, grumbling.

He shrugged. "It is what it is, and the farmhouse is safe."

I saw what he meant when it came into view. I'd hardly have called it a house, though it probably had been way back in the mists of time. Now it was three barely standing walls holding up part of an otherwise-tumbled-in roof.

"This is where you're hiding out?" I asked in disbelief.

"No." He almost smiled. "I needed to find out if you'd come alone."

I bristled angrily. "You still don't trust me."

Now he really smiled. "I do now. You are alone, and no one followed you." He put his arm around my waist.


Monday, November 23, 2020

Making the Rent the Hard Way - 17

"Are you sure you want to help me?" Luca asked. "I have the feeling it could become dangerous."

I smirked. "I live for danger."

"Uh-huh. If you say so. I'm not kidding, though. Farnham's not looking for me to make nice."

"Yeah, I get that. Since I don't like what you've told me about what he and his cronies are planning, I'd like to help stop them. But"—I held up a finger—"I need to hear the recording first."

"Don't you trust me?" Luca asked, scowling. Then he relented. "You have no more reason to do that than I have to fully trust you."

"There you go. Before you ask, I don't want to go wherever you're hiding out, on the off chance Farnham does have someone following me."

"I wouldn't take you there, anyway. We need neutral ground, somewhere he doesn't know about. My being here is bad enough."

"By the way, how did you find out I lived here?" I asked.

"You've heard of the phone book, haven't you? Both your office and home address are listed in the online one."

"I must be losing it," I muttered.

Luca chuckled. "You're tired and stressed."

"That's no damned excuse." I sighed. "Okay. Where would you feel safe meeting me with the recording?"

"I don't know. Let me figure that out and I'll call you."

"I take it you're leaving? One question before you do, if you don't mind. You're a graphic artist. How did you… Why were you working at Farnham's restaurant?"

"Long story short, I was there one evening several months ago with a client. I saw two of the shifters I mentioned earlier, a councilman and the police chief, go into one of the back rooms with Farnham. That caught my attention and not in a good way, since I was aware of the rumors about Farnham's plans, though not the details, at that point. So, a couple of days later I got a job there. I told Farnham I needed extra money because I'd lost a couple of clients to a competitor. He bought it."

"Okay. And you've been spying on him ever since?"

"Yeah." He nodded. "Okay, time for me to get going. I've been here too long as it is. I'll be in touch." With that, he pulled a vanishing act, teleporting away before I had a chance to reply.

With him gone, I took the time to process everything he'd told me. The idea that some of the politicians who ran the city were shifters pretending to be human was definitely alarming, to put it mildly. Proving it to the satisfaction of the general populace would be difficult, not to say dangerous, without Luca's recording. And I gathered, from what he'd told Rocky, he needed more than that before he could come forward.

Sure, I could walk up to the chief of police and announce, in front of whoever was around, that he was a shifter. A lot of people knew about my ability and trusted in it. I had the feeling, though, that if I did that, one of two things would happen. He'd say I had a political agenda and was lying to get him out of office, or I'd be dead before I managed to get out two words. Then they'd say I had been about to attack him and plant a gun on me to prove it.

For the moment, there was nothing I could do. I had until next Tuesday to come up with my first report for Farnham about what progress I was making on finding Luca. If nothing broke before then, I'd fake something, because, selfishly, I needed what he'd owe me for the week's work. Manwell, this mancannot live by doing background checks and tailing errant husbands.

Speaking of which, I'd missed doing that tonight, so I made a mental note to remember to tail him tomorrowwell, this evening, since it was now after midnight. Nothing would come of it, because his wife wanted to find out what woman he was playing around with. I could honestly say he wasn't—and it wouldn't be a lie. Then I'd write her a final report and end the case.

With that decided, I took a shower then headed to bed.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Making the Rent the Hard Way - 16

"Can you prove what you've been telling me? And when it comes down to it, why did you change your mind and decide to trust me?"

Luca barely smiled. "You got me talking and I couldn't shut up. This scares me, Cade. What he's doing scares the hell out of me, which says something, since I'm a shifter."

"Doesn't do much for me, either. Can you prove it?"

"Partially. Farnham held a dinner meeting three weeks ago Monday at the restaurant. The men I mentioned were all there. A war council, as Farnham called it. I was one of two waiters for the dinner part, as I had been for two previous meetings." He finally sat down again, thankfully. I was getting a crick in my neck following his pacing. "I hadn't liked what I'd heard in the previous meetings, which I'll admit wasn't much. We were sent away once dinner was over and the real meeting started. This time, I decided to record what I could, using my phone. Obviously, I couldn't leave the room to do that. There's a bar at one end. I was able to hide behind it without them realizing it. Or"he grimaced"they didn't at first. I was there for probably fifteen minutes when one of the men came over to refresh his drink. He saw me. I took off. Well, teleported out."

"Then disappeared from the face of the earth," I said. "At least, as far as Farnham's been able to determine."

"Yes. I didn't plan on coming back to the city until I could figure out how to use the information I have and make peoplehumansbelieve it. Then Rocky called about you."

"How? He told me you weren't answering your phone, and your voicemail was full."

"I dropped in at The Den a couple of nights ago to let him know I was still alive and gave him a number where he could reach me. He's one of the few shifters here that I really trust not to go to Farnham—if they were able to find out where I'd gone to ground.

"I'd like to hear what you recorded."

Instead of replying immediately, Luca leaned back, staring off into space. Finally, he said, "I don't have it with me. I transferred the recording to my laptop, not my computer." He smiled slightly. "I couldn't very well haul my computer around with me, but the laptop? Yeah. Anyway, I picked it up at my apartment the same evening I split. In and out in thirty seconds or less."

"Really? Then it wasn't you who took all the files in your desk drawer?"

He looked at me in surprise. "You've been there?"

"Part of trying to find out where you were. The files are empty. Was there anything in them Farnham might have been interested in? Like something that could clue him in to where you'd gone? Okay, never mind. If there had been, he wouldn't have hired me."

"True, and there wasn't. Everything in them related to work I did for my clients. Well, other than receipts from paying rent, utility bills, and buying business supplies. Was my computer still there?"

"Yep. I was going to see what was on it, if I could, but your protections are as good as the ones I have on mine. Speaking of which, I don't suppose it was you who broke into my office sometime Wednesday night."

"Me? No. Why would I? I didn't even know you existed at that point. Did they take anything?"

"Nope. Whoever it was went through my file cabinets. If they were looking for the file on you, they were SOL. I'd taken it home with me. They made it real obvious they'd been there, for whatever reason."

"This was after you'd been to my place?"

"Yes. I did that Wednesday afternoon, right after Farnham hired me."

Luca frowned. "If he had someone following you, they might have wondered if you'd found something in my apartment they missed in their search."

"Possible." I smiled dryly. "I'd prefer that explanation to the idea that it was someone involved in one my other clients' cases who broke in to find out what I'd learned about them. Right now, I don't need to be worrying about that on top of helping you."