Carmen Corbol peeled her booted foot up from the sticky floor and grimaced. Fog machines belched out smoky air. The room smelled of cigarettes, stale beer, and sex. Colored strobe lights danced in the beat to the music. It was one of the grubbiest dive bars Carmen had ever been to. She adjusted her halter top, and tamped down the anxiety dancing in her stomach. The place was packed.
Taking a deep breath, she snaked her way through the tightly packed crowd of supernaturals and humans to the bar and waved down a bartender. “Club and lime, thanks.”
She studied the hustle and bustle of the meat market in front of her. Females pranced backed and forth. Men lined the wall. Women danced on the floor with guys lurking on the side, watching, waiting to pounce. While those who already hooked up were making out in corners.
Cool, light energy swam against her. Carmen sniffed the air. A rich, damp earthen scent reached her nose. Fae. She shot a glance his way. Tall and blonde, his indigo eyes twinkled while his toothy smile widened. His glamour was in full effect. “Hey.”
Great. Just what she wasn’t looking for.
“Can I get you a drink?” he asked leaning in.
“No thanks.” She held up her drink. “I’m good.”
“In that case.” He edged in closer. “I’m Rick.”
Of course, it was. She believed that like she believed she needed another spell in the cauldron. Fae gave common mortal names to strangers because knowing their true names forced them into a kind of slavery.
“I’ve never seen you here before.” He reached out and ran stands of her silky, black hair through his fingers.
Goddess, they were a downright touchy bunch. “That’s right.” And he wouldn’t because she didn’t bar hop. “I’m not from around here.”
“No.” One couldn’t beat around the mulberry tree with fae.
He crowded her personal space and grabbed for her arm. “I can show you good time.”
His magic touched her skin. Gooseflesh rose. She snatched her arm away. “Not interested.” Carmen shot him an evil eye.
A bouncer interrupted. “Everything okay here?”
She nodded. “It’s fine.” The bouncer stared a moment before walking away.
Rick stared at her. “How could you not be interested in me?”
The press of his magic weighed on her. She met his gaze. Underneath the glamour he wore, Carmen saw his true face. His cat-shaped eyes were a dazzling indigo that any mortal would lose themselves in. His skin alabaster white, and his blonde hair was nearly white and hung past his shoulders. Any mortal seeing him in his true form would fell hook, line, and sinker into a pool of abuse. But not Carmen. She was no ordinary witch. “Easy. I’m not. Stop trying to glamour me.”
His magic shifted and ran through her aura. “Witch,” he said with disgust. Fae always thought they were better than everyone else. “But my glamour should still work.”
Well, maybe on normal witches it did since they’re human, but for some reason, Carmen had always been a little different. With a hand flip, Carmen conjured a small iron rod. “Yes I am, now be gone. I’m waitin’ on someone.”
His smile turned malicious, showing pointy edged teeth. “I’m not one to mess with little girl.”
Carmen turned to, poking him with iron in the stomach. “You’re one to talk. Maybe you should consider not messing with me, you fucking fairy.”
Unable to hold onto his magic, his glamour slipped. Carmen narrowed her eyes. “Still wanna try me?”
The fae calling himself Rick snarled, and then bolt like a rabbit. Carmen almost wanted to hunt after him. But she had a job to do.
It felt like hours marched by with no prey in sight. Where the hell was he? Saturday night and he was still absent. Carmen retreated to a dark corner, cloaking herself in its shadows.
An hour and ten men later, he walked in. A path cleared around him as if a tornado was hurtling down the center of a street. Female eyes gravitated toward him as jealous men tugged on their women. He paid no attention. It was almost if they didn’t exist. “Thank Goddess,” she muttered, tired of waiting. The last thing she wanted to do was come back.
She focused in on more imitate details of his face and body. It looked like a master craftsman had chiseled his angular face. His dark hair was pulled back, a line of scruff covered his jaw, and light phantomous eyes marked him a warlock. Make that one sexy warlock. The dark aura attracted Carmen. But, she knew better to engage in that line of thought or need.
Three busty, beautiful women swarmed him like seagulls to garbage. If they knew what he was up to, they’d run in the other direction.
Carmen scoped out a place where she could be seen. She sauntered to dance floor. She rolled her hips and swayed to the beat of the music.
It wasn’t long before a pair of hands found their way to her hips. She cast a glance over her shoulder, smiled, and leaned back. The fly landed in her web. “Hey.” She slid from his hold, turned, and danced back into his arms just as a slow jam played.
“Hey yourself.” He flashed his pearly whites. His hand glided to her back end. Carmen moved his hand. “Tony’s here every weekend and has never seen you before.”
She clasped her hands at the nape of his neck. “I’m new in town.”
“Does new in town have a name?”
She felt his magic brush over her, leaving a slimy trail behind. “Carmen.”
“Well Carmen, this is Tony.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Where’s Tony.” She peered around him.
He chuckled. “Me.”
She glimpsed down and bit the corner of her bottom lip. “Oops,” and giggled. Oh great. This was going to get old quick.
“How about Tony and you join those lovely ladies over there.” He pointed to the three ladies that attached themselves to him earlier. “And get a drink.”
She threw her head back and laughed. “Sure. But I’ve gotta make a trip to the ladies’ room first.” She her fingers raked through his hair.
“What are you drinking?”
“Whatever Tony is?” She smirked, giving his hair a quick pull.
He smiled. “Tony likes it rough.”
Of course he did. “Good.” She tugged again, pulling some of his hair out. She wrapped it around one of her fingers before moving away.
“Tony’s getting lucky tonight.”
“Oh yeah?” Not in this life time. She ran her tongue over her lips. “Be right back Tony.” She waved to him with a finger.
In the stall, she opened her small purse and pulled out a talisman. Carmen twisted ‘The’ Tony’s hair around the talisman, chanting a binding spell to prevent Tony from using the power he stole, then bent it to discharge the spell. Please work, she begged silently. Carmen hadn’t used her own blood in making charms, she used a surrogate and wasn’t sure if the charm would work for her now.
She returned to find Tony surrounded by a half-dozen mooning females. Talk about over kill. Carmen shook her head.
“Hey ladies, why don’t you let Carmen here sit next to Tony.” His smile looked blue under the black lights. They hemmed and hawed. “Don’t worry there’s enough of Tony to go around.”
She slid in next to him. “So, you’re popular around here.”
He rolled the ice around in his glass. “You could say that.” He took a drink and sat it down. “Tony thinks you got amazing eyes and skin.” He ran his fingers up and down her arm. “It’s like you’ve been dipped in glitter. Tony wants to know the color of your eyes.”
What a douche. Carmen resisted the urge roll her eyes and pop her tongue. Tony’s speech was like nettle to her ears. “Amber.”
“Boy, they’re unusual. Reminds Tony of a cat.” His fingers still trailing up and down her arm, his magic brushing against her. He was trying to ensorcell her. Too bad, so sad, it wouldn’t work.
“I get that a lot.” She twirled her hair around her finger. “Wanna get out here? Maybe spend a little alone time together.”
So, sure of himself, he said, “Tony would love to.” They moved out of the booth. He nodded to the other ladies. “You’ll see Tony next weekend,” he told them.
The women moaned with disappointment, giving Carmen heated looks. He put his arm around her waist as she slid his hand into his back pocket, slipping in the talisman in and patted his behind. She prayed it would work.
They strolled into the parking lot. “My place or yours?” she asked.
“Mine,” he told her.
“My SUV’s down the street.” The moonless night made it difficult to see the pot marked street and hideaway alleys. Carmen wished she could’ve gotten a closer parking spot. A tingle skipped around her middle, and fizzled out before manifesting into anything tangible. What was going on with her magic lately?
“We can take my car,” Tony said.
“Ah…I don’t want to leave my car here,” she said. That wasn’t her plan. She planned on memorizing him with her voice, have him go easily into her car, and take him to lockup. “I could just follow you.”
“What’s the problem? Don’t you trust Tony?”
No, she didn’t. The asshole wanted to suck her essences out of her body and leave her dead. There was no way that was happening. “No, it’s not that…it’s just…the neighborhood. My car’s new.” She stopped and faced him. She reached out, tracing her finger along his cheek. Carmen spoke in her in memorizing voice, and pushed magic into each of her words. It was trait she used to get what she wanted growing up. But it only seemed to work on her parents and other, but not her uncle. “Let’s go in my car. You’ll slide into the soft leather seat and let it envelope you until your drowsy and fall asleep.”
He grabbed her wrist. “Why would Tony fall asleep? What the hell are you talking about?”
Shit. Carmen put more power into voice. “You’re tried. It’s been a long night. Let me take the wheel so you can rest.”
He snatched her arm and yanked her into one of those dark, dank hideaways. She dropped her purse. Tony slammed her against a brick wall of the alley.
Her breath whooshed out. He dug his fingertips deep into her flesh as he seized her other arm. She knew she’d be bruised later.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Carmen. I told you.”
“You lie to Tony. What do you want?”
She bent her arms. “You.” Carmen gripped his shirt collar. She put more magic into the voice that worked on humans. Warlocks were just bad humans who used magic. So, why wasn’t it working. “I want to spend the night with you.”
He pulled her away from the wall and slammed her back into it. Her head bounced. White lights twinkled in her eyes. “Tony don’t like liars. Tony feels your power and thinks it would taste good.” He licked his lips.
Carmen couldn’t speak, and her head reeled in confusion. Her flecks of pain diminished as a funnel of power started deep in her belly, flowing up and rushing into her limbs and out her hands into Tony.
The force blasted him into the opposite wall.
Carmen fell to her knees in the filth, ripping her pants. She gasped for breath.
What was that? Exhilaration buoyed her. A sense of dizziness ripped through her. Her magic had never done that before. It intoxicated her. When she stopped panting, she opened her eyes. Her gaze fell on Tony who was embedded into the concrete.
“Well shit,” she muttered. She gazed up at her handiwork. “Ain’t that something.” Never in her life had she conjured so much power without assistance. Then she had been studying the darker arts. The arts that got into trouble with the Witches Council and paying penance at her SIR. The Supernatural Intelligence and Recovery was an agency owned and operated by her uncle, Henry Nygaard. The invasive megacorporation investigated supernatural activity and ran like human security and domestic agencies did.
Carmen picked herself up, wiping her hands on her pants, and went to Tony. She checked his pulse, lifted his eyelids, and gingerly slapped his face. His lights were dim, but not out. She knew couldn’t get him to her car by herself.
Weak kneed, she wobbled to the end of the alley and her purse. The heel of her boot caught in a pot hole and twisted her ankle. Fuck.
It took several moments she didn’t have to waste to get herself together and to her car. Too bad that wish hadn’t worked out. Driving into the alley, Carmen put the car in park, jumped out, and opened the back door. Tony was still unconscious. Carmen slid another charm into the front of his pants pocket so it would be close his body and keep him out. Something pricked her hand. She grabbed it. A white business card with a picture of a cruise ship read Cuddles Elite. Her curiosity tickled her mind. She pocketed it for later.
Having enough wiggle room between Tony and wall, she wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled. Several good tugs dislodged him. She stumbled backwards with his full weight and almost fell.
It was no easy feat, but she got him into the car and didn’t care when he went head first onto car floor. He deserved no better. Actually, he deserved the trunk, but she wasn’t going to fix it now. She got in into car and speed off. Carmen couldn’t wait for this night to be over.
SIR loomed over other buildings on the block, casting a shadow over them. She drove to the back entrance and laid her hand on the horn. The garage door went up and Mika came out. On the short side for giant, he topped out at an even eight feet. Although he could intimidate the bejesus outta someone, Carmen thought he was just a big teddy bear. She waved hello as he drew near.
He opened her door. “Whatcha got?” he asked.
She got out of the car, and handed him the keys. “I brought in the warlock. I left charms in his pockets.” At this point she didn’t care if she got into the trouble for using them. It was late, she hurt, and just wanted to be done.
“Looking good Carmen,” he winked. “Any problems?” He glanced in the backseat.
Feeling drained from the evening’s events, she couldn’t even flirt back. “No problems. I’m going in to get my paperwork done so I can be done with this case.” She limped towards the garage to use the back entrance into the building.
“Are you sure you’re okay.”
She stuck up her arm and waved without turning back to face him. “I’m good. Could you just please get him out of my car so when I get done I just go home.”
“The boss wants to see you. Told me to send you up when you came in.”
She stopped and whirled around. A wave of dizziness threatened to take her down. Her hands shot out from her sides as she steadied herself. A moment passed. “Seriously?”
“Good luck,” he told her.