A Fang in the Sass: BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance (Sassy Ever After Book 6) (7 page)

BOOK: A Fang in the Sass: BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance (Sassy Ever After Book 6)
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SIXTEEN

 

After the drive into the big city, Aria and Emma sat in the main library’s backroom fiddling with technology older than they were. Well, not her, but Emma for certain. She sneezed as she dusted off another box of…

“What is this called again?” she asked as she took out the two reels containing the film.

“Microfiche,” Emma said. “I had to use this when researching stuff in college. Not everything had been transferred to digital yet.”

“Got it. But I’m still not sure what we’re looking for. There’s so much stuff here.”

“You said Penelope said we needed to find a history of continued abuse to show this wasn’t a miscommunication or whatever BS.”

She snorted. “BS is right. But what historical evidence is there in human files?”

Emma sat back in her metal folding chair. “I was thinking something that showed a difference between time ranges or parts of town. Like if one part had a higher or lower missing persons’ percentage, or higher than other cities. Or if there were more reports of strange creatures in the area. I’m not really sure what else. This sounded much better in my head on the way over.”

Aria laughed. “It’s fine. I hear being preggers makes you kinda of crazy.”

“I remembered Karla got emotional all the time. I thought I was going to scream every time she burst into tears for no reason other than her shoe came untied. I told Mason I’m wearing flip-flops the entire pregnancy. Oh, hey. Look at this.”

Aria scooted her chair closer to her friend’s. “This is an old article, seventy-five years old, with city stats. Which is what I was hoping to find.” She scanned the image. “It says the west side of the city had much lower crime than the east side, despite that it was the richer side.”

She was quiet as she read further. “This says the economically depressed parts of town had more missing persons than other places, and the city overall had a higher missing persons than anywhere else at the time. It goes into employment stats, but I don’t see how those help.”

Aria put forth her interpretation. “So the rich were safe and the poor went missing in the olden days. What does that mean?”

Emma scrubbed a hand over her face. “I don’t know. Nothing? That the poor people who normally stole from the rich were taken by vamps before they could rob them?” Poor Emma looked exasperated.

She sighed and slumped in her chair. “Shit, Emma. That could be it.”

Her friend looked at her with surprise. “What do you mean? It’s right?”

“That’s one of the things my grandfather and parents always made sure of. The clan needs to stay small enough or spread out enough so trends like this aren’t noticed in the local areas. When we had the clan meeting the other day, I remember thinking it was way too big. With this many vamps in one area, someone would eventually see a pattern and investigate.”

“Let’s see if there’s anything for a follow-up.” She watched as Emma scrolled from image to image. “Doesn’t look like there’s—this is cool.”

“What?” Aria leaned closer.

Emma zoomed in on the image which was barely more than a scrap. “Something about a second Roanoke Island mystery where all the people disappeared. Except it was a settlement west of here. And the whole place burned to the ground with no trace of the people.” She continued reeling through.

A pang of guilt struck her. That had to be Trevan’s pack. The people her grandfather killed. Emma whipped her head around. “Aria, what wrong? You smell devastated.” She shook her head and turned away.

“Let’s go to the police station. I’ve had enough of history for a while.”

“Sure,” Emma said. “Do you mind if we stop for ice cream on the way? Soft serve sounds yummy. With strawberries so it’s healthy.”

Emma noisily slurped the dregs of her strawberry shake as they entered the west side branch of the city police. The older lady in uniform behind the front desk frowned. Emma jerked the straw from between her lips. “Sorry.”

Aria understood Emma’s reason for being slightly embarrassed. Most police stations were loud and hectic with tons of people here and there, some in handcuffs, others yelling to be heard over others. But it was quiet and peaceful here. Almost enjoyable.

She asked the lady, “Is it always like this here?”

The woman smiled. “I’ve been here thirty years. And yes, it’s usually like this. We have the occasional domestic violence, but we don’t get many arrests from those.”

Aria saw Emma looking at a wall of faces—photos, drawings, even sepia-toned. “Are these missing people?”

“Yes,” the woman started, “also in my thirty years, I’ve posted more missing person images than I care to count. But Betty south of town has had a lot more than me gone missing. Of course, those who live with the less-than-desired home life often run away and never come back. She’s had a lot over the years.”

Emma looked at Aria and said, “The trend continues. Good enough for me.”

“Hold on a second.” Aria went to the woman’s desk. “May I ask a question?”

“Sure, honey. Anything Marge can do to help, I surely will.” Marge smiled. Aria thought this woman was really bored if she talked about herself in third person. But she was willing, so who cared if she was a bit eccentric?

“Marge, in your years here, have there been a lot of reports about seeing strange things at night?”

“Strange like vampires and werewolves strange?”

Aria was taken aback with such a straightforward answer. “Yeah, how did you know?”

“Our district seems to be the hotspot for smoking crack. We get more phone calls and reports about the supernatural than anything else around here. I’ve heard some doozies. Sometimes I wonder what they’re smokin’ ‘cause I want some.” She slapped her desk and let out laugh. “I got some great stories if y’all got time. Let me tell you.”

Seemed the friendlier Marge got, the more of her southern upbringing came through. “We’d love to, Marge, but we got to get going. It’s great meeting you.”

Aria grabbed Emma’s arm and they hurried out. In the car, Emma let out a deep breath. “That was weird.”

Aria agreed. “It seems the situation with missing persons and vampire stories has remained bad.”

“Unfortunately, that’s what we needed to hear,” Emma said. “They’ve gotten so used to how things have been, they don’t question it anymore. Sad.”

“How many people do you think have vanished over the years?” Aria asked.

“What do vampires do after they…do what they do?”

Aria grinned. “You mean drink them dry?”

“Yeah, something like that. What happens to the body?”

She thought about it. “I’d don’t know. I’ve never dealt with that problem. Bury them?”

“I thought that, too, but that would mean thousands of bodies over hundreds of years, right? Somebody should be uncovering tons of bones in the area. Human bones take a long time to totally dissolve. Where are the vamps hiding the bodies?”

 

 

SEVENTEEN

 

Trevan squeezed the steering wheel so tightly in his hands, the plastic creaked. He was sure the other two smelled his anger. Of course, Roen had his head down, phone in hands. He was glad they didn’t ask questions.

“So,” Alain said from the front passenger seat, “what are we doing, besides smelling your anger and sex? Did you mate?”

He really needed to be more careful what he thought. How many times would he jinx himself before he learned? “We are checking out the clan area to see what we see. It’s changed a lot in eighty years.” He deliberately didn’t answer the other question.

She told him to go away.
Him
to go away. Nobody told him what do to, even his mate. Unless it was in bed, and he was mostly okay with that. She was so hot, so delicious… Him, go
away
? Not happening, woman.

He was going to protect her from herself, if need be. Someone was after her family and it was time to find out who and put an end to it. If only they had a clue who the guy at the marina was.

Roen spoke from the backseat. “We’re stopping to eat, right? I’m starving.”

“I remember seeing a restaurant down the road from a crematorium when we drove in,” Alain replied.

“Crematorium?” Trevan said. “Why would vampires want a place like that? If they want to turn into ash, all they have to do is walk outside at noon.”

His front seat passenger, cocked his head. “That’s a good question. Want to check it out?”

When they entered the west suburbs of the city where much of the clan lived, a chill ran down his back. The place felt creepy, even though it looked like any other outer residential section. Most people worked all day, so they weren’t home until nighttime. Difference was he knew these people were home, hiding, sleeping, until it came time to seek prey.

Just like Alain had said, Ataturk’s Cremations was a block from the restaurant. After seeing the lights were off and no vehicles in the parking lot, they pulled around back and stopped. Busting through the wooden backdoor was fairly easy. They listened for an alarm, but heard no sounds. Not too many people broke into crematoriums, he guessed.

He’d never seen cremation equipment, except for the black and white photos of concentration camps during the world wars. The image of an old, dirty brick structure resembling a pizza oven was what he expected. When he stepped into the back room, he felt like he was in a hi-tech computer-age facility.

The shiny white tile floor was spotless as well as the bright white walls and ceiling. Three-foot-square metal containers were stacked along walls and rolling gurneys lined another. In the center of the room stood a shiny steel monstrosity that looked almost like a vault.

There was a small square door in the middle on the front side where the casket slid in, and readouts, gauges, and displays next to it. The machine was one hundred percent automatic and state-of-the-art. So much for mud bricks and matches.

“Holy hell,” Alain said. “This isn’t what I expected. They must do some serious stuff here.” He gave a chin pop toward the containers along the wall. “Wanna bet ashes are packed in there?”

Roen shuddered. “Man, the ashes go in urns for each person. Not a metal box that big.”

Trevan sighed. “Roen, I don’t think they much worry about returning these ashes.”

“Trevan, how many bodies do you think can fit in each of these metal things?” Alain asked. He lifted one of the containers. “I’m guessing it’s around fifty pounds.”

“I have no idea how much—“

“Siri, how much do a cremated person’s ashes weigh?” Roen asked his phone. Trevan raised a brow. Was he serious about getting an answer?

“A human body cremated into ashes weighs between five and nine pounds depending on body size and bone density,” Siri replied.

Trevan was incredulous. “If that thing can wipe my ass, then I’m buying one.”

Siri replied, “I do not wipe asses. I only make them look smart.”

Alain hooted. “She’s right, Roen. You are definitely a smartass.”

“Don’t listen to them, Siri,” Roen said, cradling his phone next to his chest. “They’re just jealous.” He slid her in his back pocket. “You got your answer. There’s ‘bout seven bodies in one those, give or take a couple.”

They stood back and scanned the rows of stacks. Trevan felt sick. “Let’s see what’s in the rest of the office.” They walked through a door into a quaint office space with a few rooms. Looked like a normal business with desks and chairs. Trevan opened a file cabinet drawer and sifted through files. Alain and Roen went separate ways.

He pulled up a thick file and thumbed through it. The folder contained shipping forms to several business addresses. All for pick up or delivery of ashes. Landscapers, industries, medical facilities, filter manufactures, and others he didn’t know. And each form listed several containers. They dated back less than a year. Holy fuck! All these in that short of time?

“Trevan, get in here. You gotta see this,” Alain hollered from the other room. Both he and Roen entered at the same time. The room was packed with personal belongings: piles of purses, a dozen shoeboxes full of jewelry and watches and eyeglasses, new looking shoes thrown into a corner, fancy belts draped over tables.

Alain opened one of several heavy duty trash bags. “Fuck me.” He tipped it upside down and let the contents spill out. Wallets of every shape and color in the rainbow spilled out. He opened several, quickly spot checking. “They are from all over the U.S. Most are central United States, but there’s East and West Coast.” Alain’s face paled and he walked out.

Trevan was behind him. The atrocity of the meaning of the items in that room was beyond what any caring creature could handle.

They walked out the back door, got into the truck and left without saying a word.

 

 

EIGHTEEN

 

Trevan, Alain, and Roen sat in the dark restaurant, pushing food around on their plates. After leaving the crematorium, their appetites were as dismal as their emotions. How life could mean so little to someone was mind boggling. Those were the ones who didn’t deserve life. But then there was the argument that asked, who was he to decide who should live or die?

Everything was so complicated. All he wanted was his mate on a deserted island, naked. Simple and sweet. Now would be a great time for a beer. Maybe there was a bar open somewhere on this side of town. No vampires allowed.

Trevan pushed his plate away. “How about we find a place to have a drink and shoot some pool. I’m not much in the eating mood.” He grunted. “Never thought I’d say that.” They settled their tab and asked the cashier where the closest tavern was. Of course, it was a block on the other side of the cremation building.

Passing by the place, none in the group looked at it as they drove by. Thankfully, the bar came into sight quickly. Instantly, an eerie feeling settled over him. The place resembled Embraced down to the potholes in the parking lot.

No lights shined through the windows, nor were there any vehicles in the parking lot. Seemed as empty as a lake with no water.

Trevan pulled the keys from the ignition. “You boys thinking what I’m thinking?”

Alain nodded. Roen said no. Both men in front turned to look at him in the back with the damn phone. Roen looked up at them. “What? Unless you were thinking how to get the blue box from the upper left to the lower right in six moves, then I wasn’t thinking what you’re thinking.”

Trevan snapped his hand toward the mobile. “I’m gonna shove that phone so far up your ass, you’ll push your right tit to answer when it rings.” Roen whipped it behind his back.

“Come on, Trev,” Roen whined. “We didn’t have cool shit like this when we were kids.”

“That’s because we had chores and work to do. Kids today don’t do shit. Now put it away and act like a responsible adult while we break into the bar.” Trevan and Roen waited in the truck as Alain tried the front door just to make sure it was closed. After a couple tugs on the knob, Alain walked around the side of the building.

Trev and Roen were quick to catch up. “I’m guessing they bring the victims to the back door just like up north. They seemed rather predictable,” Trevan said.

Alain agreed. “Yeah, certainly not a creative bunch. But they’ve managed to blend in well for years on this side of town.”

Trevan slid out his picks from his pocket and set to work on the back door. Within seconds, it clicked. Now the only worry was an alarm system. He opened the door, hoping the vamps’ arrogance at thinking no one would intrude into their place applied here as it did the crematorium. Lady Luck was on their side. No alarm.

Now they needed to figure out where a kidnapped person would be kept. At Embraced, they’d never been inside to see the layout of the back rooms. They had several hours of daylight remaining, so they weren’t rushed.

There had to be at least ten rooms along the back hallway. And each housed a different torture device or BDSM setup. Some he wanted to try on his new mate and others he tore to pieces. He didn’t care what others said, no one could want the amount of pain some items could inflict.

“Trevan,” Roen called, “over here. Found something.” The men gathered before a door that opened to a wooden stairway diving into the darkness. The stench of human urine and blood nearly knocked him out. He pulled his Maglite from his back pocket and switched it on. He could see fine in the dark, but he didn’t want someone jumping from a distant corner unexpectedly.

“Alain, keep a watch for anyone up here. Last thing we need is to be locked down there.” Trevan turned to Roen. “Let’s go.” The farther down they went, the stronger the reek became. He pulled the front of his shirt over his nose. How could vamps stand this shit?

At the bottom of the stairs was a sweaty concrete floor that added a touch of musk to the stagnant, cold air. The roughhewn walls and low ceiling created a cave or tunnel feel. He heard heartbeats and breathing behind the stairs.

Shining his light underneath the steps, he met the most atrocious display of cruelty he’d ever seen. Four females, looking to be in their young twenties, were barely clothed, one not at all, and chained to a cement block wall. They were all so thin that they didn’t look alive except for the small lift of their flat chests with each breath.

Lava-hot rage roared through Trevan like never before. Not even when he found his slaughtered family was he this over the edge. Instead of picking the locks on the shackles, he yanked them from the concrete wall.

The women roused, giving weak cries of defense, obviously thinking the vampires had come for them again. They did their best to reassure the ladies, but Trevan’s focus was getting them to a hospital. Two of the women made it up the stairs, while the other two had to be carried.

Alain pulled the truck to the back door and unfolded blankets to cover the ladies. When Trevan exited holding the last female, Alain’s eyes turned gold and he took a deep breath. The man’s chest rumbled, and Trevan smiled while setting his load in his friend’s arms.

“Thank god I’m not the only one who’ll be going crazy in the next few weeks with his new mate.” Alain slid into the backseat with the other three ladies. Their bodies were so narrow, there was still room for another. He kept his precious cargo in his lap, snuggled to him.

In under ten minutes, they were on the interstate on their way to the Central pack’s hospital. Even though a hospital in the city was much closer, they weren’t shifter friendly. Or even shifter knowledgeable, for that matter. Three of the girls were human and one a wolf. He wasn’t sure how the humans would fare in a facility that would’ve put them in a mental institution at the first mention of vampires.

He fished his phone from his pocket to call Mason. He hated driving and holding his phone at the same time because of how dangerous it was, but with the humans in the back he didn’t want them hearing over the truck speakers more than they had to. On the second ring, the Central alpha picked up.

“Mason, this is Trevan. We’re on our way back with four women we found chained up in a bar similar to Embraced.”

“Fuck, you’re kidding,” Mason said.

“I wish I were, for the women’s sakes.” Alain leaned forward and whispered into his ear. Trevan shook his head, holding back his anger. In a low voice he said, “Fuck, Mason. One of them belongs to your pack. She’d been there a while, not in good shape.”

Mason was quiet. Trevan figured Mason was doing his best not to tear into something and shred it to pieces. He knew how much Mason cared for his pack, even if he and Emma had been there a short time as the new alphas. They were his and he would take care of them.

Like Charlie Daniels sang, Hell’s broke loose in Georgia and the devil deals the cards.

He asked, “Is Aria still there?”

“No,” Mason said. “They went to the city. Looking for evidence to clear Aria.”

“Shit, Mason. Get them out of there. I don’t want them anywhere near that place, even if it is daylight out.”

“I hear ya. I’ll call Emma and have them get back here now. She’ll want to be with our pack member you’re bringing in anyway.”

“Thanks, man. See you shortly.”

BOOK: A Fang in the Sass: BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance (Sassy Ever After Book 6)
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