Authors: Anya Breton
“No. I’m not driving anywhere for you. Don’t call me again.”
“I know exactly who it is. Don’t call me. Oh, and by the
Dead air. Drew stared at the flashing screen that proved
Jenny J had hung up on him. On
. Who did she think she was? He was
Drew Haizea, wealthy son of the formidable matriarch Amanda, brother to Priest
Did Jenny’s behavior have anything to do with his brother’s
recent scandal and defection? Aston would have a good laugh at his expense if
that was the case. The elder Haizea sibling insisted his life was fraught with
nothing but headaches because of Drew. Provided Aston wasn’t exaggerating, Drew
supposed he was due a headache or two.
Then again, Aston
stolen the girl Drew had been
“I’m sorry to interrupt, sir.”
Drew’s attention whipped to the counter ahead of him,
focusing on the female who had spoken. The mechanic. He’d forgotten she was in
the office with him.
She spared a small smile as she shook a wooden clipboard at
him. “Could you fill out this paperwork for me?”
Was there anything worse than paperwork? He grunted but
A phone rang. Drew glanced at his mobile phone despite the
unfamiliar ringtone. The home screen hadn’t changed.
The mechanic twirled and grabbed a cordless phone off the
counter behind her with one graceful motion. She had the device to her ear and
greeted the caller without needing to look.
“Pearce Auto-body, this is Erica. How can I help you?”
Erica. She didn’t look like an Erica. She looked like a
Mona. Or a Chloë—complete with the umlaut.
“Nice to hear from you again, Mrs. Snow,” the mechanic,
Erica, said as if it actually were. Two clicks on the computer preceded her
next bit of conversation. “Yes, I can get you in Wednesday. Do you just need
the oil changed?” She snatched up a broken pencil from the counter. “You have a
Dodge Charger, right? 2010? I can get you in at two or three. Will either work?
Great. I’ll see you then.”
She scribbled a note beside the computer then swiveled
toward Drew. “Let me know if you have any questions.”
He had a question but it wasn’t for her.
Ten minutes had passed. What was his mother doing? It never
took her this long to return a call. He’d give her a few more minutes. Drew
sank into one of the plastic chairs.
Rather than fill out the paperwork, he lifted his phone
again. A love triangle gone bad had left sultry Sophie without a partner. She
could be persuaded to drive west for a good time.
Drew found her entry in his list. He curved his lips simply
thinking of her fine rack…albeit her fine
mechanic’s breasts were probably real. And generous. That was easy to tell as
she bent over the blue counter, affixing a sticker to a manila folder. Those
were definitely real. He did nothing to stop his dick from rising
“Hello?” The female jolted his focus back to the phone.
“Hi, babe. Busy tonight?”
“Who is this?”
Playing coy, was she? “Who is this? Drew Haizea. You don’t
recognize my voice?”
“Oh. Drew. No. I don’t. What do you want?”
this Sophie? Where was the sexy purr she’d used
on him last week?
“Was just wondering if you were busy tonight,” he said.
“Yes. I’m busy.”
“Can’t get out of it? We could have a good time.”
A harsh laugh scraped the woman’s throat. “I’ll clue you in
because I suspect you’re going to have one hell of a night…no, make that
You’ve been designated as a rogue witch. No one is going to have a good time
with you until you get that fixed.”
?” he yelped.
“Rogue witch,” the woman said as if he were a neophyte.
“Kill-on-sight if you’re found in the area.”
“I know what…” Drew hesitated, recalling there was a vanilla
human in the room. “I know what it means. I don’t understand how I could have
been designated that. Everyone knows me. They know who I’m affiliated with.”
“I’m only relaying what I’ve been told. We’ve been
instructed to provide no assistance to you on penalty of landing on the rogue
list with you.”
“The Haizea dragon…er, I mean the
“The…” He barely caught himself before he spoke the word the
human mechanic would associate with all manner of evil things. Instead he
squealed to the stratosphere, “My
He stared at a balled-up receipt bouncing across the floor.
This was a misunderstanding. It had to be. His mother
wouldn’t have made him
. Not after thirty-two years of
being her favorite. He had to talk to her.
“Am I really K.O.S.?” Was that
“I haven’t heard anything specifically about that,” Sophie
said. “But you’re definitely rogue. It’s on the website.”
?” Drew nearly toppled the chair over on
his trip to his feet. “It’s official?”
“The news came through the phone tree. That’s pretty
official. Look, I gotta go. If you see your brother, tell him if things don’t
work out with that girl he’s with, I’m always available.”
Always available…unless he was marked as a rogue witch.
Drew slumped back into the chair, staring at the phone’s
flashing screen. She’d hung up. And his mother hadn’t called back.
Fifteen minutes. Drew found the entry in his recent calls so
he could try Amanda again. Voice mail.
“It’s Drew. Again. I’ve just heard some disturbing news.
Call me back.”
He balled the phone up in his fist. Nine times, he tapped
the screen against his chin before he realized he’d been making the nervous
motion. Drew pushed the phone between his teeth without biting down.
“Is there anything I can help with?”
His gaze shot guiltily toward the counter. The mechanic
smiled at him.
She’d witnessed the whole conversation. Thank Aer she could
only hear one side.
He pulled the phone from his teeth. “Uh, I’m going to need a
few minutes to work out a few…things before I do the paperwork.”
“No problem,” she said with a dismissive wave. “I’ll give
you some time while I get the car up on the lift.” At the interior door to her
garage she paused, one generous breast smashed against the jamb. “Just shout if
you need anything.”
He didn’t bother with a response because no vanilla human
would be able to do a damn thing for him if his mother had placed a bull’s-eye
squarely on his head. Sophie had to be fucking with him. Amanda Haizea had
given him everything he’d ever wanted. She’d never endanger him.
No matter how much he’d screwed up.
Erica slid out from
beneath the Ferrari. She couldn’t find any mechanical explanation for why the
Italian car would catch fire. The engine was sound and the body was clean apart
from the charred part near the wheel arch. Had he driven through something
burning on Route 9? That seemed the only logical, although implausible,
explanation. Maybe the internet would know the answer.
“Ellen,” the male squeaked from the office. “It’s Drew. I
need to talk to my mother.”
Something wasn’t right in his world. Erica wasn’t terribly
surprised. He seemed like an ass. He’d called two different women in the span
of five minutes about setting up dates. And she’d seen the length of his
contact list when he scrolled through it in the truck. The guy had more A’s in
his list than Erica had in her entire phone.
“What do you
she won’t talk to me? It’s
That had to be rough. What did a guy have to do to earn the
silent treatment from his
Erica wiped her hands on a fresh shop towel as she walked a
semicircle around the car.
Maybe the weather was a factor in the fire. What was the
high temperature in Italy anyway? If she had time, she’d have loved to solve
this puzzle without seeking outside help. But the guy in the office clearly
needed his car.
“She designated me as a
, Ellen,” the man
shouted. “You get her on the fucking phone this fucking second!”
about summed the guy up. At least his mother
was under no illusions about what sort of son she’d raised.
Erica peered at the undercarriage, contemplating her next
move. Now would be a bad time to use the computer for hints. Someday she’d be
able to afford one for the work area.
“I didn’t touch your daughter.” The man’s voice cracked. It
soured for his follow-up statement. “Aston did all the touching, or didn’t you
hear?” There was a pause. “Ellen? Ellen!”
Something crashed against the wall. Erica jumped a half foot
off the concrete.
A clank followed the male’s scream. She raced to verify what
had happened. Sure enough one of the chairs lay upside down like some sort of
eighties-era bug sculpture. The male, Drew as he’d called himself, paced the
office with a furious gait.
Her instinct was to ask him if everything was okay.
Everything was obviously not okay. Instead she asked, “Do you need me to give
you a ride anywhere?”
He whipped toward her. Surprise widened his features. He’d
forgotten she was in the next room over? That it was
thrown at the wall?
“Uh…” Drew glanced at the window and then back. He repeated
the act twice more. “I don’t know.”
“How about a Coke? I’ve got a few cans in the fridge out
“Coke.” His shoulders dropped and his head slumped. “A Coke
would be great.”
Erica forced herself out of the room before she could feel
any more sympathy for him. She was still paying the price for the last time she
showed an asshole compassion. Lingering at the fridge for a few minutes eased
the urge to offer her customer more support. He was pacing the length of the
office when she returned.
Briefly, his lips lifted in gratitude as he took the cold
can of soda. And then he set about pacing again. Erica eased back to the door.
He needed to be alone with his thoughts.
He swiveled on one foot before she stepped fully out of
view. “Can I use your phone?”
Erica glanced at the mobile phone in his left hand. “Uh…is
it long distance?”
Was that where he was from? He looked like a Hamptons
He didn’t wait for actual acceptance before he headed
between the horseshoe-shaped counter toward her cordless phone. Erica folded
her arms across her chest, resting against the doorjamb. Was he going to help
himself to a second can of Coke too?
Drew set his palms against the counter, hanging his head
over her paperwork. He popped upright a split second before he spoke. “Don’t
hang up. You
me an explanation.”
Someone had answered. Erica slipped into the other room. The
Ferrari called to her with a silent siren song. Time to sit in it for a few
minutes and imagine a world where she could afford a vehicle half as expensive.
“Don’t be so melodramatic, Drew,” Amanda Haizea drawled with
all the concern of a mother whose child had simply skinned his knee. “No one
will actually kill you.”
He lowered his volume to a harsh whisper despite his
fury—the woman in the other room couldn’t hear what he was about to say. “If
the vampires hear of it—”
“They won’t,” Amanda cut in, calm as you like. “I was
specific about that.”
“Then why bother with the designation?”
“You’ve never taken any of my criticisms to heart, Andrew.”
Oh no. She’d used his full name. This was serious.
“Your actions this week have destroyed this family.”
actions?” Drew shoved off the counter, pacing to
the window. “I’m not the one who resigned from the race for high priest in
disgrace, ditched my job as coven priest
ran off with the
housekeeper’s daughter! Did you designate
as a rogue witch?”
“I will deal with your brother. You have also disgraced this
family, Andrew. I’ve tolerated your…recreations long enough. But when you
disrespected your fiancée and your brother with that scene last weekend and
your fiancée videotaped your foray with the newlywed in the next room over…that
was the last straw. I’ve allowed you too much freedom. It ends now. You are cut
off. I’ll remove the rogue designation only when you turn your life around.
Good luck, Andrew.”
“Wait,” Drew shouted before she could hang up. “Cut off? I
can’t come home?”
“No. And any credit you get from the family has similarly
Her deadpan response chilled him to the bone.
his credit came from the family. “What? You have to be kidding. You can’t do
this to me. I’m your son!”
His mother’s voice hardened. “I’m doing this
you are my son. Good luck, Andrew.” She softened for her parting blow. “I have
faith in you.”
“If you had faith in me you wouldn’t do this—”
Dead air. Again.
Drew crumpled the nearest piece of paper, tossing it at the
window in a fit of impotent rage. His own mother really
put a big
fat bull’s-eye on his head. Everyone in the Underground would be gunning for
him once it got out.
He’d have to avoid the Underground.
He glanced at the door to the garage. The mechanic was
vanilla, wasn’t she? He hadn’t sensed any odors to suggest she was infected
with the Were virus. He’d be safe here until he figured out what he was going
Drew dropped the phone onto its cradle. The windows ahead
offered no inspiration.
Sleeping with a newly married woman when his fiancée was in
the next room hadn’t been a bright idea. But he hadn’t thought Elizabeth truly
wanted to marry him. Their arrangement had been largely political in nature—a
move to propel his older brother to a position of authority.
But Elizabeth had certainly
pissed off when
she and the newlywed husband walked into the room. Then she’d crowed
triumphantly that she didn’t have to marry him anymore. Would marrying him
really have been so bad? The sex had been good, hadn’t it? He’d thought so and
she hadn’t complained.
Though he’d verified the designation news from the horse’s
mouth, he still wanted another opinion. He found an entry in his favorites list
on his mobile phone. The ringback proved the two bars of service were steady.
But there was no answer.
“Hiya, babe,” he said to her voice mail. “Call me back.
Let’s have a little fun.”
Drew jabbed a finger on his second favorite entry. Ringback.
“Drew, I can’t talk to you,” the youthful-sounding woman
said. “You’re a rogue witch. I can’t afford to be rogue with you. Sorry, hon.”
Silence. Drew threw his phone. The costly device impacted on
the pressed concrete wall, clattering to the floor in pieces.
“What…” The mechanic appeared at the door. Her attention
went to the scattered electronic pieces then to him. Pity softened her
Shit. She’d heard
of his conversations.
Maybe she wouldn’t understand. Being marked rogue was bad enough. He didn’t
need to be responsible for the Underground’s existence coming to light in the
human world. The longer he stayed, the harder it would be to keep the secret
hidden. He’d find a way to get home.
Drew advanced to the counter. He gestured at her card swipe.
“I need to pay you for the tow so I can get out of here. I’ll arrange for
something to be done with the car later.”
She hesitated as if she might argue. Erica crossed the room
behind him. She took up her spot beside her computer and accepted his
outstretched card. “Let me just calculate the mileage.”
Her fingers flew over the keyboard. The numbers he saw
didn’t look promising.
“Eighty dollars,” she said.
Swipe. Beep. Wait.
Her computer connected to the internet on old-fashioned
dial-up. The static and bong of the thing reminded him of his childhood. He
tapped an impatient beat against the Formica. The sooner he could get out of
here, the sooner he could persuade his mother to give up this ridiculous idea.
The mechanic shifted. An uncomfortable move? Was it because
he was behind her or something else?
She swiped the card. The beep sounded again. He waited.
Drew stiffened when she turned, lip firmly between her
teeth. That was not a good look.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Erica said, genuine regret slowing her
delivery. “But it says it’s been declined.”
He fished out a second card. “Try this one.”
Swipe. Beep. Wait.
The mechanic made a half-turn toward him. “I’m sorry—”
“This one.” Drew held out a third card.
Swipe. Beep. Wait.
one has to work.”
Swipe. Beep. Wait.
Erica shook her head three seconds later. “No good. I’m
No good. Just like
“I’m in a world of shit,” he said, largely for his own
benefit. And then he slumped into the nearby chair because it was Aer’s honest
Erica stared at the blond sprawled in the chair in front of
her window. Four credit cards had failed in her machine. Her dreams of the
garage being in the black went up in smoke.
But at least she wasn’t in a world of shit like him. No, all
things considered her life was rather good. Moments like these reminded her of
Her father had left her the garage in his will. Erica had
continued its success. For the most part. And she had a roof over her head—the
ancestral home. She had a sister she loved even if that sister resented her and
constantly made cracks about her weight. Yes, life was lovely.
Maybe that’s why she opened her mouth and said the stupidest
thing to date.
“Look, it sounds like you’re having a rough time. I can
drive you any place you want—”
any place to go.” Drew tossed a pair of
arms out to either side, slouching fully into the chair to the point that he
was in danger of falling out of it. “My mother canceled my credit. I have no
money of my own. I haven’t got a job, so that isn’t going to change anytime
soon. She won’t let me come home. She’s turned my friends against me.”
Which was worse, that he had no job and lived off his mother
or that his mother had turned her back on him? Given he looked as if he was in
his thirties, Erica wasn’t impressed by his inability to support himself.
However…things were different for the filthy rich, weren’t they?
Still, he had to have
who could help. “Do you
have any other family who could help?”
“My brother took off with his new girlfriend last week,” he
said. “And he’d laugh in my face if I asked for help. Plus I didn’t know my
father. Mother is all I have.”
fall for it
, she silently snapped.
But the nice part in her won out. “There’s a cot in the
storage room for when the weather is bad. You can stay there tonight if you
“A cot.” His derisive repetition made it clear what he
thought of her offer. And then he hit his head against the chair—a motion that
looked like some sort of penance rolled up in frustration. “Thanks. I’ll
probably need it.”
He looked truly pitiful—a hot blond dressed in seersucker
with nowhere to go.
Words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them.
“And if you need to stay longer…we can arrange some sort of work exchange.”
His attention focused on her, eyes narrowing as if to get a
better look at her expression. Erica maintained her steady gaze despite badly
wanting to fidget. “Thanks.”
It wasn’t an agreement but it also wasn’t a refusal. She
nodded for him. “I’m going to make a few calls about the Ferrari and then think
“Look, I can’t pay you for the work on the Ferrari so you
“I know you can’t now. But I’m betting you’ll be able to
soon.” Because someone who looked like he did wouldn’t experience poverty for
long. Besides, if he defaulted on the bill, she’d get a nicely charred Ferrari.
“Plus, this is like…a challenge for me. It’s like finishing a thousand-piece
puzzle. I’m excited about it.”