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When I meet my fated mate, it's kill or be killed... They say it’s time for me to fulfill my destiny, to take my rightful place as alpha. But I never knew of the Thorncreek pack’s existence—or my ties to them—until the day they came to claim me.
I agree to journey with them to their territory in the Alaskan wilds, but refuse to trust them. That goes double for the handsome male who’s been leading in my absence.
My body wants him, but my head knows he’ll stop at nothing to keep his position of power. Soon the stirrings in my heart suggest he’s my fated mate, but even that can’t stop what’s coming.
One of us will die, and the other will rule.
I refuse to end up on either side of that bargain.
Can I somehow find a way to both claim my destiny and to change it?
“What’s the deal?” I asked, ducking under the crime scene tape. “Our shift was almost over, shouldn’t this one go to the next shift?”
It was way too late in the day for me to be dragging my corpse across town for a new case. People always marveled about vampire looks, but it required a very strict regimen of beauty sleep. That and blood, which I sipped generously from my travel mug. The other detectives knew what was in it, but thankfully, for all of us, they just pretended that I was also one of the slaves to the Coffee Empire.
“Sorry, Red,” a bespectacled man in a shirt and tie said, flipping through some pages on his clipboard. “But time zone issues aside, this one has your name all over it.”
I saw a few techs roll their eyes. Bureaucrat zombies like Mitchell here were the worst. Their humor stank as much as they did on a hot day. But their lack of comedy wasn’t the main reason they were the crime scene officials, no that single mindedness you saw in monster movies of a zombie shambling forward for brains was quite on the nose. Although not always brains. Mitchell for example would go for days sifting through evidence for a mismatched fiber or a discolored piece of cloth in a junkyard of crashed cars. He would find every scrap of material we needed for trial and that was to be commended. And so his jokes could be humored.
Mal popped up on my right, her golden eyes shining. She probably got here before me and had sniffed out her witnesses. I loved my partner dearly, but morning people were worse than garlic.
“Heya, Red,” she said, popping a toothpick into her mouth. “Body was discovered by the paperboy. Poor kid. Got some memory fairies working on convincing him it was all an elaborate Halloween display.”
“He see anything useful?” I asked, taking another sip from my mug. To be quite frank, I didn’t care what the kid saw, there was no way I’d be awake for another hour much less long enough to fill out paperwork. But it helped Mal for me to go through the motions. After all, she’d have to handle this until sundown tonight.
“No, just tripped over a leg. The vic’s not his own,” Mal added quickly. “He got a mouthful of kneecap and in that instance, we don’t know who’s it was.”
The techs giggled. Mal had that effect on the boys. She was perky, flirty and quite the looker. That is, unless you caught her during her menses. Then you’d better be careful or she’d quite literally rip your head off. Werewolves were like that.
“But,” she continued, throwing a wink at the techs. “It looks like the body was chopped up like our other three victims. Semi-blunt force trauma shows that it’s most likely the same dull axe used on all of them. And get this, she might not look it from the state of her, but she’s a blue-hair.”
Blue-hair. An old witch. In the old stories, they’d had to resort to calling them little old ladies or grandmothers. Witches had become taboo. But for those of us still on the front lines, blue-hair murders were especially heinous. Most of them had survived previous witch hunts and were vast repositories of magical knowledge and know-how.
“We got an ID on her?” I asked, taking a moment to drain the last dregs of my mug. Blegh. Cold. “Or are we looking at another Oof Gum?”
“Oh, we’ve got an ID, Red,” Mitchell said, producing a small plastic card from an evidence bag.
“Broomhilda?” I said, reading the name off the guild card.
“Yeah,” Mal said, bouncing on her toes like she was about to run down the lead right that second. “She’s an actual, guild card carrying witch. He’s escalating his victims, just like the Oracle said.”
The Woodcutter. That’s what our press had been calling him. I hated when they gave these guys names. It just added to their ego, fed into some sick thrill ride they were on. I’d rather call him dead on arrival to the jail, but I had to keep my fangs holstered around the big cases. Even if all of New Atlanta would be better off without another grim reaper out there.
Mitchell flipped through more paperwork. On that clipboard was a note of every single object and anomaly found on scene. “The problem,” he said absently, “is that Broomhilda’s keycard to enter the guild hall was not found on the scene. The only probable conclusion is that our suspect has it.”
“Which means,” Mal said, taking over, “that the Woodcutter now has access to a whole bevy of blue-hairs to choose his next victim from.”
“Well,” I sighed, putting my travel mug in my purse and fishing out my sunglasses. “I guess it’s off to Grandmother’s House we go.”
It was going to be a long morning.