Home > Midlife Bounty Hunter (Forty Proof #1)(16)

Midlife Bounty Hunter (Forty Proof #1)(16)
Author: Shannon Mayer

“Damn.”

No harm in knocking. Right?

I lifted a hand and rapped my knuckles on the door. Nothing.

Not even the whisper of feet on the other side.

A whiff of something curled out from behind the boards, the smell of coal fire and a metallic tang. This was the place and they were playing shy.

Fine.

Fully not expecting them to answer unless I made a big enough scene, I kept on knocking and started talking. “Bob-John said to come see you. I’m working with Eammon at the Hollows Group, and I didn’t want that crap weaponry that was being offered at the . . .”

I didn’t know what to call it. Diagon Alley wannabe? A market? “That place with the idiot twins who think they know how to make weapons.”

Lame, I sounded lame, but there was a creaking sound, and the boarded-up door opened a crack.

A hand stretched out, and a super high-pitched voice whispered, “The card. And hush. Too much noise. Boss is sleeping.”

I flopped the card into the palm of a hand covered in the strangest skin I’d seen. Ever. Yellowy green and very fishlike in appearance, the skin had a hint of scales across the top of the knuckles.

The hand and arm disappeared and then the door creaked open a little farther, showing off a pair of eyes that glowed in the shadows. Eyes that matched the yellow-green skin. “You alone?”

“I have a big bad wolf waiting for me, but he’s not here right now,” I drawled, and the eyes narrowed. I smiled. I needed a weapon, and I was going to get one.

One way or another.

10

The door—if the boarded-up plywood could be called that—to 66 Factors Row was peeled back and I took my fancy new flashlight out of my bag. A girl cannot be too prepared, and after the previous night, I was not taking any chances. I flicked the light on and stepped into the shadows of the dark room.

“You are who?” that whispering voice asked.

“Breena O’Rylee.”

Another low grumbled question. “Daughter or granddaughter?”

I took a quick guess that this person knew Gran, which meant I was in the right place at the very least. “Granddaughter.”

“Ah. Right, daughter dead.”

My guts clenched, thinking for a moment it might be a threat, but no, whoever this was seemed to have a thing for pointing out the obvious. “So, are you the Smiths? You make weapons?”

“Ah, yes, he makes lots of weapons. Comes with me.” There was a clicking sound, maybe those long fingers snapping at me. I swung the flashlight around and got a glimpse into the darkness. There wasn’t much to see, just more shadows, boxes, shapes that weren’t really anything.

I followed the narrow-framed, fishlike person, who led me deeper into the room. I did a quick look behind me and could still see the door, so there was no—oof. I bumped into the body in front of me.

“Sorry.”

“Clumsy,” the voice grumbled. I couldn’t decide if it was male or female. Though I guess it didn’t matter. What mattered was getting a weapon so I could do my training.

Another click like a snapping of fingers, and four huge urns lit up, flames rolling out of the top of them. And yes, I meant urns when I said urns. They were all black, and I could just make out some sort of inscription on them that looked like birth and death dates. A faint smell of burning hair filled the air, making my nose crinkle and my skin crawl.

I could only too easily imagine what the flames were being fueled with. I grimaced. Then I took a good look at the rest of the room. There were weapons on all the walls, from the smallest of daggers to swords that had to be eight feet long, arrows, bows, axes, and a flail that was pinned high to the wall with a sign that said, “Do not touch, will eat your soul.” Comforting, that one. I would be sure to pick something else.

The figure in front of me slowly stood upright and faced me. I bit down on the inside of my cheek to keep from letting out a squawk. The face was kind of human, but there was a reptilian nature to it with tiny scales across the super high cheekbones, and the eyes still glowed somewhat in the light. “I sell for my boss.”

“You mean you didn’t make these?”

Fish shook his head (I was going with him for now). “No, boss sleeps during day, makes weapons at night.”

“Night owl, huh.” I dragged my eyes away from Fish and looked around the room. “How much for a dagger?”

“Which one?”

I didn’t think it wise to tell my newfound friend that I wanted the cheapest weapon they had. I pointed to a small dagger on the wall that had a bright turquoise handle. It reminded me a little of the colors on the death card, which seemed fitting. “How about that one?”

“Five thousand dollars.”

I blew out a sharp breath. “I have . . .” I peeled out the last of the cash I’d brought, or at least most of it. I needed room to negotiate. “I have five hundred and sixty dollars.”

The reaction was immediate. And rather unpleasant.

“You get out! You cheap whore!” Fish shoved at me with those long fingers, and I shoved him right back, making him stumble.

“Hey! I am not a whore and it’s rude to speak to a customer that way, Fish lips!” I yelled.

Fish gaped at me. “You hit me!”

I put my hands on my hips. “I pushed you, you liar. And you started it!” I pointed a finger at him. “I came here to get a weapon, and I’m not leaving without one.”

Fish’s eyes drifted just above my head, widening. “You go ahead and talk to boss then. Boss kick you out if you won’t go.” Muttering under his breath commenced that sounded like “cheap whore” again.

I turned around and found myself looking at a rather wide chest, and when I looked down, the wide chest dipped to a narrow waist wrapped in a sheet. A barely there white sheet.

Eyes up, Breena, eyes up!

I forced my eyes upward much as they wanted to linger on those perfectly sculpted abs.

The boss, whatever his name was, looked down at me, the exhaustion on his face doing little to disguise the irritation there, or the sharply handsome features. His hair was so black that the light gave it little colored highlights. Blue eyes flecked with gold stared down at me. “What the hell is all this noise about?”

“She is cheap whore,” Fish said. I spun around.

“Listen here, you knock it off or I’ll turn you into sushi!” I snapped the words, using my best imitation of my grandmother.

The boss blew out a breath behind me. “I’m not getting any sleep until you leave. What is your budget?”

I swallowed hard. “Low.”

“How low?”

I fanned out what remained of my money. “That’s it.”

He frowned and seemed to wake up a little more, and I looked down at my graveyard dirt-stained capris, and the shirt I’d pulled on that morning that had a few holes along the bottom hem. “You look like a tourist who got lost. How did you find this place?”

“BJ.” I smiled and then frowned. “What is that place with all the vendors called?”

“Death Row,” the boss said. “You were on Death Row and you didn’t get a weapon there? Why not?” His frown eased off his face and I found myself staring hard at him. It was hard not to look, given his beautifully formed features and body. No one should be allowed to be that perfect.

Which only made me think of just how soft I was, so very imperfect. I pulled my head out of the mental beating I was giving myself and propped a hand on one hip.

“You mean besides the fact that the twins are about as charming as a pair of turds doing a tango? Their metal looked thin, and when I touched it . . . I didn’t like it. There were small hairline cracks in everything. I don’t want something that’s going to break the first time I use it.” I shrugged. Look at me go, throwing twenty-plus years of being normal out the window. If it feels off, listen to your gut, Gran had told me time and time again. And for the first time in twenty-some-odd years, I was doing just that.

I’d felt that warning the first time I’d held Himself skin to skin, and I should have listened then too.

The boss rubbed his face again. Big hands, my mind whispered. Bet he’s good with them.

Yeah, so again, that libido thing? Totally out of control. I mean, not like anything was going to happen. I knew my place on the hotness charts, and he was well out of my category.

Those strange blue and gold eyes closed, and he drew a slow breath. Almost as if he was smelling me. Which was quite possible in the shadow world. “Feish,” he said gently, “go get some tea ready. I can see this is not going to happen quickly, and I’d like to get some sleep today.”

He walked to his workstation.

There was an anvil blackened with usage that had to be at least several hundred pounds, four kinds of hammers of varying sizes, chunks of metal in various stages of being made, and a thick table behind it all which was where he pulled up a chair and sat. With a quick gesture, he pointed to another chair, then pulled a thick apron of leather off the table, leaving it bare. “You’re new to our world, then? The Hollows Group is bringing you in?”

I shook my head as I sat on the hardbacked chair. “Yes and no. My grandmother raised me believing and seeing. I left for twenty-plus years, and now I’m back. But also, yes, I’m with the Hollows Group.”

I’d given up thinking I was crazy. I mean, hell, maybe I was crazy, maybe this was some strange side effect of early menopause, and I was really just walking around the streets mumbling to myself, but I didn’t think so. Menopause might have physical side effects—like the libido issue—but the rest was just a woman who’d given up trying to please everyone.

And the world didn’t know what to do with a woman who’d run out of ducks to give.

I was that woman. I held out one hand. “Breena.”

He eyed me up and down once and didn’t give me his hand. “Crash.”

I grinned, thinking it was a nickname. “Clutzy much?”

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