I'd slept until noon but didn't feel rested. All my worries about the increase in supernatural activity in the area, losing my house, trying to find the Book of Flesh and Bone, and my dream of Rick drained me to the point of exhaustion. After a quick shower, I pulled on my most comfortable jeans and a warm fleece my dad had brought me back from a visit to Canada. I jogged down to Rick's cottage with wild hair and not a stitch of makeup on my face.


Knocking twice, I let myself in again. The Tesla was still gone, my note still on the counter. Where was he? My phone rang and I pulled it from my pocket. "Rick?"

"Rick? You told me he doesn't even have a phone."

"Michelle! Hi. No, he doesn't have a phone, just wishful thinking."

"Then why did you think he was calling?"

"Rick's been on my mind. We had a fight and then he disappeared. I haven't seen him in over a week."


I exhaled. "I'm sure he'll be back soon. Where could he have gone?" I laughed nervously.

"How bad of a fight did you have?"

"I said I wished I'd never met him."

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"Jesus, Grateful, what brought that on?"

"Nothing I feel comfortable telling you over the phone."

"Well, that's okay because you can tell me tonight at Logan's party."

That's right. Tonight was Logan's welcome back party at Valentine's. I'd practically insisted Michelle go and I'd promised Logan I'd be there. Logan. Fuck. This was going to be our last hoorah. After tonight, I wouldn't see him regularly anymore, now that he was out of my attic for good and done with physical therapy. He'd want to know for sure what we meant to each other, and deep inside I knew he wasn't hoping for 'just friends.' But I'd committed to Rick and that was all I had to offer.

"What are you wearing?" I asked.

"Why, are you a creeper?"

"No! Tonight. What are you wearing tonight?"

"Strappy black dress and strappier heels, baby."

I pictured my voluptuous friend in that getup and smiled. She'd be lucky if her husband, Manny, let her out of the house.

"I think I'll wear my green sweater dress."

"The turtleneck?" The scowl was evident in her voice.

"It's classy."

"If you're seventy."

"You just want me to dress sexy for your entertainment."

"Why else would I be going? Gotta live vicariously through my single girlfriend."

Only I wasn't single, was I? I left Rick's empty house and started the short walk home. A snowflake landed on my eyelash and was followed by a crowd of fluffy white friends that circled me as I crossed the bridge. "I'll meet you there at seven."

"Are you really wearing the sweater dress?"

"Yes. Non-negotiable."

She sighed. "All right. See you at seven."

My phone rang for the twenty-fourth time that day, and for the twenty-fourth time, I did not answer it. My father's picture displayed on the screen. I wasn't ready to talk to him. I had, however, taken the time to photoshop a mustache, beard, and horns onto his photo icon. So, for the twenty-fourth time that day, I chuckled at my sophomoric behavior. Hey, whatever worked.

"You look like you're going to a funeral," Poe said from the top of my dresser.

"Actually, I wore this to my great aunt's funeral." The hunter green dress had long sleeves and a turtleneck with buttons that ran from the top of my neck on a diagonal to my armpit. The material was cableknit wool and the length stretched to my knees.

"What a sensible choice. I'm sure you will be...warm."

I pulled my straightened hair back with both hands, working it into a ponytail, then wrapping the end into a bun. "I don't want to lead anyone on."

"Ohhh," Poe said. "You're afraid if your skirt is short your willpower will be too."

No denying it. I nodded.

"I thought you and Logan were just friends."

"We are."

"Then why the modern chastity belt?"

"It's hard to explain."


I smoothed the last strands of my hair back and turned toward my familiar. "Can you do me a big favor tonight?"

"That depends. Does it involve watching you awkwardly avoid your 'friend' for fear even the funeral dress won't ward off the hormones?"

I flipped him the finger. "No. I need you to look for Rick while you're out hunting."

"Look where? We've already looked everywhere. We've been looking all week!" Poe protested.

"Come on, Poe! You've got a freakin' birds eye view. Look around and try to find him. He's been gone too long. I'm worried. I'm even having dreams about him."

Poe stopped. "What kind of dreams?"

"None of your business."

"Your connection runs deep. Maybe he was sending you a message."

I spread my hands. "He said to trust him."

"Well, there you go."

"You're not getting out of this, Poe. I need to know he's okay."

"All right, all right. I'll search for him."

"Thank you."

I retrieved my black leather bag from beside the dresser and patted the top of my shoulder. "I'll give you a ride to the door." He jumped up to perch over the buttons of my dress.

"Are you sure you want to go to this party?" Poe asked.

"Of course. Why?"

"You only have mascara on one eye."

Thirty minutes later, fully mascaraed yet sufficiently frumpy, I arrived at Valentine's. A large sign on the door said the restaurant was closed to the public to accommodate a private party and judging by the packed parking lot and the thumping bass spilling out into the night, one hell of a party it was. I entered and fought the crowd to the bar. I recognized some of the faces from the hospital and yelled a curt "hello" over the music to be polite. Michelle was right where she said she'd be, getting up close and personal with an Appletini.

"Thanks for coming. You look great!" I said, giving her a quick hug.

She returned my embrace. "You're late. You missed the speech by the staff welcoming Logan back. And OMG you actually wore that dress. You look like a librarian." A slight slur in the middle of 'librarian' told me the Appletini wasn't Michelle's first drink.


"Never mind. Pull up a seat and tell me all your troubles. The last time I talked to you, you sounded like hell."

The bar stools on either side of her were taken, but that didn't stop Michelle. She jostled the arm of a vertically challenged redhead on her left who was quietly staring into his beer. He seemed shy and somewhat nerdy in green pants and a gold vest.

"Hey, the lady needs your seat," Michelle demanded.

I pulled her arm back gently. "No, Michelle, I'll stand, really."

"Oh, okay, sorry," the man said nervously. When he jumped down, I noticed he was barely taller than the stool. Nice. We'd just ousted a little person, minding his own business, from his seat at the bar and relegated him to the crowd where he'd likely never be able to get the bartender's attention. When he flipped a tip up to the bartender, my heart sank.

"Wait, sir, you don't have to go." I grabbed his shoulder. A shock wave traveled up my arm, and I released him like a hot rock.

He widened his eyes at me, then disappeared into the crowd. Shit. What was that?

"That was weird," Michelle said. "Maybe the dress scared him away. Well, never mind it all, Dustin here will take care of you."

I pursed my lips and plopped down on the empty stool. The bartender came over to request my drink order, and I realized it was Dustin Lynch, Logan's assistant manager. I guess now that Logan was managing Valentine's he was bartending. "Oh, hey Dustin. Red wine, STAT."

He gave me a nod and a tight smile and reached for the bottle.

"So, why were you all flipped out this morning?" Michelle asked, face weaving toward me.

I suspected she was too far gone to understand, but I told her everything, from Rick's involvement in Gary's turning to Nekomata's purchase of my house. With the music as loud as it was, I doubted anyone could hear as I stage-whispered into her ear, but still, to be safe, I used code words for the supernatural parts, such as saying Gary's change rather than the word vampire. Michelle seemed to get the gist anyway.

"And now Rick's missing?"



"I know, right?"

"What are you going to do about your house?"

I shrugged. "It's already sold, Michelle. What can I do?"

She lowered her chin and raised an eyebrow. "You can do a lot of things. You wrote the book on magical ways of getting things done."

"Yep. And I'll be consulting that book first thing Monday morning, but first I need to get my head around why all this is happening. This buyer won't be the last if I don't figure out why my house has been targeted."

"You don't think it's the prime location?" Michelle asked, obviously referring to the property's placement next to a hellmouth.

"That would be too easy. I think it's more than that, unfortunately."

A hand clamped down on my shoulder, and I turned my head to see Logan standing close behind me, a wide, tipsy grin coloring his face. "What's unfortunate?"

His green eyes pierced into me, set off by the sharp charcoal shirt he wore. "Someone bought my house," I said.

Logan's face fell, sobering. "What about the attic?"

I searched the crowd of strangers pressing in around us. "What about it?" I laughed.

He slid his hand down my arm and found my fingers. "Can I talk to you in my office for a moment?"

He didn't wait for me to say yes. With a yank, he pulled me from my barstool. I swung an arm out with Ninja-like precision and hooked my wine glass with my palm before following him through the crowd. Halfway to his office, a familiar face jutted between us. I put on the brakes, forcing Logan to stop.

"Grateful! Great to see you out and about." Detective Silas Flynn slapped me on the shoulder. "I take it this is a social visit?"

"Uh, yeah. Totally social tonight, Silas."

"Good, because I have the night off." He reached into the crowd and a golden brown hand emerged, followed by the unforgettable presence of a fairy we both knew.

"Soleil." I smiled, and she hugged me hello. "So you two are dating, huh?"

She glanced at the floor and a slight golden glow heated the air around her. "What can I say? He gives me the moon."

Silas turned toward her, and his pupils dilated to the size of plates. Wow. There were some serious feelings going on there.

"And you give me the sun, darling."

Next to me, Logan cleared his throat.

"Oh, ah, these are my friends, Silas and Soleil," I stated awkwardly. "This is Logan." Logan extended his hand to greet the two.

"The guest of honor! Of course we know Logan," Silas said.

"Good to see you again Detective Flynn," Logan said. "And nice to meet you, Soleil."

"You know each other?" I asked, raising my eyebrows at Silas.

"I covered a break in at Valentine's a few weeks ago."

"Oh." I nodded a few times, wondering why Silas would have gotten involved, unless they suspected a supernatural. It was the wrong time and place to ask.

Silas fixated on our coupled hands. "How do you know Logan?"

"He's my, er, friend. We're just friends...who need to talk." The awkward aftermath was my cue to move things along. I said my goodbyes and followed Logan into a small room near the back housing a desk laden with stacks of paperwork. He closed the door behind us, and I smoothed my green dress.

"You look beautiful," Logan said, eyeing me from head to toe. "The green brings out your eyes."

"Thank you," I said. Maybe I should have worn pants.

"Now what's this about your house?"

I told him and my theory that it had something to do with the Book of Flesh and Bone. "Have you seen your mom again?" I asked.

"No, just that one time. But..."

"But what?"

"I've been having these dreams."

"What kind of dreams?" Deja vu. If he said he'd had a sex dream about Rick, I was going to scream.

"There's this woman. I never see her face because she's always in the shadows. She says if I help her find what she's looking for, she'll reward me."

My eyebrows eased down my forehead and squinched over my nose. "What does she want you to find?"

"That's just it. I never find out. The woman motions for me to approach, like she's going to whisper something in my ear, and before I can get close enough to hear her, my mother pops up."

"Your mother? Your dead mother?"

"Yeah. She pops up between me and this woman, just like in my living room, and tells me to find you."

"Wait. You're mother is sending you messages in your dreams to find me?"


"So what does she say you're supposed to do when you find me?"

"She doesn't. But I have a theory."

This was too much to take sober. I held up one finger and gulped down my wine. The Cabernet tasted bitter, like maybe the cork went bad before they opened the bottle, but I was so desperate for numbing I finished it anyway. When I lowered my glass, Logan was standing directly in front of me.

He locked eyes with me, lifted the empty glass from my hand, and lowered it to the desk. "I think the hooded woman represents every relationship I've ever had. Sensual but faceless, promising but meaningless, and my mom is telling me to find what's real. She wants me to find you."

"I don't think that's what it means, Logan. I can't be with you. I'm, ah, I'm-"

His face was so close, and the wine was rushing to my head. Something else, I was woozy. His eyes seemed to twinkle in a cartoony way, and light played in his hair, tiny dancing bears of white light. Shit! I was tripping. There was something more than wine in that drink. What the hell?

"Theresomethinsflibbitygibbit." I was not making any sense. The floor bent up to say hello and I steadied myself on the first thing I could reach, which happened to be his hips. He took that as encouragement and pressed into me, his spicy cologne seeming to waft through me in my altered state.

And then he was kissing me, a human kiss that was nothing at all like the ones we'd shared when he was a ghost. Even in my altered state I couldn't deny the heat. His lips met mine, soft and warm. He pressed me into the wall, his body enveloping me as his tongue invaded my mouth. I didn't so much return the kiss as absorb it.

I felt like I'd gone down the rabbit hole. One moment I was kissing Logan, and the next Rick's face was in front of me. Wait. That was Rick. And he was pissed. He held Logan off me with one hand and held me up with the other. He looked at me with vile contempt.

"Grateful," he said. Wait. What happened to mi cielo? "I always knew I loved you more, but I never thought you were cruel. Why did you send Poe to find me? Did you want me to see this?"

"No." I fumbled forward. My hand trailed through the air in front of me. "Mishtake," I slurred.

But he wasn't looking at me. Instead, he was fending off Logan who was getting all, 'back off buddy' in Rick's face. I stumbled to the desk, unable to process what he was saying.

"We love each other. We have something," Logan said.

Who was he talking about? I didn't love Logan. Sure, I'd been attracted to him and we shared a deep friendship, but love? I needed to explain.

I turned toward Rick but he was gone. Logan was on his ass on the floor and the door to the office was hanging off its hinges. I stumbled back out into the crowd, calling for Rick.

"Top of the evening to ya," the shy redheaded guy said to me, blocking my path. "Hope you're enjoying the little something extra in your drink." He grinned wickedly. I noticed he had a number of gold teeth. He leaned in closer. "Nobody steals a leprechaun's seat at the bar. Not even you, Hecate. See you soon." He spit on my shoes, and blended away into the blob of colors I recognized as the crowd.

See you soon? Not if I saw him first. I swam toward the door, hoping I could catch up with Rick. How long did it take me? I have no idea. Time was doing weird things just as the walls were buckling in on me. Somehow, I spilled out into the parking lot, thankful for the deep breath of cold air that filled my lungs.

A broad fist connected with the side of my face. OW! I tried to retaliate but my arms wouldn't work. BAM! A foot slammed into my ribs. Then the concrete bent up to give me a kiss. Oh, how sweet. Ouch, my head. That's all right, I decided. I could sleep right here on the pavement.

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