Title: DEBRIEFING THE DEAD
Author: Kerry Blaisdell
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
The only thing Hyacinth wants is her life back. Literally. She and her sister were murdered by Demons, leaving her young nephew, Geordi, to his father's family in the brutal Sicilian Mob. Then Archangel Michael offers her a deal: recapture a powerful rock the Demons stole, and she can live long enough to find Geordi a safe home. Refuse, and she'll continue up (or down) to the Afterlife.
So, slightly more alive than dead, she heads for Turkey and the Demons, taking Geordi, her mysterious neighbor Jason, and a sexy dead guy only she can see with her. But the hardest part won't be battling Demons, meeting Satan, or dodging Middle Eastern customs--it will be later, when Geordi is settled, and Michael rips her away again. How can she abandon her nephew? Or can she outwit the Angel of Death himself, and stay with Geordi forever?
When Nick had cleaned me out, he gestured with the gun and we all paraded back to the landing and down the stairs, me clutching the wrapped, jittery rock, Nick with wads of cash bulging out of his pockets, and Claude acting like we were out for a stroll in the park.
Of course, that’s when Jason decided to poke his head out. His gaze took in my split lip and the shiner I was sure blossomed between my eyes, then moved to Claude and Nick, grouped behind me like bodyguards. I don’t think he saw the gun, as Nick had it pressed into my back, but he suddenly drew back into the shadow of his doorway, looking a little stunned.
Surely, he’d guessed something was up. If my face wasn’t enough, I rarely have men up to my place, and never two at a time. For some reason, neither Jason nor the gun bothered Claude. He smiled casually at Jason and walked alongside Nick, neither helping nor hindering his quest to kidnap us.
Now that I had two badasses, instead of one, dragging me all over Marseille, there was no way we’d fit in the Peapod. In theory, it’s a four-seater, but in reality, the only person who fits in the back is Geordi, and at seven, even he’s getting too big. Luckily, Nick had a decent-sized BMW. Not as nice as the Maybach, but big enough for Claude to sit in the back while Nick drove one-handed, training the gun on me in the passenger seat. Mr. Macho.
Of course he’d popped for the leather interior. Besides not eating meat, I also don’t wear animals, or support making them into furniture. Nick’s coat was bad enough, but at least I wasn’t forced to touch it. Luckily, the trip was short, and I didn’t get too nauseous. Unluckily, no flics with lights flashing and sirens blaring magically appeared along the route, so either Jason didn’t get the message, or the cops didn’t believe him.
Which left me with…nothing.
I got out of Nick’s car, retrieving the rock from the floor, and Nick and Claude followed me into the shop. Jacques looked up when he heard the bell, his impassive black gaze immediately going to the canvas bundle clutched in my hands. As near as I could tell, the two drivers were in the exact same positions as when we’d left thirty minutes ago, but Lily and Geordi had moved, now huddling against the front of the counter, quiet if not calm. Relief washed over Lily’s face when she saw me, and Geordi sat up straighter, trying to be brave.
My heart broke to see them. Surely the Rousseaux could let us go—I hadn’t witnessed anything illegal and wouldn’t call the police if I had. But my limited knowledge of “evil” was that it annihilated first and asked questions, well, never.
“We found it,” Claude announced. “And something else.”
“Hi, honey, I’m home,” Nick growled, hot on Claude’s heels.
Apparently, he was stupider than I thought. He walked right into the shop, with no idea what the situation was, gun out, thinking he’d grab Lily and Geordi and go. Lily had other ideas. She took one look at him, screamed louder than the rock had, then grabbed Geordi and dove behind the counter.
Nick roared and dove after them as they scrambled toward the back of the store. Neither the Rousseaux nor their thugs seemed disturbed by any of this. Jacques walked to me and gently removed my burden. He shook the covering loose, careful not to touch the rock’s surface with his thin, elegant fingers, then exhaled sharply.
For my part, I felt a strange regret—an emptiness that the rock was no longer mine. I thought I heard it give a faint wail, as though it missed me.
Lily and Geordi rounded the counter, Nick close behind, and without looking up, Jacques murmured to no one in particular, “Tuez-les.”
The truck driver aimed and fired at Nick’s head, killing him instantly, his body dropping to the floor. Lily screamed and hid Geordi’s face, and I ran to them, shouting, “Go—out the back! Now!”
I pushed and shoved, herding them forward, knowing the driver must be taking aim again. If I could get them out the door, maybe they’d be safe. Lily wrenched the knob open—improbably, Jason was on the other side.
“Take him!” she shrieked, shoving a frantic Geordi into his arms.
Jason took one look at us and scooped Geordi up, then hauled ass down the alley and around the corner. Lily was out the door, me right behind, and still no other shots were fired.
We started to run, and I realized why we weren’t shot inside. There, it was crowded and dark. Out here, even in the waning light, we were sitting—or running—ducks.
We’d made it about halfway up the block when I finally heard the gun’s silencer go off. A bullet whizzed past my cheek and hit Lily’s leg. She started to fall, and another went into the back of her head. I screamed and then something hit my own back, between my shoulder blades.
I’d like to tell you what I felt or saw or thought in that instant, but I don’t remember much. I don’t think there was any pain, but I did know I was shot. I might even have seen the bullet exiting through my chest, but I could be imagining that part.
All I know is suddenly my legs didn’t work. They felt heavy and rubbery, and no matter how I focused, I couldn’t control them. My arms were next, then my vision dimmed. Then all thought started to drain away like liquid from a broken vessel. I crumpled to the ground but didn’t feel the impact. I lay there a moment, maybe two, while my heart pumped blood through arteries that could no longer contain it.
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Multi-award-winning Urban Fantasy, with a 4.32 average on Goodreads (50 ratings), and a 4.8 average on Amazon (38 reviews). This is the first book in The Dead Series, which InD’tale Magazine recommends for “fans of television shows like Supernatural or Constantine.”
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Kerry Blaisdell is the award-winning author of The Dead Series, including DEBRIEFING THE DEAD—2019 Royal Palm Literary Award for Best Published Fantasy, RONE Award for Best Long Paranormal, HOLT Medallion Literary Award for Best Paranormal & Best First Book, and Romance Writers of America RITA® Award finalist—and its sequel, WAKING THE DEAD, which InD’tale Magazine recommends for “fans of television shows like ‘Constantine’ or ‘Supernatural.'” She also writes award-winning Romantic Suspense and Historical Mystery. She has a Bachelor of Arts from UC Berkeley in Comparative Literature (French/Medieval English), and a Master’s in Teaching English and Advanced Mathematics from the University of Portland. Kerry lives in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest with her family, assorted cats and dogs, and more hot pepper plants than anyone could reasonably consume.
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