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Authors: Darynda Jones

Eighth Grave After Dark

BOOK: Eighth Grave After Dark
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Table of Contents

About the Author

Copyright Page

 

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For the Grimlets.

I am honored beyond measure that you

take the time to read my books,

post photos of coffee and half-naked men,

answer the many calls to arms,

and pimp the ever-lovin' heck outta

Charley and the gang.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 

Acknowledgments

Every book creates new challenges and opportunities, and each is a joy to write, but none of them would be what they are without the help of a few friends and colleagues along the way. I am forever grateful to the following radiant beings:

• Alexandra Machinist: for putting up with me!

• Jennifer Enderlin: also, for putting up with me! (No, really.)

• Josie Freedman: for the kind words and enthusiasm

• Eliani Torres: for not putting out a hit on me

• Everyone at St. Martin's Press: for being awesome

• Everyone at Macmillan Audio: for being amazing

• Lorelei King: for bringing my characters to life

• Dana Crawford: for what little sanity I have left

• Lacy Fair: for precious time saved

• Jowanna Kestner: for the giggles and the tears

• Theresa Rogers: for the incredible insight

• Robyn Peterman: for YOU! (and for my boyfriend Kurt)

• DD: for the underwear story:)

• Ashlee and Rhia: for allowing me to pillage your childhoods

• The Grimlets: for help with the you-know-what, especially,

• Patricia Dechant

• Jennifer Coffman Love

• Trayce Layne

• Wendy McCall Beck

• Laura Harrison Burleson

• Patricia Whitney: for the sign

• Netter and Kinter: for the light in my heart

• The Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys: for my reason to breathe

• The Readers: for the fact that you love to read as much as I do

THANK YOU SO VERY, VERY MUCH!!!

 

1

Sometimes I crave pickles.

Other times I crave the blood of my enemy.

Weird.

—CHARLEY DAVIDSON

There was a dead tax attorney in my closet, sobbing uncontrollably into the hem of her blouse. She'd been there a few days now. It made getting dressed in the morning awkward.

I would've avoided her altogether if I could, but it was my only closet. And it was microscopic. Tough to ignore chance encounters.

But I had to get ready for a wedding, and sobbing tax attorney or not, I had to get into that closet. I couldn't let my bestie down. Or my uncle, the man with whom my bestie was gracing her presence for as long as they both shall live.

Today was the big day. Their big day. The day they'd been waiting for since they first laid eyes on each other. It took some finagling, but I finally got them to admit their feelings for each other and commit, and I wasn't about to let a tax attorney ruin it. Unless, of course, she was there to audit me. I didn't think so, though. Usually the person crying at an audit was the client, not the tax attorney.

No more stalling. I braced myself and opened the door. She sat curled in a ball in the corner, crying like there was no tomorrow. Which, for her, there wasn't. A name tag she was wearing when she'd died read
SHEILA
with
TAX ATTORNEY
stamped underneath that. She must have been at some kind of convention when she died, but her cause of death was not immediately apparent. She looked disheveled, her chocolate-colored hair mussed, her tight bun askew on her head, but that could have happened when she was attacked. If she was attacked. Or it could have been the result of a few too many mojitos during the after party.

There was just no way of knowing her cause of death without talking to her, and God knew I'd tried to do that on several occasions. She wouldn't stop sobbing long enough for me to get a word in edgewise. I could've told her I could see her because I'd been born the grim reaper. I could've told her I'd help her find whoever did this. I could've told her she could cross through me whenever she was ready to see her family, those who had passed before her.

Most people who died went either north or south immediately following their deaths. But some stayed behind. Many had unfinished business of some kind, just like the ghosts and spirits in folktales, but some stayed behind because they'd died traumatically. Their energy grabbed hold of the earthly realm and didn't let go. They were anchored here, and until they healed, they would never cross to the other side.

That was where I came in. I helped the departed any way I could. I found their killers, righted their wrongs, sent messages to their loved ones, all so they could heal and cross to the other side, which they then did through me. Through my light. A light that was supposedly so brilliant, it could be seen by the departed from anywhere on earth.

But Sheila wasn't talking, so there was little I could do at the moment.

As carefully as I could, I pulled a cinnamon bridesmaid's dress through her quivering shoulders. “Sorry,” I said as I patted her dark hair. She released another loud wail of sorrow before I closed the door. Thankfully, it was a thick door.

“What?” I asked as I turned back to Artemis, a departed Rottweiler who'd been dubbed my guardian by the powers that be. And ever since a dozen testy hellhounds had tried to rip out my jugular, Artemis refused to leave my side.

She sat there, ears perked, head tilted in curiosity as she pawed at the closet door.

“I've tried talking to her.” I walked to a full-length mirror and held up the dress. “She only cries louder.”

I rubbed to soften the worry line between my brows. As far as bridesmaid's dresses went, this one wasn't the worst. It would've looked even better if I weren't the size of the Chrysler Building. I was currently incubating the girl who would save the world, according to prophecies, but that wasn't what had been worrying me that morning.

Being a matron of honor was just that, an honor, and part of my job was to make sure the bride showed up for her wedding. Cookie had yet to arrive. It was probably that third margarita she'd had last night. Or the ninth. That girl could knock 'em back. In her defense, she was drinking for two. Since I was pregtastic, I'd been restricted to sparkling grape juice. Didn't have quite the same effect, but it was fun watching my sister and BFF belt out show tunes while channeling Christopher Walken.

I dialed Cookie's number to make sure she was headed my way when a voice, deep and sultry, wafted toward me from the door of my bedroom. If that was Cook, she'd had way more to drink than I thought.

“Closing the door on a traumatized dead chick isn't your style,” the man said.

Artemis yelped and leapt toward the door, her stubby tail wagging with unmitigated joy.

I swirled to face my husband, the devastatingly handsome supernatural being who'd been forged in the fires of sin, created in hell by the very creature we were in hiding from. As far as we knew, Lucifer, Reyes's father, had sent the Twelve, the hounds of hell, the most vicious and bloodthirsty creatures ever to exist. And he sent them here to destroy us. Our only salvation was literally the land we stood on. The sacred ground that the Twelve couldn't traverse, as we were now living in a convent. An abandoned convent, but a convent—with the requisite sacred ground—nonetheless.

And we'd been here for months in an attempt to avoid being ripped to shreds by the hellhounds that patrolled the border. With help, our job had been to scour ancient texts and prophecies as we searched for a way to kill them. Only Reyes and I were at risk. We seemed to be the only ones the hellhounds wanted for breakfast. Everyone else could come and go as they pleased, which would go a long way toward explaining the lateness of the bride to prepare for her own wedding. We had hours yet, but I figured Cookie would've been at the convent at the butt crack of dawn, waking me up to do her hair. God only knew what would come of that.

Still, my immediate company was nothing to scoff at. His disheveled appearance every time he entered a room of late caused the blood in my veins to surge, the pulse at my throat to quicken.

He bent to pet Artemis. I watched as he gave her a final pat then indicate the Barbie closet with a nod and a gently arched brow. I followed his gaze. The closet had been made for a person with few worldly possessions, aka a nun. And though I was now living in the aforementioned convent, I was not a nun. Not by a long shot. Proof resided in the ever-expanding girth of my midsection.

His signature heat drifted toward me, blisteringly hot, a by-product of his being forged in the fires of hell, and I turned back to him. His hair, thick and unruly and in dire need of a trim, curled over his collar and around his ears. He still wore the button-down from last night. It hung open, revealing the wide expanse of chest he'd crossed his arms over. The cuffs of the shirt had been rolled up to his elbows, showing his sinuous forearms. Beneath them, a rock-hard waist tapered down to lean hips that rested comfortably against the doorjamb. He let me absorb every inch of him, knowing it gave me a thrill. Knowing he'd reap the benefits later.

After taking in his form, my attentions unhurried, languid, I slowly returned to his face. He'd let a small grin soften his mouth. His deep brown eyes sparkled beneath dark lashes that were spiked with the remnants of sleep. As though he'd just woken up. As though he had no idea how sexy that was.

Normally, I would've chalked up his appearance to the bachelor party they'd had for my uncle, but he'd looked like that for weeks now. Exhausted. Disheveled. Sexy as fuck. I could hardly complain, but I was beginning to worry about him. I noticed that he grew hotter when he was trying to heal from an injury, and his heat had been growing hotter by leaps and bounds lately, but he hadn't been injured in months. We'd both been stuck in the convent, on sacred ground, since I was about a month pregnant. That was almost eight months ago, and we hadn't been stabbed, shot, or run down with a runaway vehicle since. I'd have to keep a close eye on him. I did that anyway, so I'd have to keep a closer eye on him.

BOOK: Eighth Grave After Dark
4.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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