Authors: Liana Brooks
Tags: #romance, #humor, #romantic comedy, #science fiction romance, #scifi romance, #sfr, #superhero romance, #heroes and villains
Heroes and Villains, Book 3
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or
persons, living or dead, is entirely
Even Villains Have Interns
Copyright © 2015 Liana Brooks
Published by Breathless Press at
Cover Artist: Victoria Miller
Editor: Jayne Wolf
All rights reserved. No part of this book may
be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written
permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in reviews.
This is for the everyday heroes who save the
world one day at a time.
Just because Mom mentioned she liked Claude
Monet’s Grand Canal painting does not mean she wants a copy of it
for the house. I know it doesn’t mean she wants the original. And
telling me not to steal the piece while it’s on tour at the Art
Institute here in Chicago is not going to convince me to pick it up
in time for Christmas. Reverse psychology stopped working when I
In other news, you will be happy to learn
that Peter Manigault, as painted by Allen Ramsay, mysteriously
appeared at the Art Institute this weekend. The curator was very
surprised. Personally, I think his shock was more over the
two-dollar price tag left on the picture frame than the return of
the old painting. It’s possible I’m biased.
Delilah watched Ivan Petrovich step toward her
on the pier made ghostly by the nighttime gloom. “Don’t take it
personally, Miss Samson,” he said, broken nose still purple from
where she’d punched him a week before. “It’s not that we don’t like
“A lot,” his companion added. She’d never
learned his name. His file was marked ‘Snail’ because he was always
trailing the rest of the gang. “I’d get your autograph if you
A freezing wind whipped the dusting of snow at
her feet as Delilah smiled. “Take ‘em off, big boy. I bet we can
find a pen.”
Snail stared, confusion clouding his round
Ivan shook his head in frustration. “No. You
stay handcuffed, we stay alive. We’ve been over this.”
“This is overkill,” Delilah said as icy spray
from Lake Michigan bit her ankle. If they pushed her in the water
it would be merely waste disposal. With the arctic front that had
moved in, all they needed to do to kill her was to leave her
outside for another hour
“You’re asking the wrong kinds of questions.
Hanging with the wrong kind of people,” Ivan said. “I bet your
parents warned you about talking to strangers.”
“Not as such, no.” The shackles around her feet
were making life difficult. Ivan had welded them shut before she
woke from whatever drug they’d used to give her such a stupendous
headache. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to lose both her
feet tonight. Or her life. She glanced over her shoulder at the
water and tried to figure out if the heat from the broken shackles
would be tempered enough by the chill of the water to escape with
only third degree burns. Physics had never been her favorite
subject. “I really think this is a bad plan, boys. If we go through
with this, what will we have to do next time we meet? You’re
escalating the problem. All I want to know is what hit the street.
I hate being left out.”
Ivan grabbed the lapel of her woolen dress coat,
pushing her back so she balanced on her Miu Miu heels. “You should
have stayed out of it.”
“Don’t make me kill you, Ivan. You know what the
dry cleaners charge. We go to the same place. Mr. Way is not going
to be happy about this.”
“But the boss will be. Goodnight, sweetheart.”
He moved to kiss her and Delilah kicked back, pulling him down into
the water with her.
Cold wasn’t the right word. Cold was snowflakes,
or iced tea, or the look in her mother’s eyes when anyone mentioned
Colorado. Lake Michigan in mid-December was a crypt. Death circled,
numbing her to the bone. Water poured down her throat as she
reflexively gasped for air. Be a mutant freak. Try to save the
world. Die of drowning.
Heat burst around her as the shackles fell away.
Maybe three seconds had passed. The freezing water had numbed her
soul right out of her body. She could almost see herself in the
dark water, feebly trying to claw to the surface but sinking anyway
because her muscles couldn’t move.
Mom is never going to forgive me for
The murky darkness of the water became an
air-filled darkness bursting with pain. Cold limbs brought to
warmth and burning from the change of temperature. Freezing water
filled her mouth, her lungs... Air.
There was air! There was the sensation of
someone holding her close, and then her knees slammed onto
something too hard to be the muddy lake bottom.
Delilah choked, coughed, and vomited out
polluted water onto a moonlight-smeared wood floor that bobbed up
None of those words made sense. She made a
living out of being sensible, politically aware, and biting her
tongue. And yet the floor was bobbing at her. “Th-that’s n’ ri’.”
Her teeth chattered. So unbearably cold. Pain. Cold. Heat.
Darkness. Movement. She looked up at a shadow, searching for the
man it belonged to—but there was no man. No light. Only a shadow.
She forced her arms to hug herself for the relief it offered.
“I can get you a blanket,” the shadow said.
“’Es.” Hot tears burned her face. She was
Anger burst through the pain. Ivan was going to
regret this night for the rest of his foreshortened life. She’d
make sure of that.
Ivan. Snail. The mayor. In her mind she lined up
the rogue’s gallery. Dealing drugs out of rehab centers, now that
took a twisty kind of mind. The city tried to reduce street crime
by sending minor offenders to weekend rehabilitation instead of
jail, and what did those hoodlums go home with? A nice duffle bag
full of pamphlets, clean underwear, and dime bags of meth.
But something more was happening. The thriving
Chicago sub-economy had gone quiet in the past few weeks, like
birds before a storm. Or the jungle when an apex predator stalked
past. She thought she’d finally caught a break when Ivan and Snail
scheduled a meet down on West Wacker. All the evidence was on the
camera... The camera!
She struggled to stand and started stripping off
her wet clothes. If the camera was ruined...
Argh! Ivan you
idiot, why couldn’t you off me in the normal way?
operandi was leaving people “drunk” and stripped in one of the
parks. The cops logged it as a partygoer who’d wandered off and
been killed by Chicago’s infamous weather. It happened. It was a
shame. No crime though. Why’d he have to change his style now?
Because you’re a freak,
herself. The usual drugs didn’t affect her strange body
“Um...” The man’s voice was behind her. “I found
a towel if you want... Should I leave?” he asked as she threw her
shirt to the side and slid out of her pants.
Pocket. Fingers. Cold fingers never worked the
way she wanted. Why couldn’t the goons have been operating in
Miami? This was it. This was definitely going to be her last winter
in Chicago. In March she’d ask for the raise and a transfer to the
Subrosa Securities offices somewhere warm. The French Riviera
maybe. Or Spain. Or... somewhere. She wiggled out of her boots and
dug her fingers into the lining where she’d slid the ultra-thin
camera as soon as she’d realized someone was following her.
With shaking hands she patted it dry. There. Good.
Her teeth started chattering again.
A warm, scratchy blanket was laid over her
shoulders. Delilah looked down, saw a cord... followed the cord to
a little green light.
“Heating blanket,” the shadow said. He faded
into the corner. “I know you’re not a native, but we figure even
tourists should know better than to swim in Lake Michigan in the
middle of winter. That’s why it’s not posted on the docks next to
the prominent ‘Keep Out - Authorized Personnel Only’ signs.”
Delilah’s fist clenched around the camera.
“Th-thanks. Silly me.” She sucked in cool air. “Where are we?”
Good. Locations were good. “Yours?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
All right then. She nodded. “Phone?”
“I don’t keep one on me. Makes me feel like I’m
wearing a leash. It’s good to get away from the day job, don’t you
She gave him her best
perfected on her four siblings over the past two decades, and
staggered toward a wall. Walls meant doors. Doors meant halls.
Halls meant communications devices of some kind. Boats had phones,
or computers, or radios, something like that. Her sum knowledge of
boats was they were supposed to float, holes were bad, and boats
talked to other boats. Ergo, help and warm clothes were just down
the hall. And possibly up a flight of stairs.
“Where are you going?” the shadow asked.
“Help. Got to get help.” She huffed on her
cupped hands to keep them warm. There was a pop behind her as the
heating blanket came unplugged from the hall. How inconvenient.
The shadow bent down and plugged it back in.
“Sit down. I’ll go find a phone. And some clothes.”
A real gentleman would have offered his coat.
Not that her mysterious rescuer seemed to have one. If he was who
she was beginning to suspect he was, he didn’t need one. Ghosts
didn’t need anything to keep the chill off.
Delilah sat on a vinyl bench and looked at the
city skyline through a narrow rectangular window. Willis Tower was
lit up for the holidays, bright, festive, and a beacon of hope
north of her. So, 31st Street Harbor. Good. The cab could be here
in a matter of minutes. She leaned back.
“Got a problem here,” said the shadow as he
entered the room. “The clothes are a bit big and these shoes...” He
held up a pair of bright pink satin pumps in a lady’s size twenty.
Both her feet could have fit in one with room left over.
“Everyone needs a hobby.” The words came out
clearly between her chattering teeth. “Phone?”
“Nothing. I guess whoever comes here likes their
“Fine. I’ll walk. Give me the clothes.”
He held out a matching pink-sequined dress that
was too big, bright, and cheap to ever be in her wardrobe.
“And here I thought I’d have to join the circus
to wear something this tacky.” At least the sleeves were long. Too
long. Like an over-sized sweater made in the middle of a sequin
explosion. “Thanks for the lift. It was nice not seeing you. Enjoy
your evening.” She pulled the heating blanket’s plug deliberately
this time, folded the blanket neatly, and made a mental note to
send one of the interns down to the docks with a small remuneration
and the dress for the owner.
“Mind telling me what you were up to tonight?”
The shadow followed her down the creaky hall.
“Chasing bad guys, busting drug deals, getting
evidence. You know, do-gooder stuff.”
“You think you’re a superhero?”
“Nope. You are though, right? The
Spirit of Chicago, our city’s favorite son. I saw the news segment
you did in the graveyard last year. No record of birth, no name, no
physical body, although you’ve just demonstrated your ability to
lift things up, so I have to wonder how much of that was
The shadows where his face should have been
changed, shading to mimic the expression of a surprised man. “Says
the woman who impersonates Harry Houdini as a Christmas Party
trick.” He sighed. “What’s your name?”
The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern reference flew
right over his head. “On your Company file.”
“Locke.” She smiled sweetly over her shoulder.
“But I’m not listed as a superhero.”
“The villain?” He swore so softly she would have
missed it if she weren’t expecting it.
“What are you doing chasing drug dealers? Did
they cut you out of something?”
Delilah rolled her eyes. “No, I was chasing them
because you suck at your job. Your ability to catch actual
criminals is matched only by your ability to stop time and speed up
the harvest. You’ve never done anything but haunt people.” She
leaned against the rail. “Do you know what time it is?”