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Excerpt for Diamond Cold by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


www.evernightpublishing.com




Copyright© 2018 Serenity Snow



ISBN: 978-1-77339-820-4


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: CA Clauson



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. 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 a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.






DEDICATION


K, real friends are hard to find, thank you for being one of mine.



DIAMOND COLD


Fairy Mafia, 2


Serenity Snow


Copyright © 2018


Prologue


January 2018

Jorja McMasters unbuttoned her suit jacket as she took her seat at a table in the small café style dining spot inside the infamous Red Hat. The whorehouse was owned by Simona Mino.

The décor was stylish with a casual air—cloths on the tables, candles lit in small globes between what could have been figures of Bacchus. But the room that was normally buzzing with men and women looking for sex was empty.

Outside the door stood two guards, neither of them hers as she didn’t travel with either of the two members of her personal security unless necessary. However, she would have one of them watching her back at all times from now on.

“When Kinsey said you’d agreed to meet with me, I was surprised,” Simona murmured as she surveyed Jorja carefully. “But I’m encouraged, considering the circumstances.”

“Which are?” Jorja asked calmly. She knew very well why Simona had asked for the meeting and it wasn’t to bring her into her family as an underboss.

“I’m not ignorant of your activities and proclivities,” she said carefully. “I’ve watched. In fact, all six of the families in the area have been watching, including the head of the hound syndicate.”

“And?” None of the heads of the crime families had gone after her despite her family’s singular rise to the top of the jewelry world for one reason only and she knew it.

“You’ve done no harm to any of us,” Simona confirmed. “You’ve kept your dealings private and confined to your particular racket, which suits us all just fine, but the fact you’ve recently had ill dealings with Teak Simms has made us all think you have to be dealt with.”

“Dealt with?” she asked carefully.

“We see a disturbing pattern of growth in your organization that we can’t ignore, especially since your interactions with the Simms’s family will have a ripple effect.”

“Is that so?” Jorja asked coolly.

“We have been tracking you for the last three years,” Simona said evenly as she reached for her glass of wine. “The Montgomery family was based in New Orleans, though they had two stores here and were growing. They were, in fact, on track to outstrip your family, especially with their diamond smuggling enterprises.”

The family hadn’t just smuggled diamonds. They’d been big players in the world of magical artifact smuggling as well. They’d owned a small mine in Africa where they did a lot of business with other jewel dealers.

“And?” Jorja pressed. The Montgomery family had been undines or sirens and sprites like Simms.

“Word on the streets is you wiped out the family here and in New Orleans with a little hired muscle and all of their trade is now yours.”

The corners of Jorja’s mouth tilted up a little. “I thought you had more class than to deal in supposition and gossip,” Jorja said with a hint of humor.

Simona laughed merrily. “Silence is golden because you never know who’s listening,” she said. “But this is just between you and me. The other families in the Mino organization are curious about an unanchored player playing in our pool. Or if you prefer, an unofficial player.”

“So, you’re the spokeswoman?” She’d taken over the jewel trade running through the city because the Montgomery family had been aiming to take over her family’s business. Jorja hadn’t been willing to allow that.

As a result, she’d annihilated the Montgomery family. After that, Jorja had taken over their illegal and legal businesses. However, her family’s business was still her best way of laundering the money she made from her illegal ventures.

“As I said, your dealings with the Simms family are about to create a possible problem, as is your connection with the hound’s daughter.”

“Can we get to the point?”

Simona inclined her head. “Ridley Simms’s son is connected with the bears, which has been a help to his father’s career, and he’s going to be looking for revenge. Also, Teak Simms’s cousin, Teal, was part of the Montgomery family and has brought the rest of the undines in the city under his control including the Watertight Clan.”

“Interesting bits of information.”

“Not only that, the bears and hounds are locked in a war and if you’re brought into the mix we see another uncontrolled turf war breaking out between you and the bears,” Simona told her. “If you go after Simms for coming after you, then the bears will back him.”

“I’ll deal,” Jorja retorted. She knew a good deal about the Bearenstien family, but she would learn more. She also knew a fair amount about Teal Simms, as he was her main competition in the smuggling and artifacts world.

“I don’t doubt it, but they can be as vicious as you are, and we don’t want a war on our streets,” Simona told her. “Most of all we don’t want an independent waging war because that could rebound on us. So, we’re offering you a choice.”

“Which is?”

“Declare you are in the game and abide by my family’s rules or continue to play solo. If you choose option B, we’ll take you down if we even suspect you of doing business in our city.”

“This is where I agree or close up shop?” Jorja asked casually and glanced to the bottle of Johnny Walker Blue and the glass next to it. “May I?”

“Help yourself.” Simona motioned with her well-manicured hand.

Jorja reached for them and poured herself a finger and took a sip. She grimaced as it burned its way down. God, that was good.

With the pad of her thumb, she wiped her mouth before saying, “I’m no one’s patsy, and you should know that by now, Miss Simona.”

“But now you have a woman to consider. Under the terms of agreement with us, innocents are always off limits.”

Jorja tightened her grip on the glass. Her family was all she had. The woman she watched in the Playgirl was slowly stealing her heart, but there was certainty she would make any moves on her yet.

“Fuck with me, and I’ll break you. Go after my family, and I’ll bury you in a cold dark hole so deep in the ground Kinsey won’t be able to sniff you out,” Jorja told her in a cold calm tone. “That goes double for everyone else, and I’ll give you all the same courtesy you’ll give me.”

“Which is?”

“I’ll let you watch your loved ones die first, so you’ll have time to see me coming for you.”

Simona shrugged. “Right now, you’re alone, and your family is unprotected. It wouldn’t take much for us to pick them off one at a time and leave you for the bears.”

Jorja gave her a little smile and took another sip of her Johnny Walker. “You’d be a fool to bet on it, Simona.”

Simona was a goblin, a warrior breed just like Jorja, but her family had never achieved the status Jorja’s had. As protector of the Unseelie king, Jorja’s family had risen to notoriety for strength, honor, and cunning. However, the warriors had always been savagely ruthless.

“Your answer?” Simona asked in a hard tone, eyes glittering like diamonds.

Jorja downed the last of her drink and glanced at the bottle. “That’s good Scotch whisky,” she said, appreciation in her tone.

“Only the best.”

“I’ll make no agreements without terms,” Jorja told her, having learned from her mentor years ago that every possible base that could be covered should be in order to avoid misunderstandings later.

Simona gave her a nod. “Number one, all innocents are off limits. Some families believe in exterminating an enemy’s entire bloodline, but I don’t. Do as you please on that score, but no children.”

“Agreed.” For now. Children grew up to be adults that sometimes became a hell of a problem.

“You don’t have to join my family or even ally with me, but as a member of the underworld of this city, you must accept or refuse all terms in person to minimize problems later down the line.”

Jorja listened to the rest of the terms, already formulating her own ideas on how to handle each of the families. She’d made it her business from the day she took out the Montgomery family to know who all the players were in the dark world of the mafia.

She knew she’d have to kill or deal with them once it became known she wasn’t just another businesswoman.

“I haven’t heard anything I can’t live with,” Jorja said when Simona finished ten minutes later.

“Another thing, Jorja. I want an alliance with you. I know your work, and I know your honor code,” Simona said.

Her work as a mob boss had been done in secret and with guidance from her uncle. She’d been effective at keeping her business intact and running smoothly. She hadn’t expected to remain in the shadows of the world of illegal entrepreneurs, violence, and alliances forever. She was surprised they’d left in peace this long though.

“An alliance could be beneficial to us both,” Jorja said and stood as she stuck out her hand. “Thank you for the whisky and the welcome.”

Simona stood as well and took her hand. “I look forward to a profitable and long alliance.”


Chapter One


Three months later

“Your grandparents seem pleased,” Acacia Bloodstone commented as she leaned close to Jorja whose gaze was riveted on her woman, Jennifer Dandridge.

Her hazel eyes sparkled with happiness and the fall of brown hair looked a little more red than brown in the light. The pink tanzanite gems encircling Jennifer’s throat was a simple understated token of Jorja’s affections.

“This is the first event my grandmother has put Jennifer in charge of as a test, no doubt,” Jorja commented to her cousin Acacia who was simply Casey to her.

Jennifer was amid a group of women smiling and chatting. The fundraiser was for the local women’s shelter that needed repairs as well as additions to their dormitory so they could take in more women.

“I’m sure there will be many,” Casey said. “She’s a white girl in a black family of means. She’ll have to prove herself over and over.”

“She’ll rise to the challenge.”

“And has she earned your loyalty and trust? Being a mob boss’s wife will be rough and dangerous at times. She is ready for that?”

“I don’t know, but these next few weeks will be an introduction to the life she’s chosen.”

“Did she choose it?” Casey asked. “Or was it thrust upon her by default? It’s clear she’s in love with you, but did you tell her?”

“Casey—” Jorja knew her cousin was right. She should have told Jennifer more about herself, but there just hadn’t been time. She’d give her a little time and forgive screw-ups as her queen learned the ways of her new life.

“Camun wants to talk to you about business,” Acacia said.

She threw her cousin a look then. “Keep an eye on Jena,” she said referring to her fiancée by the nickname she’d given her.

“Naturally, you didn’t bring me to town just for my good looks,” Casey drawled.

She gave her younger cousin an amused smile. Acacia, Casey as she was called, had worked for Casey’s father, but with two brothers ahead of her, Casey didn’t feel she’d ever get a chance to run the family business in Washington. So, she’d accepted Jorja’s invitation to come work for her with her father’s blessings and she’d brought her best friend and cousin, Sidony, with her.

“Right,” Jorja said.

“Nothing’s happened yet, but you’re going to have to get Jennifer used to traveling with me at all times. Just as you’re going to have to get used to traveling with at least one guard, too. I suggest Sidony over Sonnet because Sid’s family. She’ll die for you and take your secrets to the grave.”

“Cousin, I appreciate your advice, but I can handle this,” Jorja told her, keeping her voice as low as her cousin’s.

“You’ve only been at this a few years, but I cut my teeth on this life,” Casey told her. “I only have your best interest in mind.”

Jorja put her hand on Casey’s shoulder and leaned in closer. “I know that, but you need to trust me. For now, I’ll go see what Camun wants.”

Camun was a gurndel fairy and the breed always sought to attach themselves to more powerful Fae families. The union was symbiotic and the grundel was loyal for life.

Jorja had saved the woman’s life and accepted her pledge of loyalty, since Camun was experienced in smuggling despite having a law degree and being a member of the bar in four states. That had made her an instant asset.

Jorja joined Camun who stood near the bar sipping on a drink. She declined the bartender’s offer of a liquid refreshment and motioned Camun to the doors.

“What’s up?” Jorja asked as she moved to the patio of the Hills Country Club and down the stairs to the second lower level which led to the yard and tennis court.

“The shipment came, but there’s a problem,” she said.

“What kind of problem?” Jorja hadn’t had any real problems since she’d taken over the Montgomery business interests which had made her quite a wealthy woman.

“Customs. The FBI is snooping around.”

“I thought you had someone in my pocket,” she said, leveling an even look at Camun.

“He’s already bought time, and I’ve made sure the papers for the shipments are in order, but the truth is, I think he wants to create havoc to give him and his buddy time to grab the jewels.”

“You should have seen this coming sooner,” Jorja said coolly.

“I won’t be remiss again,” Camun told her without flinching. “I’ll accept whatever punishment you choose to dish out, Mistress.”

The young woman was thorough which was why Jorja didn’t beat some sense into her for not foreseeing a problem with the guy.

“No punishment this time,” Jorja said evenly.

“Am I allowed to implement some changes that will prevent this from happening in the future?”

Jorja slipped her hands into the pockets of her slacks. “What do you need to get this done?”

“Not too much,” Camun assured her. “And if you ask it, I will kill him to prove my loyalty.”

“No need for blood on your hands,” Jorja assured her with a hint of a smile. She could do her own dirty work when it was necessary. But with this guy, it wasn’t really personal.

He was trying to make some good money without having to do too much work, not pick a fight with her, or he’d have just ratted her out.

“I’ll take care of it,” Jorja told her deciding on a course of action. “How’s the building coming?” She’d put Camun in charge of acquiring the property around the building she’d recently taken possession of. She’d been thinking about moving into the space to give herself some privacy and distance her business from the family’s interests.

The FBI had been snooping around her grandfather, and Jorja wasn’t sure remaining with the family business would be safe for them. If the feds decided to go after her, they’d drag the family down with her, despite their innocence.

“The offices there will be ready for you to move into soon. The parking lot is ready now for your people to make it safe.”

“I’ll swing by for a look soon. Now, head on out.” Camun had no membership here and had obviously used some kind of charm or enchantment to get in.

While Jorja applauded the ingenuity, she didn’t need the undercover cop who’d come to the event with an FBI agent wondering what she was up to tonight.

Two months ago, Jennifer had killed a man who’d meant her harm and Jorja had taken the necessary steps to cover the crime up. That had resulted in having three people killed and the firing of one of the detectives on the case.

As a result, one of the cops was still watching and waiting for any glimmer of proof she could use to arrest Jennifer and connect Jorja to the witness killings.

Jorja didn’t regret any of what she’d done and would do it again when necessary to protect the woman who’d stolen her heart.


Chapter Two


“You seem to have a way with people.”

The masculine drawl waylaid her on her way to the patio and Jennifer turned with a ready smile. The man stood there with blond hair and blue eyes and a face that reminded her of Teak Simms and his son Theron, the man who’d attempted to kill and rape her.

Jennifer swallowed tightly, the hound inside her snarling and ready to gut the man should he get out of line.

“I try,” she said. “The fundraiser is for the shelter and the ladies and children need all the aid they can get to help them get back on their feet. In some cases that means help to avoid abusive spouses.”

“I’m sure it does, but keeping a man from his wife is just plain wrong,” he said with a hint of distaste in his tone.

“If he’s hurting her, she has the right to leave him,” Jennifer told him coldly. “Any donation you made is most appreciated.” She attempted to step around him, but he countered, deftly blocking her.

“You’re a beautiful woman,” he drawled. “I’m Amoon Simms.”

“Nice to meet you Mr. Simms,” she said and tensed, the hound preparing for trouble.

“I’ve been trying to get the pleasure of meeting you all evening, but you never seem to be alone. And I thought a bit of privacy was best for our conversation.”

“I don’t understand why,” Jennifer said, sneaking a look around for the woman who’d been at her side constantly for the last ten minutes.

“It’s a shame to waste such—” He broke off to let his gaze slide slowly down her in the sleek yet simple green sheath and heels. “—lusciousness on another woman. She couldn’t possibly be meeting your needs properly, let alone thoroughly.”

“That’s none of your business,” Jennifer said acerbically. “Excuse me.”

“Jorja is not the woman you think she is,” he drawled. “She’s far worse than my cousin and his daughter and son could ever have been, and her criminal activities make her far wilier.”

“Criminal activities?” she demanded. “Jorja is not a criminal.”

“My father was a little naïve in thinking he could deal with Jorja through politics alone. Teak was overzealous and short-sighted in his attacks on the McMasterses. Still, they didn’t deserve to be murdered like dogs in their home,” he said in a lowered tone.

“She didn’t,” Jennifer gasped, and her skin went cold as horror snaked through her.

“I know Jorja is behind the slaughter of them and two others of my family who were home that night as well as the hit on Theron.”

“I—” Nerves made her stomach roil and heat made her dizzy. She was Fae, and she knew the clans occasionally warred with each other, but she’d never been privy to the games they played or the world they lived in. She never thought she would be.

“Then, Jorja is no stranger to murder. I suspect she’s ordered more than six hits in the last year and a half to gain her wealth,” he said.

Her eyes widened in horror, and she pressed her fingertips against her stomach.

Amoon laughed. “You didn’t think she was just the jeweler’s granddaughter, did you, especially after she ordered hits on those innocent people just because they witnessed my cousin’s murder.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The police had mentioned witnesses, but she’d only wanted to forget the bloodshed, the violence of the animal inside her, so she’d allowed herself to be blinded to the truths.

“My father and I were quite close, so I will find out which hound clan she hired. Once I’ve taken care of them, I’ll be back for you, and then her.”

“You’re out of your mind,” she whispered.

“No, but Jorja will be by the time I’m done fucking up her life,” He gave her a cool stare and walked away.

Shaking, Jennifer headed for the patio. She’d killed Theron in a fit of animal rage to protect herself. She was a hound of the Wyld Hunt, a vicious Fae without the ability to fully shift. However, she still had the speed of a hound, the sharp claws and teeth.

She also had the strong sense of smell and the ability to tell most bad from the good, and that water Fae was bad news.

“Wait,” she whispered and pulled up short before reaching the door. He thought Jorja had killed four of his family members?

She wouldn’t have.

Jorja had seemed content to burn down their store after they’d stolen her designs. But what else happened to lead to Jorja thinking executing him and his daughter was necessary?

She choked on a sob, a trembling hand going to her lips.

What have you done, Jorja?

Jennifer pushed open the door and burst out onto the patio gasping for air as chills ran down her spine.

“Jorja?” Jennifer called in a ragged tone.

Their relationship had started out as a business arrangement, but there was no way she could walk away from Jorja now. She was a target for what she’d done, but she was also a target because of Jorja.

“Are you okay, Jennifer?”

She jumped, jerking around to Jorja’s cousin at her elbow. Concern flitted across the woman’s face before vanishing. She was tall like Jorja with the same copper-brown eyes and strong jaw.

Casey’s fine black hair was cut short, too, and curled slightly like Jorja’s did, but she was more the color of melted caramel. She had that same sex appeal that made men and women stare, but right now, looking at a near carbon copy of the woman she was in love with was too much.

Jennifer took a step back and stumbled and Casey lurched forward grabbing her arm.

“Careful now, girl,” she said gently. “My cousin would have my head if you broke something.”

She jerked free, emotions all over the place.

“Where’s Jorja?” Jennifer demanded. “I need to talk to her.” She was probably around somewhere with Kinsey. They had their heads together much too often this last month for her liking because nothing good could be coming of it.

“What’s the matter?” Jorja asked. Her breath fanned Jennifer’s nape, her voice low and warm in her ear.

Jennifer shivered, the reaction becoming so familiar and natural to her, but she fought the smile that tried to break over her face. However, she could do nothing about her heart speeding up and Jorja’s arms came around her, tearing a huff from her.

“I want to leave,” she said angrily. “Now, Jorja.”

“What happened?” Jorja asked and the steel in her voice made Jennifer wonder if Jorja was asking Casey rather than her.

“Teal approached her about his dead cousins,” Casey said keeping her tone low.

“And you allowed it?” Jorja demanded.

“I’m a grown woman,” Jennifer told her angrily. “She’s not my keeper.

“We’ll discuss this later, Casey,” Jorja said icily. “Jennifer, you need to make your excuses to my grandmother, but leaving now won’t make her happy.”

“I don’t care,” she said on a growl. “I want answers, Jorja, and I want them tonight.”

Casey moved, giving her leeway to turn to face Jorja. Her expression was impassive, the copper eyes giving Jennifer no insight into what Jorja was thinking.

“I’ll wait by the car,” Casey said.

“What’d you do?” Jennifer demanded poking a finger at Jorja’s chest.

“Calm down, Jennifer, before your temper gets you into a world of trouble that only a claw to your throat will get you out of,” Jorja told her calmly.

She stepped back as if she’d been punched. “You’d hurt me, too, wouldn’t you, to protect your precious secrets?”

Jorja leaned toward her. “Your voice is carrying, but that wouldn’t stop me from killing you if I planned on it,” she said evenly. “Now, get yourself under control before this escalates to your hound attacking me.”

Jennifer opened her mouth and then snapped it closed. “I want to go.”

“I have no problem with that, but you better prepare to be dressed down if you don’t come up with a good lie.”

Jennifer knew she was right. Jorja’s family hadn’t fully accepted her into the fold. Anything she did wrong could derail the tentative relationship she had with Jorja’s grandparents. They already thought she was all wrong for her because she was white and poor.

She’d make it good, and Jorja had better convince her of why they should continue to share a bed, too.


Chapter Three


Jorja had traded in her Corvette for something less flashy, a sleek black SUV with tinted windows. Jennifer rode silently next to Jorja in back, arms folded across her chest.

When they reached the condo, Casey pulled into the garage and was out opening the door for her. Jennifer ignored the hand she held out and stomped up to the garage door. She turned to see Jorja talking to Casey, but didn’t wait for them to finish.

She slipped inside and headed for the bedroom she shared with Jorja, wondering if tonight would be the last night.

She’d known Jorja was a monster when she accepted her proposal, but Jennifer had thought Jorja would realize violence wasn’t the answer to most things. She’d change.

Jennifer removed the heels that had started to make her feet ache and pushed them aside with her foot and went to the window to look out. She hadn’t really known that much about Jorja.

She still didn’t.

Questions should have been asked before and after Jorja had prevented her from going to jail, but Jennifer had just taken things at face value. She’d assumed Jorja had never done anything like that before and never would again.

It looks like she’d miscalculated, and she needed to avoid making the same errors if she wanted to live.

“Close the curtain,” Jorja ordered from behind her. “And tell me what he said that has you in such a snit.”

Jennifer faced her, her fiancée looking nothing less than handsome in her black suit, crisp white shirt and navy tie. Her fine hair had been combed into a neat gamine that glistened under the lights showing a hint of blood red highlights she’d never noticed before.

Frowning, Jennifer wondered what that meant but shoved it aside for something more important.

“He said you’d killed before you killed his family. Is that true?”

Jorja didn’t reply, she merely removed her cuff links and placed them on a silver tray on the dresser.

Her stomach churned, and her anger rose like bile in her throat.

“Why did you kill that third witness and Simms’s family? Wasn’t burning his place down and leaving him in the fire enough for you?”

“Do you remember me telling you I’d do any atrocity to protect my family, Jennifer?” she asked evenly. “It wasn’t a lie.” Jorja loosened the tie.

“Jorja!”

“Did you want to die, Jennifer?” she asked. “I could have left you on your own, but the police would have tossed your ass in jail and the hound inside you, trying to rip its way out of the cage you’ve locked her in wouldn’t have been the threat you faced. Teal Simms would have had you executed, making what you did look like a wrestling match.”

Jennifer drew in a shaky breath and released it. Part of her knew that was true while the other half was hopeful. “You don’t know that.”

“Teal’s fairy mafia, and he had taken Theron under his wing,” Jorja said. “I knew there could be consequences to going after him, and I was preparing for them. However, if I’d have left you to your own devices, you wouldn’t have stood a chance against those he sent to kill you.”

“But what you did to Teak and his daughter—you killed them and two other members of his family?”

“Simms wanted my family’s business. He thought it was his due because my great-grandmother used to work for his grandmother. She quit, taking all her talent with her. Later, members of his family killed themselves, unable to deal with sinking into poverty.”

“He blamed you?” she asked softly.

“And he wasn’t going to stop attempting to take Diamond Glow from us or turn my cousin against the family,” Jorja told her.

“I—what about those other people he mentioned? Who were they, and why did you kill them? What do they have to do with your family?” Jorja had insinuated she’d done bad things for her family’s success, but Jennifer figured she hadn’t done anything more than sleep with someone or lie.

“You want simple answers,” Jorja told her as she unbuttoned her shirt, revealing a white tank. “But there aren’t any. Besides, I thought you’d made your choice and that was me.”

Jennifer shook her head, eyes filling with tears. “I don’t know you, Jorja, and you’re not doing anything to rectify that.”

“You don’t have to share my bed, but you do have to share my home until I can take care of the problem he just became.”

“That’s it?” Jennifer demanded. “You aren’t going to tell me what you did?”

“Jena, you don’t need to know that,” Jorja told her softly, but there was steel in her stare. “All you need to know is you’re safe with me.”

“That’s not good enough!”

“You’ll have Casey as your guard at all times. There will be no getting rid of her and if she tells you to do something, do it. It’ll be for your own safety.”

Jennifer glared at her about ready to slash her with her claws, but she fought the hound’s urge to attack mostly because she remembered what Jorja had told her the last time she did.

“I don’t want you sleeping with me,” Jennifer said.

“I know that, so you need to take the guest room if you still feel that way tomorrow.” Jorja finished undressing and pulled on a pair of lounge pants and t-shirt before exiting.

Tears spilled over Jennifer’s cheeks, and she went to the bed and collapsed on it. She tipped back her head and howled.

****

Michael McMasters opened the front door, his tie hanging carelessly around his neck and his feet aching from the shoes he’d been in on his feet all evening. But the evening had gone well and Jorja’s fiancée had done his wife proud.

He stared, taken aback as the blue eyes peered at him full of impatience. “Who the hell are you and what can I do for you at this time of night?” he demanded. It was near ten and he was a little tired from the long day. All he wanted to do was curl up with his wife in bed.

“I’m Agent Somerfield,” he said and produced a badge from the pocket of his light jacket. In his other hand was a manila folder Michael couldn’t help glancing at.

“Begs the same questions,” he said crossing his arms over his chest.

“May I come in?” he asked. “I need to speak with you concerning your business and your granddaughter Jorja.”

A chill went down his spine and his stomach twisted. Jorja had been in trouble a couple of months ago, or rather, her fiancée had. Jorja had sworn to him she hadn’t been involved in those murders, and he’d believed her despite the niggling in his gut.

“Come in.” Michael motioned the man in and took him to his study. “Have a seat.” He pointed to the guest chair. “Make it fast.”

Somerfield sighed. “I’ll be brief as I can, but you need to know this won’t be our last meeting.”

“Why is that?” Michael demanded though he had a feeling whatever Jorja had been dragged into by that girl wasn’t going to be as easy to get out of as Jorja had thought.

“Let’s start with these.” He opened the folder and produced several pictures. “Did you know Leith Montgomery?”

“Yes. He was one of my competitors. I heard about his and his family’s deaths.”

“The family was slaughtered.” He tossed the pictures down on the desk. “We have reason to believe your granddaughter was involved.”

The air went out of Michael’s lungs. He knew Jorja was dedicated and driven, but to murder?

He picked up the pile and went through it, shocked to the point of wanting to throw up.

“We have a witness who says Jorja was heavily involved in smuggling gems, as was Leith Montgomery. She had not only the adults killed, but the children. There is a rumor that she was even there.”

Michael sat down, needing a drink. His hands shook and the pictures tumbled to his desk. God almighty. Jorja wasn’t human, but it would have taken a sick mind to paint the walls of a family’s home with their own blood.

“The way I hear it, this was the act of a turf war,” Agent Somerfield told him quietly. “We have no proof Jorja has been actively engaged in smuggling, but now that it’s been brought to my attention, I intend to find out and prosecute her for that as well as these murders.”

“Why are you talking to me?” God help him, but he knew. And he’d kick Jorja’s ass to the curb before he allowed her to destroy his family’s legacy.

“I think you know why,” the agent said. “If Jorja is smuggling gems, then she’s funneling them through your family’s business and I’ll have to prosecute you for receiving and selling stolen goods and possibly accessory to her crimes.”

Michael expelled a harsh breath. “I wasn’t involved. Neither did I have any knowledge of such activities.”

“I’ll prove otherwise unless you help me. Two FBI agents have already died in the course of investigating the Montgomery family’s activities and trying to find their killers,” Agent Somerfield informed him grimly.

“And you think Jorja was involved in that as well?”

“Our informant was killed a few months ago, and he was poised to deliver proof of Jorja’s involvement. Ridley Simms.”

Son of a bitch. Jennifer had been accused of killing Teak Simms’s son, and Jorja had been a suspect in killing the witnesses who might have seen it.

Jorja had sworn there was nothing to that, but somewhere deep inside he’d feared that other part of her, that less than human half, had finally slipped its leash.

“If you don’t have any proof of it, then how can you be certain Jorja was involved? We had business dealings with the Simmses.”

“I know. Ridley told me all about them and the fact he thought Jorja had set one of their stores on fire with him, his cousin Teak Simms and his daughter inside. She then stole half their assets including their other store.”

Jorja was wealthy in her own right thanks to the freelancing she did with her designs. She hadn’t needed to do anything like that.

Michael pushed to his feet, went to the wet bar, and poured himself a drink. He swallowed, savoring the burn that didn’t burn away the fear in his mind that his favorite grandchild was a monster.

“I will get warrants for your records and to look at your diamonds.”

“Jorja is in charge of most of the gem acquisitions since she’s one of my two best designers.”

“Then, I suggest you not warn her that we’re coming,” he said. “Ridley was a friend of mine and I intend to prosecute his murderer to the fullest extent of the law.”

“I’ll cooperate.”

Chapter Four


Jorja sank onto the chair in the guest bedroom with her cell phone in hand. She punched in a familiar number and waited for the recipient to answer.

“Good evening, boss,” Annas, her secretary, greeted her warmly.

“I need a housekeeper, someone skilled in sweeping for surveillance, and very good at keeping their mouth closed.”

“My cousin Rue is looking for a job. She got fired last week and is already stressing. She’s got the skills you want, plus she’s skilled in Fae earth magick. She’ll keep intruders out and your woman safe.”

She trusted Annas and her small family. They were a gurndel-gnome mix who’d chosen to align with her long before she’d taken over the Montgomery family business. She and Annas’s older sister had smuggled diamonds and other jewels together when Jorja was in college.

After she graduated, Jorja set up a small smuggling business to gain the gems she’d wanted to use in her designs without breaking the budget her grandfather set for her.

She’d developed a small well-organized lucrative operation that had given her all the little extras her salary hadn’t, as well as satisfaction at seeing her designs become a reality. Then Leith Montgomery had found out and ordered her to stop.

She hadn’t, so he’d threatened to take her family’s business.

“I prefer a female,” Jorja replied. “She doesn’t need to control Jennifer, but she needs to consider her as the lady of the house and treat her with respect.”

“She’s not stupid, boss,” Annas commented dryly. “When do you want to meet with Rue?”

“Have her come by the house for an interview in the morning,” Jorja said.

“Will seven work for you?”

“Perfect. If I like what I see, I’ll want her to start immediately, so tell her to come prepared.”

“I will,” she agreed. “Can I do anything else for you?”

“No. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She ended the call, stepped out of the room, and headed for the condo next door. The night was quiet and beneath the starry sky, Jorja mounted the stairs. The door opened before she lifted her hand to knock.

“Problem?” Sonnet Lauren asked, brow furrowed. Her brown eyes glanced past Jorja before meeting hers again.

“No. Let’s go inside.”

Sonnet motioned her in and then closed the door behind her. “I’ve noticed some surveillance on your place,” she said at once. “Not sure yet who, but I’m not thinking FBI. They were a little less obvious and more casually dressed.”

“When did this start?”

“This evening after you left. I’d say undines if I had to lay even money.”

Sonnet was part brownie and part phouka, a wolf breed. Her mother’s white hair dominated, but she had wolf blue eyes. “We should move into a house.”

“That’s part of why I’m here,” Jorja told her as she wandered into the living area, but didn’t sit until Sonnet gave her a silent invitation with a nod toward the sofa and chairs. “I need more protection and more space to conduct business. Even Simona can’t know everything I’m up to.”

“What about Kinsey?”

“I trust her, but I don’t want to put her in a position to choose.”

Sonnet’s eyes gleamed with approval and Jorja snorted. She’d met Sonnet almost twenty years ago on a trip to Russia where Jorja was picking up some stones. The seller had told her if she went down into the mine and dug them herself she could have them.

Turned out the mine hadn’t been his, but she’d walked away with enough to make future purchases and a budding friendship with Sonnet who’d worked for the man Jorja had thought owned the mine.


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