The scent was the first thing that assaulted Charity’s senses when she walked into the rundown roadhouse. She knew she was foolish coming here alone, but the spelled talisman led her here and she needed to discover why. Smoke mixed with body odor, greasy food, and oil, making her stomach flip.
She jumped slightly as the door sealed behind her. She stomped out the irrational feeling that she was trapped. Just because the light from the outside was shielded from entering the club and she was surrounded by dangerous men and women who analyzed her every step didn’t mean she couldn’t turn around and walk back out. This was a far cry from being buried alive, the originating event in her life which caused her fears of being trapped and tight spaces. Phobias created by a horrendous act her grandmother did to her.
After a few calming breaths, she glanced around the dingy club. A couple members were playing pool in the corner, their biker colors evident on their leather jackets. Their girls sat close by, drinking beers and chatting amongst themselves. They stopped and took notice of Charity for a moment, then went back to their banter.
Country music blasted from the juke box in the corner close to a few other patrons that were engaged in a game of darts. A couple old timers were sitting at the bar chatting up the pretty middle-aged bartender who was wearing a shirt barely containing her large bosom. Her bottle dyed blonde hair was teased high, which reminded Charity of the 80s aqua net craze. As she familiarized herself with the club and the escape routes her fears began to dissolve.
The bartender’s hazel eyes narrowed on Charity as she made her way around the room. Charity didn’t want to give away her intention, so she ordered a bottle of beer and continued to walk the length of the room. Far back in the corner by a blazing fireplace, Charity found her target. Her necklace lit up and burned warm between her breasts.
The four men were engaged in a heated conversation. One looked three times bigger than a regular man. His sandy brown hair brushed his shoulders and adorned his face in the form of a goatee, which made him look edgy. Another man had milk chocolate colored skin, brown eyes, and a shaved head. The man monopolizing the majority of the conversation looked like he was Native American. His long brown hair was tied back in a braid, and the last man leaned back in the booth, listening with veiled eyes. He was the sexiest guy she’d ever laid eyes on. He had wavy black hair, olive tanned skin, and when he locked eyes with hers they seemed to pierce her very soul. Charity prayed he wasn’t the man she was looking for. He was too handsome to be a murderer.
She took a long swig of her beer, sighed heavily and headed to their table. Without permission she sat down and smiled at the men. Others in the room took notice and started to gravitate their direction in slow moves, nothing blatant but definitely movements that a cop was trained to detect. Something about the man with striking green eyes and wavy black hair put her at ease despite the feeling of being closed in on, but that didn’t mean her actions weren’t perilous. “Hello, boys.”
An awkward silence fell over them, and Charity wished she’d brought backup for the second time in five minutes. She placed her badge on the table but left her gun in the holster. Her actions did little to reduce the tension.
“I’m detective Charity Holiday and I have a few questions for you.”
The boys offered up varying degrees of laughter and chuckles. Charity wasn’t amused and kept her face stoic. “I don’t think murder is a laughing matter.”
The gorgeous man with green eyes grinned and leaned closer to her, his breath tickling her neck and sending shivers down her spine. “It’s not why you’re here that made us laugh, it’s the way you brazenly approached us, witch.” There was menace in his tone, warning in his eyes, and underneath it all was a sexual undertone she found hard to ignore.
It was unsettling that he recognized her as a witch. Very few people knew her secret. Inside she was doubting her daring move. Outside she simply shrugged. Never show fear. “No one is above the law.”
“The Triad is,” the burly sandy haired man stated, looking down his nose at her.
She stared back. “No. One.” Her mind searched for an explanation of who the Triad was. It was familiar but nothing sparked.
The sandy haired man growled and Charity leaned back, practically falling into the green eyed devil behind her.
“Settle down, Luka,” green eyes warned. A growl rumbled in his chest and she felt it on her back, which sent chills of…desire up her spine.
“I’m going to get us another round, Malick.” The Native American man grinned as he stood up.
“Thank you, Tobias.” Malick wrapped his arm around Charity’s shoulder possessively. “The cop is under my protection, understood?” All of them nodded in turn.
“Are you sure you want to do that, Malick?” Razor asked. “She’s a witch,” he turned his nose up, “I can smell her from here.”
Malick stared at Charity for a moment. He lowered his head to her neck and sniffed. Sniffed! It repulsed and aroused her at the same time. “Without a doubt.”
Charity pushed his arm off her shoulder. “I don’t need protection, thank you very much.” Even as she said the words she searched her body for the courage needed to continue. There was something very threatening about these men and undeniably sexy about Malick. “Do any of you know, Joanna Lane?” She pulled out a photo of her victim.
Luka nodded. “She works at one of my clubs.”
“Your clubs?” That was news to her.
Luka glanced at Malick, who nodded slightly. “The Honey Pot, I’m a silent partner.”
“Do you know she was found dead last night?”
“People die in this town every week. It’s one of the hazards of living in a metropolis.” Tobias set beers down in front of all five of them.
“Did you know her personally?” She glanced between Luka and Tobias.
“We all knew her personally. She was a very friendly girl,” Razor added with a grin.
Malick placed a hand on her thigh and she felt a rush of electricity run through her. She shook her head internally, attempting to keep a straight mind. Whatever he was doing to her was wrong, completely wrong and so amazing all at once.
“You sound callous,” she spoke her thoughts out loud.
“Perhaps, but I speak the truth,” Razor answered.
“Since we’re all being so honest, do any of you want to admit to murdering her?”
“No. Like Razor mentioned, she was very friendly.” Malick smiled, his thumb tracing a tiny circle on her inner thigh, flooding her system with lustful ideas.
What is he doing to me? She was beginning to wonder if he was a witch himself and he was distracting her with a seduction spell. It was the only explanation as to why her hormones were reacting to him this way. She scooted the opposite direction, which put her closer to Luka and his curled lip, removing Malick’s hand from her thigh. Was it too much to ask they show compassion toward a girl who had been ‘friendly’ with them.
“Do any of you know who might want to kill her?”
“The hunters.” Razor suggested.
She looked at all of them. “Who are the hunters?”
“For a witch you’re uninformed of how the supernatural world works.” Tobias scoffed.
Malick leaned forward. “The hunters are genetically enhanced humans whose sole purpose for existence is to kill off the shifters. They don’t discriminate. They kill without prejudice.”
“Joanna was a nice girl with no enemies. The hunters would be a logical place to start.” Razor advised.
Charity nodded as she processed the information. She knew of other supernaturals but had never really associated with any paranormal creatures except witches. Shifters were rumored to be one of the more brutish of the races. Her family had sheltered her from that side of their world. As a human cop, she’d rarely had run-ins with them. They worked very hard to keep under the official radar and used magic to protect their secrets. It was the very essence of self-preservation. If humans discovered their existence they would likely react with violence if history had any say in the matter. “Hunters are created by humans?”
Malick shook his head. “No, to the best of our knowledge they were created by a rogue group of shifters led by Jonathan Morris.”
Charity’s forehead crinkled in confusion. “Why would they be killing others like themselves?”
“It’s a religious battle.” Razor offered. “If you choose to live off the grid with Jonathan and his followers you’ll be saved from his wrath. He believes the shifters are a master race and once he has them all under his control he can use them as weapons of destruction for other races.”
Charity shivered. “That’s barbaric.” This guy had a similar belief system to Hitler, only instead of concentration camps he was murdering them in the open. He was nothing more than a mass serial killer. She was obviously out of her depth and needed to find a way to get caught up. If not to protect others, but also to protect her and her family.
“Why hasn’t something been done to control him?”
“We’re trying, but human interference has made things difficult. The authorities view him as a cult leader and are in the middle of negotiating with him. Since he houses shifters and humans he doesn’t fall completely under our jurisdiction,” Malick answered.
“I need to look into Jonathan,” she spoke her thoughts out loud.
“It’s a good place to start.” Tobias smiled. “But I wouldn’t. He is very unpredictable.”
“Thank you for your concern.” She stood up to leave. “Please remain available for further questioning if I need you.” All four of them nodded and Charity headed toward the door. It wasn’t until she was outside of the establishment that she released a breath she didn’t even know she’d been holding. As she allowed her lungs to fill back up with oxygen and her mind to clear from all the things she discovered during that interview, someone snaked a hand around her waist and slapped another one over her mouth.She tried to fight against whoever was holding her from behind but failed miserably. A sting pricked her neck and her last thought before darkness enveloped her was that she should’ve brought Joey with her on this field trip.