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  • Home > Darynda Jones > Charley Davidson > Eighth Grave After Dark     

    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.

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