For this Sneak Peek, I'm offering up a first glance at The Beanstalk Files, Book 3 in The Twisted Files series. It's still in the first draft stages but I'm hoping to release the final book in the series late in 2018. Enjoy!
Sunlight glitters on the snow covered buildings that stretch beneath my office window. Life isn’t boring as a private investigator, especially after I decided to get involved with The Dragon Conclave. Brendan Hunter, private investigator, a business I started to keep me away from the life my father tried to force on me. Now it’s Weatherly and Hunter, Private Investigators. I have no regrets about making Stasia a full partner, but I can’t help wishing for the early days when things were simple.
Take a case. Solve it. Move on.
So much for staying away from magic and politics. An escaped siren. Dragons. Family. Stasia. All of it has a strangle hold on my life right now. My hands ball up.
I’d hope for some peace and quiet. Time to figure out my relationship with Stasia. Time to deal with the repercussions of using magic and almost dying. Life hasn’t given me any time lately.
I twist the silver ring on my middle finger. My Pool. I’d stocked it with magic for two years. The ruby had cracked after I faced off with Melania. I’d drained it dry. I’d had the ruby replaced with a mage diamond after we solved the Albright case. The blue fire that winks from the depths of the jewel remind me that magic has a price.
A price that I’ve already paid once. Since I’d died and been brought back by Lorelei’s magic, my own power had been strange. More powerful, but unpredictable. I’ve kept it a secret from everyone. Including Stasia. With everything that’s happened, I don’t want to worry her.
“Hey, Stasia.” The deep rumble of Stinky’s voice from Stasia’s office breaks into my thoughts.
The half-ogre never comes to see us. He prefers to meet somewhere private. Usually his apartment or a tunnel Underground. My gut tells me there’s something wrong.
I step out of my office and into Stasia’s. She sits at her desk, in a pool of sunlight from the plate-glass window. It makes the caramel highlights in her hair sparkle.
I lean against the wall and grin at my old friend. “Hey, Stinky, you look like something the cat dragged in.”
He offers me a leery smile, one that shows off the long canines that jut from beneath his upper lip. Couple that with his squashed face and Stinky looks like a cross between a saber-tooth and an ape. An overwhelming odor wafts from his direction. It’s the natural musk of a half-ogre, and the stench is enough to make most people’s eyes water.
“Well,” Stinky scratches his chin. “I need your help.”
“What’s going on?” Stasia pulls out a pad and pen, ready to take notes.
Stinky squirms under Stasia’s direct gaze. “My buddy is missing.”
“Okay ….” She draws the word out and from the way her eyebrow twitches upward, I know she’s waiting for more. “Why don’t you start at the beginning.”
I snort. That’s usually my line. Stinky is usually a calm fellow. At six-and-a-half-feet tall and broad enough that he can barely pass through a door, few people rattle his cage. With the exception of a certain siren who has caused loads of trouble lately.
Stinky takes a breath and stares out the window. His lips press together in a tight line. “I’ve been doing pretty good for myself since I moved Topside. Branched out a bit from the artifact business.”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“My buddy, Jack, owns The Beanstalk.”
Stasia glances up from her notes. “The one down by the Constables Building?”
Stinky nods. “Yeah, Jack’s a good guy, and we’ve done business before. He needed an investor to help him expand, and since I was doing so well, I decided to give him some cash. We’re a bit of an odd couple, though.”
Stinky picks at the hem of his shirt. All the nervous tics tell me something is wrong. The last time I saw Stinky this jumpy was when he discovered Lorelei was involved with Lily Whitaker’s disappearance.
“What do you mean?” Stasia asks.
A muscle in Stinky’s jaw twitches. “Jack is a dragon.”
“Ah,” Stasia says, “and you’re a half-ogre. Were there problems?”
Stinky shakes his head. “We got along just fine.”
“So what happened?” I cross my arms.
“Jack was trying to buy The Golden Goose,” Stinky says. “It’s a cafe down on South Bridge Street. He wanted to expand into that part of town. But, The Goose changed hands before the deal could go through.”
“Sounds a little suspicious, but it’s not unheard of.” Stasia turns to her computer.
A few clicks of her mouse and she’ll know everything there is to know about The Golden Goose.
“That’s not the weird part.” Stinky rubs a hand over his pants. “The new owner of The Golden Goose started luring business away from The Beanstalk.”
“How?” I lean forward. “They’re across town from each other?”
Stinky shrugs. “Jack was suspicious, so he started staking them out. I told him we should hire you two to see what was up, but Jack didn’t want to involve anyone else.”
Stasia rubs at her forehead. “Let me guess, something went wrong.”
“I don’t know. I went to check in with Jack yesterday, but The Beanstalk was closed. He never closes. So I went to his apartment but didn’t get an answer.”
“Why didn’t you go to the Constables?” I ask.
Stinky swallows and looks away. “Cause I’d be the prime suspect.”
My forehead knots up. “Because you’re a half-ogre and Jack is a dragon?”
“Because Jack is my brother.” Drake hovers in the doorway, his jaw tight and his eyes hard. I’m surprised I didn’t sense him as soon as he entered the building. His magic fills the room and surrounds me. Fire and the warmth of the sun on a summer’s day. It’s primal and wild and calls to my own magic.
“Ogres and dragons are natural enemies,” Drake says, “but Jack was trying to change that.”
Stinky looks at the floor and wrings his large hands. “Jack is a good guy.”
Drake snorts a small puff of smoke before he crosses the room and sits in the chair next to Stinky. “You don’t have anything to worry about. At least from dragons. We know you didn’t have anything to do with my brother’s disappearance.”
“Who do you think did?” Stasia asks.
“Lorelei.” Drake’s talons erupt from his finger tips and dig into the arm of the chair. The dragon is on edge. Not that I blame him. That siren has a lot to answer for.
Drake blows out another thin stream of smoke. “The Golden Goose is now owned by one of her people. A dwarf named Vic Gully. I’m calling in that favor, Stasia. My father wants this handled quietly.”
Of course, he does. The King wouldn’t want word to get around that the former leader of the Triad has something to do with the disappearance of his son.
“What happens if we can’t find Jack?” Stasia asks. There’s an edge to her words. One that tells me she knows what Drake’s answer will be, but she needs to be sure of it.
“Find him,” Drake growls. “Otherwise, you’ll see a dragon rampage first hand.”
My magic flares for a brief second, responding to the unspoken threat in Drake’s words. The King is the oldest, most powerful dragon living. A single breath from him could wipe the city off the map. Lorelei wants to start a war. It looks like she’s already begun taking prisoners.
I share a long look with Stasia and give her a brief nod. “We’ll take the case.”