Falling for Fall
by Sara Jay
eBook ISBN: 06530-02100
Tough-as-nails Paranormal Investigator Autumn Elkridge has her dream career and all the booty calls a woman could want from the sexy Green Man of the forest, Theo. They make perfect partners at work and in bed, but it’s in Theo’s nature to stray, not stay.
Changeling Press ‖ ARe ‖ CTR ‖ Kindle ‖ Kobo ‖ Nook
Freezing. I’m freezing.
My cold feet bounce left, then right. My tits follow in fashion.
“Locked out, I see.” Theo’s smirk peers out from inside an oak tree. Of course the Green Man would show up while I’m wearing nothing but a Journey t-shirt. Shivering, I cover my ass.
The giant armholes in the shirt dip lower, giving the forest god a peek of my left breast. I clutch my little knapsack over my butt but it doesn’t cover up much.
“I could warm you up, Autumn,” he offers, the crisp scent of the season on his breath as he saunters toward me.
Before I know it, there are leaves in my hair, too. When did he get so close?
“Theo, you’re horrible,” I gasp, half-heartedly shoving at him. His warm brown eyes sparkle at me as they pointedly drop from my gaze to my breasts. Smirking, he bunches my t-shirt behind my back with one hand, stretching it even more tautly against me.
“Why would a capable detective from the St. Louis Paranormal Investigation Unit lock herself out of her own house on this frosty fall morning, mmm?” A laugh rumbles in his chest as his wide, calloused fingers caress my face.
“To tumble in the leaves with a horny forest god?” I ask, jutting out my chest for good measure. He licks his lips as my nipples poke up at him, and I can’t help but grin.
“So it would seem.” Theo’s freckles, which make him look in his twenties rather than thousands of years old, are clear in view as his face nears my own. Early morning sunlight shines off his russet crop of hair, nearly blinding me in a bold display of autumn color. I close my eyes, open my mouth and lean in to meet him.
Lips barely grazing mine, Theo whispers, “But we have more important things to do than tumble in the leaves.”
“Dammit, Theo!” I pull back, growling at him. Leave it to the forest god to tease me like this.
“We think it’s a serial.” Theo frowns, a rare look for him.
I stand up immediately. “How many vics?”
He shakes his head. “I’ll brief you while you get ready.”
Shaking out leaves from my long, chestnut hair, I follow and watch as he palms the doorknob. My lock practically sighs beneath his touch, opening for him easily. Figures.
Theo follows me as I get ready for the day, and I casually toss my t-shirt at him, leaving the knapsack on the couch. I know his eyes are on my bare ass as I saunter down the hallway, and I relish his quiet gasp. Turnabout is fair play.
“Why were you out here wearing nothing, anyway? Entertaining a late night visitor?” Of course. Leave it to the forest god to be jealous for no reason, too.
“Come on, Theo, you know better,” I say, shrugging into fresh clothing. Peeking at my reflection in the mirror, I flick out a few more leaves from my hair. My amber eyes peer back at me as I give myself a last once-over.
Clipping my gun belt around my waist, I catch him ogling me from behind. “Eyes up here, Jack in the Green.”
Theo scowls. “Don’t call me that. Besides, I was just making sure you have all your gear. You’re missing your wolfsbane powder.”
I smirk. He must’ve been looking pretty closely to catch that. “I used it last night in a raid. Why? Do I need it?”
Shrugging, Theo watches me slide into my sweater. “Never know. So that’s why you were outside? Cleansing in the first rays.”
Securing my hair back in a ponytail, I nod. Human detectives on the PIA aren’t able to just walk away from so much supernatural chaos as actual creatures like Theo are, so we have to do a cleansing ritual to help us stay untainted by the darkness. The rituals have to be done naked, so my t-shirt was a quick cover-up. Lucky for me, I live out in the woods, so there’s no one to see me naked. Except Theo.
“And yet you managed to lock yourself out. Tut, tut, Detective Elkridge,” he admonishes.
“I remember having my keys on me when I went out for the ritual,” I reply, narrowing my eyes at him. “You wouldn’t have anything to do with them going missing, would you?”
“Me?” Theo looks amazed, then produces my keys out of thin air. “Oh, where did those come from?”
It isn’t the first time my forest god has tricked me. Tricks are the name of his game — which is why we play this constant round of cat-and-mouse. Sure, he’s fun for a booty call, but who can get serious with a guy who’s never — well, serious?
Not to mention all of those nymphs constantly surrounding him.
“Come on, Fall.” I roll my eyes at him. “Let’s head to the station. Tell me about these murders.”
“They aren’t murders,” he says as we climb into my SUV. “They’re spells. And we’re skipping the station — we need to get to the latest crime scene first.”
I shrug, backing out of my driveway. “OK. Where to?”
Following Theo’s directions, I listen as he briefs me on the case. Apparently a string of bridegrooms have been attacked on their wedding day. Just as the men say their vows, they turn into hideous green, dragon-like monsters that eat their brides and fly off to who knows where.
“You haven’t been able to capture any of the monsters?” I ask, turning onto the highway.
“It’s not like we know which weddings are going to be affected, Autumn,” Theo says defensively. He produces a cup of what looks like Starbucks from nowhere. I know it’s really the sludgy, chicory root muck that he loves so much. Yech.
He passes me a cup of normal-looking stuff, already sweetened how I like it, and I grin. I have no idea how he does it or where it comes from, but boy am I grateful for it.
We head into the church and I can see that it’s already been roped off from the public. A minister is in the bushes, puking his guts up. This can’t be good.
I’m the only human investigator on the scene, as usual. The paranormals don’t really like having to deal with humans much, but it’s required for human law enforcement’s cooperation. Before we mortals joined the force, both sides saw way too many unnecessary deaths.
A sylph eyes me coolly with black, iris-less eyes as I approach the crime scene. “No humans are required for this case, Jack of the Green,” she intones, her voice echoing eerily.
“In the green, Fashka, and don’t call me that,” Theo huffs. “And anyway, you know we need a human on every case that includes humans.”
Frowning, the sylph floats away from him, the crime scene clearly visible through her. She brushes past me and I shiver.
Taking a deep breath, I smile to suppress my gag reflex. The beast hadn’t eaten his entire bride. Her remains litter the dais like goopy Jell-o. No wonder the minster was puking.
“Ugh,” I mutter. “Are they all like this?”
“Pretty much.” Theo magically produced a case file for me to glance through. “And all of the usual suspects are ruled out. There’s no spell marks, no traces of wand magic. We haven’t found any potions at any of the scenes, and there’s nothing residual in the air.”
That explains the sylph. They’re great at tracking spellwork.
“Some kind of delayed hatching, maybe?” I suggest.
“The dragons say no, and these beasts aren’t like dragons, anyway,” Theo says. “They’re much uglier, for one. They don’t breathe fire, and they all follow the same pattern. After they turn, they gobble up the bride and fly off.”
“I was going to suggest that maybe they carry off the brides for another purpose,” I say, “but then there’s that.” I gesture to the sticky mess.
“Yeah, that pretty much rules the whole kidnapping a damsel theory out,” Theo agrees.
“So what’s our link?” I ask.
“So far, nothing. Every couple has been different. Different jobs, different looks, different everything. And there are cases from here to Seattle, so no common locations, either.”
I frown. “Nothing on the East Coast?”
Theo shakes his head. “Nope.”
“I guess that rules out a few more theories. Probably not a Jersey Devil. A hodag, maybe?” It was rare for the bristled beast to pop up in our investigations, but it wasn’t impossible, either.
“Nope. Bigger. And no horns.”
I shake my head. “I guess it’s time for me to talk to some witnesses.”
After speaking to a number of wedding guests, I’m only able to determine two things: that a dragon-like beast left with pieces of the bride, and that the bride was a total bitch.
“Harry always did like strong women, but Donna wasn’t strong. She was a monster. I almost think it serves her right!” the best man retorts. “Not that I had anything to do with it!”
Don’t flatter yourself, dude.
“She cheated. She lied all the time. I have no idea what he saw in her,” reveals the groom’s sister, eyes wide and still in shock.
I thank them all for their time and check my notes. Here’s our similarity.
Eight cases of bitchy brides eaten by their bridegrooms.
Changeling Press ‖ ARe ‖ CTR ‖ Kindle ‖ Kobo ‖ Nook