Midnight`s Daughter

Midnight`s Daughter
Karen Chance

Chapter One

My least favorite dead guy had his feet up on my desk. I hate that. His boots were probably cleaner than my blotter, but still. It showed a lack of respect.

I pushed the offending size tens onto the floor and scowled. “Whatever it is, the answer’s no.”

“Okay, Dory. Your call.” Kyle was looking amiable—never a good sign. “I should’ve known you wouldn’t care what happened to Claire. After all, there’s not likely to be any money in it”—he paused to glance around my rathole of an office—“and you don’t appear to be in a position to do anything gratis.”

I had been on the way to my feet to haul his undead ass out the door, but at his words I slowly sat back down. Kyle was a real lowlife, even for a vamp, but once in a while he heard something useful—which explained why I hadn’t yet given in to temptation and staked him. And where Claire, my roommate and best friend, was concerned, I’d take anything I could get. She’d been missing for almost a month, and I’d already gone through every lead I had. Twice. Before loser boy showed up, I’d been about to start through the file a third time in case I’d somehow missed something, even though I knew I hadn’t. And every hour that passed made it less likely I’d be pleased with what I found at the end of the search.

“Talk,” I said, hoping he’d make me beat it out of him. I had a lot of pent up frustration that needed to go somewhere. But, of course, he decided to find some manners. Or what passes for them in our circle.

“Word is, she’s alive. I thought she’d have been juiced and packed up for sale by now, but talk on the street is that she wasn’t kidnapped at all.”

By “juiced” he meant a disgusting black-arts process in which a projective null, a witch or wizard capable of blocking out magical energy for a certain radius, is made into a weapon known as a null bomb. The null’s energy is siphoned away to make a device capable of bringing all magic in an area to a standstill. How far and how long the effect extends depends on the strength of the null being sacrificed—the younger and more powerful, the more energy she has to give. And Claire was both very young and very powerful.

Making her even more attractive was the fact that the harvesters, as the mages who specialized in the very illegal practice were known, could currently command a premium for their wares. The Vampire Senate, the self-styled guardian of all North American vampires, was at war with the dark mages of the Black Circle, and the price for magical weapons had gone through the roof. The idea that someone had taken Claire to make into a tool for their stupid war was the main reason I was running myself ragged trying to find her.

“The rumor is that she ran off with one of Michael’s crew,” Kyle was saying. He leaned in to smile in my face, showing enough fang that I knew how much he was enjoying this. He’d tried to chat me up when we first met and hadn’t taken my screams of laughter well. He’d been waiting for something to throw in my face, and this was his big chance. “Seems she got knocked up.”

I smiled back. “That little lie is going to cost you,” I promised, slipping a hand into my desk drawer. Claire, the witch with girl power practically stamped on her forehead, running off with a lowlife connected with Michael’s stable? Didn’t think so.

Kyle held up grubby hands with telltale brown stains on them. Leftovers from whoever had been lunch, I guessed. I would have advised him that his love life might improve if he paid someone to scrape the dried blood out from under his nails once in a while, if I hadn’t thought he’d eat the manicurist.

“No lies, Dory. Not between you and me.” He sat back and crossed his legs, looking far too much at ease for my taste. “And you haven’t heard the best part yet. Rumor has it that the father’s not exactly human, if you know what I mean.” His grin turned feral. “Passing me up because you were afraid to bring another half-breed into the world was a waste of time, wasn’t it? Looks like you’re about to be auntie to a bouncing baby dhampir.”

I didn’t have to

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