Something wicked this way comes…
The arrival of a very important person in her office seemed to be the start of a lot of problems for Kit Colbana, investigator extraordinaire. Claiming that he needed somebody with her special skillset, he sends her on a series of jobs that made little to no sense until one culminated with both her and her partner, Justin barely escaping with their lives.
Back in Orlando, they go their separate ways to recover, Justin heading to the house of a local witch, while Kit returns to the Lair, where she’s recently been living with her lover Damon, the Alpha of the Southern Cat Clans.
There’s barely a chance for Kit to catch her breath before trouble of the highest order comes knocking on her door. This time, it’s the form of a psychic by the name of Nova. Nova has bad, bad news…Justin has gone missing and so has the witch who was going to put him up while he healed. Colleen, one of Kit’s closest, dearest friends.
With all sorts of non-humans disappearing, fury doesn’t even touch what Kit is feeling as she heads out to hunt down the people responsible.
But Kit isn’t the only one out on a hunt…somebody is hunting for her…somebody Kit would rather never, ever see again.
It was just pure dumb luck that I found her at all.
The…well, I can’t say it was a house, but it had been her home. But she’d left it weeks ago, maybe longer. It was dying, too.
Granted, when I’d been sent out to look for her, I’d thought maybe it was another wild goose chase—the first job had been a pain in the ass, too.
But this one…
I was staring at a dryad.
A real dryad.
She turned her head and stared at me with eyes the color of good, strong oak. In her hand, she held a branch that she used to draw circles in the earth.
After a few seconds of us studying each other, she went back to looking out over the river, her gaze sad.
“What is it you want?” she asked, her voice reedy and thin.
Like she was fading, dying as swiftly as the tree she’d left behind.
As I fumbled for an answer, she lifted the branch and plucked off one of the leaves. They were still green. But the moment she plucked that single leaf away, it withered, shriveled and then it was dust, even before it hit the ground.
“I…” Uneasy, I licked my lips. “Your tree is dying.”
“No.” Those dark brown eyes came back to mine. “It is already dead. It died when I left it. It just hasn’t figured that out yet. It will. But that isn’t what you want.”
“Why did you leave it?”
“Because the wind whispered it was time.” She lifted a shoulder and the wispy strips of cloth that made up her garments drifted with the movement before settling back into black. She was more naked than clothed, covered at her breasts and hips and her skin was a mottled mix of brown and tan. She could stand in the trees and scarcely be seen, but standing out her on the side of the road and gazing into the river, she stood out.
That was how I’d found her.
I’d been heading back to East Orlando, carefully think through the call I’d have to make when I saw her.
I’d been hired by somebody I’d recently decided was a self-important pompous prick but I’d accepted the contract and for another three weeks, I was giving him twenty hours a week for work of a sensitive nature. The first job, I’d been asked to find out if there was any truth to the rumors of a Green Man who might be living in Alabama—he had a locale and a few names and he wanted my thoughts on it. I’d also been asked to talk to the families of a couple missing NHs. That was why I’d agreed to work with him anyway. Missing people. He had connections.
There weren’t many people who had more connections than the President of the United States of America, after all.
When I’d told him I didn’t see the connection between a possible Green Man and the disappearances, he’d pointed out that a Green Man would have ways of seeing things happening in nature that I could never see.
But if there was something weirder than a shifter in those woods, then I hadn’t felt it.
My boss hadn’t seem bothered when I’d been unsuccessful. But I hadn’t wanted to tell him I’d found a dryad’s tree…and no dryad.
Right now, though, I wanted even less to tell him I’d found the dryad.
“The wind told you it was time?” Raking her up and down with a look, I shook my head. “What else is the wind telling you to do?”
“The wind tells me to do nothing.” A serene smile curled her lips as she plucked off another leave. This time, when it shriveled and faded, she seemed to fade a little more, too.
“Is that from your tree?” I asked softly.
“Yes. All that is left, all that is living.” She plucked another leave. “Once it is gone…”
“So why are you killing it?”
“Because unlike Albus, I am not strong. I cannot stand up to pain and torture. Even cutting down a single tree would break me and he has much more in mind than cutting down trees.”
Abruptly, she wrenched a handful of leaves, four, five, six…dust blew around me and I rushed to her as she swayed, then staggered. She felt lighter than air as I eased her down. Her skin felt like the smooth bark on a young tree. “What are you talking about?”
She just shook her head. “It’s been a long time coming. This…this is best. I’ll see Albus soon.”
She tried to fumble a few more leaves off but her hands shook too much.
“Please.” She looked at me.
My phone rang.
She continued to watch me with those calm, patient eyes. Patient, solid. Like an oak.
I took the branch and stripped the remaining leaves off as the phone rang again.
By the third ring, she was withering away, turning to nothing but dust and ash that blew away in the soft, chilly fall breeze.
I answered the fourth ring.
“Ms. Colbana, I was calling for an update.”
“I found her.” Dragging a finger through the dust, I rose to my feet and stared down. Even the branch was gone. “She’s dead, sir.”
**releasing in April. Release date was changed. Explanation here.