You guys in the mood to read a little (more than a little, really...the first 2 chapters) of Semi-Obsessed before it's released into the wild on Friday? Well, you're in luck, because I happen to have them right here...
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“I need your husband for a night.”
Marina Petrocelli wasn’t exactly sure how her sister would reply to the request. No one was ever really sure how Harper Hall would reply to anything. So, she steeled her nerves for whatever jokes or crudes remarks may come.
She didn’t have to wait long.
“I love you, but not enough to become your sister wife,” Harper shot back in a Sahara-sand-dry tone.
Marina’s nose wrinkled involuntarily. “Gross. Not like that. The station’s charity event is next week and I don’t have a date.”
The television station where Marina did hair and makeup for the on-air personalities was run like a sweatshop and the owners treated employees like gum stuck to the bottoms of their shoes, but the one thing they consistently did right was their annual charity event. No expense was spared, and a different charity benefitted every year. This year, Marina had talked the planning committee into raising funds for the Whispering Hope Humane Society.
“So what?” Harper asked. “Go stag.”
“I can’t go by myself.”
Marina repressed a sigh. Harper wouldn’t let this go. Shit, Harper never let anything go. She’d have to just come clean. “Dex will be there,” she admitted.
Harper let loose a string of profanities that would’ve earned her a smack upside the head from their mother before saying, “I’ll have Riddick break both his legs. That’ll keep the lying, secretary-fucking jerkwad away from the charity thingy so you can go enjoy yourself in peace. There. Done and done.”
The sad—and kind of awesome—part of that statement? Harper wasn’t kidding. Harper’s husband, Riddick, would totally break her ex’s legs if Harper asked him. But a few weeks in traction wouldn’t change the fact that her boyfriend cheated on her with his nineteen-year-old secretary. He’d even had the nerve to dump Marina before she could dump him. Fucker.
Marina’s friend Violet, who happened to be a shrink, had labeled Dex’s dalliance as a pathetic mid-life crisis. Marina didn’t really care to label it. All she knew was that she wasn’t going to let the greasy little weasel ruin the station’s charity event for her. She was going to wear the ridiculously expensive dress she’d been starving herself for three weeks to fit into and face the cheating bastard while looking more fuckable than she’d ever looked in her life.
Harper probably wouldn’t understand such a simple, petty revenge plan. She was the type who’d kick the door down, march into the event like she owned the place, and knee Dex in the balls before grabbing some champagne and dancing like no one was watching. That was just who Harper was.
Harper was the fun one. The wild one. If anyone in her family was ever going to need bail money, it was Harper, and there’d undoubtedly be a great story attached to why she needed it.
Marina was the first person Harper would call for the bail money. The responsible one. The mature one.
The boring one.
Everyone who found out she was related to Harper Hall was shocked. Harper is so talented, so gifted, they’d say. A psychic who owns her own paranormal PI firm? How exciting! Harper with her wild curls and fire-engine-red classic Mustang. Such a free spirit.
Marina’s thick brown hair was so heavy it couldn’t hold a curl on a dare and she drove a Camry, for God’s sake. A beige one.
(It got good gas mileage and she was able to get it for a song at Gary’s Discount Auto Land, okay? Don’t judge.)
When Harper was around, Marina was the other sister. The one with no paranormal gifts whatsoever. Everyone’s second choice.
And normally, that wasn’t a problem for Marina. She adored her sister, and someone had to be the responsible one. The sensible one. The one who wasn’t a drama magnet.
But today…today was different. Today, Marina would give a kidney to be Harper. Not because Harper was so fun and talented and vivacious, but because she had Riddick—a guy who looked like the love child of a Sons of Anarchy biker and a Calvin Klein underwear model, and gazed at Harper like she’d placed every star in the night sky with her very own hands. Someone who’d go with her to the stupid charity event so all her coworkers would stop giving her the sympathetic, oh-poor-Marina-got-dumped-for-someone-younger-and-more-fun head tilt.
That head tilt was really starting to annoy her.
So, while there was a certain appeal to the idea of Riddick, a huge, scary, motorcycle-riding dhampyre and former Sentry slayer, beating the hell out of Dex, the most generic human white guy to ever drive a white Volvo, Marina just couldn’t bring herself to do this thing Harper’s way.
“Going alone isn’t an option,” she said. “All my coworkers know Dex cheated on me, and I’m getting super sick of their pity.”
And since every on-air personality was in her makeup chair for over an hour a day, she rarely got a break from everyone’s pity. The good news, she supposed, was that Dex was in sales. If he was ever on-air and she had to apply his makeup, she couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t end up with an eyebrow pencil shoved up his nose. Sideways.
“Who cares what they think?” Harper asked. “They’re all just a bunch of old farts, anyway.”
Easy for someone who didn’t care about what anyone thought to say. With a frustrated sigh,
Marina said, “I work with those old farts every day. It’s my job. Can you just stop arguing with me and try to help me, for God’s sake?”
She could practically hear her sister’s eye roll. “Fine,” Harper said on an exhale. “I’ll help. But everyone at the station probably knows Riddick is married to me. They wanted to run that story on him last month, remember?”
Ugh. She’d forgotten about that. Riddick had brought down some renegade vampire who’d tried to rob the local blood bank, and her station had begged him for a good solid week for an interview. Dex had even tried to get her to talk Riddick into it, since he’d been sure it would be good for advertising sales.
In typical Riddick fashion, his answer had been a horrified fuck no. The man was one of the most anti-social creatures Marina had ever encountered. He’d probably rather be water boarded than participate in an on-air interview.
“Damn it,” Marina muttered, more to herself than to Harper. What was she going to do now?
Maybe she could ask Violet if her husband, Nikolai, would do it. Nikolai was a fuck-hot dhampyre, too. Showing up with Nikolai would probably kill the sympathetic head tilt forever.
But as soon as the idea popped into her head, she dismissed it. Violet was nine months pregnant and getting ready to go into labor at any minute. You probably couldn’t pry Nikolai from her side with a crowbar at this point.
Riddick’s sister’s husband, Lucas, was also out of the question. He was a cop, and everyone at the station knew all the local cops. They’d know he was married to Seven, who was somewhat of a local dhamypre legend, herself.
God, sometimes it really sucked to be ordinary.
“I could ask Benny to go with you,” Harper said. “He’d do it in a heartbeat.”
Harper’s employee and bestie, Benny, wasn’t a dhampyre. He was a halfer—part wererat, part vampire. Benny was cute and endearing in a Jon Cryer/Seth Rogan, loveable loser kind of way.
But he wasn’t a guy who’d make Dex regret the day he cheated on her. A guy who’d make Gloria, the station’s evening news anchor, stop trying to set her up with her son, Floyd, who still lived in his mom’s pool house and played Call of Duty all day.
And Benny also had an unfortunate habit of making inappropriate jokes and innuendos at the most inopportune times. Harper found those inappropriate jokes and innuendos adorable, while pretty much everyone else on the planet, well, didn’t.
But before she could tactfully figure out a way to tell Harper she didn’t want to go out with Benny, Harper said, “No, never mind. Last time he saw you, Benny said you have a bite-able ass. He’d just hit on you all night. It’d get tedious for you.”
Marina was a bit nonplussed by that information. If a half vampire said her ass was bite-able, did he mean that figuratively, or literally? She always assumed vampires would prefer to drink from the neck or wrist, but maybe…
Then she promptly gave herself a sharp mental slap across the face, because her ass and whether or not a vampire might ever want to drink blood from it was so not the point at the moment.
With a groan of frustration, Marina asked, “Am I just being stupid, Harper? Should I just give up and go by myself?”
Harper sighed. “Yes and yes. But I get it. Let me help you, okay? Give me a day or so, and I’ll come up with a plan.”
Skepticism crept up on her. Experience had taught her to be very leery of Harper’s plans. Anything could—and often did—happen when her little sister planned, well, anything, really.
Case in point, if she remembered correctly, there was still a clown in Rochester who had a restraining order against Harper and Riddick for something that went horribly awry at a birthday party Harper had planned for her daughter Haven’s third birthday party. Marina hadn’t asked for details. Plausible deniability and all.
“Your silence is a huge shot in the arm for my self-esteem, sis,” Harper intoned dryly. “Come on. You know you can trust me. My plans always work out in the end. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Visions of fire and brimstone and all manner of debilitating humiliation raced through her mind, but as she’d always done where her sister was involved, Marina merely gritted her teeth and said, “Thank you. Of course I trust you.”
Then she prayed there wasn’t a special place in hell for people who lied to their sisters. All the time.
When he saw an angel walk out of the television station across the street from the bar where he sat (where he’d been sitting all night, actually), Quinn Connell decided he might be a wee bit pissed.
Drunk, he reminded himself. Americans said drunk, not pissed. Pissed meant angry over here, for some reason.
Quinn hadn’t been back to Ireland in decades and he still sometimes struggled with American slang.
Not that it mattered. Pissed, sloshed, blathered, bollocksed, blotto, rat-arsed, blind-stinkin’-drunk…it didn’t matter what he called it. The cheap whiskey he’d been swilling for the past two hours had obviously started to dick with his eyesight. How else could he explain the presence of an angel in this shitty part of town?
She moved like a dancer, he thought as he watched her glide across the parking lot. Back straight, lean, toned limbs carrying her purposefully, but with a kind of elegant grace that Quinn could never pull off.
Dudes who were six-four and two-twenty with hands the size of hams didn’t really do anything gracefully.
But fortunately, grace had never been required of him. Speed, strength, ruthlessness…that’s all he’d needed in his years with Sentry. He’d been a blunt instrument of destruction. A slayer. A dhampyre, as he’d only recently found out from the Vampire Council, genetically engineered to be the perfect killing machine.
Not the type of person someone like the angel across the street would ever glance at twice.
It was just as well. What was he supposed to do? March up to her and say, “Hello there, lass who looks way too good for the likes of a poor orphan immigrant such as myself. I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful you are, as I’ve just been sitting here, drinking copiously while watching you like a proper creeper. I have no job, very few prospects—despite what the overly optimistic youngster at the employment agency says. But what I do have is a shady past with an organization everyone in the world pretty much hates these days, and a somewhat frightening paranormal heritage. And if it sweetens the pot any, I also did some prison time recently. Care to grab a drink with me sometime?”
Not fuckin’ likely.
Her thick mass of shiny brown hair fell forward and obscured his view of her face as she looked down and started pawing through her handbag. He assumed she was looking for her keys or her phone.
Big mistake, he immediately thought. Being distracted, looking down, not paying attention to her surroundings…she was leaving herself wide open to attack. Anyone could grab her, steal her purse, knock her down, or worse.
He felt his blood starting to boil the longer he watched her. It was dark, they were in a shitty part of town, and she was walking to her car, by herself, without even having her keys or phone in hand? Was his angel reckless, oblivious, or just plain stupid?
But his blood stopped boiling—stopped moving altogether, really—as he caught sight of movement behind her. His dhampyre status didn’t do shit to help him get a regular job, but it did give him much better than average eyesight, even at night. And that extra special dhampyre eyesight of his was now telling him that there was a man creeping up on his angel. A large one, too. No…wait. It wasn’t one man. It was two.
And she had no idea, because she was busy digging through her handbag, looking for God knows what.
Stay out of trouble, his probation officer had told him. Don’t be anywhere where crimes are being committed. If the cops have to question you about anything while you’re on probation, they’ll dump your ass back in Midvale faster than you can fucking blink.
And Midvale wasn’t someplace anyone wanted to be. Home to the worst supernatural criminals in the country, Quinn was pretty sure he wouldn’t survive if he got tossed back in now. He hadn’t exactly made friends while he was inside.
Which he thought rather odd. He was fuckin’ delightful, in his own humble opinion.
But as the two men closed in on his angel, he knew he didn’t have a choice. There was no way he could sit idly by and let anything happen to her. Even if it meant rotting in Midvale for the rest of his life, however short that might be. After all, he didn’t know her, but he knew himself.
And he’d be willing to bet good money that her life was worth a hell of a lot more than his.
He shook his head at the dark direction of his own thoughts. “Jesus, that’s maudlin,” he muttered, tossing a few bills down on the table to cover his drinks before climbing to his feet. He only swayed a little bit, and he was oddly proud of that.
Maybe superior eyesight wasn’t the only gift his dhampyre status had afforded him. He’d always assumed his Irish heritage was to be credited for his damn-near supernatural ability to hold his liquor, but maybe his hollow leg was a gift from Sentry’s genetic engineering department. Huh. Who knew?
Perhaps, like the little gal with the big eyes at the employment agency had told him, he actually was some kind of…superhero. Could she have been right?
Time to go save the damsel in distress and find out, he supposed.
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