The Surfboard Slaying, страница 1часть #2 серии Enchanted Coast Magical Mystery
© 2018 Tegan Maher
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or institutions is entirely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
Sneak Peek of Sweet Murder
Connect with Me
Other Books by Tegan Maher
Thank you for joining me for my second adventure on the Enchanted Coast! This book was a ton of fun to write, and I’ll be following up with Book 3, The Lethal Luau, soon. These books are a little lighter than my other series; my goal was to create a quick, light read great for an afternoon at home, or to bring some magic to your own Enchanted Coast vacation.
"EXCUSE ME, BUT MAY I use your sunscreen? I hate to be a mooch, but I seem to have gone through mine already."
I pulled the towel off my eyes and leaned up onto my elbow on my poolside lounge chair, squinting as my eyes adjusted to the sun. A twenty-something woman with light skin and dark hair rested on her elbow facing me from the next chair over, her over-sized sunglasses pulled up just enough that her chocolate-colored eyes were visible beneath them as she waited for my answer. She had a soft southern lilt to her voice. I tilted my head. Alabama, or Mississippi maybe.
I'd heard the scrape of chair legs against the pavers when she'd claimed the chair half an hour ago, but hadn't bothered to look up. It was one of my few days off, and I was enjoying it poolside, soaking up rays in the adults-only infinity pool on the rooftop of the Enchanted Coast Resort where I worked and lived.
I dealt with people enough when I was working that I enjoyed my solitude when I wasn't. The one exception to that was my familiar, a marble fox named Tempest. She hated both water and heat, so she'd opted to hang out at the cottage, napping, rather than hang with me at the pool.
It only took one glance to realize the girl was a vampire, and likely a newly turned on at that based on the pink tinging her skin. The resort was charmed so that even vampires could enjoy the sun and amenities without burning—or wanting to drain other guests dry. Older vampires could endure the sun almost as well as I, a regular Irish witch, could. Newer ones didn't have quite that much tolerance even with the magic.
"Sure," I said, pulling my bottle of SPF 50 from my beach bag and handing it to her.
"Thanks," she said, squeezing a glob out and slathering it over her shoulders and arms. She smeared some on her cheeks and nose too, even though she was wearing an enormous floppy hat. "I've always tanned rather than burned, but have recently acquired a ... health condition that makes me sensitive to UV rays."
I tilted one side of my mouth up in a wry smile at the way she phrased it. "I gathered as much. Go ahead and hang onto it; I have another bottle."
Before I could roll back over and pretend I was alone again, she held out her hand across the space dividing our chairs. "Marissa Clayton."
So much for solitude, but manners prevailed over preference and I reached out and shook her sunscreen-slick hand. "Destiny Maganti. Pleased to meet you."
She leaned back in her chair and I did the same. A comfortable silence ensued for a few minutes.
"So, how long are you here for?" she asked.
I gave a mental groan. Don't get me wrong—I'm a people person, but I'd just come off a stretch of working twelve ten-hour days and just wanted to chill and detune.
"A little over three years," I said without taking the towel off my eyes.
"Three years?" The confusion in her voice made me smile, and I relented.
"Yeah. But to be fair, I work here. And now that I think about it, it's almost four years."
She laughed. "That makes more sense. I'm here for a month to get away from my life. I've got some tough decisions to make, and I'm not sure where I'm going to go from here." She gave a deep sigh and though I didn't want to pry, I felt like she was waiting for me to ask. So I did.
"Sounds like a lot of weight you're carrying. Major life change?"
Another sigh. "You could say that." She paused. "You’re magical, right? I mean, everybody here has to be, according to the brochure."
That was another sign she was a noob. Most of us had a sort of a second sense about other folks with magic, but newly turned vampires and shifters took a while to develop that even with their heightened sense of smell. To be fair, though, witches are tough to pick from a crowd outside of a place like the resort because we smelled almost like humans. Fortunately, we smelled just different enough to not smell tasty to vampires and carnivorous shifters.
"I am," I said, sitting up to see her. "I'm a water witch."
A look of understanding crossed her face and she smiled. "I should have guessed that from your smell." The pink tinge to her cheeks from the sun darkened just a bit when she realized how her words sounded. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it like that."
I held up a hand and grinned at her discomfort. It was kinda refreshing being around somebody who still had the ability to blush. "It's all good. I know what you mean. And you're a vampire. New to the life, right?"
Chagrin brushed across her face before she managed to hide it.
"Yeah. Though not by choice."
I cocked a brow. Turning a human was taboo except under specific circumstances, and the parent better be able to back up his or her decision to the higher-ups.
She pulled in a deep breath, then released it. Despite the application of fresh sunscreen, her shoulders were turning a darker shade of pink. It wouldn't be much longer before she blistered.
"How bout we move to the shaded end of the pool?" I said, not wanting to see that happen.
One corner of the pool was covered by a large awning to provide shade for this very reason. We gathered our towels and beach bags and relocated to a table where she wouldn't fry to a crisp. The temperature was about ten degrees cooler in the shade, so I wasn't exactly disappointed.
"Now, you were saying you didn't choose to be a vampire. You know there are rules about that, right?"
She nodded. "It wasn't like that, though. I was hit by a pickup when I ran out of a bar after catchin' my lowdown jerk of a boyfriend cozied up in a corner booth with a cocktail waitress."
Okay, that still didn't explain how she'd ended up a vampire unless the truck so
"The guy drivin' the truck was a vampire," she said, then her voice turned bitter. "I was stompin' out of the parkin' lot madder'n an old wet hen and not watchin' where I was goin', and poor Ben, one of my late-night regulars, pulled around the curve from the main road and into the parkin' lot. When he hit me, it knocked me backwards into a swampy area and a gator got me by the arm."
I shook my head. That was some serious bad luck.
"Anyway," she continued, pulling a bottle of faux blood from a little cooler she was carrying, "it hit an artery when it bit down, and he got to me just before it dragged me off and finished me. Asked me if I wanted him to save me and told me my life would change forever if he did." She snorted. "I thought he meant somethin' like I'd lose my arm, but I didn't have much choice. The blood was flowin' out of that gash and I was fadin' fast."
Now I saw where it was going. The good Samaritan hadn't done anything wrong, per se. She'd been dying and he'd saved her life.
She popped the straw in the top of the box and took a pull from it.
"He had to shake me back awake twice before I said yes, and the next thing I knew, it was three days later and I was completely healed. He took care of me for the next week, but then I got stubborn and went to work when he ran to the store.
"I worked evening shift at the local 7-Eleven and it took all of ten minutes before I was wanting to suck the life out of the guy I was workin' with—and trust me, the idea of putting any part of him in my mouth would have made me gag a week before. So, I went back home before I did anything stupid and sucked it up, pardon the pun."
The blisters on her shoulders were already healed and, feeling the tenderness on my upper legs, I was a little jealous that she wouldn't be itching and peeling in a few days like I would.
"And how long ago was that? Did he take care of you while you adjusted?"
She nodded. "That was two months ago, and he did. I have to give him that. And he felt awful guilty about the whole mess. But the only thing he's guilty of is savin' my life, such that it is." She squared her shoulders. "I'm lucky to be here. But now I have to decide what to do. It's not like once I leave here, I can just run back to the store. For one, it's a crap job, and for another, I don't trust myself yet. That's why Benjamin—the guy who saved me—recommended I come here. No temptation, and it would give me a chance to get away from the whole mess and get some perspective."
"How's that working out for you?" I asked, genuinely curious. It had to be a tough spot to be in.
She gave a small smile, and I was pleased to see that her nose and cheeks were back to their normal, near-white shade. Must be nice to have vampire healing.
"Better than can be expected, actually. Out there, when I was thirsty, people smelled better than fresh-baked bread, bacon, and coffee, all rolled into one. I walked around droolin' all the time, and could barely focus on just walkin' down the street. I don't have that problem here," she said, wrinkling her nose. "No offense."
I smiled. "None taken. So what about the career thing?"
She shrugged. "With eternity ahead of me, lots of things I figured were outta reach seem a lot more doable now. Plus, not that I was dim before, but my brain works faster. I have options."
"And what about Benjamin?" She was young and pretty and seemed super sweet. I couldn't help but wonder if the connection and all that time together had kindled a flame.
She waved me off and made an oh puhlease face. "Trust me—it's not like that. He's old-fashioned—as in 1700s old-fashioned. Plus, since he's the one who turned me, he's kinda paternal. He cares about me, though he has no idea what to do with a modern woman in the house. But now that you mention it, I've noticed several handsome men here, one in particular."
I smelled gossip, and hoped the conversation was taking a turn for the juicy. She shut me down before I could ask.
"Enough about me though," she said, turning the conversation. "What's it like working at a place like this? Do you live here, too? And is that a Georgia accent I hear?"
That surprised me a little. I still had an accent, but had lost quite a bit of it in the years I'd be away. "It is. Southern Georgia. And I do live here. I just took it as a summer gig a few years ago, but I fell in love with it. Since I'm a water witch and I hate the cold, it's the perfect place for me. I can't imagine doing anything else."
She tilted her head. "You know, that may not be a bad idea. Are y'all hirin'? I need a job, I need a place to stay, and it's nice to be able to go out in the sun and to talk to somebody without the distraction of thinkin' how they'd taste with crackers."
I laughed. "We're always hiring somewhere on the resort, but take your month and think about what you want to do before you make any decisions."
"Sounds good," she said as she slipped into the pool. "Look, only here one day, and I already have an option."
"Options are always a good thing," I said, following suit. It was rare to hang out with somebody who didn't work at the resort, and I found myself enjoying the rest of the afternoon talking to her and getting to know her.
Turns out, it was lucky for her that I did, because she was about to need somebody in her corner.
I squeezed some aloe into my hand and winced as I smeared the cold goop onto the tops of my thighs. The rest of me was fairly tan since I spent the majority of my life in the sun, but most of that time was spent in shorts that covered the more sensitive parts of me.
In order to give it time to dry, I brushed my hair and put on what minimal makeup I wore before I stepped into my white work shorts. Glancing at my watch, I growled and snatched my apron off my bed, then dashed out the door. If I didn't hurry, I wasn't going to have time to do inventory and place the food order before guests started trickling in.
I was the head waitress and assistant manager of the resort's beach tiki bar, and as you may have already surmised, Enchanted Coast Resort was a resort designed for paranormals only. There were exceptions made, but they were rare and made on a case-by-case basis. In general, it was for the best. Anywhere else us paranormals went, we had to hide who we were, and this was the one place we didn't have to do that.
As a result, we catered to every type of people from faeries to mermaids, and even the occasional angel. We even had a Valkyrie named Stephanie who regularly came to vacation with her battle steed, Buttercup. She was fun to drink with, but we made sure she left her sword in her room or behind the bar if she was going to be two-fisting it.
Security was tight, too. Nobody could apparate on the property except for me, Tempest, and Blake, the executive director of the resort and my former fiancé. Despite that small detail, he was a good guy. He was the only one who could actually apparate off the property or into the main area resort. My clearance was limited to the boundaries of the property, which were substantial, and in front of Margo, the giant Sphinx that stood guard in front of the main building.
We could also lock down the entire property so that nobody could come or go in case of emergency. It was always a good idea to be able to contain the place when you were dealing with folks who could kill just by taking off a turban, not that I'm singling out the Gorgons; it's just a good example of why beefed-up security is a must.
I stepped outside my cottage, set my own wards, then snapped my fingers. A second later, I was standing outside the tiki bar, grateful to see I was the first one there. We didn't technically open until eleven, but there are always folks who operate on the premise that it's five o'clock somewhere, especially when they're on vacation on the Gulf of Mexico.
Saying the words to unlock the wards on the tiki, I stepped inside, reset them, then headed to the office I shared with Bob, our Bigfoot bartender and manager of the tiki. When the position had come open a month earlier, everyone had assumed I'd take it, but Bob had a family and would benefit more from the pay raise, and he was also a better fit. I didn't mind helping out and I knew that bar inside out, but I was better suited to keeping things
Bob was a great guy, but a little too gentle sometimes to knock somebody who'd gotten too big for their britches down a peg or two. You wouldn't think it, but drunken unicorns are scary. You'd think considering he was seven feet tall with hands big enough to crack coconuts—I'd seen him do it—he'd have a little more grit, but he was a lover, not a fighter. Which, to be fair, was a dominant feature in his species.
Anyhoo, I was the front-of-house muscle, so to speak, and he did the books and made sure the place stayed solvent and running. We alternated taking inventory and placing the orders because we both hated doing it. And today was my day. Since I had to be there anyway, I always told Bob to come in an hour late so he could spend more time with his kids. I could bartend and serve for that long, and he was away from them too much as it was.
For once, it wasn't miserably steamy, so I decided to sit at the bar instead of in the office to fill out the order once I'd done the inventory. The smell of sea air and sunshine combined with the crash of waves and the slight breeze that tickled the hairs on the back of my neck was manna to me.
I'd just finished up and emailed it to Blake, who had to sign off on it, when my first guests arrived. A group of four twenty-something faeries came tripping around the corner from the main hotel, laughing and carrying surfboards. Of course, their looks were likely deceptive; it was just as possible that they were a century old as a couple of decades. Faeries lived long and aged well.
"Hey guys," I said, standing up and heading behind the bar. "What can I get you?"
"Just waters, please," said the first one, a tall guy with sun-kissed surfer-boy hair, emerald eyes, and a brogue. As a matter of fact, they were all tall with sun-kissed, surfer-boy hair. The main differences between them were that they were staggered by a few years (or decades) in age, and they each had different-colored, jewel-toned eyes. And they all had varying levels of a hangover if I was any judge. And I was.
"C'mon Evan. Hair of the dog," the second guy said, shoulder bumping him. "We're on vacation. Have a beer, bro." Ah, brothers. That explained why they looked so much alike. He turned to me. "What ales do you have?"