Hex Appeal will be out in 10 days! Fluff and Puff in trouble big time where they're even in danger of being destroyed for eating a carnie. Namely a Were carnie. Will they go to Bunny Slipper prison? Will they be brought before the Witches Council, or even worse, the Ruling Council? Can Jazz find out the truth in time? Stay tuned. Namely, buy the book. :}
Jazz was relieved it was still early enough that it seemed no one was stirring on the boardwalk. With the slipper bunnies non grata in the carnival area, she had to make sure not to be seen by the boardwalk manager, who made ogres look like sweet pussycats.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing bringing them here?”
Jazz froze. “Five steps,” she muttered, staring at the parking lot that was so near yet so far. “Just five lousy steps.” She turned around. “Well, aren’t we up early!” She used her perkiest witch voice. “How are you, Rex?”
Rex (no one ever learned his last name) was a horror filmmaker’s dream—if he wanted someone who looked like a nightmarish thug. Six-foot-four with a square-shaped body built like a Sherman tank, the man looked as if he’d been a former professional boxer. The misshapen nose, cauliflower ears, and slight droop to the left side of his mouth, along with arms the size of tree trunks and the stance of a long-time fighter, showed he wasn’t your everyday human. He looked as if one deep breath would split his plaid cotton shirt a la the Incredible Hulk. Standing stoically in front of her, he glared at her feet. Fluff and Puff took one look at him and squeaked in alarm.
“Cowards,” she muttered.
“I told you if I ever caught you bringing those damn garbage disposals on the boardwalk again you’d be banned for life,” he snarled. “Your life.”
“They’re not doing anything,” she argued, and then realized he shouldn’t have seen them at all. She’d had a bad night and no coffee yet, so by now she was feeling pretty snarky. “They have rights too.”
“Not here they don’t.” He stabbed a sausage-shaped finger in the direction of a sign posted off the walkway. “No pets allowed on the boardwalk and they were banned from here last year.”
Jazz hid her grin at the sound of the slippers’ shrieks of outrage at being considered pets. “Now that’s just insulting them.”
He leaned in, exhaling air that reeked of a serious lack of Listerine. “Insulting them is the least of their problems. Those fuzzy chompers were out on the boardwalk doing the only thing they know how to do. I oughta feed them to a wood chipper.”
She thought better of getting back in his face. Her olfactory senses could only take so much. The gross breath was bad enough, but his body odor was beyond nasty. She’d need to inhale bleach to get the stench out of her nostrils. “They’re magickal. You can’t touch them and you know it.” Smug sounds from Fluff and Puff backed up her haughty claim.
He scowled. “Don’t be so sure about that. I’ve got a carnie missing and those damn slippers were seen in the vicinity.”
Jazz felt the cold stealing through her bones. “No way. You tried that accusation before and it didn’t work. Besides, contrary to legend, they haven’t eaten a human in centuries.”
Rex shoved his face into hers, forcing her to rear back. “There’s no accusation this time. Only fact. Those things have fallen off the wagon, because Willie is missing.”
“You’re accusing them of eating Willie? Give me a break, Rex! There’s no way they’d touch him even if he was smothered with Grey Poupon. They don’t like anything with Were-blood and I don’t care what you say, Wereweasel blood is the worst.” She privately thought the Ferris wheel operator was the perfect picture of his ancestry. Willie’s sharp features mirrored the animal he turned into once a month. “So you’ll have to look elsewhere for a patsy, because no way am I letting you accuse them of something we both know they didn’t do.”
At that precise moment, Fluff began coughing and stretching his neck until he hacked loudly. A large black button popped from his mouth. As they say, timing is everything.
Jazz and Rex stared at the boardwalk’s logo stamped on the button. She felt a hitch in her stomach that had nothing to do with indigestion. While it didn’t look good, she wasn’t about to back down.
“He’s always picking up things,” she said swiftly.
Rex crouched and gently touched the button with his beefy forefinger. “It’s Willie’s.”
Jazz couldn’t argue with his statement, since Rex could easily sense any essence belonging to the creatures that worked for him, whether they were members of his pack or not.
He straightened up and jabbed his finger at her. “It ate Willie!”
“And I say he didn’t,” she argued. “I told you. They don’t like Weres.”
His heavily scarred face transformed into something even viler. “They’re coming with me.”
“You can’t touch them,” she stated, ignoring her slippers’ squeaks of dismay. “They’re mine by right. I rescued them from Dyfynnog’s castle.”
“And they ate a living being,” Rex reiterated. “That gives me the right to take them into custody. You’re not the only one with witchy connections, missy, so don’t give me any shit that just because you rescued their furry asses you can protect them.”
Missy? What was it with men reverting to their chauvinistic ways? “They were with me all night.” She ignored her gargoyle’s voice reminding her that the slippers had come into the room when she called them.
“They need to be taken before the Witches’ Council and destroyed for their actions.”
Jazz felt her balance teeter as Fluff and Puff practically hopped off her feet in their agitation at Rex’s words.
“They’re not going anywhere until there’s rock hard proof that they ate Willie,” she said with a bravado she didn’t feel inside. The Witches’ Council wasn’t her favorite place and she wasn’t their favorite witch. She was on 100-year probation as it was.
“I have one of Willie’s shoes with his blood on it and tufts of fur. Plus, I have this.” He held up the button.
“That’s not saying it’s his blood or their fur. I have the right to investigate the matter.” She felt the hole she was rapidly digging for herself. If the slippers ate Willie, she was going to throw them in a wood chipper herself! She had enough trouble with the Witches’ Council without the slippers adding to the mix.
“You know I have the right to invoke protection for them until the truth is discovered,” Jazz pushed.
“All right,” he said grudgingly. “You have two weeks.”
“The usual time is thirty days.”
“Two weeks and be grateful for it. All you’re going to find out is that your things ate Willie. And make sure they don’t go anywhere.” He turned and walked away.
Jazz’s hand started to rise up, her fingers outstretched. “May you …” She abruptly snapped her mouth shut. “Oh no, you are so not going to be the cause of more banishment time for me.” She glared at Fluff and Puff, who’d been giggling and blowing raspberries at the retreating Rex. “You’ve really done it now,” she scolded. “Just wait until we get home.” She ignored their continued grumbles as she made her way to the parking lot. At the moment, all that mattered to her was that she’d had a few hours of good sleep and that her destination would offer her coffee and, with luck, a muffin.
It took Jazz all of ten minutes of scanning the empty parking lot to realize she had walked over to the boardwalk instead of driving.
Fear and anger still mingled inside her and her neck hurt like hell, even if she couldn’t feel any wounds or find any sign of blood. Considering the sensation of feeling Nick literally rip her throat open, she should be able to see something. And her neck wouldn’t be hurting if he hadn’t done something there.
And Nick. Why hadn’t he gotten sick when he took her blood? At the very least, he should have suffered from one hell of a case of heartburn, since a witch’s blood is poisonous to a vampire.
“It doesn’t make sense.” Her whisper hung in the air, creating questions she had no answers for.
Needing to think things out, Jazz took a circuitous route home, stopping at a twenty-four hour Starbucks for a venti white chocolate mocha for herself and ignoring Fluff and Puff’s pleas for a cinnamon roll. With the charges Rex wanted to level against the slippers, she knew he had the right to demand they be taken into custody. But that didn’t mean she didn’t have more than her share of doubts about Willie’s sudden disappearance. Were-carnies tended to wander more than mortal carnies did. If she wanted success she knew she’d have to start looking for the Wereweasel before he ended up states away.