Seated at the rail of the Kalapaki Beach Hut, the shape-shifting supernatural calling himself Xavier Cassidy sipped the Kona blend that, until this morning, had been the primary perk of being on a case on Kauai. Now the black brew tasted charred and tarry beside the apricot, honey, and musk of the woman he’d eaten before breakfast. As appetizing as his Loco Moco platter--rice, hamburger, egg, and brown gravy--was, he figured he’d have traded it straight up for another taste of Essie Sundae.
No one he’d ever been with tasted like the beauty he’d had wrapped around his face. No lie, he could’ve eaten her all morning, fucked her on his tongue until her screams went hoarse. He wouldn’t be forgetting the look of her either. Big, firm homegrown tits pointing skyward, dirty-pink nipples hard and skywriting oh gods, yes with every heaving breath. Strong thighs splayed away from his shoulders, wanton, and...no shit, he could swear her damp coppery-blonde hair caught fire, or at least caught the light in a way that looked like fire, a nimbus of red-gold flame.
Nimbus? Xav blinked, fact-checked that one along his perennial mental link to the wide world of Internet porn. Ah, yeah. Harry Potter. Brooms. Named after the cloud of divine atmosphere around a goddess. Fitting, he decided, with the way her hair fell over her shoulders and brushed the tops of her breasts, with the slight womanly curve of her stomach and the hips he happened to know swayed like a hypnotist’s watch when she walked. And that mouth. Oh hell yeah. Whether or not she was divine, a guy could worship a mouth like that.
Not to mention that this morning was the first time he’d ever gone to a partner because he wanted to, instead of getting sucked in by their admittedly hot fantasy.
All of which was one helluva problem, since the errand that brought him to Kona at Kalapaki turned on that leggy honey with her killer curves and every-color blonde hair. Oldman--aka Janus, Roman god of beginnings and transitions, gates, doors, passages, endings, and time--his boss, for lack of term that didn’t make him sound like some kind of vassal, ironically had a severe shortage of patience and an even shorter fuse. So the sooner Xav could recover the damned “key” and cut ties with the old bastard, the better.
He must’ve been scowling at the laptop in front of him--filled with virtual ream after ream (pun more or less unavoidable) of porn, erotica, and erotic romance--since the bona fide beauty two tables over was giving him the “u mad bro?” come-hither. Thing of it was, he wanted to come hither or go thither. In theory. In theory, a hot, willing woman would be the perfect way to wash the taste of Essie Sundae out of his mouth. He sure as fuck wouldn’t have turned this one down last night if she’d been crossing and uncrossing her dragon-inked legs like that to give him a view of heaven, maybe even couldn’t have. Pretty as hell, prettier than Essie Sundae by most any measure, but this morning, she did nothing for him, and her broadcast fantasies about sucking him off under the table, as strong as they were, couldn’t have been less appealing.
Jesus H! The hell was wrong with him, panting after one woman, any woman, let alone a supernatural he didn’t know and was supposed to be tailing? Snorting disgust at himself, Xav went back to mainlining porn between beefy, salty, perfectly greasy bites of Loco Moco, trying to find some clue in every bit of smut since the beginning of forever as to what this damned key Oldman wanted was and why it was so important. Archaeological journals might’ve been more useful, but they took longer. His mind and his processing speeds were hardwired for smut; some of it, especially the fanfic, came shockingly well researched.
A plink interrupted his reading. He looked up, expecting to find a roach on the table or one of the huge flying fuckers on his spoon. Instead, a crumpled-up paper napkin sat beside his water glass. The Hawaiian hottie didn’t give up easy. He’d give her that. Since he wasn’t looking up the skirt a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader would’ve been embarrassed to wear, when he glanced over, she went full fellatio on her shave ice and spoon. Yeah, he got the message. They could be playing hot and naughty with the rainbow ice, if he’d just put away his computer and pay his bill. He shrugged, pointed to the palladium wedding band that had been a stud in his ear seconds before, up-chinned at her, and mouthed a cane-sugar-sweet Thanks anyway, princess.
After that, she backed off, cheeks a little on the flush side, gaze narrowed and smoldering, but ego no worse for the wear. He knew, because not five minutes later she’d moved on to a guy with cheekbones and nipples that could cut glass. More power to ya, sweetheart, he thought in her direction, and cast his gaze out over the sands to see if it was just her not doing it for him or Essie Sundae’d inoculated him with real immunity. That’d be a helluva thing. Might mean he didn’t need Oldman’s help so damn much.
Like the old bastard had radar for him thinking about bailing, his cell rang “January Friend” by the Goo Goo Dolls. Great song. Not so much the caller, and for half a dozen heartbeats, Xav seriously considered either not picking up or telling Oldman to fuck right off. On the seventh he recalled Oldman could kick his ass coming and going, and on the eighth through twelfth, he reminded himself of the other reasons pissing off his current boss would be a fool-stupid idea. On the thirteenth--yeah, he counted--he picked up and kicked back at the same time, then flipped a flying cockroach the bird when it tried to dive in for some rice and drawled, “Yeah, man. How’s it hanging?” into the phone.
“How many times have I asked you not to address me in that fashion, and to accord me the respect I’m due as--”
“Let’s call it an even dozen and skip the lecture. I’m a little busy. Porn waits for no man, woman, or child and all that.” Pissing him off royally might be off-limits, but tweaking him a bit--Xav smirked, flipped his hair out of his face, and nodded to the waitress for more coffee, eyeing her up idly for good measure--had to be fair game, or Xav’d choke on a kowtow. “What’s on your mind?”
“You couldn’t begin to encompass it all.”
Xav made the universal gesture for wanking off and rolled his eyes. “Why are you calling?”
“Ah, now we get to the crux of it”--the antique leather chair in Oldman’s New York study creaked protest as he shifted his weight but apparently didn’t give up the ghost, since there were no extraneous thuds or curses. Too bad. Xav wouldn’t mind imagining him dumped on his ass--“but can you truly be so entirely stupid as not to know what I require?”
“Oh, probably. I can give Forrest Gump a run for his money if I put my mind to it.” Oldman snarled, and Xav smirked to himself but settled down before the bastard blew his stack. He tabbed open his working file on the key and skimmed the nearly nothing there. “I’ll spare you the box of chocolates, though, and get right down to it.”
From the other end of the line came a profound sigh of relief. “Oh frabjous day!”
Frabjous? Xav traced that down his link and quickly found the reference. Lewis Carroll, “Jabberwocky.”
“Did you just make a joke, Oldman?”
“Yes, but an Indian supermodel just unzipped my fly, so don’t read anything into it.”
And he was talking on the phone with his promise-bound supernatural errand boy? Whatever blew his skirt up, Xav guessed. Oldman’s money, probably in both cases, and definitely fell under the heading of Not My Problem. “Well, don’t get too excited. I haven’t found your vorpal sword yet.”
“When I want you to be funny, I’ll let you know.”
Xav recognized the soft huff of breath as that of a man with an abruptly, pleasantly wet dick and paused to slice through another strip of his burger.
“Here. Trying to time my responses appropriately.” So Oldman wouldn’t miss them in the waves of pleasure from his blowjob and call Xav yet again.
“Get on with it--ahh, not you, my dear.” There came a soft shushing sound, as of the sweep of a hand through long hair.
Annoyed, and tired of wasting time he could be spending with--watching Essie Sundae--as a dolphin, a bird, a gardener, a barista, anything ever mentioned in porn-- Xav spit out, “You were right. She’s got mojo. Maybe a hell of a lot of it. She tastes like ambrosia, and her hair--”
“I’m not paying you to have sex.”
No, that’s what you’re paying the model for, Xav thought, but kept the belligerence on his own side of the equator. “Like I was saying, her hair has a nimbus of sunfire around dawn. I’m not sure she’s aware of it.” She definitely hadn’t been today, but Xav decided to take that as a vote of confidence rather than any evidence of her abilities or lack of.
“How could she not be aware of it? Is she...damaged?”
Unsure whether the hesitation was significant or an accident of the blowjob, and unwilling to ask, Xav scowled. “Not as far as I can tell. She definitely feels all there.”
“Cassidy,” came the expected rebuke but in a rasp that Xav really wished he hadn’t heard.
“If you don’t mind, could you save growling at me for sometime you’re not in the middle of your ten-thousand-year-life crisis? It’s creepy.”
“Do you have anything else to report?”
This time the snap in Oldman’s tone was entirely satisfactory. Maybe he’d lost his wood. A guy could dream. “No. I’m planning to--”
“You’re planning to find my key,” Oldman barked, and the line went dead.
Aaaand, the vorpal blade went snicker-snack. Or something like that, anyway. Xav rubbed a hand over his face and reminded himself that finding the key would release him from his obligations to Oldman. Maybe there’d be time to come back for another taste of Essie Sundae when it was done. Even if she did have the key, she’d never know he’d been the one to take it.
But when he typed in the address for the website from which she ran her business and watched it come up, Xav’s stomach twisted. He didn’t have much in the way of a code of ethics. It hadn’t ever served him as the anthropomorphization of Internet porn. But something about the beauty he’d worshipped this morning made him really want to get one.
Fuck Oldman, anyway. He better come through on his end of this deal to help Xav stabilize his identity and his abilities, or Xav was going to... Yeah, right there, he always ran into the same problem. If he didn’t come through on his end of the deal, then what? It wasn’t like Xav could kill him. Old bastard might be past his zenith and all that, but he’d been around about a thousand times as long as the Internet even existed, and if someday Xav might be powerful enough to knock him around, it would be pretty much a flea kicking an elephant right now.
“Evs,” Xav muttered, scrolling through Essie’s site again, trying to get some sense of the woman, why she ran a business that promised sexily ever afters using custom gift baskets, of all the damned things, and where she might hide a key to a chamber in a barrow in Skalunda, Sweden, if she had it. How the hell had she managed to rack up twenty-seven glowing testimonials when she’d only been open since end November as far as he could tell?
Only one way to find out. He’d have to order one. For little sis, who was little bro this month, and charge it to Oldman...hmm, no. If 63 got it, Xav wouldn’t be able to examine it, see if Essie was doing what she claimed. Dropping his shades down his nose, Xav scanned Kalapaki for a likely chick to send a basket to, but didn’t find anything to taste. Then he remembered the crumpled-up napkin on the table and the Hawaiian beauty attached to it.
Xav flattened the paper and pocketed the penny that fell out. Moana Kamikawa and her phone number. He ought to be dialing it instead of contemplating it like cold fish a mile from the nearest sushi plate. Maybe he would. Later. Now, he plugged it into the fields for the gift basket recipient with a sick little twist in his gut.
But what else could he do? He couldn’t exactly go asking Essie to make a basket for herself...