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Shift Happens

By:J. C. McKenzie

Chapter One


A human? Not what I expected. Tall and muscular, Clint Behnsen’s broad shoulders made a girl want to take up mountain climbing. With slicked back hair the same deep sable as mine, and a dark Armani suit, he announced his wealth like a red flag to the lowlifes in the sleazy downtown Vancouver club. A good looking man in his prime.

A shame I had to kill him.

I leaned my tall frame against the sticky bar and pushed my boobs out, hoping to draw my target’s attention. The smell of booze and desperation assailed my senses while strobe lights flickered all the colours of the rainbow. A man stepped away from his buddies to stand beside me.

“Hey, babe. What’s your name?” he shouted over the music. His breath hit the side of my face in little punches of fetid air.

“Andrea,” I said, keeping my gaze on Clint. I didn’t have time to deal with losers, especially ones sporting lopsided faux-hawks. He wore a charming smile, but one sniff of his narcotic containing sweat, I pegged this guy as a moron in seconds. Having heightened senses and animal magnetism might give me a professional advantage, but at times like this, it also sucked.

Mr. Faux-hawk’s eyelids drooped in a lousy attempt at bedroom eyes. He looked more like a sedated psychopath in a mental institute. He leaned to the side and looked at my butt. “Your ass is pretty tight; want me to loosen it up for you?”

Gross! My muscles tensed as heat flushed through my body. No man should speak to a woman like that. A low growl escaped my lips, and the man’s spine straightened. I wanted to embed my fist in his face. Wide eyed, he froze as I turned my full attention to him. My eyes tingled, telling me they’d partially shifted to reflect the animals within.

Prey recognized predator. The man grabbed his drink and scurried away, quickly engulfed by the gyrating throng of dancing norms.

“Glad you got rid of him.” A singsong voice pulled my attention from the fleeing man’s back. Prey should never run. I squeezed my eyelids shut and took a deep breath in, resisting the urge to give chase, before turning to the woman.

Mel?

Invisible arms squeezed my chest as all the air wooshed out of my lungs. Stomach acid burned my throat. The room tilted and my vision narrowed until an awful memory, one I tried to suppress, overtook it.

Sweat, mixed with the acrid scent of blood rolled off the pack women huddled in the corner of the room. Naked. Waiting their turn. Hair plastered to their faces. My friend Mel mouthed our mantra, “Survive.”

I took a long, controlled breath in. The woman behind the bar wasn’t Mel, but she could’ve been a body double, down to the hourglass figure and big blonde hair. I shook my head to clear the horrible image she triggered.

I hadn’t seen Mel since I broke free.

“Um…You okay? Can I get you something?” The blonde quirked her finely plucked brow. How long had I been staring at her?

“Rye and cola, please,” I mumbled and shelled out a twenty-dollar bill. After slapping the money on the counter, I grabbed my drink and moved away from the bar to one of the nearby tables before she could give me any change. Time to focus on my assignment.

Stashed below an expensive hotel, I surveyed the bar known to locals as the Dirty Dungeon, and thought of Clint’s reasons for slumming. He had enough money to go to any number of the higher-end clubs, just down the street.

So why here?

I drummed my fingers on the table top. Maybe he planned to meet someone? So far, he’d strutted around the club with his guards, establishing his presence without accomplishing much—except picking up women and lookin’ good. Real good.

Whatever Clint did to piss off my employer had transpired in the past, because I’d watched him all day and unless getting laid in triplicate now constituted a crime, he’d been a law-abiding citizen the whole time. Typically, I went after preternatural beings, or supes, that broke the rules set by the Supernatural Regulatory Division.

Why would the SRD place such importance on this norm?

I finished my drink and left the empty glass on the table. My employer’s motives didn’t matter. Not my job to question, and time ticked away. A twenty-four hour deadline with virtually no Intel. Awesome.

With a relaxed stride, I dodged the obstacle course of men who gathered in the club like packs of wolves, ready to hunt down vulnerable women with low self-esteem and a penchant for making bad decisions. Plumes of smoke billowed around their heads and caught in my lungs as I made my way across the dark room toward Clint. He stood near the second bar at the back of the club and recounted some sort of hunting story. I heard him say, “prowl,” and “caught a few.” The loud pumping bass and the obnoxious drunks screaming at each other made it difficult to make out more, even this close, but Clint’s tale probably didn’t involve any four-legged herbivores.

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