I was cursed.
I had to be. No one could possibly not be cursed and still get a ticket, have a flat tire, and spill her triple espresso mocha all over herself and her car before eight in the morning.
I gripped my steering wheel hard, tapping my foot as I waited for the cop to do whatever he was doing. Probably jerking off. He’d taken my license and registration and retreated to the squad car parked behind me, lights flashing red and blue. Cars whizzed by on the highway, some honking gleefully at me. I snarled, tempted to give the last one a flat tire. Or two. Or all of them. I could send a quick zap of magic and the assbite would be hating life at least as much as I was at the moment. I resisted the urge, silently congratulating the lucky bastard on getting away.
Sighing, I tipped my head back against the headrest, closing my eyes and trying to relax. I had been speeding. No point arguing. Of course, I’d also been wildly squirming in my seat as hot coffee broiled my thighs and crotch. Good thing sex wasn’t on the menu any time soon; I probably had ninth degree burns on my cooch.
If the cop was any kind of a decent human being, he’d have at least considered letting me off with a warning. As it was, he’d barely hidden his laugh when I’d jumped out of the car and performed the hot coffee shimmy and shake, loudly cursing all the while. Now I had to sit in wet pants and underwear as I waited for my ticket. If I did the little nose twitch thing (that’s not really how magic works, incidentally) and was suddenly dry, he’d probably be a little curious. Maliciously so.
That was not the way to cut the timer on this particular humiliation.
Another sigh and a little smile.
Officer Smug had fast lost his little urge to laugh at me when Ajax had leaped out my open door. He came up to my waist and weighed a good buck-fifty and I could still feel his ribs just a bit when I pet him. He also resembled a wolf. Some even said he was a wolf. I didn’t see it. He was a giant, snuggly teddy bear. I’d rescued him from a seriously abusive situation, and we’d been close to inseparable since.
Upon Ajax’s sudden appearance, Officer Smug had back-pedaled fast, nearly tripping over his own feet. He’d managed not to fall on his ass, so he had no real reason to be pissed. What kind of a man couldn’t take a little justified cackling? Anyway, I hadn’t turned him into a frog for finding my hot-coffee dance amusing, so he should return the favor and let me go without the ticket.
Though to be fair, he’d have to know of my largesse and telling him I was a witch would probably have him calling the little men in white coats to take me off to the nuthouse. That or he’d have corrected me and said it was spelled b-i-t-c-h.
I dug my fingers into Ajax’s ruff and scratched his neck. He gave a little moan and leaned into the caress, lifting his head to give me better access to a particularly itchy spot. I obliged the silent demand, watching Officer Numb-nuts clamber out of his car in the rearview, my left foot tapping impatiently.
I hated being late, even if I’d rather eat a jar of live scorpions rather than have breakfast with my mother. My real mother. The woman who’d I’d grown up calling Mommie Dearest had turned out to be my aunt. She’d kidnapped me as an infant. Twenty-seven years later she’d been murdered and suddenly I had a new mother and a huge sprawling dysfunctional family, not to mention a witch community and culture that was about as bizarre as a twelve-legged cat. Not that those exist. I think. Wouldn’t bet my life on it, though.
Anyhow, now my mother wanted to get acquainted, and I’d reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t her fault her sister kidnapped me and then spent my entire life using me as her personal torture doll. It also wasn’t her fault that she closely resembled Aunty Mommie. Nevertheless, just looking at her tended to make me first recoil and then want to kill her. At least a little.
Still, I felt a little sorry for her. She’d never had any more kids, and thanks to the birthing contract, my father had taken my two siblings (I was a triplet) and she’d never seen them again.
I made a face. Birthing contract. The witch community managed their magical bloodlines like horse breeders. They negotiated birth contracts between families, giving the studs and broodmares absolutely no say in the matter. Neither love nor lust nor like nor respect entered into the equation. Basically it came down to pimping out the family chromosomes, not to mention uteruses, dicks, and vaginas.
Despite my adamant refusal to be a part of that whole baby factory thing, my father (who I’d also just met) had determined that I belonged to him and therefore would fuck whoever he wanted me to and have whatever babies he’d contracted for. Bonus—I wouldn’t even have to raise them!
Excuse me while I vomit.
“Here you go, Ma’am.”
The cop passed my registration and license through the window. He was an older guy, maybe around fifty, with a shaved head to cover up the fact he was bald on top. Silver threads shot through his brown mustache and goatee.
“I’m going to give you a warning this time,” he said.
“Really?” I hadn’t seen that coming. “Why?”
“Call it extenuating circumstances,” he said without cracking a smile, but the corners of his eyes crinkled slightly.
“That’s….” I shook my head. “Thanks.”
“Your dog licensed?”
I frowned, shifting into momma-bear mode. “He is.”
“He doesn’t have a collar.”
“The fuckers who had him before me kept him on a chain. When we rescued him, he was starved, covered in bruises with broken bones and his collar had worn a bloody infected trench into his neck. I won’t force him to wear one again.”
At my description, his face turned to granite, his upper lip curled, his nostrils flaring. “Tell me you reported the assholes.”
“It was a hostage situation. You probably remember. Happened not too long ago. A month or so, maybe. Out in north of town in the hollows. Father was a mean son of a bitch who beat the wife and girls. Wife ended up shooting him and then trying to off the girls. They hid in the doghouse with this big guy.”
I scratched Ajax’s ears, my throat knotting with emotion. He’d been determined to protect the little girls despite being close to dead himself. He’d weighed maybe sixty-five pounds and had broken bones from getting kicked who knows how many times. I still couldn’t quite believe that Lorraine—one of my best friends and an incredible veterinarian—had managed to put him back together. She was a miracle worker. “Not sure what happened to the mother. Prison, I hope. No idea what happened to the girls. They weren’t a lot better off than Ajax here.”
He muttered something under his breath.
He shook his head. “Do me a favor and keep it to the speed limit.”
He quirked an eyebrow. I shrugged.
“You try pouring a raging hot cup of coffee on your twig and berries and not stomping down on whatever pedal you’ve got your foot on.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “I’d just as soon take your word for it if you don’t mind.”
“And even if I do mind, right?”
He smirked. “I like to think I’m smart enough to learn from other people’s mistakes.”
I tucked my registration back into my glove compartment and slid my license into my wallet. “Is this where I tell you thanks for the break and wish you a nice day?”
He stepped back and nodded. “Drive safely. I’d just as soon not see you again.”
“And here I thought we were falling in love.”
He smirked. “My husband would have my balls.”
“My boyfriend might have something to say about it too,” I said with pretend regret.
The mention of Damon made my stomach twist. I hadn’t heard from him in days and I didn’t know if I should be worried about him, worried about our relationship, or if I was being an emotional idiot. We hadn’t been seeing each other long, and I didn’t have any relationship experience to work from. I was totally in the dark and feeling like a fifteen-year-old with a crush on the high school quarterback and having a lot of what-the-fuck issues over him liking me back. Or loving me. Damon said he loved me. I was still trying to come to grips with how I felt about that and about him and now I was wondering if he really did or if he’d been having a stroke.
Definitely an emotional idiot.
Damon had been gone a couple of weeks now after receiving an emergency call. Apparently, it had something to do with his family, though he hadn’t given me any details. I hadn’t asked.
My new cop buddy patted the top of my roof. “Have a good—” He grinned. “A better day.”
“You’re a surprisingly nice cop.”
“That’s what everybody I don’t give a ticket to says.” He chuckled and returned to his vehicle.
“And now on to the next disaster,” I muttered as I put the car in gear.