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Still strangely unnerved, I crouched by the body. I felt as if something was pricking at my arcane senses, far too faint for me to be able to pinpoint. Too faint to even be sure that’s what was bothering me. Maybe I’m simply delirious from the cold.

Familiarity tickled madly as I took a hard look at the man’s face, but his features were distorted from the way he’d been lying. Impressions from leaves and dirt marred his cheek, along with the dull red tinge of lividity from the settling of the blood in his body. An ant casually traipsed across the milky white surface of his eye. Another was busy at the dried blood by his nose. The flies would be on him as soon as it warmed up. A few more days out here and the eyes, nose and mouth would be teeming with maggots, busily helping the decomposition process along.

“Kara…?” Jill murmured. I abruptly realized that the Coroner’s Office people were waiting for me to finish my observations so that they could get him into the body bag. Mumbling an apology, I stood and backed away a couple of steps while they rolled the body smoothly into the bag and zipped it closed.

Jill turned to Drew. “Why don’t you go on back to the van and start in on the paperwork.” He nodded and obediently trotted after the CO people as they trundled the loaded stretcher carefully back down the trail. As soon as they were out of earshot she gave me a penetrating look. “You saw something wonky, didn’t you?” she asked.

I shook my head. “I thought I felt something strange, but I didn’t see anything.” I gave her a sharp look. “Why? Did you feel something?”

“No. It’s just that your eyes go funny when you’re looking for your woowoo stuff.”

I frowned at her. “Funny? What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “Hard to describe. It’s not like they glow or anything, but…they get super intense. I can almost feel it.”

That was the first time I’d ever heard of anyone being able to tell when I was using othersight. Could Jill have some sort of sensitivity to the arcane? Or maybe it was simply that she knew what I was doing and thus read more into it.

“Where’s your shadow?” she asked, and I knew she was referring to Eilahn. She knew about the demon and her role. That had been easy enough to share.

“Around somewhere,” I muttered, still frowning. I didn’t worry about Eilahn. I knew that if something happened she’d be at my side in less than a heartbeat. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right with this scene. I kept thinking I saw flickers of movement at the edges of my vision, easily explained by the movement of the wind through the grass and the trees. Except…

Except it feels off.

I fought back a shiver as I scanned the area again with othersight. Jill stood silently and patiently while I opened myself as much as possible to any arcane sensations.

Nothing. It was simply woods. Sunlight fought to break through the clouds, scattering mottled shadows onto the carpet of leaves and pine needles. A branch scraped against a neighboring tree and droplets of moisture pattered down onto the picnic tables and the limp ashes in the barbecue pit.

I sighed and gave her a wry smile. “Guess I’m nuts after all.”

She chuckled. “In other words, business as usual for you.”

I fell into step with her as we made our way back up the trail. “Life would be easier if I was nuts, I think,” I said.

“Oh, just do what everyone else does—heavy drugs!”

I began to laugh, then stopped dead. Barry Landrieu. Now I remembered where I knew him from.

Jill turned back to me with a frown. “You okay?”

I gave a slow nod. “Yeah. Sorry. I, um, just realized why the victim’s name seemed familiar.”

She gave me a questioning look, but I hesitated. Had I ever told Jill about some of the more unpleasant parts of my past? Screw it, I decided. If she can tolerate the whole demon summoning thing, she’s not going to run screaming because of this.

“After my dad was killed and my aunt became my guardian, I did a lot of acting out,” I told her. “Experimenting with drugs and that sort of thing. Mostly it was just smoking pot and sneaking alcohol, but sometimes it was painkillers or ADHD meds.”

Her brow furrowed but she simply gave me a go on nod.

“I used to hang with a girl named Tammy,” I said. “Tammy North—and she had an older brother. Half-brother actually. He had a different last name, which is why I couldn’t place it at first.” I lifted my chin in the direction the stretcher had gone. “Barry Landrieu. Tammy and I would smoke pot that he gave us. But one day when I went over there Barry gave me something new to try. Heroin. I overdosed and damn near died.”

“Jesus,” she breathed.

I scuffed a shoe in the dirt. “Yeah, it pretty much sucked ass.” Then I took a deep breath. “On the other hand, it was one hell of a wakeup call for me and my aunt.”

“Is that when she tried to see if you could be a summoner?”

“Not immediately, but about a year later Aunt Tessa ‘introduced’ me to demon summoning. She also called the narcs on Barry and they busted him pretty soon after. I thought he was still in jail, to be honest.”

“What happened to his sister?” Jill asked.

“Dunno. My aunt pulled strings and had me switch schools. I don’t think I ever saw Tammy again.” A sliver of guilt wormed through me. After recovering from the overdose I’d thrown myself into learning summoning, and I’d barely spared Tammy a second thought.

I blew out my breath. “Anyway. At least now I know why the name’s familiar.”

Jill reached and rubbed my arm. “You should go let the Hatchet Man console you in your time of loss,” she said, then danced away, laughing, as I took a swing at her.

“You are such a bitch,” I muttered, but I couldn’t help but grin. However, my mood slipped a bit as we continued on to the parking lot. I knew the victim and the witness. What were the odds of that?

Pretty high, actually, considering how small Beaulac is, I decided. I should probably be surprised that it didn’t happen more often. Sometimes a coincidence was just a coincidence.

Still, it was one of those things that would make me take a closer look at everyone involved.

Tracy was on his phone, and he simply gave us a slight wave as we passed him. Jill headed to her van while I hurried on to the shack. My haste had absolutely nothing to do with a desire to see Roman again—and everything to do with my desire to warm the hell up.

I stepped into the shack and quickly pulled the door closed behind me, breathing a silent prayer of thanks to whatever powers would listen to me that there was a space heater in here and that it was working at maximum efficiency. Beyond that there wasn’t much appealing about the interior. A small metal desk against the far wall. Two office chairs that looked like they’d been in use during the seventies. Roman sat in one of the chairs, his attention on the phone in his hand. He had on jeans and expensive-looking cowboy boots, with a black sweater and a leather bomber jacket up top. He lifted his eyes to me as I entered, recognition flaring instantly.

“Kara?” he exclaimed, a broad smile spreading across his face as he stood. He was still as good-looking as ever—broad-shouldered and tall with hazel eyes set in a square-jawed face. His sandy-blond hair nearly brushed the rafters, and it was clear he hadn’t slacked off on his workouts since leaving the Packers. His whole build pretty much screamed “former linebacker.” I suddenly felt absurdly tiny. “Holy shit, what are you doing here?” His gaze swept over me, taking in my belt with the gun and badge.

I gave him a dutifully friendly smile. We hadn’t parted with any sort of animosity. It was more of a Holy crap we are SO not meant to be together sort of thing, but still, the potential for awkwardness was definitely strong, especially since I’d been the one to end it. “Hi, Roman. How’ve you been?”