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To my surprise he threw his arms around me in a hug before stepping back to give me a once-over, still grinning. “I’ve been awesome. You look great! And wow…a cop?”

“Homicide detective,” I replied, a little proudly.

“That’s fantastic!” he exclaimed. Then he seemed to remember where he was and what I was doing here, and he winced. “Sorry, I mean, it is, but it sucks that I have to find out like this.” He shook his head. “Anyway. It really is good to see you, Kara.”

“You too, Roman,” I replied automatically, but I was surprised to realize that I actually kind of meant it. “Thanks for waiting around. I just need to ask you a few questions, if that’s all right?”

“No problem,” he said, dropping back into the chair. “Anything I can do to help.”

Taking a seat in the other chair, I asked him for his driver’s license and quickly jotted down his information. Michigan license. His cell phone had an out of state area code. “You in town visiting your folks?” I asked. We were both from this area, though he’d gone to a private all-boys high school on the other side of the parish while I’d suffered at Beaulac High.

“My maw-maw’s doing a bit poorly,” he said. “Nothing serious, but my dad needed some help moving her into assisted living. I also have a couple of investments I’m working on down here, and figured I’d check in on them.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “I mean about your maw-maw, not about the investments,” I quickly added. I’d only met his grandmother a couple of times, but she’d seemed nice enough. My grandparents had all passed away either before I was born or when I was too young to remember them. “Can you tell me what you were doing out here?” I asked.

He leaned back, exhaled. “I used to come out here all the time when I was in high school. It was just some trails back then—it wasn’t an official park or anything with the picnic tables and parking lot.” A flicker of a grimace crossed his face, and it wasn’t hard to figure out that he’d liked it better when no one else knew about it. “Anyway, whenever I’m home I try to get out here. I like coming out to watch the sun come up over the marsh. It’s really pretty. Clears my head, y’know?”

I gave a smile of understanding. “Guess this time wasn’t so head-clearing, huh?”

He scrubbed a hand over his face. “I didn’t even see the body at first since it was still pretty dark. Passed right by him on the way out to the deck. Then on the way back…At first I thought it was just a bunch of trash or clothes that someone had dumped out here. I was all pissed off, and then I saw the guy’s hand. I started to try and turn him over, but he was already stiff.” Roman shot me a troubled look. “I probably messed up evidence, didn’t I?”

“It was a natural reaction,” I assured him. “I doubt you disturbed anything critical.”

He blew out his breath, nodded. “I called nine one one and waited for the cops.” He shrugged. “They told me to wait here. That’s pretty much it.”

“Did you see anyone else around?”

“Nope. It was dead quiet out here this morning.” He winced. “Sorry. No pun intended, I swear.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve heard far worse from cops,” I told him. “The ID on the victim is for a Barry Landrieu. Do you know him?” I watched him carefully.

He thought for a second then shook his head. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Sorry.”

As far as I could tell he was being truthful, but I still intended to run a check on both of them to see if there were any links. That was standard procedure. Sure, we used to date, but that didn’t mean I was going to shirk on my job. Closing my notebook, I stood and so did he. “I appreciate your help. If I have any more questions I’ll be in touch.” I pulled out one of my cards and handed it to him. “And if you think of anything else, please let me know.”

He glanced down at it before pulling out his wallet and tucking the card carefully within. “What happened to him? Was he murdered?”

“We won’t really know anything until the autopsy,” I said, “but right now I’m inclined to think it was natural causes.”

“It was good seeing you again, Kara, despite the circumstances. You look great.” He gave me a warm smile, reminding me why I’d gone out with him as long as I had. He was a smart guy with plenty of charm, and it had been tough to resist when he’d turned his attention to me. It had simply taken me a couple of months to get past the charm and realize that not only did we have nothing in common, but I was also never going to feel comfortable sharing the more private details of my life with him. Like the fact that I had never mastered shaving my legs in the shower and had to take a bath to accomplish the task. Or that I was absolutely addicted to my Water-Pik and actually liked getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist’s office. Oh, yeah, and that whole demon summoning thing.

“Good seeing you too,” I said. “I’m glad to hear you’re doing well.” I really hoped he didn’t have anything to do with the death of Barry Landrieu. Hopefully this case will be the nice, easy natural death it currently appears to be.

He glanced down at my left hand. “Not married yet?”

My lips twitched. “Nope.”

“Seeing anyone?” he asked, eyes on me.

Wow. How to answer that one? “Umm, sort of. Yeah.” Did regular sex with a demonic lord count?

“I’m going to be in town for a couple of weeks,” he said. “Maybe we could have lunch or coffee.”

“I’d like that,” I replied before I could think about whether or not I really would like it. “I, um, hate to chase you off, but I need to tie up the loose ends here and get started on the paperwork.”

“No problem,” he said. He pulled the door open and politely stood back to let me exit first. The cold was a knifing shock after the balmy comfort of the shack, and it took everything I had to force myself out into it and not suck my breath in dramatically or anything like that.

“I’ll be in touch,” Roman said, then surprised me by leaning down and giving me a quick kiss on the cheek before hurrying off to his car.

I watched as he started the BMW and drove off, then yelped at a hard smack on my arm. I turned to glare at Jill.

“Oh my god,” she said, grinning wickedly. “You are a total hunk magnet!”

I thwapped her arm back. “Don’t you start! I am not. Besides, you have a hunk of your own.” Jill was dating Zack. Special Agent Zack Garner—who I’d recently discovered was a lot more than just a special agent.

Jill suddenly reached out and gave my arm—the same one she’d just punched—a comforting squeeze. “Still nothing from Ryan?”

I couldn’t quite suppress the wince as I shook my head. “Nothing worthwhile. I get spam that’s friendlier.” Jill heard from Zack several times a day, while in the past month and a half I’d received a grand total of three emails from Ryan—all oddly terse and almost painfully neutral. It was enough to give a girl a complex. And I was neurotic enough already, thank you very much.

However, part of my wince was guilt-induced. Jill seemed to be getting more and more serious about Zack. And I didn’t have the faintest idea how to tell her—or even if I should tell her—that Zack wasn’t exactly the perfect man she thought he was.

And that he wasn’t a man at all, for that matter.

I was part of an interagency task force that supposedly dealt with financial crimes but actually handled situations that fell outside the definition of “ordinary.” I’d met the other two primary members of the team—FBI Special Agents Ryan Kristoff and Zack Garner—during the investigation of the Symbol man murders, during which I’d confided to Ryan that I was a summoner. Shockingly, he’d known what a summoner was, and I subsequently discovered that he also had a fair amount of sensitivity to the arcane, though not as much as I did.

Or so I thought. But shortly over a month ago our little group began work on a case involving death threats against a local singer, and during the final wrap-up of the case—which turned into an ugly battle against a horde of golems—I discovered that there was a shitload more to Zack and Ryan than met the eye. Turned out that Zack was a demon in human form. And Ryan? Well, the FBI agent who’d become one of my closest friends was very likely an exiled demonic lord, even though he had no memory or awareness of that fact.