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Deathtrap (Crossbreed Series Book 3)

By:Dannika Dark

Deathtrap (Crossbreed Series Book 3) - Dannika Dark
Chapter 1

“So this is the place you keep raving about?” Christian asked, running his dark gaze over the diner and giving it a judgmental stare.

I smiled and continued examining the menu. “The fate of your meal lies in the hands of whether or not Betty McGuire likes you.”

He leaned in tight. “Betty sounds like a real joy. I already told you I’m not ordering.”

“Oh, you’re ordering. I don’t care what you get, but Ruby’s Diner saved my life more than once, so show a little respect.”

He snapped open his laminated menu. “In that case, is there anything that hasn’t been marinated in lard?”

I set my menu aside and gazed out the window. Condensation formed along the outer edges from the humidity and contrasting temperatures. Winter had arrived early, and a light dusting of snow blanketed the city, making even the filthiest streets pure again. It was an accurate representation of my life since joining Keystone.

Working for Viktor Kazan was an evolving lifestyle adjustment. After closing my first official case only a month ago, I’d taken Viktor’s advice and used the downtime to get my head together. I needed it, especially after discovering that the detective I’d gone out on a date with was the serial killer we’d been hunting all along. But downtime between job assignments was by no means a vacation. Viktor had given me a stack of cold cases to review before Wyatt entered them into our private database as part of his archiving project. It kept me occupied.

Betty sidled up to our table. “And how are you two this morning?”

“Grand,” Christian replied, lifting his gaze and staring at her as if he’d seen a ghost.

She steered her attention back to me and patted my shoulder. “Honey, I’ve been worried about you. I haven’t seen you around here lately. I’m glad you’re doing okay.”

I noticed white roots peeking through her light red hair. “How are the grandkids?”

She put her hands on her plump hips. “Where does the time go? Do I look old enough to have great-grandchildren? Well, now I have a third on the way. They did one of those fancy tests and found out it’s a girl. Back in my day, we just had to wait to find out. I guess kids today don’t like surprises.”

I smiled. “This is my friend Christian.”

She pulled the pen out from behind her ear and pressed the blunt end against her chin as she gave him a thorough appraisal. I waited for her reaction with bated breath. I respected Betty. She was intuitive about a person’s character.

Unlike me.

I still wasn’t sure about my own feelings for Christian, only that I had feelings that weren’t appropriate for our working relationship. Maybe it was normal when partnering with someone so closely, but it didn’t make sense. Christian was the opposite in looks and demeanor of men I was normally attracted to, and aside from that, he was a Vampire—the most loathsome creature imaginable. I’d spent a lot of time in the past weeks thinking it over and had finally decided to compartmentalize my feelings for Christian, keeping the affectionate ones locked up in order to keep our partnership functional and harmonious. Otherwise, it could bring consequences, and my life until recently had been one big consequence after another. In order to remain within Keystone, I had to learn to work with Christian as a team.

Christian averted his gaze from Betty and stroked his beard. “Would you have any meat and potatoes back there?”

She shifted her stance, still studying him closely. “We don’t get many Irishmen. Have you been in here before?”

He scratched the back of his neck. “No. I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have a grilled cheese, and she’ll be having the same.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Oh, will she now?”

“You’ve been staring at that menu for ten minutes,” he said, taking on an imperious tone. “Are you telling me you’re actually going to order something besides a hamburger and onion rings? Step out of your comfort zone and live on the wild side.”

I handed her my menu. “I’ll have a glass of water with that. And my friend will be having a glass of milk.”

He held out his menu. “I’m lactose intolerant. Bring me a bottle of red.”

She slowly collected our menus. “Cheese has lactose. I’ll bring the milk.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of Betty’s peculiar reaction to Christian. She was usually more bubbly and talkative, but something had shut her up.

“That was weird,” I muttered, stacking one of my gloves on top of the other.

Christian gestured toward them. “I hate to inform you, but someone snipped the fingers off your mittens.”

“It’s easier to get to my daggers when I can grip them with my fingertips.”

He pinched the whiskers on his scruffy beard. “What does Viktor have you working on? I saw him carrying files to your room.”

I lifted a saltshaker and set it between us. “Cold cases.”

Christian chuckled. “Ah, to be the rookie again. Sifting through old papers and given menial tasks to make you believe your opinion matters.”

“It’s smart of him. Maybe you guys are used to looking at something from a certain angle, and a fresh pair of eyes might see something new.”

He laced his fingers together. “Pray tell, what have your fresh eyes uncovered?”

I tapped the saltshaker and accidentally tipped it over. “Why hasn’t anyone pursued the case involving Vampire trafficking? The one with all the women who are promised to be newly made?”

He pinched salt between two fingers and flicked it over his shoulder. “We could never outbid anyone at a black market auction. And without victims, we have nothing. We can’t even be sure if a crime is being committed. It might come as a surprise, but there happens to be a lot of women who have fantasies about being kept by a man. Not everyone for sale on the black market is an unwilling victim.”

“Did you look at any missing-persons reports? I don’t mean Breed ones, but a nationwide search in the human databases.”

“Aye. But we came up with no matches based on the description. In some cases, they included a photograph.”

“That means whoever’s behind this is preying upon women who won’t be missed. He takes them, makes them, and sells them.”

Christian leaned back and draped his arms across the top of the red vinyl seat. “What makes you believe all the cases are linked? It’s just an increase in Vampire trafficking. Demand affects supply.”

“I don’t know. Maybe it was the typo.”

He furrowed his brow. “Typo?”

“Didn’t anyone notice that some of the descriptions had the same typo? He didn’t spell discreet with double e’s. He wrote: D-I-S-C-R-E-T-E. That doesn’t have the same meaning. I also think he’s an American.”

Christian snorted and set his arms on the table. “You’re just full of theories this morning. I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but there are a lot of illiterate immortals in the world. English isn’t everyone’s first language.”

“Including yours?”

He narrowed his eyes when Betty set down our plates and glasses.

“Anything else?” she asked, her green eyes twinkling at me.

I bit my lip and hesitated on answering.

“Your slice of pie is in the warmer.” She placed two straws on the table and gave me a wink before heading back to the kitchen.

Christian poked at his sandwich. “Assuming one person is behind all the trafficking, what makes you think he’s an American?”

I tore the end off the paper around the straw and blew the wrapper at Christian’s forehead. It bounced off and landed on his plate. “He used words that have alternate spellings in England, Canada, and all those other countries. I didn’t see anything that suggested he’s a foreigner.”

Christian threw up his hands. “Well, for feck’s sake. You’ve solved the case! We’re after an American who can’t spell, which makes everyone at table five a suspect.”

I glanced over at a man who was trying to balance a spoon on his nose. “Make fun all you want. I gave Wyatt my notes, and he’s adding them to the file. You never know when little things like that might come up later. You’re just mad because you didn’t notice it first with your ancient, dusty eyeballs.”

He held up a spoon. “May I borrow yours?”

I smiled at the private joke, the one referring to our trip to Washington when a Shifter had planned to spoon my eye out.

Christian tugged on his earlobe. “Don’t get too wrapped up in those files, Raven. The more obsessed you become over a dead file, the harder it is to focus on the work at hand. You need to concentrate on the open investigations. We aren’t always paid for solving old crimes, and not all of them were contracted to us. Some fell in our laps, and Viktor took them on as charity cases.”

“I know. It just gives me something to do.”

“Well, you should have gotten a nice paycheck deposited into your account after the last case. Perhaps you should kill some time and go to the zoo.”

“Why? I already live with the circus.”

He cracked a smile. “Touché.”

I gulped down my water and then sighed. “It’s hard to get used to unsolved mysteries.”