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Really Unusual Bad Boys

MaryJanice Davidson


  She laughed at him. She hadn’t meant to, but it was an absurd comment. She was built like a fire hydrant—dense and practical, but hardly the curvy, willowy blond specimen so popular in American society. She had no waist, and her legs were too long, and her tits were only so-so—she’d been a B cup for years. Plus, she had multiple scars from years of street scuffles—knife wounds, bullet wounds, even a permanent rope burn a junkie, high on acid and Jack Daniel’s, had given her. Her hair was the nicest thing about her, and it was too curly, too wild, too out of control in humidity, and the color of a tar pit.

  He put his hands on her shoulders and turned her around. Even through her shirt, she could feel the heat from his hands. This was alarming, yet delightful. She was facing the sun—a small, white orb—and in the distance she could see a castle.

  “My home is there. May I keep you?”


  MaryJanice Davidson


  For the fans of Canis Royal,

  who wanted to know how it ended.


  Many thanks to Officer Lynn Ristau of the Superior Police Department, for patiently answering all my questions, and Jessica L. Growette, the greatest pharmacist in the world. Her bosses should worship her. Any mistakes you see are mine, not theirs.

  Oh that the desert were my dwelling place,

  With one fair spirit for my minister,

  That I might all forget the human race,

  And hating no one, love but only her!

  —Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

  A thousand fantasies

  Begin to throng into my memory,

  Of calling shapes, and beck’ning shadows dire,

  And airy tongues that syllable men’s names On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.

  —John Milton, Comus

  Like sands through the hourglass,

  so are the days of our lives.

  —Days of our Lives



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13


  Chapter 1

  Minneapolis, Minnesota

  Iwish I were dead.

  It was 1:08 A.M. on the morning of September 17, and Lois Commoner was thinking thoughts that for her, of late, were typical.

  As she was lying on the alley pavement, listening to the victim’s broken sobbing, she thought, Would I go to hell? No chance. This is hell. There’s gotta be something else. And if there isn’t, what do I have to lose?

  She banished such thoughts—now was not the time—and rolled over onto her stomach. She took a deep breath, put her palms flat on the filthy street, and pushed herself up until she was standing. This took six minutes and was just short of excruciating. Her knee was screaming. Her back had a kink in it. Her knuckles were bleeding. And she had a splitting headache. The headache bothered her more than anything else.

  “I don’t suppose you have any Advil in your pockets?” she asked the vic, who was crying and holding her purse strap. The purse itself was, of course, long gone. “Or even a Tylenol?” The victim had probably been a nice-looking woman when her evening began. Now the carefully coiffed blond hair was in disarray, her mascara was running down her cheeks, her dress was torn, and her shoulder probably hurt almost as much as Lois’s knee. “How about just aspirin?”

  The vic shook her head and kept crying. Lois’s headache worsened. She considered telling the vic to cut the shit, then decided against it. She herself had become pretty jaded about this stuff, but that was no reason to be an unsympathetic jerk. At least not out loud.

  Sirens wailed in the distance, which was a distinct relief. Blondie would be off her hands, and on some beat cop’s. Well, that’s what she—they—were paid for. Even better, the patrol unit would have aspirin.

  “What happened?” Blondie finally asked. She held up her purse strap and stared at it like a betrayed lover. “Why didn’t you stop him? Aren’t you a cop? You told that—that jerk who took my purse you were a cop.”

  “Not anymore. I mean, I am, but I’m on desk duty now.” Boy, did that admission taste bad. She actually spat to clear her mouth, then continued. “I got hurt a while ago. I’m off the streets.” Her knee throbbed agreement, as if to say, Damn right, chickie, and what’d you take off after him for, anyway? You must’ve known you couldn’t have caught him. Couldn’t resist playing hero again, sap?

  But it wasn’t that simple. She’d seen someone in trouble, that was all. Heard the shriek and limped to the rescue. “Lois,” her dad said before he choked to death on that Dorito, “boy, was that a bad choice for a name. You’re nobody’s sidekick, and you sure as shit never need rescuing.”

  That was then.

  The black-and-white pulled up. She didn’t recognize either of the officers who got out and approached them. They were as alike as two peas in a pod: both tall, stocky, and blond, with blue eyes—typical Minnesota stock. Lois, with her wild curly black hair and brown eyes, always felt like a gypsy among her Scandinavian coworkers.

  “Good evening. I’m Officer Ristau, and this is my partner, Officer Carlson. Miss, do you need an ambulance? Either of you?”

  “It’s Detective Miss,” she said, “and no. Just some Valium. Possibly some Percocets. But the vic would probably like an ambulance.” Or at least a shoulder to cry on.

  “He took my purse,” Blondie said in a wounded voice. “My purse that my husband gave to me for Christmas. He took it. She tried to stop him and he took it anyway. My husband gave it to me.”

  She’d go on in this vein, Lois knew, for some time. Civilians were always utterly shocked when something unpleasant happened to them. They thought if they paid their taxes and didn’t jaywalk and ate enough fiber, they were immune from mugging, rape, homicide, and intestinal trouble.

  She envied them that surety.

  While giving her statement, Lois studied the cop’s side-arm and thought about death.

  Chapter 2

  How to do it? Pills? Jump off the IDS Tower? Stick the barrel of her Beretta in her mouth and pull the trigger? Watch the Star Trek marathon until she was brain dead? Eat all the leftovers in her fridge?

  The gun, Lois decided, was not an option. Bad enough she was seriously considering the coward’s way out; she wouldn’t pervert her weapon by making it the instrument of her death. How many bad guys had she pointed it at? How many vics had she defended with it? How many hours had she spent on the shooting range, honing her skill to better serve her city? No, the gun was definitely out.
  Pills were tempting. She had some excellent ones for her knee. Fifty of those, chased with a daiquiri or six, would probably do the job nicely. Add the Trekkie marathon to that and death was a certainty.

  She got up from the couch, limped to her bathroom, grabbed the bottles out of the medicine cabinet, limped back, and lined them up like soldiers on her coffee table.

  She looked at them thoughtfully. There wasn’t much. She didn’t believe in crutches, even when she had to use them to get down her front steps. As for pharmaceutical crutches, she hardly ever indulged. “Ballsy,” her dad would have said. “Martyr,” her mom would have sighed, shaking her head.

  Well, they were both dead now. Following the Dorito Mishap, her mother had mourned for eight months, then made two decisions: to visit her sister in Saint Paul, and to fix her makeup at sixty-two miles an hour. The coroner hadn’t been able to decide if she’d died from the impact of crashing into the back of the semi, or from the eyeliner (Revlon’s Indigo Night) being driven into her right eye.

  She didn’t miss her father much, if truth be told. He’d been too big, too gruff, too disappointed she wasn’t a boy, and toward the end, too drunk. Mostly she felt bad because he was dead, but she didn’t feel too bad.

  Her mother, though…that was a different story. Lois had felt adrift ever since her mother’s death. When the one who bore you was gone, why bother with anything?

  She shook off thoughts of her poor, doomed parents and returned her attention to the medication. There was a small bottle of OxyContin, the drug of choice for addicts—she’d busted a few OxyContin clinics in her day—a larger bottle of methadone, always popular with the chronic pain set, and a number of Duragesic patches.

  She picked up one of the patches. How could she kill herself with these? Eat them? Stick a bunch around her heart?

  And was she really, truly considering this? It sucked. It was the coward’s way out. It defined her, forever, as a loser. The cops who found her after the neighbors called to report the smell would roll their eyes at each other. The coroner would roughly bundle her into a body bag. Her neighbors would shake their heads (“So quiet!” “Never a minute’s trouble.”), and her captain would be irritated. Her fellow detectives would be shocked that ballsy Lois Commoner had done such a thing, and would pity her, and would forget her.

  She could feel a tear trickling down her left cheek, but made no move to wipe it away. Sure, it was a rotten thing to do, but what was the alternative? She’d been shot almost a year ago, and still woke to pain every morning. They’d never let her back on the streets. She’d been busted to desk officer, which meant she was one of the few secretaries in the city licensed to carry a firearm. Worst of all, she’d lost her shield.

  The desk job was mindless, torturous, but she refused to take a medical retirement. Then what would she do? Sit around and try not to think about how badly her knee hurt? Real fulfilling.

  And also you’re so alone—

  She shut that thought away, fast. That had nothing to do with anything.

  There’s got to be something else. Heaven. Hell. Reincarnation. Something. This isn’t it, this can’t be all there is. I didn’t work so hard for so long to have this e the end of everything. There’s something else out there, I know it.

  And if she was wrong, if there was nothing, she’d take that over an unfulfilling life of pain and ennui.

  She unbuttoned her shirt, then grabbed the remote and flicked it on to the Sci-Fi channel. Ah, there was Kirk talking to a doomed red-shirted security guard. Hour three of the marathon. She wondered what people who weren’t suicidal were watching.

  She took one of the Duragesic patches and stuck it to her chest, just above her bra. She did the same with the rest, then poured out the pills and looked at them. It was funny—they were so small, but they could stop her heart if she took enough of them. And she planned to swallow every one.

  If you do this, it’s real. You’ll be brain dead, followed by body dead. You can’t take it back.

  “God, I hope not,” she said aloud, and went to plug in the blender.

  For the first time in forever, her knee didn’t hurt. Nothing hurt. She was floating—well, not really, she was still sitting on the couch but she was also floating…floating and watching McCoy chew Spock a new asshole…she spilled her drink oh no red stain on the carpet…oh well…not like she’d be around to care if she lost her security deposit…Spock was logical…logical…logical to do this to end this…it was all right…anything was better and she couldn’t…she couldn’t…she couldn’t…she was alone and had nothing but the job…and now she didn’t have the job…so this was the only thing left to do…so she would do it and if it made her a coward okay…and if it made her a fool okay…as long as she wasn’t lonesome anymore…as long as it was all done over the end…finito…farewell…

  Chapter 3

  “Aw, son of a bitch!”

  Lois wasn’t sure if she shouted it, or if it was just a thought. She could feel warm hands running over her limbs…

  (checking for injury?)

  …stroking her stomach, shoulders, even her breasts, and something warm and tickly on her lips, almost like a kiss, but of course that wasn’t—

  She was afraid to open her eyes and look. But she was afraid to keep lying there, too.

  She wasn’t dead. Ergo, she was alive. Ergo, she was in a hospital somewhere. Ergo, she’d have to go through Psych and treatment and T-groups and then try again sometime when they weren’t watching her so carefully anymore. Dammit!

  She opened her eyes. And instantly assumed the overdose had driven her insane.

  She wasn’t in a hospital. She wasn’t even in her house. She was lying on the ground, in the middle of what looked like a desert—there was hard-packed sand everywhere, and one or two scrawny trees, and dunes in the distance. But it wasn’t hot—it felt like a perfectly pleasant seventy-five degrees or so. And the light tickling on her lips was actually a raspy tongue. A puma was standing over her, and the sky was lavender. She wasn’t sure which was more startling.

  She blinked, then slowly rose to a sitting position. Yep, that was a purple sky, all right. She was in a desert that wasn’t hot, and the sky was the color of an iris petal. She had definitely gone crazy. And the puma was backing off but still watching her. Her cheek still throbbed from its rough tongue.

  She stared at the big cat, which was staring right back. It was enormous—probably two hundred and fifty pounds at least. Its coat was the color of the desert sand and—weird!—its eyes were the color of the purple sky. Its paws were huge, easily as big across as her hand if she spread her fingers wide.

  It was sitting up very straight beside one of the stunted, twisted trees. Its tail—at least five feet long, and as thick around as her wrist—switched lazily back and forth. It seemed tame—it hadn’t killed her in her sleep, after all.

  She thought about standing up, rejected the idea, then reconsidered. After all, why was she being careful? She’d tried to commit suicide and now she was worried about a predator? What in God’s name for?

  She stood, slowly, never taking her eyes off the big cat. It was only when she was on her feet that she realized the last thing, the most shocking thing—her knee didn’t hurt. Not even a tiny bit.

  She flexed. She crouched. She jogged in place. Nothing, not a twinge, not a whimper.

  “It worked!” she cried, forgetting herself for a moment. “I’m dead and—and somewhere else.” Heaven? Hell? Some weird place in between? Who cared? She was out of pain for the first time in a long, long time. “I’m okay! I’m here and I’m okay! Do you hear? I made it and I’m okay!”

  The puma was strolling toward her. She was so elated she forgot to be afraid. “I’m better now,” she told it. “Isn’t that great?”

  “What was wrong with you?” the puma asked. Except it didn’t really speak—its jaws never moved. But she heard the question in her head.

  After the purple sky and the painless limb, nothin
g was going to faze her. “Plenty of things, believe you me,” she answered. “But I guess things are finally looking up.” She cleared her throat. The puma was standing no more than two feet away, looking up at her. “You’re—uh—not going to eat me, are you?”

  “I was thinking about it.” Something was wrong with the cat’s coat. It was shedding—no, its skin was rippling—no, it was sick—no, it was shrinking—no, it was growing—no, it was a man, a darkly tanned man with shoulder-length tawny blond hair and purple eyes. A man standing where the puma had just been. He grinned at her. His teeth were incredibly white and looked sharp. “Yes, I was definitely giving it some thought.”


  “Are you all right?”


  “My lady? What’s wrong?”


  “Um, well, I will just change back, then.”

  “—hhhhhhhhhhhhh—what? No, don’t do that. Just give me a minute.” Panting, Lois sat down before she fell down. The puma man, who was splendidly nude, sat down cross-legged across from her. He was tanned, with the sleek muscles she had noticed before. His stomach was a washboard, and his forehead was creased with concern.

  “Perhaps you need a healer,” he suggested.