“He is the guardian. He will protect his saint, no matter what it takes…”
Black and Miri get thrown into the middle of a high-profile murder case when one of Miri’s ex-clients becomes the next victim. When the body is found, beheaded and tied to a pier, detectives arrive in San Francisco from Los Angeles, convinced it’s the infamous serial killer they’ve been hunting, known only by his media name of “the Templar.”
When the Templar continues to cut a swath through San Francisco, his victims begin to show a new pattern, however––a pattern that appears to have Miri at its center.
To complicate everything, Miri and Black are going through a Seer-mate bonding, and having a strange effect on everyone around them as a result. When Black decides to use his old black ops connections to try and find the killer, Miri is left in San Francisco to try and help Nick, until the killer forces both of them into a final showdown.
Book four in the paranormal mystery romance series starring brilliant but dangerous psychic detective, Quentin Black, and his partner, forensic psychologist Miri Fox.
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Black Is Back (Book #4)
Prologue: The Guardian
“FUCKING BITCH…” THE man nearest to him muttered, pulling the guardian briefly out of his contemplative space.
The guardian looked down the bar, focusing on the man in the rumpled but expensive suit. The man hadn’t noticed him. He was speaking to himself. He slumped over the lacquered wood a handful of barstools from where the guardian sat, drinking soda water with lime.
The guardian watched the rich man scowl drunkenly at the rocks glass being spun aggressively between his fingers. The other man spoke to himself, but in the tone of a person used to others listening.
He wanted to be heard––he wanted people to listen.
He wanted everyone to pay attention.
“Fucking bitch… thinks she can cut me off.” He fought with his own words as meaning competed for space. “…Cut me off. Didn’t do anything. Didn’t do anything. I was paying that cunt. She can’t just call off a professional relationship with no reason.”
He took a drink off the glass in front of him, muttering louder.
“…Well, she’s fucking ruined in this town. I hope she knows that. If she doesn’t, she will soon. Her career is fucking dead. Hell, maybe I’ll get her goddamned license yanked. She’ll be begging to take me back…”
The guardian was intrigued, in spite of himself.
Not in terms of the man himself.
The man was human garbage. A vampire.
The guardian could tell that just from his few muttered words. From the self-pity that came off him in a cloud. People like him just walked around, sucking juice off everyone around them. Always a story of someone wronging them. Always some reason why they were owed. Always some excuse for the horrible things they did to get their fixes at someone else’s expense.
The guy was a blank spot on the canvas, sucking in color and light.
No, that’s not what intrigued the guardian.
He moved a few stools closer.
Sliding into the one right next to the man, he spoke in a low voice.
“Bitches, eh?” he said conspiratorially.
The man jumped, looking at him in surprise. The guardian smiled, pulling the appropriate mask down to replace his true face.
“Ex-girlfriend?” he said sympathetically, more to prod the man into speaking more.
The man’s eyes relaxed. Like all vampires, he wanted an audience.
He wanted validation. Really, he wanted a crowd to hide behind.
Vampires always operated in the shadows. Just like the myths.
“No,” the man said, moral superiority already seething off him like a scent. Gearing up to snow Joe Dumbshit with his bullshit. “No, she was my psychologist. I paid her goddamned salary for over a year. Now she just expects me to start over with someone new? Someone who knows nothing about me? Like that doesn’t represent a significant loss of time and money for me? I should sue her… I really should.”
“She fired you as a client?” the guardian said.
The man gave him a hard look.
Seeing nothing in the guardian’s expression intimating he was either mocking him or didn’t believe him, the vampire relaxed again, letting out a derisive snort.
“Stuck up bitch was full of herself. She thought I was hitting on her or something. I’m married for fuck’s sake. Cunt said I was being ‘inappropriate with boundaries’ and forced me to take a referral for someone else…”
The guardian nodded sympathetically.
He was Joe Dumbshit. The guy who believes the vampire. Who buys his sob story about being wronged. The guardian knew there were Joe Dumbshits everywhere, too. This guy would believe in Joe Dumbshit because he surrounded himself with Joe Dumbshits on a daily basis.
Joe Dumbshit nudged him with an arm. “She beautiful?” he said.
The guy gave him a grudging look. “She’s all right.”
Joe laughed. “I bet she was more than ‘all right.’ I bet she’s a real looker, ain’t she?”
The man in the rumpled suit frowned. Staring again at Joe Dumbshit as if trying to figure out his angle, he eventually conceded his words with a shrug.
“She certainly thought so,” he said stiffly, finishing off the last of the alcohol in his rocks glass. “I’ve definitely had hotter.”
Joe Dumbshit laughed again. “Like I said. Bitches. All the same.”
The man smiled a little more genuinely that time. “Some of them certainly think a lot of themselves, don’t they?”
“Buy you a drink, friend?” Joe Dumbshit said. “My old lady just left me for a fucking stock broker, so I could use a drinking buddy tonight…”
The vampire’s eyes glittered.
Vampires loved free shit. They were shameless about taking. Even one as rich as this fucker. In fact, in the guardian’s experience, the rich ones were the worst. He looked positively hard from the idea of getting a free drink off Joe Dumbshit, even though poor Joe only wore threadbare jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt under a jean jacket and beat up running shoes.
“Sure,” the vampire said, still wary of a catch.
Vampires knew only two categories of people: marks and other vampires.
The guardian was neither. As a result, he was invisible.
Joe Dumbshit raised a few fingers to signal the bartender. “What’re you having?”
“Another of the same would be great,” the other man said, motioning towards his empty glass.
The guardian stifled a smile. He’d seen the guy order. The vampire ordered a double of the most expensive Scotch the bar carried. Nothing but the best for the vampire. After all… he deserved it. Like all vampires, he would buy the most expensive thing just to have it.
Vampires were greedy little hoarders and one-uppers, too.
Joe Dumbshit only nodded though, motioning for the bartender to bring them both another round of the same.
Truthfully, the guardian didn’t mind.
He could buy a few drinks.
He would get the vampire’s tongue looser, get him to tell him more.
Maybe this man would be the clue he’d been looking for. The reason he was here.
Maybe this man would lead him to the saint… his beloved St. Francis.
Regardless, the guardian would do his duty with the vampire. That was a given––it had been as soon as he saw the vampire walk through the door.
The difference was, now he was intrigued.
Not by the vampire himself, of course. The vampire was a breadcrumb. A common, moldy little breadcrumb, left to him by God, to be disposed of by God. No, the guardian was intrigued by the psychologist.
The psychologist had refused to suck this particular vampire’s cock.
That was rare, the guardian knew.
It was rare that people turned down rich vampires.
In the guardian’s observation, most people would lick the dirty ball-sack of anyone with money or fame, just so they could be close to it. No matter how vile the person was, no matter what a lying, conniving, manipulative piece of garbage they were, or how many people they’d destroyed to get what they had, they’d stand in line to lick them, to offer them their asses and cunts. They’d listen to their blatant lies, laugh at their stupid jokes. They’d slather them all over with whatever bodily fluid the vampire asked of them, and never once notice they only got robbed and degraded in return.
They’d laugh when the vampire talked casually about ruining someone’s life. Then they would turn around and suck his dirty ball-sack some more when the vampire cried crocodile tears about how others forced him to do it.
People had turned into sheep. Carrion-eaters and jackals.
Every year, it got worse.
Vampires. Sycophants. Cowards. Children.
They walked around looking for rich people to suck off, for vampires to lie to them and steal from them, for the famous and important to bestow them with a vicarious sense of significance. They looked for people with no soul to validate them. They looked for liars to teach them the truth. They searched desperately for someone to defile themselves with––for anyone they could hand their integrity to, their dignity, their principles, their dreams––as long as they might feel important and liked, if only for a few seconds.
No one had grace anymore.
No one carried the fucking light.
He came here, thinking it might be different.
He’d tried before, in the mecca of decadence and depravity, the City of Angels which had fallen to earth, betraying their One True God. He had tried there, so very very hard. But the longer he dug in the sand, the faster those demons worked to fill up the hole.
Then he got a sign. A woman on the street, an old woman. A beautiful woman, made of light…
She was kind to him. She saw his pain. She saw what he was. After they talked, and she asked him if he knew of God, if he had a personal connection to Jesus, she touched his arm. She handed him a picture of St. Francis.
The guardian did not know what it meant at first. He did not understand.
But after that, he saw St. Francis everywhere. He saw statues in every garden. He saw images on necklaces around the necks of people at work, stuck to the dashboards of cars, in a stained glass window of a neighborhood church. He saw St. Francis on advertisements, outside a veterinary clinic, on bird baths and next to a pond where he sometimes ran.
Then one day, he understood.
He knew where he needed to go.
He knew where God was sending him.
The guardian took no pleasure in righting those few wrongs he could. He continued to send the message, even if most were too deaf dumb and blind to understand. Those few listening might hear. Those few who understood might even take up the torch with him some day, become guardians themselves. Enough guardians and the world would be a different place.
For now, he would be work alone, unrecognized.
Anyway, the job had its own rewards.
It would be a good night.
And perhaps this psychologist would be one of the awake ones.
A guardian-in-training. A muse.
Perhaps she was even the reason he was here.
Perhaps she would be worth teaching the true meaning of the Light.