Black Of Hearts
Quentin Black Mystery #12
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He fell still for the first time, panting, blinking against his blurred vision.
Whoever had him…
Gaos, they had his wife.
Kicked out of their momentary kiss with paradise, Miri and Black return to their version of Earth in the midst of a growing race war, a war with increasingly dark implications.
Black knows his wife will be targeted by both sides once they realize what she can do, what her newfound powers really mean.
Nick is still missing. Dalejem is presumed dead.
The vampire race is massing, preparing for all-out war.
Meanwhile, riots rage, and Charles, the seer who decided to take over the planet from the human race, is locking down the country, preparing for that final confrontation.
Both sides want Black with them. Both sides want to control him.
When Black’s wife goes missing, that’s the last damned straw.
When he finally loses his cool, the whole world may pay the price.
BLACK OF HEARTS is book twelve in the QUENTIN BLACK MYSTERY series, a paranormal mystery series starring brilliant but dangerous psychic detective, Quentin Black, and his partner, forensic psychologist Miri Fox. It’s also a spinoff of the BRIDGE & SWORD SERIES.
Prologue: THE PLACE AT THE END
IT WAS HARD to say goodbye.
This time, more than any other… it was hard to say goodbye.
Maybe it was because Black was with me.
Maybe it was just because I knew I’d remember it this time. I’d remember these people and remember this place, unlike all the other times I’d left these golden shores and gone back to my own version of Earth.
For the first time, I’d remember, well…
All of it.
Every detail of every cloud in every blue sky.
Every sunrise and sunset.
All the animals and plants and birds.
The peace of the village below, the kindness of everyone I’d met, the markets, the nighttime parties and daytime hikes, the ocean swims, the seers living in their meditation huts in the hills, the strange animals we rode and petted and swam alongside.
I’d remember this place.
I’d remember and truly miss this end of the road resort, where the only job left for the residents, it seemed, was to hold the light for the rest of us, to be a sun for all worlds.
Or maybe that was pure ego on my part. Maybe it had nothing to do with us at all. Maybe it was the ultimate reward, the one that came only at the end of a life, or a series of lives, that merited something more than the standard retirement.
I knew Black’s cousin, Revik, viewed it that way.
Revik’s wife, Alyson, seemed to view it that way, too.
The two of them relaxed into this place like sinking into a bubble bath after a hard day of work… or, more accurately, way, way too many hard days, stacked one on top of the other, with no end in sight, for longer than I could probably comprehend.
Maybe it was a resting place, a halfway place.
It didn’t feel like that, though.
It really did feel like the end of the road for them. It felt like one version of the end of the road, at least, maybe one version out of millions, out of billions…
Maybe that’s why it was so hard to let it go.
A huge part of me just wanted to stay.
That part of me wanted to call it quits now, not at some future, unnamed, unknowable date… a date that, for all we knew, might never come. I wanted to stay now, while we still had the chance, while we were still relatively un-dinged and undamaged.
I could tell Black thought about it, too.
Staying, that is.
We even talked about it a few times, the way people share their fantasies on lazy summer days. We sprawled on our backs in the sand, listening to the pounding surf, listening to the local “otters,” (which were the size of German Shepherds), barking and squealing and chattering to one another in the waves, and Black and I would talk about building a home down the coast from Black’s cousin’s house.
Black mused dreamily about finding a spot under the trees, near the ocean, with a half-decent beach and “too far away to be the fucking babysitters on call,” but close enough to “hike over the hills now and then to take advantage of Revik’s cooking.”
Black joked about stealing fruit from Revik’s orchard.
He joked about “borrowing” his cousin’s family’s isthelay––the big-cat, big-horse, quasi-dragon creatures the locals rode. Isthelay ran like cheetahs, had a habit of unexpectedly climbing trees, and were sweetly affectionate and fond of crunching both cookies and dead rodents on their back molars.
He talked about taking Allie and Revik’s daughter, Lily, on camping trips with us. He talked about bribing Lily to steal Revik’s guns, his hand-tools, random articles of Revik’s clothing… like all of his left shoes… not to mention his food. He joked about eliciting Maygar’s help, Revik’s adult son, to mess with Revik, as well.
Thinking up ways to irritate his cousin seemed to give Black a perverse pleasure for some reason.
Knowing him, it was some twisted sign of affection.
Black talked about practical things, too, like learning how to build in that organic style they employed here, that made houses look like they grew out of the ground like trees. He talked about what he might do here for work, how we both might integrate into the community.
We daydreamed about just saying the hell with all of the bullshit we’d left behind on Earth. We joked about how they’d probably be relieved to be shut of us.
I knew him, though.
I knew Black.
There was no way he would just walk. There were a million reasons, a million things that made that impossible. The biggest of those, the one that stood head and shoulders above the rest, was who we’d be leaving behind.
It was what might happen to them, if we simply cut out.
There was Dalejem, who was still missing.
There was Nick, who was still a vampire, and who’d probably killed Dalejem by now, or, even more likely, simply enslaved him with his venom.
There was my sister, Zoe, who I had no idea what to do with at all. I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that my baby sister was alive… sort of… after over a decade where I believed her to be dead.
Having family members who were vampires was apparently a thing I was just going to have to get used to now, though.
After all, I’d long considered Nick part of my family, too.
I still had absolutely no idea what to do with any of that information, but the thought of never talking to either of them again, vampires or no, and even after what Nick had done to me, was more than I could bear. Now that I’d more or less accepted the fact that I really had seen Zoe in Golden Gate Park that night, that I hadn’t been hallucinating, I found myself thinking about her a lot. Even here, on this beautiful, wild, magically-idealized version of Earth, Zoe was never far from my mind.
I found myself thinking about Nick, too.
I did my best to hide that from Black, but I couldn’t help but think about him.
Anyway, my point is, a lot was going on back in our world.
Like… a hell of a lot.
When we left, all these people and races and forces seemed to be converging around us in a kind of vortex… like Black and me constituted a giant black hole, drawing everything else in. It felt sometimes like just the fact of me and Black existing twisted history from a straight line into a broken one, veering it into a shrouded, winding trail we could neither shy away from, nor thwart, nor even plan for adequately.
Truthfully, given all that, it felt really damned irresponsible to be in this idyllic world at all.
I knew Black felt the same.
I knew, because I felt it on him, when he thought I didn’t notice.
Black couldn’t back down from a fight, not one this big.
Black couldn’t abandon his friends.
He couldn’t let Charles unfold his fucked-up vision on the world, not on his world.
Not to his fucking people.
We weren’t the only two who believed our stay here would be short-lived.
No one in this version of Earth, this vision of peace and clean air and white beaches and miles of sun-kissed valleys and hills, with rivers so filled with fish you could walk on their backs to get across the glass-clear waters… no one here said it, but they all knew we didn’t belong.
I doubt they would have said a word if we announced we were staying, but the feeling of Black and I vacationing here was tangible, and not only to the two of us.
We had to go back.
It wasn’t our time yet.
From what I knew of Black’s cousin, Revik, and Revik’s wife, Alyson, or “Allie,” the two of them had already fought their big fight. They’d lived through decades of war; perhaps, in Revik’s case, even centuries. They lived through the destruction of their home world with their own friends and families, their own enemies and allies. They’d lost battles, lost friends, lost family… nearly lost each other.
In the end, they made it to the other side.
They were finished now.
They were finished.
This was their home. They weren’t on vacation. They lived to raise their kids, and to serve in a different, quieter way, with others doing the same.
That way definitely didn’t involve fighting in yet another multi-front war, impacting another set of complex timelines in ways that were unpredictable at best, utterly disastrous at worst. The one time Black joked about how handy it would be to have a telekinetic seer with us, back on our version of Earth, the silence was deafening.
Revik more or less gave him a death stare.
Allie was more diplomatic.
She explained how her and Revik’s roles were specific and limited, how it would be completely unethical for them to go to an unfamiliar planet and screw with things to try to create a specific outcome.
She was nice about it, like I said.
Even so, the more she talked, the more I realized what a completely horrible thing it was to even joke about.
Allie and Revik, after all, had more or less destroyed their world.
To be fair, they had good reasons.
But yeah, bringing them to our Earth would be like introducing two walking nuclear bombs into an already fraught and potentially deadly situation, and hoping nothing happened to put them in the wrong hands… or even just to aim them in the wrong direction.
I think the implications hit Black too, the longer Allie talked.
By the end, his face had flushed dark red. After reminding both of them he was joking, he actually apologized for even bringing it up.
Anyway, the point is, me and Black weren’t Allie and Revik.
As much as Black and I might want to believe we’d attained that end point, victory-lap stage of life, we hadn’t. We both knew we hadn’t.
We weren’t done.
We could both feel it.
It was that feeling, more than anything, that nagged at the back of my mind, telling me it was time to go home.
(End sample pages)
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