Deceived By the Others - By Jess Haines

Chapter 1

My hands shook as I put my pen to the contract laid out before me. The Notice of Mutual Consent to Human/Other Citizen Relationship and Contractual Binding Agreement that would permanently cement my relationship with Chaz.

If he’d sign it too, that is.


The pen left a streak behind when my hand jerked. I looked up, quickly shuffling some other papers over the contract to hide it amidst the clutter on my desk.


Jen, H&W’s receptionist and bookkeeper, peered into my office over the rims of her glasses. She eyed the papers like she knew I was hiding something, but was too tactful to say anything. “What was the name of that crazy guy who was here a month or so ago? The one you didn’t want to take calls or appointments from?”

I wrinkled my nose. “You’re talking about that tall, blond guy, right? His name is Jack.”

She nodded and disappeared around the corner. Curiosity piqued and the contract momentarily forgotten, I rose from my squeaky office chair to lean against the doorframe. Jen was on the phone, her feet propped up on her desk while she wrapped up a game of solitaire on the computer.

“No, sir, I just checked, and she’s in with a client. I’m sorry, but I’m not about to interrupt her meeting. Like I said, you can leave her a voice mail, or I can take a message.”

I frowned, folding my arms as I watched her multitask her game and the phone call. Jack’s calling wasn’t a good sign. The man was a member of the White Hats, one of those crazy vigilante groups who go around destroying any supernatural critters that cross their paths. The first time I’d met him, he’d threatened me at knife-point to attempt to get me to join his cause. The second time around, he had walked into my office in broad daylight and held a gun on me because he thought I was working for vampires. Aside from being a few beers short of a six-pack, he was bad news, pure and simple.

“Like I said, sir, she is not available.” Jen’s tone had turned professionally icy, and I strongly considered giving her a raise. She was doing an excellent job of putting off the pushy creep. “You’re free to leave a message with me or call back another time.” She paused, listened to his reply. Soon she was nodding along to whatever he was saying with a sly, triumphant smile. “Yes, I’ll see she gets it right away. What’s the message?”

Swinging her feet off the desk, she opened up an e-mail and clattered out Jack’s message. She saw me out of the corner of her eye and made a face, though she kept her voice cool and polite on the phone.

“Yes, I’ll get this to her as soon as she’s free. Thanks for calling Halloway and Waynest Investigations.”

“Thanks for getting rid of him,” I said as soon as she plunked the phone down. “That guy is nothing but trouble.”

“No kidding. I’ll forward the message since he left a phone number, but I don’t know if it’ll mean anything to you. All he said was, ‘tell her this time it isn’t us.’ Any idea what he’s talking about?”

I frowned, brows furrowing. “That’s all he had to say? ‘It isn’t us’?”


“I have no idea.”

Shaking her head, she turned back to her computer and sent me the e-mail, my preferred form of message. Sara was much more organized than I was when it came to keeping track of Post-it memos. My desk was a rattrap clutter of dust bunnies, chewed up pens, and scattered business cards that should’ve been filed away or organized somehow long ago.

“If he shows up here looking for me while I’m out of town, call the police. He’s a nuisance.”

“Okay,” she agreed, not bothering to look away from her game. Shrugging off my uneasiness, I turned back to my office, but she stopped me with another word. “Oh, Shia?”


“I almost forgot. Some guy named Alex or something left a message on the main voice mail for you last night. I forwarded it to your phone.”

I’d ignored my calls earlier so I could avoid any new emergencies getting piled on me before going out of town. Which Alex might have attempted to reach me before I left? Alex Mills, the insurance agent? No, he was out of town on vacation. Alex Temps, the client I tracked down a stolen antique for a couple weeks ago? No, no, he had bitched about my rates