QOTD: Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
The countdown to Halloween is here! Which is why I'm sending you a peek at my new novella that has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween.
Well, it doesn't, but if anyone's seen the previous post you'll know I am planning on doing some short stories for Halloween - hopefully I'll give you an update on that soon.
For now, here's a rough draft of the first chapter of Flamingo Fugitive - next in the bounty hunter series and about Stone the rhino.
Stone grinned and flexed his muscles. The young women giggled and batted their eyelashes. They whispered to one another before pushing the bravest of the three women forward. With tentative steps, she made an effort to saunter over to him. She only stumbled a couple of times. She didn’t do this often; he could tell. He was an expert on women who were regular pick up artists. He rarely slept alone. All he had to do was walk into a bar, and a woman picked up him. He didn’t have to be charming; he didn’t have to be witty or even clever. Women picked him up because of his looks, because of his smile and because of his muscles. He wasn't egotistical - it was a fact.
Women who came to bars, much like the one he was in – Bloodwork – didn’t come to be wooed or wowed. They were career women who didn’t have time for relationships, or women bored with their inattentive boyfriends. They wanted strings-free sex, with a good-looking meathead who knew how to fuck. And he knew how to fuck. Okay, maybe he was a little egotistical. But he had the clout to back it up.
The woman smiled at him nervously and slid onto the stool next to him. Not bad, he thought, and his rhino chuffed in agreement. She was slim and blonde – just his type. She was perhaps a little nervier than he preferred, but hey, you couldn’t have it all.
“Hi, I’m Caitlyn,” she chirruped, in a high, grating voice.
Stone tried not to wince. “Stone,” he rumbled in his deepest purr.
“You come here often?” She twirled a lock of hair around her finger.
She fluttered her eyelashes. “First time.”
“Sure.” She turned and flashed a triumphant look at her friends who burst into fits of giggles.
Stone nodded to the bartender Gregg. Stone came here so often that he had a standing order for ladies he was talking to – strawberry daiquiri. The odds of him picking up a woman who didn’t like strawberry daiquiris were astronomically small.
Caitlyn took a sip of the frothy pink drink and smiled shyly. “I love strawberry daiquiris, how did you know?”
“Lucky guess.” He rolled his voice over the word lucky.
She licked her lips and took another sip. He’d noted that she was drinking champagne before she joined him. She and her friends were on their second bottle. She was already suitably buzzed, but the daiquiri would put her on the right side of merry but still in full possession of her normal decision-making skills. Hey, Stone didn’t need to get women drunk to get them into bed. Usually, he just smiled.
Stone let his attention focus on the man at the back of the bar for a second as Caitlyn drained her drink. He fingered the handcuffs in his pocket. The silver heated his skin, threatening to burn, but the pain was worth it. Whoever wore them would be a heck of a lot more manageable. Not that he had problems with that exactly, but previous skips had tried to strangle him while he was trying to drive them back to the cops. He almost pranged his car – Maria – a couple of times. He wouldn’t risk Maria’s safety again.
He turned back to the blonde who was leaning her head on her hand and staring at him expectantly. He needed to keep her interested. He was pleased she had joined him. She made him less conspicuous, although, if she hadn’t approached him another would have. The moment he walked in he caught the attention of an aggressive looking cougar shifter and a shy arctic fox. They were too slow.
The woman in front of him smelled like some kind of feline, he just couldn’t quite narrow it down. He sniffed her; thankful his rhino had an excellent sense of smell. A white rhino shifter may not be up there with a wolf or a bear when it came to smell, but rhinos tended to be stubborn – a quality that served him well as a bounty hunter. Well, part-time bounty hunter. He also worked as a trainer at Heavenly Booties – which was definitely a gym and not a strip club as most people thought. The name Heavenly Bodies was already taken. And on occasion he dabbled in fights – underground fights where shifters could turn into their beasts.
His rhino nodded. Yep, he had it. “Mountain lion.” Didn’t see many of them in cities.
Caitlyn beamed. “Yeah, and you’re a rhino, right?”
“Right.” Keeping her interested wasn’t hard. He barely had to do or say anything. But then women did like the strong, silent type, plus a little mystery always intrigued them. Full disclosure was for boyfriends. Hookups wouldn’t be sexy if everyone gave each other their real names or told the truth about what they did for a living. His high school pal, Roger, wouldn’t see any action if he admitted that he wrote greeting card messages. One woman told him it was the least sexy job in the world. Seemed a bit harsh, but Roger learned his lesson. So, the more mystery, the better. Stone, international rhino of mystery.
His eyes flicked to his quarry. Lucky break that the guy turned up at one of Stone’s favourite bars. The guy was just sitting at the moment, morosely sipping on a cocktail adorned with five umbrellas. But, he could bolt at any time. Ferret shifters were slippery and fast, and this one was a particularly nasty piece of work. He was a lab technician at some big pharmaceutical company. He stole some kind of experimental mix of pheromones, supposed to incite horniness in women or something like that. Stone glossed over that part of the file; it held no interest for him as he never had a problem creating feelings of horniness in women. But the little ferret apparently doused his next-door neighbor in it and, overcome, with a desire to mate, she virtually mounted the ferret. The guy was now on trial for sexual assault. Or at least he would be if he hadn’t missed his court date. Moron wasn’t running, though, no, he was hanging out at a bar and paying way too much attention to the movements of the arctic fox who had shyly been giving Stone the eye.
“Is it true what they say about Rhinos?” cooed Caitlyn.
Stone raised an eyebrow. That they have tiny brains? Yeah, he’d heard that one a lot. Wild rhinos did have small brains given their size, and rhino shifters weren’t exactly setting the world on fire with their intellect. But he made sure people who asked them that stupid question knew that he made up for it in other areas. “What do they say?”
Out the corner of his eye, he noticed the ferret moving. He didn’t think the ferret knew he was there for him, so he wasn’t too worried.
“That you’re well endowed,” she whispered, before giggling with fake bashfulness. To say that she didn’t seem to exude confidence when she strolled on over to him, she certainly seemed to know what she was doing. He knew what real modesty looked like – it looked like the blush his seventy-five-year-old spinster neighbor always gave him after he came home one night without his clothes, and she got an eyeful. It wasn’t his fault; he had to shift, and he ruined all his clothes when he burst out of them. He imagined the night had been a hell of an eye opener for Gretchen. He wondered why the blonde in front of him was faking it.
She blonde pouted, coquettishly as she waited for an answer. Stone chuckled inwardly as his rhino chuffed. She was actually waiting for an answer; that wasn’t some throwaway hypothetical flirty line. Well, he’d let her measure it later if she wanted, but for now his ferret was hovering around the arctic fox’s table, and Stone didn’t like it one bit. The sniveling little shit had enjoyed all the freedom he was going to get; now it was time to go back to jail.
Stone leaned towards the blonde and placed a meaty hand on her waist. She quivered at the gentle touch. “Back in a sec, babe.”
Her eyebrows knitted in confusion, but he wasn’t wasting any time explaining. His rhino grunted and zeroed in on the ferret. The shit was putting something in the fox’s drink. There was no time to be unobtrusive or to creep up. Now was the time to do the thing he did best – charge.
Stone let out a roar to rival any carnivorous predator and ran at full pelt towards the ferret. Time seemed to stand still as everyone in the bar watched in shock as he hurled himself across the room. Even the ferret froze; a look of comic horror plastered on his face. After a few beats, he pulled himself together and turned to run, knocking over the drink he was about to roofie in the process.
Alas, he was too late. Barely a second later he was body slammed to the ground and found himself choking under more than five thousand pounds of rhino. Stone laughed inwardly. No wonder everyone in the bar looked so scared. In his single-minded need to catch the ferret, he hadn’t even noticed that his rhino had taken over, and he shifted.
His rhino snorted as he pressed his long horn against the ferret. The skip whimpered or maybe laughed; it was hard to tell. Under the rhino’s pressing weight, he just seemed to be wheezing.
Alright buddy, soothed Stone. Time to let the shit go. His rhino grumbled, feeling like a few broken ribs might be beneficial to the ferret. Stone had to agree that it sounded logical, but he’d prefer that the guy goes on trial rather than wasting time whining about rhino brutality. And who knows, maybe he would resist a little and Stone would get to smack him a little to get him into the handcuffs. His rhino grunted in agreement and released control, allowing his body to shudder back into his human form.
Stone ambled over to his torn clothes. In that state they weren’t going to cover much, and as all the females and a few males in the bar had noticed, he had a lot to cover. His blonde companion at the bar was staring at him open-mouthed, her eyes bulging. Stunned into impressed silence, he thought, proudly.
Oh well, he didn’t just buy cheap clothes because he couldn’t afford expensive ones. He grabbed his clothes and pulled out his wallet, phone and cuffs. He tossed the remnants to the bartender who nodded and took them out to the trash; Gregg was used to this drill by now.
He was pleased that the ferret hadn’t done anything stupid like try and run away. Although, that may have been because he was in far too much pain to move – it wasn’t clear. The rhino was happy to run him down once, if the rhino had to do it a second time, he would put his horn to good use and Stone wouldn’t even try to stop him.
Stone slapped the cuffs on the ferret and dragged him to his feet. He pulled him back over to the blonde and grinned. Deftly, Stone pulled a card out of his wallet and passed it to her. The business cards were the best ten bucks he ever spent. They just said Stone and his phone number, and that was all they needed to say.
He winked at her as she fingered the card. “Call me later.”
The giggles of the blonde and her friends followed him out of the club, and he smirked at his captive. His burbling captive seemed less than impressed with his technique, but that didn’t diminish his pleasure at the situation. He’d caught his skip, and he was onto a sure thing with Kate or Cat or whatever her name was. Life was good.
QOTD from Jingo by Terry Pratchett. xxxx