I am celebrating getting over a rough patch with Nether… by sharing a sneak peek of Nether! Enjoy!
I was finishing up, talking to a few of the people from the neighborhood, when I noticed the black SUV pulling up to the curb. I suppressed a groan. This would be my government counterparts. I’d avoided them as long as I could, apparently. I had to give Bren credit: he’d kept them off of me longer than I thought he’d be able to.
I watched as Ross and one of his underlings got out of the SUV, and noted Brennan climbing out of the passenger side. One look at him told me all I needed to know, even if I couldn’t sense emotions: the man was pissed. That tightness in his jaw, the cold glare he sent in Ross’s direction.
Either Ross was a really good actor, extremely confident, or totally clueless, since he didn’t seem to realize that he was in bodily danger.
Personally, I voted for clueless.
I moved away from the Normals. This probably wasn’t a conversation they needed to hear. I was relieved that they didn’t insist on coming with me, trying to hear what we were saying. They were taking me at my word that it would be handled, and there aren’t even words to express how crazy that still is to me. And when Heph arrived and they all flocked to him, I had to smile. The man was probably even more popular than I was. He was, after all, the one who got the lights back on and life back to normal. He gave me a wink before I turned back toward Ross and his guys.
“Angel,” Ross said as he approached.
“Agent Ross,” I said, with just as much warmth in my tone as he’d had. I had to wonder how he ever got his job. The man had the personality of a damp rag. His men alway looked either bored or confused, and usually both.
I glanced at Brennan, who was still shooting Ross looks that would have made me cower, even knowing Bren would never hurt me.
“As you can see, there is absolutely nothing for us to do here, unless you count getting in the way as being productive,” Brennan said. The other agent, who I wasn’t familiar with, chuffed out a breath in a sound that might have been a laugh. “I know you need to feel important here, Ross, but you’re useless unless you want to help Heph shovel some of that mess out of the way so he can fix the sewers.”
“No one asked you, Matthews,” Ross snarled. “So this is another immortal doing this?” he barked at me, and I raised my eyebrow.
“And what are you doing about it? Because from what I see, you have your pals fixing the messes, yet I don’t see you out there doing what you’re supposed to do.”
“And what is it you think I’m supposed to do?” I asked, shooting Brennan a glance.
“You’re supposed to be out chasing it down, not standing around here basking in the glow of your fame,” he said, and I stared at him.
“Basking? Really?” I said.
“You love it. The adoration. And for what? As long as you’ve been with us, you haven’t done shit beyond give press conferences.”
Before I could react, Brennan had Ross by the front of his shirt, his face inches from the shorter, thinner man’s.
“You have no clue. You have no idea what she does every single day to keep everyone, including your smarmy ass, safe. Because she doesn’t go around advertising every single action she takes the way you do. And considering that you came to her, begging for her help,” he continued as Ross struggled to get out of his grip, “I’d suggest showing her a little fucking respect.” He released Ross with a look of disgust and turned back to me.
I watched in amusement as Ross took a few steps away from Brennan, shooting him looks as he straightened his tie. It was rare for Brennan to actually show that he was pissed. Usually, by the time he was pissed off enough to act, it was too late for whoever had pissed him off to save themselves.
“Any other agent would have been written up for insubordination for shit like that, Matthews,” Ross said, pointing a trembling finger at Brennan which did absolutely nothing to help regain the appearance of control. The other agent was standing next to Brennan, arms crossed over his chest, looking more than pleased with the turn of events. Honestly, he looked like a kid at an ice cream parlor or something.
I liked him. I sensed for him, and felt his good mood over seeing his boss shown his true place. Respect for me and Brennan, and undertone of concern for the circumstances. He was a Normal, but unlike Ross, he didn’t seem perpetually freaked out by all of this.
“Yeah, well. I’m not just any agent, am I, Ross? And we all know you’re on your way out. I wonder who’ll replace you when you’re canned,” Bren said with a smirk.
I glanced at him. “Seriously?”
He grinned at me. “It’s all but a done deal. The higher-ups think he’s made more than a few missteps, the main of which is that he doesn’t understand a damn thing about how the supernatural community works because he’s lazily relied on my reports all these years.”
I smiled. “So why not put the man who actually knows shit in charge, right? Finally.”
He laughed. “And they’re not happy with the way he’s treated you. You wouldn’t know it from the interactions you’ve had, mostly with him,” he said, gesturing toward Ross, who was standing there seething, “but you have a ton of fans in the agency and in higher levels as well. Pissing you off is not something anyone wants to do.”
“Well, congratulations. It’ll be a vast improvement.”
“Yeah, it will,” Bren said, nodding. I had to laugh. There was that cockiness, that self-assuredness I hadn’t seen since before Nain died. His gaze met mine, and he nodded once before looking away.
“It’s not a done deal, Matthews,” Ross said.
I rolled my eyes and turned away from Ross, and Brennan followed suit. “So it looks like the same as the last one. Heph is making the repairs now to limit any chaos,” I said to Bren. We started walking toward where Heph was, Ross trailing behind us like a cranky toddler, the other agent at Bren’s side. “These people should have the lights on and water running within a few hours at most,” I said, and Brennan nodded.
“Give me a little fuckin’ credit, queenie,” Heph called from the ditch Demeter had cleared around the broken sewer pipe. “An hour, tops.”
I grinned, and the assembled Normals cheered. Bren and I exchanged a glance.
“He’s loving this, isn’t he?” he asked quietly as we kept walking.
“Every single moment,” I answered, and he laughed.
“I’ll keep looking,” I continued. “Jamie sent me the reports she ran, and this is right in line with what she predicted from the pollution stats. I’ll start monitoring the next few probable sites.”
“I can put some men on them, too, so we can cover more of the possibilities.”
“I’d appreciate it, thanks,” I said. “I really miss the imps at times like this. They were freaking masters at surveillance.”
Brennan reached over and took my hand, gave it a squeeze. “You’ll get them back. Have you seen them at all?”
I shook my head. “Once Nether’s around, I probably will.”
I heard another car approaching and turned to watch. It was another black SUV, and Jamie and another government guy climbed out. Brennan nudged me with his arm.
“Listen,” he said, meeting my eyes. I nodded.
I heard Brennan’s voice in my mind. This is Director Petersen. He’s in charge of homeland security now. Ross’s boss. Also a huge fan of yours.
“Thanks,” I said softly, and he nodded.
“Agent Matthews,” Petersen said, walking up to Brennan, hand extended.
He was a good looking man. Early to mid-forties, maybe. Tall and broad, muscular. Blond hair, blue eyes. He could have been related to Brennan, from looking at the two of them.
And he was a warlock.
“Director Petersen,” Bren replied, shaking the man’s hand. It didn’t go unnoticed that Petersen addressed Brennan, and not Ross. “I’d like to introduce you to the Angel,” he said, nodding toward me.
Petersen turned to me with a smile. “Finally! I’ve been looking forward to meeting you and thanking you in person for all of the help you‘ve given us.”
“Thank you,” I said, shaking his hand. I sensed for him. Respect. As I studied him, I watched as his eyes took in the scene around us, noting Heph working on the pipes, the Normals standing around. “I admit I was not excited to join up, but other than a bit of unpleasantness, I’m glad Agent Matthews convinced me to work with you,” I said.
Petersen nodded, and his gaze landed on Ross. “Yes. As far as the unpleasantness. I am sorry about that.”
“You will meet with me at nine tomorrow, Ross,” Petersen said, and Ross gave a terse nod.
“What was that?” Petersen asked in a mild voice.
“Yes, sir,” Ross grated.
“Good.” Then Petersen turned back to me. “I can’t believe how fast you and your friends get things back to normal. This would be a giant pain in the ass otherwise.”
“Instead, it’s just mildly terrifying,” I said, and Petersen laughed.
“You know who’s doing this, I assume? Agent Matthews has been typically tight-lipped about anything related to you.”
I shot a glance at Brennan, who was watching me. “And I appreciate that. As you’ve undoubtedly heard, I like as little interference as possible when I’m working.”
“Absolutely. All I need to know is that you know what’s going on and you’re working on it.”
“And I am,” I assured him. “This isn’t something any of your agents could deal with. It has to be me.”
Petersen surveyed the area. “I can see that. It is mind-blowing.”
I nodded. “I’m working on tracking the being responsible down. Hopefully we can stop this from happening again. It’s my top priority right now, in addition to tracking down the being who destroyed Hart Plaza the other day.”
“Two separate beings, then? I was hoping it was all the work of one insane, powerful supernatural,” Petersen said.
“Nah. That would be too easy, director,” I said, and he laughed. “I know who they are, and it is something my friends and I are uniquely suited to handle, and we will.”
“You have my eternal gratitude, Angel,” Petersen said. “If there is anything at all I can do for you, please don’t hesitated to contact me.” He reached into the inner pocket of his blazer and pulled out a business card.
“I will. Thank you,” I said. I was getting antsy. Too much talking, not enough smashing. And every second I stood around, one or the other of my two foremost troublemakers were undoubtedly preparing to do something else insane. I turned to Brennan.
“I need to get going,” I said.
He nodded. “Thanks again. I’ll stick around in case there are any questions.”
I nodded, then excused myself and walked out of the Normals’ line of sight, between two large trucks parked in the otherwise empty lot. I focused on the house Nain and I had moved into, and felt that familiar sensation of being pulled apart, cell by cell, until I came back together again in the kitchen of our flat.
I had to track down my insane Titan. I had to stop her from doing this again, no matter how much I agreed with her in general. I had Jamie’s reports, and I had Brennan’s promise of help for recon.
What I really needed now was a tracker, someone who knew what to look for.
And I knew just who to ask. Assuming she wasn’t busy babysitting just then.
Nether will be out in November! I’ll undoubtedly have a few more sneak peeks between now and then. I hope you enjoyed it!