Good morning, everyone. Before we get to the next snippet in Kate Paulk’s irreverent and hysterical take on sf/f cons, a quick word from the management. If you look at the top of the page, you’ll see a new tab for snippets. Starting next week, our regular snippets will be announced on the blog and the reader will then be redirected to the snippet page to finish reading. The reason for this is so all our snippets are easier to find. Also, we will start a regular snippet process. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we’ll have snippets from upcoming novellas and novels. And now, without further delay, here’s the next snippet from ConVent. As usual, the standard disclaimer applies: this is not the final edited product. This is similar to the ARC of a book.
* * *
By the time the cops and paramedics arrived, Sean and I were in the middle of a crowd of rubbernecking con-goers. The nurse — her name was Gina — and I kept guard over the girl, while Sean helped hotel security keep the door clear.
The presence of uniformed, armed cops did what nothing else could. The onlookers faded off to other things. I doubted any of them had anything to fear, but the whole science fiction scene is kind of weird that way. Paranoia is the norm, not the exception.
At least I could do the vampire mind thing and make sure the cops believed what I told them. Not that it was anything exotic — everything except the reason Sean and I went into the art room was bare truth. If they checked out my credentials, they’d find it all matched up, too. I’ve been careful with that. Always make sure the paper trail matches your cover. Getting locked up on suspicion because your credentials don’t check out can do really bad things to your quality of life. Ending up in a lab as someone’s experiment would be worse.
All told, it was a relief when the cops left. For maybe five seconds.
Raph’s voice behind me put an end to any happy thoughts I might have wanted to harbor. “Lil says you’ll need help with this one.”
I didn’t groan. Yet. Instead, I turned around to face him. He had a succubus with him — the scent of sex mingled with expensive perfume overlying a hint of brimstone is unmistakable — presumably ‘Lil’. She oozed seduction, of course. The Star Trek costume helped: it was from the original series with the tight-tight minidress that showed off her legs and other… assets. This was one Uhura who had probably done the entire crew several times over. Even Scotty would have inspected that engine.
Raph was done up as Spock, complete with pointy ears and strange eyebrows. It would be the only time in history that anything involving Leonard Nimoy actually looked sexy. And no, I don’t swing that way, but I know hot when I see it. Raph sizzled.
It wasn’t because he was an angel, either. Most angels I’ve met aren’t earthy enough to be sexy. They’re more ethereal. Raph… I guess he takes his undercover work seriously enough to project like an incubus, only he doesn’t quite manage it. Typically your incubi and succubi project a kind of illicit sexiness. Raph gets the sex part, but it’s kind of wholesome sexy, if that makes sense.
“Thanks.” I might as well be polite — I’d never figured out precisely where we made immortals fit in with the natural immortals, and it never hurt to be on good terms with representatives of the current management. Besides, Lil was right. I might hate to admit it, but I did need help. Demonic rituals aren’t my line.
I nodded to the succubus. “Pleased to meet you, Lil.”
She smiled, the kind of demure, almost shy smile that would have been ordinary from anyone else. From her, it was practically an invitation. “The pleasure is all mine.”
Yes, she purred. Succubi do. It’s part of what they are.
Raph slipped his right arm around her waist. “You promised you wouldn’t go after the regulars, remember?”
Fat chance. Succubi and incubi are sex on legs. One of them thinking with their brain counted as a miracle in my book. “I’m immune.” I shrugged. “You might want to tone it down around Sean, though. He goes wolf when he’s aroused, and I’m not going to tweak the entire con because he couldn’t control himself.” I had to do that last time, and it takes all the fun out of a convention.
Lil giggled. “I’ll be good.” She turned a sly look on Raph that got the expected reaction. “You’re going to make it up to me, Raphie darlin’, right?”
That tight costume didn’t leave any room for imagination. Raph was trying to make it up to her right then and there. I half expected the spandex to tear.
“Get a room.” Sean’s low growl crawled up my spine. There wasn’t a hint of civilized in it. I hoped he was holding onto his human shape, because I really wasn’t ready to deal with another convention fiasco.
Raph blinked, and his eagerness deflated. Some. “Um.” He actually looked embarrassed. “Sorry.”
Lil tried to simper in Sean’s direction, and froze when he snarled. I got a glimpse of her true shape before she controlled herself: take away the hair and add wings, scales and a tail, and you’ve more or less got it.
Raph ignored her slip. “As far as I know, we’re the only regulars here. I haven’t come across any newcomers, either.” He shrugged. “Nothing to suggest any of the mortals are dabbling with anything they shouldn’t. All the interesting items in the dealer’s room are well warded.”
Pretty thorough, but then, that kind of thing is part of Raph’s job. Neither side is all that keen on a war — not what you’ll hear from those who are supposed to know these things, but most of them are fooling themselves. The world’s been pretty much neutral ground for years. Occasionally Someone will nudge, but for the most part it’s just people doing what people do.
Depressing thought, really.
Something nudged at my memory. Bill… and the Heart’s Blade. “You checked on Bill?”
Raph had the Spock eyebrows down perfectly — they moved the right way when he frowned. “Who?”
“Minor demon lord. I know him from way back.” I wasn’t about to explain when and why. “I saw him wheeling stuff in. Mostly he had books, but there was a Heart’s Blade on the trolley.”
Lil’s sharp gasp hissed just as much as Raph’s.
The angel shook his head. “I didn’t see any demons in there, or… that.”
I couldn’t blame him for not wanting to name a Heart’s Blade. The cursed things are the closest to pure evil you’re ever likely to see. “Crap.” I’d have to check the dealers myself. Not that I don’t trust Raph’s judgment or anything, but… I don’t actually know where he stands in the angelic hierarchy. A demon lord might well be able to trick him. Me being effectively immune to magic — I can feel the discharge when I break a spell, but that’s about it — I can see straight through illusions. It’s got to be a full masking to make me see something that’s not actually there.
I sighed, and turned my attention back to the more pressing issue. “Did either of you pick up anything from the… site?” I really didn’t want to call that setup in the Art Room a sacrificial altar. Old superstition, I guess. If it can hurt you, you don’t name it in case you summon it.
Lil nibbled on her lower lip. “I think it was supposed to be a gateway anchor.” With her eyes downcast while she thought, she looked almost demure.
I’ve seen Raph’s skin in circumstances I don’t want to think about, and I’ve never seen him this pale. “You’re sure about that?”
She nodded. “You big boys don’t need them.”
A few minutes ago I would have sworn a succubus couldn’t say anything like that and not sound flirtatious. You learn something every day.
“Mortals use them, same as we lesser demons, if we want to bring in one of the big players.”
Lovely. Major demons. Just freaking wonderful.