A Null for Hire Novel
Terri L. Austin
Genre: urban fantasy
Date of Publication: Nov. 1, 2016
ISBN ebook: 978-1-946066-00-8
ISBN print: 978-1-946066-01-5
Number of pages: 340
Word Count: 90,000
Cover Artist: http://www.thedarkrayne.com/
They call me an abomination. A mutant. A curse on their kind.
I don’t let it bother me. Much.
My name is Holly James, and what they say is true. I’m a freak of nature—a null. My mere presence zaps the magic from Others, rendering them powerless. That’s why they hate me. But here’s the kicker: I’ve found a way to profit from my lack of mojo.
Whether it’s acting as a mystical wet blanket in a dispute between pyromancers or keeping hormonal shifters from changing during a sweet sixteen party, I provide a highly specialized service. For a hefty fee.
When a young witch turns up dead, clutching an amulet cursed with black magic, my estranged grandfather asks for my help. In return for nullifying the necklace, Gramps promises to find my missing mother—a witch who vanished after my birth. Of course there’s a catch. He wants me to assist Cade McAllister, the arrogant sorcerer in charge of investigating the case.
Cade resents my existence, let alone my attempts to help. Still, I’ll do whatever it takes to find my mom. For my own peace of mind I have to know what happened to her, and I won’t allow anything to get in my way. Not even this crazy, irrational longing I feel for a hot sorcerer with the sexiest scowl I’ve ever seen.
As I walked through the door, Sunny Carmichael peered at me through oval, black-framed glasses. She wore her brown hair in a low ponytail, her plain white blouse wouldn’t dare show a wrinkle, and I knew without question she had on a long, black skirt and flats beneath the desk. Sunny had the fashion sense of a Mormon missionary.
I glanced at my phone. “By six minutes.”
“Which is late. And save your breath. I’m not interested in excuses.”
“I wasn’t going to offer any.”
Sunny—who’s the opposite of everything her name implies—is a perfectionist, which is why I hired her. She’s a no-nonsense, efficient, office-running machine, who always makes sure the check clears. Although I’d be lost without her, I wouldn’t own up to that fact if you waterboarded me.
With her fingers flying over the keyboard, she nodded at my neck. “What’s with the scarf? It’s ninety-seven degrees, and with the heat index, it feels like one hundred and three.”
Leaning down, I tugged on wool material and showed her my hickey. “This is why.”
“I see teeth marks. Do you know how many germs are in the human mouth?”
“I got attacked by a newbie vamp.”
That shut her up for all of three seconds. “A vamp did this? Have you called Monty and reported it? This type of thing shouldn’t happen, even if you are a null. There are rules.”
Supposedly, vamps only tapped willing donors. Yeah, and the tooth fairy was a harmless little creature who left money under the pillows of small children. I’d met that bitch, and there’s no way I’d let her near innocent, defenseless kids.
“Monty’s aware. Before I forget, I have an assignment for you.”
“Am I in high school now? Unlike you, I have important work to do. Quarterlies are coming up in three weeks, you know.”
I didn’t know. I paid her so I wouldn’t have to. “Vane Aldridge. Find out who he is.”
She continued clacking on the keyboard. “You have an appointment at ten.”
“Cancel it. I’m taking a few days off. I just stopped by to check in.”
Staring at me with unblinking brown eyes, she finally stopped typing. “How do you think we’re going to pay the rent if you take a few days off? You didn’t clear this with me.”
“First of all, we’re not going to go broke in a few days’ time. Second, I don’t have to clear it with you because I’m the boss. Third”—I walked to the half-full coffee pot next to her desk and grabbed a mug—“I’m doing a job for the Council, and it’s not the type of thing I can blow off. So, deal.”
She rolled her shoulders. “How much are they paying? Don’t quote them a price. You always undercharge.”
I doctored my cup with sweetener and powdered creamer. “I’m not charging them anything.”
“I beg your pardon?” She spun in her chair and straightened her glasses a millimeter. “What do you mean you’re not charging?” Nothing angered Sunny more than pro bono work. I still didn’t know what her issue was with money, but she had one. If a check bounced, she was on the phone in a hot minute. If she thought I charged too little, she wasn’t afraid to call the client and demand a bigger payment. Sunny was a straight up null pimp.
“It’s a personal thing.” I took a sip of coffee, hoping it would wake me up. I felt sluggish after too little sleep and too much Cade on the brain.
Sunny pursed her lips. “What’s going on? You don’t deal with the Council. In fact, I’ve worked very hard to keep you away from the Council.”
I blew out a breath. “Cliffs Notes version, I’m looking into the murders of two witches. Kind of important. Now do you get why I can’t take a client today?”
“No. And frankly, I don’t understand why you didn’t tell the Council that you charge ten thousand for that kind of intense job. You never think about the bottom line.”
I slammed my cup on her desk, slopping a few drops of coffee onto the polished wood surface. “Two young women are dead. Jeez, Sunny.”
She grabbed a tissue and wiped up my mess. “Fine, but the least you can do before you go tearing off is meet with this client. It’s an easy one. Shouldn’t take you any time at all.”
I rubbed a hand over my forehead. I wasn’t sure when Cade was picking me up. I probably had time for a quickie. “Give me the details.”
“The client was given a voodoo doll, and now she’s losing her hair.”
“She’s a Norm, I take it?” Even a weak witch would have been able to break that kind of spell without much trouble.
“Sounds like it. She seemed desperate, so I charged her an extra thousand.”
“You price-gouged a helpless Norm? You’re shameless. And who sends voodoo dolls these days? Very seventies, hippie crap. Honestly.” I leaned against her desk and sipped my coffee.
“My grandmother was very fond of them.” Sunny’s mother was a full-blooded witch, but she’d married a Norm. While Sunny grew up in a mixed-race household, she learned all about witchcraft from her mother and grandparents.
Sunny and I both straddled the world between Others and Norms. Though she couldn’t perform magic, she wasn’t affected by it either. She was immune. Spells and charms just rolled right off her. She saw through glamours, would never get fooled by a prank-playing imp, and if she was bitten by a werewolf, she might die from blood loss, but she wouldn’t turn.
Terri L. Austin is a mild-mannered writer by day and a reality TV junkie by night. She lives in Missouri with her family, and loves to hear from readers.
Drop her a line at http://www.terrilaustin.com/
All About the Tea: https://www.allaboutthetea.com
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