Home > Midlife Bounty Hunter (Forty Proof #1)

Midlife Bounty Hunter (Forty Proof #1)
Author: Shannon Mayer

1

The saying goes that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results was the definition of insanity. I wasn’t sure that was entirely true. I suspected that doing something completely out of the norm, something no sane person would ever consider doing, fell a bit closer to the mark.

I stood, résumé in hand, in front of a massive wrought iron gate that led into a decommissioned graveyard that was apparently so old, no one cared there were bodies in it. Of course, maybe that wasn’t so unusual given there were bodies buried under every part of Savannah. Having grown up here, though, I had been surprised to see a graveyard I’d not known about.

A quick glance at the paper in my hand, my name in bold at the top—Breena O’Rylee—my grandmother’s maiden name, thank you very much. The last thing I wanted right then was to be connected to Himself—also known as my a-hole of an ex-husband, may he rot in pieces after suffering through a case of testicular shrinkage that would take his voice into soprano octaves. See how he liked that when arguing a case in court.

“Hello?” I tapped the tip of my shoe on the gates, rattling them soundly. “Is this 696 Old Hollows Road?” I grimaced as my voice drifted over the early night air. Really, it was kind of a dumb question seeing as the address was hung clearly on the left gate. I was at the right place, but where were the interviewers?

Gawd almighty, this was . . . insane. Insane. I checked my watch. Eammon, the friend of a friend who’d invited me for the group interview, had said to be here at 6:00 p.m.

It was 6:15, and I’d shown up five minutes early. No other interviewees that I’d seen. So, either I’d gotten my time wrong, or I was the only one applying for the job. If I was the only one, maybe that would guarantee me the job. Not a bad thing if it paid as well as Eammon had hinted.

I sighed to myself. Here I was, being crazy, impetuous, and unsafe, or so Himself would say, but I’d still shown up early. At least I hadn’t lost all grasp of my adult responsibilities.

Himself would probably disagree. He tended to disagree with anything I did. My mouth tipped downward into a tired grimace thinking of Himself.

Slick-as-snot divorce lawyer that he was, I should have seen it coming a mile and a half off. Well, that’s not entirely true, I’d seen it coming. What I hadn’t seen was how he’d hung me out to dry. But there you go, that’s what I got for being trusting. A high-speed chase and some assorted hijinks later, here I was back in Savannah, a place I’d spent my childhood loving, a place my grandmother had lived her whole life. A place where bogeymen were real, ghosts could talk to you if you listened closely, and black magic could catch you if you weren’t careful. Or so she’d always said.

I leaned my head against the wrought iron, the coolness of it offsetting the heat of the air, only a little. “Gran, I wish you were here.”

She died six months ago, and the guilt of not being there for her threatened daily to undo me. I’d left at eighteen, told her that I didn’t believe in a shadow world that didn’t exist, and ran as far away as I could. Because that’s what Himself had said, that it was crazy.

She’d told me I was welcome home whenever I needed a safe place to land. She’d loved me unconditionally, and it had taken me years to grow up and realize that.

Because, fool that I was, I’d let Himself convince me that my life had been a lie, his love would save me, and the world was a place governed by unshakeable truths. The first of which was that magic was a lie, and if I believed in it, then I was nothing more than a child. Someone who needed protecting from herself.

Desperate to be normal, I’d . . . I shook my head at the memories. “I knew better,” I whispered to myself.

I damn well knew better.

I’d followed Himself to Seattle and tried to forget it all, tried to forget everything Gran ever taught me. To pretend it wasn’t real. But that’s not how the shadow world worked.

There were shadows everywhere the light touched, and the creatures that hid in them—while not so numerous in Seattle—recognized that I could see them.

My jaw tightened over what he’d done when I’d woken screaming that there was a bogeyman standing over our bed. A bogeyman who laughed at me, chased me onto the street, and through early morning traffic.

Naked.

Screaming.

Someone had taken pictures and I’d made the paper.

Himself had not taken it lightly, his reputation being attached to me.

To be fair, I was startled, and the bogeyman was one of the worst monsters out there, creating fear in a way that not many others could. I’d not reacted the way I’d been taught, and for it, Himself had put me in a mental institute.

Gran had come to me, of course, even though Himself hadn’t visited me once. I should have seen the light then, but I still believed he loved me.

I closed my eyes, the moment with Gran as poignant now as it had been then. The smell of her perfume whispered across my senses and I’d woken to see her leaning over me. Soft green eyes, long silver hair braided back from her face rather than the usual wild mess it was, pale skin with the hint of the freckles that had once been there, long before I arrived on her doorstep.

Her gnarled fingers brushed across my still-young cheeks. “Honey girl . . . what have they done to you? You are no crazier than I am. Seeing the shadows is more normal than not.”

My arms and legs were strapped down as if I were a danger to myself. Bindings bit into my flesh, indenting it. I suppose seeing as I’d run into traffic, the doctors might think I was trying to kill myself, even if that hadn’t been the case. “Take it away, Gran. I can’t live a life and deal with the shadow world. I know you can take it away.” My voice was sluggish from the sedation, but I remembered her face. “I don’t want it anymore.”

The tears that slid down her wrinkled cheeks cut into me, but I didn’t draw back from what I wanted. From what I thought was best for me and Himself. Her hands cupped my face and she swept her thumbs over my eyes first, closing them. “Sight bind thee from the shadows,” then her hands covered my ears, “ears whisper nothing,” then slid to my hands, “touch be gone, let the shadows fall no more to thee.”

The spell was simple, and then I was released from the institute.

Gran stayed only a few days; Himself didn’t like her.

With that simple spell from Gran on her first visit to me in my new town, I’d finally stopped seeing the strange, dark things of my childhood. I’d almost stopped believing in them too.

“I was wrong, Gran. I was so wrong,” I whispered now.

Erasing all of that hadn’t been worth it. If I’d learned anything at the ripe old age of forty-one, it was that no dream could last forever, and no man can save you from yourself.

Despair is a funny thing, and it has the tendency to bring out the believer in anyone. The logical part of my head said I was being crazy, but that logical side sounded a lot like Himself. Anger snapped through me and I muttered under my breath.

If I’d been texting, the typo would have looked something like “Duck off.”

Coming home to Savannah, I was ready to face the past. To see what I had to see.

And maybe, just maybe I could figure out who I was. Yeah, I know. You’d think I should've known that by my age.

Wrapping my fingers around the wrought iron, I whispered a prayer my gran taught me, oh so long ago. A prayer for help. Though maybe not the kind of prayer the normal populace would whisper at the edge of a graveyard.

“Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me, let my spirit see thee and the shadows that walk at my side.” The metal under my hand trembled suddenly, and I lifted my head off the gate.

“That’s lovely.”

I spun around, my back against the gate, to see one of the tallest men I’d ever come across in my life. Well over seven feet tall, he was slim as a stick and moved carefully as if he knew he was a big guy who could scare people if he moved too fast. He wore big thick glasses that made his eyes seem larger than they probably were. Owl-like was my first thought.

He wore tan pants and a white button-down shirt with a dark green bow tie, of all things, which all only added to the look of a nutty professor. He touched the middle of his glasses, adjusting them on his face with fingers that looked way too long even for a big guy like him.

“I’m sorry, are you here for the interviews?” I arched a brow or made my best attempt at it. I couldn’t raise them independently no matter how hard I tried.

He shook his head. “No, no, I’m here to hire Hollows Group. But they aren’t answering my emails.” He made a typing motion with both hands as if I wouldn’t otherwise understand what an email was. “I thought I’d come and speak to them in person. They can be a bit difficult to track down.”

“Sounds like a bad business practice to me,” I said.

He clasped both hands in front of him and rocked on his heels. “I’m not high on their priority list.”

Staring at him, I knew he wasn’t quite human. There was a sense of other about him. I didn’t have a better word for it, but it felt undeniable, and the realization that he was part of the shadow world did something funny to my heart.

Had the prayer worked that quickly? Was it so simple that just wanting to see would open my eyes? I wasn’t sure. I’d been too long away from Savannah. I couldn’t deny what I felt rolling off this tall fellow.

All those years away from here, and a part of me had started to believe Himself was right, that my childish mind had been influenced by my grandmother and her friends and their training.

I cleared my throat and pulled my purse around in front of me. “Why don’t you write down your information, and I’ll give it to them. I’m interviewing with them tonight.”

His eyebrows climbed all the way up to his too-long bangs. “You? Aren’t you . . .” He trailed off.

I paused in pulling out a scratch piece of paper. “You want them to get the message, or you want me to throw it in the first trash can I find, leggy?”

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