Devastated after he discovers the woman he loved and his partner in the role-playing game, Magic Battledome, was a psychotic killer, Maltese Security's resident computer genius, SciFi fan and geek-about-town Carlos Castillo retreats into his work. Tossing aside all ties to the Magic Battledome community, he eats, sleeps and breaths investigations.
Release Date: November 9th, 2015
Devastated after he discovers the woman he loved and his partner in the role-playing game, Magic Battledome, was a psychotic killer, Maltese Security's resident computer genius, SciFi fan and geek-about-town Carlos Castillo retreats into his work. Tossing aside all ties to the Magic Battledome community, he eats, sleeps and breaths investigations. He's determined to prove to the rest of the team—and himself—that he's not all book smart and street stupid. He pleads for a case and finally gets one the boss thinks is right up his alley. Someone is targeting a Live Action Role Playing (LARP) Magic Battledome team, delivering vicious beatings before robbing them of their costumes. To solve the case, Carlos has to dive back into the world he'd abandoned.
Mika Ito loves creativity in all its forms. As a textile designer and a LARPer, she combines her two favorite things by creating costumes for her fellow Magic Battledome elves. But when someone starts targeting her fellow LARPers and the police don't seem to be much help, she hires Maltese Security to solve the case. If a reformed sinner is the most devoted, then a former LARPer is the most rudely dismissive and Carlos Castillo fits the bill. But when they discover that the material she's been using for the costumes has been soaked in liquid cocaine by someone in her supply chain, they must work together to solve the case. Especially now that the bad guy is doing whatever it takes to retrieve the tainted material—including having lethal designs on Mika's life.
“To be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” —Coco Chanel
Carlos Castillo surveyed the Thursday-night crowd at Feeny’s hole-in-the-wall bar. It was a step above a dive bar and several stories below what most people in Harbor City would call a respectable establishment, which made it perfect for Carlos and the other guys from Maltese Security when they needed to blow off a little steam after closing a case. It also happened to be the site of his impending public humiliation at the hands of his fellow investigators who’d come to Feeny’s with him.
“Don’t even think about pussying out, ’Los.” Cam Hardy tapped his shot glass against Carlos’s. “You lost the bet, you pay the price.”
Fuck. What human being could eat fifteen pickled eggs that had been sitting in a jar on the bar for God knew how long? Apparently Cam, who’d chalked up his success to the fact that neither he nor his live-in girlfriend, Drea, could cook for shit and his taste buds had gone into hiding.
“What about one of them?” Will Roscoe asked, nodding toward the trio of women in a corner booth.
Carlos tossed back the last of his shot before he said anything he’d regret about redheads. The last redhead he’d dated had nearly killed him—literally—and he’d had to return the favor.
“Not his type,” Cam said.
Unlike Roscoe and Alex, who were relative newbies to the team, Cam knew the real reason behind Carlos’s aversion to redheads. While Cam would shame Carlos into embarrassing himself in a bar full of people, he wouldn’t say anything about the shooting that had changed Carlos’s life forever.
Cam nodded toward the women in the booth. “The girl on the end is more his speed.”
Right at that moment, the woman in question slid out of the booth and stood up. She couldn’t be more than five-five even in the thigh-high leather boots with their wicked high heels. She wore skin-tight jeans that clung to her legs like they were made for her tight body and a top made out of some sort of shimmery material that caught the dim lights when she walked, drawing his attention to the way her tits moved as she strutted across the bar like she owned the joint.
The full-body profile view was enough to make him reach for another shot, but then she pivoted at the bar, turning so she faced their table, and he couldn’t do a damn thing but stare. Almond-shaped brown eyes, full pink lips, and more than a hint of trouble in the way she tossed her long light brown hair and laughed at some undoubtedly lame joke from the bartender.
“Roll your tongue back in your mouth, ’Los.” Cam shook his head and finished his shot. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you still spent all of your free time pretending to be a warlock or some shit on the computer.”
The verbal nudge was more than enough to bring him back to reality. After the shooting, he’d replaced Magic Battledome role-play online gaming with the gym and had spent the past year working to make the team at Maltese realize there was more to him than just amazing computer geek skills. And as tonight’s celebration of a job well done proved, he’d done it. He worked cases in real life now, not just at the keyboard.
Carlos settled back in his seat, keeping his gaze locked on the woman as she carried three beers back to her booth. The change in direction gave him an ideal view of her curvy ass. “Like most of the guys in this bar wouldn’t pretend to be a wizard if that’s the game she wanted to play in the bedroom.”
“I would find a cape right fast.” Roscoe raised his shot glass in salute before downing the whiskey.
“Well then, I’d say you found your target.” Cam smirked. “Go get her, ’Los.”
As far as challenges went, it was friendly. But it was still a challenge. And Carlos never backed down from a challenge.
For the past year, there hadn’t been a single one the Maltese team had issued that he hadn’t met head-on—and he always would. This was who he was now; the former geek supreme didn’t exist anymore. He’d pushed that guy and his guilt for pulling the trigger so far into a closet that he would never see the light of day again.
“One dance?” Carlos pushed back his chair and stood, already primed for action—just like any time Scarlett’s ghost came haunting.
“Yep. The longest slow song you can find on the jukebox,” Alex said, barely keeping his laughter in check. “And then she has to buy you a beer.”
Carlos took one last swig of his beer. “You’re all a bunch of assholes.”
Not bothering to stick around to hear their responses, which no doubt would just be an agreement, he strode across the bar, his sights set on the hot brunette with a body made for the best kinds of trouble.
About the author:
Avery Flynn has three slightly-wild children, loves a hockey-addicted husband and is desperately hoping someone invents the coffee IV drip. She fell in love with romance while reading Johanna Lindseyâ€™s Mallory books. It wasnâ€™t long before Avery had read through all the romance offerings at her local library. Needing a romance fix, she turned to Harlequinâ€™s four books a month home delivery service to ease the withdrawal symptoms. That worked for a short time, but it wasnâ€™t long before the local book storesâ€™ staffs knew her by name. Avery was a reader before she was a writer and hopes to always be both. She loves to write about smartass alpha heroes who are as good with a quip as they are with their *ahem* other God-given talents. Her heroines are feisty, fierce and fantastic. Brainy and brave, these ladies know how to stand on their own two feet and knock the bad guys off theirs.
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