Paulette Noble
Crafter & Tale Weaver

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An excerpt from

You Can't Pick Your Family

An Alex & Raf Adventure

This was my second attempt at a contest. The piece was to begin with the sentence: "Stop or I'll shoot," and again not to exceed 7,000 words. This one fared a little better in the word-count department. This one came in at 3,512 and ended at 3,831. Not terrible, but it left things open to more possible story arcs. Don't you love it when that happens?

Initially Written: 2008.08.08
Latest Revision: 2008.11.13

"Stop or I'll shoot!" the man shouted from the shadows. The dim light revealed the gun that he pointed in my general direction wobbled in his shaking hand. I was surprised he didn't drop it. He stunk of sweat and fear.

"Are you insane?" I asked him, trying to keep my calm, but still watching him warily. As a werewolf, I was very fast, but a bullet was faster and at this distance, even he might get lucky. "Josiah Fletcher-Worthingham hired me."

He just looked at me with wild eyes.

"Mr. Fletcher-Worthingham hired my company, ARU Secure, to evaluate the security of his warehouses," I explained slowly. Obviously, the man was a little slow on the uptake.

The gun wavered a little more and dropped a little. "You know my brother?"

Brother? Oh, great. I took a cautious step forward, my hands up. "Yes, I do."

The gun came back up. "Liar!" he sobbed. He raised his hand and steadied his grip.

A flash of movement to the right alerted me and I jumped back, in case the boy genius had a twitchy finger as his body hit the floor beneath the large, hard body that flattened him.

"Took you long enough," I said as I squatted down and plucked the gun from limp fingers. One whiff and I knew he was done. "You better get off him, lover, or you're going to get piss all over you."

Raf quickly jumped up. The look of disgust on his face made me laugh. "You've got to be kidding," he grumbled, checking his clothes for wet marks. "I didn't retire to have some punk piss on me."

"No, you retired to keep an eye on me," I said, with a smirk. "And a hand…and a tongue…" I was hoping for a smile, and I got it. He chuckled as we moved the reeking, unconscious man to a chair then bound and gagged him.

There was no point in not finishing the job while we were there—our prisoner wasn't going anywhere—so we swept the warehouse and its office suite, opening every door and potential hiding place, taking notes along the way. The security sucked, but then again, if there wasn't anything worth stealing, why shell out the big bucks for the big locks?

Job done, we returned to our little surprise and found him awake and shaking, a puddle under him. He'd pissed himself again.

"So now what, boss?" Former Special Agent Thomas Alan Rafferty, who had surprisingly always played by the book, was new to legal breaking-and-entering and deferred to my vastly superior knowledge and experience of borderline-shady activities. I think he just wanted to see what I'd do, if I'd cross that line he drew. Sometimes, I pushed things to see what he'd do. Life with him was more fun than I'd ever had.

The day we met had begun as one of the worst days of my life with a job gone incredibly wrong and my client trying to stiff me what he owed me. It ended with the death of my vampire uncle who wanted to make me his partner in the "family" business. When I say partner, I mean he wanted me to work for him, of course, but he also wanted to turn me into a vampire and fuck my brains out until the end of time. There was only one word for that—eeew!

Most days, Raf still really didn't want to know about my previous below-board dealings. Though I was associated with several less-than-law abiding characters, according to my official file, my record was squeaky clean. He showed it to me once. They didn't know the half of it! Until the questionable circumstances surrounding my uncle's death, Raf's was clean, too. He'd come around. Those contacts could be very useful under the right circumstances.

"We can leave him here," I said, staring our prisoner in the eye. "The rats might enjoy a midnight snack."

A sharp look and a slap on the arm told me Raf didn't think it all that funny. Apparently, he took the insane little fuck a little more seriously than I did.

I met his eyes briefly then returned my gaze to the wack-job. "All right, the rats probably won't eat you, but that piss smell has to go."

At least Raf didn't argue that. He nodded and went to the area not far from us where there was a bay for washing the trucks and turned it on. Being stronger than my human husband, I carried piss-boy, chair and all, to the center of the bay and set him down none too gently. That smell was putting me in an unpleasant mood.

Raf took the power sprayer from me. He read my moods extremely well and knew it would probably have been on the painful side for our little inconvenience in the chair. Okay, definitely on the painful side.

I walked away from the building mist in the bay and, flipping open my phone, dialed the after-hours contact number for my client. Skipping the pleasantries, I leapt right in. "Do you have a crazy brother?" Raf had been increasingly handling the clients. I admit I was getting better to adding a layer of civility to my generally direct and crude manner of speech, but I was not a happy little wolf right now.

I think my question shocked him. "I have a brother," he said after a moment.

I described him.

"That sounds like Simon, but what's he doing there?" He sounded genuinely confused.

"A very good question, Josiah," I said. Raf had just finished hosing him down and was watching me. "Another good question would be why was he trying to shoot me?"

"Oh, my God. He must be off his meds again," my client muttered. If werewolves didn't have better than human hearing, I might not have heard him. "I'm so sorry, Ms. Martin," he said louder. "My brother has…uh…problems and if the paranoia has begun, then he can't be left alone."

"Well, no shit, Sherlock," I said, and the phone was swept away from me.

"Sorry about that, Mr. Fletcher-Worthington," Raf said into the phone. He held it slightly away from his head since he was damp from the back-spray. "Mmm-hmmm…right…the one on Old Belle Road…okay." He glanced at me. "We'll see he arrives in one piece." Raf closed my phone and held it out to me.

I took it, dried it on the leg of my jeans, and tucked it back in my pocket. "You did not just agree to babysit…that." I waved my hand toward the soaking wet, crying man who was still tied to the chair.

"Alex, he needs a hospital," Raf pointed out.

"I didn't hurt him," I said, scowling at my husband's disapproval. "Let his brother drive down here from his oversized shack and take care of Simon himself."

He tapped his temple with a finger. "For up here, Alex," he said and gave me a stern look that brooked no argument.

"Fine," I said, ceding defeat. That hard look in his chocolate brown eyes was so hot, that I wanted him right then and there. I had no problem with the location or the audience, but he would. Sometime his human sensibilities were annoying. "But I am so charging extra for this bullshit. I'm going to have to have the car interior cleaned now."

Raf laughed and reached for me, then stopped, apparently recalling where we were. Once he touched me, he had a hard time stopping, not that I minded, but that meant that while we were on the job, he avoided physical contact as much as he could. I smiled. He didn't always succeed.