I briefly consider denying it, only to remember what Darius deCompostela does for a living. I didn't make him a detective for nothing. I cast what feels like a furtive glance around the tiny dim sum restaurant my creation has chosen for lunch. Finally, I scowl down at my plate of steamed pork buns.
He's got me. Worse, I suspect he knows it.
LJKO: Look, he's out of town on family business, okay? Besides, you have your own book coming up. I'm sure people wouldn't mind knowing more about you.
Darius deCompostela gives me a look I can't quite read. Not that that's anything new. He's an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a perfectly tailored suit. Today it's gray wool over a crisp lavender shirt, with tie and pocket square in complementary shades of navy, violet, and periwinkle.
He would think I was crazy if I mentioned how good it looks on him.
DdC: So this is why you brought me here. Bribery.
LJKO: Shameless, I know. So, what do you say?
Wielding a pair of chopsticks with flawless skill, he pops a whole piece of har gau into his mouth. He chews thoughtfully, then washes it down with a heavy sip of green tea.
DdC: What's in it for me?
LJKO: Shrimp dumplings aren't enough?
He gives me a deadpan look.
DdC: Please. I may be easy, but I'm not cheap.
I know for a fact he is neither easy nor cheap. I groan again. My list of questions is burning a hole in my pocket. At this rate, we'll never get to them.
Darius arches an eyebrow.
I blow out a breath.
LJKO: Fine. What if I give you a really, really hot sex scene in your book?
His other eyebrow goes up.
DdC: You serious?
LJKO: I'm a writer. We never joke about such things.
He puts on a show of thinking about it, presumably for my benefit. Then he gives me a short, sharp nod.
DdC: What's the first question?
I don't pause to savor my triumph. I snatch the slip of paper from my pocket, and read it off.
LJKO: What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?
DdC: I scare the fuck out of them.
I don't ask if that bothers him. He's trying to be flip—again, presumably for my benefit—but I've known him long enough to know it does. I move on to the follow-up.
LJKO: How about after they've known you for a while?
DdC: Hard to say. Guess they like me all right.
LJKO: Your introspectiveness is truly refreshing.
DdC: Well, shit, what do you want me to say? MacMillian and I have been sharing an office for...
He mentally calculates.
LJKO: Three years. Give or take.
He rolls his eyes.
DdC: Wise-ass. Fine. Three years. He hasn't tried to break my nose yet. You ask me, that means he likes me.
I give him that.
LJKO: How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?
DdC: My life right now...fine, I guess. I mean, it's as good as it's ever been.
LJKO: And if you could change anything?
DdC: Well, there is that little matter of being able to see and hear dead people. Think you could do something about that, oh all-powerful author-God?
I make a mental note to have that embossed on my business cards.
LJKO: Sorry. No can do, Ghost Whisperer.
He mutters something under his breath about "writers and their stupid plot devices." I graciously pretend not to hear.
LJKO: What's the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
I can tell from the hard set to his mouth he's debating telling me to fuck off, but the promise of cosmic sex apparently wins out.
DdC: My privacy.
LJKO: Is that all?
DdC: And my Ray Charles collection.
I roll my eyes and move on.
LJKO: What's the worst thing that's happened in your life?
DdC: What the fuck kind of question is that?
LJKO: I'm sorry, okay? I got these off the Internet. But we had a deal. Come on, D, I'd hate to have to give you a string of mediocre sex scenes...
Darius scowls, but is saved having to answer by the arrival of the dim sum cart. It's being pushed by the most stereotypical Chinese-grandmother-type I've ever see in my life. Darius's eyes light up at the assortment of dishes on offer. He looks back at me.
DdC: Mind if I...?
LJKO: Go for it. You're better at this than I am.
DdC: That is true.
He sweeps a quick, critical eye over the dishes again, then gestures.
DdC: Wo yao yi cha siu bao, wah tip, fung zao.
I try not to look impressed. The cart auntie beams like he's her long-lost son, and shuffles the specified plates to our table. She asks something in what I guess is Cantonese. Darius nods, and she refills our teacups. Darius taps the table with his pointer and middle fingers.
DdC: Mmm goi.
Auntie: Mmm sai.
She smiles again, and moves on.
LJKO: So, what exactly am I being subjected to here?
Darius is already helping himself to a gelatinous morsel that smells heavenly and looks suspiciously like a chicken foot. Sure enough...
DdC: So, these are chicken feet in black bean sauce.
He uses his chopsticks to point to the other plates.
DdC: Those are pot stickers, and the other ones are barbequed pork dumplings.
I stare down at the remnants of my last steamed pork bun.
LJKO: Oh, god. Not more pork.
Darius rolls his eyes.
DdC: Don't even play, porkivore.
We tuck into the food with gusto. I've always like that about Darius; we share similar appetites. Under the influence of delicious piggy parts, I feel suddenly generous.
LJKO: Okay, forget that last question. It'll come out in your book, anyway.
DdC: Great. That supposed to make me feel better?
LJKO: I get to ask one more question, though.
DdC: Of course you do.
I chew on my pork bun thoughtfully. I want this last question to be meaningful. Probing. Something that will get to the meat of the man in front of me. A man who, if I'm being completely honest, scares the fuck out of me.
I take a deep, fortifying breath and go for it.
LJKO: What do you want?
Darius gives me another one of those looks I can't read. Then he reaches out with his chopsticks and plucks a chicken foot off the plate between us. There's the barest hint of a twinkle in his black eyes.
DdC: More fung zao.
About the Author
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About the Book
A World Apart (Shades Below: Book One)
Genre: Urban fantasy
"There are things that go bump in the night, Mr. MacMillian. It's my job to bump back."
Private investigator Jesper MacMillian was sure he'd seen it all. After all, in a city like San Francisco, strange is what's for breakfast. Following a long recovery after a horrific accident, his life is finally the way he wants it- or at least, close enough. The only monsters on his radar are the ones that keep him awake at night.
All that changes the day he meets Lena Alan.
Before MacMillian has a chance to brace for impact, Lena drags him into a world where monsters aren't just real, they're hiding in plain sight. Suddenly, everything he knows is suspect, starting with his current case. For Lena, a medium since childhood, it's just another day at the office.
For MacMillian, it's the beginning of the end of everything he thinks he knows.