I stuck the end of the pencil between my teeth, brushing the eraser specks off the paper as I considered how best to answer the employment application. What skills can you bring to Inderland security that are clearly unique to you?
Sparkling wit? I thought, twining my foot around the kitchen chair and feeling stupid. A smile? The desire to smear the pavement with bad guys?
Sighing, I tucked my hair behind my ear and slumped into the kitchen chair. My eyes shifted to the clock above the sink as it ticked minutes into hours. I wasn't going to waste my life. Eighteen was too young to be accepted into the I.S. intern program without a parent's signature, but if I put my application in now, it would sit at the top of the stack until I was old enough, according to the guidance counselor. Like the recruiter had said, there was nothing wrong with going into the I.S. right out of college if you knew that's what you wanted to do. The fast track.
The faint sound of the front door opening brought my heart to my throat. I glanced at the sunset-gloomed window. Jamming the application under the stacked napkins, I shouted, "Hi, Mom! I thought you weren't going to be back until eight!"
Damn it, how was I supposed to finish this thing if she kept coming back?
But my alarm shifted to elation when a high falsetto voice responded, "It's eight in Buenos Aires, dear. Be a dove and find my rubbers for me? It's snowing."
"Robbie?" I stood so fast the chair nearly fell over. Heart pounding, I darted out of the kitchen and into the green hallway. There at the end, in a windbreaker and shaking snow from himself, was my brother Robbie. His narrow height came close to brushing the top of the door, and his shock of red hair caught the glow from the porch light. Slush-wet Dockers showed from under his jeans, totally inappropriate for the weather. On the porch behind him, a cabbie set down two suitcases.
"Hey!" I exclaimed, bringing his head up to show his green eyes glinting mischievously. "You were supposed to be on the vamp flight. Why didn't you call? I would've come to get you."
Robbie shoved a wad of money at the driver. Door still gaping behind him, he opened his arms, and I landed against him, my face hitting his upper chest instead of his middle like it had when we had said goodbye. His arms went around me, and I breathed in the scent of old Brimstone from the dives he worked in. The tears pricked, and I held my breath so I wouldn't cry. It had been over four and a half years. Inconsiderate snot had been at the West Coast all this time, leaving me to cope with Mom. But he'd come home this year for the solstice, and I sniffed back everything and smiled up at him.
"Hey, Firefly," he said, using our dad's pet name for me and grinning as he measured where my hair had grown to. "You got tall. And wow, hair down to your waist? What are you doing, going for the world's record?"
He looked content and happy, and I dropped back a step, suddenly uncomfortable. "Yeah, well, it's been almost five years," I accused. Behind him, the cab drove away, headlamps dim from the snow and moving slowly.
Robbie sighed. "Don't start," he begged. "I get enough of that from Mom. You going to let me in?" He glanced behind him at the snow. "It is cold out here."
"Wimp," I said, then grabbed one of the suitcases. "Ever hear about that magical thing called a coat?"
He snorted his opinion, hefting the last of the luggage and following me in. The door shut, and I headed down the second, longer hallway to his room, eager to get him inside and part of our small family...
Author: Kim Harrison
New York Times bestselling author Kim Harrison was born and raised in Michigan, and has recently returned there to better escape the South Carolina heat. Her bestselling Hollows novels include Dead Witch Walking; The Good, the Bad, and the Undead; Every Which Way But Dead; A Fistful of Charms; For a Few Demons More; The Outlaw Demon Wails; White Witch, Black Curse; Black Magic Sanction; Pale Demon; A Perfect Blood; and Ever After. She also writes the bestselling Madison Avery YA series, including Once Dead, Twice Shy and Early to Death, Early to Rise.Author: Marjorie M. Liu
Marjorie M. Liu is an attorney and New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romances and urban fantasy. In the world of comic books, she is also the writer of NYX: No Way Home, Black Widow, X-23, and Dark Wolverine. She lives in the American Midwest and Beijing, China.Author: Vicki Pettersson
The New York Times bestselling author of The Taken andthe Sign of the Zodiac series--and former showgirl--VickiPettersson was born and raised in Sin City. Though she'llalways consider that glittering dust bowl home, she nowdivides her time between Las Vegas and Dallas, where she'slearning to like good Tex-Mex (easy) and the Dallas Cowboys(easier than you'd think).Author: Lynsay Sands
Lynsay Sands is the nationally bestselling author of the Argeneau/Rogue Hunter vampire series, as well as numerous historicals and anthologies. She's been writing stories since grade school and considers herself incredibly lucky to be able to make a career out of it. Her hope is that readers can get away from their everyday stress through her stories, and if there are occasional uncontrollable fits of laughter, that's just a big bonus.