First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
The old family lake house was becoming quite the hot scene. The dusty sheets had been taken off the furniture, the refrigerator restocked, and people came and went at all hours. Blueblood, of course, didn’t tell Val who half these people were. He’d taken over the house like a king visiting a noble’s estate, claiming the master bedroom for himself and letting his men make a complete mess of the place. Val wasn’t in a position to stop them anymore, so she watched and brooded and spent a lot of time reading minds. Only the minds of Blueblood’s men, that is. Blueblood himself had mental shields as strong as she’d feared, and her attempts to subtly break in came to nothing.
“I’ll kill him,” Joey had said when he’d seen her blackened, infected hand. “I’ll beat him until he fixes it.”
Val had to grab his arm to stop him. “Not a good idea to hit someone whose touch can kill you.”
“I’ll wear gloves. I’ll use knives and hot irons. Give me half an hour alone in a room with him, and I swear—”
“No,” she’d said firmly. “We play along with him for now.”
So here she was in the dining room, playing along as Blueblood introduced his latest guest. Continue reading
First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
JB sat on the dusty chair and listened to the sound of rain hitting the roof. Thunder rolled occasionally in the distance, and wind made the old house creak and moan. It was deceptively peaceful, and he enjoyed it while he could. He especially enjoyed that he was sitting in the warm, dry house while Cleto had been sent outside to dump a body in the lake.
“Hey, kid,” said the Black Valentine. “I found where my dad stashed the wine bottles. You want some?”
JB thought about ignoring her. He was still angry, but there was no denying that talking to her was about a hundred percent better than interacting with anybody else around. She only pretended to care about him, but at least she put in that much effort. Nobody else even bothered to pretend.
“Sure,” he said. Then he felt suddenly cold. “Wait. Your dad’s here?”
“No. He owns the house, though. Stocked it up with some pretty good vintages, too.”
She pressed a cool, smooth glass into his hand. JB took a sip, finding a dry white wine that was actually pretty decent. He’d gotten a lot better at telling apart good wines from bad ones since he started underage drinking. Maybe it would come in handy one day. It would be nice to have a useful skill to put on his resume now that he’d essentially dropped out of school. He could be a bartender or something.
Yeah, right. Outliving Blueblood and getting a normal job was a fantasy. As long as he was dreaming, he might as well picture being an astronaut. Continue reading
Val met Blueblood for ice cream. The parlor was small, shabby, and deserted except for the nervous employee behind the counter. Part of the vacancy could be blamed on the end of summer and onset of cold weather, but not all of it. Val wondered what Blueblood had done to get the place to themselves. It really was just the two of them, as Blueblood had requested they both come alone. Val had brought some men anyway, hiding them in the coin laundry next door nearly eight hours earlier, in range for her to telepathically signal if something went wrong. She hadn’t sensed anyone of Blueblood’s, which probably meant he’d hidden them out of her range with a sniper rifle.
She wished Blueblood had dropped the charade and let them both bring minions openly, mainly because she wanted the chance to see JB again. Without Distortion blocking her powers, Val could get inside the head of his giant keeper and take care of things. She could also buy the kid some ice cream, which was the least she owed him.
Val selected a cup of something chocolate with cherries in it, while Blueblood showed an unshakable dedication to his theme and ordered two scoops of blue moon. At least, Val assumed the color was the reason he ordered it. That flavor tasted like corn syrup and fake fruit flavoring, and most people who enjoyed it were under twelve. They sat across from each other at one of the bright purple, plastic tables and started with small talk. You couldn’t jump right into plotting crimes and betrayals, of course. You had to ease into it.
“But the cameras love you,” he said as they talked about the fickleness of media attention. “You have a style that makes headlines, and you make it look so effortless.”
“Stop it. I’m blushing,” Val deadpanned.
“I mean it. It’s impressive. Shame your father doesn’t think so.” Continue reading
The most important decision was what to wear.
Okay, that was an exaggeration. Val had other important decisions to make: how much to threaten versus when to play nice, whether to demonstrate her strengths or trick them into underestimating her. But her wardrobe would make or break everything. No, really. It was true. There were few greater opportunities for a fashion faux pas than when meeting other supervillains. Show up in regular clothes when everyone else is wearing their costumes, and it’s like coming to a job interview in a torn T-shirt and ratty jeans. But arrive in costume when everyone else is in their civies, and you look like an idiot. You had to gauge your associates and the situation beforehand.
Fortunately, Val knew a little about Blueblood and the Fox Woman. The Fox Woman hadn’t worn a costume since her fortieth birthday, and Blueblood’s version of a uniform was a suit and tie. There was no need to don her mask and all the leather, especially not for a private dinner. Val wore a black dress, long-sleeved and knee-length. It would be perfectly acceptable for a business setting if not for the plunging v-shaped neckline that showed off her formidable cleavage. She completed the look with a necklace of black pearls and the most kick-ass heels she could find. They were mostly black except for the heels themselves, which were shiny metal spikes that ended in points sharp enough to pierce flesh. She wouldn’t be able to run in them, but she’d risk it to make a fierce first impression.
She rode in an elevator with Joey and two other of her father’s men, all of them in expensive business suits and smelling of aftershave. When the doors opened with a ding, Val stepped out into a restaurant. Continue reading
It had rained here earlier, wherever “here” was. JB could smell it in the air when the car door opened. He unfolded his cane and stepped out, and sure enough, he stepped in a puddle. Water splashed onto the bottom of his expensive new pants and dampened his socks. He was probably going to make squelching sounds when he walked now.
“Here,” Eddy grunted, taking his arm. Others were getting out of the car, too, their splashing footsteps all around. Eddy guided him up a step onto a sidewalk, and they started walking.
“Do you, uh, know who we’re taking you to?” Eddy asked in a low voice.
“Blueblood,” JB answered. He’d known for days.
“And you know about him?”
JB shrugged. “He’s a supervillain. Can kill people by touching them. And he’s actually blue or something.”
“I’m talking about the important stuff.”
“The fact that he can kill me just by touching me isn’t important?” Continue reading