Detective for the Dragon by Kellan Larkin by Kellan Larkin - Read Online

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Detective for the Dragon - Kellan Larkin

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Larkin

1

Nolan

The soothing smell of coffee hung in the air, the steam curling up from my cup in a sinuous pattern, illuminated in the bright sunlight streaming in through my open window. I flipped the sign on the door that said CLOSED to OPEN and took my seat at my desk, ready to wade through my inbox for leads.

Business hadn’t been stellar recently. Of course, it was natural to have cases come in waves, for whatever reason, but the dry season was a tough time. I was glad I had some money saved up to carry me through, but I had to hustle for business if I wanted to stay afloat.

My door jingled, startling me; I didn’t usually receive visitors this early. Come in! I perked up when I saw a cautious man peeking in through

my

door

.

Come on, Rafe, we don’t have all day, said an impatient, gravelly male voice. "We need to get to the bottom

of

this

."

The cautious man walked through the hall and into the main area of my office, a larger man in a leather jacket following him. I instantly recognized the latter—he was Jared Scorch, one of Lake City’s homegrown rock stars who was internationally successful. 

What was he doing in my office?

Are you Mr. Vulpenn? asked the cautious man, Rafe. His shrewd eyes darted around the office, taking in the clutter.

I am. I rose to shake his hand. "Nolan Vulpenn. And

you

are

?"

I’m Rafe Gerard, and this is Jared Scorch.

Jared’s expression was irate and his arms remained crossed. But he drew my eyes with his rock star glamour. I didn’t think I’d be one to fall for it, but damn… The man looked good even in the flesh, minus Photoshop and stage lighting. 

Have a seat, please. I stepped around my desk to pull an extra chair closer. What can I do for you today?

Jared? You wanna start? asked Rafe, combing a hand through his

dark

hair

.

Jared huffed and looked away, managing to maintain his blasé rock star persona even now. So, I’m married to the actress Natasha Gray, right? he started. And we’ve got this newlywed image that’s working well for us. But she’s been acting shady recently. I think she’s cheating.

When Jared didn’t continue, Rafe went on. How do I put this delicately… Natasha’s career over the past few years has not been doing so well. We believe she might be trying to achieve er, financial security through Jared.

I see. I nodded slowly. This was a common case, even if my clients weren’t normally celebrities. It could be a challenge to spy on someone as famous as this actress, but the payoff would be

worth

it

.

There is something else to be aware of, said Rafe, before I could say anything else. Natasha has something of a girl-next-door image, which is why fans love her. We’re trying to handle this sensitively, because Jared could come out of it poorly if she spins herself as broken-hearted…

This is all assuming she actually is cheating,

I

said

.

Right, said Jared. I do love Natasha. I do. We got married for a reason. But my gut is telling me something’s wrong. He huffed again and looked at the floor.

Well, you just give me her address, and I’ll see what I can do. I pulled out a notebook and started writing down the details.

It’s 1806 Ravine, said Jared. He ran a hand along his chiseled jawline, and my eyes couldn’t help but follow.

And what about payment? asked Rafe. "How do you

handle

that

?"

Half now, and I’ll write you an invoice and send it today, I said, slipping into my routine despite my unusual client.

Sounds good, said Rafe. He paused. "We heard you were one of the best detectives in

the

city

."

I grinned at them. "I’m happy to hear that. I’ve been in business for nearly a decade. But I’ve been a detective much longer

than

that

."

What do you mean? asked Jared. He seemed to have forgotten his anger temporarily.

I was also sleuthing even when I was a kid, I said, shrugging. I looked into his dark brown eyes, chocolate colored in the sunlight. He had dark features overall, the perfect bad boy. Tall, dark, and handsome.

Whew, what was happening to me? I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. It must be the rock star aura. Mere mortals like myself weren’t a match for the likes

of

him

.

More interestingly, it was obvious that Jared was some kind of shifter. I could detect that, but not what kind he was, and it was impossible to guess from his appearance now. A rock star shifter. How

about

that

?

Thanks for taking on the case, said Jared, rising. We shook hands again. "When will we hear

from

you

?"

I’m not booked today, so I’ll probably do some work this afternoon and see what I find. I’ll let you know if I need anything, and you can call me if you think of something else. You got any questions?

Rafe and Jared glanced at each other. I think that’s it, said Rafe. Thank you, Nolan.

My pleasure. I stepped out from behind the desk to see

them

out

.

The bell jingled on the door again when they left. I sat down at my desk to take stock of the situation, registering with some displeasure that my coffee had gone cold. I stood up again to

microwave

it

.

The first thing I noted was that I didn’t have to worry about my business for a while. Jared’s case, while standard, would be a hefty project due to the nature of the people involved. I would have some expenses, but the income was just what I needed. And it was going to be really exciting. Previously, I only had to stalk local celebrities. National celebrities… That was going to be a challenge. 

Just the kind I was

up

for

.

And my client was wildly attractive, my God. My body couldn’t handle it at all. I had trysts rarely, when I ran into someone I found attractive, but as a fox, I was a solitary kind of person. And I hadn’t seen anyone in a while, anyway, so my libido revved up at the sight of a hot man. I wasn’t averse to dating, but I hadn’t found the right person who would make a good life partner for

a

PI

.

What was I thinking? Jared was married and obviously straight. I couldn’t let my imagination run away just because he had given me attention. I shook my head. I had to have a clear mind before I went into the field.

The first thing I decided to do was run a background check on Natasha and do some basic research. This was always my first step. Of course, the sleuthing itself would be fairly straightforward as well—all I had to do was tail her and observe her behavior.

The background check didn’t turn up anything too exciting; she had a couple minor marijuana-related dings from her youth, with nothing in the past decade. She had cleaned up quite a bit and as Rafe had said, maintained her girl-next-door image. 

While I wasn’t up to date with celebrities, I was aware of Natasha Gray. She projected the image of a lovable, sweet girl—pretty but not threateningly sexy—who often played the main character in romantic comedies.

My research corroborated all of this. Before getting married to Jared Scorch, she had steadily dated two other actors, both of whom also had a carefully cultivated bad boy image. 

But like Jared, who I also ran a background check on, their histories didn’t hold up—they had some minor alcohol related arrests between them, but nothing else. The bad boy persona was all a façade.

Well, that was interesting. Natasha was into bad boys. I could only imagine what a perfect celebrity couple she and Jared would make. They were the epitome of opposites attracting.

Unable to find anything else of note, I decided to close for the afternoon and head out. After grabbing a drive-thru burger, I checked the address Jared had given me and went on my way. My nondescript, ten year old compact car allowed me to travel around the city virtually unseen.

However, it was going to stick out a bit in this neighborhood, I realized. As I went down the curve of the appropriately named Ravine Street, I saw the houses become more spread out and the backyards become larger. The residents here sure liked their privacy. It was going to be hard for me to find a place

to

park

.

Thankfully, this area, being on the outskirts of the city, was more forested, making it the perfect place for me to shift. I found a small park with picnic tables and left my car there, stripping inside. There wasn’t anyone around, so even though it was broad daylight, I stepped out of my car, locked it, and shifted.

I quickly shrank to the ground as orange fur grew all over my body. My sense of smell became a lot sharper and my sense of vision lost all its color. A thick brush sprouted from the base of my spine, and my nails hardened into claws. I was

a

fox

.

I trotted back the way I had come. I figured that foxes and other forest creatures would be common here, and I was right. People drove by and didn’t notice me

at

all

.

Natasha was in her house, relaxing in her sunroom. I couldn’t help but immediately envy her; her house was so damn nice, while I was stuck inside a cramped, hundred-year-old row house. I liked it, and I liked my neighborhood, but oh, to have all this money…

I sniffed around the property, seeing if I could pick up any scents to catalog for later. Jared’s scent was strong, as well as that of a few other men and a couple of women. I took a good whiff of them to file

them

away

.

The excursion wasn’t as productive as I had hoped, so I spent some time watching Natasha from her backyard. She noticed me padding around the plants, but went right back to reading her book, so I felt a little more confident. I walked up to a bush that had a good viewing angle and pretended to curl up

under

it

.

Maybe it was my attraction to Jared speaking, but I couldn’t see anything interesting about her. She was pretty, yes, but it was difficult to imagine him with someone who seemed so… normal, when I knew his life was anything but. The light in his eyes revealed a dynamic personality, one who thrived with the rocker lifestyle. I couldn’t see Natasha joining him

on

tour

.

Well, there was always the possibility that she was just a perfectly nice person, unless it turned out she was a cheater. When she put her book away and went back inside, I got up from my spot and trotted back to the car, turning over everything I had learned today in

my

head

.

I spent a few minutes checking my email in the car, which turned out to be a boon. When I drove past Natasha’s house, I saw that she was just getting into her car. Jackpot. I turned into another street and waited for her to pass, then immediately started

tailing

her

.

She wove a meandering path through the same neighborhood. I hadn’t realized just how huge it was. The houses became more and more elaborate the deeper we went, with gates, stone lions, tall hedges and walls, and other accouterments that would seem more at home in the English countryside.

Natasha’s destination was one of these homes, thankfully one without a guarded gate. She pulled in and stepped out. I had to

move

fast

.

I found a place to park on a parallel street that had more of a sidewalk and shifted again, nervous that I would be found out now that I was right in front of houses. But I was safe; the neighborhood was eerily quiet on a weekday afternoon, as if everyone was

at

work

.

In fox form, I trotted back to the house Natasha was at and onto the grounds, eager to see what I would find. The first thing I noticed was that it smelled strongly of one of the men whose scent