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  • Home > Suzanne Wright > Dark in You > Ashes     

    CHAPTER ONE

    If I were a set of keys, where would I be?

    Shoving the drawer closed, Harper Wallis cursed. She’d searched the reception desk, her office, the breakroom, and every tattoo station. There was no sign of her keys, which was a major problem since she couldn’t leave without locking the studio.

    Having been raised by imps, she was very security conscious. Breaking and entering was merely one talent that imps possessed. They also excelled at lying, cheating, stealing, and identity theft. She might biologically be a sphinx like her mother, but Harper was an imp in every other way that counted.

    Speaking of imps… Harper turned to her teenage cousin. “Did you find the keys?”

    “Nope,” Robbie replied.

    “Well, maybe if you got up off your ass and looked instead of lounging on the sofa flicking through the portfolios, you might actually find them.”

    Heidi, her other cousin who was only five, came skipping out of the breakroom and crossed to Harper. “They’re not back there.”

    Harper stroked the little imp’s white-blonde hair. “Thanks anyway, Heidi-ho.” The kid truly did look like an absolute angel. As a demon, she was, of course, far from it.

    “Why not just call Raini?” asked Robbie. “She’s the co-owner; she must have her own set of keys.”

    “She does,” said Harper. “But I’m not calling her all the way back here.” It wasn’t exactly a simple location to arrive at. Six months ago, they’d relocated the business to the Underground, a demonic paradise that was pretty much a subterranean, hyperactive version of the Las Vegas strip.

    Harper’s mate, Knox Thorne, had built the Underground a long time ago, and it was globally popular – mostly because demons were impulsive creatures that had instant gratification issues, loved adrenaline rushes, and were plagued by boredom and restlessness.

    “Done,” declared Richie, her uncle. Dusting off his hands, he backed away from the vending machine. “It should work fine.” He lightly pounded his fist on the side of the machine, and it sprung to life with a whir as it dropped a bag of chips.

    Harper shook her head. “It doesn’t matter how many times I do that, it never works for me.” His daughter, Khloë – who also happened to be Harper’s receptionist – did it just as effortlessly. “Thanks, Richie, I appreciate the help.”

    He frowned at her. “I still don’t understand why you want to work here when you could earn a hell of a lot more money working for me,” he griped. Her uncle could fix anything. He could also recreate any piece of art. He’d produced and sold countless counterfeit paintings, and he’d passed on his expertise to Harper. As such, it disappointed him that she chose to “waste her artistic talent by drawing with needles”.

    Harper raised a hand. “I’m not having this conversation with you again.”

    Richie grunted. “Come on, kids, your mom will be waiting for you.” Although he was unmated, he had dozens of kids with five different mothers. He was a good dad, though. Financially and emotionally supportive. Never missed a single baseball game, school play, or ballet recital. In that sense, he was very unlike Harper’s nomadic father who could go for months at a time without contacting her, though Lucian did actually consider that to be full-time parenting.

    Gathering his tools, Richie spoke. “Where’s your bodyguard?”

    “Tanner has the night off, since I’m riding home with Knox.” Her mate was a busy guy, so their work days didn’t always finish at the same time. “I’m meeting Knox at his office and then we’re going out for a meal.”

    Honestly, she didn’t feel up to it. She was so tired that her mind was foggy with exhaustion, and all she wanted to do was go home and crash. Not that there would be much point in that. Sleep hadn’t been coming easy to her lately. That might not have been so bad since, as a rule, demons didn’t need much sleep and could even go days without it. But when she did sleep, it was restless and didn’t restore her energy.

    “Want us to walk you to Knox’s office?” asked Richie.

    She shook her head. “I can’t leave until I find the keys.” In general, she wasn’t a forgetful person, but it had been a long, tiring day and her brain just wasn’t cooperating. “Don’t worry, I’ll find them. They’re here somewhere. Thanks again for your help.”

    Richie nodded. “Ready, kids?”

    “Yep.” Heidi peppered Harper’s face with kisses and then turned to skip away, but Harper grabbed her by the back of her sweater.

    “What?” asked Heidi, blinking innocently.

    Harper held out her hand. “I want whatever you’ve stolen with those sticky fingers of yours.”

    Heidi pouted and then fished a diamond belly button ring out of her pocket. The little girl could always be counted on to take something shiny. “You’re no fun,” she said.

    Harper gaped at her. “How did you even get this?” The glass reception desk doubled as a display cabinet for jewelry and other products, and Harper always kept it locked.

    Heidi gave her a look that said, “Don’t insult me.” Then she skipped over to Richie.

    He patted his daughter on the head. “You make your daddy proud.”

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