Excerpt: Wriggle & Sparkle

Lynn wiped iced coffee from his face and glared death at the teenager who had crashed into him trying to catch a football. “I promise, whatever it is you think I’m about to do to you, it’s ten times worse. Get out of my face before you get what you deserve for being the kind of idiot who plays football inside a crowded building. And while you’re improving your life choices, find friends who don’t run and leave you behind.”

Making a squeaky noise, the guy turned tail and fled like his ass was burning. He was lucky Lynn had no control over fire. The way his week had been going, the entire world should be grateful. Damn it, he was supposed to meet his new partner in twenty minutes. That was barely enough time to make it to the office.

He grabbed a handful of napkins and mopped up what he could of the spilled coffee. That was what he got for going with a size up from his usual. At least his cheese danish had survived—if the brat had ruined that, too, Lynn would have ensured he never played sports again.

Tossing the napkins, he booked it out of the Alta building, bolted across the street right before the light changed, and hustled the four blocks down to his own workplace, the Dryden building. The Bureau of Paranormal Security and Investigation occupied floors seventeen through twenty-four. Lynn worked on eighteen, one of two floors devoted to the Violent Crimes portion of the Bureau.

The woman at reception gave him a raised eyebrow and a mouth two seconds away from letting laughter slip. “Get dumped again, Lynnie?”

“Fuck you,” Lynn said, giving her the finger as he kept walking. Pushing through the second door, he kept the finger raised, moving it around with every smirk and snicker and snarking word thrown his way. “Fuck all of you. It was some dumb kid. Why do I still work here with all of you losers?”

“‘Cause you’re a loser, too, and watch your language,” snapped Comber, leaning out of his office, cigarette smoke wafting around him. He settled the cigarette between his lips and beckoned sharply with large, ink-stained fingers for Lynn to get in his office now or else.

Lynn shot a last look over his shoulder at his smartass coworkers, promising that lunch would be a buffet of death and dismemberment, then hustled into the office and dropped into the seat. “Yes, principal?”

“There’s been a situation.”

“If there wasn’t a situation, I wouldn’t have a fucking—damned—oh, fuck it. I wouldn’t have a goddamn job if there wasn’t a situation on a near-hourly basis.”

“I mean with your new partner.”

Lynn groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face before bracing his elbows on his spread knees and burying his face in his hands. “What now?” he asked, slowly looking up. “It was all arranged. He’s supposed to be here in like five minutes. What gives?”

“Your new partner was arrested late last night. Remember that case about goblin hearts going missing?”

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Comber snorted and finished off his cigarette, then immediately pulled a fresh one from the half-empty pack on the desk.

“Smoking is bad for you.”

“At least they don’t throw drinks on my overpriced suits.”

Lynn huffed, mentally weighing the pros and cons of throwing a heavy object at his boss.

“Whoever replaces me would be worse.”

“Shut up,” Lynn groused. “It’s too early in the morning to put up with you.”

Rolling his eyes, Comber gestured. “Get out. Go home and change. I know you’ll be pissy all day if you’re not looking nice and pretty when your new new partner shows up.”

Not even bothering to reply to that, Lynn stood and left. At his desk, he pointedly ignored the stupid smirking faces all around him and pulled out his phone. His sister was headed downtown that morning, anyway, she could bring him a clean suit. When he’d finished calling, he shoved the phone back in his pocket and scowled around the office. “Any of you try to talk to her, I will destroy you.”

“So she’s still single, right?” Ted asked and then ducked with a yelp when Lynn threw his stapler. It banged against the back wall.

“You break it, you buy it!” Comber bellowed from his office.

Ignoring him, because everyone knew Comber’s threats were largely empty, Lynn opened his computer and left it to wake up, mentally making a note to harass Janice again about giving him a new one. He headed into the breakroom and dug a couple of bucks out of his wallet, fed them into the vending machine, and punched the buttons for a cranberry juice. He narrowed his eyes when the bottle got stuck and pounded his fist on the plastic front.

The juice dropped, thankfully, because they’d been warned that if another vending machine was destroyed that quarter there wouldn’t be another one for at least a decade. The first three hadn’t been his fault, and the one last year… Well, Thomas should have kept a better eye on that stupid, punkass brownie.

Carrying his juice back to his desk, Lynn dug his vitamins out of the topmost drawer and downed them in two swallows. Making a face because even juice couldn’t hide that nasty taste, he opened up the reports due the next day and began to work quickly through them. He paused halfway through the second. “Hey, where the hell did that tanooki wind up?”

Jack, whose desk butted up and faced off with his, stared at him blankly for a moment, mug pausing halfway up. “Which—oh, that one. Uh. Amsterdam, I think. Don’t ask me why. No one ever told me. Why, did you want a second date?”

“Haha. If you consider that catastrophe a date, it’s no wonder you can’t get one.”

“I get plenty of dates, and mine have never thrown drinks on me.”

“That was one time!” Lynn snapped. “And I told you assholes—this,” he jabbed at his chest, “was done by some spotted sixteen-year-old with a dubious ability to make decisions.”

Jack snorted and took a sip of his nasty-smelling earl gray. “That’s all sixteen-year-olds. Like you ever made a wise decision at that age?”

“I’ll have you know I was a very smart girl at that age.”

“I don’t believe you,” Jack replied. “For instance: why would you shift into a man when you could look like your sister?”

“And everyone says I’m the asshole,” Lynn muttered and shot him a disgusted look. “My sister didn’t become my sister until college—until then she was my brother. We are gorgeous in all shapes and sizes, so fuck off.”

“I always forget how fluid krakens are. You ocean types in general are good at that, right?”

“Some krakens argue they aren’t fluid, at least not the way most people mean that word. It’s natural to krakens to be born ‘male’ and shift to ‘female’ in middle age. And that’s all most of us do. My sister and I are fluid, however. But yes, broadly speaking, ocean types tend that way.”

“Bet she makes a better man than you,” Jack with a grin.

Lynn lightly punched his arm and went back to work, leaving Jack to his snickering.

He didn’t stop working until he felt the familiar prickle along his skin that told him his sister was close. He stood and strode back to the front to meet her just as she stepped inside. “Good morning, Les.”

She beamed at him and leaned in to kiss his cheek. “Hey, bro.” Pulling back, she held out the suit she was carrying, still bagged and on a hanger. “This is the one you wanted, right? Jeez, look at the mess you made of that one—that’ll never come out!”

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