The Company of Death

By: Lisa Olsen

Acknowledgements



Dark chocolate covered thanks to my editing team, headed by Beckie Pimentel of Lady Bex Editing Services, Marilyn Weaver (my typo-finding queen!), Randi Pandi and Laveda Kasch for their lightning-fast beta skills. Sweet kisses go to my husband, James, for his help with all the behind the scenes stuff from plotting to proof reading and the awesome covers he designs. Thanks to my Streetbots and all of the book bloggers out there for helping spread the word as well!



And Jordan Sylvester, this one’s for you.





Chapter One




Ethan hit the elevator button for the fifth floor, making no effort to disguise his long suffering sigh. “I thought I’d dodged a bullet for this sort of thing when Christmas came and went.”

“Quit complaining. We did what you wanted to do on Christmas day.” Cady leaned close to press a kiss against his smooth cheek, wiping away the faint smudge of lipstick she left behind.

“You wanted to do that too,” he reminded her, drawing a lazy smile to her lips as she thought back to the gifts they’d exchanged.

“True, but it was your idea,” she pointed out. “No fair welshing now that you already got your present.” Though truth be told, she’d rather hole up in their apartment to celebrate on their own again, but they’d been putting this off long enough. “At least we’re not out trolling sewers for demons tonight.”

“I think I’d rather be out doing that,” he grumbled, prompting Cady to stick her tongue out at him. The old elevator came to a halt with a lurch and she stepped out into the hallway, dragging him with her.

“Be festive and I promise I’ll make sure Santa leaves you an extra something in your stocking when we get home.”

That got his interest. “Yeah? Like what?” Cady leaned close to whisper into his ear, explaining exactly what kind of gift she had in mind. A smile curved her lips when she heard his swift intake of breath as she’d managed to shock him. Ethan played it close to the vest though, his tone playful as she pulled away. “Aw, I was hoping for those chocolate covered hazelnut things.”

Cady let out a dramatic sigh. “I guess the bloom is off the rose, huh? You’d already rather have sweets than me.”

“You’re my sweet,” he grinned, blue eyes crinkling as he pulled her close to deliver a soft kiss. For a moment Cady wished they could duck into his old place and spend the next half hour losing themselves in each other, but at that precise instant, her brother Ian opened the door to his apartment.

“Come on guys, give it a rest,” Ian muttered. “Not all of us want to see that.”

“Happy Holidays to you too, brother dearest,” Cady grinned, making no move to step out of Ethan’s embrace. For some reason she enjoyed needling her brother whenever they got together, which was few and far between since she’d moved in with Ethan. Part of it was because they were busy on Company business more often than not, but part of it was because she still hadn’t completely forgiven him for being such an asshat and selling her out to Alma.

“Don’t you look nice,” she added, noting Ian’s button up shirt and black slacks were more than his usual effort for the holidays. She hadn’t thought he owned a red shirt, and his goatee was neatly trimmed. He looked almost respectable. Where was her rough and tumble brother who used to roust drunks for a living?

“Is that Cady?” Kelli’s raspy voice floated out to them, and Ian stepped back to let them pass. Kelli greeted them from the kitchen, plastic ladle in hand, and Cady stifled a laugh once she caught her get up.

The pretty blonde wore a red velvet dress trimmed in fluffy white marabou that barely covered her ass – sort of a slutty nod to Mrs. Claus. Her hair was curled and teased to add several inches to her height, with a tiny Santa’s hat perched precariously on top. Tiny jingling bells tinkled from her earrings and she wore a glittery snowflake pendant around her neck, despite the fact that it was two days past Christmas.

Cady hadn’t known anyone was bothering to dress up, and had on her usual jeans and a black off the shoulder top, paired with a red leather jacket – one of many new additions to her wardrobe. While she’d been saving most of her Company paychecks since Ethan paid the rent on their apartment, her one splurge of late had been leather jackets. She couldn’t resist them after years of going without.

If she’d known they were attempting to dress up for the “party”, she might’ve worn a dress and heels, or done something with her long red hair besides leaving it loose down her back. Not that she would’ve been able to get Ethan to wear anything other than his t-shirt and jeans, his brown leather jacket covering for the fact that he had at least one gun and two knives strapped to him at all times. At least he’d shaved and ditched the faded army jacket which always made him look homeless.

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