The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine · Writing

The Undead Life of Harlow Kaine (18)

The new year had been heralded in with much ado from the coven (and Harper who was home for the holidays) but now that they were well into week two, holiday revelry for Harlow Kaine had petered out to be replaced with lots of tax paperwork. The vampire accountant had prepped most of the required documents beforehand and was starting to organize packets for the in-house firm they’d set up years ago to take care of it all. Daisy-Lynn was in charge of that outfit and Harlow knew that everything was in good hands. She just had to organize it and send it all in when it was finished.

She was pacing between temporary tables lined with markers and piles of paper when there was a knock at the door. “Excuse me, Ms. Kaine?” the housekeeper’s quivering voice put her on instant alert as she strode to the door to open it herself, a sheaf of papers still under one arm. She was confronted almost immediately with the broad chest of a man several inches taller than her. He smelled like a bonfire.

“Hi, excuse me Sorin,” piped a voice closer to Harlow’s ear and her eyes lowered to find a younger woman with pale white-grey hair and amber-colored eyes smiling at her. She was short…less than five foot tall surely. “Hullo, may we speak with you?”

“Yes, please come in, thank you Linda, could you please bring some-,”

“We do not require human refreshment,” rumbled tall and smoky, cutting off Harlow’s request. Linda practically ran down the stairs and Harlow didn’t blame her at all. Human instincts were surprisingly acute at times and after living and co-existing with vampires for almost thirty years it was obvious to the housekeeper that these two were much more than they appeared.

Harlow didn’t shut the door.

“Pardon the mess, you’ve caught me at a busy time, my name is Harlow Kaine, how may I help you?”

“We are-,” the big guy was cut off abruptly by the tiny woman’s well-placed elbow into his stomach.

“Nice to meet you Ms. Kaine my name is Gemini Taylor, and this is Sorin,” Gemini gave an audible sigh while side-eyeing the man next to her, “Steel.”

“Sorin…Steel?” Harlow repeated, allowing her eyes to finally linger on the man literally towering over both of them at goodness what? 6’6″ and athletic to match. His hair was a deep, unnatural shade of red and the look on his angular, but handsome face was how Harlow imagined “aristocratic” would look whenever she read a racy romance novel. Despite how fake the name sounded, the…not man standing in front of her was solidly real and so was his impish friend.

“See? I told you it sounded stupid to human ears.” Gemini chided him.

“She is not human, are you? Vampire?” he spat in her direction with way more vehemence than she thought she deserved. She lost her temper a little.

“That’s right and if you don’t get to the point real fast, you specifically, are going to be in a lot of trouble,” Harlow snapped back with a step forward. Savage satisfaction raced through her as he stepped back. Gemini giggled. It was a strange and off-putting reaction.

“We understand that you were menaced by an acquaintance on the night of October 31st.” Gemini began conversationally as Sorin brooded. “We’ve only know found out about the encounter and have come to make amends.”

“Your friend doesn’t look nearly ready to do so,” Harlow pointed out as literally every instinct she possessed screamed at her to run away. Despite the way Sorin smelled (which admittedly could even just be residue from an actual bonfire) she didn’t detect anything magical about them AT ALL. As far as her senses were concerned these were two ordinary humans with strange names and hair.

They were dragons.

“Most likely because the…uh…man that tried to assault you was part of Sorin’s extended family. He’s quite embarrassed about the whole thing for a number of reasons but mostly because he’s the High Prince and it’s typically beneath him to address anything of this sort.” Gemini continued blithely. “His favorite sister is married to my cousin so we’re almost family and that irks him too,” winked the amber-eyed dragoness in human form.

“Gemini-!” barked the prince in a series of highly unnatural and terror inducing sounds. Harlow didn’t know how she kept upright she was so scared. She couldn’t believe she’d threatened a dragon prince! Gemini for her part looked entirely nonchalant about the whole thing. Harlow desperately wanted to know her secret. “As she said. The assailant was a member of my…family and while you dealt with him so expertly it is not our way to allow lesser beings to mete out punishment for misdeeds. He has been properly punished and as recompense,” here he gave a large sigh and took a standard sized business card from his pocket.

Harlow reached out to take it from him out of habit but caught herself before she touched it, the heat from his skin teasing her pale fingertips. “It is not going to burn you,” Sorin purred smugly. She frowned but continued to examine the card in his hand before taking a deep breath and finally taking it. It was heavy and flashed with warmth for a brief second before “cooling” rapidly. The enigmatic gold symbol reflected off the heavy red paper that bore no other marks, despite it having been in his pocket somewhere it was crisp and uncreased. Harlow had to carry her cards in a special holder from Japan to achieve the same results.

“What have I just agreed to?” she wondered out loud.

“Oh no, no, no, nothing that ominous I assure you. Like, don’t be offended but messing with mundane species is really below us most of the time and we really don’t bother trying to entrap you usually. Some of us do but they don’t get away with it for long,” Gemini explained quickly, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. “Basically, it’s a favor.” she added.

“Yes, as my…associate has mentioned, this is a favor that you are party to whenever you might need it. Once the favor has been fulfilled the card will vanish. To call me, simply think of me when you hold the card and I will arrive shortly thereafter barring no mishaps. If you do not use the card within a span of twenty years it will turn itself into compensation. The amount is determined automatically based on why the favor was given. In your case you should expect a large sum given that the favor comes as a result of being assaulted by a member of a high royal family,” Sorin intoned authoritatively.

No wonder he had the little one following him around, she made the encounter much less intimidating overall. Sort of, when not speaking she often had an intense and alert look on her face that really belied her casual attitude. Harlow wondered what kind of dragon she was. “So in twenty years if I don’t need your favor I get money? It’s a gift?” the accountant in her pondered.

“Yes, think of it as a “thank you” for never bothering me with your mundane existence from this point on.”

Harlow gave him a tight smile, if she pictured him as every other jerk she’d met in her life it was easy not to be that scared of him. “What sort of favors may I ask for? After all, I dealt with my assailant on my own, what assistance can you offer me that makes this favor worth it? Because if it irritates you so much, I think I might very well find something you can do for me.”

Gemini grinned and turned her back to clear her throat at Sorin’s surprise and immediate irritation at Harlow’s cheeky response to his imperious explanation. It was obvious that he was struggling for an appropriate answer because it took almost a full minute of angry silence for him to visibly compose himself. “There are only a few personal limitations. I will not sleep with you, kill someone for you, give from my hoard, or expose dragon kind for you,” the high prince answered tightly.

“Seems quite reasonable, I can agree to follow those terms,” Harlow finally responded. Much to her delight, the prince was visibly relieved, good, she’d had him on his toes. Gemini elbowed Sorin again but said nothing beyond a tiny growl and a very peeved side-eye. “Very well, I understand the terms of this favor and will do my utmost to respect it and you but only using it when I’ve a need. Is there anything else I should know?”

“No. Good day.” Sorin announced as he turned and walked briskly out the door, perhaps already secure in the knowledge that Gemini would stay behind and apologize for him. Which she did.

“He’s a prince you know…THE HIGH prince, they always get their way and all the other responsibilities,” the diminutive dragoness shrugged. “It was nice meeting you, good job injuring Marcus by the way. He’s also a dick,” she mentioned brightly. “Oh and, you don’t have to worry about reprisals from him, Sorin is a jerk most of the time but he’s really responsible because of the whole prince thing so we’ve made arrangements…uh…magically speaking so that Marcus can’t come around and harm you again.”

“Oh, actually thanks for that I have been worried about it, but I haven’t told anyone else…” Harlow admitted. “I assume that’s also part of this exchange? A favor for my silence as well as compensation?”

“It’s a bit of both yeah, by the way do you also do forensic accounting?” Gemini pondered out loud as she examined some of the tax paperwork.

“Not typically because it’s not required but I can either put you in touch with someone or do a bit of digging. I am capable of it,” Harlow answered with a puzzled tone.

“I’m a private detective so I need someone reliable sometimes to do that sort of work.” She pulled out her own business card, a perfectly normal (but on very good paper) white card with her name and business written on it in amber-colored embossed ink. Harlow took it and felt a small jolt of electric shock pass through her arm. “Ah, sorry for the discharge I didn’t want to be rude, going around and touching everything. Anyway, I pay well if you’re interesting in some side work, I wouldn’t need your services all the time and of course you would be able to turn down work if you couldn’t do it, so I guess I could do with an extra name of someone you know?” she pondered out loud.

“Wait, wait, so you’re a private detective, what are you doing being Mr. Prissy-Pant’s babysitter?” Harlow exclaimed in her confusion.

Gemini thought about this for a moment. “I think he likes that I’m not a “yes-dragon”, and to be honest I have a lot of empathy for him because of his position in the clans. He often takes me with him to stuff like this because he says it keeps him “cognizant of lesser people.” He’s gotten a lot better, though I’m sure today it didn’t seem so. Also, I helped him find something that assured his Right to Ascension someday so I think he keeps me close in order to figure out the proper way to thank me, which is kind of sweet when you think about it.”

“He doesn’t talk to you like he talked to me though right?”

“Oh goodness no, he learned a long time ago that was a bad idea. Red dragons might have a lot of firepower but electricity goes just about anywhere I want it to,” the mischievous dragoness winked. Harlow decided she liked Gemini and would do some work for her if time allowed in the future. “Anyway, I should be going or he’ll get impatient. It was very nice meeting you and I hope we can work together soon someday! I’ll see myself out!” she smiled after shaking Harlow’s hand and almost skipping out the door.

Harlow looked at the two business cards for a long time before putting Prince Sorin’s card in a securely locked, private drawer in her desk and Gemini’s card in her business portfolio with several dozen others. One never knew when a dragon private detective would be useful, apparently that also applied to vampire accountants. Her new year suddenly got much more interesting.

**Gemini Taylor & High Prince Sorin will return…

Prompt generated from this list of 120 One Word Writing Prompts and the use of Google’s Random Number Generator. Number & Coordinated Theme Generated: 67 – New. Yes I saved this one specifically for January so perhaps not so random after all. 

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