Sometimes it’s the monsters who need to be saved…
A migration of mythical creatures has begun, and more and more of them are landing on Zoey Donovan’s doorstep. As the only Aegis left in the country, it falls to her to protect the Hidden and keep them safe—and her house has become a sanctuary for water sprites, goblins, harpies, djinn and more.
Keeping track of her boarders is a full-time job, and Zoey’s already got her hands full trying to run her wedding planning business. Good thing she has a resident closet monster to keep her organized, and a hot Reaper boyfriend to help her relax every once in a while.
But she can’t keep up monster-triage indefinitely, and as more Hidden arrive, it becomes clear that someone—or something—is hunting them. In the midst of planning an event for a notoriously difficult client, Zoey’s got to figure out who’s behind the hunt…and she’s got to stop them before there are no Hidden left.
As I inched across the roof of my house, the harpy nestled against my chimney regarded me with suspicion. I’d have let her stay there, but the mailman could be coming up the street soon. With all the weird things he’d already caught glimpses of on my property, I didn’t think he’d go for some half-assed explanation that she was a Halloween decoration. Especially since it was April.
I drew closer to her, and she pressed herself against the bricks. By human standards, she couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen, though maybe harpies had a different rate of aging. She was all boobs and hair and feathers. And she stank. She also clutched my car keys in her sharp, grimy claws.
I stretched my legs out on either side of the roof peak and sat back, straddling it. The harpy relaxed. I laid my hands on my thighs in as nonthreatening a manner as I could muster. I kept my voice low and casual—as casual as I could while squatting, two stories up, with cedar splinters poking me in the ass.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of here,” I said. “Are you okay?”
She frowned. I truly hoped harpies understood English, since my regular translator, an eight-month-pregnant brownie, was unavailable. The height wasn’t a problem—brownies don’t fall, they float. The climb was the issue. Molly didn’t need the strain. Her tiny body was already burdened enough with the thimble- sized life inside her.
The harpy stretched one filthy wing and shook my car keys. Her perky breasts jiggled. I kept eye contact, afraid to get caught staring. Seriously, though, they were impressive. I never felt I lacked in boobage until that moment, but if I had what she had, I’d head straight to Mardi Gras. They’d run out of beads and beer by the time I left.
An arm I didn’t know she possessed snaked out from under her greasy feathers and scratched a nipple before folding away.
She shrugged. “I’ve been better.” Her voice had a husky sound to it, like she’d been gargling with a handful of sand.
At least we could communicate. That was a good start.
“Anything you want to talk about?” I reached out to her with my empathic gift, opening myself to whatever emotions she might be leaking. Nervous energy pat- tered against my skin, tinged with the dark taste of fear.
She shook her head, and a hank of stringy blond hair dropped across her face. She peered at me, waiting.
I thought I heard a car and glanced out across the yard. No mailman yet. The driveway was clear. “Listen, we need to get you somewhere you can’t be seen, okay? You’re welcome here. Just not, you know, right here.”
She chewed on her bottom lip, thinking, measuring me up through her mat of hair. When she finally spoke, it was a whisper. “I don’t have anyplace else to go.”
I let out a breath. “Oh, honey, as long as I’m here, you have a safe place to be. You just can’t camp out on the roof. We’re protected here, but we still have to stay out of sight, okay? We’ve got trees in the back, if you want to stay in the open. There’s room in the attic if you want to come inside. No one will bother you there.”
The bird-woman shook her hair from her face and looked at me with surprise. “I can come inside?”
“Of course you can.” I smiled to reassure her. “And when you’re ready, maybe you can tell me what’s wrong?”
She nodded. “Maybe.”
I stuck my hand out, palm up. “Unless you were planning on a road trip, I could really use my keys back.”
She shifted from one foot to the other and eased toward me. A shingle knocked loose and slid down the sloping roof, crashing to the porch below.
A voice rose up the side of the house where I’d left the ladder. “Zoey! Is everything okay up there?”
The harpy froze, her face draining of color.
“It’s okay,” I said. “That’s Maurice. He’s a closet monster. You’ll like him. Everybody does.”
She looked doubtful. “You have a closet monster here?” She shuddered.
I suppressed a giggle. Like Maurice was a threat to anybody. “We have all sorts here. Maurice helps take care of everybody. I’m Zoey. What should we call you?”
“Viola. Vi, if you want.”
I grinned. “It’s nice to meet you, Vi. If you’ll hand me the keys, we can get down from here and get you settled.”
Vi scooted closer and dropped the keys in my outstretched hand. “Sorry about that,” she said. “They were so bright and shiny. Sometimes I act without thinking.”
I managed to climb down the ladder without hurting myself, and Maurice was at the bottom waiting.
“Why didn’t you answer me?” He frowned. “I was worried. And how much damage did you do up there? Are we going to have leaks when it rains? I’ve got a lot to do already.”
My lips curled in a tired smile. “Just a couple of shingles. It should be fine.” A shadow flitted above us and another chunk of wood dropped to the ground. “I need to run to the attic and open a window for our latest guest.”
Maurice sighed, his large yellow eyes weary, and his face even more gaunt and pale than usual. “I’ll take care of it. I need you to call Andrew. We’ve got a hellhound with some sort of mange or something. I put it in the garage. You’ve also got a pair of water sprites in your bathroom sink, and a family of gnomes is hiding under the back porch.”
I ran my hand through my hair and groaned. “All that showed up while I was on the roof?”
He nodded. “We’re running out of places to put people, Zoey. This is ridiculous.”
Rachel’s head is packed with an outrageous amount of useless Disney trivia. She is terrified of thunder, but not of lightning, and tends to recite the Disneyland dedication speech during storms to keep herself calm. She finds it appalling that nobody from Disney has called yet with her castle move-in date.
Originally from Northern California, she has a tendency to move every few years, resulting in a total of seven different states and a six-year stint in England. Currently, she’s planning her next grand adventure. Rachel has one heroic husband, two genius kids, a crazy-cat-lady starter kit, and an imaginary dog named Waffles.
She doesn’t have time for a real dog.