Series: Shelby's Angels #1
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Romantic Comedy
Release Date: 2009
Published by: Changeling Press
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Once upon a time, there were seven ex male models turned exotic dancers, all unique and beautiful in their own way.
Adan, the fiery Spaniard, is a master of disguise. Barika, the dangerous African Flower, can make any computer obey with a mere touch of a keyboard. Shen, my delicate Chinese Warrior, speaks several languages fluently and knows how to use his pretty face to get what he wants. Blain is my temperamental Irish poet, with the soul of an artist, and the right cross of a heavyweight champ. Nalu, a large chunk of Samoan perfection, knows anything and everything about plants and poisons. Delsin has a way with numbers that is damn near erotic to watch and an understanding of the world that makes me believe his tales of being the offshoot of a rampaging Indian war-god. And then there's Raidon, my sexy Japanese Shogun. Skilled in several forms of martial arts, Raidon is the smallest -- and the most dangerous one of all.
Along with my lover Will, a hand model, we form the best detective agency ever! We take on the most obscene and dangerous cases ever to develop in the Red Light District of Baltimore. From cross-dressing vampires to dangerous warrior cults, we've seen and done it all.
Call me Shelby. And these bold and beautiful men who obey my will, most of the time, are my Angels. And here are our stories.
This collection contains the previously released novellas When Irish Eyes Are Dying, Sometimes I'm Not, and Savage.
"This is the third such death in five months. Police are baffled as to who could be doing this... and why. The Irish Eyes Conglomerate, producers of the ever-popular line of skin care, hair care, and waxing products directed toward men, is scrambling for answers, and its investors are scrambling to keep their heads above water.
"This is Denise Robberston reporting live at the site of the Fifth Annual Microbrewery Convention. Dick, back to you."
Shelby used the remote to shut down the television and its disturbing imagery.
There was silence for a full minute after the screen went black -- total silence.
She turned to face the group of men sitting around the downstairs boardroom -- okay, living room -- of Club Angels. All seven of her boys, plus her man, sat with faces twisted in an array of emotions from shock to disgust.
"Well?" she asked, feeling that maybe something had gotten through to them, that they were no longer wrapped up in their own petty concerns, realizing there were things out there that mattered, and the world didn't revolve around them.
She stood back and waited to hear about the injustice of it all.
"Oh my God!" Delsin started, with a toss of his yards-long hair.
"I know!" Adan exclaimed, his voice breathy in horror as he stared wide-eyed at the blank screen. One hand was balled in a fist pressing against his chest while the other reached for Nalu, who was just shocked into silence. Like some of the others, he stared out at nothing.
"Did you see?" Delsin whispered again, turning wide eyes to his compatriots.
"She was wearing red lipstick and blue eye shadow! Those color combinations are so not in this year!" Adan said. "And they do nothing for her complexion, like that burgundy shirt. You'd think that someone would have told her it would make her look more ruddy than she already does!"
"And who styled her hair?" Raidon chimed in. "That just makes her look bloated! If you're heavy like that, you pick a haircut that doesn't make you look like a reject from parochial Samurai school in Neo Tokyo."
The others -- even William, usually uber-intelligent -- for a model -- nodded in agreement. Of course, then he flushed in embarrassment as he took in the red that had begun to stain Shelby's cheeks.
"And that's all that you got out of it?" Shelby nearly shouted, arms akimbo, indignant that this group couldn't pull it together and see the big picture.
"That and the co-announcer should be named dick-less," Shen almost timidly announced. All the others turned to stare at him as silence filled the room. "What? I dated him before his male pattern baldness caught up to him -- but for the grace of the Lord we go." All the men sucked in a fearful, shocked breath that he would even mention that out loud. "And he got the bad toupee and the cheesy voice. He's every size queen's nightmare."
"And you still went out with him?" Adan leaned forward to get the good gossip. He ignored the auburn-highlighted black curls that fell endearingly into his face as his accent purred around the room, sending an erotic shiver down more than one back.
"I don't put out on the first or second dates," Shen responded. "Besides, I thought he was a grower, not a shower. Boy, was I wrong."
They all ah-ed in understanding as Shelby finally reached her boiling point. "Hello? Narcissi on speed? A man was killed! Now's not the time to discuss dick size! There's murder afoot!"
"And his feet are big so there goes that foot-as-a-ruler thing." Shen nodded his head with authority before smiling up innocently at his benefactress.
"I need a drink!" Shelby sighed, looking toward the heavens for help as she shook her head at the insanity that she willingly surrounded herself with.
"It's not noon yet, Shelby," William told her with a frown, taking her at her word. "But I can make you an Irish coffee." His smile was both innocent and charming. "Coffee's a morning kind of drink."
"And it's much later than that in Ireland!" Blain chimed in, all smiles and helpfulness. "And there's always a good reason for a shot of good Irish hooch!" His accent made the words seem cute even though they were the most idiotic thing she had ever heard.
"Don't you people understand?" Shelby growled. "People have died!"
"I know!" Barika sighed, looking sad. "I don't think anyone can recover from such a bad public appearance. You'd think they would have dressers or someone to help them out."
"Too much alcohol." Will's mind was still on Irish coffee in the mornings, but the others agreed.
"Turning into a lush can do that to you, make you forget your appearance and things," Shen agreed with Will, silently wondering how such an intelligent man didn't get wrinkles from thinking such deep thoughts. "It's an angle we can look into." He smiled at Will. "An alcohol breakdown's something you can really never overcome. Even with the help of Betty Ford, your image would be... irredeemable."
Solemnly, the other seven nodded, then dropped their heads, giving the fallen-from-grace reporters a moment of silence.
Giving up on trying to make them see her point of view, Shelby walked over to the low coffee table and snatched up a file folder.
"Okay, Angels, listen up." When you can't beat them, move on, was her motto. "There's a mystery to solve, and we have been hired to crack this case."
"Somebody hired us? After that Jacuzzi incident?" Will asked, shock in every line of his body, as a fire suddenly lit in his eyes. Then his eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Model or PI?"
"PI," she assured, then sighed as several masculine exclamations of delight floated around her, accompanied by hand slaps and high fives.
"And if we're all finished celebrating, I think I should inform you of the particulars."
Suddenly, they were all business, attentive as a pack of puppies fresh from obedience school.
"Okay, Angels, here are the facts. Irish Eyes stock's going to start to plummet, despite the fact that several important celebrities endorse them. The scandal's good for sales with the gory set, but we're all sure that won't last. They need answers and they need them fast. That's where we come in."
"We get to sleuth?" Adan asked, almost wriggling in delight in his seat.
"We get to sleuth and model and crack this case. I'm sure you are all qualified and we'll wrap this up quickly."
She smiled at the pride that beamed from her seven boys and one man. This was a good thing she was doing. It was the right thing, giving them something rewarding to do with their lives. And it was better than shaking their asses and having drunken rowdy women shove dollars down their G-strings.
"Who does what?" Barika asked, placing a calming hand on Adan's shoulder.
"Well, I have broken this down as I see fit. If there are any objections, please let me know and we'll discuss it. I'll give you my reasoning as well."
There were nods of agreement, and Shelby looked down at her file folder and began to read.
"Adan, Blain, and Raidon, you will play model this trip. No fighting, Blain, but feel free to defend any of the guys, not that they'll need it. You fit the traditional look they're going for, and you have the accent."
"I have the lilt in my voice and the face to pull it off." He smiled. "Plus, I really am Irish, Shelby! I'm authentic! Don't be forgetting that!"
She nodded, then carried on. "Adan, you can be anything so be more European. Foreign buyers relate to that and Americans find it sexy. Not only that, but while Blain distracts them, you can ferret out inside info from the people behind the scenes."
"Right, Boss," he agreed, already planning his persona for this job.
"Raidon, you're going because you can kick ass and take names." They all laughed at that and a rare blush, a flush of delight, spread out over the Japanese man's face. "That, and I need you to back up the guys, to keep anyone from getting too close, and see if you can use that brain of yours to find any underworld connections."
"Mafia, Yakuza, or Tong?" he asked. No one questioned how he would know. Hell, Shelby wasn't sure she wanted to know. But he was on their side, and that was good enough for her.
"Any and all, and if there are organized, non-familial groups too. You're good at that sort of thing."
"I'm great at that sort of thing," he corrected, and it wasn't bragging, it was just the pure and honest truth.
"Barika, I want you on computers. I want you to dig up anything you can about Irish Eyes and its parent company, Green Isles Industries. Make it thorough."
"Give me time and I can tell you what color underwear the president wears and his sperm count."
"Um, do it fast and you can keep the sperm."
"Good for the skin, ain't that right, Shen?" he chuckled, and Shen blushed red as a beet.
The rest groaned.
"Nalu, if I get you the autopsy reports, can you tell me what's going on?" Shelby continued.
"Yes." Then he was off in his own little world again, probably dancing with dolphins or something.
"Delsin and Shen, you guys are backup. I want you to be communications for the inside guys -- be boyfriends, best friends, makeup people, entourage, or something. But you'll be the only connection between them and me and any help they may need. I'm counting on you two."
"Do we get that neat spy stuff that William's always buying and refusing to let us touch?" Rika asked, his eyes bright and hopeful.
"Um, yeah!" Shelby laughed as William paled.
"But those are my babies," Will nearly whimpered, thinking of his precious electronic devices in the hands of those two.
"And they're designed to do a specific job, babes." Shelby chuckled. "I'm sure these guys will take good care of them."
"They'd better," Will whined, resigned. "Because if they don't, I'll add alcohol to their skin creams and piss in their hair tonics."
They all blanched at that declaration.
"We'll be good," Delsin promised, eyes wide in horror. "Scout's honor."
"You were never a scout," Rika snorted as he rose to his feet, smoothing his dreads neatly back into his ponytail.
"Only because they wanted me to cut my hair." He sniffed. "I don't know why I wanted to join. Those uniforms are so tacky."
Then the conversation turned toward uniforms, men in uniforms, and how terribly gay the new Marines' uniforms were -- in short, another beautiful day in the basement.
"What have I gotten myself into?" Shelby sighed, then grinned as Will presented her with a steaming hot mug of... Irish coffee.
She hadn't even noticed him leave the room to fetch it. But she smiled as she took a sip.
He was good, in more ways than one, she decided. She licked a bit of whipped cream from her upper lip and smiled as he shot her an evil smirk. He was damn good.
And he had trained the boys, so all would be well. What could possibly go wrong?
Themes: Bisexual, Pansexual & Gender Non-Conforming, Multiple Partners