A former blood slave. A strapping vampire. More zucchinis than any man could eat.
Rue Yarrow was rescued from a blood bar and taken to a gated community of supernaturals. Haunted by nightmares and memories, he does his best to avoid people. His only solace is his garden, where he uses his magic to grow an abundance of vegetables. But one day, it isn't the zucchinis greeting him, but a severed human head.
Noah Caramine wants as little drama as possible, and interfering with a vampire clan's business is never a good idea. He's never met a magic user and is curious about Rue, but he fears there will be consequences for stealing the blood slaves.
When body parts start popping up inside the walls, Noah doesn't know if someone is trying to frame them for murder or distract them from keeping the blood slaves safe. Rue never believed he'd go near a vampire again, but when threats are drawing closer, he turns to Noah. Who better to keep him safe from vampires than a vampire?
As he rounded the house, he came to a stop. The back side was bigger than the front. Damn.
Half a second later, someone walked into him from behind. Without thinking, he dropped the spade, reached around, and grabbed them, ready to tear their throat out.
Rue stared wide-eyed at him. “Sorry.”
Noah gentled his grip. “Are you okay?”
“Sure. I was watching the trees. Not paying attention.”
Noah glanced at the trees. Apple and plum trees on this side of the garden. “The plums are almost ripe.”
Rue looked at the trees again.
“When you’re done feeling him up, can we get started?”
Rue stiffened at Asher’s call, and Noah let go of him in favor of giving Asher the finger, but he only got a grin and a wink in reply. Fucker.
“Right, let’s get to it.”
Gertrude moved to stand next to Rue. “Should we tell them to take their shirts off? We should have drinks and popcorn.” She bumped her shoulder against Rue’s.
Noah pretended not to listen but held his breath as he waited for Rue’s response.
“I should get back to the beans.”
No request to take his shirt off then. He hadn’t expected one.
“Let’s see if this rolling thing works first.” Gertrude crossed her arms over her chest.
Noah put the spade into the lawn and stepped on it to cut through the grass. Then he moved a blade length and did it again, and again, and again until he’d cut a line to the end of the garden. Then he did one more about a foot from the first line until he got a strip.
“The moment of truth.” He smiled at Rue and pushed the spade in under the grass edge. After a few tries, he got the edge to let go of the soil below. As he rolled, the grass separated from the ground.
“Oh, cool, it works.” Rue rushed forward. “I can do it, and you do another line.” He fell on his knees next to Noah, who let go when Rue touched the grass.
He got to his feet and reached for the spade. Before he started cutting the next line, Gertrude gave him a nod and a smile. “I’ll go help Chaton.”
Rue’s head whipped around. “Oh, yeah, sorry.”
“Not to worry, dear. I tried to save you from getting your hands dirty, but I see it was all in vain.” She grinned at him and walked away. Rue looked after her, some tension bleeding into his muscles, but then he shook his head and got rolling.
Asher worked at the other end of the lawn while Noah kept even steps with Rue. The roll grew rapidly, and soon Rue had to stand to roll it. They reached the end, only to start over again. After a few times, sweat was pearling and Rue was out of breath.
“Want to switch?” Stepping on a spade didn’t take too much effort.
They did one strip, but when they got about one-third into the second, Rue stopped. “There is something here.” Rue rammed the spade into the ground without any greater success. “It’s crunchy. I can’t get the blade down.” He hit the spade against the lawn again. Noah frowned as he took in the patch of dead grass. Strange.
“A stone maybe. Should I cut around it?”
Noah got to his feet, and Rue handed over the spade. There was something hard underneath, and the ground looked as if it had been disturbed, but only in a small space. Noah cut around it and pushed the spade in under the dried grass edge. As he got it loose, he grabbed it and pulled.
There, buried in the soil, was a mostly decomposed head. His gaze locked on the hair. It was dirty and mattered, but not dirty enough for him to miss the long blond strands with purple highlights. Fuck. “Gertrude!”
The stench of decay crawled into his nostrils, and he grimaced.
Rue gagged, and Noah reached for him. To his surprise, Rue turned into him, hiding his face against his chest. “Is that ... is that ...”
“A head, yes.”
Noah stared at the face. It was too decomposed to make out any specific features. Gertrude appeared by his side, followed by Chaton, who hissed.
“Madeline.” He turned to Rue, who was resting his forehead against Noah’s chest. “Did you kill Madeline?”
Rue shook his head, his entire body starting to shake.
“Who’s Madeline?” Gertrude spoke in a low, soothing voice, but both Rue and Chaton were shaking their heads.
Asher looked at the head, then at Noah. “Where’s the rest?”
Oh, fuck. Were there more body parts hidden in the garden?