Finn's a failure—at necromancy and life in general. "It's not my fault," he'd insist, looking deep into your eyes as he lifts your wallet. You'd catch him, of course. Because he's a failure.

Veruca, on the other hand, is competence personified. She has to be, working as a Reaper directly under the Prince of Hell. When Finn shows up in a stolen sport coat and uses Veruca as cover from his murderous mistress' glowering goons, she finds the one thing she may not be so good at: resisting Finn's handsome face.

Rattle (MF)
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Cover Art by Jay Aheer

“Come, come,” she said when he continued to stare. “Get dressed. We’ll get breakfast, you can tell me why you’re on the run, and I can tell you about my interesting meeting downstairs.”

“Meeting?” Finn asked, taking the shirt from her and slipping one arm in, still watching her, perplexed. “Like business meeting?” He hadn’t asked her what she did for a living, he realized.

“Angelina came to see me. She’s very displeased with you. Get dressed.” Without explaining further, she turned and left him goggling after her.

“Angelina? Here? She’s here?” Yanking on the shirt, buttoning it as quickly as he could, he scurried after her.

“Not anymore. I told her she could finish her breakfast, but she didn’t bother.”

“She—what? Here? Breakfast here?”

Veruca turned, perfectly calm in the face of Finn’s panic. “You want to eat here?”

“No! I need to go. I should leave. She’s—Bollix.” Nearly tripping over his own feet, Finn twisted, hustling back to the bathroom, grabbing for his socks and wondering where the hell his shoes had gone off to. If Angelina knew where he was, it wouldn’t be long before she sent Rutherford and London Bridge up to knock him out, stuff him in a sack, and drag him back to her, probably over pointy rocks or up and down uneven, bare wooden stairs.

“She’s not here,” Veruca said. “She left unhappy, but she did leave.”

“How do you know?” Finn called, hopping on one foot to yank on a sock. “She’s probably down there plotting against me! She has goons!” He threw out his arms, hooking his hands into claws like he was imitating a grizzly bear. “Big, hairy, mean goons! They’re probably on their way up here now!”

Veruca stepped into view, one brow up as if politely curious. “You mean John?”

“And probably London! I threw him in the ocean, he’ll be the angriest.” He wagged a finger at her as he lost his balance and fell back against the bed. “Just you watch!”

“There’s no need to panic,” Veruca said, stepping close. Finn fought against gravity, searching the floor for where he’d dropped his sock. Spotting it, he bent to grab it, pushing up to sit on the bed. He found Veruca was closer than he expected, leaning into his space and forcing him to pull back slightly as she bent over him.

Then her lips were on his and his thoughts skidded to a clumsy halt.

Her fingers were in his hair again, a little rougher than before as she ran her hands over his scalp. She tasted like coffee and cream, smelled like something he dimly recognized as floral and feminine. Her touch seemed to take away his control, leaving him seated and still, one hand resting in the crumpled covers, the other still holding a sock aloft.

When she slid her hands down the back of his neck, over his shoulders, and to the top button on his shirt, he dropped the sock, wrapped both arms around her, and yanked her against him. She broke the kiss with a smile. He leaned up, sliding a hand up to her neck, hoping she’d come back to him, but she only laughed.

“I just wanted you to calm down,” she said quietly.

“Not calm yet. Gimme another few minutes.”

“Let’s fix your shirt. You buttoned it all wrong.”

“No fixing it,” Finn said, giving a slight tug with the hand at her hip. “We should just take it off.”

Veruca only smiled, her arms still pinned between them. Finn watched her, sure the only way to describe the feeling coursing through him in a raging river was “longing.” He wanted her closer, in his lap, on top of him, under him, it didn’t matter. He wanted to hold her, to taste her throat, her chest—the whole of her. Any part she would give him, he wanted, and he was worried in that instant she wouldn’t give him any more than he’d already gotten.

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