Home > Lassiter (Black Dagger Brotherhood #21)

Lassiter (Black Dagger Brotherhood #21)
Author: J.R. Ward





11287 Gordon Memorial Parkway

Caldwell, New York

Does this make my ass look big?”

As the question was tossed out all casual, like it made any damned sense, Eddie Blackhawk opened his mouth to answer. Then he shook his head. “I’m not sure how to respond to that.”

“Come on.” His best friend, Adrian Vogel, motioned through the window of the gray-and-black Mini Cooper. “Be honest.”

For a split second, an image of the guy looking up with expectation caught and held in Eddie’s mind, a fishhook memory that was unnecessary after the centuries they’d spent together: Ad was a hard-core handsome type, all the Hugh Jackman anyone could want in the tall and dark department, just paired up with a Claire’s boutique’s worth of silver piercings on the trailheads of his nose, his lower lip, his outer ears. He’d shaved his head recently—because he’d bought a Manscaped trimmer on account of the Pete Davidson ad and he didn’t have anything else to shave—and his hair was already growing back in, a shadow over his skull. His clothes were black and so was his jacket. So were his weapons, although like his naughty bits, they were covered.

“Hello?” the other fallen angel prompted. “What do you think of me and the car?”

“I’m amazed you can fit your posterior region in it.” Eddie glanced around the wilted dealership. “Why are we here again?”

“Ass.” Adrian got out, his heavily muscled body expanding to its customary height and width like it was reinflating after a vacuum-packing. “You can curse, you know. It’s not going to kill you.”

Considering they were both immortals, the subject of what could unalive them was moot—as was any practical opinion about this shoebox-sized toy that was being marketed as roadworthy. And while Eddie glanced around for what felt like the hundredth time, he would have appreciated an answer to his own question: What the hell were they doing in this place? Between the fake wood paneling, the faded pictures of eighties-era cars going all airborne around tight turns, and the for-sale stock that looked like candidates for parts harvesting, he felt like they’d been sucked back four decades and Kate Bush should be piped in as a new release, not as a throwback soundtrack on Netflix.

Then again, they’d made their deal with God, hadn’t they. And with all the progress they hadn’t been making over the last three years on their mission, why not end up here? It was no more directed or random than any other place in Caldwell.

“Hi,” a quiet voice said, “can I answer some questions about the Mini for you?”

Eddie’s eyes shifted over and then had to move down, way down. The brunette woman who had approached was barely over five feet tall, and given her air of exhaustion, he guessed her age was anywhere between twenty-five and forty. Like the other salespeople, she was wearing a gold plaid suit jacket over her slacks, but the thing was a tent on her, to the point where she’d rolled up the sleeves.

“I think we’re good,” Eddie murmured. “Thanks, though.”

She reached up and tapped the safety pin that was holding the right side of her glasses together—as if she were worried that like the screw it replaced, the thing was going to fail on her.

“Well, if you need anything, I’m—”

“I got this, Steph.”

A man with a porn mustache, a full plaid suit—not just the jacket—and a hockey-player elbow pushed her out of the way. “Bud James, how we doing? I’m the owner, you’ve seen me on TV.”

A proud finger swung around to a life-sized cutout of himself. Which had clearly been slimmed down with filters. “That’s me, your buddy in the car business. Nice suit, right? Great car, right? Let’s take it for a test drive.”

Eddie tilted to the side. The woman who’d been moved out of the way was backing off, her soft-soled shoes squeaking on the scuffed blue and white floor tile. As she tugged at her jacket, she took a deep breath and faced away across the showroom’s collection of buffed-up beaters. Another couple was coming through the door and she hitched her shoulders before intercepting them.

“How we doin’?” Bud James put his face in Eddie’s. “So how about a test drive.”

Ad, who’d been circling the Mini like he wanted to date it, came over, and for a split second, you had to wonder whether Bud was going to have a problem with all the Goth.

Naaah. Bud didn’t seem to mind. Then again, the guy would probably sell cars to a demon if they had the cash or credit.

“No reason to test-drive, I’ll take it.”

Bud smiled like a billboard and called over his shoulder, “Ring the bell, Mabel!”

As an elderly woman with bright blue eye shadow creaked to her feet at the front desk and started clanging like her life depended on it, two other plaid-clad, Bud-club salesmen pumped their fists.

“Let’s go do your paperwork,” Bud said as he smacked a hand on Ad’s shoulder. “Have to say, when I saw ya coming, I figured you’d be going for the Charger over there.”

Eddie glanced over at the blacked-out, block-fronted fist’s worth of steel, glass, and tires. “That’s a nice car.”

“We’ll sell it to you, how ’bout that?”

When Bud went to pull the clap crap on Eddie, the fallen angel narrowed his eyes—and the man froze in the half-slap position and backed off. “I see you’re a reserved man. I respect that, I totally respect that, yup? C’mon.”

Ad went jazz hands in excitement. Then he hopped and skipped into Bud’s office, looking like the Grim Reaper on a sugar high.

As a ripple of warning tickled Eddie’s instincts for no good reason, he looked across at the saleswoman. She had a fragile hope on her face as she took the couple over to a minivan.

“C’mon,” Ad called out. “Let’s do this.”

Bud’s office was a smaller version of the showroom, same decor, same worn-out time warp. On the wall behind the desk, a banner read “YOU’VE GOT A BUDDY IN THE CAR BUSINESS,” the slogan spelled out on a blue-and-white background, with two bobblehead images of Bud anchoring the announcement.

“—loan application, why don’t we.” Bud sat at his desk, a plaid king on a paper throne. “I’ll just do a credit check—”

“Cash,” Ad said as he parked it as well. “I’ll give you fifteen.”

Well, if that didn’t shut Bud up. But he recovered quickly, jacking the waistband of his Rodney Dangerfields up over his paunch. “Well, now. You’re a good customer, I can tell. But I don’t think I can go that low. I gotta keep my lights on—”

“Fifteen thousand.” Ad outed a wad from the pocket of his leather jacket. “And you’ll take care of the tax.”

As the counting began, orderly piles of ten hundred-dollar bills lined up in front of Bud and the man got really quiet. When the last dole-out finished, and Ad sat back and smiled, it was clear that the asking price was going to be adjusted downward. Nothing like a little liquidity to tilt the course of negotiations.

“It’s Stephanie Kowalski’s deal,” Eddie said in a low voice. “She sold us the car.”

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