Keep young and beautiful. Sometimes it takes blood, sweat and slaughter.
The paranormal investigation team of Emery, Alex, Kadin and Grim are called in following the gruesome death of an innocent woman.
They are led to Hudson, who’s looking into the history of an exclusive spa that has a history of missing people and who was attacked by what seemed to be a giant snake. While Emery and Alex go undercover to check out the spa, Kadin goes to see Hud, who they’ve moved to a safe place.
Kadin and Hud are attacked, but Garen shows up with Grim and the snake demon escapes. Emery deliberately makes an enemy of the spa owner, Mortimer. When he goes beyond the sage bounds of the spa’s gardens, he’s also attacked, his face sprayed by something acidic. But thanks to the ancient Egyptian god Anubis, he’s saved from permanent damage. Alex researches the spa and the attacks and believes they’re dealing with an ancient demonic entity, Apep, Lord of Chaos.
Kadin and Luke infiltrate the spa where Luke is selected as the next sacrifice. Bastet and Anubis alert the rest of the team, and they arrive just in time to save Luke and Dashiell. However, will even the combined forces of John, Emery, Garen, along with Bastet and Anubis be enough to destroy Apep?
General Release Date: 1st August 2023
A soft groan escaped Dash as he tried to ignore the insistent buzz, and he buried himself closer into the warm body beside him.
“Sorry, babe, but if you want to sneak back to your room before it gets too light, you need to go now.”
Hudson’s voice was soft, and Dash heard the regret, but he knew his lover was right. If I get caught fraternizing with the clients, it’s instant dismissal. But there is just something different about Hud. An instant chemistry. And I don’t regret the risk one bit.
“I know.” Dash raised his head and peered at Hud. His lover’s smile didn’t reach his deep brown eyes, and Dash leaned up to claim his lips. “Gimme a minute, and I’ll get outta here.”
“Go have a quick shower and comb your hair.” Hud tugged gently on a long, blond strand. “I’ll get your clothes together and have a bottle of water ready. “Then you can claim you were out jogging if you get caught.”
“You’re amazing.” Dash pecked another quick kiss, then rolled to his feet, groaning softly as he straightened up.
“We were a bit…energetic last night.” Hud’s expression was rueful, but Dash shook his head.
“You’re leaving soon. You’ll be a long way off, and there’ll be none of this.” Dash waved a hand between them. “I’ll miss you like crazy.”
“I’ll make sure all my contacts know you’re looking for a job in town. It won’t be long. This wasn’t a one-time thing. You know that, don’t you?”
“I know.” Dash smiled as a wave of love washed over him. “Now, I’d best hurry.”
By the time Dash had showered quickly and tied up his hair in a messy manbun, Hud had laid out shorts and a T-shirt as well as briefs, socks and trainers. A chilled bottle of water was on the bedside table.
“Thanks, lover.” Dash dressed, grabbed his bottle then tossed it aside to give Hud one last, long kiss. Then he snatched the water up again.
“Go.” Hud swatted Dash’s ass as he bent to look out of the window.
“I’m going.” Dash clambered out and began to jog toward the main house. He didn’t look back. He knew Hud would have already drawn the curtains. If I cut across by the car park, I should be able to dodge the security patrol. That bastard Gimlet hates me. I wouldn’t put it past him to report me, anyway.
Despite the size of the house, there were comparatively few cars, but they were all top-of-the-range models, irrespective of their make. The cherry red Jaguar caught his eye as the sun glinted off the hood, and he snorted at its plate that read PRF3CT.
The car was the property of the spa’s owner Mortimer Downsman. The man was undeniably fit, toned and attractive. But the outward appearance wasn’t matched by his temperament or the way he treated his staff.
It’s no wonder this place has a high staff turnover. He’s a loudmouth bully. Perfect. Yeah, right. With him it’s a case of wanting people to jump when he demands it. Hud’s right. The sooner I find somewhere else, even on a lower pay scale, the better.
To Dash’s relief, he didn’t see the security guard around as he slipped in through his own bedroom window. Being light and agile enabled him to use the ornate brickwork as well as the drainpipe to escape and return unseen. All doors needed cards to open, and inside the building cameras were everywhere. Beats me why there are none in the grounds or carpark. Just the gates to monitor coming and going. Still, it works to my benefit.
It wasn’t worth going back to bed. Dash had a full itinerary for the day, starting with one of Mortimer’s pet clients. Given the way Mortimer seemed to fawn around Kristen, even serving her meals, Dash assumed she was one of the exceptionally wealthy clients the spa catered to. Hud only got this as a treat from his aunt. She can afford the stupid prices they charge. On his journalist salary, Hud wouldn’t stand a chance.
Not that I’m complaining, although some of those who come here think we’re nothing more than their slaves and at their beck and call. Kristen seems nice, though. You do get nice people, and they make it worthwhile. Well, mostly.
Toeing off his sneaker, Dash stripped and threw his clothes on the bed. He’d left one last change of clothes with Hud. The thought that the man was leaving made him sigh, and he shuffled into the tiny bathroom. He lit a jasmine-scented candle and turned on the shower. This time he would indulge his senses as well as washing and conditioning his hair.
Dash released his man-bun, giving it a good shake, and stepped inside. He let the hot water cascade over him, enjoying its heat and inhaling the perfumed air. Between the two of us, we’ll find a place in town for me to work. All I have to do then is get a flat I can afford to rent. This isn’t a cheap area to live. But I’m not even going to think about it. I want to enjoy the time I have left with Hud and make sure Mortimer can’t give me a poor reference.
An hour and a half later, Dash entered his salon and switched on the lights. All the workers had their own salons, and appointments were booked through the spa’s central office. Dash smirked as he checked the list he’d printed out the day before. Doesn’t stop the more creative of us organizing private sessions. Kristen was scheduled earlier than the automated time slots were due to start. She said she needed to look good for something special, so she’s having the full manicure and pedi. It’s not like the spa won’t cash in, as the client pays the usual charge, but I get a hefty tip, too.
Humming softly, Dash prepared a footbath with a sugar scrub, foot lotion and an assortment of colors. She’s worn white on her nails since the day she got here. Maybe today she’ll want a different color. Maybe she’ll tell me what this special occasion is.
“Aren’t you a bit early for such preparations, Dashiell?” At Mortimer’s voice, Dash almost tripped over the foot bowl he’d just filled.
“Early? N-no. I have an early client. She wanted a treatment before the normal start time. Look.” He snatched up the timetable and pointed her out. “See? It’s all above board, Mortimer.”
“Mmm. It would seem so. Unfortunately, she was called away late last night, so she won’t be coming here. Get rid of this and reprint the correct one.”
“Yes, Mortimer.” Dash complied with the instruction but stared at the handwritten note he’d been given long after the computer version had been changed.
What he’d heard had happened with Kristen was still playing on Dash’s mind an hour later when Hud popped his head around the door.
“Hey, you busy?” he asked.
“No.” Dash jerked his head at his treatment room. “My client’s just relaxing while her toes dry.”
“Is something wrong?” Hud came closer, frowning as he studied Dash’s face.
“I thought you were a journalist, not a mind reader.” Dash smiled but knew it would look fake. “There is something.”
“What?” Hud came to stand at Dash’s desk while Dash pretended to be checking his lists.
“That first client I had, before the spa officially opened, never came.”
“Something come up?” Hud cocked his head, and this time Dash’s smile was little more than a baring of his teeth.
“You could say that. Mortimer came in and told me she left late last night. He’s lying.”
“You seem very sure. How do you know?” Hud leaned in closer, dropping his voice.
“Because I cut across the car park to get to my room.” Dash kept his voice low, constantly checking over Hud’s shoulder. “And when I left you, her car was still parked next to his. If she left unexpectedly, it wasn’t last night. And she’s not the first.”
“Go on.” Hud nodded.
“Last month there was another woman. She reminds me a little of Kristen—not to look at, but rich, attractive, fit, used to the better things in life. I was meant to go to her room for an additional treatment, fully off the books. She also left ‘unexpectedly’. One maybe, but two? I dunno.” Dash shook his head.
“And I thought I was the investigative reporter.” Hud smiled. “You already have a tidy mystery here.”
“Well, not really.” Dash flashed a quick smile. “After all, there’s been no police coming here looking for a missing person.” He shrugged. “It just struck me as odd, that’s all.”
“Can you remember her name?” Hud pulled out a small notebook from his pants’ packet. “I can follow up on it.”
“Adele, Michelle…” Dash heaved a frustrated sigh. “No, not sure. There are so many that come through here.”
“Can’t you check your computer?” Hud nodded at the screen. But Dash shook his head.
“This only allows me to see whoever’s booked for my spa treatments. Remember the motto Mortimer recites at every opportunity. ‘Your privacy is our priority.’ I can’t see who’s staying here or what other treatments they may have booked. And staff, like guests, can only have access to their cell phones when leaving the site, so there’s no Wi-Fi to interfere with the healing ambiances and tranquility—no photos, no publicity. It makes me wonder how he has so many clients.”
“Word of mouth.” Hud reached out to trail his fingertips down Dash’s cheek. “That’s how these high-class places usually work. The more exclusive, or rare, something is, the more in demand it becomes.”
“I guess so. Ah, fuck it.” Dash snatched up a timer as it rang. “Sorry, love. Client’s ready.”
“Well, I should be heading off for my massage.” Hud tapped his pocket. “But I won’t forget my homework when I’m out of here. Catch you later?”
“Yeah.” Dash blew Hud a kiss, then hurried to take care of his client.