Home > Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(5)

Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)(5)
Author: Lindsay Buroker

“You’re not going to try to talk me into putting on a dress and selling tinctures and yard art to innocent passersby again, are you?” I asked.

Nin’s eyebrows flew up. This week, she’d dyed her hair a color that reminded me of cans of lemon-lime soda, but her slender eyebrows remained black.

“You didn’t hear about my work at the farmers market?” I asked her.

“I did. Dimitri said you sell well. I didn’t realize a dress had been involved. I’ve never seen you in a dress.”

“It was a one-time occasion.”

“You must be striking in a dress.” Nin gave me an assessing look. Or was that a calculating look?

“You’re not going to ask me to sell something for you, too, are you?”

“I don’t know. Can you pronounce Sua Rong Hai yet?” That was Nin’s signature—and only—dish at the food truck.

“I can say beef and rice.”

“Hm.” She looked me up and down again. “Maybe it would not matter if you were in a dress that showed your cleavage.”

The waiter chose that moment to appear and, judging by his glance toward my chest, had caught the comment. He took drink orders, left menus, and departed.

“You’re turning into a real American entrepreneur, Nin,” I said.

“This is good. I have almost made enough to cover the repairs from the burning of my food truck last month. Soon I will have enough to buy a house and bring my family to America.”

“Speaking of entrepreneurship…” Dimitri had been poking at something on his phone, and he leaned over to show it to Nin, and then to me.

“Commercial space for lease in Greenwood,” I read aloud.

Dimitri swiped through photos of the interior and exterior of a 1960s avocado-green building with a cracked glass door opening toward a busy street. Next, he showed me a space in Fremont. Lastly, one up in Shoreline.

“That’s the least expensive,” he said. “Followed by Greenwood. Fremont is a fortune. I don’t know if Zoltan will go for that. The leases on these commercial properties are all at least five years. That’s a big commitment.”

Nin’s forehead was wrinkled in confusion. Mine was too.

I wanted to ask the two of them if they could tell me anything about the orb shard before I took it to Willard’s office for her people to examine—more specifically, I wanted to ask Dimitri if his vampire alchemist buddy Zoltan would take a look—but I felt obligated for the sake of friendship to show an interest in whatever he was doing. Life had been simpler when I’d been avoiding making friends or even long-term acquaintances of any kind, to ensure they would never be hurt by my work, but it had meant more dinners out alone too.

I waved at his phone. “Maybe you can unpack your plans for us if you want us to say something wise about them.”

“Zoltan said he would become my business partner and help pay for the rent if I open a store to sell my yard art and include his formulas, tinctures, and lotions, and any other quirky stuff he wants to make. He’s been thinking of ways to capitalize on his internet fame by starting an online store, but he can’t go to the post office and ship things.”

“Would mail services not pick up the packages from his place of business for an extra fee?” Nin asked. “I believe they will even pick up from a house if you do business out of your home.”

“But not the carriage house in the back yard four hundred feet from the curb.”

“Can’t he leave the parcels by the mailbox?” I imagined a nefarious, cloaked vampire skulking through the shadows, a deadly threat to the necks of anyone he passed, carrying a stack of boxes of soaps that had been ordered from his Etsy shop.

“Not right now. The new homeowners moved in to the main house.”

“I guess they would think it odd if a stack of parcels was sitting by their mailbox every morning.”

“I believe so. Hence this solution.” Dimitri smiled at Nin as he waved flamboyantly at the rentals. “I can run the store, pick up all the stuff he makes a couple of times a week, do all the stocking and selling things to customers, and he doesn’t have to leave his secret underground chamber.”

“That sounds like a good deal for Zoltan,” I said.

Nin nodded gravely. “You have described your duties as those of an entry-level assistant.”

“Guys, I live in a van. I am entry level.”

“This is not the way an entrepreneur must think,” Nin said.

“More importantly, wouldn’t you have to move to Seattle for this?” I tapped his phone. “Aren’t you paying my mom rent to live in her driveway in Oregon?”

“I gave her two weeks’ notice a while ago. Bend is nice if you’re into the outdoors. I injure myself when I go there.”

“Your dwarven ancestors would be impressed by your heartiness,” I said.

“I’m hearty indoors. Thoughts on these locations? Once I learn the ropes of running my own business, a real business, not a stand at a farmers market, I can hire other people to be entry level.”

I thought he should master the farmers market before moving on to someplace where he was committed to a five-year lease, but Nin spoke up before I could quash his hopes and dreams.

“Let us look at each location, the demographics of who lives there, and the likelihood that your products would be of interest to the community.” She looked at his information and plugged the addresses into her map. “The Greenwood location is right on Greenwood Avenue, so that is very good. A high-traffic thoroughfare. But it is far to the north in suburbia. There would be little foot traffic, so you would need to do a great deal of marketing to make people aware of the store. Is there parking? Hm, no parking lot. Forcing people to use street parking is not ideal for a business. Shoreline. This is a house that was converted into an office building and is now a retail space. The rent is low, but the traffic is not very good. This is also very much in a suburban area. The Fremont location is expensive, but there would be a good deal of foot traffic. I see there is also only street parking, but that it is more typical in that part of town. The building is another converted house, but this one is not a rectangular box. It has character. I believe this is in line with the brand you will establish.”

Dimitri looked at me. “Have you ever noticed that she’s a lot more articulate than we are?”

“You’re surprised? She makes more money than either of us and doesn’t live in a van.”

Nin flashed a smile.

“So your vote is for Fremont?” Dimitri asked her.

“Yes. Look, it is next door to a psychic. And an ice cream shop.”

“That’ll bring the foot traffic racing to your door,” I said.

“Do you think Fremont too?” Dimitri’s expression was earnest, as if he truly valued my opinion.

I wanted to tell him this was a big jump for someone with little experience, but he looked so hopeful. I was reluctant to throw a bucket of ice water on his dreams. Besides, Zoltan had deep pockets. If he truly would be the backer, maybe things would work out. Going into business with a vampire alchemist. What could go wrong?

“Yeah,” I said. “Fremont is quirky, and your, uhm, merchandise qualifies as quirky. People coming to see the psychic next door are definitely going to be susceptible to—open to buying enchanted yard art.”

“Are psychics real?” he asked.

“Uh, maybe? If she had a magical ancestor, she might get some legitimate premonitions. Prescience is typical among gnomes and elves.”

“So you and Nin might be psychic?”

“I am not,” Nin said.

“I can tell when people are going to die right before I shoot them,” I said.

Dimitri frowned. “You have… ghoulish moments, Val.”

“Yup.” We ordered our meals, and I pulled out the shard from the orb. “Now that we’ve masterminded your problem, I was wondering if either of you two enchanter types could tell me anything about this.”

Dimitri took it first. “Is this from that orb you told me about under the shifters’ house?”

“Another one like it.” I was encouraged that he’d guessed that, especially since he hadn’t seen the one under the house. Could he recognize the faint magical signature remaining in the shard as being dark elf? “The in-one-piece orb was in Rupert’s bar a couple of weeks ago. Now the bar is closed and the orb is gone. Except for that.”

“You found it left behind?” Dimitri asked.

“Kind of. I mugged an eight-year-old for it.”

Their eyebrows flew up.

“I didn’t mug him,” I corrected. “I captured him and took it from him.”

“That’s what mugging is, Val,” Dimitri said.

“I gave him forty bucks for it.”

Nin poked him in the shoulder. “I do not believe either of us should hire her to sell our wares.”

“I agree,” Dimitri said. “She is a ghoul.”

“Ha ha. Can you tell me anything about it?”

Dimitri closed his eyes and rubbed it between his thumbs and forefingers. He got so caught up in the examination that he didn’t notice the waiter placing his bowl of pulled-pork-smothered macaroni and cheese down in front of him. That encouraged me. Dimitri had talent. Plenty of it. I’d seen it. Maybe his innate senses would tell me something.

Nin was also scrutinizing it. “I sense magic about it,” she said when the waiter departed. “A strange magic with a sinister edge. I would not use it in my crafting.”

“Sinister weapons aren’t good?” I asked. “I would think people would pay more for them.”

“This magic seems like it would be as dangerous to the owner as an enemy.”

The orbs I had seen lured people into getting locked into worlds of such internal pleasure that they forgot to do anything else. I didn’t know yet how the dark elves planned to use them, but in a vault in Willard’s office building, there was a notebook I’d taken from their lair, and it was full of recipes on how to make the orbs and other artifacts.

Hot Series
Most Popular
» Cursed Mate (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #5)
» Devilish Game (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #4)
» Dark Secrets (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #3)
» Wicked Deal (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #2)
» Once Bitten (Shadow Guild: The Rebel #1)
» Storm Forged (Death Before Dragons #6)
» False Security (Death Before Dragons #5)
» Elven Doom (Death Before Dragons #4)
» Tangled Truths (Death Before Dragons #3)
» Battle Bond (Death Before Dragons #2)
» Sinister Magic (Death Before Dragons #1)
» How to Rattle an Undead Couple (The Beginne