Exclusive Excerpt: Darynda Jones’s The Dirt on Ninth Grave

Get excited! We’ve got something guaranteed to make your Tuesday a whole lot better. Feast your eyes on this ultra-advanced, exclusive excerpt from Darynda Jones’s upcoming book, The Dirt on Ninth Grave, the next installment in the Charley Davidson series. It won’t be out until January, which is so long to wait. So we thought we’d take a peek now! 

An amnesiac Charley is living as Jane Doe in a small village in New York, but a dark force is after her. And there’s this brooding, darkly handsome guy who keeps showing up …

The storeroom door opened and Erin stood on the other side, her aura a dark shade of red. Not that I needed to see her aura to know she was angry. It hit me like a heat wave. “You both have customers.”

“Sorry,” I said, rising unsteadily to my feet, but she was gone before I got the whole word out. I helped Cookie up, then went to the utility sink and splashed water on my face before checking my watch.

“He should be in any minute now,” Cookie said, brushing herself off.

I turned back to her. “Who?”

When she offered me a sympathetic smile, I said, “Doesn’t matter, anyway. He never sits in my section. He always sits in yours. Or Francie’s.” I tamped down the jealousy that bucked inside me. I had no right to be jealous. It wasn’t as though he ever talked to me. Or looked at me. Or, hell, acknowledged my existence in any way, for that matter.

“Maybe he’s just shy,” Cookie offered. “Maybe he likes you so much he’s afraid to make the first move.”

I snorted, dismissing the notion entirely. He didn’t strike me as the shy type. “Anyway, how do you know that’s who I’m waiting on?”

“Hon, every female in the café is waiting for him.”

My skin flushed again. Francie was so hot for him, her adrenaline spiked tenfold every time he walked in. Her aura turned red as well. A pinkish red. And for a very different reason.

“True. But he’s so angry all the time.”

“Angry?” She tugged at the stray wisps of chestnut hair that had escaped my hairclip, placing them just so. “What makes you say that?”

“He glares at me.”

“He glares at everyone.”

That was true, too, and it made me happy inside.

“His middle name is Alexander, by the way.” She said it as though it were a test of some kind. As though she expected a reaction out of me.

And boy, did she get one. I couldn’t have fought back the telltale signs of surprise if I’d had an Uzi at my disposal. Or a rocket launcher.

Reyes Alexander Farrow. I liked it.

“How do you know his middle name?”

“I saw his driver’s license.”

Her answer caught me off guard, and I flinched. Not because she’d managed to see Reyes Farrow’s license, a fact I was a tad jealous of. I flinched because she’d just lied to me. Why would she lie about something so mundane? What did it matter how she found out Reyes’s middle name?

“Do you think it’s odd how many great-looking guys come into this place?” she asked, changing the subject as she always did when she was being less than 100 percent. Almost as though she knew I could sense her deception and thought that veering off topic would dilute it.

Either that or my guilty conscience was getting the better of me. It was wrong to spy on people, and reading their emotions was tantamount to spying. But they were just so there. People’s emotions. So in my face. It was impossible not to read them.

“Odd? Maybe. But a slew of great-looking guys walking in pretty as you please? Hell, yes. And then some.”

She chuckled and ushered me out. “You have an excellent point.”

Before I got two steps into the café, Dixie waved me to a stop. “Can you take this over, Janey?” she asked, shoving a to-go order into my hands. The ticket had the name Vandenberg written on it. “Erin ran the other order to Mrs. Udesky.”

“Um, okay.” No idea who Mrs. Udesky was.

“I’ll cover for you.” She nudged me toward the exit, her gaze wandering to Garrett until she lost all control of the grin she was trying to suppress.

“But just so you know,” I said in warning, “stalking is a crime.”

She gaped at me. “I’m not stalking him. I’m waiting on him. And if our conversation happens to turn toward the romantic variety, who am I to argue?” She leveled another lustful gaze his way. “The things I could do to that man given half a chance.”

I giggled and started for the front exit.

“Hey, sugar,” Osh said from behind the counter, his flirtatious grin transmissible. His hair hung in a shining mass to his shoulders, the cut blunt, the color so black it almost looked blue against his pale, perfect skin. I wondered what he was. Mostly because he had no soul. The color that did surround him, though soulless so not really an aura, was a smokier version of the unique bronze of his irises.

I found it mesmerizing. I found him mesmerizing. So much so, I stopped and stared for several awkward seconds. Awkward to me, anyway. I got the feeling from the playful tilt of his mouth he was quite used to that kind of captive attention. The key word being captive.

“Hey, back,” I said.

His expression toppled dangerously close to vulgarity, diluted only by the appreciation glittering in his eyes. As comely as the kid was, he only pretended to be arrogant. He was not. Far from it, in fact.

I’d figured out fairly early there were two kinds of beings in this world: those that belonged and those that did not. Garrett, for example, was the former. He was human through and through. As was Mr. P, which brought up the question of why the demon was inside him. Osh, however, was a different story.

He had a fierceness to him that belied his youthful appearance, a devil-may-care attitude. He was only part human. The rest was all manner of beast, the two sides held together with an otherworldly energy, hence the color that surrounded him. It wasn’t a soul like that of a human but a power, as though his life force originated from something other than human necessity. In other words, I wondered if he survived on the food he ordered from the café every day or if he had another form of sustenance.

“Need any help?” he asked, his gaze a little too wolfish.

I leaned into him. “I’m old enough to be your . . . much older sister.”

I actually had no idea how old I was. The doctors put me somewhere between twenty-five and twenty-nine. Close enough for now. They wanted to run more tests, to involve more body parts than just my ailing brain. I wouldn’t let them. For one thing, each test hemorrhaged more money than I made in a year. They were worried I’d been assaulted in some way. I assured them I hadn’t been. I had no bruises. No scrapes other than the ones I’d sustained after waking up in that alley.

He raked a hand through his hair, revealing the alluring angles of his almost too perfect face, then let it cascade back into place before leaning in, too. “I love older women.”

I had a feeling he knew way more than his age would suggest. And that he was teasing as much as I was. I could test it. See how far the little shit would go. But the customers were piling up, and I had a sandwich—several, in fact—to deliver.

He broke the spell with a shake of his head, chuckled softly, then sat back and, with a forlorn sigh, said, “And all good things must come to an end.”

Before I could ask what he meant, the door opened, the room quieted, and I knew who’d come for lunch. With the precision of a German infantryman—always in formation, always showing up third out of the three—Reyes Farrow walked in, thus completing the trio of Musketeers, and the world around me fell away. 

The Dirt on Ninth Grave will be available in digital and print on January 5, 2016. In the meantime, you can find more Urban Fantasy reads on our Everything Paranormal page.

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