River Road
joined forces with Vampyre, Faerie, and a couple of lesser territories in the Beyond and tried to overthrow the wizard gatekeepers. They wanted to pull down the borders between the Now and the Beyond, and they’d almost succeeded. I didn’t even realize the water species had been involved.
    We finally got back to Venice. While Alex and Rene made plans for a return trip, I called Letitia Newman, a Green Congress wizard and an old friend I’d seen way too little of the last couple of years. She’d been Gerry’s significant other as long as I could remember, even though they’d never married, and I wondered how she’d coped with his loss. I’d avoided her because it just hurt too much. But Tish worked as a water engineer for the port authority. If anyone could help me figure out what was wrong with the water, it would be her.
    By the time I left a message on her voice mail, Rene had gone home and Jean and Alex stood beside the passenger door to my Pathfinder, having a metaphorical pissing match to see who’d be riding in front.
    Yawning, I threw my keys at Alex. He caught them in mid-air. Good reflexes. “You drive. I’m going to nap. Play nice.”
    After spreading out a newspaper to keep from leaving a pound of bayou mud all over my backseat, I climbed in and quickly locked the door behind me, just in time to keep Jean from following. I would not be napping with the undead.
    Fats Domino began singing from my backpack about the time we reached Belle Chasse. “Walking to New Orleans” had been my ringtone since before Katrina. It seemed especially appropriate today since walking to New Orleans was what Jean would be doing if he didn’t stop watching me over the back of the passenger seat. He’d ruined a perfectly good napping opportunity because I was afraid I’d drool or snore, and they’d make fun of me.
    I dug the phone out of my pocket and looked at the caller ID. Jake Warin’s name brought a smile to the end of a long, stressful day.
    The strains of an old BeauSoleil song filled in the background when I answered the phone, which told me he was calling from the Gator.
    “Hey there, darlin’. Is this a bad time?”
    That soft Mississippi drawl could make sparks fly out my ears. One conversation Friday night had reminded me of all the things I liked about him. Not that Alex didn’t have the same deep drawl, but he never used it to flirt, or at least not with me.
    Jean whispered something to Alex and I knew from their stillness they were both eavesdropping.
    “Your timing’s fine, but my phone’s almost out of juice,” I said, looking daggers at Jean. “I’m on my way back from Plaquemines Parish with Alex and Jean Lafitte.”
    “Has Samantha been a busy girl today, twitching her nose and doing magic tricks?”
    If only. “Today’s show was more like Bewitched meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre . And don’t call me Samantha—she was a witch, not a wizard.”
    Jake laughed, and I heard a snort from Alex’s side of the front seat. Jean likely had no idea what we were talking about, not having yet discovered late-night sitcom reruns.
    “Yeah, I just got my orders to look for a body out there tomorrow so I’ll need to get the details.”
    My heart sank more than it had any right to. He hadn’t called for me. He’d called for Alex. “I’m water problem; Alex is murder problem. Hold on, I’ll put him on.”
    “No, wait.”
    I put the phone back to my ear. “What?”
    “If I wanted to talk to my cousin, I would have called him, wouldn’t I?” The background music changed to a slow Cajun ballad, a sexy swirl of fiddle and accordion.
    I smiled again, and saw Alex raise an eyebrow as he watched me in the rearview mirror. “Yeah, I guess you would have.”
    “What you doing Wednesday night?”
    I had a standing date with a grouchy cat and a DVD, but he didn’t need to know that. “You tell me.”
    He chuckled. “Since we’re speaking again, why don’t we do something outrageous. Maybe

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