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Part 6

Paranormal Apprehension Agency

Archer was a relentless and unforgiving asshole, I decided as I hurried along behind him.

“Back to the asshole thing again. You really need to get an original thought,” the orange cat said, sounding amused.

I stumbled. Shit, had I said the asshole thing out loud?

The cat shot me its version of a Cheshire cat grin. “I’m never drinking again,” I moaned.

We were walking along the main street of Palm Beach, and it was early enough in the morning that only those out to catch the waves before work were up and about. The Gold Coast was a former surfy beach retreat, filled with golden sand and gorgeous aqua waters. Now though, it was so popular and busy, it had lost some of the surf village appeal. But no matter how many high rises appeared, the waves were always there. So the surfers stayed.

“Are we there yet?” I asked, only half kidding.

Archer shot me a dark look over his shoulder, and I hated him instantly for that fresh faced, wide eyed I-love-mornings thing he had going on. Instantly suspicious. He was definitely a mutant.

“Are we walking all the way to the otherworld?” I tried again, because I was about sick of being left in the dark about this shit. Archer had given me snippets, bits and pieces, half-truths, and so far I knew about fuck all.

“I bet killing her is starting to look much more appealing,” the cat said.

“Silence,” Archer hissed at him. “You know not to talk in public, Rufus.”

I snorted. Rufus shot me the sort of look I’d previously only see on tigers when they were about to rip the head off an animal. Poor Rufus just wasn’t quite big enough to rip my head off though, so he’d just have to settle for the murderous thoughts which were flashing in his big eyes.

“We will take a car to the portal point,” Archer told me. “But I need a car that cannot be followed or traced. I also don’t want anyone at my house. So I called an uber.”

I snorted again. “We’re taking an uber to the Otherworld? Well, guess they really are taking over the worlds.”

Rufus opened his mouth, but slammed it shut again when Archer shot him a look.

Our uber was waiting for us three blocks over, and I sank into the back, wishing I was anywhere but here. Archer slid in next to me, and while the driver side-eyed the fluffy fucker of a cat that pranced its fluffy ass into the back with us, he didn’t say a word.

“Tamborine Mountain?” he checked the destination with Archer, who nodded and settled back in his chair.

I’d been up the mountain a few times before, and it was one of my favourite places to visit. The cool, fresh air, the quirky little shops that lined the main street, and the friendly atmosphere of people used to a slower way of life than was currently popular on the Gold Coast. If it wasn’t such a horrendous road to get up there, I’d probably have looked at living there, but as a bounty hunter, I was always chasing perps around the country, and the last thing I needed was to be trying to drive these roads every day.

“Are you feeling okay?” Archer asked, and I could have sworn the cat made a disparaging sound, as he looked between us.

“I feel great,” I said drily. “Like someone has one hand wrapped around my head squeezing it, and the other hand is stabbing me in the stomach with a blunt, four-inch butter knife.”

“Four inches would be the best stabbing you’ve ever had,” Rufus said, casually licking his paw.

The uber driver swerved then, because Rufus’ voice could probably never be mistaken for human, and he looked over in the back, like he was trying to figure out which one of us was role playing a cat talking.

“Eyes on the road,” I snapped, not sure why I wasn’t picking the cat up and throwing it at the driver.

I settled for kicking his ass right off the seat, so he sprawled on the floor. With a hiss and loud meow, Rufus went to claw my face off, but Archer shot a hand out, blocking the little shit from moving.

“Not. Here,” he said from between gritted teeth.

I smiled sweetly before settling back into my chair. I must have dozed off at some point, because I woke up to claws in my chest, and a car slowing down. “We’re here,” the uber driver said, and Archer acknowledged this with his standard old nod.

Rufus smiled up at me as he dug his claws in a little deeper. “Rise and shine, bitch,” he said.

I punched him. Okay, I almost punched him, but he was a fast little shit and managed to get off me before my fist could connect.

Archer was already out of the car at this point, and I had no choice but to rub at my drool crusted, sleep crusted face, and follow him.

“Is that cat normal?” the uber driver said through his open window, staring down at Rufus.

“He’s a fucking ass….”

“Asshole,” Archer and Rufus said at the same time, clearly mocking my use of the word.

I flipped them both the bird, before my head swung around at the uber driver peeling out of the parking lot like his ass was on fire. Hmmm, guess he saw the cat talking this time. For the first time I took in our surroundings. This was not a part of Tamborine that I’d been to before; we stood on the edge of a very dense forest, the trees dark and mysterious.

“There is a portal to our world here,” Archer explained to me. “That’s why you have more fae in this area, than in a lot of Australia. In actual fact, half of the residents of this mountain are like us.”

Well butter my ass and call me toast. How the fuck did I not know this?

“Is that why I’ve always loved it up here? I thought it was just because of the wickedly cool vibe, but maybe I was feeling the fae thing?”

Archer nodded. “A distinct possibility. We tend to search out the areas that are more natural, with cleaner air and water. Being close to a portal is a double bonus.”

He pushed forward then, and I followed. Rufus was somewhere, and I tried really hard not to hope that he’d accidentally fall off the mountain, never to be seen again.

The trees were dense, and I shuddered at all the spider webs I could see. It made me press closer to Archer, almost right at his back, because he was tall, broad, and perfect for clearing the path in front of me. See, I knew he’d come in handy at some point on this journey.

I couldn’t really see much outside of Archer’s back and perfect ass, which I only got the occasional glimpse of under his shirt. Unlike me, he wasn’t in a jacket, and I wondered if he was too “cool” to feel the cold. I loved watching those humans that would shiver along in their shirts and shorts, just so they could say “I don’t feel the cold, man.”

Good times.

I was just wondering where this portal could be, when the sound of water registered, and we pushed forward some more, until Archer stopped by a rock formation, that had a natural waterfall. It wasn’t the largest falls I’d ever seen, but I was very pretty. Along either side of the falling water were rows of flowers, white, pink, and purple, all somehow growing down a cliff face.

“Through here,” Archer said, and he strolled to the edge, and I blinked as he stepped out onto a small rock, and then another appeared in the water, and he stepped to it, over and over, he crossed the water to reach the waterfall. The rocks appearing as he needed them.

I hurried in behind him, stepping on the surprisingly not slippery stone, and then to the next, until we were both standing near the waterfall. Mist and droplets hit me, and I tightened my jacket, while trying not to slip, and or kick Rufus into the water. The cat was standing on a small rock near Archer, which somehow appeared just for him.

Archer murmured something that sounded a lot like prende and then the water started to slow, until it eventually came to a complete halt, leaving an opening in the stone. “Through here,” Archer said shortly, before moving forward again. I followed, nervous about what I would see inside.

It was really starting to hit me now. The reality of what I was doing. I was about to follow a complete stranger, one with a reputation scarier than anything I’d heard before, and a cun … cat that was the worst kind of animal in existence, into another world.

Another fucking world.

What was I thinking?

I needed therapy.

The pathway was winding and dark, with the damp feel to the air that told me there was more water surrounding us. After some time, I stopped wondering if we were about to be ambushed by fae, and instead just stumbled along, hugging my jacket closer around me.

Light broke through the darkness, and I blinked at the new stream of water that was in front of us. Had we just done a complete circle of this place? Were we back where we started?

Archer waved his hand, and this time there were no words spoken, but the water still dried up. “Are you ready?” he asked me, and there was finally enough light to make out his hard, beautiful features.

“Ready for what?” I bit out, trying not to let my nerves show. “What’s about to happen?”

“Just push her,” Rufus grumbled.

I levelled Archer with a glare, ignoring the cat. “Don’t you fucking dar—”

Before I could finish my sentence, he wrapped his arms around me, branding me with his heat and energy, and then we were falling.