Mantle and Key Paranormal Agency Book 1: The Good Troll Detective
Main is just trying to live a normal “human” life, which includes going on first dates and getting her dream job. She can do it, she just has to figure out how to be less of a troll.
Mantle and Key snippet
1 – She hadn’t broken her date’s arm, face, or back yet, so that was good. Really, the time with the back…it was only temporary paralysis. Needless to say, it had also been a relationship ender.
She liked the guy sitting across from her at the cozy Italian restaurant booth. A twenty-four-old med student she’d met at the police academy, and he certainly knew how to dress. Ripped jeans and an untucked button-up shirt. His hair gelled but not in a douchey way.
They were sitting at a booth against the wall. Private. Intimate.
He leaned over the table separating them, his chin resting on his palms. “Penny for your thoughts?”
Maine blinked. “Um. Just thinking of past dates I’ve been on.”
Jason grinned and stretched out his arms along both sides of his booth back. “I’m curious, but how do I stack up against them?”
She tilted her head. “This is only our first date. Too soon to tell.”
His face grew serious. “Forgive my…um…studious nature, but I’d like some tips on how to beat my competition.”
Maine wished she was sitting next to him rather than across from him. He had lean muscular arms and seemed like a wholesome guy, maybe from the country. He seemed like one of the good ones. That wasn’t always easy to find in NYC where everyone always seemed to have an angle. For most guys she met, that angle was usually in her pants. For the few guys that seemed to care about her as a person, well, she usually ended up breaking not their heart but at least one of their bones.
By accident, of course.
She was a half-blood, her father a troll and her mother a human. Maine had inherited her mother’s lithe body, perfect teeth, and shiny hair, but unfortunately her father’s super-strength and who only knew what else. She’d had to deal with that her whole life, and it was a real pain.
Maine wanted to live as a normal human in the normal human world. She didn’t like life “behind the Veil.”
“Wouldn’t that be cheating?”
Jason shrugged. “What was your last date’s name?”
Maine’s lips curled. Jason was proving to be interesting. “Peter,” she said.
“What did he do?”
“I see. When did it all go sour?”
Maine bit her lip. “When I broke his nose.”
Jason leaned forward in the booth. “You punched him?”
“No. He was trying to open my car door, but I opened it too quick and smacked his face.”
Jason felt his face, miming an injury. “Ouch. Remind me not to try to be a gentleman around you.” He chuckled, and Maine joined in.
Attractive, intelligent, and funny. It was tough to find a man with two of those attributes, let alone all three.
“And the one before this Peter guy whose face you pulverized?”
She narrowed her eyes at him jokingly. “I didn’t destroy his face. It was only his nose.”
“Sure. Sure.” He waved for her to continue.
“Before Peter was Dmitri.”
Jason smirked. “What did you do to scare him away? Crush his hand when you shook it?”
She reached over the table and smacked the knuckles of his hand. Playfully. She had broken the hand of a former date’s father when they shook. That was because she’d forgotten to take the strength-dampening elixirs provided by her…
“Dislocated his arm,” she answered.
Jason raised his eyebrows. “Do tell. You two wrestling or something?”
“Ice skating. He was a total klutz, and when he fell, I reached down to help him up and—” She made a popping noise with her mouth.
He leaned forward again. “So you dislocated his arm because you hate klutzes? Sheesh.”
“No. It was an accident.”
“Spilling your coffee on a date’s shirt, that’s an accident. Pulling their arm out of their shoulder socket…”
“I swear.” Maine studied him for a bit. She probably shouldn’t have mentioned that about Peter and Dmitri.
Jason returned her gaze. Then he started laughing. “I’m joking. I’m joking.”
Maine was about to say something when the waiter came with their food. A salad for Jason and a porterhouse steak and baked potato for Maine.
Jason eyed her plate enviously but didn’t say anything.
“Penny for your thoughts, Mr. I-ordered-a-salad?” Maine smirked.
He raised his eyebrows. “I think I should’ve ordered a steak.”
He was impressed. Of course, he didn’t know about her troll strength, which demanded food to fuel it, or she got hangry.
Damn my father and his stupid troll genes…
So no, not hangry. Trangry. She chuckled at the thought.
Her father always sent her a strength-reducing elixir every month, and she took it like a normal human would take their multivitamins. That always kept her otherworldly strength in check so she appeared normal, although she still had to be careful. This month’s elixir hadn’t arrived yet, which was strange. She would’ve called her father to find out why…but that would’ve involved her interacting with him, something she’d rather not do.
If another elixir didn’t show up in the next day or two, she’d have to reach out. She was ten days past when she should’ve taken her last dose.
Jason looked embarrassed. “I didn’t want to overindulge. Now I’m considering asking if you’ll share.”
Maine speared a chunk of meat and placed it in her mouth, glancing at him as she chewed. “That’s a pretty big salad,” she said with food still in her mouth. She swallowed. “We might be able to reach an agreement.”
They both shared a laugh and portioned off some steak and salad to exchange.
“How’s the police academy going?” Jason slid some salad onto Maine’s plate.
“You mean after I broke that training officer’s arm during close quarters training?”
A look of astonishment came over Jason’s face. “That was you?” He chuckled. “It makes sense now. Wow, if I’d known that, I might’ve reconsidered asking you out tonight.”
She could tell that Jason was joking. “Yep.” She pushed some slices of steak onto his plate. “A few more weeks left, a couple of exams, and it’s official. I’ll be a rookie officer.”
Jason rested his arm against the table, studying her. “I can’t believe I’m on a date with a future cop. That’s badass.”
Maine shrugged, trying to play it cool. “I’m on a date with a future doctor. That’s pretty badass too.”
Jason forked some of the newly acquired steak into his mouth, trying not to come off as greedy. His eyes rolled upward in bliss. Then he turned to her. “Back when we met during that CPR training I was assisting with at the academy, I never would’ve guessed we’d be sharing food at a nice restaurant. Why did you say yes?”
“Because of that intense moment we had while trying to save that damned resuscitation mannequin’s life. We seemed compatible.”
“I didn’t think I’d stand a chance with you. You seemed so…qualified. And determined to be the best.”
Maine washed down some food with a sip of water as she thought back to the medical training that day at the academy. “You seemed to be the best at your job too.” She glanced to the side. “I probably make it look easy, but it’s tougher than you might think, proving myself in a profession dominated by men.”
He thought this over as he swallowed some salad. “Understood. Aside from you being a beast, I didn’t think I’d stand a chance with you with all the competition at the academy. I mean a girl like you, training with a bunch of ripped, sweaty men…”
She shook her head. “It’s not like that. I don’t…” She made a face. “I think I scare most of them.” Jason wasn’t wrong though. The eye candy was a perk of the job, but most of the guys weren’t single or were jerks. It didn’t help that she was the fastest runner in her group and could lift as much as the strongest man—and that was with her taking her father’s strength-reducing elixirs.
No wonder she intimidated them so much.
She faced Jason. Her words were serious. “Do I intimidate you?”
He stared at her for a moment and pushed his plate aside. As Maine wondered what he was doing, Jason leaned toward her and placed his elbow on the table, his arm standing almost vertical. “Not a chance. But I would like to test how strong you are. Consider it a medical experiment. Arm wrestle?”
Shit. This was it. This was the part of the date where she broke him. The only question was, would it be a snapped ulna? Crushed metacarpal? Dislocated elbow? Was that even a thing?
Concerning her strength, it probably was.
“I don’t think…” she started.
“I insist. I won’t let your freakish strength scare me off that easily.”
The words “freakish strength” off-put Maine. What was she to do? Say no? Make a scene? If she and Jason were to become serious, she wouldn’t be able to hide her…attributes from him for too much longer.
So she nodded, moved her plate aside, and pulled up her sleeve. Then she set her elbow on the tabletop next to his, their forearms forming a steeple as their hands connected. Her heart skipped a beat.
Please don’t hurt him. Please don’t hurt him…
“On the count of three,” Jason said. “One, two, three.”
Maine felt an insignificant amount of force pressing against her palm.
Jason grunted. “Wow. You really are…strong.” His face flushed with the effort he was exerting to try to push her arm to the side. He didn’t seem angry. If anything, he was amused.
“Tell me when to start,” Maine said coyly.
With a roll of his eyes, Jason grunted. “Okay, do it. Finish me off. Before too many other people notice me.”
She nodded. This would be the real test. If she managed not to break any of his bones—or sprain a muscle or ligament—she ought to be in the clear and the rest of the date would be a breeze. He really did seem like a great guy.
“Okay,” she said calmly. Then, picturing a feather in her mind, she eased her palm against his. When his hand flopped with a crash to the tabletop, she winced.
She had tried to let his hand down easy.
Jason tore his hand away and clutched it to his chest.
Horror tugged at Maine’s face. “Are you…okay?”
Jason looked up at her with taut shoulder muscles and a serious face.
Then Jason’s posture softened, and a grin cracked his face. “Holy cow, you are so freakishly strong. I love it!”
She relaxed, unaware of all the tension she’d been holding in herself.
Maybe being freakish wasn’t such a bad thing.
She was about to say something witty when a sexy female figure in a gold dress sauntered up to their table. A gorgeous woman with silky dark hair, supple curves, and big breasts sat next to Jason.
That’s when Maine knew she wasn’t out of the clear after all.
Main was doing so well until this uninvited guest crashed her date. I'm betting she can take her if the situation calls for it. Find out what happens next when Mantle and Key Paranormal Agency Book 1: The Good Troll Detective is released on January 26th, 2022. In the meantime head over to Amazon and pre-order it today!