Warning: This novel contains excessive humor, a fire-breathing unicorn on a mission of destruction, magic, romance, and bodies. Proceed with caution.
Catering to the magical is a tough gig on a good day, but Bailey has few other options. Spiking drinks with pixie dust keeps the locals happy and beats cleaning up the world's nastiest magical substances. She could live without serving Police Chief Samuel Quinn most days of the week, especially after destroying his marriage.
But when she's targeted with a cell phone bomb containing gorgon dust capable of transforming her home into a stone tomb, she's tossed head first into a mess with her sexiest enemy. Add in his ex-wife angling for revenge, and Bailey must use every trick up her sleeve to survive.
The last thing she needs is to fall in love with Manhattan's Most Wanted Bachelor. Saving Manhattan will be tough enough.
"Playing with Fire is an eccentric, charming, and humorous oddity, a rare gem, and definitely unique. RJ Blain brings a refreshing whimsy to well-known mythology."– Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
"With an abundance of humor, barely suppressed sexual tension, plenty of paranormal rules, regulations and fireworks, and a cast of characters including the lowest of evil creatures to faeries, centaurs and even the Divine, Playing with Fire pulls out all the stops for a great read that keeps you turning pages to see just how Bailey can manage the next disaster and if her dreams regarding Chief Quinn will come true."– Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite
"Playing with Fire is a heady combination of magic, excitement, fun, adventure, and romance, and the author weaves these elements effortless through the plot, making the book a compelling read."– Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite
"Playing with Fire reads a bit as though R. J. Blain took whatever mythical and magical ideas she had on hand, added in the kitchen sink, and tossed the whole lot at her word processor program.
I don't mean that in a bad way. Because what she ended up with is a fun, silly, ribald romp of a story that serves as an excellent palette cleanser in between courses of more serious reading.
And again, I don't mean that in a bad way either.
Sometimes the best thing to read is a book that takes nothing seriously, least of all itself.
There's a lot going on, some of it absurd, some of it sexy, some of it high drama (tempered with more absurdities and steaminess), none of it really graphic. There are action scenes. There are gorgons and angels, incubi and succubi, old Egyptian gods and glass coffins that serve as containment cells for viral contaminations. There's pixie dust that creates a high, and a purple unicorn that breathes fire. There's...
Well, you get the idea.
Of course this only works if the author has the skills to pull it all off. Happily, Blain is up to the task, making sense out of all the disparate elements and providing a highly entertaining journey that brings the puzzle of madcap contradictions together by the time we get to the end. If you're prudish and don't like to laugh, avoid Playing with Fire. Otherwise, you'll have a ball."– Charles de Lint, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2017
No one in their right mind would ever license me as a private investigator, but that didn't stop people from coming to me when they needed something found. Fortunately, I liked my job as the only human barista at Faery Fortunes Coffee and Book Shop. Most came for a cup of joe and left too buzzed to read a thing, but who was I to complain? People paid top dollar for their pixie dust infused latte, and they tipped me well not to judge them.
Unfortunately, I wasn't so fond of Chief Quinn. When he walked through the door, bad things usually happened to someone—me. For him to come in five minutes after opening, long before the sun even thought about rising, he needed something, and it wasn't a cup of coffee. Why couldn't he want coffee? I could deal with making him a drink, and I'd double his dose of pixie dust to keep him happy.
I gave the espresso machine a defiant swipe of my cleaning cloth before stepping to the counter to deal with Manhattan's Most Wanted Bachelor. Without my help, he'd still be married, too.
What a way to start the day.
And to think people wondered why I refused to help find anything for anyone anymore. The reason stood across the counter from me. Chief Samuel Quinn, aged thirty, hotter than sin, and my heaven and hell rolled together in one smoking tall, dark, and handsome package, hated me for good reason. It was his fault, too. He had been the one to ask me for help finding his wife. I had found her all right, right in the middle of teaching a college stud the nuances of the reverse cowgirl.
If no one asked me to find something or someone again for the rest of my life, I'd be a very happy woman.
"Chief Quinn, what a pleasant surprise," I lied. "Can I get you something? A dark roast, cream, no sugar, light on the dust?"
Why couldn't I have been blessed with forgetfulness? I knew my worst nightmare's favorite drink, and I had to make it for him first thing in the morning. Of course I knew it. He came in at least three times a week to torment me. Screw it. Who was I kidding? Instead of the coffee, he could take me instead. If I had to put up with the hassle of dealing with him, why couldn't I enjoy it, too?
"Cream, no dust, and make it a large, Bailey."
Alarm bells tinkled in my head. Since when did Chief Quinn address me by my first name? On a good day, he snapped my last name like he worried it would contaminate him. "Of course, sir."
The faster I made his coffee, the sooner he'd go away. I'd love every second I spent watching him go. In less than a minute, I had his drink ready, and to lower the risk of him spending any extra time with me, I chirped, "It's on me today, Chief Quinn. Have yourself a nice morning."
If it meant we parted without incident, it'd be well worth the five bucks.
He saluted me with his cup, flashed a hint of a smile, and walked out the door. Facing him was hell, but I glimpsed the heavens when he left, and if my panties hadn't caught on fire under my jeans, I'd be very, very surprised.
"You're drooling, Gardener," my boss squeaked. The moth faery, with just enough pixie heritage to dust glitter when she wanted, fluttered over my shoulder, her tiny arms crossed over her chest. "Reverse cowgirl."
"Stop reminding me!" I wailed, slumping over the counter. "He hates me. Worse, all I think about when he struts in is taking off my clothes and giving him my panties. I think they caught on fire this time, Mary. Why couldn't he have had one of his cops find his wife instead?"
"You just want to indulge in some guilt-free fantasizing like every other hot-blooded American woman in the city."
"Exactly. This is why no one in their right mind asks me for help. I ruin everything."
"Except my coffee, which is a miracle. Now that we've had our daily dose of excitement, can you handle the shop on your own for an hour? We'll call it even on the coffee."
Was she serious? Alone for an hour on a Monday morning forty minutes before rush hour? If she thought I'd be all right alone, she was completely cracked. I could already hear her if I dared to complain about my shift. What could possibly go wrong in an hour? Didn't I like my job? The list went on and on and on. I smiled so I wouldn't cry. "Sure, Mary. I can last an hour."
"You've gotten better at lying. Your smile didn't even slip that time. Try not to die while I'm gone. Good humans are so hard to find." Mary zipped out of the shop through the pixie door and dove through the window of an idling sports car.
Sports car? Red, convertible, top up despite the nice summer morning? I leaned over the counter and squinted. Yep. My boss had just ditched me for a ride in Chief Quinn's car. Sometimes life really wasn't fair.