Part 1: Operation Twelve Dancing Daughters

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I dismounted from my old motorcycle and surveyed the huge mansion silhouetted against the lake. The location being near water was less than ideal, given the rather important selkie shifters I had offended, but this job shouldn't involve going near the water. I hoped.

Stepping into the sunset shadow of the looming mansion, I pulled off my sunglasses and hung them on my collar. I knocked on the huge elegant doors at the top of a stairway I tried not to let impress me.

A man in a suit opened the doors almost at once and looked out. "Good evening, sir. How can I help you?"

Sir, indeed. My battered leather jacket and torn jeans didn't exactly look like sir material, and the man was three times my age. But I let it slide, just this once.

"I'm here to collect that half-million reward," I said.

"That would require solving the mystery."

I smirked. "Oh, I intend to."

"And where did you hear of this opportunity?"

"Craigslist," I grunted. He didn't need to know that an . . . acquaintance of mine had already come trying to solve this and had disappeared.

Satisfied, he nodded and stepped back. "Right this way, sir, and I'll introduce you to Mr. King."

"Name's Sean." I adjusted the handgun tucked into the back of my jeans under my jacket as I stepped through the doorway. "Don't 'sir' me."

"Of course not, sir."

I followed him into the depths of the mansion, shaking my head. Butlers.

My interview with Mr. King was brief. He was bored and impatient, and since I like to think that people don't react that way just because of me, I figured he was getting kind of tired of this whole business after all the others who had come in search of the reward and gotten nowhere—or if they had, nobody knew where, since they'd all disappeared.

Honestly, you'd think that would be more worrying than a billionaire's twelve adopted daughters wearing out their ballet slippers every night, but there was no accounting for the rich.

He said they couldn't perform ballet in the daytime if they danced all night, and the stage was missing them.

Whatever he wanted to do with half a million was his business, and I could certainly use it to take care of a few things, on top of tracking down my . . . acquaintance.

So here I was, in a corner of a room full of chattering teenage girls. Pretty much the last place I wanted to be. Well. Other than somewhere near water.

At least the invisibility cloak I wore kept them from knowing I was here. It had been helpfully provided by Mr. King to aid in the investigations, with an enchantment on it to return to its proper hook, hanging on a wall in his office, at sunup every day to prevent unwarranted thefts. Otherwise, I'd have suspected the previous investigators of having made off with it—that would explain their disappearances, and one of these was worth a fortune.

As part of the prearranged plan, I'd slipped in while the butler brought an evening snack to the teens—well, maybe a few of them were a smidge older, closer to my age; I was terrible with ages—and waited, Mr. King's weary "good luck" still swirling in my ears. I guess if neither the wards around the house nor the security cameras could figure out where his girls were going or how, and they seemed to be in their room from ten p.m. until morning, that had to get kind of stressful.

The girls were either chatting, reading, engaged on phones or laptops, or doing some kind of crafting. One practiced ballet steps in the corner opposite mine.

Absolutely nothing interesting happened until the clock hit midnight.

They all stopped what they were doing and watched the huge wall clock finish chiming, then stood up—all except the one who seemed to be the youngest, who had fallen asleep reading a book.

She woke up and groaned. "Just one night. Can't we sleep for just one night and forget all this?"

The eldest snorted. "Sounds great. Except for the part where we'd all wake up as ghosts."

"Come on, you don't really believe that, do you? Just because she told us—"

"I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that faeries can't lie," said another girl.

"And I'm pretty sure that's just a rumor they spread to make themselves sound trustworthy. Have you seen how sarcastic some of them are? I'm pretty sure sarcasm is a kind of lie, and I doubt they could be that sarcastic if they had to tell the truth."

I smirked. That was definitely true.

"We won't leave you behind, and you usually love it. If you're tired, you can just as easily nap there. Let's go."

The other girl got up and they all put on their ballet slippers, then lined up, following the first girl.

I tensed, ready.

They walked right into the wall and vanished.

Well, then.

I quickly slipped after them. The wall let me through, fortunately. On the other side, a dark shadowiness waited. I could feel that we had passed through a barrier and were now somewhere else entirely. The fae world. This was going to be interesting. I spied the girls disappearing in a long twist down a spiral staircase with a gleam of light waiting at the bottom.

About to slip after them, I paused. A scratch on the banister at the top caught my eye. A symbol I knew well. Riel had been here. And the only reason he would have left that mark was if he was in trouble and thought I'd be following and would find it. Of all the entitled—

I growled. What did that idiot get into now?

I pulled my cloak of invisibility tighter around myself and stepped onto the spiral stairs, following the twelve girls toward the source of light—and what sounded like waves.

Which meant water.

I groaned. This was not my day.

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