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Bonus Scene: “Conventional,” an additional scene from Merciless Spy

The following is an additional scene that took place in Merciless Spy between chapters 29 and 30. This scene was referenced in Chapter 30, but we didn’t actually see it happen.

Merciless Spy is book 7 in the 82nd Street Vandals series that began with Savage Vandal. To read more, Reckless Thief is book 8.

Note: This scene is brought to you because of a Review Challenge. What is that? And also, please be aware that spoilers may lie ahead.




The last thing I wanted to do was take Hellspawn out and expose her or Rome. At the same time, I also didn’t want to disappoint Mom. Dad was right, I’d been keeping my distance. While it was on purpose, it had absolutely nothing to do with pushing them away. Telling myself that hurting them would keep them safe didn’t work for me. So, Sunday, I scheduled a private table for brunch at Rodin’s.

Mom’s delight when I called her with the name promised it had been the right call. Hellspawn’s smile when I told her agreed. So, here we were, with me dressed in a suit, sans tie while Hellspawn chose a white floral print high-low dress. The blue and green florals added to the ethereal air around her. The strappy heels added a bit of height and I eyed the bare arms but she held up a simple white sweater.

“You’re too pretty to take out,” I rumbled. That dress had a sash in the front and looked wraparound. I wanted to tug it and see what would happen. But she held up a finger.

“Uh-uh,” she scolded. “We’re meeting them at eleven. We don’t have time for what you want and for me to get ready again.”

I grunted. Before I could answer, Rome walked out to join us. Surprisingly, he was in a button down shirt, and slacks. No jacket or tie, but he looked more than presentable. The running shoes were not quite the right attire, but I wasn’t going to criticize. “Why is your shirt the same shade of blue as the flowers on her dress?”

“Because I asked Starling to match.” Rome shrugged and she grinned.

“You look wonderful.”

“It itches.”

Crossing over to him, she tilted her head. “May I?”

He nodded and she checked his collar, then slid her finger around. A tiny rip and she came away with the interior label. Finished with that, she smoothed it down again.


Rome seemed to consider the question, then he nodded. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Turning, she threaded her arm through his and looked at me. “Ready?”

I pulled out my phone and aimed it at them, then I snapped a picture. Her eyes were bright, the cosmetics she’d chosen were simple and barely noticeable except for the faint blue around her eyes. Rome even looked pleased, though his smile was faint. When she crooked her finger, I went to her obediently and handed Rome my phone. Then she posed with me.

Finally, we did a selfie and I stared at the three photos in my gallery with a small shake of my head. The impulsive thought was more enjoyable than I realized. I liked having her there. I liked having her with us. Hell Rome hadn’t even protested the photo.

Right, more pictures.

“Okay, let’s go.” I checked my gun. They couldn’t wear one, but Hellspawn had two in her purse. It was a big bulky thing that Rome usurped before we were even a step out of the apartment. But it meant they had weapons with them. The added security around Mom and Dad should help, but I didn’t want to leave an angle uncovered.

“It’s going to be fine,” Hellspawn soothed me. “Your mom seems really nice.”

“She is,” Rome said without missing a beat. “Pushy too. But always smiling and kind.”

That—described Mom to a T so I just chuckled. “I know it will be fine, but they’re right, I’ve never introduced them to a girl I liked before.”

“You never had Starling before.”

And that… was accurate.

I met Rome’s gaze over his head. He was completely relaxed. Also not something he usually was where my parents were concerned. Dipping my gaze to Hellspawn, I found her watching me with a small smile. “What?”

“You’re nervous.”

I was not.

“It’s cute.”

I scowled.

Her laughter, however, was delightful.

They were already there when we arrived and Mom beamed as we walked into the private room, I’d requested. It was bright, filtering in sunshine from the private atrium and we were blissfully alone save for the staff.

“Liam, oh, you did bring Rome…” Mom smiled at him after she pressed a kiss to my cheek. “May I?”

I was ready to intervene, but Rome dipped his head. “One,” was all he said. He’d allow one kiss and for a moment, real joy shone in Mom’s eyes as she pressed a kiss to his cheek.

“Thank you, dear boy.”

He nodded then Mom looked at Emersyn and my hellspawn matched her grin for grin. “Come along with me young lady.” She held out her hand. “You are officially my favorite person.”

“Hey,” I protested as Hellspawn took her hand easily.

“Hush, she made sure I got to see both of you today and that you didn’t find an excuse to duck out. So she is going to sit next to me and we’re going to have a wonderful lunch.”

Dad laughed as Mom tugged Hellspawn away and Rome followed like a magnet. I got it. I wanted to go too. But Dad clasped my shoulder before shaking my hand. “Go with it, son.”

“It’s going to make her happy, isn’t it?”

“It already has. Family, it’s all she’s ever wanted to give you too. A nice, normal family.”

Normal was weird.

Nice…but weird.

©2023 Heather Long

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