Authors: E.J. Stevens
I held my breath, and tried to calm down. If I started
glowing, I wouldn’t be doing anybody any good. I’d either be recognized as too
weak to control my powers or viewed as a potential threat.
“Death would be instantaneous upon completion,” she said,
gaze flicking upward as if exasperated by my line of questioning.
Relief hit me and I let out a nervous laugh that earned a
look of pure scorn. God, this entire line of questioning was awkward. When I
imagined my next conversation with the faerie queen, it sure as hell hadn’t
involved discussing incubus sex. I felt like a kid sitting in Incubus Sex 101
class. The urge to shoot spitballs at The Green Lady almost made me laugh again.
Yeah, that would be a sure way to get on her bad side. If I spit anything at
the glaistig, I’m pretty sure I’d be facing far worse than detention.
“And if an incubus and human only got as far as kissing?” I
The faerie gave me a knowing smile and I wondered again what
game she was playing at. She was answering my questions, but I could swear
that she was holding something back.
“There would be an energy exchange, of course, which would
immediately begin to weaken the human,” she said. “A link is formed that ensures
continued feeding until the human dies or the link is broken. Though it is
rare that an incubus does not proceed to sex and complete the consumption of
the vessel’s energy.”
That sounded a lot like what Kaye suspected had happened. But
why had the incubus stopped? I mean, I was glad he had, or my friend would
already be dead. But if the guy was facing an all-you-can-eat buffet, why
settle for an appetizer?
“You said it’s rare for an incubus to stop feeding, once he’s
started,” I said. “So, what would keep an incubus from continuing on with
sex. It would be against his nature to stop, right?”
“There are reasons,” she said slyly. “He could already be
well sated…or his queen may have asked him to stop.”
It took a second for her words to sink in, but when they did
my skin began to glow. Let them think I was doing it intentionally. I didn’t
I was pissed.
“You’re the one behind the attack on Jinx?” I asked.
I held the glaistig’s gaze, but I could feel her guards closing
in. I didn’t have enough blades to fight them all—there were too damn many—but
the bitch would pay. She might survive this moment, but someday soon she would
The Green Lady’s tinkling laughter filled the pavilion and I
held myself rigid. It was all I could do to restrain myself from lunging
forward and shoving a blade down her throat. But first, I wanted answers.
“I sent my messenger to your vassal to ensure your timely
arrival,” she said.
Leather creaked as my hands tightened into fists.
“Jinx is human,” I said through clenched teeth. “She never
stood a chance against your incubus.”
“It was a necessary means to an end,” she said with a
shrug. “You are here and our deal has been made. So far you have done
everything I expected of you.”
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I’d become
predictable. The faerie bitch had found my weakness and used it against me.
Jinx was in this mess because of deals I’d made.
She was dying because of me.
I’d known there were risks involved when I’d made those
bargains, but I’d been foolish and naïve enough to think the danger was only to
me. Now Jinx was paying the price for my stupidity.
“I may be bound by our bargain, but next time you deal
directly with me,” I said.
“You are in no position to give me orders, little wisp,” she
said. “My incubus continues to feed from your human friend. If you do not do
as I say, and pay your debt to me, then she will die.”
The Green Lady had me exactly where she wanted me. I
seethed with anger at how easily I’d become ensnared by her web of
manipulation. Getting me here to help her with this job had been the
glaistig’s plan all along. I’d been played, plain and simple.
“So what’s the job?” I asked.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I was good at finding lost
items and missing people, and I wasn’t half bad at the odd extermination gig.
Perhaps the carnival had a rodent problem. The harbor was infested with the
“I want you to kill the witch Kaye O’Shay,” she said.
aye had been
right about one thing, there was certainly a shit-storm on the horizon. But I
didn’t think this was the war she’d been talking about.
The Green Lady’s guards escorted me to the carnival gates,
never giving me a chance to rendezvous with Delilah. The succubus made my skin
crawl, but I’d been holding out hope that she could somehow help me make
contact with the incubus who was feeding off Jinx.
I pulled out my phone and texted Forneus, updating him
regarding The Green Lady’s involvement. That done, I stared back at the
carnival gates and ground my teeth in frustration. Unbeknownst to the
frolicking humans, dozens of heavily armed fae watched my retreat. I wouldn’t
be making it back inside the carnival until I’d fulfilled my end of the
bargain—and killed the most powerful witch in the city, an ally and a good
It was weird thinking of Kaye as my friend. She’d filled the
role of informant and mentor, helping me out of more than one jam, but at the
end of the day that’s what she was, a friend. How could I possibly kill one
friend to save another?
The fact was, I couldn’t. I’d rather cast myself into one
of the buildings burning by the harbor than harm the old witch. I’d just have
to find another way to save Jinx. When that was done, I wasn’t sure what I could
do. I was bound to the deal I’d made with The Green Lady. That was the danger
of a faerie bargain.
I turned my back on the carnival and hunched my shoulders
against the itchy feeling between my shoulder blades. Shoving my gloved hands
in my pockets, I trudged past the smoking wreckage left from this morning’s
fires and made my way back toward The Emporium.
My gut churned as I pushed forward, pumping my legs to carry
me up the hill. I was headed toward two of my friends. Too bad one was my
t was still
light out when I reached The Emporium, but a “sorry, we’re closed” sign hung in
the front window. I tried the door, but it was locked. Weird, Kaye didn’t
usually close the store this early in the day.
I sighed and tilted my head back, trying to catch a glimpse
of Humphrey. I hoped that Kaye and Arachne had closed up shop early in order
to focus on curing Jinx. I didn’t think I could handle another problem on my
I caught sight of the gargoyle on his rainspout perch and
waved. I heard the snick of stone claws against the brick wall and knew I’d
caught his attention, but he was taking his time, eyes intent on a pigeon
flying nearby. While I waited for Humphrey, the pungent smell of burnt garbage
tickled the back of my throat and I scanned the street. There, beside a
wrought iron lamppost, smoke drifted from a city trash bin.
The fire had been extinguished, fire retardant foam spilling
over onto the sidewalk, but my heart raced as if the entire street was in flames.
I prayed the fire had been set by bored teenagers, but something told me this
wasn’t the result of human pranksters. Not with those fires at the harbor
being set on the same day. That was too much of a coincidence, and I didn’t
put much faith in coincidences—they tended to be Fate’s way of smacking you upside
the head with a wake-up call.
“Hello, Wisp Princess,” Humphrey said, gravelly voice
grinding out the words.
“Hey Humphrey,” I said. “Mind letting me in?”
The gargoyle stared at me so long that I thought he’d fallen
asleep. Just when I was ready to try to rouse him, he lifted a clawed hand and
the door clicked open.
“Um, thanks,” I said. “Rock on, Humphrey.”
Okay, my attempts at gargoyle humor were lame, but I’d cling
to anything that resembled normalcy in my chaotic life. Plus, Humphrey seemed
to get a kick out of it. He chuckled and waved before turning and climbing
back up to his perch.
I walked inside, locking the door behind me. No one was at
the counter, but with the shop closed for the day that was no surprise. Heck,
half the time Kaye just used her magic to mind the store. It’s not like a
person could steal anything. The place was warded against theft and Kaye had
more than one nasty spell in place to keep her customers in line—and keep
herself amused. If someone ever came in with the intent to rob the place,
they’d be in for a world of hurt.
Not that I really wanted to think about how powerful and
temperamental the witch was. I was, after all, the sucker who’d been sent to
take her life. Mab’s bones, how had I ended up a faerie’s freakin’ hitman? My
life was seriously screwed up.
“Kaye?” I called out. “You in here?”
I made my way to the back of the occult shop. I gave the
witch’s black cat a two fingered salute as I unlocked the hinge on the rear
display case, but still no sign of Kaye. Heart in my throat, I reached the
hallway marked “employees only” and took a deep breath.
“First things first,” I muttered to myself.
I’d check on how Jinx was doing and then face the reality of
my misguided faerie bargain. I gave a quick rap on the door and gingerly
pushed it open.
Someone was inside the spell circle, hovering over Jinx’s
prone form, but it wasn’t Kaye. Judging from the purple hair, Arachne was the
one with Jinx. Had Kaye retreated to her office to consult one of the many books
in her arcane library?
I hesitated, wavering between the urge to see Jinx and the
need to consult with Kaye. My ties to the sleeping rockabilly beauty won out.
I walked toward the spell circle, careful not to touch the ring of silver that
was set deep into the floor.
Disrupting a witch’s circle while she worked was never a
good idea. Circles were built as a means of protection for when a witch was at
their most vulnerable. It made sense. It also meant that if my boot scraped
the ring of silver from this side of the circle, I’d probably end up the way I
liked my vampires—extra crispy.
This spell circle kept both bad things out and the nasty
effects of miscast spells in. If Kaye or Arachne blew something up, it would
only destroy the area of the kitchen within the spell circle. Watching my
friend lying there defenseless didn’t make that particular piece of knowledge
all that comforting.
“Arachne?” I whispered. “It’s me, Ivy. Got a minute?”
I kept my voice low. If the young witch-in-training was
deep in a casting, I didn’t want to disturb her. I also didn’t want to startle
her into thinking I was a threat. It was a bit like talking to a bugbear
cub—“hey, kiddo, please don’t eat my face off”—except with a witch I could end
up like that guy from the Indiana Jones movie who opened the Ark. I really
didn’t want to be turned into a pair of eyeballs in a pile of melted skin.
Arachne’s eyes flew open, gaze unfocused. I waited, giving
her a moment to ground herself. She blinked rapidly and turned toward me, an
embarrassed flush to her cheeks.
“Hey, Ivy,” she said. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “Where’s Kaye?”
“I don’t know, she just said it was important and took off,”
she said, frowning. “She’s been going out a lot lately, but she never tells me
why or for how long.”
Sneaking off to consult her Hunters’ Guild friends perhaps?
Kaye was embroiled in some kind of battle preparations while I still had no
idea what kind of war was coming. Did it have anything to do with the
glaistig’s request for me to kill the witch? I didn’t like that line of
thought, not one bit.
“Don’t worry, Ivy, I can do this,” Arachne said, misreading
My attention returned to the teenager standing there,
hovering over Jinx. Arachne chewed on a piece of purple hair while she shifted
side to side in her matching Chuck Taylors.
“Wait,” I said, the reality of the situation making tingles
of anxiety dance along my skin. “You’re in charge of watching Jinx?”
No offense to the kid, but her cauldron still had training
“I’ve learned a lot and, unlike Kaye, I actually like Jinx,”
she said, pushing her hair behind her ear. “I want to see her get better.”
I suppose, put like that, she had a point.
I turned my attention to Jinx, though still careful not to
disturb the spell circle.
“How’s she doing?” I asked.
“The same,” she said, frowning.
“And that means…?” I asked.
“She’s, like, stuck, you know?” she asked, lifting her hands
“If I understood any of this, I wouldn’t be asking,” I said.
I tried to soften my expression, but my voice was hard. The
kid was trying, I’d give her that.
“Okay, it’s like this incubus, or whatever, cast a spell on
Jinx,” she said. “Except, it’s not like witch magic, so we can’t just create
some counter spell to fix her. Faerie magic is complicated, like algebra
complicated, so the best we can do right now is keep her stable.”
“Hence the circle?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “Think of it like a force field. It’s
like Jinx is superman and the connection to the incubus is kryptonite. The
spell circle keeps her from getting any weaker, but she’s already been drained
of a lot of energy.”
“And the second she steps outside that circle, she dies,
right?” I said, swallowing hard. “Kaye didn’t just put her under a sleeping
spell to get better, did she? It’s to keep her from doing something
stupid—like trying to leave the circle.”