Authors: E.J. Stevens
Ceff turned and raised an eyebrow at me as he slid a pile of
seasoned eggs and buttered toast onto a plate.
“What?” I asked, suddenly ravenous.
“You are stubborn,” he marveled.
“Well, yeah, that’s a given,” I said. “Of course I’d try to
find a way out of the bargain if it was nasty enough. I just never thought
she’d ask me to kill someone, least of all Kaye.”
“And if you move against her directly, she has the incubus
as leverage,” he said.
I nodded, shoveling a forkful of food into my mouth.
“Oh yeah, and she said that if I ever harmed one of her
people, she’d torture me for eternity.”
The memory of The Green Lady’s words rang in my ears as if
the glaistig were still in the room. The threat had been clear—mess with the
incubus and die a long, painful death.
“Hmmm…” Ceff mumbled.
Other than the mumbling, Ceff remained silent, but a small
grin tugged at his lips.
“Talk to me, Ceff,” I said. “Give me something to go on,
He leaned back against the far counter, muscular arms across
his chest, legs wide apart.
“I do have a suggestion, but you are not going to like it,”
“Go ahead, shoot,” I said. “I’m fresh out of ideas. At
this point, I’ll take all the advice I can get.”
“I was thinking that the first thing you need to do is find
a way to kill the witch, hence freeing you of the bargain,” he said.
I coughed, choking on a piece of toast.
“Are you nuts?” I asked.
He couldn’t be serious. Could he? Fae morals were
different than the humans ones I’d grown up with, but I’d bet my life that Ceff
wasn’t like that. He’d never put my life before my friend’s lives, would he?
“Wait,” he said. “Hear me out. If you disagree, you can
stab me later.”
Was that a knife in the palm of my hand? Why yes, yes it
was. I pushed the knife back into my sleeve and went back to eating my eggs. Me,
embarrassed of wanting to stab my boyfriend? Nope, not one bit. I was hungry
and there is nothing worse than cold eggs.
“I’m listening,” I said around a mouthful of food.
“You must fulfill the terms of your bargain with The Green
Lady,” he said. He lifted his hands, but let them drop. “The longer you
resist, the weaker you will become. The laws of the fae run within your
blood. You may have more time than most purebloods, but eventually you must
obey or die.”
“Wait, you mean The Green Lady will siphon off my energy
just like her incubus leach is doing to Jinx?” I asked.
I blinked at Ceff and pushed my plate away, suddenly not so
hungry. Going against faerie law was something I hadn’t thought about. I’d
known there were consequences to fighting against the chains of a faerie
bargain, but I hadn’t bothered to ask what those consequences might be.
“It is our way,” he said, looking down at his hands.
“So I have to fulfill my side of the faerie bargain, or I’ll
be no use to anyone,” I said.
“Yes,” he said.
“I have to kill Kaye,” I said. “Mab’s bones, I’d rather die
“Yes, you have to kill Kaye,” he said. He moved across the
kitchen and leaned across the counter, bringing his lips close to my ear to
whisper. “It is a good thing that all death is not permanent.”
I jerked my head back and marveled at the gleam in his eye.
“Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?” I
“You have read Romeo and Juliet, have you not?” he asked.
If the circumstances had been different, I’d have rolled my
eyes. The fae have an unhealthy fascination with The Bard. My mother, while
dating my wisp father, had become a Shakespearephile herself. I’d grown up on
all the classics.
“Yeah,” I said. “So you’re suggesting I convince Kaye to
brew up a sleeping potion that mimics death? Would that even work?”
“Not exactly,” he said. “In this case, the potion would
need to, at least temporarily, kill the witch. She must die in order to
fulfill the terms of your bargain. But there is no rule saying that you are
not allowed to revive her.”
I lifted my hands and pushed away from the counter.
“No way,” I said. “The only necromancers I know are vamps,
and those old dustballs aren’t about to help a witch, especially not one who
used to be chummy with the entire Hunters’ Guild. Plus, I’ve seen what happens
to people who come back from the dead.” I swallowed hard, remembering the way
Stinky’s guts had exploded all over me on a recent trip to vamp headquarters.
There was no way I’d do that to Kaye. “It’s not pretty.”
“No, not necromancy,” he said with a grimace. “I was
thinking of having an antidote prepared, or perhaps one of those lifesaving
machines that restarts the human heart.”
“A cardiac defibrillator?” I asked.
Now that was one crazy plan, but it might just work—if I
could find Kaye and get her to agree to letting me kill her and zap her with
“Kill the witch, fulfill your debt to The Green Lady, and
then bring your friend back to life,” he said.
I licked my lips and fidgeted with my gloves. Kaye forgive
me, but I was considering Ceff’s plan.
“You make it sound so simple,” I said.
“No, not simple,” he said. “Elegant.”
“Damn, you sound like Forneus,” I snorted. “You guys and
your elegant plans. I’d rather go in there blades flashing.”
Which reminded me, I needed to check in with the demon. I
should have heard from him by now.
“If you meet The Green Lady head on, you will die,” Ceff
“Yeah, there is that,” I said. “But I’m still not sure how
this helps us save Jinx. I mean, being free of the bargain is great and all,
but if The Green Lady discovers that I’ve found a way around it, then what’s to
keep her from trying to worm her way out of fulfilling her side of things? If
her incubus doesn’t willingly release control of Jinx, our only option will be
to kill him. And if The Green Lady finds a way to weasel out of our deal, I’m
sure she’ll have her incubus’ ass protected night and day.”
“Do not let the glaistig know that she is being bamboozled,”
he said. “Keep Kaye’s resurrection a secret long enough to find a way to break
the incubus’ hold on Jinx.”
“You really think that’s possible?” I asked.
He nodded, eyes beginning to glow green.
“You encompass the best qualities of both fae and human,” he
said. “You are clever, strong, stubborn, and unpredictable.”
It was a strange compliment, especially coming from one’s
boyfriend, but his words gave me the kick in the pants that I needed. I lifted
my chin and let out a throaty laugh.
“The Green Lady will never know what hit her,” I said.
ur plan had
sounded good in theory, but it would only work if I could convince Kaye to let
me kill her. That was kind of difficult considering the fact that at the
moment, I had no idea where she was. I stared at my reflection in the bathroom
mirror and frowned.
“This is a shitty plan,” I muttered.
I shook my head and splashed water on my face, careful not
to disturb any of Jinx’s things. Cherry red lipstick and a box of tissues sat
precariously on the edge of the sink. Like Jinx herself, her things were
poised to fall—and if I failed The Green Lady, I wasn’t sure who’d be here to
pick up the pieces.
I toweled off my face and sighed, but it came out like a
strangled hiccup. Maybe coming back to the apartment had been a mistake.
Seeing Jinx’s things made me miss her all the more. But I hadn’t expected to
find so many traces of her here in the bathroom. My eyes blurred as I looked
at the cherry red lipstick. My roommate was usually so careful not to leave
her things lying around, just in case they gave me an unwanted vision. But
this morning had been different—way different, and not in a good way.
Just this morning, Jinx had looked at her reflection in this
very mirror, struggling to see the glowing marks on her skin through unshed
tears. She’d tried to put on her lipstick, like it was a normal day, like
nothing was wrong. And when the realization hit that she was in deep shit,
she’d reached for the box of tissues—and cried out for help.
She’d called my name, believing that I could fix this. I
couldn’t let her down.
I pulled my hair back into a ponytail, securing it with an
elastic band, and twisted it into a tight bun. I slid four wooden stakes and
four silver pins into the bun, helping to secure it. Keeping my hair out of an
opponent’s grasp was prudent, and if someone did try to grab it, they’d get a
I continued to weapon up, sliding blades, stakes, crosses,
and small charms into sheaths, boots, and pockets. What was it that Jenna
liked to say? Oh yeah, “keep your enemies close and your weapons closer.” It
was good advice. I just wished she was here to join in the fight.
And it would be a fight, in the end. There was something on
the wind, a promise of blood that lingered in the smoky air. In order for our
plan to work, I’d have to find a way to get to The Green Lady’s incubus and
break his connection to Jinx. Double-crossing a faerie queen and messing with
one her loyal subjects? That promised a fight.
But first I needed to find Kaye.
“You look beautiful, and deadly,” Ceff said.
He was leaning in the open doorway, looking me up and down.
“Um, thanks,” I said. “That’s the idea. The deadly part,
that is. Think the glaistig will be shakin’ in her boots?”
He nodded. Right, it’s hard for the pureblood fae to tell
an outright lie. Ceff was trying to make me feel better, but telling me The
Green Lady would tremble in fear at the sight of a half-breed with a few trinkets
was probably asking too much of the guy.
I pushed away from the sink and he moved out of my way,
smart man. Grabbing the last of my things, I took one final look around the
apartment. The handwoven tapestry on one wall, the ticking Felix-the-Cat clock
over the kitchen sink, and the old comfy couch suddenly looked drab and worn
like someone had sucked the life out of the entire loft and its furnishings.
This place would never be the same without Jinx. If I couldn’t save her, I
might as well not come back.
“You will save her,” he said.
He came to stand beside me. Not close enough to trigger a
vision, but within reach if I desired it. Ceff was a steadying presence and I
nodded curtly. When we cleared the front door, I said a silent prayer as I reset
the protection wards that only allowed Jinx or me to enter. I just hoped that
one of us would be coming back.
Crap. That was the problem with living over your business.
It made it way too easy to be found. Just wait long enough and I’d turn up.
I’d have to remember that the next time I needed to dodge potential clients and
deadly enemies. This one, thankfully, looked like the former.
I turned to see a short, heavyset man standing in front of
my office. I focused on him with my second sight, but he looked much the same
either way; a stout man in a pinstripe suit, watch fob and all. He could have
been a vertically challenged human, but I was guessing dwarf.
Though what a dwarf would want with me was anyone’s guess.
There weren’t many in the area. Dwarves were miners and we were at sea level
without a mountain in sight. A few had excavated The Hill centuries ago, but
word on the street was that they’d all cleared out when the vamps moved to town
and took over the underground chambers for their own headquarters.
I studied the dwarf, wondering what could have brought him
to the city and onto my doorstep. He held an old, bowler hat to his chest,
exposing the top of his head—which appeared to be the one spot on his body not
covered in shaggy hair. His beard, which covered most of his face, was split
down the middle and braided into two plaits that brushed the top of his large
He turned the hat in a circle with his stubby fingers and
looked pleadingly up at me. I hated it when they did that. I was no good at
this sort of thing, which is why Jinx dealt with our clients. But she wasn’t
here to run interference, not today, maybe not ever again.
I bit my cheek and gave myself a mental kick in the pants. Being
depressed about Jinx wouldn’t do my friend any good. I had to think positive,
and if Jinx were here, she’d want me to be nice to the potential client.
Whoever, or whatever, he was.
“Yeah, um, that’s me,” I said with a shrug. I hoped that
owning up to my name hadn’t just painted a big target on my chest, but then
again, this guy would be hard put to reach that high to stab me. Of course, he
could have a gun in that fancy hat…or rabid ferrets or something. With the
fae, you never know. “But the office is closed today—family emergency.”
It wasn’t a lie exactly. For the longest time, Jinx had
been the closest thing I had to family. My wisp blood didn’t react—it was
close enough to the truth.
“M’lady, I am Benmore, leader of the dwarves of Harborsmouth,”
he said. “I bear a missive from the vampire master of the city.”
He lowered his hat in one hand, the other hand reaching
inside his pinstripe vest. With a flick of my wrist, a throwing knife hit my
palm, ready to throw if necessary. Better to be paranoid than dead.
Apparently, Ceff was thinking the same thing. He held his telescoping trident
in both hands, ready for a fight.
The dwarf’s eyes widened—at least I think they widened,
since they became much more visible in his hairy face—and he froze.
“Would you prefer to retrieve the missive yourself, M’lady Wisp?”