Changeling


Page 7


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"You mean you can't afford anything but a dive," I countered. "Sorry, I'm not about to get in the middle of your quarrel. Camille and I both told you this was a stupid idea, but no, you two had to go ahead and take the plunge. Now you've only been there a few days, and you're already whining."


As much as I wanted to be done with this conversation, curiosity got the best of me. "Tell me, Trillian, just how did you get Chase to let you stay with him in the first place?"


I couldn't figure it out. Chase was a smart man who liked his privacy. He wasn't a pushover in any way, and I knew he didn't trust Trillian. How the two ever ended up as roomies-even temporarily-confounded me.


Trillian said nothing, turning to go into the kitchen, but I caught a glint in his eyes. I grabbed hold of his shoulder and spun him around.


"You bewitched him, didn't you? You blasted him with that damned magnetism you Svartans ooze from every pore, and he didn't stand a chance!" Hands on my hips, I leaned down-I was a little taller than him-and let him have it. "That's the most low-down, arrogant trick in the book and-"


"Might I remind you of one thing?" he said mildly, inspecting his fingernails. "Your detective is head over heels because of your half-Fae blood, my dear, so don't even dare try to guilt-trip me. Just what did Camille say when she found out you charmed our illustrious detective?"


Abruptly, I shut my mouth and took a step back. So he'd figured out that I'd turned up my glamour that first night Chase and I'd been alone. And Chase still didn't know about it. I'd been so ashamed afterward about using it on an unsuspecting FBH that I hadn't told Camille. She thought Chase had made the first move, and so did Chase. So did Menolly. And I was determined to keep them all deluded.


Trillian let out a short bark of laughter. "She doesn't know. does she? You didn't tell her that you enchanted lover boy, did you?"


I glared at him. "Chase was bothering Camille, and she wasn't interested in him so I… just-"


"Took him off her hands for her? This is absolutely priceless," he said, grinning from ear to ear. "Come on, pussycat. Let's eat breakfast. You and I are more alike than you'll ever admit. Camille can be ruthless when she chooses, but she's up-front about it. You put on a good front, but behind that facade, you're no meek little puss-in-boots, are you?"


I gritted my teeth and said nothing. Trillian might be an absolute ass, but he called the shots as he saw them. And he saw through me clear as crystal. I'd been interested in Chase, even though I wouldn't admit it, because I was curious about sex and the whole orgasm-with-people thing. He was cute and available. But I knew that he'd go on dogging Camille, even though she didn't want him, so I turned on the charm the first chance I was alone with him. I was as guilty as Trillian was in using my glamour to get what I wanted.


"I didn't tell Camille because…"


"Oh, you don't have to explain your reasons to me. I don't really give a damn. But from now on, maybe you won't fuss about my relationship with Camille or my use of a little bewitchment here and there."


I wanted to wipe that smug look off his face and protest that we were nothing alike. That I would never stoop as low as a Svartan might. But I'd only be lying to myself.


"I didn't even know I was interested in Chase, not until I knew for sure that Camille didn't want him," I said. "I was as surprised as anybody when he actually responded to me."


Trillian stood back to let me by. Shaking my head, I pushed past him into the kitchen, where Iris was fixing pancakes and sausage.


As he swung in behind me, I turned so quickly that he bumped into me. I whispered, "If you have a bone to pick with Chase, do it yourself. But listen and listen good: if you hurt him, I'll sic Menolly on you. She doesn't like you, and she's just waiting for the word. Trust me on that one."


Trillian snorted but said nothing. He pushed into the kitchen and leaned down to plant a kiss on Iris's cheek.


She handed him a plate and motioned to the table. "Fatten yourself up, boy," she said. "Breakfast is ready, and there's more on the griddle."


Trillian settled himself at one end of the table and speared a hotcake with his fork, loading it thickly with butter and honey.


Iris flashed me a wicked grin. She was the only one who could keep him in check. He usually settled down after Iris gave him a direct order. Camille had formulated a theory that Iris must remind Trillian of his mother. I thought that was probably stretching it, but who knew?


I piled a plate high with hotcakes and sausage and poured myself a large glass of milk. Iris looked gratified as I dug into the breakfast. "So, what's on your schedule today?" I asked her.


She flipped the last pancake onto the stack, then unplugged the electric griddle and scrambled up on her barstool. A noise on the stairs told us that Camille was on her way. As she swung around the corner, dressed to kill as usual, a smile broke over her face.


"Food," she said, eyeing the table as she gave Trillian a light kiss. As her lips met his, a flare of sparks showered between them, and for a fleeting moment, I could see the flicker of cords that bound them together.


Iris broke in. "If you'll eat and get out of here, I can get started on cleaning. It's almost Midwinter, and we have to prepare for the holidays."


I glanced at Camille. "Midwinter won't be the same without Father. Should we even bother?"


Camille shrugged. "I thought about just forgetting it this year, but it's tradition, Delilah. Mother would have wanted us to hold Yule, and frankly, I could use a taste of home for the holidays."


Back in Otherworld, on Midwinter's Eve, most of the city showed up at the Erulizi Falls, which poured into Lake Y'Leveshan. The lake and the falls would both be iced over, sparkling like crystal under the snow-showered night. Everyone gathered around the shores for the midnight ritual to celebrate the ascension of the Snow Queen and the Holly King. Magic flowed like honey, and by morning, when the sun rose, the frozen fields would shimmer under the weight of the newly fallen snow.


Our mother had taken Y'Elestrial's traditions and blended them with her own. We not only attended the citywide celebrations but decked our house in holly and evergreens. She'd even convinced Father to bring in a tree every year so we could decorate it with charms and crystals. The house had been so beautiful during those days.


All of a sudden, I wanted nothing less than to re-create the Midwinter festival here in this world that had been forsaken by the gods. "Maybe… maybe we can hold a ritual down by Birchwater Pond?"


Iris glanced at me, a smile crinkling the corners of her mouth. "I think that's a lovely idea," she said. "We'll decorate the house tonight. I'll have everything ready, if you girls trust me."


Camille leaned back against her chair, looking relieved. "Thank you. You're part of our family now, you know."


"Speaking of which, Delilah, do you have time today to stop at the Fairy Tale and pick up my outfit?" Iris glanced up at me . "It's paid for already. Jill called to say it's done."


I nodded. "No problem. I'll have it for you tonight."


Camille glanced at the clock. "Ugh. We'd better get moving. While I'm at work, I'll see what I can find out about Jansshi demons, if anything."


Trillian followed her into the living room, and I tagged along behind. As we slid into our coats and headed for the door, he gave me one last look.


"You'll talk to Chase?" he asked, a look of triumph in his eyes.


I glanced at Camille and sighed. Despite my threat to sic Menolly on him, he had me, and he knew it. "Yeah, when I get the chance."


As we stepped out into the breath-snatching chill of the morning air and headed down the driveway to our cars, I couldn't help but feel vindicated when Trillian slipped on an icy patch of frost-covered leaves and went sprawling at Camille's feet. Snickering, I delicately stepped over him and headed to my Jeep.


The windchill factor had sent the temperature plummeting to below freezing by the time I reached my office. I dropped my purse on the desk and flipped open my Rolodex as I swiveled in my chair to look out the window at the overcast skies. Silver… snow weather, Camille said. She could smell it on the wind, and if there was one thing she knew, it was the scent of lightning, snow, and rain.


I found the name I was looking for and picked up the phone. I knew one well-placed Were who lived in the city. She passed, still hidden in the broom closet, but she had scads of information on the Were community in Seattle. If anybody knew about the Puma Pride Clan, Siobhan would.


I punched in her phone number. Siobhan Morgan was a selkie-a wereseal, and she lived near the Ballard Locks on Thirty-ninth Avenue West in a condo on the shoreline. Near the juncture where Shilshole Bay met Salmon Bay, she was . able to slip down to the water whenever she needed.


Siobhan had a breathy voice and always sounded like she'd just finished working out or running a marathon. "Speak to me," she said.


"Meow."


She laughed. "Delilah, good to hear from you. What's up?"


"I wondered if I could drop by and talk to you about a Were clan out near Mount Rainier. I was hoping you might know something about them." A fly landed on my nose, and I batted it away. Even in the midst of a cold snap in December, our building had flies and rodents and all sorts of delightful beasties.


"Who are we talking about?"


"The Rainier Puma Pride," I said.


After a brief pause, she said, "Yeah, come on over in about ninety minutes, if you would. I know a little about the Puma Pride. A very close-knit bunch. They seem fine by what I know, so far, but there have been rumblings in the Were community. Vague, but you might want to catch up before getting tangled up with them."


I made sure I had her address right, grabbed my coat and purse, and hit the bricks. I'd slip down to Pike Place Market and take care of Iris's errand before heading out to Siobhan's house. As I climbed into my Jeep, I wondered if the rumblings she had spoken of had anything to do with the dead Weres, and if so, just what was going on.


Pike Place Market was jammed with holiday shoppers. A semi-open market that was the pride of Seattle with over two hundred little businesses, a massive number of vendors who rented space by the day, street musicians, mimes, magicians, and a plethora of artists, it reminded Camille and me of home. While Menolly never really got to see it-it usually shut down by the time she was ready to go out-Camille and I loved to come to the market and shop. I just had to make certain to avoid the fish throwers. Way too much temptation there.


I maneuvered my way through the vegetable stalls, sniffing in the scent of fresh herbs-most of the vegetables were out of season-and freshly woven wreaths. As I rounded a corner, three young girls came racing across the wooden floor of the mezzanine, and the youngest, who couldn't have been older than seven, ran smack into me. The girls screeched to a halt. The one who'd plowed into me looked up, and her eyes grew wide as she hurriedly backed up.


"You're one of the Faeries!" she whispered, her voice almost too soft to hear.


I gave her a wink. "Yes, I am. My name's Delilah." I didn't extend my hand; friendliness was too easily misconstrued with Earth children, and I understood why, though it made me sad to think about.


She held her hand to her mouth, her little friends equally in awe. Finally, one, a girl with short red hair and more freckles than bare skin, said, "Hi. My name's Tanya. Are you a Faerie princess? I always wanted to meet a Faerie princess!" She sniffed a red carnation that she was carrying.


Hating to disappoint her, I shook my head. "I'm sorry, Tanya, but I'm not a princess. I'm just a regular old Faerie. Most of us aren't very special."


"You're a bad woman," said the one who'd run into me. "My mommy says that you Faeries are all sluts and that you're the reason Daddy left us."


Oh great gods in heaven. How the hell was I supposed to deal with this? And did the girl really even know what the word slut meant? Hoping she didn't, I let out a long sigh and said, "Some Faeries cause problems, and some don't. Just like people…" I stopped, not sure how to explain what I was trying to say, or if I should even bother trying.


Tanya, the redhead, beamed me a huge smile and turned to her friend. "Janie, it's like the bullies at school. Just 'cause Billy yanked my hair doesn't mean all boys are bad."


"That's right," I said, stopping as a tall, thin woman strode up. Janie, the girl who'd decided I had broken up her home, backed up against her. Mother and daughter, that much was obvious. Her mother looked like she wanted to drown me right then and there.


"Get away from my daughter, you bitch," the woman muttered, just loud enough for me to hear. I glanced at Janie, thinking it was a shame she was going to grow up so angry. How could she help it with a role model like that?


"I didn't mean to interfere-" I started, then shut my mouth. It wouldn't do any good. But as I turned to walk away, Tanya tugged on my jacket. I looked down at her as she handed me the carnation.


"I still think you're a Faerie princess," she whispered.


I winked at her. "Maybe I am, but I'm in disguise, so don't tell anybody, okay?" She giggled and ran off, beaming. I watched her go. So I told a few white lies now and then. What could it hurt, if I could make somebody's dream come true?


The Fairy Tale, a clothing shop, catered to the renaissance crowd, and the owner, Jill Tucker, was an accomplished seamstress. She did a good business in both custom and off-the-rack clothing, and Iris had hired her a couple times over the past few months to make her custom outfits. I leaned on the counter, smiling at the pewter dragons that paraded across the shelf next to the register. Camille should buy one for Smoky, I thought, but then nixed the idea. It would probably seem stupid to someone as old as he was. Hell, he probably had solid gold statues tucked away somewhere in his barrow.

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