Exclusive Excerpt from Hex in High Heels by Linda Wisdom
This chapter from Hex in High Heels will introduce you to Jake’s mother and the elves that come into town and appear to turn Blair’s life upside down even more. This was one of those fun chapters to write since the elves are way off the wall. And you’ll see why. I hope you enjoy it!
“Wow, talk about going from a total high to a total downer,” Stasi said. Getting her boutique ready for the week ahead, she opened the armoire doors and hung up delicate camisoles in winter colors of ice blue, silver, and white. Once they were displayed to her satisfaction, she scattered vanilla and lavender scented sachets across the bottom, giving the armoire a delicate and delicious scent. “This Vera sounds downright nasty. I’m scared to death of meeting Trev’s mother, although he says she’s wonderful. She sure doesn’t sound as intimidating or nasty as Jake’s mother. I didn’t believe what Trev told me, because he’s perfectly capable of lying so I wouldn’t stress out over meeting her. But I do believe what Mae told me. She said his parents had one of the most civilized divorces in history, and that all Trev’s mother wants is for him to be happy.” She smiled with fondness at the thought of Trev’s assistant, who enjoyed instilling fear into the young legal associates she felt obligated to train; but she had already shown she had a warm spot for Stasi.
“Well, I don’t think Jake ever went to his mom for comfort after he had a nightmare. That bitch of a Were is more the type to case one.” Blair flicked the top of Horace’s head with her fingertip when he twisted around in a vain attempt to look up her sweater as she sat on the counter. The disgruntled gargoyle grumbled his way back to the opposite corner of the counter. “New sachets?”
“None of these have even a hint of a spell in them,” Stasi said, picking up a blue silk rose sachet and waving it back and forth to release the calming scent of lavender and vanilla. “Bespelled sachets are a thing of the past for me now, even if I do have a capable attorney on retainer.”
Blair hopped off the counter and wandered around, picking up a book here and there. “50 Ways to Hex Your Lover,” she chuckled. “Isn’t that the title of the spell book Jazz was late returning to The Library?”
“Yes, but this is fiction. I still wasn’t going to put the book out until after she left. It’s still a sore point with her. It’s a cute book, though.” Stasi carefully wrapped a narrow white and silver garland around a basket handle. She glanced down at Blair’s ankles. The blue topaz in her broom charm winked in the light while Fluff and Puff grinned at her from their spot on her other ankle. “Jazz is well and truly gone on what’s probably the river rafting trip from Hades, guys. There’s no reason for you to continue to torment Blair. She can’t send you back.”
“Wanna bet?” Bair mumbled.
Fluff rattled away while Puff just yawned.
“Wouldn’t you know they’d think being a tattoo is more fun? Although they weren’t happy when we covered them up last night. There are just some things they don’t need to see.” She looked down at the sound of the protests. “Hey, I don’t care what goes on with Jazz, and I sincerely doubt you’re allowed to do any peeking when she’s alone with Nick. Right now you’re with me and as long as you insist on staying with me, you’ll follow my rules. If you don’t like it I’ll find a way to zap you two right back to Jazz and that raft.”
Fluff and Puff erupted in protests.
“Oooh, tough witch,” Stasi teased. “As if Jazz would allow herself to be found right now. So, on a scale of one to ten, where does Jake rate?”
Blair’s grin split her face.
Stasi broke out laughing. “Okay, off the charts. I get it. At least his dog self already knows you snore.”
“You do, Blair,” Horace added. “But they’re cute girly snores. Not train whistles, or anything.”
“If Blair would hang me in her bedroom once in awhile, I could offer up my opinion, too,” Felix called out from Blair’s shop.
“And that’s why I don’t.” Blair frowned in response to a rumbling sound in the street as a flash of color went by the shop window. She walked to the front of the store and looked out. “Wow, there’s an RV that’s seen a lot of country and looks it. Yeesh! It looks like someone barfed all over it.”
Stasi followed her to the window and looked out. She grimaced at the vivid greenish-yellow vehicle parked in front, effectively taking up several parking spaces. “Uh, Blair? Why doesn’t this look good? And I don’t just mean the RV, either.”
Blair experienced the same really bad feeling. She wasted no time running for the door. “Oh no! Because it’s not, and it’s all Agnes’s fault!”
High-pitched chattering voices could be heard as the RV’s door opened and a stream of men, none of them over three feet tall, poured out of the vehicle.
Blair hissed a curse when she saw the sign Elves 4 Your Party painted on the RV’s door.
“Agnes will have a stroke,” she muttered, practically running to the RV. “Hold up!” She held up her hands to stop them. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to go up to Snow Farms Resort, where you’ll be staying while you work at the carnival.”
“Hey, toots.” A bearded elf smoking a large cigar that smelled like something out of a dung heap ambled up and winked at her. He wore a wrinkled t-shirt carrying unidentifiable stains, one of them moving, and dirty jeans that hung at his hips and revealed eye-bleeding red boxers. She tried not to stare at something that seemed to be crawling along the point of one of his ears. “No one told us witches lived around here. Good to see ya.” He glanced down at her ankle where Fluff and Puff gnashed their teeth. “Wicked cool tat. Who inked it for ya?”
“Hey!” Stasi clapped her hands on her rear and spun around to glare at another elf who was grinning broadly. “You pinch me again, you little pervert, and you’ll find yourself stuffed face first down a reindeer’s butt!” Sparks flew out of the finger she pointed at her attacker.
“Oooh, I like ’em when they talk dirty.” He pursed his lips at her in a parody of a kiss that had Blair and Stasi gagging. “Hey, baby, whatcha doin’ tonight? I got me a private bunk.”
Blair pointed at the one she took to be the leader. “You do not move one inch.”
“I want you to remember this moment the next time you call me gross,” Horace grumbled from just inside the shop door. He waved his claws to keep the cigar smoke away.
Blair pulled her cell phone out of her pants pocket and quickly punched in Agnes’s number. “Agnes, you need to get over here right away,” she ordered without bothering with a polite greeting and hanging up without saying good-bye. This was no time for proper etiquette. She sensed the situation wasn’t going to improve once the mayor’s wife got a look at the creatures that passed for the cute and smiling elves she thought she’d hired for the carnival.
“So, babe, whaddya do for fun around here?” Another elf with a fuzzy beard belched loudly as he lifted his beer can. He drank deeply then crushed the aluminum container against his forehead and dropped it on the sidewalk.
Blair closed off her nostrils to keep out the alcoholic fumes. She flicked her fingers at the flattened can and it immediately flew back up, smacked the elf in the face, and dropped into his hand.
“Okay, okay, I get the idea,” he mumbled, tossing the can over his shoulder to land on the RV steps.
Blair narrowed her eyes at him. “One of my favorite computer games is Elf Bowling. Now I know why.”
She was never so thankful the town wasn’t all that big, because it wasn’t long before Agnes’s navy Lincoln Continental rolled down the street and parked behind the RV. She climbed out of her car and tottered over on high heels.
“What is going on?” she asked, staring at the bus and its inhabitants in horror. She took several steps back as a couple of them advanced toward her. “And what are… they?” She clutched her handbag to her chest.
“They are the elves you hired through Mickey Boggs,” Blair informed her, wrinkling her nose against the beauty shop vapors that rolled off Agnes’s obviously recently permed hair. Great, first the beer fumes, now hair salon chemicals.
Agnes reached inside her tote bag and pulled out a pair of glasses, perching them on her nose. One look showed her that nothing had changed as one elf leered at her while another idly scratched his butt.
“These aren’t elves,” she proclaimed, waving her hand in front of her face as if to stave off the stench of beer and body odor. “I don’t know what they are, but they’re certainly not the cute Santa-type elves Mr. Boggs assured me we’d receive.” She started to take a deep breath and immediately realized it wasn’t a good idea. She pinched her nostrils shut. “They’ll just have to go back and I will demand an immediate refund of my deposit. This is unacceptable.”
“Who’s the broad?” the head elf asked Blair, crooking his thumb at Agnes.
“The broad is Mrs. Pierce, the mayor’s wife, and the one who contracted with Mickey for your services,” Blair explained, keeping a safe distance from the drunken elves who were still climbing out of the RV and making a wide circle around her. Considering most of them were only in sleeveless undershirts or, Fates preserve her, no shirt at all, she was amazed they weren’t freezing in the cold winter air. Of course that was unlikely, given the high alcohol content that had to be coursing through their veins. “Except you guys are not what Mickey said he was sending her. Tell me something, have any of you ever worked for Santa?” She sincerely doubted it, but she wanted to give it a shot. “Do you understand what that kind of elf gig involves?”
“That piker?” He snorted. “No elf in his right mind wants to work for him. Trust me, he’s not as jolly and ho-ho-ho as everyone thinks he is. And he pays shit for all that he wants us to do up there. Do you know he won’t even put central heat in the workshop? The Elves’ Union said we didn’t have a proper grievance against him, so we gave him and the Union the finger and struck out on our own. Mickey took us on and he gets us pretty decent gigs.” He peered at Agnes, who rapidly backed up, then he turned back to Blair. “I’ll stay with you, sweetcakes. I hope you got a big bed. I like lots of room.” He grinned, sidling up to her.
“Do not even think it.” Blair let him see just enough of the power radiating from her to warn him not to try anything. Stasi went a step further and zapped the one who’d goosed her. “Besides, you’re supposed to stay up at Snow Farms.” The idea of the grungy elves staying at the exclusive resort was enough to bring a smile to Blair’s face. Since Roan Thorpe had persuaded Agnes to have elves at the carnival, he could just deal with them.
He continued to stare at Blair’s breasts until she zapped him between the eyes. “Okay, I get it. Don’t ogle the boobs,” he sighed. He gestured toward Agnes as he idly dug his finger in his ear. He pulled out the digit, inspected something wiggling on the end of his fingertip, and scrubbed it off on his grungy pants. Agnes almost fainted. “So she’s the one in charge and not the dude up at Snow Farms?”
“She’s the one paying the bill.”
“Oh no, I am not! I will not pay for these… these…” For once words failed the woman as she fanned her face with her handbag.
“Alberic,” he told her. “The name’s Alberic.”
“And I’m Elrohir.” An elf with green-stained teeth that matched the wispy hair sticking out on his head in all directions grinned up at Agnes. His eyes, a brilliant amber, glowed as he studied Agnes the way a PMSing woman looked at a hot fudge sundae. “You know what they say about good things coming in small packages, baby? That’s me.”
“This is so wrong,” Agnes wailed as Stasi took charge and guided the nearly hysterical woman into her shop.
“You,” Blair pointed at Alberic, “come with me. The rest of you go back inside your RV and stay there.” She speared Alberic with a look that said it all. “And don’t you dare touch a thing.” She waited until he moved to enter Stasi’s shop ahead of her. No way she’d have him walking behind her!
Alberic groaned his disappointment as he sauntered inside.
“Blair, is there a problem?” Cliff, who owned Sam’s Dry Cleaners, called from across the street. He eyed the RV and its residents with a wary eye.
“All taken care of, Cliff. Thanks!” Blair called back with a confidence she didn’t feel. She flashed him a smile and walked inside the shop, where she heard Stasi’s soothing tones, Agnes’s shrill ones, and Alberic arguing with Horace. “Absolutely not!” Agnes was railing at Alberic. “We cannot allow things like you around small children who could be corrupted just by looking at you! Mr. Boggs will just have to give the deposit back, and we will not pay him another penny. This is fraud! You are not the cute elves I ordered!”
Blair sighed as she saw the arrogant stance Agnes took when she felt she was in the right. A posture that meant nothing would move her.
“Lady, I don’t give a diddlysquat what you say. Mickey negotiated our contract and that means we get paid, along with having our food provided for us and a place to park our RV. We haven’t had a gig in some time, so there’s no way you’re going to back out of this one. You should be grateful you don’t have to house us, too.” He gestured toward the street where the RV was now rocking with the hip-hop sounds of Trick Trick in gloriously explicit stereo sound.
“I am sure they have all the food you will require at the resort along with a large parking area to hold that thing out there.” Agnes did her best to stare him down.
“Yeah, well, that’s why we’re down here. I drove up to that hotel first. Thorpe took one look at us and said there was no way we he’d allow us to sully,” —he made quotation marks with his fingers—“his precious resort. He said it was better if we stayed down here, since the carnival was held down here around some lake. When I started to point out the terms of the contract, he said we had two minutes to leave before he set the dogs on us.” He shot Blair a telling look.
“I didn’t know they had guard dogs up there,” Agnes wheezed.
She breathed through her nose and swung around, grasping Blair with one hand and Stasi with the other, pulling them into Stasi’s stockroom.
“Do something,” she ordered under her breath, turning toward Stasi. “Your boyfriend is a famous attorney. Can’t he help? He said he was a wizard, so wouldn’t he know what to do with elves and a contract I refuse to honor?”
“Stasi and I talked to Trev the minute you told us you hired them through Mickey,” Blair told her. “He said there’s no way to get out of a contract drafted by Mickey Boggs. His paperwork is as ironclad as a contract can be.”
“But those creatures out there aren’t elves!” the woman wailed.
“But they are,” Blair said gently, feeling sorry for her. After all, she was a human and had no idea what trouble can be brewed if you worked with the wrong members of the preternatural community. “True, they aren’t the storybook elves you hoped for and I’m sure you even asked Mickey for that kind of elf. But the creatures out there are actual elves. You contracted with Mickey for elves, and that’s exactly what you got.”
Agnes sighed. “There must be something we can do. We can’t have them running around town. What if we appeal to Mr. Boggs?” She turned to Blair with a clear “by we I mean you appealing to Mickey Boggs” look. “Surely he would understand the worries we have about this… wouldn’t he?”
“Mickey understands money and that’s all he understands,” Blair told her. “What if we ask Grady if they could park on that empty lot out behind his restaurant?” she suggested. “It’s plenty big enough for the RV and far enough off the road that they’d be out of public view.”
“I don’t want them here at all!” Agnes groaned. “You saw those little men. They’re disgusting!”
“We’ll tell them they have to bathe, wear appropriate clothing, and behave,” Blair assured her, fighting down an irrational fear that her idea might not work out, because their luck wasn’t going that way lately.
“You gonna be back there much longer?” Alberic called out. “I gotta take a dump.”
Agnes’s eyelids fluttered and she started to tip to the side.
“Breathe, Agnes, just breathe,” Stasi ordered, looking around and finding a paper bag, which she fitted over Agnes’s nose and mouth.
“Floyd won’t be re-elected after this,” she moaned into the bag. “Roan couldn’t have known Mickey Boggs would send up such horrible creatures.”
Blair walked out to the shop and immediately zapped Alberic, who had started to finger a pair of lace thong panties.
“They’re for my girlfriend!” he protested. “I’ll pay for ’em.”
Stasi sighed, walking in behind Blair. “Just take them, but nothing else.”
Blair wasted no time in calling Grady, who was willing to allow the RV to park there even after she tried to explain the elves wouldn’t be what he’d expect. He was used to Agnes’s schemes sometimes going haywire, and he seemed to understand the need to get the elves out of sight fast. She quickly ushered Alberic outside and toward the RV, giving the head elf quick directions to Grady’s BBQ Pit. She just knew the elderly man wouldn’t be happy once he saw what she couldn’t adequately describe, but she couldn’t think of any other place where there was enough room to park the RV and keep it out of public view. “Do not go near the restaurant until we come down there, and do us all a favor—think about all of you taking baths and putting on clean clothes.”
She waited on the sidewalk, watching the smoking vehicle lumber its way down the street and turn up the road toward Grady’s.
“I was hoping for all these cute little elves in a wonderland setting,” Agnes sighed. “Little red and green outfits, with the hats and bells and curled toe slippers.”
“It’s not Christmas, Agnes. It’s a February winter wonderland. We would have been better off with penguins,” Blair said then quickly added, “Toy ones, not real.”
“We’re going to need someone to keep them in line,” Stasi brought up.
“I know the perfect candidate for herding a bunch of unruly elves; too bad he’s probably visiting his mom at the moment,” Blair said, wishing she was a fly on the wall for that meeting, but shape-shifting wasn’t one of her skills. Plus, with her luck, Vera would be carrying a can of Raid and wouldn’t be afraid to use it.
Agnes fingered her handbag and seemed to have recovered her composure. “Stasi, dear, do you have any more of those French corsets you showed me a few weeks ago?” she whispered. “Perhaps red or purple? Floyd so enjoyed what I purchased, that I thought I’d pick up a few more.”
“I’m outta here.” Horace hopped off the counter and disappeared into Blair’s shop.
Jake left his truck in the care of a parking valet whose jacket bore the name Snow Farms Resort embroidered in dark green on the front pocket. The young man refused the money Jake held out.
“We’re not allowed to accept tips from Pack members, Mr. Harrison.”
Jake’s grin showed a lot of teeth as he tucked the bills into the man’s pocket. “Good thing I’m not family, then.” He headed up the steps to the lobby and crossed the marble floor toward the front desk.
A clerk spied him and immediately picked up a phone and spoke quietly into it.
“Your mother is in the Crystal Room having her tea, Mr. Harrison,” she told him before he could say a word. “She would like you to join her there.”
“I guess it’s too early for a drink,” he muttered, thinking a couple of shots of JD would go down very well right about now, but he’d settle for a strong infusion of caffeine.
He followed the clerk’s directions to a large lounge that offered a few tables and a bar along one end. He ignored his mother seated at a table by the window, and paused long enough at the bar to request a cup of coffee before heading her way.
“Vera.” He accorded her the barest of nods, hating himself for waiting until she gestured for him to be seated. He told himself it was only good manners and not his bowing to the Alpha female.
She gazed at his worn jeans, work boots, and navy t-shirt topped with an open navy and green plaid flannel shirt.
“I would have thought you would dress appropriately for this visit,” she murmured, picking up the china teapot and starting to pour the contents into a second delicate cup.
“I’m dressed appropriately for my work. And no tea for me, thanks.” He glanced up with gratitude when a waitress left the coffee in front of him. He wished he’d asked the bartender to add a shot of Jack Daniels to it after all. “So when did you move up the food chain to become Baxter’s mate? And what happened to Suzanne?” He mentioned the Alpha female he’d known as the Alpha’s mate.
Vera fingered the oval pendant she wore; it featured a gold wolf’s head with dark emeralds for eyes. He knew the Pack leader wore a larger version but with black diamonds for the eyes. The pendants were passed down over the years to each successive Alpha and his mate. Jake knew for a fact that the pendants were also drenched in blood from battles instigated so that the winner would have the honor of wearing them.
He’d never been so grateful he had been born a dog instead of a wolf and had never been considered worthy of fighting for even a lower position, much less Alpha. That was another reason why he was able to exist so easily away from the members of his Pack. He’d never been part of their social structure, so he didn’t need them the way they needed each other. He truly was a stray dog.
Vera squeezed a hint of lemon into her tea and added one lump of sugar, stirring her tea with a silver spoon.
“Suzanne stepped down as Alpha in 1943,” she replied.
Barely four years after he’d left the Pack. That was one nice thing about being a Were. They aged a lot slower than humans, so Jake looked to be in his mid-thirties, rather than his actual ninety-seven years.
“Stepped down, or was forced out?” He knew his mother well. She’d coveted the Alpha female’s pendant of authority for as long as he had lived among the Pack. And while Suzanne had been the warm and fuzzy part of Pack life, Vera could easily have taken her on and won. No one had fought Suzanne for the honor because they all knew she was the heart and soul of the Pack and looked after them the way a nurturing mother would. No one could have continued her work with the same fervor she showed. Vera was the exact opposite. She’d pushed his father to fight for Alpha rank and he died in a fight that had lasted as long as snapping your fingers. Jake had left the next day and never looked back. His mother hadn’t bothered finding him all these years. So why was she bothering to talk to him now?
“Stepped down.” Her dark eyes were cold as ice. “She’s been in seclusion since then.”
Jake felt a lump in his stomach at her words. He knew there had to be a lot more to the story than an Alpha female giving up her pendant and position, not to mention her mate of many years, without a fight, but he also knew that his mother was more than capable of fighting dirty, while Suzanne would have given up her position if she thought it was for the good of the Pack. “What’s going on, Vera? Why is the Pack moving in up here? And don’t say they’re not. That’s the only reason Roan would be here—and the parking valet talked about Pack.” Acid dripped in his gut as he watched his mother’s features soften at the sound of her younger son’s name. His brother was apparently heir apparent for the position of Pack leader as long as he was willing to fight dirty enough to keep it. Knowing Vera, Roan had been raised with that intent and his eye was on the prize.
Jake picked up his cup and drank down the hot brew while Vera appeared to consider her answer. Before he could blink, his cup had been refilled. Roan clearly believed in hiring an efficient staff.
“Over the years the Pack has almost doubled in size. Baxter feels it’s time for it to split before hostility grows too high. That means we need a new territory for the second Pack. The resort’s sale came at an opportune time and we took advantage of it. Naturally, Roan will lead the new Pack.”
“Talk about timing. What a perfect chance to give Roan the responsibility he craves, and get him out of your fur all at the same time.” Jake tipped his chair back and barked a short laugh. “Of course. And with Roan up here as Pack leader for the new Pack, you wouldn’t have to worry about his mate fighting for your position. Was this your idea or Baxter’s?”
Vera picked up her teacup, pinky delicately extended, and sipped her tea. “It was a Pack decision. Besides, what is the problem with a Pack living up here? It’s not as if there isn’t plenty of open land for hunting.”
Jake sat forward, the front legs of his chair thumping on the floor. “Plenty of open land as far as you’re concerned might not be other people’s idea of plenty of open land. What you really want is for Blair and Stasi to sell you their land, since they own a good portion of the area.” He shook his head. “Ain’t going to happen. They want to keep the land untouched and they know the best way for that to happen is to keep it all their own. They’ve protected it for over 100 years. No way they’ll change their minds just because you want them to.”
Her lips stretched in an icy smile. “People often change their minds if offered the right incentive.”
Jake rested his arms on the table. “Get this clear, Vera. We’re not talking about novices fresh out of the Witches’ Academy. They’ve been in this world longer than you and I combined have been on this earth and they have power you can’t even imagine. I’ve seen them at work. You haven’t. The land belongs to Blair and Stasi and there’s no way they’ll give it up just because your precious Pack thinks they should have it. And speaking of Blair, what was going on between you two this morning? Why do I get the idea you’d met each other before?”
“I have no idea what you mean.”
“Of course you don’t.” Past experience told him if his mother didn’t want him to know something, he wouldn’t be able to pry it out of her. He knew the same would happen with Blair.
Her face was a perfectly smooth-featured mask showing absolutely no emotion. Thanks to her bloodlines, she had never needed Botox injections or a few nips and tucks to look as icily elegant as she did then. “You have no idea what is involved here.”
He stood up, pushing the chair back with more force than necessary. The legs made a scraping sound on the polished wood floor. “I have a pretty good idea, and it’s apparent your showing up this morning had nothing to do with seeing how your son was doing. Do us both a favor, Mom, and don’t bother me again.” He walked off.
“There’s more, Jake!” she said after his departing figure, but he ignored her.
Jake’s steps faltered as he crossed the lobby and saw Roan standing near the front desk. The younger Were pushed away from the counter and walked toward him.
Roan’s dark red sweater was cashmere and his designer jeans fit him like a glove. Jake knew he should have felt like a poor relation in flannel and frayed denim, but he had moved beyond any sense of inadequacy years ago. He felt no sense of family with the woman who’d born him and the man he had once called brother. Even though they’d shared the same den years ago, Roan was a stranger to him, and vice versa.
“So you saw Mother,” Roan spoke first, watching him with the same dark eyes Jake had.
“Oh yeah, great conversation, caught up on old times, you name it. Just one of those Hallmark moments.” Jake started to walk away, but Roan moved to block him. “Look, Roan, what promised to be an incredible morning for me turned into a shitty day because Vera decided to make an uninvited morning visit. Right now, all I want is to head home.”
Roan’s dark eyes examined him. “What did she tell you?”
“That you’re going to find a way to cheat Blair and Stasi out of their land because you want it all for yourself. Do yourself a favor. Don’t even think about it.” A gentle snarl vibrated deep in Jake’s throat. He might be a dog, but he was a dog who’d killed more than squirrels and rabbits.
Roan showed his status by not stepping back, but smiled and cocked an eyebrow. “So that’s how it is. You’re fucking the red-haired witch. I thought I smelled her on you. What we need is for the good of the Pack, Jake. Just because you’ve been away from the Pack for so many years doesn’t mean you still can’t have feelings for what goes on. And what about Jennifer? Why didn’t you ever contact her after you left?”
Jake froze. “That bond was broken when I left the Pack, Roan. And it was between Jennifer and me. It had nothing to do with anyone else.”
“That’s what you think. Think about it, Jake. She could easily be your way back into the Pack,” Roan said in a silken voice, one that implied so many possibilities for Jake if he returned to the furry fold.
So why did Jake read something more ominous into it?
“Why am I so important all of a sudden?” Jake demanded. “I’m not like you, Roan. And no matter what any of you think, I don’t give a damn that I’m no longer with the Pack. I’m happy with the life I’ve made for myself, and I don’t need any of you.” He stepped around Roan and this time, the younger Were didn’t try to stop him.
Jake wasn’t surprised to see his truck idling in front of the resort when he stepped out. He settled behind the wheel and started up the engine, turning on his CD player and listening to Nirvana. His visit to his mother had turned out as badly as he expected, but it was nothing that a little rock ’n’ roll wouldn’t cure.
“Thank the Fates I’ll be back to normal once I get back to Moonstone Lake.” He shifted gears and did a passable imitation of getting the hell out of Dodge.
During the ten minute drive he mentally smacked himself upside the head for letting Blair get away that morning. He decided he’d head straight for her place. After last night, he doubted there would be much trouble talking her into a little them time.
He guessed he’d also have to admit that Blair was right. They were good together. She knew about his animal nature, she’d seen him kill, and she understood that wasn’t everything that made up Jake Harrison. He also suspected that if he was stupid and tried to back off now, Blair would go after him with a ferocity that would make his mother look like a mewling puppy.
Memories of just how he had given in to the saucy witch’s charms, and how often, brought a ball of heat to his gut. He pressed down a bit harder on the accelerator and the large engine roared.
But whatever ideas Jake had come up with involving Blair and whipped cream screeched to a halt when he reached the town’s outskirts and heard what sounded like a battle.
“Why do I have the feeling I’ll find Blair in the middle of whatever’s going on?” he muttered, speeding up to reach Grady’s BBQ Pit a few seconds faster.
It was a good thing Jake didn’t try to anticipate what he’d find, because the scene that spread out before him was way beyond anything he could have imagined.
An RV the size of a train, and the color of barf, took up most of the open lot above Grady’s place. And if he wasn’t mistaken, there was an army of elves that had to have come from the Underworld swarming all over the place, most of them bare ass naked, while Agnes was standing nearby screeching like a banshee, with her partner in crime Marva standing next to her as pale as a ghost. And yep, there was Blair, smack dab in the middle of the insanity.
Jake pushed open his door and climbed out of his truck.
Blair was retreating to the sidelines, her gray wool peacoat flaring open to reveal a cobalt sweater and dark wash jeans that hugged her curves. It wasn’t easy for Jake to keep his mind on the problems at hand when the witch had that spark of ire in her eyes. She glanced over her shoulder at his approach. She looked as if she wanted to grab him, and not in a good way. He hadn’t realized he’d left the truck’s engine running until it abruptly died. Blair at work.
“Do not even think of leaving here,” she called between clenched teeth.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” he told her, ready and waiting to see the show or dive into the fray if need be. He was nothing if not adaptable. He continued walking toward her. “What the hell is going on here? Why haven’t you gone off all hexster on them?” he asked.
“Probably because with the mood I’m in, I’d end up blowing up the whole area. While you were swapping memories with your mom, Agnes’s elves showed up,” she said, sweeping her arm in a graceful arc toward the scene before them. “If I wasn’t trying to avoid adding another 50 years to my banishment, every one of the little buggers would be toast by now. In the short amount of time they’ve been here, their RV has increased the smog level by a good thousand percent, they’ve flashed every woman who’s had the bad luck to cross their path, drunk a couple of cases of beer, and almost given Agnes a heart attack. And it seems Roan told them that they couldn’t park that nauseous hunk of metal up at Snow Farms, but that there was no reason why they couldn’t stay down here. Then there’s what’s gone on in the last five minutes, when one of them flipped up Marva’s skirt to reveal a very scary pair of granny undies, and now Grady’s threatening everyone with his twelve-gauge shotgun.”
Resisting a strong urge to laugh, Jake followed her gaze and saw the elderly man standing at the back door with the large weapon clutched in his trembling hands. Jake pinched the top of his nose and closed his eyes, while the sounds went on around him. He dearly hoped the shotgun wasn’t loaded, but knowing Grady, it was not only loaded, but his ammunition wasn’t buckshot or rock salt.
“Blair, that horrid little man must be stopped!” Agnes shrieked. “He’s urinating against a tree!”
Blair’s ire seemed to include the world around them. Jake looked past her and saw a few other elves choosing various trees and bushes for the same purpose. Hell, even when he was in dog form, he only watered plants out of humans’ sight.
Jake strode purposefully past Blair and approached the RV. “Enough!” His roar rivaled any Alpha Were and broadcast enough power to stop the elves; although he wished a few had finished pissing before they turned around or fell back on their bare asses.
He paused long enough to make sure Agnes wasn’t going to faint, then he quickly steered the woman and Marva toward a nearby picnic table and sat them down with Stasi there to pat their hands and offer comfort. Then he turned to confront the elves.
Blair quickened her pace until she almost plowed into Jake’s back. He could feel her power increasing until it was getting hard for him to breathe.
“Okay, you can back it off a bit and dial down on the magick,” he advised under his breath and relaxed when she did. “These guys can’t be elves.” His Were sense of smell was pretty offended by what was in front of him and considering that as his dog self he had tangled with more than his share of skunks, that said a lot.
One grungy looking elf, with a smelly cigar poking out of a corner of his bearded mouth, ambled over to him. “Who’re you to talk, Rover?” He grinned, displaying discolored teeth. “Easy to tell what part of the dog park you’re from, and it ain’t no leader of the Pack.”
Jake’s growl moved up his throat, but to give the grimy elf credit, he didn’t back down.
“This is Alberic. You might call him the boss of this group.” Blair didn’t sound too happy about it, either. “Agnes hired elves through Mickey Boggs and this is what she got. And sad to say, they are real elves.”
Jake swallowed a curse. “Agnes didn’t listen to you when you told her it might not be a good idea?”
“She thought she was getting a great deal on some cute elves to run around the carnival as local color, so to speak, and also man some of the booths. Instead, she got them. I was thinking maybe you could, you know, kind of herd them.”
Without looking behind him, he snaked his hand back to grasp the back of Blair’s neck and brought her forward. She cast him an apologetic look and mimed zipping her mouth shut.
“Let’s get something clear, shall we?” He spoke to the elves in a low voice that fairly vibrated with power. “The nice people around here don’t know what I am, and I intend to keep it that way. So if word gets out I will know who opened their mouth and then I will head over here to have a chat with them. Got me?”
Alberic apparently was now wary enough to realize that teasing Jake any further might not be in his best interests. “Look, we’re here to do a job and that’s it. We were told to come up and play the part of cute smiling elves and when the time comes, we will. But give us a break. We drove straight here from a fair in Texas. We’re just blowing off some steam, okay?”
“Blowing off steam is one thing. Disrespect to the people who live here is another,” Jake said.
“You weren’t due here until next week. Why are you here now?” Blair asked.
“We were told there was no problem if we showed up early. That no one would care if we hung out.” He idly scratched his chest. He leaned over and confided, “Although that old broad over there isn’t too happy about it.”
“Mrs. Pierce is still a lot younger than you and as such she will be treated with deference.” Jake easily guessed the elf’s age to be a couple of centuries. “Not to mention that she’s basically your boss up here. And if you can’t behave, this witch and myself will make your lives very miserable.” His eyes flared gold with power.
Blair took this as her cue to speak up and lay down the law. “So there’s going to be rules, such as no pissing against trees or bushes, keeping all your trash picked up, no getting drunk, no walking around naked. And you will all be polite to everyone.”
Blair glared at his cigar. “I’m sure Agnes has a plan for how you’re to dress and behave for the carnival. And considering you’re in the woods, it’s a given there’s no smoking up here. ”
Alberic sighed. “Mickey said this was an easy gig. He was going to give it to another group, but then he changed his mind.”
Blair had a pretty good idea why Mickey had chosen these guys instead, and she spelled it R…o…a…n. “Yeah, well, he told Agnes he was sending up cute elves and look what we got,” she countered. “Maybe I should also explain that Grady is really good with that shotgun and he’s been known to shoot first and ask questions afterwards.” She stalked off to tell Grady he could stand down.
“Sassy kid,” Alberic said, casting an admiring glance at Blair’s backside. He turned back to Jake. “You banging her?” The look on Jake’s face forced him back a few steps. “Hey, I can ask, can’t I?”
“No, you can’t,” Jake advised with a show of teeth. “You can start following those rules by persuading your buddies to get dressed and clean up all the trash around the RV.”
“The contract states our food is taken care of,” Alberic said.
“You are kidding, right?”
“Fine, we’ll get that straightened out. Just do your part and behave, okay?”
Jake left Alberic and walked over to Blair, Stasi, Agnes, and Marva. “They’ll still need to be fed.”
“I guess I could fix up a few pans of lasagna,” Agnes said slowly.
“Lasagna?” One of the elves perked up at the word and practically climbed up her leg like a dog ready to hump her calf. She uneasily shifted her legs to one side. “With real ricotta cheese and fresh mozzarella?”
“And garlic bread?” another asked. “I like lots of oregano on mine.”
“None of that eggplant shit, but lasagna with real meat in it?”
“Uh, yes.” Agnes started to warm to one of her favorite topics: cooking. “I also make my own sauce from scratch, with lots of garlic.” She frowned. “I guess garlic wouldn’t bother you, since you’re not vampires.”
“Agnes makes wonderful lasagna,” Marva chimed in.
Pretty soon the elves had surrounded Agnes with hopeful expressions at the idea of real home cooking. Stasi mouthed that she was heading back to the apartment and left.
Jake gently pulled on Blair’s arm. “Let’s get out of here while we can.” He drew her back to his truck. He looked at his vehicle. “It’ll start up now, won’t it?”
“Oh.” She muttered under her breath and waved her hands over the hood. The engine started up immediately. “I just wanted some backup if they got rowdy… wait a minute!” She shrieked when he picked her up, planted her on the passenger seat, and quickly buckled her in.
“Things are settled and Agnes is planning their dinner menu,” he told her, running around the hood and climbing in.
“Back to my place. Any objection?”
“She was still having tea in Snow Farms’ Crystal Room when I left. And if she shows up at my place again, you have my permission to zap her back to… wherever you want her to go.”
“Hm, very tempting. Her being up there isn’t far enough away for you, is it?” She stretched her arms over her head.
“The other side of the world wouldn’t be far enough away,” Jake said grimly.
Blair glanced down at her watch. “Tell you what, let’s go over to my place. Stasi put a roast in the crock pot early this morning and it should be ready soon.”
Jake considered a moment, hunger winning out over lust. He wasn’t much of a cook. “My mouth’s watering already.”
She smiled at him. “As long as you stay your nonfurry self. It’s nicer to sit across from you at the table than to have to put a bowl down on the floor.”
He put the SUV in gear. “Sounds good to me. It’s been a long day.”
Blair shuddered. “You’re telling me.” She half turned in the seat and leaned against the window. “I’m never opening the door in the morning again. So how did your meeting with your mother go?”
“Let’s just say it was a meeting I don’t care to repeat.”
“I don’t care what you say. You had to have been adopted.”