Midlife Fairy Hunter – Shannon Mayer

The mirror in front of me was most certainly not magical, or if it was, it was kind of a dick. It gave me a crystal-clear view of the fine lines around the sides of my eyes and the sunspot on my left temple, whose existence I’d been steadfastly ignoring. I rubbed at the darker shade of skin as if it would wipe it away. It didn’t, of course, and when I grimaced, a severe line etched into the side of my mouth, one that never totally went away anymore. I blew a raspberry at myself. “Falling to pieces, girl.” A tinkling like small bells rattled against the too-small window to my left. The bathroom was not very big, too narrow for more than one person and littered with Corb’s stuff. Like his hair cream that smelled a bit like spice and musk, which I may or may not have opened and inspected. I’d never heard of the brand, but it seemed like something I could steal the next time I needed cream for my own hair. A girl had to make do with what she had—or could take—when she was dealing with a vindictive ex-husband and trying to buy her gran’s house back. The window rattled again, and I turned to see a bug smacking against the glass repeatedly. I frowned and narrowed my eyes because the bug had legs—feminine legs that ended in tiny feet. I closed my eyes hard as if I could reset what I was seeing. Quite possibly I just had a floater in my eyes—courtesy of middle age—but I had a sneaking suspicion that what I was seeing was real.

Sure enough, when I opened my eyes, the bug with the nice legs was still there, now standing on the ledge of the window and rapping on the glass with a miniature fist. Let me be clear, this was not my first brush with the shadow world, so seeing a tiny fairy was not exactly shocking. Unexpected is a better word for it. You see, I’d barely just dunked my toes back into Savannah, Georgia, the place I’d grown up believing in every bogeyman that lived in the darkness. My gran had raised me to know about them and, when necessary, to fight them. But her teachings had faded over the years because Gran had put a spell on me before I left Savannah. I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t believe in magic, you see, and she’d ensured I could start over by making me blind to the monsters in our world. Most humans don’t even realize supernatural creatures live among them, but I was born with the ability to see them. For twenty years, I was as blind as most humans. But then Himself—my a-hole of an ex—gave me a surprise divorce, and some underhanded dealings, which were just screwy enough that I suspected magic, had allowed him to steal the house Gran had left me on her death six months prior.

I’d come to Savannah to see if I could save the house, and maybe save myself along the way. What I’d found was a new job working for the Hollows Group, a mishmash of people who did odd jobs for people in the shadow world and also helped police them. They hadn’t wanted to take on a woman who was over forty, had extra weight hanging off her, and let’s be honest, doesn’t take crap from anyone. Obedient, I am not. And yet, they had brought me on all the same. So here I was, living with Corb, Himself’s black sheep cousin, in his loft in downtown Savannah. I’d found myself here by several weird twists of fate, including the fact that Corb also worked for the Hollows Group, but here I’d stayed. Today was the auction for my gran’s house—the house she still haunted—and unless I managed to win, I’d probably be sharing this apartment for a while. I rubbed my hand over my face again, focusing on that sunspot, then lifted onto my tiptoes to open the window. The latch stuck, and I had to pull hard to open it.

The screech of paint peeling and ungreased hinges made me wince. Corb was still asleep as far as I knew, and while I didn’t mind him waking up, the truth was I wasn’t sure what to do about him. You see, he’d kissed me. Not like a peck on the cheek but an open-mouthed kiss. He’d done it in front of Himself, and it had almost certainly been nothing more than a favor to make him jealous, but it had confused me. Because Corb was younger than me, hot as sin, related to my ex, and I’d thought he barely tolerated me. Oh, and the kiss had been hot. Like hot-flash hot. Not complicated at all, right? The little fairy stumbled in and stayed on the sill. Her skin tone was the color of rusted metal, and her hair was a close match.

Deep orange eyes stared at me from under long black lashes. “Oh! Can you see me?” I wondered how many windows she’d flown by before she’d found mine. At least a few, by the look of exhaustion written all over her. “I can see you,” I said. “Can you help me?” Her voice was a bit breathy, and even though my eyesight wasn’t what it had once been, I could see that she glistened with sweat as if she’d either been flying for a long time or was terrified. A freaked-out fairy was not the way to start the day. I paused with my hand halfway between the window and the sink as I tried to remember if Gran had ever told me anything specific about dealing with fairies. Making deals with them was dodgy, I did recall that much, and that alone slowed my hand. “What do you need?” She pointed at something behind her with both thumbs. I lifted my hand up to her and she hopped onto my palm.

I turned her around to see a wad of gum stuck between her wings. She could still fly, but the gum tore at the delicate material every time she pumped them. That explained all the sweat. She would have had to work twice as hard to go half as far. “Yeah, I think I could do something for you.” I paused and raised an eyebrow. “What have you got in payment?” The shadow world didn’t run on empathy, and fairies were infamous for taking advantage of others. She eyed me up. “I can do your makeup.” “Done,” I said without trying to haggle for more.

I needed all the help I could get in that department. “Stay here, I’ll get something to get the gum out.” If I remembered right, a good olive oil would get gum out of hair, so why not little fairy wings? I put her on the edge of the bathroom sink, and she cowered under the bumped out mirror, the bright pink gum a gaudy contrast to the earthy hues of her body and wings. I found myself wondering which plant she most resembled, as most of the fairy folk had a flower or a tree they were more closely connected to than others if I was remembering right. I headed for the kitchen, my steps quiet on the original hardwood. A quick search of the cupboards produced not a single jar of oil. “Damn it.” There was peanut butter, but it was the super thick kind with crunchy bits. Terrible stuff that would tear at her wings too. I bit the inside of my lip thinking.

Maybe Corb’s hair cream would work? It had seemed exceptionally slick. I let myself back into the bathroom. “Here, let’s try this.” I scooped up the jar of hair cream, glancing quickly at the label. Boy Butter. I popped the lid off and scooped out a tiny amount on my fingertips, rubbing it together experimentally. Pretty greasy for hair pomade, but it should work for my purposes. I sat on the toilet lid and motioned for her to turn her back to me, then began to work the cream into the edges of her wings and around the gum, using my fingers and finally a couple of Q-tips. “How did you manage this?” “A ghoul caught me and spat his gum at me,” she muttered. “I’d just woken up, so I was slow.

Fairies are always slow in the morning.” Morning being closer to noon, unless she’d been flying for a lot longer than I’d thought. Her wings were like gossamer lace and I found myself sweating as I did all I could to be careful, to not put a single tear in them. My concentration was so intense that when she spoke to me again, I had to get her to repeat herself. “The Hollows Group turned down our offer today.” She looked over her shoulder at me. “But really, we didn’t want them to help us.” The weight in her stare said it all, but she went on anyway. “Or at least not all of them. My lady would like to hire you, Breena.

She’ll pay well.” I grimaced as I continued to rub the greasy hair cream through her delicate wings. So apparently it wasn’t just happenstance that she’d stumble-flown to my window. The whole can you see me? thing had been a ruse. I should have known. “Tell me if that hurts.” “It’s fine, a little tingly.” She wasn’t wrong. My fingers were tingly too. “Is that your magic?” “No, I think it’s whatever you’re using.

” She cleared her throat. “Would you be willing to meet with my lady? To at least hear the offer?” My own brain was still trying to work through the morning fog. Yes, it was closer to noon, but when you worked till three in the morning, noon was morning. “Why did the Hollows Group turn you down?” It seemed exceptionally strange to me that they would turn down any job. Especially given the last job they’d almost turned down had ended up paying so well, both financially and as a PR opportunity. The door to the bathroom opened and Corb stood there in nothing but shorts, his dark hair mussed up, eyes at half-mast as he stumbled toward the toilet on which I was sitting. Every muscle in his torso was defined as if they’d been sculpted, and it looked like he’d woken up in a sweat. Damn it, I think I was actually drooling. My hormones had gone into overdrive when I hit forty, and I really, really liked to window shop. Fortunately for me, the men I was around gave me a good amount to look at.

“Move, I gotta pee,” he grumbled. A one-bathroom loft had its disadvantages. I rolled my eyes as I fought my suddenly raging libido and the urge to reach out and swipe my hand across his abs to see if they really were that hard. Instead, I held out a palm for the fairy and picked up the hair cream with the other hand. “Manners, Corb.” His eyes shot to the container in my hand. I held it up. “Your hair cream is helping me get the gum out of her wings, seeing as you don’t have a lick of cooking oil in the kitchen.” Classic bachelor pad if you asked me. He swallowed hard and slowly looked at my hand and the petite woman who sat there, seemingly enjoying the view of his naked torso as much as I was.

She leaned forward and pointed a finger at him. “He’s hot. Do you really live with him?” Yup, she was a window shopper too. I laughed. “I live in the closet, not his bedroom.” His eyes shot to the hair cream. “That’s not hair cream.” I held the container up. “It’s Boy Butter. What else would it be?” I lifted my eyes to him, making a pitiful attempt to raise one eyebrow, which always ended with me lifting both of them.

“You maybe need to go back to bed.” His jaw flexed and he turned on his heel. “I thought he had to pee?” the fairy girl asked. “Me too.” I sat back down on the lid of the toilet, and she hopped off my hand and onto the sink edge, where I kept working the cream through her wings. “It smells nice.” The fairy let out a giggle. “Oh my lady of the stars! I think I know why he was upset.” I pulled the long string of bright pink gum off and put it on a piece of toilet paper. “Why?” “That isn’t hair cream.

” I grabbed the container and flipped it over so I could read the label. “Boy Butter, best cream around.” She was giggling; I was staring at the picture of a large arm grabbing a stick as it churned butter on the yellow label. Churning. Butter. I put the container down, unable to stop the blurt of laughter that ripped out of me. “CORB! You should keep this in the bedroom, not the bathroom!” Heavy footsteps and then the front door slammed. I couldn’t stop a fit of giggles, and the fairy laughed with me until tears streamed down both our faces. “Do you think he has more?” she finally managed. My hands were covered in exceptionally greasy lubricant, which made it hard to open the cupboard under the sink because my fingers kept sliding over the handle.

But when I did . all I could do was stare. “Jaysus, it’s like he’s stockpiled enough to outlast the apocalypse. Oink and Boink? Tastes like Bacon?” I fell back laughing, unable to help myself. Was this real? Maybe I was dreaming. The fairy flitted in front of me, flicking lube around with each flutter of her wings, and read off the rest of the names until I was laughing so hard I had to lie on my back so I could still breathe. I held up my hands in surrender. “Stop, stop! Whatever makeup I had on is gone, and as you correctly determined, I need all the help I can get.” I swiped my eyes, forgetting that I had the heating lube on them. “Ahh, that’s not good!” I sat up, eyes pinched shut and tearing, and smacked my head on the bottom edge of the sink as I scrambled to get a wet cloth.

The water helped, but the lube wasn’t water-soluble, which only made me giggle more. I mean, I’ll admit part of me was totally intrigued. Corb was a hottie. I liked looking at him, and he’d kissed me. But that was a helluva lot of lube he had going on. Like there had to be at least thirty bottles under the sink! Who needed that many? Was he planning on an orgy in the near future, or maybe an old-fashioned key party? My eyes tingled, and I rubbed at them with the cloth, which only made them redder and intensified the feeling of heat. “Crap.” This was not going well. “Here, I can help.” The fairy flitted up around my face, the fanning of her wings cooling the heat rushing across my skin.

I could only imagine what it would feel like to have that lube somewhere else, with someone leaning in close to blow on it. My face fanned hot again as images blasted through my mind like an out-of-control race car heading straight for a wall and a supernova explosion. I only needed to keep it from crashing into the wall. Crash. Damn it, if I wasn’t thinking about one guy, I was thinking about the other. Nope, no thinking about Crash. He was one of the bad guys. A bad guy. But a really, terribly hot and nice-to-look-at bad guy with muscles and a bit of silver in his hair that just added to the hotness factor. I sighed.

“You think you can help me with my face now?” The mirror showed my eyes were slightly swollen and red around the edges, like I’d been playing in the stinging nettle patch. I was a bit red all over from the laughing and the sudden hot flash, which hadn’t helped the heat index at all. Sighing, I took out my makeup bag. “Difficult, but not impossible,” she said as she fluttered around my head, tilting her chin as she did so. “You should use a little more cover-up.” Her voice wasn’t as high- pitched as I would have expected a fairy to sound. Musical and sweet, like the tinkling of the bells I’d heard at the window, but it wasn’t ridiculously perky. “Cover-up looks crappy on me.” Her smile flashed super sharp canine teeth. Fairies were omnivores—just like humans —but they had a tendency to like their meat a bit more than most.

“Eric has been talking about you non-stop the last few days. So when my lady asked me to come see you, I knew you wouldn’t be like the Hollows. Will you talk to her? Will you consider working for her?” I didn’t answer her, at least not right away. Eric was the bigfoot I’d saved from a ceremonial death at the hands of a crazy old woman. It had taken a lot of luck, plus the training of my youth, but we hadn’t walked away without any scrapes and bruises. Could it have really been that so little time had passed since that had all gone down? I thought through the last few days of training with the Hollows Group. Today was five days since I’d stopped the blood ceremony and saved Eric. Seemed like an eternity, though my body reminded me otherwise. I took a breath and my back twinged, making me grimace. “Eric is a good guy.

” I took out some eyeliner and leaned toward the mirror again as I attempted to outline my left eye. I ended up with a line that looked like a five-year-old had drawn it. “I don’t know about meeting up with your lady. I’m still new to the Hollows Group, and it might not be a good idea for me to start crossing lines.” The pencil dipped into my eye well, and my eye flooded with tears. “Damn it.”

.

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