Ryker Scott, MacGregor and Santonelli’s newest associate, prowls past my cubicle wearing a tailored black suit that hugs his broad shoulders. I swear he’s not human. In the year he’s worked here, he’s represented a talk show host charged with having sex with multiple minors, a senator’s son accused of sexually assaulting a young boy, and a Wall Street executive snagged in a cocaine smuggling ring. All were acquitted under his watch, despite the odds and endless charges. His latest victory was mere days ago when his client, a Broadway star one blow shy of beating his wife to death, was found not guilty. Ryker’s military haircut fits his serious persona. The guy doesn’t smile, ever. I suppose when you represent walking pieces of filth, it’s hard to pretend you’d skip through a field of daisies. I’d ask him how he sleeps at night, saving all those horrible people and releasing them back into society, but I don’t know him, and I don’t care to. Ryker’s ice blue eyes dart in my direction when I glare. He knows I hate every inch of his hulking form. If I could flip him off, I would. Instead I give him my back and return to my work, wishing he’d stay on his side of the office. I sense him stalk around the corner to speak quietly to another paralegal. She’s likely falling all over herself to please him.
He has that effect on the staff, unlike my boss who everyone avoids like shingles. Speaking of the most irate man to ever wear a suit . Marco slams down the receiver to the phone, his booming voice loud enough to rattle the glass of his fishbowl office. “Olivia! Where the hell are my notes?” My fingers fly across my keyboard, finishing the deposition Marco needs before that vein on his forehead finally pops. “In your briefcase, along with copies of the court documents,” I reply. My sensitive hearing picks up the click, click of the briefcase locks snapping open before the mad sound of rustling papers ensues. “I don’t have―” “You have three pens and two highlighters in the small zippered compartment and a new legal pad in the side pocket,” I call out. “My―” “Your cell phone is charging on the table behind you,” I remind him. I hit print and swivel in my high back office chair, working quickly to stack the copies neatly into a folder. After taking one last sip of tea, I lift the folder and an extra-large cup of coffee, and hurry into my boss’s office.
Marco welcomes me with a scowl, the motion joining his crazy caterpillar eyebrows. “You think you’re so smart, don’t you?” he asks. “Yup. Happy Monday.” I place the deposition on his desk and hand him the cup of coffee the new administrative assistant dropped off. So far, Marco is the only attorney she hasn’t hit on. “Drink up,” I tell him. “You’re due in court in an hour.” I play with the talisman around my neck, reassuring myself that Death can’t find me while I wear it. I examine my boss and shake my head.
Marco is roughly five feet, six inches tall, three hundred pounds and balding, and about as cuddly as a rabid raccoon living in a sewer. And here he sits, partner of the most prestigious law firm in the region and the best defense attorney in Jersey. “What are you looking at?” I motion to his face. “I told you to do something about your eyebrows.” “There’s nothing wrong with my eyebrows.” He tries to smooth them, but the motion only ruffles them further. “Marco, they look ready to sprout teeth and bite.” I push off the desk. “Let me trim them.” Marco is one second away from releasing the brows like Zeus did the Kraken.
“Do I strike you as someone who manscapes?” “No. That’s part of the problem.” I sigh when the vein on his forehead pulsates. “You need to take pride in your appearance. If I didn’t have your suits and shirts dry-cleaned, you’d resemble a serial killer walking into court.” My voice trails when I take in the creases lining his gray suit. It’s my turn to scowl. “Isn’t this the suit you wore Friday?” He doesn’t answer. “Marco!” “You’re one to talk. Look at you.
Your hair is one pot of gold shy of a leprechaun.” I point a nasty finger at him. “Don’t make fun of the hair.” As a pixie, I look human, the exception being my rainbow-colored locks. That’s right, blond hair intermixed with strands of pink, lavender, and blue. It’s not on purpose. Since crossing over from the dying realm of Fae to escape Death and following many PTA moms scolding my mother for “doing this” to me, we’ve tried multiple times to “fix” my hair color to better blend among humans. Hair dyes dried my hair and faded in mere hours and organic products made my hair shimmer like fairy dust. Between my hair and the Celtic cross tat on the base of my skull, everyone in school assumed I was Goth. Truthfully, I prefer pretty clothes and music I can dance to without risking an elbow to the face.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Marco snaps. “This suit cost two grand.” “It might as well cost two dollars by the way you take care of yourself.” I stomp in my pink kitten heels toward Marco’s closet and whip out a fresh suit, tie, and set of underclothes. After taking a good whiff, I also grab a stick of Right Guard. I set everything neatly in his private bathroom and poke my head out. “You still have time to shower before court. Do you want me to turn on the water―” The scuff of expensive shoes along the marble tile floor alert me we’re no longer alone. Damn it. It’s Ryker.
Doesn’t he have puppy kickers to defend? Rock hard muscles bulge against his designer suit. When he’s not freeing predators back into society, he must spend his time in the gym. Ryker squares his jaw hard enough to smooth the dimple on his chin. He’s not pleased to see me or the glare I peg him with. Still, he tilts his head in polite acknowledgement. “Olivia.” I smooth the skirt of my long white sundress and walk toward Marco, ignoring Ryker. “Do you need anything else?” Marco’s features soften as he addresses Ryker. “Sorry you had to wait, son. I was negotiating the Andrews case with opposing counsel when you first stopped in.
” That explains Marco’s prior screaming and swearing. Marco is the type who prefers coercion to tact which makes his interactions with Ryker odd. Marco smiles at him, as in, genuinely smiles. “Congratulations on the acquittal, boy,” Marco says to Ryker. “That was a hell of a job you did. Keep this up and you’ll make junior partner within a year.” “Thank you, sir. It was a challenging case and I was grateful for the help.” “You can have all the help you want, anytime you want it.” Marco’s smile fades.
“Is something wrong? You seem upset.” “I’m fine, sir,” the leech answers. “You don’t seem fine. Would you like some coffee? Olivia would be happy to bring you a cup.” “No, she wouldn’t,” I mutter, walking toward the door. “You have fifty minutes, Marco. Take a shower.” I shut the door behind me, muffling their conversation. The glass offices may allow a full view in, but they’re soundproof, except to my sensitive ears. Marco and Ryker glance in my direction before resuming their conversation.
I was rude in there and I’m embarrassed about my behavior. There’s just something about Ryker that fires me up and puts me in a hideous mood . I freeze when I glance toward Bill MacGregor’s office. Bill is the other partner and a Fae like me. Right now, he’s in serious trouble. The very slutty and very human admin is slinking closer to him. She leans over his desk, her tiny black skirt rising and exposing her butt cheeks. Bill’s eyes widen and he tries to scramble away. The admin doesn’t let him. She yanks him to her by his tie and stamps her lips to his.
Thunder booms, shaking the thirty-story building. Lightning blankets Bill’s office in a painful blare of white light. As the light fades, so does Bill’s glamour, revealing his true form. Glistening mocha-colored skin envelops the boulder-sized muscles of the seven-foot tall gargoyle. Dagger-length fangs, sleek and deadly, protrude from his terrifying maw as glider-sized wings expand, shadowing the terrified woman in darkness. She screams, loudly, the thick glass mercifully silencing her terror. I leap from my chair when she face-plants on Bill’s mahogany desk and call to the administrative assistant in the cubicle beside mine. “Jane, clean up in aisle five.” Jane and I are the only Fae and staff with a front and center view of Bill’s office. We don’t get a lot of traffic on this side of the building.
Everyone avoids Marco and no one wants to risk accidently killing Jane. Humans only see Jane’s chosen glamor, that of a ninety-year-old woman with severe osteoporosis and one awkward step shy of a broken hip. For an eight-hundred-year-old druid priestess, Jane looks damn good. Unfortunately, she is ancient, and her hearing reflects it. “Jane? Jane!” I round back when she doesn’t hear me and shake her shoulder. “Jane!” She stops her two-finger typing and blinks her tiny black eyes at me, speaking in her two-pack-aday smoker voice. “Whhhat?” “Clean up in aisle five,” I repeat. I bolt to Bill’s office, making quick work of drawing the privacy shades. Bill is freaking out. His mammoth wings snap irritably and his clawed hands wave in distress.
“Why dith thee havvvv to kitth meeth? Goth. Damnth ith!” he hisses through his fangs. “Your glamour form is smoking hot,” I remind him. He scowls, his forked tongue dangling from his mouth. “Did you have to pick that glamour?” I ask. I motion to the picture of him standing with the governor. “You resemble a young Laurence Fishburne with a goatee.” “I lithe Lawrenth Fishburth,” he replies. I pat his arm. “Try to relax and call it back.
” I draw the last shade that blocks the view into his office and stick my head out the door to check on Jane. She’s resumed her two-finger typing. On a good day, Jane can type ten words a minute. This doesn’t appear to be a good day. “Jane!” “Whhhat?” she croaks. “You’re needed in Bill’s office!” I holler. “Bring the big guns—the big guns, Jane!” The slutty admin slides off Bill’s desk and falls to the floor with a thump. She groans, her forehead crinkling. “Sheeth wakingth,” Bill says, panicking. There’s no way he can recall his glamour in this state.
“Jane, haul ass, sister girl!” Jane glances over her shoulder and adjusts the black veil on her head. With the speed of molasses, she reaches for the candy cane striped wand she keeps in her pencil holder and shuffles toward us. Her black dress, two sizes too big, drags behind her tiny form. The wand looks ridiculous clutched in her spotted hand. It’s not just the red and white stripes, it’s the plastic red heart complete with ribbons decorating the tip. Still, I wouldn’t mess with Jane’s wand. Our last temp tried to take it as a joke. Following a severe case of genital herpes and a beard so thick she looked ready to swing an ax, she was never heard from again. Jane reaches Bill’s office with all the grace and speed of a snail. Unlike Bill, Jane isn’t panicked.
She merely passes her wand over the admin, chanting in ancient Gaelic. I try to make out the spell through her deep mumbles. It rings similar to the one she’s used to try to restore my magic. Unlike the Fae who occupy this world, I don’t possess magic. My power and wings were ripped from me when my family and I crossed dimensions and into Earth’s realm. Although I was young, I remember the pain. The last time Jane attempted to resurrect my magic, I cried with frustration. Jane wiped my tears, speaking slowly. “You have something, Livvie,” she insisted. She smiled softly and pointed at my heart with her long, crooked finger.
“What you seek is in there.” I want to believe her. My family comes from a powerful line of pixies. It’s devastating to not possess even a wisp of their strength. It’s not that I think I need magic to feel more Fae. I just want something―anything―to strike back at those who robbed me of my family. Until then, all I can do is hide beneath the veil and protection of my talisman, just like rest of my kind. Glitter sprinkles from Jane’s wand as she shakes it over the admin’s face, freezing her in place when she abruptly wakes and tries to scream. I scoot around them and toward the large windows. “Please alter her memory, Jane, and kindly tell her to stop being such a skank―Oh, and if you could, help Bill recall his glamour.
He’s having a tough time settling.” My voice trails as I peer through the window. Across the Hudson River, dark clouds crawl along the New York skyline, expanding quickly and morphing day into night. My blood chills to ice, threatening to snap my bones. Death has found us. It’s coming. It’s coming now. But, why? The growing cluster of ominous clouds ink the sky. Jane stops her chanting, training her beady eyes toward the ceiling when the lights flicker. “Livvie,” she warns.
My fingers find my Celtic sister knot―the talisman that hides me from Death. It’s still there. I look at Jane. Her talisman dangles from her neck. So then . Bill whirls left and right, knocking books from the shelves and sending the paperwork on his desk flying with the bat of his powerful wings. He falls to his knees when something on the floor catches his eye, the tips of his wings leaving deeps scrapes along the walls. Like a frantic cat, he scratches at the floor, trying to retrieve his broken watch. I dive for the watch, Bill’s talisman. The links snapped from his wrist when he resumed his true form, damaging the magical charge that gives the veiling spell its power.
In the distance, I hear them, the cavernous roars of the Cù-Sìth death hounds, the form of Death that devoured my family. I drop the watch into his hand and cover it with my palm. It doesn’t work. With each crash of encroaching thunder, the growls intensify. The Cù-Sìth are hungry. They need a soul and it’s Bill’s they hunt. The florescent bulbs explode, encasing the room in darkness. “Livvie . ” Jane’s throaty voice carries fear I’ve never seen in her. “Ma-gic” My pixie eyes adjust to the darkness, only to widen when I realize what Jane is asking.
She wants me to call my lost mojo. Is she crazy? Now? We’ve spent countless hours trying to summon it only to fail each time. Lightning flashes against the windows, illuminating the room. “Hurry,” Jane urges. The talisman can’t conceal Bill from Death. It knows he’s here. With sweat-soaked hands, I anchor the links around Bill’s giant fingers, searching deep within me and attempting what feels impossible. I scrunch my face, concentrating cocooning us in my aura. Emptiness is all that greets me. I hold my breath, focusing harder.
The emptiness grows more pronounced. I open my eyes. Bill shakes his head, his pointy ears drooping as he motions for me to leave. Tears blur my vision. “No, Bill.” Magic or not, I won’t leave him alone to die. Thunder rattles the building and the chorus of howls reach a mind-numbing crescendo. My eyes scan the office for something I can use to connect the links. I find a discarded roll of tape on the floor and lead Bill to it, both of us crouching low when we reach it. I snap the roll from the dispenser, careful not to lose the end.
With more speed than grace, I wind the tape around the watch and secure it to Bill’s wrist. I run out of tape just as the first Cù-Sìth arrives. Tendrils of dark green smoke slink through the window and snake their way around the desk, widening and solidifying into a bear-sized hound with shaggy green fur and glowing red eyes. His long-braided tail snaps like a whip, cracking the tension filled air while paws as big as my head scrape their long claws against the tile. Jane doesn’t move. I don’t even think she breathes. I can’t stop trembling, pleading for the good in the world to banish the hound from my sight. Like the time I was ten, my pleas go unanswered. The hound shoves his box-shaped head between me and Bill, his nose twitching until he latches onto a scent.