Blood Martinis and Mistletoe:
A Faery Bargains Novella
By Melissa Marr
Giant aluminum balls hung around me even though I was standing in the cemetery not long before dawn. I didn’t know who hung the balls, but I wasn’t too bothered.
Winter in New Orleans was festive. We might have draugr and a higher than reasonable crime rate, but damn it, we had festivities for every possible occasion. Gold, silver, red, blue, purple, and green balls hung from the tree. Samhain had passed, and it was time to ramp up for the winter holidays.
November--the month after Samhain--was uncommonly active for necromancy calls. Unfortunately, a certain sort of person thought it was festive to summon the body and spirit of Dear Uncle Phil or Aunt Marie. Sometimes the relatives were maudlin, and sometimes they were thinking about the afterlife.
Now, the dead don’t tell tales about the things after death. They can’t. I warn folks, but they don’t believe me. They pay me a fair amount to summon their dead, so I always stress that the “what happens after we die” questions are forbidden. Few people believe me.
Tonight, I had summoned Alphard Cormier to speak to his widow and assorted relatives or friends who accompanied her. I didn’t ask who they were. One proven relation was all I needed. Family wasn’t always just the folks who shared your blood.
Case in point, the faery beside me. Eli of Stonecroft was one of the people I trusted most in this world—or in any other. I closed my eyes for a moment, which I could do because he was at my side. I was tired constantly, so much so that only willpower kept me upright.
“Bonbon,” Eli whispered. His worried tone made clear that a question or three hid in that absurd pet name.
Was I going to be able to control my magic? Did he need to brace for draugr inbound? Were we good on time?
“It’s good.” I opened my eyes, muffled a yawn, and met his gaze. “I’m still fine.”
Eli nodded, but he still scanned the graves. He was increasingly cautious since my near-brush-with-death a couple months ago.
My partner stood at my side as we waited in the cemetery while the widow, her daughter, and two men spoke to their reanimated relative. Mr. Alphard Cormier was wearing a suit that was in fashion sometime in the last thirty years.
Why rouse him now? I didn’t know and wasn’t asking.
“Twenty minutes,” I called out. I could feel the sun coming; I’d always been able to do so—call it in an internal sundial, or call it bad genes. Either way, my body was attuned to the rising and falling of the sun.
“When he is entombed, we could--”
“No.” I couldn’t force myself to glance at him again.
I was bone-tired, which made me more affectionate, and Eli was my weakness. Cut-glass features, bee-stung lips, and enough strength to fight at my side, even against draugar, Eli was built for fantasy. His ability to destroy my self-control was remarkable—and no, it wasn’t because he was fae.
That part was why I wasn’t going home with him. Trusting him, wanting him, caring for him, none of that was enough to overcome the complications of falling into his bed. Sleeping with a faery prince had a list of complications that no amount of lust or affection overcame.
“I won’t get married,” I reminded him.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Mr. Cormier asked, voice carrying over the soft sobbing women.
The man with them handed Cormier something metallic.
I felt as much as saw the dead man look my way, and then his arm raised with a gun in hand. The relatives parted, and there was a dead man with a gun aimed at me.
“Fuck a duck. Move!” I darted to the side.
Eli was already beside me, hand holding his pretty bronze-coated sword that I hadn’t even known he owned until the last month. “Geneviève?”
“On it.” I jerked the magic away from Mr. Comier.
It was my magic that made him stand, so I wasn’t going to let him stand and shoot me.
REST, I ordered the dead man.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. They made me. Threatened my Suzette if I didn’t . . .” His words faded as my shove of magic sent him back to his tomb.
I could hear the widow, presumably Suzette, sobbing.
“I do not believe those gentlemen are Mr. Cormier’s relations.” Eli glared in the direction of the men who had hired me to raise a dead man to kill me. They’d grabbed the two women and ducked behind mausoleums.
“They seem to want you dead, buttercream,” Eli said. “If they were his family, that’s an odd response.”
A bullet hit the stone across from me. Shards of gravestone pelted me. Oddly the adrenaline surge was welcome, even if the bullets weren’t. Nothing like a shot of rage to get the sleepiness out.
“Not why that.” I nodded toward the men who were staying crouched behind graves. “Why go through the hassle? Why not simply shoot me themselves?”
“Dearest, can we ponder that after they are not shooting at you?”
I felt my eyes change. As my rage boiled over, my eyes reflected it. They were my father’s reptilian eyes, draugr eyes. The only useful thing he’d ever done was accidentally augment the magic I inherited from my mother. Unfortunately, the extra juice came with a foul temper—one that was even worse the last few weeks. After I’d been injected by venom, my moods were increasingly intense.
I wanted to rip limbs off.
I wanted to shove my thumbs into their eye sockets and keep going until I felt brain matter.
Before the urges were more than images, I was moving from one spot to the next.
I could flow like a draugr. I could move quickly enough that to the mortal eye it looked like teleportation. I flowed to the side of the shooter and grabbed his wrist.
Eli was not far behind. He didn’t flow, but he was used to my movements and impulses. He had his sword to the shooter’s throat a moment after I jerked the gun away from the man.
“Dearest?” Eli said, his voice tethering me sanity.
I concentrated on his voice, his calm, and I punched the other shooter rather than removing his eyes. Then I let out a scream of frustration and shoved my magic into the soil like a seismic force.
The dead answered.
Dozens of voices answered my call. Hands reknitted. Flesh was regrown from the magic that flowed from my body into the graves. Mouths reformed, as if I was a sculptor of man.
“You do not wake the dead without reason,” I growled at the now-unarmed man who dared to try to shoot me.
Here, of all places. He tried to spill my blood into these graves.
I stepped over the man I’d punched and ignored the cringing, sobbing widow and the other woman who was trying to convince her mother to leave.
And I stalked toward the shooter in Eli’s grip.
“Bonbon, you have a scratch.” Eli nodded toward my throat.
“Shit.” I felt my neck where Eli had indicated. Blood slid into my collar.
I stepped closer to the shooter. “What were you thinking, Weasel Nuts?”
“Would you mind covering the wound?” Eli asked, forcing me to focus again.
His voice was calm, but we both knew that I could not shed blood in a space where graves were so plentiful. I’d accidentally bound two draugr so far, and blood was a binding agent in necromancy. Unless I wanted to bring home a few reanimated servants, my blood couldn’t spill here.
I had to focus. And I didn’t need an army of undead soldiers.
“Take this.” Eli pulled off his shirt with one hand, switching the hilt between hands to keep the sword to Weasel Nuts’ throat.
I stared. Not the time.
Eli’s lips quirked in a half-smile, and then he pressed the blade just a bit. “And, I believe you need to answer my lady.”
I shot Eli a look--his lady? What year did he think this was?--but I pressed his shirt against my throat. I did not, absolutely did not, take a deep breath because the shirt smelled like Eli.
Eli smiled as I took another quick extra breath.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Weasel Nuts spat in my direction. “Foul thing.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but Eli removed his sword blade and in a blink turned it so he could bash the pommel into the man’s mouth.
Weasel Nuts dropped to his knees, and this time when he spat, he spat out his own teeth and blood.
If I were the swooning sort, this would be such a moment. Something about defending me always did good things to my libido.
“Geneviève, would you be so kind as to call the police?” Eli motioned toward the women. “And escort the ladies away from this unpleasant man?”
It sounded chivalrous—or chauvinistic--but it was actually an excuse. I needed to get my ass outside the cemetery before I dripped blood. Eli had provided a way to do so gracefully.
“Ladies?” Eli said, louder now. “Ms. Crowe will walk you toward the street.”
The women came over, and the widow flinched when my gaze met hers. My draugr eyes unnerved people.
But then she straightened her shoulders and stared right into my reptilian eyes as if they were normal. “I do apologize, Ms. Crowe. They have an accomplice who is holding my grandson as a hostage. We had to cooperate.”
My simmering temper spiked, keeping my exhaustion away and my focus sharp.
I stared at the women. With my grave sight, I saw trails of energy, the whispers of deaths, and the auras of anything living. These women were afraid, but not evil. They were worried.
The older woman grabbed the fallen gun and ordered, “Walk.”
For a moment, I thought I’d been wrong, but she pointed the barrel at the man who had shot at me. “You. Get up.”
Her daughter smiled. “Would you mind helping us, Ms. Crowe?”
Eli and I exchanged a look. We were in accord, as usual. He bowed his head at them, and then scooped the unconscious man up.
In a strange group, we walked toward the exit.
As we were putting the unconscious attacker in the trunk of the Cadillac the women had arrived in, the sun rose, tinting the sky as if it were a watercolor painting.
I paused, wincing. Sunlight wasn’t my friend. I wasn’t a draugr—luckily, because sunlight trapped young draugr—but my genetics meant daylight made my head throb if I was out in too much of it. I slid on the dark sunglasses I carried for emergencies.
“It was nice to see Daddy,” the younger woman said quietly to her mother. “I wish it had been closer to Christmas, but still . . . it was nice.”
The widow motioned for the other prisoner to get into the trunk. Once he did, Eli slammed the trunk, and the widow squeezed her daughter’s hand. “It was.”
The daughter handed Eli the keys. She was shaken by the shooting, and I was bleeding from the shattering stone. Neither of us was in great shape to drive. However, it wasn’t great for Eli to be trapped in a hulking steel machine. Faeries and steel weren’t a good mix.
“I’ll drive my car,” he said, popping the trunk and grabbing a clean shirt. Working with me meant carrying an assortment of practical goods—clean clothes, duct tape, a sword, zip ties, and first aid supplies.
I tried not to sigh that he was now dressed fully again. Don’t get me wrong. I respect him, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t prone to lustful gazes in his direction. If he minded, I’d stop.
He walked to the passenger door and opened it. “Come on, my peach pie.”
The widow drove her Caddy away as I slid into the luxurious little convertible that had been fae-modified for Eli.
“Are you well enough to do this?” Eli asked as he steered us into the morning light.
“One human.” I kept my eyes closed behind my sunglasses, grateful for the extra dark tint of his windows. I rarely needed sleep for most of my life, but lately I was always ready for a nap. Not yet, though.
I assured Eli, “I’m fine to deal with this.”
So we set out to retrieve the young hostage. We didn’t discuss my near constant exhaustion. We didn’t talk about the fear that my near-death event had left lingering issues for my health. We would have to, but . . . not now.
We arrived at a townhouse, and I flowed to where the captor held a smallish boy. Flowing wasn’t a thing I typically did around regular folk, but there were exceptions.
The boy was duct taped to a chair by his ankles.
The captor, another man about the age of the two in the trunk, was laughing at something on the television. If not for the gun in his lap and the duct tape on the boy’s ankles, the whole thing wouldn’t seem peculiar.
When the man saw us, he scrambled for his gun.
So, I punched the captor and broke the wrist of his gun-holding arm.
Eli freed the boy, who ran to his family as soon as they came into the house.
The whole thing took less time than brewing coffee.
“Best not to mention Ms. Crowe’s speed,” Eli said to the women as we were leaving.
The younger one nodded, but she was mostly caught up in holding her son.
The widow looked at me.
“Not all witches are wicked, dear.” She patted my cheek, opened her handbag and pulled out a stack of folded bills. “For your time.”
“The raising was already paid,” I protested.
“I took it from them,” she said proudly. She shook it at me insistently. “Might as well go to you. Here.”
Eli accepted a portion of the money on my behalf. He understood when it was an insult not to and when to refuse because the client couldn’t afford my fees.
Honestly, I felt guilty getting paid sometimes. Shouldn’t I work for my city? Shouldn’t I help people? Shouldn’t good come of these skills?
But good intentions didn’t buy groceries or pay for my medical supplies. That’s as much what Eli handled as having my back when bullets or unwelcome dead things started to pop up.
After we walked out and shoved the third prisoner in the trunk of the Cadillac, Mrs. Cormier said, “I’ll call the police to retrieve them. Do you mind waiting?”
“I will wait,” Eli agreed, not lying by saying we “didn’t mind” because of course we minded. I was leaning on the car for support, and Eli was worrying over my injury. If he had his way, he’d have me at his home, resting and cared for, but I was lousy at that.
It was on the long list of reasons I couldn’t marry him. Some girls dreamed of a faery tale romance, a prince, pretty dresses. I dreamed of kicking ass. I’d be a lousy faery tale queen.
But I still had feelings for a faery prince—and no, I was not labeling them.
So rather head than home, I leaned on the side of the Cadillac, partly because it was that or sway in exhaustion. “I’ll stay with you.”
Once the widow went inside, Eli walked away and grabbed a first aid kit from his car. I swear he bought them in bulk lately. “Let me see your throat.”
“I’m fine.” Dried blood made me look a little garish, but I could feel that it wasn’t oozing much now.
Eli opened the kit, tore open a pouch of sani-wipes, and stared at me.
“Just tired. Sunlight.” I gestured at the bright ball of pain in the sky. Midwinter might be coming, but the sun was still too bright for my comfort.
“Geneviève . . .” He held up a wipe. “May I?”
I sighed and took off my jacket. “It’s not necessary.”
“I disagree.” He used sani-wipes to wipe away my blood as I leaned on the Cadillac, ignoring the looks we were getting from pedestrians. Maybe it was that he was cleaning up my blood, or that he was fae—or maybe it was that there were people yelling from the trunk.
Either way, I wasn’t going to look away from Eli. I couldn’t.
Obviously, I knew it should not be arousing to have him clean a cut in my neck from grave shards because someone was firing bullets at me, but . . . having his hands on me at all made my heart speed.
“Would you like to take the car and leave?” Eli was closer than he needed to be, hips close enough that it would be easier to pull him closer than push him away.
“And go where?”
He brushed my hair back, checking for more injuries. The result was that I could feel his breath on my neck. “Drive to my home and draw a bath or shower. I’ll stay here and . . .”
“Tempting,” I admitted with a laugh.
He had both a marble rainfall shower and the largest tub I’d ever seen. It came complete with a small waterfall. I admitted, “I’ve had fantasies about that waterfall.”
“As have I.”
I pressed myself against him, kissed his throat, and asked, “Ready to call off the engagement?”
He kissed me, hand tangled in my hair, holding me as if I would run.
I’d sell my own soul for an eternity of Eli’s kisses if I believed in such bargains, but I wouldn’t destroy him. Being with me wasn’t what was best for him.
When he pulled back from our kiss, he stated, “Geneviève . . .”
I kissed him softly. I could say more with my touch than with words. I paused and whispered, “You can have my body or this engagement. Not both.”
He sighed, but he stepped back. “You are impossible, Geneviève Crowe.”
I caught his hand. “It doesn’t have to be impossible. We’re safely out of Elphame now. We could just end the enga--”
“I am fae, love. I don’t lie. I don’t break my word.” He squeezed my hand gently. “I gave you my promise to wed. In front of my king and family. I cannot end this engagement.”
We stood in silence for several moments. Then he held out his keys, and I took them.
“Meet me at my place. Maybe we can spar,” I offered.
Eli pulled me in closer, kissed both of my cheeks, and said, “I will accept any excuse to get sweaty with you.”
“Same.” I hated that this was where we were, but I wasn’t able to change who or what I was. Neither was Eli. He had a future that I wanted no part of, and I felt a duty to my city and friends. We had no future option that would suit both of us. I’d be here, beheading draugr and trying not to become more of a monster, and he would return to his homeland. There was no good compromise.
Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Marr All rights reserved.