Daiquiris & Daggers: A Faery Bargains Novella
“Come down here!” I stalked around the edges of mausoleum. Some enterprising soul had festooned the edges of the roof with concertina wire. The deadly décor glittered right now thanks to the mix of torrential rain and the glowing streetlights.
“So, help me, if I have to crawl up there . . .” I circled again, not entirely sure how to manage this.
Millicent Johnson, eighteen and dead, was supposed to be in her grave. When her mother came to weep and found the ground disturbed, her parents had paid me to retrieve her and deliver her to a T-Cell House if she was out and about. They ought to have observed the waiting period, saving themselves a pile of cash and me a long, wet evening. They’d been so sure their precious Millie wasn’t infected, though, that the young woman had been buried post-haste.
“Come on, Millie.” I held out my arm, not beckoning but like holding kibble out toward a cat in a tree.
As rain soaked me to the bone, I decided I was willing to pretend to be kibble if it meant she came down easily. This was to be a simple bag and tag, not a beheading, just the sort of the recovery that I’d been able to pull off even as a teenager still trying to get comfortable with a sword.
Millie growled at me, glaring at the sword in my other hand. She was hunched over, balancing on her hands and feet like she was imitating a less verbal primate. I’d nudge her ass-over-tea-kettle if I could, but the height of the mausoleum meant she was well over my head and out of reach.
“If I can’t contain you, I will chop that pretty head off,” I threatened, stalking her from the sopping wet ground. At least if she leaped down, I could catch her. “I mean it, Millicent, pop goes the weasel! Off with her head!”
Millie paused, but unfortunately, she couldn’t be threatened into clarity. Draugr didn’t start their “second lives” terribly coherent. They were akin to toddlers, all instinct and drool. Again-walkers grew in clarity and strength after they were transfused, but the newly risen were far from clarity. By about a decade—if they weren’t beheaded before that—draugr would be nearly indistinguishable from humans unless they were in a fight.. They were stronger, faster, and hard to kill.
My job was often giving the uncontrolled ones their second death before they went around New Orleans ripping throats out. Or in cases like this, bagging and tagging so they could be warehoused.
I pointed at the muddy wet ground. “Down, Millie!”
She plopped down on the roof of the mausoleum, looking like a dripping-wet, dead princess, and stared at me.
“Not what I meant!” I swiped at the water sluicing down my face.
Millicent was very obviously not coming down. I wasn’t an archer, so I had no projectile weapons others than a gun, and I’d rather not shred my skin crawling up there. That left me with either waiting or leaving a confused draugr perched on top of a grave. Both options sucked.
I shoved my hair out of my face, flinging water. “Damn it.”
I hated the bag and tag jobs. Killing was easier than capturing.
She’d come down eventually, but I wasn’t particularly enjoying standing in the cold spring rain. The air was thick was more smells than I could catalogue, and I wanted to sort them out. Thanks to my recent melding with a faery, my nature awareness—already present thanks to my witchy heritage—was a bit over-the-top. But contemplation would have to wait until I could drag Miss Johnson back to solid ground.
“Millie?” I beckoned. “Please?”
Until recently, I could’ve pulled the actual dead from their graves to help me, but a few weeks ago, I had summoned a swath of corpses St. Louis #1 to help stop a murderous dead woman—and in the process, I’d accidentally restored a dead man to life. Since then, my necromancy was sluggish, not quite awake. Apparently, if I drained my magical reserves enough, I needed time to recharge.
My heritage wasn’t just witch, though. My twice-dead sperm donor had already been dead when he impregnated my mother, so I was the only living draugr in existence as far as I knew. I had counted on that to be enough to handle a simple job.
“Damn it, Millicent. Get your dead ass down here. Right this moment . . . or else!”
“Bonbon?” Eli’s laughing voice behind me had me spinning around too quickly.
My feet went out from under me, and I landed flat on my back. Now I was not just soaked but muddy, too. Slimy ooze coated my back, squishing into the neck of my jacket. “Ugh.”
My husband held out a hand, as if to help me from a carriage not a muddy mess.
I accepted, letting him tug me to my feet, but I dug my feet in to the ground, stopping him from embracing me. “What are you doing here?”
“You were late, so . . .” Eli gave an elegant half-shrug that pretended the act was nonchalant. It was anything but.
My husband worried a lot since my magical depletion, balancing on a line between infuriating me by hovering and happening to be near when I needed help. It was graceful enough, explainable enough, that I couldn’t yell at him for being smothering.
And truth was that I needed the help more than I’d like. The past three months had been rough. My magic was absentee, and I was restless.
“Plus, I missed looking at you,” Eli added lightly.
I tilted my head up, letting the still-pouring rain wash away some of the mud. My hair, more brown than its usual blue thanks to my impromptu mud bath, hung in clumps, and I was doing a great impression of a wet cat. “You, Eli, are a lunatic.”
“Perhaps.” He shrugged again, but the look in his eyes—and the fact that the fae can’t lie—made it clear that he somehow still found me appealing even spattering in muck. Sometimes, I wished he was a little less breath-taking. The combination of the way he looked at me and the way he looked was distracting. From cut glass cheeks to courtesan’s lips, Eli was much too beautiful to in the rain with my muddy self. Even dripping wet, his hair, darker-than-black, hid glimmers of stars, entire universes blinked out at me.
I sighed. “You shouldn’t look at me that way when I’m . . .” I gestured at my muddy self.
Eli shrugged in a way that only a man like him could pull off: elegant, careless, and utterly telling all at once. “You would need to pluck my eyes out for me to look at you any other way.”
“Fine. You’re pretty, too,” I muttered.
Eli chuckled and then looked up at the dead girl who was watching us with a keen interest. “How’s work?”
“Obstinate. Work is obstinate.” I swiped mud out of my hair. “Princess Squirrel here won’t—"
“I see,” he interrupted before I could rant. “Could you summon her? As with proper corpses?”
I sighed and admitted, “If someone gave me an energy boost . . .”
“My damsel in distress,” Eli murmured, stepping closer.
I had a sword raised before he touched me. “Not a fucking damsel.”
“My damsel.” He pushed my sword away. “As you are, undoubtedly, also my knight.”
“Sweet talker.” I pulled him closer with a muddy hand fisted in his shirt and kissed him. The moment my lips touched his, I felt the wave of faery magic. His magic. I should be able to draw on it at will since we were wed, but that, too, was beyond me currently.
Eli poured his energy into me, and I could taste fresh water and green trees.
When he pulled away, I had only moments before that surge would resettle itself in me, food for my depleted reserves, and vanish.
I stared up at the dead girl. “Get down here, Millicent Leigh Johnson.”
This time, the words held a compulsion, a magical command wrought by my necromancy.
The draugr girl stood and cartwheeled from her perch to the ground. Millie landed with a sploosh of mud, but as I was already filthy, I couldn’t object.
Quickly, I bound her hands and feet, smacked a bite-proof gag over her mouth, and dropped my hold.
Eli waited, not touching me while I did what I must.
“I free you, Millicent Leigh Johnson. Not mine. Not yours.” I stepped back just as the light was returning to her eyes.
As soon as I dropped my compulsion over Millie, she flopped around like an angry caterpillar trying to bite me through the gag. No longer calm, she wanted my blood or at least to strike out at her captor.
“Cutting it close, bonbon,” Eli murmured.
I nodded. If I stayed bound to any draugr beyond when Eli’s magic stopped working for me, the dead would be my responsibility. Any draugr I bound to me would be coherent as long as she stayed near me, but I had no interest in collecting minions. I’d already accidentally bound two draugr, and I was fairly sure I’d bound my human assistant, too.
Eli called for transport while I hauled Millie to her feet. “Come on. Up you go.”
My hand on her bound wrists wasn’t enough to keep her standing, though. She jerked out of my hold and fell to the ground. We repeated the process several times, mostly because I was too stubborn to ask Eli to help, and he was adamant that he would not “overstep” unless my life depended on it.
So, I hauled a trussed up dead girl to the gate where a bright purple van waited. The purple was unnecessary as it had T-Cell TransitionHomes emblazoned on the side, but to each her own.
Once they took the growling girl away, I stood there, wet and muddy but victorious.
“Shall I tell Alice to invoice the Johnsons?” Eli’s voice was calm enough to make clear that he wasn’t sure of my mood.
“Yep. And add ten percent for complications.” I met his gaze. “Dead folk are not supposed to perch on any roof.”
Eli nodded, his expression unreadable.
“Would you object to walking to bar, Geneviève?” He offered me his arm, chivalrous as always.
“What? No chariot?” I looked around for his little blue convertible.
Eli was silent for a long moment before saying, “You smell rather atrocious, love.”
I sniffed. Obviously, someone had been taking Fido on walkies in among the graves and not scooping. The slimy mud in my jacket was not just mud from the smell of it. “Ugh. I need a shower and a vacation.”
“As you wish, bonbon.”
And then my patient spouse escorted my mud and poo coated self to Bill’s Tavern, where we walked through the bar and into the back where I all but ran to the shower while Eli was still peeling off his soaking clothes. He was polite enough to give me space to get clean before joining me to correct my sour mood.
Copyright © 2021 by Melissa Marr All rights reserved.