Home > Midlife Fairy Hunter (Forty Proof #2)

Midlife Fairy Hunter (Forty Proof #2)
Author: Shannon Mayer

1

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?”

   
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