Copyright ©2020 Alexa Piper
Rose felt her back pressed against the alley wall. Marcus’s arms on either side kept her facing him, made sure she didn’t run from this tall, dark-haired man.
Not a man, she reminded herself. Her lips quivered. Rose wasn’t sure why, but she was holding her breath. His eyes were sparkling like green fireworks. The need to run gave way to a different need.
“My Rose,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. I would never hurt you.” The spark was curling along his lips now too. “Unless that is what you want me to do.”
Rose swallowed. Her body seemed so noisy. “You mean, my blood -- you want to drink my blood?”
“My Rose,” Marcus said, and the way he smiled at her now showed her his fangs.
Why didn’t I notice them before? she wondered.
“My Rose. I would taste you. But I would also have your pleasure, would see your face when it blushes a delicious red with the heat of your climax. Oh, Rose, I want to have you any way someone like myself can have a human, a lover.”
Rose’s legs felt like jelly. Her cheeks were hot, red, a fire that seemed to radiate through all of her body. And her body was reacting to the heat in the most exciting ways, feeling so warm and full of longing. Rose wanted him. She wanted his hands on her skin, she wanted to feel his body press her against the wall, and she wouldn’t object if he saw fit to pull her skirt up and tear a few buttons off her blouse. “Marcus,” she said, looking at the vampire in front of her through fluttering lashes. “I want you to have me like that.”
“Yes, my Rose. But not here, not in an alley. You are no whore. You deserve to be wrapped in silken sheets when I take you.” Marcus’s arms suddenly fell away, and although he had never touched her, Rose hated to lose his nearness. “Come with me,” he said, extending his hand.
All other thoughts had gone from Rose’s mind. She took the hand Marcus offered, willing to follow him. Willing to follow him anywhere.
* * *
Cora let the book drop to the floor of her apartment, next to her bed where she liked to read. With its unbent spine and glossy cover, the book was among the nicer things in her place.
“Aww, why are vampire lovers so damn scarce? Wish I had one just like you, Marcus.” She looked down to the bare-chested vampire on the cover and tried to wink at the book. Unfortunately, Cora, like many people, couldn’t get her eyelids to move independently, and her wink came out as an awkward blink. She was sure a proper vampire lover would be tolerant of her shortcomings in the facial expressions department.
“If only this wasn’t the vampire-lover-free real world. Where one needs a job to buy food and romance novels and things,” she told Marcus, whose head was not actually pictured on the cover.
Cora got up from the creaky bed that was probably older than she was -- not that a college drop-out could be picky about her furniture, especially since she hadn’t shared her new status with the most relevant people in her financial life, her parents.
And I’d rather tell them I got a job, she thought. That would also be the best excuse not to hear their opinions about uneducated plebeians and about how dropping out of college is as wrong as a thing can be.
Luckily, Cora had a job interview lined up for this afternoon, and even if journalism wasn’t her passion, she wouldn’t let that stop her from pursuing it, with determination if not passion.
She dressed sensibly, brushed the tangles from her dark hair, and left her too small, too cockroachy apartment with high hopes of following a career in the newspaper industry while bare-chested vampire lover Marcus was left there all alone, staring up at the dark spots of uncertain origin that patterned the apartment’s ceiling -- his chest was staring up, at any rate.
* * *
A deceptively warm January had the city of Fairview fully in its grip. It showed in the way a blue sky haloed all the buildings, in how the parks were dressed in budding green and visited by winter-sick people of all ages, and showed in how even the ocean that was always nipping at the harbor seemed to bring warmth on its waves.
The entire scene clashed with Cora’s feelings of dejection and uselessness. Her interview with the Fairview Chronicle editor had gone fine -- gone fine until the editor thanked her for coming in and told her she wasn’t right for the position.
How did I manage to screw that up? she wondered.
She had walked out of the Chronicle building without really knowing where she was going. She was in shock, obviously. She should have just headed back to the subway, should have taken the silver line and gone back home where she could cry in private and consider the best way to approach her parents with the news, but her head had needed clearing, and her feet had just kept on walking. Now, she had no idea where she was or what she was doing there, which more or less summed up the entirety of her life.
Shit, she thought. Which summed up everything even more concisely.
She stopped at a traffic light. Traffic was slow as it always was at rush hour, so when she considered throwing herself in front of a car, it was rather more sarcasm than defeatism. As the light turned green again, she walked to the other side of the road just like everyone else around her. Except all of them are high on the smell of spring air, she thought. And all of them have things to go toward, goals, milestones. After another ten or so steps, she came to a coffee shop, the Queene Bean Fine Coffees & Artisanal Honeys. Their logo was a coffee bean with wings, framed by a hexagon.
Might as well blow my last money on some java, not that it matters much at this point. I’ll probably have to move back in with my parents. She put her right hand on the door, pushed, and entered.
Some adventures always start with walking through a door and not knowing what lies behind it. Cora’s adventure was one of those.
* * *
“Can I get a soy latte, please?”
“Right up,” the barista said. Her hair was light brown, and she had the most expressive almond-shaped eyes Cora had ever seen. The woman’s smart maroon blouse, yellow kerchief and apron all sported the Queene Bean’s logo in brown on yellow.
Cora exchanged coin for caffeine and sat down at a corner table, fully prepared to do some brooding and possibly form some sort of plan for what to do with the rest of her life. Her parents had suggested art history, and somehow Cora had taken their advice. She had tried, she really had, but she hadn’t liked the classes she was taking, nor had she liked the people who sat in the classes with her. Cora also hadn’t been able to shake that nagging feeling that there was nothing at all about art history she had ever liked to begin with. Dropping out had seemed like a good way to get her life back.
She stirred sugar into the hot beverage in front of her, more sugar than she would have put in on a normal day. A few grains sprayed onto the polished wooden table, and she brushed them to the floor.
The coffee shop was pretty empty for this time of the day. There was only one other customer two tables over. Funny, this really is a nice place, Cora thought, taking in the decor. The reprint of a portrait of Shakespeare was staring down at her. Its frame was decorated with about a half dozen tiny plastic bees. Books in hexagonal bookshelves lined one wall, while another was sweetened with jars of honey, large and small, ranging from the darkest ambers to almost quartz pale.
If I were a bee, at least I would know exactly what the point of my existence was, Cora thought. She stared back up at the Bard. If I lived back in the 1600s, I would probably be a multiple mother by now, living in questionable sanitary conditions. I think I’d rather be a bee.
Movement to her right caught Cora’s attention and pulled her from her daydreams. The other customer rose from his table and approached the counter with a piece of cardboard in his right hand. He was a weird-looking guy -- his salt-and-pepper hair appeared estranged from comb or brush. He wore a pair of brown corduroy pants with an orange sweater, and his black-framed glasses were intended to look stylish, but somehow, they didn’t rise to the occasion. Cora decided, from her place of a little higher-than-sensible heels and black knee-length dress, that the man looked weird.
“June,” he said to the barista, “can I put this in the window?”
The barista turned and looked at the piece of cardboard he was holding up to her. “What, your ‘Help Wanted’ sign?” There was the slightest sliver of distaste on her face in the way she crinkled her nose at the hand-drawn design.
“Yes. People are more likely to see it here. All the glass windows. Not something I need in the PI business.”
Cora wasn’t sure she was hearing right. Help Wanted? It was, quite literally, a sign. She got up from her table, the sugary coffee all but forgotten, and tapped the man lightly on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” she said as he turned. “Are you hiring?”
The man had missed a shave or two -- either that or he was trying to grow a beard, with the emphasis on trying. Despite his unkempt appearance, Cora froze when he focused on her with a set of sharp blue eyes. “Serendipitous. You are looking to be hired?”
“Erm. Yes. Yes, I am.”
He stared at her as if she were a gallery painting to be examined and evaluated. Cora almost thought he was about to tell her he didn’t need her. “Hold this,” he finally said and dropped what looked like an old-fashioned pocket watch in her outstretched hand.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” she said. The thing wasn’t a normal watch as far as she could tell. It had hands, but they were not ticking the seconds away, and the symbols on it were not numbers, or at least not a script she recognized. One hand was spinning quite fast.
“Nothing,” he said and took the watch back. “The alphabet,” he said after a tiny pause.
“You know the alphabet?”
“Odd hours too.”
“Oh, that’s great. I love odd hours. I mean --”
“You’re not a screamer? I absolutely cannot have a screamer.”
“What? Scream about what? What kind of job are we talking?”
“Answering the phone, greeting clients, filing, that sort of thing. If you can start right away, that would be best. Screaming, as in at big spiders, things to do with violent murder, darkness in general, and special circumstances.”
“I kill my own spiders, and so long as I’m not at the receiving end of the violence or the murder, I’m good. As for darkness, I carry a flashlight in my purse, right next to the pepper spray. Don’t you want my resume?”
Praise for A Taste of Magic (Fairview Chronicles 1)
"This was extremely entertaining.Pick up this book if you want some light-hearted fun and good writing at the same time!"
-- 4 Stars from Cécile C, Goodreads Review
"Absolutely recommended! Alexa Piper is a new author to me, but she's going on my auto-read list. Her voice and style remind me of other favorites like Seanan McGuire and Laurell K. Hamilton (if you enjoy those, you'll enjoy her). Cora is sassy and fun, and Valerian is dangerously delightful. Looking forward to more in the series. "
-- 5 Stars from Willa Okati, Goodreads Review
"Bloody brilliant. A great story to go with the action (of many kinds). I love the humour Alexa adds to her writing, the characters are likable and have real depth, the story is fun and engaging. Bring on the next one in the series! "
-- 5 Stars from Brandi, Goodreads Review
"With a loveable cast, and a killer romance, this novella is a great way to spend an evening. Can't wait to see more of Cora and the crew of Fairview. "
-- 4 Stars from Jesse, Goodreads Review
Copyright ©2020 Alexa Piper
Chris was waiting at a crossroads for the moon to reach its zenith. It was a nice night for summoning, or at the very least, it was a nice night, warm with spring, and quiet, perfectly cloudless. Chris didn’t really know what was good for summoning as he had never ever done such a thing before, unless calling forth a witness to the witness stand qualified.
Chris brushed chalk from his hands and looked at the design he had drawn onto the concrete. The circle had needed some adjusting -- a manhole had interrupted the pattern, and in the end he had moved it just a bit, hoping that it was still close enough to where the roads intersected to get the summoning done.
The Vineyard was very cozy for calling a demon, Chris thought. He had considered finding an abandoned spot at the docks, but it turned out rich people didn’t hang out in the streets much after dark. Instead, the streets were very empty, and because it was the Vineyard, they were very clean, made scenic by walled-in or fenced-off front yards, some of which sported a fountain or a pond. All the hedges in the Vineyard were well-trimmed.
Chris liked rich people, and not just for their skill -- or their gardeners’ skills -- with trimming greenery. He was himself not exactly poor, but he didn’t care much for money. He enjoyed taking care of it, though. He enjoyed accounting, because seeing things balanced just so always flooded Chris with a deep sense of happiness.
Thinking that demons should be the best accountants between this world and the one that was called the In-Between was exciting. Chris hoped they did trainings. He would love to learn a thing or two about demonic math or hellish arithmetic.
The moon was almost where he needed it to be, and so Chris pulled out the piece of paper he had found tucked way back in a drawer of Cora’s desk. He had not even noticed that drawer when he’d first taken over for Cora while she and Valerian were in China, but it had certainly been there when he’d opened it to clean and organize it.
He cleared his throat. “I summon thee like dying night summons morning’s first breath, come anon, Lark, demon of demon borne, demon birthed by witch, meet me at moon’s apex where roads cut crosses in the earth, where paths meet and diverge. I call thee. Come.”
Chris looked around. The Vineyard was still quiet. Nothing stirred. A fountain twinkled happily behind a ruler-straight hedge. “Too bad. A demon would’ve been fun,” Chris said and stuffed the paper back into his jacket pocket. He looked at the circle, chalked just like one of Rafe’s books had said to chalk a demon-summoning circle. Chris wondered what the residents would make of it. Perhaps he should leave some of Rafe’s cards in a few mailboxes nearby. It might get them a concerned client who wanted a PI to make sure the neighbors were not Satanists.
Before Chris could take a step away from the chalk circle and toward a mailbox, the air stirred and began to sizzle with electricity. A scent of earth and mulch permeated everything, and rumbling thunder rolled through the cloudless climes. In the circle, someone took shape.
“Wow,” Chris said. He had summoned a demon, he really had. Had Cora been there -- or Valerian for that matter -- he’d have high-fived them. “Life’s good.” He had another thing to scratch off the old bucket list.
“The human plane!” the demon said when he had become fully corporeal. He stood in the center of the circle and looked around with bright blue eyes. His raven hair appeared feathery soft. Fuck. Are demons supposed to look this good? I hope this one isn’t taken. The demon looked at Chris. “You summoned me. Thank you, I am in your debt. My name is Lark. What’s yours?”
Praise for A Midsummer Night's Demon (Fairview Chronicles 3)
"This was a really funny story. Twisting many mythologies and supernatural creatures together (including a sort of sentient desk, yes a desk) Alexa Piper comes up with one of the funniest things that I have read this year. This is book three of The Fairvew Chronicles, a series that I really love and hope goes on for many books... I can’t wait to read the next one. Meanwhile I am going to re read this one like I would a good movie to catch all the many little bits of business and mythological references that I missed the first time."
-- 5 Stars from Suzanne, Kobo.com Review
"This was great fun! It's not an actual retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream, though the Shakespeare vibes are strongly present. The humour, complications, over-the-top play of bewitchings and love polygons (I stopped counting the angles halfway through) were as enjoyable as the play this references. Erotic romance with a sense of humour is the best kind."
-- 4 Stars from Cecile C., Goodreads Review
Copyright ©2021 Alexa Piper
Like any hunter, Eris enjoyed perching. He was doing it -- perching on a fire escape -- and watching the alpha bitch below who’d snatched his heart in her werewolf claws. Eris held his bow loosely in his hand as Lindsey, all serious Fairview Police detective with her tight ponytail, took in the corpse. It was a nice, distracting corpse, which made it even easier for Eris to remain unseen.
“The fuckery,” Lindsey was saying. It was quite some fuckery indeed. Not that the sight of a torn ribcage particularly troubled Eris, nor the sight of a Dumpster and a good chunk of the sidewalk decorated with guts. But he could agree with Lindsey’s judgment. It is probably wise to get used to agreeing with her. She will expect it, once I woo her, Eris thought. Of course, Eris had dated a hellhound before, like most archers, but a werewolf alpha was a different kind of fletching altogether. I think I might be looking forward to agreeing with her, Eris thought.
A pigeon landed next to Eris, interrupting the newly found agreeable state of the archer’s mind. The pigeon’s pink claws curled around the iron banister, and he looked at the archer with hungry bird eyes and made a pigeon noise while the alpha bitch discussed the bloody fuckery with the medical examiner who was poking and prodding the corpse.
“I don’t have any food,” Eris told the pigeon.
The pigeon stared with his beady eyes and cooed.
“Seriously. I don’t. Go away. I’m perching here.” Eris shifted a bit and adjusted his grip on his bow.
The pigeon did not move. Eris’s bow hand was beginning to feel the tingling need for an arrow, no matter how scrawny the pigeon’s feathery ass was.
“Go. Away.” He was being nice, wasn’t he? Surely even a Fairview pigeon could appreciate that.
The pigeon was being stubborn, however. Down below, Lindsey was cursing some more before she told the medical examiner to let her know the moment the autopsy was done. Then, the alpha bitch pulled out her phone.
“You know, I don’t hate pigeons, but your kind really shouldn’t be all this territorial,” Eris said.
The pigeon cooed.
“Fucks and feathers,” the archer said. Below, Lindsey ended the call and walked away from the fuckery. “Looks like I’m getting coffee. So long, pigeon.”
Eris, rather than descending, went up. Archers like him had an easy way when it came to high ground, and their kind rarely fell, if ever. And Eris felt pretty sure he knew where Lindsey was headed.
The pigeon stared after him. Then, his territory successfully defended, he cooed once more.
* * *
The Queene Bean’s coffee was the best in all of Fairview. Eris had no evidence at all to support this claim, but when he walked inside to the chirping of the bells above the door, the mellona behind the counter returned his bright smile with a sort of sour twitch of her lip. The bee demon always put extra honey in Eris’s coffee, and he didn’t really care that she was prejudiced against his kind. It much helped that any mellona was proud to provide the best customer service experience.
“Hey, June!” Eris said.
“Trickster.” Her tone was level, because she was a mellona, and being friendly to a customer was important to her. “How misfortuitous to see you and your arrows here again. What’ll it be?”
“Oh, June Bee. Coffee. Double extra honey.” Eris looked at the selection of baked goods. “And a cranberry chocolate muffin.”
“Will you need a table?” Clearly, she was hoping he wouldn’t. Or perhaps she was hoping for a heart attack or a lightning strike to hit Eris. Mellona really are the best, Eris thought.
Eris looked over his shoulder. His table was free. “I’ll just take the one by the window. With the best view in all of Fairview, you know.” The mellona visibly bristled, but she hid it with another stinging smile.
The Queene Bean was pretty empty, yet Eris spotted a poet. His kind could spot them at a great distance, and this one was even at her craft, which made her all shiny and lyrical to behold. With his bow still ready, the archer was tempted to pierce the poet’s heart with one of his arrows, not a love one, but perhaps the kind of ravishing longing that came on strong and then vanished with time. It might prompt line upon line of verse, but Eris decided to leave all his arrows in his quiver. He did not want June to ban him, after all. Shooting people with arrows might actually give her enough of a reason to do that.
Eris settled into the comfy chair at the table which offered him the best view in town, namely the front entrance of St. John Investigations, the prime purveyor of supernatural sleuthing and high-end problem solving in all of Fairview. Not that there was any competition, but still, St. John’s assistant was a mage both pretty and powerful.
“She swayed a heart pierced with my arrow’s lust back to her through true love’s kiss,” Eris mumbled. Then he realized there were no pigeons here, only June, who had approached his table with her buzzing turned to loud.
“Here,” she said. The muffin and coffee were placed onto the table with just the smallest ounce of too much force, and her smile was sour as curdling milk.
Still, Eris beamed at the bee. “Thank you ever so much, oh buzzing beauty. Beauty buzz. Buzz beauty… Say, do you have a buzz boy?” He leaned close to June. “I would offer to kiss you, but I must woo another. What woos a werewolf, I wonder? Any advice?”
“No, there are no boys in the hive, and you know that. Tell your werewolf to bite you.” And with that, June walked off to glare at Eris from behind the counter.
Eris started sipping his sweet, sweet coffee while the poet wrinkled her forehead in the pursuit of rhymesome verse.
Somewhere during the second line of butchered meter and severed feet, Lindsey pulled up in her car.
“Oh, I’d like to wipe that annoyance off your face,” Eris thought. The corpse had not been pretty, but if she kept her forehead furrowed like that, she might grow a permanent scowl. “Not that I would ever mind any wrinkle upon that werewolf’s brow.”
And probably because he had said it out loud, he started imagining how he would wipe off that expression. The wiping was figurative, but the kissing he wanted to do was quite real. Ideally, if he could add some sweeping her off her feet, all the better.
He’d kiss Lindsey sore so long as it meant she’d take her clothes off at some point, and he had imagined that all too frequently if he was being honest. His alpha bitch liked her denim and her boots, and she had the lithe, muscular shape that meant those showed off her legs. And her ass, of course, which Eris had to admit was a target he wouldn’t mind examining closer.