A/N: Yep, I've started a new story. Never fear, fans of my Rhyan Stone series, I'll still be working on that, too. I dunno if Aidan will get her own series, but it's possible. Also, if anyone's curious, cait sith means fairy cat. Yeah, I do sit around looking this stuff up. Enjoy. =D
It was exactly midnight when my life went to hell. I remember because I had been watching Stephen King movies all day and the last minisode of The Stand had just started. Someone knocked, rather politely, on my front door. It was obvious I was awake, half the lights were on in my house. I figured it was my neighbor Lawrence Dawson, come to foretell massive power bills, global warming, and his wife bitching. Boy, could that woman bitch. I'd thought my family was bad, but she could strip paint off walls.
Anyway, back to my life going to hell. Assuming it was my neighbor trying to appease his wife, I gave a mournful look to the pretty boys on my TV and stood up, sighing. I padded barefoot and in my PJ's to the door. I yawned as I opened it, surprised to see a woman on my doorstep. Her hair was metallic gold, eyes a vivid, inhuman green, her skin was pale, creamy, and faintly Asian. She had a narrow vulpine face. Shapeshifter. I thought, then I caught her scent, fox and the faint aroma of deep fried tofu. Kitsune. Oh shit!
I almost succeeded in slamming the door, but her hand shot out, keeping it open. Reflex kicked in and I flexed my fingers, the nails thickening and curving into claws. Fine, thin bones in my hands cracked and shifted. The fox woman actually smiled, her other hand easily caught mine when I went to slash her face. "Calm yourself, cait sith, I am not here to hurt you," she murmured gently.
"You insult me, fox," I hissed softly, struggling as she pushed me inside and shut the door. How fucking dare she? I was sidhe, my mother and her twin sister heirs to the Throne of Faerie. So what if my father had been a therianthrope? It was insulting to simply call me a cat. I didn't associate much with that part of my genealogy.
"My most sincere apologies, fae lady," the kitsune replied, an impish smile on her pretty, fine-boned face. She shoved me back, putting enough room between us so that she was safe from my claws. I noticed her fox tail, just one, though she was probably hiding the other eight. It was the same gold color as her hair and tipped in white. I wondered how old she was. To be able to claim a form like the one she inhabited meant she was hardly a cub.
"Who the hell are you?" I growled at her. Kitsune were tricksters, soothsayers, gypsies, thieves. The list was endless. Sure, in a show of brute strength, I could kick her nine-tailed ass all the way back to Tokyo. However, she was older and a helluva lot more conniving than me, even with my time spent in the fae courts.
She gave me that devious smile again. "I am Scheme Falconstryke," she told me, and I fought the urge to snicker at the ridiculous name. Kitsune were pretty big on the weird, funny, and generally odd names. I could understand Scheme for a first name, she was a fox after all, but Falconstryke? Really?
"Great, nice to meet ya, Scheme. I'm Aidan Cahir. What the fuck do you want?" I said, putting enough false cheerfulness in my voice to rot a tooth, but not bothering to look the least bit happy. At all. I don't have time for foxes or their bull.
Again, that damn I-know-something-you-don't-know smile. "I know who you are, Aidan. I'm not so foolish as to enter the home of a royal sidhe without reason," Scheme said to me, and I wondered, not for the first time, why she was here. Kitsune stayed away from rural areas.
"You didn't answer my question," I said pointedly. Well, she wasn't here to kill me. If she was, we'd both be bleeding by now.
"I have a message for you, from your father," Scheme said, her voice bland, as though she was discussing the weather or some other trivial thing.
"My father? How do you know my father?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at her. I'd met my father when I turned sixteen and had my first shapeshift. You can imagine how that went; one hundred prim, proper, repressed, and exceedingly dull future fae royalty clustered around a table, acting like picture perfect princesses when all of a sudden I start convulsing and collapse on the floor like an epileptic dolphin.
The first shapeshift is always the worst. It's also disgusting as hell. Your skin itches and burns, like a really bad sunburn that's first starting to peel. Then comes the bones and tendons, trying to become those of an animal while still in a human body. Finally fur explodes out of your skin, covered in this weird sticky scentless goop that looks like a cross between pus and egg white. It's never like that again, but children don't forget shit like that. I became a pariah to my fae 'friends', so I spent a few years with my father's pack of leopards. Eventually, someone else did something embarrassing. The person in particular was a fairly high born sidhe girl, my age, who got knocked up by a faebreed horse. Yeah, don't think too hard about it.
"The family my kin watch over lives near his pack. A black dog has been taking down some of his cats, and we didn't think much of it. Then, the fucker killed my little brother and mauled the family's youngest son. We can't touch it since it's faerie kind. We need you to kill it," she said, a fine tremble of rage vibrating through her body. Her tail stood straight up, like a banner, the fur fluffed up in agitation.
"Why me?" I asked, but I knew why. Black dogs were serious business. Only the Faerie Queen and King themselves had the power to control them. But some, like faeries themselves, could go rouge. When that happened, they had to be put down, and put down hard. The only way to do that was to get a rouge faerie and arm them up with cold iron. Knives, swords, guns, anything and everything that could hurt them. And then you hoped like hell you got lucky. With my combined sidhe and wereleopard genetics, I had a fair chance at not dying.
"Because you're special," Scheme muttered, sarcasm dripping from her words like acidic rain. "Your dad said you have a fair hand with a blade, that right?"
"Just knives. I don't do sword work." Call me weird, but I liked close combat, especially with the wickedly sharp claws I could grow at will.
"Nice to know," she said, her green eyes flickering around the front room of my home. It was nice, funded by fae money. My mom insisted on spoiling her first born daughter, even though I'd left the courts. I was too animalistic to stand being around the repressed culture. I needed the harsh shot of adrenaline when I did something reckless. To some of the girls I'd known, the biggest high they got was when they sneaked a chocolate bar while they strived to be tiny enough to go through a door without opening it. "Where am I sleeping tonight?" she asked right before she yawned.
"At the Super 8 down the road," I replied, crossing my arms. She barges into my house, informs me I have to risk my life to kill a black dog, and then has the balls to ask where she's sleeping? Yeah, no. "And I haven't agreed to kill the damned dog. Send a petition to the queen and king, they'll get around to snuffing it eventually."
Her green eyes narrowed dangerously on me. "Look here, cait sith, I don't have that kind of time. You and me are flying down to Florida first thing in the morning, then you're going to drive a piece of iron through that thrice damned dog's chest and carve its fucking heart out. And just so we're very clear, you can go willingly or I can drug your ass and ship you as cargo."
"Yeah, that isn't making me want to help you," I told her, watching her for any little twitch of movement. This was going to get very dangerous very quickly. "It's actually succeeding in pissing me off, though. Why the blue fuck should I risk my life just because you want me to? And how the hell do I know that you aren't bullshitting about knowing my father?"
She watched me warily as she slipped a slender hand into her jeans pocket and pulled out a black rawhide strap attached to a small pewter figurine of a leopard carved in intricate detail, I knew because I had one just like it. My father had made it for me. "He went missing three days ago. I found this and some blood. His and the black dog's, I think. Now, I'll ask again, cait sith, will you behave like a civilized being or will I have to find a pet carrier?"
I stared at the necklace. I still kept some contact with my father despite not having much to do with his pack. Phone calls on holidays, cards on his birthday and father's day, things like that. Thanks to my sidhe blood, I was immortal and I knew I'd have to face his death eventually, but I'd hoped it would be later. He wasn't very old, far too young to die, especially for a therianthrope. My chest clenched and I closed my eyes for a long moment. "Fine," I whispered softly, knowing she could hear me quite clearly.
"Good. We have a flight booked for eight. Go get some sleep, I'll wake you up when it's time to go," Scheme said, her voice gentle.
Numbly, I walked up the stairs to my room and collapsed on the bed. The part of me that was unrefined, uncultured, and vicious was already making plans for the black dog's death. That wild feline part of me, coupled with my strong sidhe pride, craved vengeance for the loss of my father. Even if it killed me to do so, I'd see the damnable beast lying dead and bloody at my feet.