"Thank you very much," Kailey said brightly, handing over a brightly beribboned bag. "One of my cards is inside; it has my website on it. I'd love to hear from you."
She waved goodbye to her smiling customer and then when no one else came into the shop, took a moment to breathe in the fragrant spring air.
The Black Island Renaissance Festival was in full swing with hundreds of costumed patrons wandering the cobblestone streets, chatting excitedly or walking arm and arm with lovers. From her front windows Kailey could see princesses, tavern wenches, barbarians, dashing knights and a fair number of artificial elves strolling the faire.
If only they knew, she thought with amazement. The real fae were the only ones who looked truly ordinary. At least while they wore their glamour.
Three months had flown by since she'd met and married Duncan and she couldn't be happier. He treated her with such thoughtfulness and respect that she wondered how she'd ever thought him aloof or stuffy. Duncan was romantically sensual and boyishly playful, but only in private. He still presented a cool, haughty exterior to everyone else. It was only with her that he allowed his rare humor to come through. Their relationship was everything she'd ever wanted and on top of it, she was pregnant.
Duncan had completely lost his composure when she'd come out of the bathroom with her pregnancy test showing positive. He'd scooped her up in his arms and proceeded to dance her all over their rooms, whooping and hollering the whole way. She'd thrown back her head and laughed at his exuberance.
While they'd been on their honeymoon in Oceanside, King Thane had directed the construction of her little shop adjoining Suki's toy shop. There were plenty of shelves and tables for her to display her cloth goods. A wide main door opened onto the cobblestone street and was flanked by two large windows that let in tons of light. Another door and a couple of steps led up into Suki's shop. Kailey's workroom was behind the counter so she could watch for customers while she sewed.
Business had started out slowly in February when Black Island reopened for customers, but as Kailey learned what people liked the most, it had picked up and she was now making a bit of a profit and expected to do even better in the months that came.
She and Duncan had settled into an easy routine. They both worked long hours while the festival was open. Patrons of the festival arrived on the Monday morning ferry at ten and departed at the same time on Friday. Merchants and entertainers worked eleven to twelve hour days while the tavern keepers worked even longer.
But the fae knew how to celebrate their weekends once all the human patrons had gone. The weather workers dismantled their fair weather spells, everyone dropped their glamour, bonfires were lit and much fairy mead was consumed. Duncan and Kailey usually joined in a feast or a dance, but then often spent the weekends lazing in front of the large bay windows in the sitting room. The view of the Columbia River wandering by was almost as good as the ocean.
So on this Thursday afternoon with no more customers immediately in sight, Kailey took a moment to stretch and close her eyes, inhaling the breathtaking scent from the three cherry trees that were in bloom just across the road from her shop.
Of course the trees had been elsewhere last week. They were actually tree spirits and Kailey had nearly jumped out of her skin the first time she'd seen a tree walking down the street, its roots undulating over the ground like the tentacles of a giant octopus.
When Kailey and Duncan had announced their pregnancy last weekend, the cherry trees had taken to following Kailey around, perfuming the air with their delicate fragrance and dropping pretty pink petals all around.
Her pregnancy, the first on the island between a human and a fae, had put everyone in a cheerful dither. Fae that she'd never even met before often came up to hug Kailey or gaze reverently at her still flat belly. It had been a bit disconcerting at first, but she was happily getting used to it. She was also feeling much better than she had when she was pregnant with Bree. So far she'd had no morning sickness and she was far more energetic. The doctor that she was seeing on the mainland assured her that everything was going well.
A floor board creaked near the front door of her shop and Kailey opened her eyes.
Two police officers had just walked in. Their uniforms were so at odds with the renaissance setting that Kailey burst out laughing. Her laughter earned her a couple of hard stares.
"I'm so sorry," she said quickly, "it's just that you two look so out of place. Can I help you?"
"Are you Keiko O'Kane?"
"Well, sort of," she said stepping out from behind her counter. "I got married this winter so my last name is Terrell now and I go by my middle name. You can call me Kailey."
The two officers introduced themselves. "I'm afraid we have some bad news about your former husband, Mrs. Terrell."
Kailey froze. Here was the moment she'd been dreading.
"Steven Myers' body was found off the coast of Tillamook on January 17th."
She knew she needed to act surprised and actually, she was surprised that it had taken them this long to find her. But she had to be careful to not give anything about Duncan away. While he hadn't actually killed Steve, he'd been more closely involved than she was comfortable with.
"His body?" she repeated. "How did he die?"
The two officers exchanged brief glances. "He shot himself."
She grimaced. "Oh, gawd." Hearing it, again still shocked her. She would have preferred that Steve go to jail, but that hadn't worked out so well the first time. She knew that Duncan had been correct. Steve would have continued hunting her as long as he was alive.
One of the officers was looking at her with narrowed eyes and Kailey felt uncomfortable. She realized that her silence must seem odd to him. She'd always been a law abiding citizen, grown up next door to a police officer who'd given her and his daughter rides in his cruiser and had never felt awkward around police officers. But now she did feel uncomfortable. She wasn't supposed to know about Steve's death. Even though she hadn't done anything wrong, and Duncan hadn't done anything wrong, she knew that one of the officers was still picking up on her discomfort. She felt like she was misleading them. But really, her entire life was about misleading humans now and for the sake of Duncan and all the fae on the island, she could learn to live with this awkward feeling.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he finally said, "but you don't seem too surprised by this information."
Kailey grimaced. "I'm sorry. What I am is relieved. I know that's an awful thing to say, but if you've read my files, you know that Steve attacked me and has been stalking me. I'm also convinced that he deliberately caused our daughter's death. So hearing that he killed himself…" she shrugged. "I'm afraid I'm not too broken up about it."
Her explanation seemed to satisfy the officer and they gave her the details about a fishing boat spotting the body. Because of the state of decay, it had taken them a while to identify him. She was grateful that she didn't have to identify Steve's body, but she was able to verify the money clip that had been in his pocket as one she'd given him.
They had a few other routine questions for her when Duncan came tearing into the shop as if blown in on a hurricane.
From the alarmed look in his eyes, Kailey guessed that he must have just heard about the police officers being on the island and was concerned about her. She wished he had stayed away. The fae were incapable of lying. They could certainly be deceptive, of course. But they could not tell an outright lie and while Duncan hadn't actually killed Steve, Kailey didn't want him forced to tell the police the truth. She didn't think they'd be too understanding of the choices Duncan had given him.
But since he'd blown in the door, his long hair snapping behind him, she'd have to make the best of the situation.
"Hi, honey," she said brightly, holding out a hand to Duncan to coax him over next to her. "These two officers just told me that they found Steve. Apparently he committed suicide somewhere out by Tillamook."
"Good riddance," Duncan growled.
Kailey suppressed a groan. "This is my husband, Duncan Terrell," she said and introduced the two officers to Duncan. Fortunately, Duncan had been in a meeting with some of the island's suppliers on the mainland and was dressed in a striking business suit, his glamour well in place. Other than his exotically long hair, he looked like any other successful business man as he stepped forward to shake hands with the police officers.
"Did you know Steve Myers?" one of the officers asked him.
"I'm afraid I didn't have time to make his acquaintance while he was shooting at us on the beach a few months ago," Duncan said sardonically. "I doubt that we would have gotten along. I don't care for men who stab their wives or kill their children."
Kailey squeezed his hand. She would have preferred that Duncan let her do the talking, but the officers seemed satisfied. They handed her a photocopied note.
"About your daughter," one of them began gently. "It does appear that he killed her intentionally."
Kailey took the sheet of paper with a hand that suddenly shook. She wasn't sure she wanted to read it. Duncan wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Kailey raised the paper and began to read.
In his note, Steve confessed to deliberately pushing Bree's tricycle in front of the UPS truck. He admitted that he didn't like her because she was a 'retard', as he put it, a drain on his finances and an embarrassment.
Kailey gasped and thrust the note back to the police officer. "I don't want to read any more," she said, a sob choking her. "I'm glad he's dead," she whispered, "I'm glad he's dead!" With another sob, she turned her face into Duncan's chest and wept. Duncan softly rubbed her back, watching the officers over the top of her head.
They apologized for her daughter's death rather awkwardly and started to leave. But Kailey wiped the tears from her face and turned.
"That UPS driver lost his license because of Steve's lies. It was never his fault. He needs to have his license reinstated. I can give you his name…"
"No need, ma'am. We have it in your files and will be contacting him."
"Promise?" Kailey insisted. "You won't forget to help him?"
"Yes, ma'am. That's a promise."
"Thank you," she said, wiping at another tear and watched them leave with relief.
"It's over," Duncan whispered in her hair. "It's finally over, my love."
Duncan poked at the wood in the fireplace until the flames leaped high. The night was chilly despite the weather workers' efforts and he wanted everything to be perfect when Kailey got home.
His initial intention had been to surprise her with champagne and some decadent hors d'oeuvers, but a quick conversation with Queen Andrea had canceled that idea. His queen seemed to think that Kailey would not appreciate a celebration.
He certainly felt like celebrating. If he could resurrect Steve and stab him again, he would do so. The fact that he now lay on a cold slab somewhere with his face eaten off by crabs gave him no end of satisfaction.
However after some consideration, Duncan had to agree with Queen Andrea. His wife had very delicate sensibilities and would feel guilty about stepping on ants, much less toasting the fact that Steve had blown his brains all over Three Arch Rocks. While he could admire his wife's respect for all life, no matter how undeserving, he did not share her sentiments. Nevertheless, he'd keep it to himself and went with his queen's suggestion instead.
He straightened up from the fireplace and rubbed his hands together, surveying the sitting room. Their two antique wing chairs sat directly in front of the hearth and the small table between had been set with good china and a table cloth. Elegant silver twinkled in the firelight.
Duncan had just twitched a fork into more perfect position when the outer door opened and Kailey stepped inside.
A quick glance told him that she was still troubled by the visit from the police officers, but not as deeply so as she had been earlier. He crossed the room quickly to her and helped her take off her cloak.
"Hi, sorry I'm late," she said, throwing her arms around him and snuggling against his chest. "One of my customers had some questions."
"Are you well?" Duncan asked, holding her tight. "I know that today must have been difficult."
Kailey stepped back. "Yeah… I'm okay. It was awful seeing what Steve wrote about Bree though." She paused and took a shaky breath. Duncan enfolded her in his arms again.
"How can I help?"
"You are." Kailey's voice was muffled against his chest. "Just be being you, just by loving me and showing me how much you love me. You help so much. I might not ever get over my daughter's death, but you give me hope."
Duncan's heart swelled. He never thought he'd find his true mate and never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that she might be so kind, so loving, so exactly what his lonely heart needed. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her swiftly into the bedroom.
"Kailey, my sweet Kailey," he murmured against her dark hair. She kissed his throat in return and he was hard in an instant, her warm lips licking flames inside his body. He needed to be inside her, to show her how much he loved her. He was just about to lay her on the bed when Kailey's stomach growled.
She laughed and he felt the movement all through his body.
"I didn't eat much at dinner time," she admitted.
Reluctantly, his body protesting every step, Duncan changed directions and carried her back out to the sitting room.
"I thought we were going to bed," Kailey said, clearly puzzled. Duncan set her down gently in the large arm chair and straightened up, though he hated to lose the touch of her sweet curves.
"Queen Andrea suggested… I thought…" he began and realized that his usual eloquence had failed him.
"Cat got your tongue?" Kailey asked with an impish grin. "I hope not because I'd like to make use of it myself."
Duncan's groin clenched as he wondered just what she'd like him to do with his tongue. He could certainly come up with several ideas, but right now she was hungry and his carnal passions needed to take second place, no matter how difficult it was.
Leaning down, he whipped the cover off of the cake with a flourish. Kailey's eyebrows shot up and she gave him a surprised look.
"You had Cook bake a chocolate cake for me?"
"Her Majesty thought it would be more appropriate than the bottle of champagne I initially intended."
Kailey's brows shot up again. "Champagne?"
Duncan shrugged and threw himself in the other chair. "I thought we could celebrate Steve's official demise…"
Kailey made a choked sound and Duncan looked at her sharply. Both hands were over her face.
Duncan immediately felt contrite. "I am sorry. I am unseelie. It is in my nature to be unforgiving and to rejoice in the defeat of an enemy. I did not mean to offend you."
To his surprise, when Kailey dropped her hands from her face she had a wry grin on her face. "You are so… fae," she stated. "Champagne, of all things!" She shook her head, but her smile was back. "Steve was a horrible man and while I can't celebrate that he's dead, I am glad. It's such a huge relief to not have to be looking over my shoulder anymore. I know that probably makes me a horrible human being, but he was just so… so hateful."
"Would you like for me to go to the morgue, find his body and beat him up again?"
He chuckled and deftly slid a piece of cake onto a plate. "Do you want some cake and tea?"
Duncan looked up sharply. Kailey had risen and the tone of her voice had softened. He watched with interest as she toed off her shoes and then reached down to pull her panties out from under her full gown.
"I want you," Kailey told him as she walked over and straddled his lap. The chair was just big enough and Duncan wondered why he hadn't noticed that before. He reached up and pulled her hips down so that she was in firm contact with his lap then went to work on the laces of her bodice.
Kailey's fingers slid into his hair as she kissed him. "You are my knight in shining armor," she said, punctuating the words with a kiss. "You are my hero." Another kiss. "My one, true love." And another. "I am so lucky to have found you."
"As I am you," Duncan said and then he pushed her gown off of her shoulders and sucked a pert nipple into his mouth.
They both forgot about hunger for a while. Though they did eventually eat the entire chocolate cake.
Later. Much later.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed this novel as much as I enjoyed writing it. Some notes about the location; Oceanside is a real place – a tiny resort town just outside of Tillamook Oregon. It has two tiny cafés, a coffee shop and nothing else. This is a wonderful place to wander the beach and look for jaspers, agates and drift wood, but if you want entertainment and clubs – forget it. This is a fabulous town to relax, commune with the ocean and totally unplug. The Three Arch Rocks and Maxwell Point are ancient lava flows that have been battered and sculpted by the ocean. Three Arch Rocks are wildlife preserves for the many seals and sea birds of the area.
Thank you again. I hope you'll come join me on my blogs – the addresses are on my bio. Have a great 2015!