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Trouble with Fate
My name is Hedi Peacock and I have a secret. I'm not human, and I have the pointy Fae ears and Were inner-bitch to prove it. As fairy tales go, my childhood was damn near perfect, all fur and magic until a werewolf killed my father and the Fae executed my mother. I've never forgiven either side. Especially Robson Trowbridge. He was a part-time werewolf, a full-time bastard, and the first and only boy I ever loved. That is, until he became the prime suspect in my father's death...
Today I'm a half-breed barista working at a fancy coffee house, living with my loopy Aunt Lou and a temperamental amulet named Merry, and wondering where in the world I'm going in life. A pretty normal existence, considering. But when a pack of Weres decides to kidnap my aunt and force me to steal another amulet, the only one who can help me is the last person I ever thought I'd turn to: Robson Trowbridge. And he's as annoyingly beautiful as I remember. That's the trouble with fate: Sometimes it barks. Other times it bites. And the rest of the time it just breaks your heart. Again...
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Leigh Evans lives in Southern Ontario with her husband and a short, fat, black dog. She's raised two kids, mothered three dogs, and herded a few cats. Other than that, her life has been fairly boring.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
What do the tree huggers call it? Karma?
No, wait a minute; that’s not right. “Karma” is just a word for what goes around comes around, isn’t it? And on the surface, Robson Trowbridge’s only crime was to have been the hot guy in school who was totally oblivious to the bottom dwellers of his world.
Like me, Hedi Peacock, formerly Helen Stronghold, and still, unfortunately, a bottom dweller.
“Karma” isn’t the word I was looking for. Should someone’s life turn to crap just because he’s handsome? Even I’m not that bitter. But still, I wish someone would even it out, make it so that everyone had the same luck and chances. If I created the world, you could bet there would be a set of natural laws, and one of them would be the Law of You Can’t Stay Hot Forever. It would be stamped on the forehead of every high school heartthrob in ink visible only to bottom dwellers, just as an incentive to survive the ordeal of high school. According to my law, hot guys would age very badly. At thirty, they’d be thumbing through the yellow pages searching for a hair renewal salon.
I shifted on the back of my heels, and strained to peek over the counter. Ten years out of high school and Trowbridge still had hair. In fact, more than when he’d been the to-die-for son of the Alpha of Creemore. Back then, he’d owned a Jeep and had dibs on a crown. He’d have been considered cute even without the killer smile.
“What are you doing down there?” asked my manager, Mark.
“I thought I dropped something, but I can’t find it.” I stood and reached for the silver milk container beside my espresso machine. It had been a dumb instinct, dropping to my knees behind the counter. Most things are better faced when you’re upright.
“You’re slowing down again.” Mark slapped another cup on the order shelf. “Now, you have four orders to fill.” He lowered his voice. “Hurry. Up.”
I nodded, teeth clenched, and let out a jet of steam to make him back up. He was going to fire me.
I may have broken a cookie here and there. Everyone knows that broken cookies can’t be sold. Everyone knows that the person who notices the broken cookie gets to eat the cookie. These are facts. If people stayed with proven facts, work environments would be easier. Groundless accusations just stir things up, like the whole “Who hid the turkey breast sandwich behind the milk?” controversy. Did they think I did it? Well, prove it. Maybe I did do it, and maybe if you were an anal retentive asshole who counted cookies and sandwiches, you might feel those were two good reasons to fire your barista. Maybe.
But I was a goddess behind the machine. Normally, my fingers flew over the knobs, steam didn’t bother me, and no one, I repeat, no one, made foam like I did. I was a good barista, who could usually keep up with a stream of empty cups appearing by her left elbow. I even found it comforting, that monotony of press the button, steam the milk, empty the shot glass, pass the cup. But lately the familiar routine wasn’t automatic. Twice today, I’d come out of one of my aunt Lou’s transmitted thought pictures—something of a trance—with steamed milk running over the lip of the silver container and my heart jackrabbiting in my chest.
People were giving me plenty of space this afternoon, which was good. Space is a nice buffer when you work a shift with the idiot tag team of Mark and blonde-from-a-box Jennifer. They kept batting back and forth answers to the really important question of “If you could save only one thing from a fire, what would it be?”
Come on, guys. It’s not that hard. There’s only one answer. Yourself, dimwit. When fire is chewing through everything you’ve ever cared about, and there is no one left to rescue beyond yourself, the decision is simple: forget your charm bracelet and find the door. I’d point that out, but that would mean getting cozy with a human, and I don’t do cozy with the humans, which is providential, because as it happens, none of them have ever offered to extend the relationship beyond work hours. They keep their distance. Which is good, and bad, and maybe a little sad.
I can’t say I blame them. If I had to share a shift with me, I might be leery of getting in too close. Even full-blooded Fae need sleep, and my lack of quality time spent with a pillow was starting to show. But as long as I had a choice between an acid stomach or dream-plagued sleep? Pass the espresso.
At least when I was mostly awake, I could fight the sickening tentacles of Lou’s wandering mind reaching for mine. And if I failed, I could say to myself, Okay, take a deep breath, you’re all right, you’re just seeing her dreams through her eyes, but you’re still Hedi. You’re just stuck in your mad aunt’s head for a bit, witnessing how truly fucked up her brain is.
But when I was asleep? Different. Scary different.
And now I had Weres in my Starbucks; my stomach gave a disapproving gurgle.
When Trowbridge had opened the coffee shop door—the second Were to enter in ten minutes—I’d dropped to my knees, stricken with the fear that I’d slipped into a hallucination of my own, and had done so without experiencing the usual shit-here-I-go slide that happens before Lou pulls me into one of hers. Then, just as quickly as it had swamped me, my fear eased. I don’t detect scents when I’m dreaming and my nose had picked up an aroma over the brewed coffee that was Trowbridge’s alone. Ten years ago, when I’d been a lovesick twelve-year-old, I hadn’t been able to put my finger on that unique thing in his personal scent signature that my hormones interpreted as “Yum, Robson Trowbridge.”
Even now, older and a hell of a lot more bitter, I couldn’t find a word for it. It was just a truth, as tiresome and hard to deny as the notion that chocolate bypasses your stomach and goes straight to your hips. Trowbridge smelled different than the other Creemore Weres. He always had.
He was still pretty, if a bit unkempt. His jaw hadn’t seen a razor in a good week. And his hair was different. Now it was long, dark rumpled curls that brushed his shoulders. The type of curls that say, “I just got out of bed after a night of really hot sex.” Curls that don’t need a brush, just some sated female to finger-comb them.
Annoying. A girl couldn’t look at Robson Trowbridge without thinking about sex, even if she had reason to hate him. To keep myself sharp on that point, I checked out his neck, and sure enough, he had a gold chain hanging from it. He’d hidden the rest of the amulet under his shirt, but I knew it was there. Fae gold calls to my kind. I could feel its siren song, even from where I stood, half hidden behind the coffee machine.
Old history, and yet not.
“Double decaf, tall, no-foam latte.” I placed the coffee on the bar and scowled at the man who reached out for it before I finished centering it on the tray. There’s protocol, even at a Starbucks. You don’t reach for it, you wait for it. I snatched my fingers back before his could brush mine. All this pent-up fear was making me cranky.
It had snuck up on me, this yearning for Trowbridge, around puberty. I’d taken one glance at his Were abs, and gone from kid to preteen so fast that Mum had gotten whiplash. Worse, it had clung to me, that desire. Even though I try not to think of him, I still call up his face for every dark-haired hero found in one of those romance novels I boost from Bob, the blind bookseller.
Yes, I steal books from a blind bookseller.
How screwed up is that? Imagining Trowbridge as Lord Worthington, complete with the spotless Hessians?
I really wanted to rub my eyes. Behind my glasses’ magicked lenses, my eyes were sparking so badly it felt like a squad of Boy Scouts were competing to see who could start a fire with a flint and steel. But if you have a disguise, you wear it, even if it’s inconvenient, even if part of you wants to do a pirouette on top of the bar and sing, “Hah, I didn’t die after all, you scum-sucking dog.”
As I reached for a new gallon of skim milk, Trowbridge moved from the doorway toward a white-haired Were who’d come in a few minutes earlier. Geezer-Were had looked as benign as an old Were could, but I’d been keeping tabs on him anyhow, ready to bolt if he looked at me sideways. By my rulebook, Gramps shouldn’t have been there in the first place, not if he was a regular Were, doing regular things. Why? Because, basically, the stench of coffee is akin to the best doggone wolf repellent available. It won’t stop the motivated, but will deter the average Were.
Which is why, when the old Were had entered the café, nose high, and snared the last free table, my stomach had tensed, and I’d shrunk a little lower behind my brewing machine, not knowing what to expect. But since then, he’d just sat there, slouching in his comfortable country clothes, one hand playing with a stir stick someone had left behind. My ill ease had flattened, because part of me figured I could outrun a fossil like him, any day, any time. But now my fight-or-flight instinct was tapping me on the shoulder, telling me to stay sharp. What would two Weres be doing in a coffee shop? Had the Weres of Creemore finally come looking for me?
Trowbridge took a quick glance around the room before pulling out a chair opposite Geezer-Were. I held my breath as his gaze skipped me and drifted over to a shapely brunette, waiting to place her order. So much for the “aha” moment. He didn’t point a finger at me and exclaim, “Lo, there be the long-lost daughter of Benjamin Stronghold!” I wiped the counter while the steam did the foam thing, considering the implications of that. My features hadn’t changed that much. I mean, if you searched hard enough, it wasn’t a big stretch to spot the similarities between a kid named Helen and a girl named Hedi. Did the Creemore pack actually think I was dead? Unbelievable. After the flames and smoke had petered out, hadn’t anyone pawed through the rubble searching for our remains? Two kids, plus two parents brought the body count to four, not two. Fools. No one scratched their head and said, “Hey, we’re missing two corpses”?
Unless the fire reduced everything to ash? Could it do that? Bones and teeth too?
I’d never made their wanted list. It was a near sickening thought when one took in all the effort Lou and I expended hiding our tracks … oh hell … I could have gone to school … Without taking my eyes off Trowbridge and company, I pointed my finger and sent out a mental stream to the steam knob. It eased a fraction to the left.
His wedding band winked at me as he tucked a hank of hair behind his ear.
“Didn’t stop the cheating dog from checking out the brunette, did it?” I muttered to my chest. In response, my amulet, Merry, twitched in her sleep, still hidden under my shirt where I wore her. Sometimes she roused to see what was up, sometimes she didn’t—she’d simply twitch or flinch, sort of her version of a pillow over the head. In the end it didn’t really matter, because I’d give her a blow-by-blow later. Unless Merry was feeding, she hung around my neck on a chain, making her a convenient audience for one of my monologues. The rest of the time I let her nap inside the cup of my lace bra.
Trowbridge sat a little straighter. Well, he was a Were; he’d probably heard me. But recognize me? That appeared to be another thing. I wasn’t twelve anymore, and besides, I was supposed be dead, burned up in the fire.
“Peacock,” said Mark. “Speed it up.”
I spooned off a little foam and put the next order on the bar.
“That’s nonfat?” asked the woman.
“Yup,” I said with my toothy barista smile. When she turned away, I began to clean the nozzle with the damp rag. Trowbridge hadn’t moved much since he’d done the visual and slapped a “later” label on the brunette, but from my side of the bar, I could smell his growing unease over the coffee, warm milk, and humans.
That’s right, something’s wrong, I telegraphed. What is it?
His head tilted to the side as if he were searching for a clue. His nostrils flared.
Good luck on that. Faes don’t have a scent. He wasn’t following the script. He was supposed to haul me out from behind the bar, and stalk out of the coffee shop, with me a helpless, fainting burden in his arms. I’d be wearing kitten heels, one of which would drop off. My small fists would beat on his chest, and he’d look down at me and realize that his life was over unless he claimed me as his own.
Of course for that scenario to work, I’d have to be weak, blond, and at least fourteen pounds lighter. And he’d be Lord Worthington, not some no-account Were. I’m round and short. I don’t wear kitten heels. I’d like to, but they aren’t on the approved shoe list for Starbucks.
See, there you go, another lie. I’d never wear kitten heels.
My hair is brown. When it’s freshly washed and the sun catches it just so, someone who’s read one too many bodice rippers might use the word “chestnut” to describe it. That’s a stretch. Most days it could be best described as mousy brown. I haven’t worked out what to do with it, so I usually wear it pulled back in a ponytail—one of those slacker ponytails that conveniently hide the ears.
And I’m not in the least bit beautiful, which just goes to show what a contrary bitch genetics is. My mum was beautiful, otherworldly beautiful, with golden hair that swung in graceful waves to her hips. But then again, she was born a Fae—what most humans call a fairy. She didn’t have wings, and she didn’t go around in a belted tunic. She did have the ears though. Mine have a slight point to them, courtesy of her. Sometimes I find my fingers stroking their sharp, curved peaks. It soothes me.
What’s on the other side of my gene pool?
Werewolf. From my moon-called father, I got a full upper lip, a temper, and my own personal inner Were. I have that bitch on permanent lockdown, buried so deep that she represents little more than a salivation problem when I walk past the deli. I do not turn furry when the full moon rises in the night sky. My eyes don’t glow red with rage, my teeth don’t elongate, and I can hear only a little better than humans.
Get over the myths. They’re never accurate.
Trowbridge got up, and jerked his head toward the exit. Geezer-Were stood to follow. Trowbridge held the door open for him, his right hand spread wide on the glass door. It had three fingers; a thumb, a pointer, and an f-u. The pinkie was missing, leaving a rounded nub close to his palm. The ring finger had been severed after the first knuckle . Who’d hurt him?
“Did you get that?” hissed Mark.
“The next order. Grande, two pump vanilla, nonfat, extra hot, latte. You’re falling behind again, Hedi,” he said, from the safety of the cash register.
The door swung closed behind Trowbridge. I bore down on the next orders with a ferocity that made all the other little baristas stay well clear as I came to terms with the thought that all my hiding had been for nothing. They really did think I had died in the fire. Walk away, Trowbridge, I thought. Take your chewed-up hand with you.
Fourteen minutes later, my beautiful silver coffee maker started to shimmer. I squeezed hard on the steamer’s shiny silver handle, and concentrated on my fingers curled around it. Small hands, the knuckles four white sharp stones under soft skin. I could feel the pull, the sick slip of melting into Lou’s thought-pictures.
A big fat red apple flashed through my brain.
“Easy, Lou,” I said under my breath as I slid a bold one to a short guy. Fae tears, my aunt was lost today. This was the third time.
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Book Description St. Martin s Press, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Trouble with Fate Leigh Evans My name is Hedi Peacock and I have a secret. I m not human, and I have the pointy Fae ears and Were inner-bitch to prove it. As fairy tales go, my childhood was damn near perfect, all fur and magic until a werewolf killed my father and the Fae executed my mother. I ve never forgiven either side. Especially Robson Trowbridge. He was a part-time werewolf, a full-time bastard, and the first and only boy I ever loved. That is, until he became the prime suspect in my father s death. Today I m a half-breed barista working at a fancy coffee house, living with my loopy Aunt Lou and a temperamental amulet named Merry, and wondering where in the world I m going in life. A pretty normal existence, considering. But when a pack of Weres decides to kidnap my aunt and force me to steal another amulet, the only one who can help me is the last person I ever thought I d turn to: Robson Trowbridge. And he s as annoyingly beautiful as I remember. That s the trouble with fate: Sometimes it barks. Other times it bites. And the rest of the time it just breaks your heart. Again. Seller Inventory # BTE9781250006400
Book Description St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2012. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1250006406
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