fantasy, Promotion, romance, writing

Saturday Snippet: Pixie Noir

Pixie Noir is scheduled to be released Dec. 1, 2013.

Now, that’s an exciting sentence for me. You might not understand it unless you read my blog regularly and know that it’s my second novel, and I’m really happy with it. Even better, my beta readers have liked it. Yesterday evening I sent it off to my editor, and I’m waiting to hear what he has to say about it. The cover artist has a rough idea of what I want for the art, and all that’s left… is you.

I’m going to snippet Pixie Noir up to about the half-way point here on my blog,and I hope you enjoy reading it! Do let me know, and keep in mind this is not the final draft, so any goofs are all my fault.

Snippet #1 was way back in April, and you may want to read that first.

Sometimes we find unexpected beauty by altering our perceptions.
Sometimes we find unexpected beauty by altering our perceptions.


“Thanks.” I looked at her as she pulled cups out of a cupboard. The pot was still sputtering. She must have started it just as I knocked before. No wonder she’s pissed, I thought, girl hasn’t had her coffee yet. I realized something else. She was wearing glasses now. She hadn’t had them on before, which must be why she hadn’t seen me right away.

Dammit. I might not have a thing for tall girls, but glasses… I put my coat on the back of the other kitchen chair, lifted the attache case onto the table, and sat down uninvited. I needed to focus. This was a simple courier job, I was going to deliver the paper, get a signature, and go home.

She pushed a thick pottery mug to me and I took it gratefully. She sat down in the other chair.

“Grandma told me a lot of stories. So I know what you are. But I can’t figure out why you are here. I mean, your home tor is about half around the world from here. And I can see that you know who I am. Care to introduce yourself and explain?”

I smiled at her. Beautiful and smart, a wicked combination. I was going to have to play this very carefully.

“You can call me Lom. I’m a courier, and all I came to do is deliver some family documents to you, Ms. Traycroft.”

She raised an eyebrow slightly. “That’s all? You flew into Alaska and drove what, 200 miles, to deliver papers?”

“How do you know I drove that far?” Yes, I was ducking the question, but I was curious what gave it away.

“Your rental car is from Fairbanks. I’m hoping you didn’t drive overnight, that would make me even more uncomfortable with this.” She had her entire attention focused on me, and I could feel the heat of her gaze. Literally. She had power, whether she knew it or not. I looked away and ran a finger under my collar.

“FedEx does come out this far.” she went on. “So there is more to this than you are telling me.”

“I stayed at the Tok Lodge last night.” I offered, finally meeting her eyes again. “And the papers are, hm, how do I say this. Sensitive.”

Now both eyebrows were up. I sighed and popped open the latch on the case. “It’s going to be better to just show you.”

I slid the thick packet of leather and vellum out and put it on the table. It looked decidedly odd on the battered wood. She stared at it while I placed the case back on the floor. The gilded knotwork on the case fit into her kitchen decor about as well as a Loius XIV chair would have.

“What,” she asked in a distant tone, “is this about?”

I could tell she wasn’t happy. Well, I had guessed from her background she might not be, whatever my employers had thought. It wasn’t my choice to be sitting here in a Bush cabin, although I found it a much more welcoming environment than when the packet had been handed to me just three days ago.

She slid the case closer to her and looked at it. “Lovely.” She commented on the design without looking up at me, then she opened it and slid the stack of papers out. Some were ordinary modern white paper, computer-printed. But under them were darker sheets of real vellum, weathered and yellow with age. She started to read. I leaned back and sipped my coffee. She brewed a pretty good cup. Strong, but not too bitter. This might take a while.

I was working on my second cup when she looked up from the last sheet. Her blue eyes were bleak. She hadn’t looked at me for quite a while, I had gotten the refill on my own, adding cream from the pot she had left on the counter next to the coffeepot. It was cute, a little ceramic rabbit. I’d wandered around a bit, too, stretching my legs. She hadn’t stopped me, although I was aware of her attention when I stood at the bookshelves reading titles. I was never out of her sight, nor she out of mine. One of the other instructions from my employers, the papers were not to leave my sight.

“Do you know what these are?” she asked quietly.

“Not entirely.” I admitted.

“How did a pixie come to be playing messenger for Fae?” She changed her tack a little.

“I had a debt to pay. This seemed like a easy way to get out of it. Take a trip to exotic Alaska, the Final Frontier.”

She blinked, then laughed. “Well, you must be a very different pixie. My grandmother told me that they hated to travel.”

“Oh, I do,” I assured her with a heartfelt tone. “But sometimes it’s necessary. And my family uses me as courier more often than I would like.”

I don’t know why I’d just admitted that to her. I frowned as I realized that was the second time she had provoked me into admittances.

She tucked the papers back into their case. “Well, I’m glad your debt has been paid with this, Mr. Lom. It was nice to meet you, but,” She checked her watch “I’m late for work.”

She slid the case across the table with a little more force than strictly necessary. I could tell that they had upset her.

“It’s not Mr. Lom, it’s just Lom. And, um, my debt isn’t paid until you have signed some of those.”

Now the anger was unleashed at me, and her Power lashed out. “I will not sign any of those.”

“I can’t leave until you do.” I told her firmly, trying to keep the nervousness out of my voice. She had a potent force I was fairly sure she was unaware of.

“Then prepare for a long stay. I recommend the Sawdust Pie at the Lodge, it’s quite good.” She got up and walked over to the door and held it open.

I sighed. This was not going to be easy. I don’t know why I had thought it was going to. Pushing the case back into my attache hastily, I plunged back out into the cold. “I will be back, Ms. Traycroft.”

“You’ll be lucky if I don’t meet you at the door with a shotgun, Mr. Lom.” She spat the honorific. “Get off my property.”

The door slammed behind me.

I went back into the speck of a town and found someplace to sit and think about this development. There were only a couple of restaurants, and one was closed. The other had a bar, but it wasn’t open before lunch. Shame, that, I could have used a stiff drink or two.

Instead I wound up at the local truckstop and diner, waiting for my eggs to arrive and contemplating whether she really would shoot me. She had that ring of authenticity in her voice, and I was certain she owned the weapon to back it up. I had pulled out my phone and was checking to see if had service in town when I became aware that the two guys who had just walked in were stopping by my table. I looked up.

And up, and up. The older man was something over six feet tall, and sitting in the booth bench, my feet didn’t hit the floor. I was immediately unhappy, even before I got to the expression on his face. He wasn’t happy. Also, I suspected I knew why.

The other man stood slightly behind him, his face almost obscured behind a bushy black beard that looked as though it might jump off his face and start chasing its tail. Or bite my dangling ankles. I cleared my throat.

“Would you two, er, gentleman, care to sit down?” There was no point in delaying the inevitable. They wanted to talk to me. I preferred they do so in public. Here was as good a place as any.

“Are you the one tha’ went to see Bella this morning?” the older man asked in a low, menacing rumble. Yep, definitely her family.

“I am.” I admitted. The waitress showed up, juggling my plate of eggs and bacon, three cups of coffee, a saucer full of creamers, and a full carafe of steaming coffee. I eyed her in awe as she glared at the men.

“Sit, already, Bob.” She expertly delivered her load to the table without a drop of coffee going astray. The big man deflated slightly and meekly allowed her to shepherd him onto the bench, followed by his shadow. She sniffed, poured, and vanished back into the kitchen.

“Now there,” I commented, “is a woman I hope never to cross.”

I surprised Bob into a guffaw. “May is something, for sure.” He admitted before remembering that he wasn’t here to chat about women. At least, not that one. “What were you doing at Bella’s?”

“I had some paperwork for her.” I picked up the cup and took a sip, although more coffee wasn’t really what I needed just then. This was going to be ticklish, I had enough adrenaline to keep me alert already.

“About?” He prompted when he could see I wasn’t going to go on.

“About none of your business. I don’t know who you are, sir, and my business was with Belladonna Traycroft, and her alone.” I put a touch of ice, and a hint of Power, into my voice, hoping he would get the hint.

He leaned across the table, his eyes narrowing. “Well, well… you’re one of them, aren’t you?”

I was beginning to wonder just what was going on. First, Bella, now this Bob. “One of whom?”

He settled back and folded his arms. “Dan, why don’t you go ask May about some pancakes for us.”

The younger man shadowing him simply nodded slightly at this obvious dismissal and got up. As soon as he was on the other side of the room, Bob nodded at me. “I’m Lavendar’s widower, lad. That makes me Belladonna’s grandfather, and I know why you are here, even if she doesn’t.”

“She does. I showed her the papers this morning. Did she tell you I was here?” I found it difficult to believe, for some reason, that she had gone crying to anyone, even this formidable old man.

“Nope. I heard one of your kind was in town, and I’d hoped to catch you before you went out there, I could have saved you some trouble.”

I sighed. “My kind?”

He raised one bushy eyebrow and I knew where Bella had gotten that expression. “You’re a pixie.”

So much for the humans not knowing about the Olde Folke. “Yes, I am.”

“There’s bad blood between you and her people.”

I had an intuition suddenly that this was not only about Belladonna. He was referring to his late wife. And late? How had Lavendar come to be dead? That wasn’t in the dossier, and was fairly unlikely, as fairy live for a very long time indeed. Not quite immortal, but close, from a human perspective.

“Not any longer, sir. There was a pact created about 300 years ago.” I rubbed my eyes. Lavendar had not been covered in the dossier I was given, except as a name in the genealogy, and I was convinced that had been a mistake on someone’s part. Or, more likely, a deliberate omission. There were a lot of folk who would like me to fail in this mission.

I went on. “I just need to have Ms. Traycroft sign some papers. She has… come into an inheritance.”

His blue eyes, much like hers, narrowed again. “Are you a lawyer, lad?”

I shook my head, smiling. I liked this man already. “No, sir. I’m just a messenger boy.”

Dan returned and slid into the booth, still silent. I regarded him for a moment. Steely gray eyes met mine, and I was surprised to see the laugh lines around them deepen slightly. The beard hid any trace of a smile.

Bob sighed. “Bella doesn’t need any troubles, son.”

I realized he was talking to me, not Dan. Something in the bearded man’s approval had completed Bob’s assessment of me and he’d decided I was not going to die today, at least. I relaxed minutely.

“What troubles has she been having?” I asked him and he ran a hand through his silvering hair, leaving it standing askew.

“Well, now. it started about a year ago, when she came back to town.”

I nodded. I knew she had been hired to do a census of local wildlife by the National Park Service. Given the sheer scale of the state, that had to be a work of a lifetime.

“At first, we thought it was just local idiots who hadn’t thought it through. She wasn’t going to limit hunting, she was going to find data that would in all likelihood loosen the regulations that have been strangling us.” His speech pattern changed as he started to talk about his granddaughter’s work, and I wondered if he realized how thin his ‘good ol’ boy’ facade was getting.

“We had a talk with some guys.” He indicated Dan with a motion. “And they denied it was them, entirely, although we did clear up a couple of incidents. Dan and the boys can be a mite formidable when they try.” He stopped to chuckle in reminiscence. “Her cousins are fond of Bella. And they know how important her work is to what they do.”

“What do they do?” My curiosity is going to be the death of me, I swear. I shut my mouth, but it had already slipped out. For all I knew, they were the equivalent of the Alaskan Mafia. Bob certainly had that godfather aura.

“Big game hunters and guides.” He smiled at me. “Best in the Bush. We need the tourists for our economy, and hunting gets big money into town.”

I nodded. This made sense. He went on.

“But that didn’t stop it. She had her brake lines cut, and only a patch of muskeg and some canny steering on her part saved her. That was the last time, before snow flew. She’s stayed pretty close to home since the freeze, compiling her observations. We’re keeping an eye on strangers, since the locals don’t seem to be the problem…” He shrugged, his giant shoulders still showing their power under his worn plaid shirt. He might be old, but this man was a powerhouse. Bella was a lucky girl.

“I see.” And I did see, a lot more than he did, because the threats against her had likely originated a lot closer to where I had just come from. Well, shit. My job had just moved from difficult to “deck stacked against me.”

The enemies moving against her wouldn’t be seen by Bob and her cousins, unless some of them had the Sight. I did, but the prospect of going up against them for a girl I barely knew was not appetizing. Duty be damned, I didn’t relish dying. For one thing, that meant the family honor debt would pass onto someone who was not equipped to fulfill it. The family has been getting thinner with every generation, and little cousin Devon was barely fifteen. He wouldn’t even be as noticeable as a speed bump to the fairies who wanted Bella and my whole family dead.

I switched my attention back to Bob. “So what do you want from me? I can assure you, I mean her no harm. As a matter of fact, the inheritance would give her more power.”

He raised that eyebrow again. “Really, Power, is it?”

I nodded. I was not at liberty to tell him what was in those papers that rested under my hand in my attache case. I wasn’t so melodramatic  as to cuff it to myself, but anyone trying to take it away would get a nasty surprise. I could, however, give him a clue, if he was astute as I thought he was, and Lavandar had told him enough.

“Well, then…” he mused out loud. The he nodded abruptly. “What did she say?”

“She told me to get out or she would shoot me.” I told him drily.

He burst into laughter. Dan even laughed quietly. I waited until he was done and had wiped the tears out of his eyes. “Don’t know why I expected any less from my girl,” he grinned. “Don’t give up, son, she’ll come around.”

He nudged Dan. “Time to be getting home.”

Before they walked away, he tossed a couple of bills on the table. May had invisibly delivered their order a while back. I was certain she had been listening as hard as she could, too. He delivered his parting shot.

“I’ll talk t’ Bella, and tell her she should sign those papers.”

I watched them walk out. I didn’t think he really understood what was in those papers, or he would be taking me someplace they would never find the body, about now. I was still going to have a hard time with this, and I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to succeed in it.

I added to the money on the table. He’d left enough, but I figured having May on my good side was worth it.

I went straight back to the hotel. Time to think this through, and make a decision. I hadn’t been straight with Bella or Bob, but that wasn’t about them, it was about the depth of my involvement. Unless you were born to a destiny that you really didn’t want, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into, you won’t understand my dilemma. I was supposed to get her to sign the papers, but I wanted her to not sign them, ever.

Back in the room I shed my outer layers onto the chair. I was grateful for them… Damn, it was cold outside… but they made me feel like a fat little man. Little was bad enough without being round. Then I flopped on the bed and closed my eyes. It had been a very long three days.