Wine glasses hanging upside down in a bar bathed in red and blue lights

How The Rumor Spills

I sighed. Of course they wanted the risotto. Who didn’t these days? But I smiled and placed the order, along with their drinks, ignoring the hopeful, dopey smiles on their faces. Ignoring the smirk on the chef’s greasy face as he asked, “So, Liv, any bets to how many orders tonight?”

No. Because it was always ridiculously high. And I didn’t even want to think what would happen if we ran out. I don’t know how the rumor started, but it didn’t take long for it to spread as fast as poison coursing through living veins. Fridays and Saturdays had always been our busiest nights, no surprise there, but within a few weeks of the rumor, every night was booked, from opening until close.

Damn romance risotto.

Just because a few couples met, ordered the house specialty—intended to be shared, and then fell in love and got married, suddenly it became a thing. Started with a single article. Then blogs were written. So. Many. Blogs.

The owners were beyond pleased, of course. They grudgingly hired extra staff when we all complained and threatened to quit in the middle of the Saturday night rush. Of course it was mostly family friends, and not a one of them with any kind of food service or hosting experience. But they certainly were pretty. If you like that kind of thing. Horns and wings and the like. Not really my thing, but hey, all I have to do is sling a couple hundred drinks a night and paste on a glosssy smile if I want a decent tip. Maybe show a bit of cleavage. It doesn’t seem to matter the species; they all love a peep show.

My weekends were a never-ending shit show of first dates, hopeful faces, and people looking to find their “one true love.” Because of a freakin’ bowl of risotto.

Someone snapped for my attention and I sighed again. Probably wanted cheap red wine, in spite of the sparkling jewels around her neck… She didn’t look like much of a tipper, either.

Goddess I hated this job sometimes. But at least I had a front row seat to the nightly creature feature.


**********

I hated blind dates. But I also hated being alone.

The bar was busy, but not so bustling that it should take this long to get a drink. Not like the bartender had anything better to do. I summoned the clearly daydreaming woman over with an impatient snap of my fingers, and ordered the house red. She set it down with a cheery smile and an apology, but she wafted boredom and pulses of annoyance to my extra sight.

Whatever she was—not human, I sensed that much—I’d not encountered her kind before. Unusual given the almost three hundred years I’d been on this earth.

But her unknown species was a passing curiosity at best as compared to other mysteries of the universe. Over the past many decades, I’d studied as much as I possibly could: math, science, politics and history, languages, arts and humanities, psychology, music…and most useful knowledge I’d come away with was always arrive early.

If my suitor looked sketchy, I could make a break for it. Same if they unexpectedly seemed to fancy themselves a musician. I had no intention of getting into another relationship like the one with that pompous rock star oh so many years ago. Didn’t matter if they were human or not. I was done with musicians.

Still can’t believe I followed that long-haired hippie around for almost two year, like some kind of lost puppy. And that smell…

The musky memory sent a shudder along my bare spine. I took a long sip of the acceptable wine to cover it, and spun around to better observe the patrons in the romantically dim lighting. Mostly couples, but it was a very romantic setting with all the dark wood and heavy drapery, so I wasn’t surprised. Getting married was still considered of utmost importance today; it was rather disheartening that

I took another sip of wine and readjusted the straps on my dress. Though the form-fitting black dress and lacy thong were binding in their own ways, they were far more comfortable than the corsets of my earlier life.

I waited, playing with the long, dangling ruby necklace, loving how it perfectly matched my lipstick. It had taken the better part of three years to find exactly the same shade as the gemstones in the antique jewelry. Not like I’d had anything better to spend my days doing.

Immortality was a drag sometimes. Being rich because of it was not, however. Both the necklace and my long life were from my real father, consolation gifts when presented when he’d revealed himself and shown me worlds I never could have imagined were real.

I’d seen multitudes. Participated in events that would make historians salivate if they knew an eye witness was still alive. Newness was an unfamiliar sensation. Keeping up with modern technology was old hat; one learned to adapt quickly or get discovered. I’d mastered the horseless carriage, the telephone, trousers, stilettos, computers, the internet, and smart phones.

Tonight was, however, my first online date. My stomach knotted and clenched in ways it hadn’t for almost a century. The way people met today was confusing, impersonal. No wooing or courting, just bawdy DMs and dick pics.

All I had to go on was this guy’s picture and a few messages. Hardly enough to know a person. But hey, it was more than a suggestive glance over the rim of a glass, which was all I’d been receiving for the past decade.

“Just do it, Henny,” Lulu, my younger sister, had taunted. “It’s the latest thing. I’ve been using it for months and the hotties are legit. All varieties and species of them.” She’d licked her dark red lips seductively and caressed a left horn of the woman sleeping beside her.

So I’d downloaded the stupid app. You had to know about it to find it. To be a part of a community that most knew nothing about. I was certain some humans stumbled upon it, but they were fairly easy to identify and ignore. That said, dating humans wasn’t taboo, just…complicated. Unless they knew about “monsters” already. Some of them were quite enjoyable for a short term fling, but I’d grown tired of maintaining my youth while watching them age.

The judgement from others was an added annoyance.

As expected, within minutes of setting up my account, I had offers of dates to exotic locations and fancy restaurants. Honestly, I was surprised there weren’t more given my appealing appearance: long, dark hair; perfect complexion; wide blue eyes; big boobs and legs that I’d been told went on for miles.

But as I waded through the many offensive options and cringy DMs, I regretted mentioning my loneliness to Lulu. How she handled all this was baffling. Then again, she was only on the hunt for short fling. Nor did she care what species, gender, or caste they belonged to. Just how good they were in her bed.

After passing on nearly three dozen begging, disturbingly and unnecessarily explicit suitors, I paused, thumb hovering over the next in line.

Tall. Handsome in a classic, fairy tale sort of way. Twinkly eyes. The dimple was the frosting rose on the whole deal. I accepted his request.

And waited.

But not very long. Within the hour, Edmond Furst sent a short, charming message. We went back-and-forth for the rest of the day, trading witty quips and flirtatious innuendo.

Finally, we decided to meet for a meal.

Eddie picked the place, and though he offered to pick me up at home, I deferred and insisted on meeting him there. So now, I sat and waited, scanning the space, wanting to get a feel for the man before he knew he was on display. How did he treat others around him? Was he respectful of their station in the hierarchy of the world? Did he come on to others when he was there to meet a specific someone? Was he cocky, strutting about like a horny peacock? Was he a gentleman like I deserved?

Through the flickering candlelight I saw him come through the door, first holding it open for a couple, then sauntering in. Surprisingly, he was more handsome than his picture indicated. At least he was truthful about his appearance.

As the hostess escorted Edward to our table, I watched. He chatted in a friendly, but detached manner.

So far, so good…

I dropped five dollars next to my empty wine glass and stood, swinging my legs around gracefully. He caught my locked gaze and smiled, his shoulders releasing a smidge of their perfect posture as I approached. My stomach released a few knots.

Edward stood and helped me into my seat, resting his hand briefly against my bare spine. My skin tingled at the touch.

His profile had been vague as to exactly what species he was; he looked fully human, as did I, but something burned inside him, glowing golden and peaceful. Perhaps he, too, was mixed. He didn’t show signs of fae as I had from my father, but there were many species who could successfully breed with humans.

“It’s nice to see you face-to-face, Edward,” I said.

“It’s Eddie,” he laughed. “Only my mother and the High Priestess call me anything so formal.”

High Priestess? I titled my head out of genuine curiosity, but he didn’t offer any further details and I didn’t push. It was interesting, but not enough to help me pinpoint his background. It wasn’t often I was stymied, and the mystery picked at my brain. I harnessed the fae half of me, that half that was intuitive and other. Though I didn’t exercise it as often as my sister—she relished her power, using it daily to enchant lovers or pick winning stocks—it sprang to life, eager for the chance to poke at my dinner date.

The waitress approached and Eddie ordered a bottle of red, pausing to gauge my reaction. I nodded; it was much nicer than the glass I’d had at the bar. “And, if you’re okay with it, we’ll share the specialty of the house: the risotto.”

Our server looked my way, a smile twitched her perfectly shaped lips, a question raised her eyebrow. “Sounds lovely,” I said, and added, “And I’ll start with the pear and goat cheese salad.”

My date ordered the house salad, smiled a charming dismissal at the waitress. With nothing else to distract, he stared at me. His eyes were like sparkling blue spotlights, reminding me of stint as a stage actress. I’d always been careful not to be so good I became famous. No sense having my picture plastered all over the place, caused too many questions, especially with the internet these days. (And we all saw what was happening with Keanu Reeves since people started looking closely at old paintings and making the connection.)

Eddie rested his chin on folded hands and turned his full attention to me. His voice was deep, but not threatening as he asked all the right questions, inquiries intended to keep me talking. He offered little of himself when I tried to turn the tables, delving deep into the recesses of my psychology studies, but I couldn’t break through. His answers were rarely more than a few words followed by a swift change of subject, back to me.

I pulled back on my answers once the salads arrived and refused another glass of wine, asking instead for a bottle of carbonated water. I needed my edge. Because this guy, was too much. Every line was practiced. Every gesture measured. He was too perfect.

The eyes.

The dimple.

The wavy hair.

The old timey manners.

The utter lack of any personality.

And the fucking name.

That’s what gave it away.

Under the guise of resettling my place settings as the waitress set down the shared platter of risotto, I glanced about the room. Though the room was dim, the gift of sight helped brighten things just enough. And there it was. A bright spark in the far corner. I squinted and the tether linking the spell to the animated nothing across from me lit up like the wick of a rocket.

I should have known his dating app profile was too perfect. Too tailored specifically for me. Too freakin’ charming.

Only one of my fae father’s associates was powerful enough to pull off something of this magnitude, and possessed the utter nerve to actually go through with trying it: Amarolla D’Apartha.

My godmother.

Goddamn spell.

Goddamn fae.

Couldn’t keep their noses out of my business for one night.

I slid my seat back with little regard to how loud it might be, gathered my things, and didn’t look back as I stalked out of the now-quiet restaurant. Prince Charming my ass.

I was wrong. Sometimes it was better to be alone.

**********

The buzzing of startled diners pulled my attention from drink I was mixing. A tall, totally smokin’ hot woman tossed her hair over her shoulder and, without a backwards glance, strode out of the restaurant.

I snorted as the incredibly handsome man sat there with his mouth hanging open in shock. Probably wasn’t used to getting dumped so quickly.

Apparently she and her date hadn’t exactly been on the same page. Stupid romance risotto claimed yet another budding relations…

In a poof of pink and red sparkles, the man vanished.

Huh, that doesn’t happen very often.

The other diners sat in silence for a few seconds, then went back to their meals. Took more than faerie magic to rile anyone up in a place like this, when all the patrons were other than human as it was.

I shrugged and went back to my drink.

The nightly creature feature never failed to entertain.

The End

*************

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