OUR STORY CONTINUES
Last time, Alice realized her true feelings for Vlad at Gwendolyn’s pediatrician appointment. Vlad designed a playroom as an unhinged confession of love. Caleb and Titania were NOT on a date, but they did discover what Johnny was getting from Darrel Charm, and now, the witch hunt has begun.
Strong language, adult situations, violence, gore, sexual situations, partial nudity, depictions of grief, trauma, severe depression, and references to sexual assault.
“Introducing His Royal Excellency, Prince Akira Kibo of the Fae Court, known to outer realms as The Rushlight, brother of the Queen of the Fae, and recognized sovereign in her absence.”
Akira barely managed to avoid rolling his eyes during the speech. The Sages didn’t need a royal crier to announce him, but they knew it pissed him off.
Passive aggressive motherfuckers.
As he entered the room, Summer looked up from her desk, a wicked smile on her lips. “Have you come for a performance review?”
Akira chuckled. He was dressed in full regalia, but already he was wishing it was just the two of them so he could chuck off his boots and this heavy cloak. Of the three Sages, Summer was his favorite. They’d had a fling in the early 19th century—short-lived but enjoyable. Over 180 years later, he still found her beautiful. They’d never had anything so intense as love, but it was an honest friendship while it lasted.
“Are you in the habit of subjecting royalty to a formal review?” he asked, lifting a brow.
“Oh, I reckon we could be,” she smirked.
It was hard to know if that little colloquial slip was real or put on. Their interactions were far more complicated now than when Summer was simply running for the position of Sage with her siblings.
Rory cut into their playful flirting. “When a member of royalty works for us, yes, we do expect to give them a review.” His voice continued to rise in volume. “We have real responsibilities, real work, and you are wasting our time. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Respectfully?” Akira asked.
“Specifically. In regards to your most recent case.”
Akira sighed. Being seen as an errant aristocrat on an internship was advantageous, but it riled every bone in his 2000-year-old body. “What would you like me to say?”
“We’d like you to account for your work and take this job with a modicum of seriousness.” The potion bottles on the shelf rattled in a display of the Sage’s power. “You flounce around like the rules don’t apply to you because you’re quick with a sword, but I am a Sage of the Realm, not some wayward witch.”
Violence was not the only reason to fear the Fae. Hell, it wasn’t even the worst reason.
“Then, by all means,” Akira cracked his knuckles. “Let the performance review begin.”
“If he thinks for one second he can escape the wrath of a queen, he’s wrong!” Titania marched down the road towards the Charm Estate while Caleb barely managed to keep up with her.
“What are you doing? Can you please wait?”
“No. So help me, Caleb Vatore. If you want me to pull my punches—”
He sped up until he was beside her.
“—or if you plan to give me some lecture about not killing him when it’s apparent that I owe every woman—“
“—every creature, Darrel Charm’s head, then you can go fuck yourself. I am a sovereign. A queen. And I will use every ounce of my power to—“
“Titania!” Shouting finally seemed to get her attention, and she paused. Caleb drew in a deep breath and released it. “I’m not going to tell you not to kill him. In fact, I will join you. But the way you’re storming over there with guns blazing means you are missing the thrill of the hunt.”
“The Fae don’t hunt,” she replied flatly.
Suppressing the urge to argue with her, Caleb flexed his fingers. “Well, vampires do. And it is worth the trouble, I assure you.”
Titania shook her head, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Everything in her expression said she was ready to disagree with him, and Caleb found it increasingly difficult not to smile. Arguing with her was more fun than he wanted to admit.
“Right now, Darrel Charm is holed up in his mansion, heart pounding while he reviews the numerous traps and protective spells he’s cast.”
He leaned in close until his mouth was by her ear. “He’s too proud to call for help, too enamored of his own skill. So he’ll be sitting there, stewing in terror, while we peel back every one of his defenses.”
Her head snapped up, and Caleb bemoaned the scarf that hid the fluttering pulse in her neck. “You really are Vladislaus’s son.”
“Anastasia’s,” he corrected with a smirk. “My father enjoys killing, but I get the love of the hunt from my mother.”
Summer’s eyes lit up as she rubbed her chin. “We concede that you did find the culprit, though you failed to make an arrest.”
It was a careful sentence, but then again, the Sage of Mischief Magic understood how to communicate with the Fae. Fairy magic was marshaled by language. Witches borrowed a little from it when they spoke the words to cast a spell, but they had no idea what it was to be made from it, to have a phrase be so binding that it stopped your heart or bent the laws of nature.
Summer understood mischief magic, and she appreciated wordplay even if it wasn’t a driving physical necessity like it was for Akira. The fact that she had not asked a direct question nipped at his ankles, a reminder that he was on the edge of a precipice with two bad options: 1) agree and accept the impossible task of hunting down and arresting Johnny’s ghost or 2) disagree and admit he didn’t do what he pledged—for the fae, a possible death sentence.
“Yet,” he gave her a slow, unconcerned smile. He could figure out the details of the impossible task later. “We have not arrested him yet. That task remains ongoing.”
“I see, so Your Royal Highness intends to take up ghost hunting?”
Akira laughed. “I have many hobbies. Sages do too. Actually…” he snapped his fingers as if recalling a long-lost memory, “I did hear a rumor that the Sage of Practical Magic had taken up paranormal investigating. And that he failed to contact Johnny’s ghost at the last seance he held.”
Summer kept her expression carefully blank. “Rumors are hard to prove or disprove.”
They were. And if she was the only Sage, Akira would be in trouble. But as luck would have it—
“No one knew about that seance outside the inner circle of witches!” Rory cried, his face reddening, “The Fae must have a spy.”
“A spy?” Akira pretended to be shocked, “What proof do you have that the Fae are spying on you?”
“I don’t need to provide proof, though I have plenty,” Rory declared, even as Summer tried to silence him. “The Fae can’t lie, so explain yourself!”
That was a misnomer. Akira could lie; the Fae often did, especially to those they didn’t consider a close friend or family. Magic only bound the fair folk if they were caught lying.
And it worked the other way, too. Words were a powerful magic, and Rory’s false ones called out to Akira as if the Sage had reached over and gripped his hand. With a dark chuckle, Akira dropped some of his glamour—enough to reveal every one of his pointed teeth. “Alright. I’ll bite. Where’s your proof?”
Titania tore through the first floor of Darrel’s house, lighting everything up with flames that burned blue and smelled like brimstone. Caleb tried to slow her down when she reached the library, but she quickly shoved him back with an angry flick of magic.
“What the fuck are you doing?” she hissed, “I thought we were hunting.”
“What the fuck are you doing?” Caleb cried, rubbing the spot on his arm where her magic burned him. “Besides setting the entire place on fire while we’re still inside?”
Behind him, Darrel’s fiance and sister were sobbing. He wished they would stop. In addition to the loud hum of Titania’s magic, not to mention the house falling apart, their crying was ruining the vibe. Was he the only occult-forsaken creature that enjoyed stalking prey in silence?
“Well, I wouldn’t have to set it on fire if he wasn’t using illusion magic to reconfigure the floor plan like he’s dealing with a godsdamned amateur!” Titania shouted at the ceiling.
Caleb winced and prayed to the occult that he wouldn’t have to get any closer. Vampires were mostly indestructible—emphasis on mostly. There were things he couldn’t recover from, and he was pretty sure walking into a wall of burning magic was at the top of the list. “Clearly, the house is not empty, so could you not for just a moment?”
“No.” Titania raised her arms to cast again, and that was when Caleb stupidly tackled her.
He braced himself for the pain, but as horrific as it looked, the burning never came.
He didn’t know what Titania was whispering, but he could almost bet it was the thing keeping him alive. He spared a glance at Darrel’s family. “Go now, or she’ll kill you, and I’ll help.”
Gemma and Emilia scrambled for the door with a speed that would put some vampires to shame. As soon as it shut, Caleb stepped away. Trying to display a calm he didn’t feel after so close a brush with death, he gestured at the library. “Now you can light the place up.”
The Queen of the Fae stood half in flame, “Like I needed your permission.”
Binding Rory felt good. As the magic he siphoned off started winding through his body, Akira rolled his shoulders and dropped even more of his glamour. “I think the Sage of Practical Magic should give me his seat.”
Rory’s eyes widened as he stepped aside and gestured at his chair. “I…I don’t understand. Why am I doing this?”
“It doesn’t require talking,” Akira growled.
The Sage’s mouth snapped shut.
Titania had a flare for the dramatic, Akira less so, but he understood the benefit of deploying it. With a cruel laugh, he drew his claws along the arm of the chair, watching as the Sages cringed at the high-pitched sound.
Liberty responded first with an offer of riches. Akira had no problem turning her down. The fair folk operated on a barter economy; money was merely for business in the mortal world. Even now, he found the concept of mortgages, interest rates, and credit cards incomprehensible. It was clear they had no idea what they were dealing with.
Not that he could blame them; they were young. The fae had long withdrawn from the mortal world by the time the Sages came along. After the death of their parents, he and Titania agreed that it was safer to let knowledge about the fair folk fall into myth.
But you couldn’t play it safe forever.
He tilted his head, horns scraping against the back of the seat. “I think I need some entertainment. Rory, do a little dance for me.”
The Sage of Practical Magic began to dance so pathetically that it bordered on comical, though his eyes radiated hate.
“That is hardly your best effort,” Akira chuckled. “Try it again. Put your back into it.”
Rory did—hips jutting and body twirling in a way that looked painful.
When Akira was young, maybe a few hundred years old, his father told him that living for so long came with a detachment that receded only in the face of misery. “Mine or others?” the younger had Kibo asked, but his father merely shrugged and responded: “Either.”
Only now, at the start of his second millennium, did Akira understand why his father thought that. “Faster,” he ordered without missing a beat, “And no matter what happens, don’t stop until I tell you.”
The Sage became a whirlwind of movement—bones cracking, breathing labored. One of his ankles bent inward. He howled but kept moving.
Akira was about to demand a pirouette that would almost certainly break the witch’s legs when Summer’s voice rang out.
“We wish to barter!”
“Please.” Her voice was soft, pleading in a way he hadn’t heard since the streets were full of carriages instead of cars. “We clearly have something you want, and we’d like to barter for it.”
Titania peeled off the front of Darrel’s house like she was opening a sardine can. Parts of the upper floors were suspended mid-air, sparking with fractured magic.
Titania was sparking too, her eyes leached of their color, her voice so full of power it echoed.
“Is this part of your general crusade against stairs?” Caleb asked, fighting the urge to turn and run.
“You don’t need stairs. You’re a vampire.”
He swallowed hard, trying to quell his anxiety. He didn’t know where it came from, only that right now, it was so high he felt like he was out of his body. “Yes, I can fly,” he confirmed, “W-what about you?”
Titania tilted her head, and though her eyes were shot through with white, he could tell she was studying him. “What about me?” she mocked before grinning and dropping her glamour.
Caleb gasped. He knew that, like vampires, the Fae had other forms, but he’d never seen Titania’s. Her wings looked like they’d been built by the forest—white feathers suspended from jagged branches, the occasional jewel glittering in the sunlight. She launched into the air with one graceful beat, her magic pulling him beside her. It felt like his most distant memory of being warm; only instead of comfort, he felt terror.
Something bad is going to happen. Something bad, something—
“Are you afraid?” she whispered, and this time, it felt like her voice was inside his head. “Do you intend to dictate how I retrieve my vengeance?”
Caleb couldn’t think. His muscles seized as he tried to count, meditate, anything that would smother the slick feel of fear and the roiling in his gut. “I’m not afraid,” he lied.
“Really?” Titania laughed, “I’ve given you the gift of my plain speech, and this is how you repay it?”
“Titania, please.” He didn’t know what he was begging for, but they were the only words that came to mind. Caleb couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible was going to happen, and he was powerless to stop it. “Please,” he repeated.
Titania brushed a hand over his heart. It gave an unnatural thump, and she giggled. “Okay,” she said.
And then she dropped him.
Only speed and his bat form prevented him from hitting the ground. He flew into the house, jittery from fear and anger.
“The next time you intend to shatter my bones by dropping me two stories, I’d appreciate a warning,” he shouted. “What the fuck is your problem?”
“My problem, Caleb Vatore, is that I’m a godsdamned adult. I know what I’m capable of, and I don’t need you second-guessing me or lying to my face because you’re having second thoughts.” Her wings fluttered as she waved her arms angrily, “If you wanted to protect Darrel Charm, you should’ve called someone else!”
“I don’t want to protect Darrel Charm! I’m just…I’m…” Caleb balked, unsure of how to explain something to her that he didn’t quite understand himself. “Yes, I lied. But it’s not a commentary on you, it’s just…” he clenched his fists, shame taking up residence where the fear used to be. “I don’t know, Titania. I’m not well. The more time you spend with me, you’ll likely find me disappointing. You want someone to match your energy, and I’m just…me.”
He tensed, waiting for her sharp response, but she just sighed. Slowly, the color returned to her irises. “I wasn’t trying to kill you. I was just annoyed and figured you’d be fine, what with those catlike reflexes.” Her hands twisted nervously. “I don’t usually reveal my wings unless I’m home. It feels good to stretch. Plus, I wanted to show off.” She mumbled the last part quickly, as if embarrassed.
It was an incredibly vampiric apology. Caleb dipped his head, casting about for the best way to repay the favor. He’d thanked her before, but that was when she was drained and needed the boost from his occult energy. He knew enough about the Fae to be cautious of doing it again. “What a ringing endorsement,” he chuckled, “Please, Queen of the Fae, how could I ever bear any more of your compliments?”
“My compliments are great,” she arched a brow, but the twinkling in her eye told him he’d said the right thing. “You should be so lucky as to hear them.”
“I know.” He gave her a small smile. “Your wings are beautiful. I won’t tell anyone I saw them.”
“When a vampire keeps your secret, it’s a sign of affection.” She held his gaze. When he didn’t disagree, her eyes widened. “Why don’t you take point on this floor? Show me what all this stupid hunting is about, and I’ll try not to fall so deeply into my rage that my power blots out the sun.”
A thrill went through him, though it made not a lick of sense. Only moments ago, her power terrified him; now, just the thought of it had him hard. “Well, first, put your wings away. We want to have freedom of movement.”
She complied. “All buttoned up. Now what?”
He licked his lips, a little mesmerized by the faint outline of wings imprinted on his mind. “Now, we stalk our prey.”
Titania had effectively broken the illusion, so they could see that there were only a few doors to choose from. Plus, Darrel was casting so many spells he might as well have put up a “welcome” sign. Grinning, Caleb picked the room next to the witch’s hiding spot and ripped the door off the hinges. It clattered to the ground.
“What are you doing?” Titania called out from behind him.
He turned, pressing a finger to his lips. Listen, he mouthed.
At first, there was nothing.
Then a sniffle.
Flaring claws he’d also never seen before, Titania smiled. “I think I get it.”
With a tinkling laugh, she skipped through the hall, slashing wood and kicking at the doors. With every crash of sound, Darrel’s crying heightened until Caleb could practically taste his anxiety. He closed his eyes to calm himself, counting down.
“Is that good enough?” she asked.
His eyes flew open. Titania was mere inches from him. She ran a claw along his jaw, and he gripped the table behind him so tightly he heard the wood crack.
“Perfect,” he whispered. “Absolutely perfect.”
Summer’s offer tugged at his cloak and brushed over his skin. As good as it felt to bind Rory, winning a barter would feel better. He should walk away. He wanted to.
But he couldn’t.
Careful to maintain a mask of boredom, he stretched in the chair. “Alright, a barter. Let’s see…I name what I want?”
Summer nodded. “And I’ll let you know if we have it. You name the price you’re willing to pay, and if it seems fair, we agree, and you get what you want.”
Akira bit the inside of his cheek to hide his annoyance. Bartering was supposed to be a dance. A good session was like great sex; you didn’t just jump to the main event. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. What would it take to dispel the ruling of insubordination for Caleb failing to bring you the information about the Ultimate Vampire Tome?”
“Failed is a strong word,” Liberty said, “I mean, we drew up papers for the ruling, but we didn’t—”
“We could assign the task to someone else,” Summer replied, cutting her off. “Someone willing to procure the information on Caleb’s behalf, and then it wouldn’t be considered a failure, which was, for the record, the word we used. I just want to be accurate, so we don’t avoid any more confusion with the Fae,” she slid her gaze over to Liberty, “Right?”
“R-right,” the Sage of Untamed Magic answered.
“Wonderful,” Akira tapped his claws against the arm of the chair, “As it turns out, I have been in the market for a new challenge. You can pass Caleb’s assignment on to me. And in exchange, I will tender my resignation and accept that the Sage of Practical Magic simply misspoke about the spy.”
“Agreed,” Summer said quickly.
“Yes, it seems a reasonable trade,” Liberty added, feigning a pleasant expression.
Akira rose, but he wasn’t done. His body would be humming with tension if he didn’t leave with the upper hand. Already, the magic was pressing against his temples. “I’m glad we understand each other. Now, as I’ve been extremely generous. Aren’t you going to thank me?”
Before Summer could intervene, Liberty dipped into a mocking bow. “Of course, your Fae-ship. Thank you for your kindness.”
Jackpot. The tension fled, and another shot of magical energy took its place. This one, however, was nowhere near as pleasant as Rory’s. “You’re welcome. And since I’ve provided you with a kindness, you owe me a favor.”
“W-what?” Liberty froze.
“A favor,” Akira shrugged and headed for the door. “Don’t worry; I’ll think about what I want and get back to you.”
Summer stopped him on his way out. “Rory will be fine,” she scratched the back of her head, “I should thank you for what you did in there.”
“Don’t you dare.” Akira didn’t want Summer at his mercy. He’d be vibrating from the jolt of power Rory gave him for a while. And Liberty was so resentful about her binding that he’d have to offload the favor immediately just to keep her power from corrupting him. Either way, he was full up on service, thank you very much.
“You raised the stakes in there,” she continued. “Liberty acted scared, but she’s just collecting information. She wants a war. Has wanted it for decades. She’s been pushing on Caleb, but if he can’t deliver, then—”
“Then the Sage of Untamed Magic should be careful what she wishes for,” Akria smirked, “If she wants a war, the Fae would be happy to oblige.”
“Please,” Summer reached for him but drew her hand back. “I’m serious. I know we never loved each other, it’s not what the Fae do, but Liberty is out of her mind, and Rory is too proud to stop her. You don’t know what she’s been planning. I do. And I’m telling you, it will cost everyone everything.”
Summer was right that they weren’t in love, but she was also wrong. The Fae did fall.
It was stupid, dangerous love. The kind that happened because he was young and refused to heed his parents when they said it would end in ruin.
“You will live too long to get yourself tied up in something so stupid as love,” his father told him.
“You saying you don’t love my mother?”
“I’m loyal to her. That’s better.”
Akira swore he would never give up on love, so somewhere in the royal register was a record of the union between Akira Kibo and Miko Ojo.
Ruin came quickly, though Akira’s heart was slow to realize it. When Miko was betraying him, he loved her.
When he knew the love was one-sided and would probably kill him, he still felt it.
And when she plunged a dagger into his chest and swore she only meant to put a fire inside him, he was loathe to let her go.
“Are you listening?” Summer huffed.
Jolted back to the present, he suppressed the urge to run a hand over the scars on his chest. “I won’t put you in the position of having to lie to Liberty about what you told me. I’ll be in touch when I know more about the book.”
“That’s what I’m talking about. For fuck’s sake, you shouldn’t tell us anything you find out about that book. She will use that knowledge towards her own ends.”
“I know,” Akira winked. “I’m old, not senile.”
Darrel’s tears started as soon as they entered the room. He held his hands in front of him like he could stave off their attack.
It didn’t work.
“I-I didn’t want to sell it to him! I was going to get rid of it, but Johnny said he needed it. I didn’t know his intentions!”
Titania leaned forward and began whispering in his ear. When she pulled back, the witch’s eyes were wide open in shock.
“What did he need it for, Darrel? And be specific. I want a full accounting.” Titania’s command was so thorough that even Caleb flinched.
“Nina was a test,” Darrel squeaked and then sobbed at his own admission. “The real target was Alice,” a blood vessel in his eye burst as he tried to fight against giving his confession, “She was supposed to steal a wand for him, but she was resisting. Johnny just needed her to get on board. He had a benefactor, but if he didn’t bring them the wand, they were going to kill him!” He clapped a hand over his mouth and tried again to stop talking, but he couldn’t. “He called her a sexy little thief. And he said Nina would make a hot werewolf. I…I’m sorry! I thought he meant something else! I was confused!”
“Let’s see if I can explain it to you,” Caleb misted behind Darrel and jumped on his back, fangs sinking into the witch’s flesh like a knife cutting through butter. Still bound by Titania, the spellcaster continued to confess his every wrong move until his voice gave out and his knees hit the ground with a thud.
But Caleb wasn’t done. He cracked open Darrel’s ribcage, grinning at the smorgasbord of internal organs swollen with fresh plasma.
Now, he was lying in a pool of it, so overfull that his stomach felt bloated. He had vague memories of tossing the witch’s body across the room and of Titania suggesting they play a song with his bones, but now all he wanted to do was nap.
“All that panic made him taste better?” Titania asked as she crouched beside him.
Helplessly, Caleb burped.
“And you agree that it was the height of rudeness to drain him when you knew I wanted to turn his brains into soup?”
She tried to poke him, but he caught her wrist and pulled her down until she was sitting on top of him. It probably wasn’t the best idea, given the fullness of his stomach, but other parts of him liked it. “Don’t try your fae double-speak on me. You know I intended to share.”
“But you didn’t,” she toyed with his belt as she rolled her hips, “You took me on this hunting trip, got me all riled up, and for what?”
“Because I wanted to have fun with you.”
“So this was a date?”
Unexpectedly yes—maybe the best one he’d ever been on. Grasping her thighs as she ground against him, he hissed in pleasure. “Violence and danger, good conversation, and now romance. Would you not agree this is a date?”
Titania cackled, the sound almost musical. “Now, who’s the one trying to fae speak?”
“Not I,” Caleb sat up, letting her legs drop to one side of him. “I am willing to let you plan the next date, even though you tried to kill me.”
“Stop fishing for compliments.” She locked eyes with him as she slid her hand into the front of her shorts, “And you still owe me soup.”
A laugh bubbled up in his chest. Even though it wasn’t technically true, he felt like his dry spell was ending with Titania. Sex with Bella was…er…sex. The bolt of attraction he felt when they first met faded quickly, and by the time they were having that last unfulfilling round in her house, Caleb was already rehearsing how to cool things off. There was no spark, no fire between them. Bella kept him at such a distance that he couldn’t develop any sort of real affection for her.
But Titania? She irritated him to high heaven, and part of him was scared of her, but he liked her. A nearly century of bickering and friendship certainly helped.
Carefully, Caleb leaned in, tongue darting out to like each corner of her mouth. “Admit it, Queen of the Fae, you like me. And despite our lack of weapons, you are having fun.”
Her eyes widened, and her hand stilled. He didn’t know why, but if her fingers were tired, he would help. “What’s wrong?”
“W-what comes after this?”
He shrugged, trying to marshal his thoughts into some kind of order that wasn’t just: kiss Titania and then kiss Titania again. “Well, Darrel’s death will cool down the market for Focus No. 9, but it’ll be back, so the Sages will need to be convinced to launch a task force. The wand is a problem, as is the identity of Johnny’s benefactor.” He tilted his head back, ticking off items on his fingers. “Oh, and after this, I’ll go fill Bella in about Alice. I’m trying to help her wrap up her case because—”
Titania was off of him in a flash. “Actually, I don’t really care what happens next. I was just in it for the slaughter and to get a menace off the streets. That’s done, so I can move on; outing over.”
Caleb clambered to his feet, blinking in confusion. “Over? You’re not interested in finishing what we started on the floor?”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because…” he growled, “Titania, this is bullshit. You can just say if you’re not interested. You don’t need to fae-speak me.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she studied her nails, “You haven’t asked me a direct question.”
“Fine,” he ground his teeth, “Titania Kibo, Queen of the Fae, five seconds ago, you were straddling my erection and leaning down to kiss me. Would you like to pick up where that left off?”
Her expression wavered, but then she cracked her neck and shrugged. “I’m a queen; I’m very busy. I don’t have time to do everything.”
“You’re angry with me.”
Caleb let the phrase dangle, but Titania’s reaction was unexpected. He thought she’d just yell at him or shove him back with some magic before detailing exactly why he was so dumb. But instead, her whole body tensed, and her answer dripped out so reproachfully that he realized he had no idea what was going on.
“Yes, I’m mad at you, and after Oberon, I promised myself no more angry sex.” She turned away from him, nervously threading her hands. “It clouds my thinking.”
“I don’t understand,” Caleb confessed, “You’re angry. with me, so you don’t want to have sex with me. That seems reasonable; why are you upset about it?”
“Because I made myself a promise, Caleb. Do you get it? I set terms and conditions with myself, and I said the words.”
Understanding dawned. The fair folk were made of magic, and their magic was words. “So you want to have sex with me? Alright, well, I want to have sex with you too. Whatever it is I did, I’m happy to make amends and assuage your anger.”
She looked at him like he was a dimly lit bulb.
“I’ve made it worse, haven’t I?”
“Shit. You know, the rules of when words are binding and when they are not is very confusing.”
“Of course, they are, dummy; you’re not fae. I don’t run around telling you how confusing it is to be a vampire; I assume its confusing because I’m not one!”
He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, “I’m not trying to fight with you. I just…” he groaned, “On a scale of 1-10, how angry are you about this thing I allegedly did.”
Titania scowled, and it occurred to him that “alleged” was probably not the best choice of word. “Twelve.”
Back at Straud Manor, Caleb paced the living room, antsy and on edge. Titania had leveled the rest of Darrel’s house, and then they both sped away from the smoking wreckage without another word exchanged between them. It was maddening, not only because vampires were wordy, but he greatly disliked having Titania angry with him.
Although, he still had no idea what it was for. Why was she looking at him like she was hurt? If anyone had cause to feel hurt, it was him when she dropped him out of the sky! She knew he liked her, and he answered her questions honestly. He did have to help Bella wrap up this case because it was bigger than their former relationship or the Sages’ preoccupation with politics. There were real creatures and sims involved who could get hurt. Speaking of which, he needed to focus on the remaining issues. What was he missing?
And how had he lived like this?
The urge to blame his father was there, but Caleb couldn’t muster up the energy to delude himself. Vladislaus was a hoarder, but he kept his homes spotless. He couldn’t blame his mother either. She cashed out from the divorce and bought her own set of properties. Save for hanging a portrait of herself, for reasons he could only assume came down to taunting his father, Anastasia Barrister hadn’t set foot in this place in over a century.
No, the damage had come from Caleb and the squatters, not to mention Lilith, who dumped boxes whenever she cleaned out her townhome and Morgyn and William stashing illegally acquired magical artifacts.
Fuck. He should clean this up. It was getting ridiculous.
It took him a good day, and it wasn’t perfect. But it was better. Now that things were out in the open, Caleb couldn’t ignore them. Everywhere he looked, he was confronted by mysteries:
Who was his father laughing with in that photo?
And why was he fishing with some old man out in the country?
Vampires lived many lives; it was necessary, but was it possible his father lived one that Caleb had no idea about? Was he married? Did he have other children? Caleb spent so much time being resentful that he’d never asked.
What if he didn’t know everything about his father?
As soon as the thought formed, Caleb cursed himself. All these years of working as an investigator and he’d forgotten the number one rule:
Be curious about everyone.
THE REALM OF THE FAE
Akira stared at himself in the mirror, his scars shining like claw marks. Miko had raked the dagger down to the bone. She wasn’t stabbing him; she was trying to flay him open.
His sister had dragged his broken body to the healers, but his father stopped them before they finished. “Leave the scars,” he told them, “So my son remembers what love costs a fool.”
For centuries, Akira was embarrassed. Now he was grateful for the reminder.
He threw on a shirt and dialed his sister. She was terrible at answering her phone, but he’d expected her to at least make an effort since he was doing her a favor.
“It’s done,” he snapped at her voicemail, “But it wasn’t easy. If I can get the Sages the answers they want, and that’s a big fuckin’ if, we still have to pull off the impossible and arrest Johnny Zest’s ghost.” He ran a frustrated hand through his hair, “Whatever. Call me back. And don’t ask for any more favors for your little wannabe boyfriend.”
Akira was down at the docks of Brindleton Bay attempting to procure what the Zoomers Delivery Forum swore was the best shrimp and grits on the planet when his sister finally deigned to call him back.
“What took you so godsdamned long?” he huffed, switching the phone to his other ear and covering it with his hand. “I’ll take six orders,” he told the vendor, “Just give me a minute, and I’ll pay you.”
He stepped away from the food stall and returned his attention to Titania. “So? Where the fuck have you been?”
“Busy,” she sniffed. “I’m a queen if you didn’t remember.”
“As if you’d let me forget. Did you get my message?”
“And?” he prompted.
Something was off with her, but damned if he had the energy to sort it out. “And you know I’m gonna have my hands full. I gotta catch a ghost, hunt down that fuckin’ book which, yes, you were right, the Sages are planning bullshit.”
“Do they still owe you a favor?”
Akira faltered. “You don’t want to gloat? I just admitted you were right.”
“The favor, Akira. Did you bind one of them?”
He glanced back at the food stall. Liberty’s corrupt power would drain him quickly if he wasn’t careful. “I’m plannin’ on cashing in for a plant from the garden since my mandrake crop didn’t take this year. I figure today was probably the last time I’ll be able to set foot in the Magic Realm as a favored guest and not an enemy of the state.”
“Can you hold it longer? I might need it. We ran down Darrel Charm, destroyed his mansion, and ripped him to shreds.”
“I’m not. It was for a good reason. I’ll explain later.”
Motherfucker. An indeterminate time with Liberty’s corrupt magic coursing through him? Titania better hope the Sages didn’t start a war while he was compromised. “What about Caleb? Do I need to do more damage control for your boyfriend?”
There was a long pause. “He’s not my boyfriend,” Titania said and hung up the phone.
In addition to the CC I regularly use in the game and buildings from the Fleuralia Save File, I used the following builds and custom content. This story takes a ton of mods and cc, so if you see your work and I failed to tag it somewhere, please message me.
POSES & ANIMATIONS
Nilynpose 016 – 10 Male Model Pose by Nilyn
Male Poses 07 by Helgatisha
Got the Wrong Glass Pose-Pack by Natalia-Auditore
Be Quiet My Prey by Natalia-Auditore
Pose Dump #2 by Alpine Lapine
Alpine Emotions: Fear (Simblrleen 2022) by Alpine Lapine
Dark Magic 3 by Alpine Lapine
Y2K Poses by helgatisha
Halloween Poses – Power by helgatisha
King’s Throne 2 Pose Pack by Natalia-Auditore
Dance With Fire by Moriel
Vecna’s Curse by Angelic Cookie Tv
Halloween Poses by helgatisha
Scared by Her by Natalia-Auditore
Be Quite my Prey by Natalia-Auditore
Cetrion Poses by helgatisha
Halloween Vampire Victim by helgatisha
Take Me on the Floor by SomethingWickedSims
Phone Emotions by threethousandplumbobs
The Drug in Me is You and Magic Pose Sets by Cassandra Grusel
Phone Talk 3 by Natalia-Auditore
CLOTHING & ACCESSORIES
Erebor Throne by Natalia-Auditore
Queen of the Forest Wings by Moriel
Corine Tilly by Moriel
Sabrina by Moriel
Phantom of the Opera by Moriel
Scoia’Tael Set by Moriel
Julius Hair by JohnnySims
Lotus Hair by Simandy
Agony Ear Piercing Collection by Pralinesims
Spider Veins by Sewer Sims
Illidari Demon Horns by Valhallan
Monster Nose Presets by NV Games
Magical Chemistry Lab by SatiSim