Authors: Donna Grant
Tags: #Fantasy, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Magic
“Sex. It’s the answer for everyone. Most especially you.” Elle Blanchard couldn’t help but choke on the peanut that had been sliding down her throat. She looked at her best friend since sixth grade to see if she was serious.
Jennifer was definitely serious.
While Elle’s eyes hastily scanned the crowded, noisy bar to see if anyone had overheard Jennifer, she drank some of her pinot grigio to help the peanut down. She slowly placed her wine glass on the bar and stared at her friend.
“I don’t need sex,” she whispered.
Jennifer laughed and nodded her head as she sipped her Cosmopolitan. “Oh, but you do, sweetie. How long has it been?”
Elle hated when Jennifer turned their conversation to her love life, or lack thereof.
“Can’t we talk about something else?”
“Not tonight. I’ve let you change the subject for the last time.” Jennifer grabbed her arm and grew serious. “You need more than the ancient artifacts in the museum, hon.
You need a man that will spend time with you, care for you, and love you.” Elle laughed. “Look at me,” she said and pointed to herself. “Men don’t look at women like me. They look at women like you and them,” she said and pointed to two women at the end of the bar.
She stared at the gorgeous women while three guys stood around them talking.
Elle might be many things, but a fool she wasn’t. She turned back to Jennifer and shrugged.
“No amount of expensive clothes, make-overs, or attitude is going to change what I am. Plain. I have always faded into the background.”
“Elle, hon,” Jennifer said, her Texan drawl coming out. “That bastard put too much into your head. If I ever find him.…” She trailed off, but Elle knew exactly what Jennifer would do—castrate him.
Literally. She loved Jennifer more for it too. Friends like Jennifer didn’t come along often.
“I’d rather not talk about him. Instead, I’m going to enjoy this expensive Sterling pinot grigio and then head back home.”
As soon as the words left her mouth, Elle regretted them.
“There’s another problem. How do you expect to find a man when you live in the Montrose area? Honey, you know I’m not homophobic, but that’s gay central.” Elle chuckled and shrugged. “Exactly. I feel safe there. When I see a man, I’m not worried about them attacking me to rape me.”
“No, it’s the women you’ve got to worry about.” Leave it to Jennifer to tell it like it was.
“Excuse me,” a deep voice said from behind Elle.
She turned, her heart thumping that someone might actually want to talk to her.
But when she looked at him, his eyes were on Jennifer. She wasn’t surprised. Jennifer was pretty. She might be of average height, but her athletic build turned many a head.
“May I buy you a drink?”
Jennifer looked the man up and down, her dark brown eyes critical, before she answered him. “I’m fine, but my friend needs a drink.” Elle could have cheerfully rammed her foot up Jennifer’s butt. She didn’t look at the guy, because she knew what was coming.
“Ah…,” the guy mumbled and looked over his shoulder. “My friends are calling me. I’ll be right back.”
“Sure you will,” Elle said after him. She looked at Jennifer. “I really wish you wouldn’t do that. It’s really embarrassing.”
“I’m so sorry,” Jennifer said, her lips turned down in a frown. “I just thought ….”
Elle envied Jennifer more than she liked to admit. Jennifer always got the guys in junior high and high school that Elle had a crush on. Those guys never even looked twice at her. And now, Jennifer had a guy most women would kill for. Not only was he as wealthy as Prince Charles, he could be a pin up guy for Calvin Klein underwear,
Alex was a nice guy. It would only be a matter of time before he proposed to Jennifer.
And then where would that leave her? Alone. As usual.
“Have you decided what you want to do this weekend?” Jennifer asked.
Elle was grateful for the change of subject. “Nothing.” Jennifer rolled her dark brown eyes and shoved her long dark hair over her shoulder. “Puh-leeze, darlin’. I know you better than that. Birthdays mean a lot to you, and this one is going to be better than ever.” Elle couldn’t help but smile at her friend. Ever since their sixth grade year when Jennifer found out Elle lived in a foster home with nearly ten other kids, Jennifer had done something special for her birthday.
This year would be no different. Elle swirled her wine around in the glass, the goldish liquid catching the dim lights of the bar.
There was only one thing she really wanted, and Jennifer couldn’t get it for her.
“How about we spend part of the weekend at the beach? We haven’t been to Galveston in a couple of years.”
The idea had merit. “All right. That sounds good.”
“We can shop, people watch, and soak up some rays. And one of the guys I work with at Events just bought a beach house he’s renting out. It’ll be perfect.” Elle looked at her when Jennifer glanced at her watch and squealed.
“Ohmigod. I’m going to be late for my dinner with Alex,” she said and slid off the stool, the pinstriped dark gray Donna Karen pantsuit fitting her frame perfectly. “I’ll call you tomorrow to work out the details. Oh, and I’m paying for the beach house,” she said and kissed Elle on the cheek.
Elle smiled and waved her off. Once the door clicked behind Jennifer, Elle sighed. A weekend. At the beach. She wasn’t fooled. Jennifer was looking for a guy for her.
Too bad the search would be in vain.
This must be what Hell felt like, Roderick thought as he wiped the sweat from his face. Again. He wished for snow as he looked around him. His gaze found one of the many limbless trees that stood in a row and had wires connecting them. It took him a moment to recall what exactly they were—utility poles Aimery had called them.
“Admit it,” Val said to him though his eyes followed two women with nearly every inch of their skin exposed. “You like it here.”
“Nay. This heat is draining my brain,” Roderick grumbled.
Val shook his head and returned a smile one of the women gave him.
Roderick glared at his friend and fellow Shield. Val, or Valentinus, if you really wanted to raise his ire, loved adventure of any kind, and the more dangerous the adventure the better. Women seemed to know this about him and flocked to him, despite the scar that marred the right side of his face.
Not that Roderick had a problem getting women when he wanted. He could hold his own against Val.
The Roman would argue differently though.
Despite their bickering, they had become very close while fighting the ancient creatures for the Fae. And though Roderick was an immortal from another realm, he and the Roman had a lot in common.
“When I heard of this place, I knew it would be the best location to find the woman,” Val said, interrupting Roderick’s thoughts.
Roderick glanced at a woman walking by him with a thin piece of bright yellow fabric that barely covered her woman’s area and disappeared between the cheeks of her buttocks. The top wasn’t much better. Her breasts were about to spill out of the little top, and Roderick was sure he saw part of a nipple.
“If she’s here, there’s a good chance we’ll find the mark. These women aren’t afraid of showing themselves off.”
Val laughed. “I love it. We Romans were never afraid either.”
“What if she isn’t here?” Roderick didn’t want to reflect on his apprehension the first night they arrived in the place called Galveston. The city was huge, with more people than on his entire planet. It boggled his mind every time he thought on it.
Val turned from his women watching and shrugged. “I don’t know. It was the only thing I could think of. We’re running out of time.”
Roderick’s eyes were drawn to the dark waters. He heard someone call it the Gulf, but he had no idea what that meant. It looked like the ocean to him, but the waters were much darker than the oceans on his planet, though his people were often found at the water’s edge just like the ones in this time period.
“You two might want to think of blending in a bit more.” Roderick and Val turned as one to the voice behind them. “Aimery,” Roderick growled. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.” The Fae’s unusual blue eyes sparkled with laughter for a moment. “I’ve supplied you both with a place to live, the currency to purchase whatever you need, and information about the current times. I would have thought you would have shed the leather jerkins, pants, and boots.”
“And wear what?” Val asked. He pointed to a man behind him. “I’m not wearing that.”
Roderick looked to what Val pointed out and nearly laughed out loud. The man wore pants so large they hung on his hips—barely.
Aimery shook his head. “At least you don’t attract too much attention.”
“Trust me,” Roderick said as he pushed away from the bare tree, “there are many others that attract attention much more than we ever could.”
“True,” Aimery agreed. “What brought you two to this place other than for Val to look at the women? I thought you were supposed to be in Houston.” This time Roderick did laugh.
“Watch it, Faerie.” Val put as much sarcasm as he could on the word “faerie”.
Roderick quickly explained. “Val thought this might be a good place to find the girl since everyone seems to go without too much clothing.”
“Good idea, Roman,” Aimery said and crossed his arms over his chest. “Have you found anything?”
“Nothing, but not for lack of trying.”
Val grunted and watched a petite redhead wave at him. Roderick looked at Aimery and studied the Fae. Something was bothering him.
“Is there anything else you can tell us about this girl? How old she is? Where she is exactly?”
“I would have given that information to you immediately if I had it,” Aimery muttered.
Val raked his hand through his shoulder length brown hair. “So much for the all knowing Fae. Aimery, we need more information.”
“I had no idea this city would be so massive,” Aimery said defensively. “I send you where the creatures are. I don’t get to pick the location or the time period.”
“We know,” Roderick said. “Val and I are just discouraged. We’ve never been this far into the future with so little information.” Aimery ran his hands down his face, his unusual blue eyes troubled. It was a good thing the people around them couldn’t see Aimery, or he could have caused quite a commotion with his nearly white blonde hair and tall, lean form. His strange white clothes didn’t help either.
Roderick decided to change the subject for a moment. “How is Hugh and the other Shields?”
Aimery’s lips flattened even more. “They are all doing fine.”
“Did they get the creature?” Val asked over his shoulder.
“Aye,” Aimery answered. “Happiness has once again found Stone Crest.” Happiness. Roderick had nearly forgotten what that was it had been so long since he had felt that particular feeling. He had a feeling the creatures would have overrun his realm before he ever conquered them on Earth.
“Call to me if you find anything,” Aimery said just before he disappeared.
Val cursed. “I’ll never get used to that.”
“There’s nothing here,” Roderick said as he stepped beside Val and looked around him. “Let’s walk down on the beach.” Without a word Val began to cross the busy street. Roderick hurried to catch up to him. He didn’t like all the horseless carriages he saw, not to mention they didn’t stop for people. He hated this time and longed to return to … anywhere but here.
They finally crossed the wide street and stopped to look at the beach below. The boardwalk is what Val had been told it was. With a nod to him, Val turned to the left and began to make his way to the stairs that would lead them down to the water’s edge.
When their boots hit the sand, they stopped for a moment and glanced around them. People were everywhere.
“Reminds me of home,” Val mumbled.
“Was Rome this big?”
Val nodded. “Nearly. Come, Thalean. ‘Tis time we really start our search.” For a moment Roderick didn’t move. It had been many years since anyone had called him Thalean. Thales was his home realm, a place so beautiful and peaceful that it was hard to believe it actually existed.
Roderick let Val walk a little ahead of him. ‘Twas something about this time and city that caused him to think of his own realm and family, a family that he hadn’t seen in nearly ten years.
He raised his face to the cloudless blue sky, the sun’s rays beating against him fiercely. This was his punishment for his brother’s death, he realized.
He jerked his head toward Val and hurried toward him. “What is it?”
“I think I saw something.”
The intensity of the Roman’s pale green eyes alerted Roderick that this was serious. “Lead the way.”
They lengthened their strides and shuffled through the thick sand until they came to more stairs and returned to the boardwalk. Roderick’s eyes were always glancing around them, but he noticed Val was intent on something.
Val brought them to a café that had people sitting outside at tables drinking as loud music came from little black boxes attached to the ceiling. “Cause Earl had to die.