“Fairies just don’t know how to write decent resumes.” I crumpled up another scroll of parchment and tossed it in the garbage can next to my desk. It took a single glance at the next one before I tossed that resume, too. I would never fill the assistant’s position at this rate.
Admittedly, I hadn’t had all that many interested parties; most fairies weren’t concerned with doing an honest day’s work, or any kind of work for that matter, much less becoming the assistant to the only private detective in the Elder Realm. A half-dragon half-fairy detective at that.
Still it was disappointing. You’d think there’d be at least one viable candidate. I clubbed my hair back from my face with a leather cord, and then tossed the last of the resumes in the garbage. I’d re-advertise the position in a month or so. At this pace, I’d never expand the business.
A tinkling of bells alerted me to a visitor in the front office. I pushed back from my desk and winced, grabbing my sore ribs. I just finished a nasty little case involving a gnome, a vampire, a pixie, and an ensorcelled family heirloom that went missing. Just because pixies are tiny, don’t underestimate their ability to fuck you up. I had the aching sides to prove it.
Another case so soon after I finished the last would be good business for me. And what was the likelihood of getting another crazy case like that one so soon? Famous last words, right?
I no sooner crossed into the front office when I froze in place, my eyes widening and jaw going slack. The most gorgeous creature I ever saw stood in the entryway, a slight frown on his perfect face. I had to make a conscious effort to close my mouth and blink several times to clear my vision. Wow. Were those rainbow sparkles surrounding the guy?
“You’re a unicorn,” I blurted out. I wasn’t normally so clumsy with words, but this creature’s beauty almost hurt to look upon. Unicorns were some of the rarest and most precious creatures found in the Elder, full of goodness and glitter. I never saw one in person before. He was so much more than I envisioned.
In his human-like form, the unicorn’s long blond hair shimmered with hints of rainbow colors streaked throughout. Large amethyst eyes you could fall into, surrounded by sinfully long lashes, and a smile that made me feel like my dick was being sucked, were only a small part of the guy’s appeal. His body was lithe, but strong, and the white leather breeches didn’t leave much to the imagination. Guess it was true what they said about being hung like a unicorn.
The cloud of sparkles moved with him as he approached, the scent of desire almost overwhelming and making me dizzy in the small space. The smell wasn’t exactly pleasant. It was too . . . intense for that, making my balance falter and thinking difficult. What kind of magic was this?
A small cough snapped me out of my trance. My eyes darted where I heard the sound. I startled, my gasp loud in the room. Another person entered with the unicorn and I hadn’t even noticed! That never happened to me. And a human at that.
If I’d any doubt about their particular arrangement, I’d say the human’s almost see-through harem pants and tiny silk tank top were a dead giveaway. His white blond hair and heavily painted face—what was it with all the glitter?—clashed with a series of decorative tattoos that snaked up his well-defined arms and disappeared down his back.
“You’re right, Brandsome, he’s definitely a detective.” The young man’s voice sounded oddly challenging, as he fidgeted under my regard. Took me a moment to realize I was rudely staring. So was he. Not surprising, since most creatures wondered—rightly so—what the results of a dragon and fairy coupling produced.
Though I looked a lot like a human—I mean, if said human grew a foot taller, then added seventy pounds of muscle, some long, navy hair, and black fingernails that could turn into wicked claws in an instant—it wasn’t really all that shocking that he fidgeted. I appeared fearsome to most. His challenging tone, however . . . that was a new one.
“—Quinn. Of course, pet.” The unicorn smiled at his companion, an indulgent light in his luminous eyes. He turned his focus back to me and it was everything I could do not to fall to my knees under the beautiful creature’s spell. Brandsome. What a sweet name. If I wasn’t careful, I’d be sighing and doodling hearts in my notebook later.
“Hello.” His voice was whisper soft and made me want to promise him the world. Lashes swiped deliciously over prominent cheekbones, before he said, “I’m Brandsome Nightwind.”
“The Brandsome Nightwind,” the human added in a bored voice. “Dazzle Fashion’s Cover Model of the Year. Third year in a row. His fans call him Brand-Me-For-Life Nightwind. Cute, isn’t it? No, don’t fawn. I’m sure you’ve seen his posters around town . . . or on your bedroom wall. Believe me, he’ll be happy to sign it later . . . sir.”
“Pet, please stop. You’re embarrassing me.” Brandsome’s cheeks reddened, making him even prettier. He leaned into my space to confide, “He’s so cheeky, but he means well.” He laughed, a lilting sound as potent as a siren’s song. “Pardon me for asking, but are you the brave and strong Turig Starfinn I keep hearing about?”
I wanted to ask who in the bloody lower realms Turig Starfinn was, but Brandsome flicked his hair over his shoulder and I lost my train of thought. That small gesture was way hotter than any orgy I ever attended. I went rock hard and I swear he knew it too. He bit his plump lower lip and it was all I could do not to groan with desire. What in the blue blazes had he asked? My name. Right. I could tell him that.
If only I could remember how to speak. “Uh . . .”
Brandsome’s companion held up one of my business cards. “If this is your card, I say you are indeed the Twig Starfig, sir. Sound familiar?” His mouth turned up in the barest hint of a smile and I couldn’t tell whether the reaction was to my name—I’d taken endless rounds of teasing over it—or because I was clearly unable to string together a coherent sentence around the unicorn. Maybe both.
“Yes, that’s right,” I all but growled. Cheeky was an understatement. The human’s eyes widened, wariness replacing amusement, but my tone didn’t discourage Brandsome as he shifted even closer.
“My, my, you are so much more . . . handsome than I envisioned. Stunning, really.” The way he eyed me up and down made me feel like a piece of valuable art. I wasn’t sure whether to preen or be offended.
Before I could respond, he continued, “I understand you help people find things that were taken from them.” Brandsome’s eyes suddenly filled with tears as his lip trembled.
I was not one for tears—dragons were more often the cause of them than the solution—but I consciously made myself stand still so as not to wrap the sweet creature up in my arms. That also never happened to me before. It left me tongue-tied and floundering.
So I did the next best thing.
I nodded. Heard the unicorn’s companion sigh. I glanced in his direction. He frowned, only smoothing out his features when Brandsome looked his way. Very nice features, if I was honest, but he paled in comparison to the unicorn’s beauty.
As much as I wanted to gaze at the unicorn again, I was much better off keeping my eyes focused on his servant. What’d he say his name was? Quinn, right? With the shot of lust and adrenaline running through my system it was too hard to remember details I’d normally note right away.
I gestured toward my office, forcing myself to string words together. “Why don’t you gentlemen tell me how I can help?”
There. I managed it. One complete sentence. It even made sense.
“Thank you, fierce creature,” the unicorn said, his soft voice touching my skin like the finest silk. “I’d be ever so grateful.”
Quinn actually grimaced once Brandsome turned away. When he realized I saw it, he froze, his eyes assessing. Since I didn’t chastise him, he winked. Before I could react to that outrageousness, he spun on his heel and followed his master toward my office.
Pretty cocky for a bed slave. I approved grudgingly. I never understood why indentured servitude was tolerated in the Elder. That was something humans did to each other. Elderians were better than that. Or we should be, at any rate.
I waved my hand toward two chairs in front of my desk and moved to my own on the other side. The distance helped clear my head a small amount, though I still felt a hazy kind of euphoria at Brandsome’s nearness.
Brandsome gracefully sank down into one seat while Quinn ignored the other and went to kneel at the unicorn’s feet.
“You can use the chair,” I said before I could think to hold it back. It wasn’t my business if Brandsome kept his servant kneeling on the hard floor or not. Except it went against everything I believed in. No one should have to kneel at another creature’s feet.
Quinn froze halfway to his knees and looked to Brandsome for guidance.
“I’d heard you were fierce, but I didn’t realize you’d also be kind.” Brandsome gifted me with another smile before he turned that grin on Quinn and patted the seat next to him.
Quinn’s eyes darted back and forth between us, and then he inched over until he sat on the very edge of the chair, his posture tense. High-strung much?
Once we were seated, I turned my attention to my notebook and flipped to a new page. Chances were, Brandsome wanted some magical item or fortune found. My dragon blood meant I possessed an uncanny ability to locate any such object. We dragons liked our treasure, after all.
Before I could ask a single question, Brandsome burst out, “You have to help me.”
He placed his hand on my arm and I swear it felt like getting zapped by lightning. I swallowed, trying not to show how my heart pounded or how my dick tried to push its way through my trousers. Damn, I’d never had someone affect me like this. His touch made my brain turn to mush and the room go all fuzzy. I felt like I was surrounded by the softest, most fragrant clouds. I blinked, but the haze in my mind didn’t clear.
Brandsome smiled, and I returned his grin. I wanted to please him, do anything he asked. He was the most exquisite creature I’d ever laid eyes on.
“I’m here to help,” I said in my most soothing voice, my words slurred and sounding strange to my ears. But with his look of approval, I pushed that thought away. So beautiful.
“I knew when I saw you, you’d be my savior,” Brandsome all but purred, running his hand up and down my arm, like he was stroking my dick.
My gaze slid again to Brandsome’s servant and even though not a muscle in his face moved, I could swear he grimaced. Of course he’d be jealous I was the focus of Brandsome’s attention. Who wouldn’t be? But still, his demeanor set off a warning bell in my head. Had I really just blurted out I’d help without even hearing what the unicorn needed? Something wasn’t right. And where was my dragon? Usually that side of me reacted strongly to people. Yet, only silence greeted me. Maybe I should . . . no, I needed to give him what he wanted.
“Brandsome,” a voice from the front office called. A fairy poked her head inside a moment later, her tiny gossamer wings fluttering madly. “Sorry to interrupt, but some of your fans have gathered outside and are starting to cause a disturbance. I hoped you could calm them down.”
For a split second, Brandsome’s brow furrowed and if I didn’t know better I would swear he cursed under his breath. But then his face smoothed out and he smiled. “Oh, sparkles and glitter! Raine, you know I always make time for my fans. Excuse me,” he said, turning his attention back to me, running a finger up my arm, making me shiver. “My fans can sometimes be a little overzealous. I wouldn’t want them to hurt themselves or anyone else.”
He sighed, as if to say leaving me was the last thing he wanted to do. The batting eyelashes and look of longing in those gorgeous eyes accelerated my heart rate once again. I’d do anything to see that look every day.
Once he was out of sight, Quinn cleared his throat. Loudly.
“Chew this.” The human shoved a strip of bark at my face.
“Why would . . . I do that?” I could barely string a sentence together, my mouth feeling uncoordinated.
“It will help with the magic. It’s meadowmint bark. Completely harmless. I promise.” He stuck out his tongue to show me he gnawed on a piece as well.
I wasn’t a trusting creature, but something in my gut said to trust him. At least about this. I clumsily snatched it from his hand and shoved the strip in my mouth, chewed. I blinked rapidly, the fog lifting from my brain. I shook my head as though I could dislodge the magic physically. Suddenly my dragon was awake with a vengeance, an angry growl echoing in my head. Since Quinn didn’t flinch, I must have kept it confined there.
“Thanks,” I managed to get out between chews.
His lips turned up in the hint of a smile. “Don’t mention it.”
“What did he do to me?” I scrubbed my hands across my face, my thoughts clearing with each passing moment.
“He didn’t do anything. That’s unicorn magic for you. Just part of his charm.”
Made sense. Some creatures’ essences were of a particular magical nature and obviously unicorns fell into that category. I just had no idea the draw would be so powerful. “That’s some crazy magic your master has. How do you stand it?”
He scrunched his face when I said, ‘master,’ which somehow didn’t surprise me. I didn’t like the word either and wasn’t sure why I chose to use it. He shrugged. “You get used to it over time.”
“I’m not susceptible to most creatures’ magic. At least if it’s dark.”
He peeked at me from under his lashes. “That’s the dragon in you, right, sir?”
“Yeah.” I continued gnawing on the strip of bark, my head feeling almost normal again. What I didn’t say was that since I’m a half-dragon, half-fairy, my dragon side—by far the dominant one—felt like a separate beast. It was like living with two people in my head all the time. Instead, I said, “Brandsome’s magic packs a wallop.”
“I hoped you might be immune, but I should know better. No one is immune to his . . . charms.”
I raised an eyebrow, waiting for Quinn to say his piece, but he continued to sit quietly, clearly debating whether he should say more.
With Brandsome out of the room it was easy to see the human’s obvious appeal. He oozed pheromones and sex—it overwhelmed my sensitive nose, I hated those artificial body sprays—and if he weren’t a potential client’s servant, I would have stuffed him in a tub of water to get rid of the smell and then scrub all that shit off his face. I could tell by his bone structure he didn’t need it and whore-chic had never been my thing.
As obnoxious as the enhancements were, the thick pink collar sprinkled with rainbow sparkles was far worse. I’d like to say it was the oddest servant’s collar I ever saw, but I’d be lying. Fairies and other creatures of the Elder all reveled in unusual taste in adornment. Now, I know I’m biased because my dragon side really only appreciated gold—or in a pinch gems would do—so I might not be the best judge of these things. Besides, the collar hid another tattoo that just peeked out of the top and curiosity made me want to unbuckle it so I could examine the ink up close. I cleared my throat, willing my mind to focus.
“Go ahead and say it. I can tell you’re dying to tell me something,” I said when he began chewing on his bottom lip. My dragon practically purred. What was that about? And what was with the urge to lean over and pull his abused flesh from his teeth? Must be the lingering effects of the unicorn’s magic. I was still so horny, my cock refusing to behave. My brain even now felt slow, but I could talk at least. Perdition, punishment, and perversions, that was some wicked magic.
“You’re awfully small for being dragon-born,” he blurted out, even though he was a good foot shorter than me.
Well that deflated my cock faster than a werebeaver with braces offering free blowjobs. My dragon wasn’t happy either if the grumbling in my head was any indication.
“And you’re awfully rude for a human,” I shot back.
He blushed. If I wasn’t so annoyed, I’d think it was adorable. But no.
“I’m sorry . . . sir. I didn’t mean . . . well, I meant . . . he’s not what you think he is.”
“Are we having the same conversation? Because I have to say I don’t really see a common thread here.”
“Be careful what you promise, sir. Demand payment upfront. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Brandsome seems all sweetness and light, but underneath he’s as rotten as can be.”
I scratched my jaw, the stubble itchy against my skin. “That gentle, lovely creature? Are you kidding?”
He threw his hands up in the air. “Never mind. You’re obviously as susceptible as the rest.”
“You seem to have anger issues,” I offered. What game was he playing? Everyone in this damn realm seemed to have an ulterior motive. Yet, his warning focused my dragon on his words. That side of me seemed to agree with Quinn. Odd. I didn’t doubt the dragon’s instincts. It kept me alive on more than one occasion. Yet, I couldn’t think of the unicorn without a sappy smile coming to my face. I’d never felt that kind of discordance before.
“I was trying to do you a favor. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you, sir.” Quinn kept his eyes downcast like he’d probably been taught.
“About what exactly?”
Quinn pinched the bridge of his nose, glanced up from under ridiculously long, glitter-enhanced lashes. “Look, he’s going to ask you to find his horn.” He held up a hand when I would have interrupted. “He’ll give you a sob story about how it was stolen from him and can a big strong creature like you help little ol’ helpless him get it back?”
Quinn batted his eyes in the same fashion as Brandsome—obviously mocking—then shook his head.
“So what really happened?” I leaned forward until we were only inches apart. His breath ghosting over my cheek smelled of the sweet meadowmint bark, though the rest of him reeked of that damn pheromone spray. Did any creature actually find it appealing?
“Sorry, sorry, I’m baaackk!” Brandsome sashayed into the room, the sway of his hips drawing my eyes like vampires to blood. Damn, the unicorn was sex incarnate. Succubae had nothing on this dude. “Fans, you know. They’re so excitable. But also sweet. Like cupcakes with sugar sprinkles.” He giggled.
Quinn had practically shot out of his chair when Brandsome reentered the room. He wasn’t very good at this secretive thing. I almost rolled my eyes, but eased back into my seat instead, hoping that keeping my distance would keep my wits about me. For whatever reason, my dragon side loathed moving away from Quinn and growled menacingly in my head as Brandsome approached.
Brandsome ruffled Quinn’s hair affectionately before he resumed sitting and proceeded to tell me a tale, just like Quinn had warned.
“So do you know who stole it?” I asked when he’d finished.
“Well, yes. But it might scare you away if you knew.” His face was so earnest. I broke eye contact so I could think with something other than my dick, which began to perk up again, even with the meadowmint bark and my dragon snarling in my head.
My eyes found Quinn’s and I swear he was shouting, “See, see!”
“I don’t scare easily.” Which was true. I was dragon-born after all, and even though I was cast out for being too runty—the human sure knew how to hone in on a sore subject—I still possessed the courage of a full sized dragon.
“I’m sure you don’t.” Brandsome winked. “In that case, you’ll be outraged to know it’s none other than the scoundrel Lapus Rainbowpebbles.”