Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Twenty.Listen to the audio version at Nobilis Erotica here!
The next day, Luke drove up to Brent’s house after work, an old trailer in the same area as Orson’s–not so much a park as a side street that had slowly filled up with trailers. He stared at the 1980s-model single-wide over the top of his steering wheel, brow furrowed. If not for Glen’s disappearance, Brent’s absence from work that day would not have raised his hackles. The tinker fae was prone to bouts of both intense productivity, in which all other obligations would be forgotten in his fervor to finish some new project, and drunken stupor, a tear that could last a week if not checked. He never would have kept his job if the foreman wasn’t his cousin.
He left the relative safety of the truck and went up to the trailer. The skirting was gone in the front, the undercarriage of the trailer exposed and all illusion of it being a permanent home stripped away. The stairs were narrow and rickety, and the very act of rapping on the door made them shake beneath Luke’s boots. The door was locked when he tried it. He pulled out a set of keys he’d gotten from the foreman, who had been all too happy to let Luke be the one to check on Brent, and opened the door to silence and a chaotic mess.
Luke thought there had been a struggle for a minute before he remembered that this was what Brent’s place normally looked like. Clothes, empty food containers, dirty dishes, adult magazines, and tools made up the top layer of debris; Luke declined to investigate any further. The place smelled like cat piss, even though Brent hadn’t had a cat for years. Luke checked the bedroom and found nothing but laundry and an unmade bed. He checked the bathroom and noted that Brent’s razor and hairbrush were still on the sink. In the tiny kitchen, the milk was fresh, almost a full half carton, and a pan of half-cooked bacon sat on the back burner, turning rancid in its own grease. There were bits of something on the element that smelled like burned pork. Satisfied, Luke went outside to sit on the rickety stairs, called Cormick to report, and then called the police.
Part of being in the myth-folk community was hiding what they were from the rest of society. It was surprisingly easy; it wasn’t as if people went looking for satyrs and faeries anymore, and mortals who could see the myth-folk’s true forms were rare. No one believed them, anyway. On the rare occasion that someone was outed, the truth was almost always discarded as ridiculous. Who would believe that the veterinarian was a kelpie?
Still, there was no sense in being careless. Part of the reason Luke had gone to Brent’s house was to make sure there weren’t any strange tools or gadgets lying around before he called the police. They had resources the myth-folk community didn’t, and tinker fae or not, Brent could still have been the victim of a regular old murder, abduction, or other violent crime.
Luke gave his statement for the third time. He’d been interrogated often enough in his many lives to know it for what it was–they were looking for holes in his story, hoping he’d answer the same question different ways, be inconsistent. There was nothing to hide, though, so Luke was entirely truthful: Brent was absent from work with no notice, he came to check on him, the man’s cousin and boss had given him the keys, Brent had been missing for over twenty-four hours, and with Glen’s disappearance, it seemed more alarming than it might have otherwise.
The detective from the county station glanced up, an eyebrow raised. “So you know both of the missing men?”
Luke gave him an impatient look. “It’s a small town. A lot of us know both Brent and Glen. You do too, Harold.” Luke had gone to high school with Harold’s youngest sister.
“Sorry, Luke, it’s Detective Browning while I’m on duty, and I’m going to do my job the same whether I know your name or not.” He held up Luke’s cell phone, which he had asked for earlier. “And why call Cormick before you called the police?”
Luke shrugged. “I dunno, I just did. Thought he’d want to know.”
“A mutual friend?”
The detective jotted that down. “I know, small town, everyone knows everyone.” And that made everyone suspect. “OK, Mr. Shepherdson, you can go home now. But hey, don’t leave town, OK? I might think of some more questions for you.”
Luke was not intimidated, but he’d do his best to follow instructions. As he walked to his truck, he saw Alan, a troll who was a traffic cop for the Fox Pass police. Long ago, the myth-folk had thought it might be of benefit to have a cop on their side. But not everyone was a sharp tack, and Alan’s usefulness had been limited to getting certain tickets dismissed. Luke’s father, a friend of the police chief through the Freemasons, had more influence than Alan. Now, he stood at the end of the driveway, stationed to wave off any cars that approached the scene. None did. Luke gave him a wave and climbed into his truck. Lost dreams, he thought. Nobody turns out the way they think they will, even with a dozen lifetimes behind them. Life was always a surprise, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes just disappointing.
He showed up at Sally’s without calling ahead. Wilson waved to him from the barn. Luke envied him; he wanted his animals back on his farm. He went in and found Sally patching a pair of work jeans on the couch. He told her about the events of the afternoon, and her face grew grave. She put her arms around him and held him, not out of lust but out of fear for him, herself, and everyone around them. She smelled clean and sweet, like fresh-baked cookies and clean cotton, like hay and water, like comfort and love and all that was right in the world. Luke’s heart seemed to collapse in his chest when he realized he was thinking that she smelled like home.
When Wilson came in, Sally let go of Luke and went to take care of a chore in the barn. Luke stayed on the couch and watched her leave. Wilson sat down in the easy chair across from the couch, two glasses of sweet tea in front of him. It took Luke a moment to realize one of them was for him.
“Something you want to talk to me about, son?” Wilson said.
Luke nodded and leaned forward on his elbows. “Yes, sir.” He thought for a moment, steepled fingers against his mouth. “No sense in hemming and hawing–Wilson, I want to ask your permission to court Sally.”
Wilson blinked. “That’s… not quite the vocabulary I was expecting. Haven’t you two already been… courting? Dating? Whatever?”
Luke shook his head. “No. We’ve been tiptoeing around each other for some time, but I’ve not been formal about pursuing her. She hasn’t said as much, but I think she might be ready to come to terms with… whatever this is.” He took a drink of tea and then said, with a tilt of his head, “You thought I was going to ask to marry her.”
Wilson shrugged. “Apparently your amour is not as far along as I imagined.”
“Sally’s a good girl.”
“Sally’s a grown-ass woman. She’s closing in on thirty, and you’re long past that marker.”
Luke couldn’t help but smile. “We’ve both got some old-fashioned ideas, me and her.”
Wilson snorted. “Don’t be ironic. Boy, don’t you think I know something about what you lot are?”
Luke’s smile melted like an ice chip on the sidewalk. “Uh… sir?”
“You, Cormick, Orson, Glen, that Brent asshole–”
“Hold up now, Brent’s missing.”
“Then he’s a missing asshole. I’ve seen you guys do stuff you’ve no business knowing how to do. I watched Sally break a dog’s neck when he went after her chickens when she was seven years old, like she’d done it a hundred times. I’ve heard Orson mutter to himself when he gets sleepy in a language I don’t even recognize. I heard that story about you and the violin.”
“From who?” Luke snapped.
“From your mama, that’s who. What, you think we don’t trade stories about our weird kids?”
Luke wilted further.
“Now listen sharp. I know you lot are more than you seem, and I know you have reasons for not letting on. But if you want to court Sally, you want to keep one thing firmly in mind.” He leaned forward and planted his calloused palm on the table between them. “If you hurt my little girl, my little girl will put you in the ICU.”
Luke blinked and sat up straighter.
“I’d threaten to kick your ass on her behalf, but I know the situation better than you think. Better than you, I expect. Sally is not just my daughter; she’s something dangerous, too. So I’ll let Sally handle her own vengeance. You just do your best not to deserve it.”
Luke stood up. “Yes, sir,” he said, and he meant it.
Wilson stood and offered Luke his hand. Luke shook it. “Between you and me,” Wilson said, “I hope you convince her to partner up with you. I kinda hoped it was going to be you looking after my grandbabies.”
Luke let a smile crook the corner of his mouth. “I hope the same.”
* * *
About the author: Julie Cox is the author of Chasing Tail and numerous short stories in Circlet Press erotica anthologies. She lives in Texas with her husband, children, and ever-expanding menagerie of animals on their farm. She runs a small online yarn business and teaches yarn spinning. She has numerous stories published with Circlet Press and elsewhere.
Welcome to Fox Pass, Texas, a small community where the mythical creatures aren’t so mythical after all. Satyr Luke’s comfortable routine is thrown into disarray when he becomes the target of enemies who won’t hesitate to hurt his friends to get to him. Struggling to save his town—and to sort out his feelings for his friend Sally—Luke faces the adventure of a lifetime in Julie Cox’s Capricious.
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