Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Forty. Listen to the audio version at Nobilis Erotica here!
Luke, August, and Orson stared out the car windows at the self-storage facility just outside the two-block strip that claimed to be downtown Fox Pass. A quarter mile away, people went about their business at the post office, the courthouse, the pharmacy, and the library. In the back seat, Luke lit a cigarette, gave it to Orson wordlessly out of long-formed habit, and lit another for himself. August rolled down the window on the passenger side.
There was one way in or out of the facility, a gate in the seven-foot iron fence surrounding the two rows of storage units. An office in a portable building squatted up front, and there was a keypad with an entry code by the gate.
“We take the car in,” Luke said. “Don’t get too far from it.”
“It won’t bust through that fence,” August said.
“But it’ll bust through a troll,” Orson said, “and at least slow down bullets. You guys feeling all right?”
“Between Luke’s grounding and the pain meds Sally found for me, I’m functional,” August said. “I actually feel pretty damn good, now that I’ve got that poison out of me.”
“She gave me half a pill,” Luke said. “My head’s all right, and I feel clear. Grounding will do that for a guy. Gotta love earth magic.”
“Then we’re going in.”
Orson drove up to the gate, and August told him the code to enter. The gate gave a great screech as its unoiled gears grated, but it swung away, and they drove through.
“We need to clear the office first,” August said.
They parked in front of the office, knowing that anyone inside would have been alerted to their presence already. No measure of surprise was left to them. August went first, holding a sleek Glock like he’d used it before. He swung open the door and stood aside, and when no attack came, he slid in and cleared the corners before motioning for the others. Orson stayed near the front with the shotgun, watching their back, while August and Luke, who had Sally’s father’s hunting rifle, cleared the rest of the building silently. When they were assured no one was present, they met Orson back at the front.
“Nice to be working with a pair of professionals,” August said to them.
“Most good ol’ boys around here would pass for professional,” Luke said, “but thanks. It helps to have been in combat so many lives before.”
“Just glad we got the girls to stay home,” Orson grumbled.
“You shouldn’t give them such a hard time,” Luke said. “They’d hold their own.”
“Yeah,” Orson said, “but we’d be looking out for them, and that might be the fatal flaw in a combat situation. Ain’t a matter of their competence, it’s just the way men and women work. The men are always going to want to keep the women alive. Especially those two, with you involved.”
Luke nodded. “OK, I see your point. August, where do we go from here?”
They got back in the car and circled the lot, checking for security officers or guards; they found none. Satisfied that they were not going to be taken unaware, August led them to unit 43. He took a pair of heavy-duty bolt cutters from the car, cut the lock, and slid the door up and open.
A gorgon lay on the concrete floor. She raised her head and hissed when she saw August, but her demonic face twisted in confusion upon spying the other two. The room smelled of ammonia and filth; a bucket with a dirty towel draped over it stood in one corner, and two empty water bottles littered the floor. Her hands were bound, and her feet were shackled to the concrete.
“Meredith,” Luke breathed, going down on his knees beside her. He pulled out his pocketknife and slit through the ropes on her wrists. August handed the bolt cutters to Orson, who went to work on the shackles.
In her human form, Meredith was in her fifties, all bone and paper-thin skin stretched over sharp angles. Only her hair, thick black curls now even more striking with shocks of gray throughout, could be called beautiful. In her myth form, she was a powerful member of the council, ancient and vicious. In her human life, she ran the cosmetics department of the pharmacy and organized fund-raising for the pitifully small high school marching band, which only recently could boast that all the usual instruments were represented.
She didn’t speak, but she pulled herself into Luke’s arms, her shoulders quaking with silent sobs. Luke held her a moment, stroking her hair, murmuring reassurance. It didn’t matter what he said; his voice was what mattered, an ally come to take her away from the darkness and rot. He walked her to the car, and she collapsed in the backseat and did not move.
Luke met August’s eyes as he shut the door and stood. “Did you collect her?” he asked. His voice was cool, even, but there was a promise of rage.
August shook his head. “Not her. But there were others I did. Luke, I didn’t even know it had happened until that… possession was sucked out of me. Even now, it’s like watching a movie of someone else’s life, remembering what happened.” His brow knit. “You can’t possibly hold me responsible for what I did while possessed.”
“Never known trolls to possess anyone.”
“I’ve never known trolls to kidnap and torture multiple myth-folk in an effort to take possession of a portal, either. I’d say this is a truly unique situation.”
“Fair enough,” Luke said. “Next unit.”
They collected Carl Mendez, a high school chemistry teacher who was also a Mexican demon myth (his students would not be surprised), and Fern Yates, who worked at the Motel 6 and sat on the council as an embodiment of the Wolf, enormous and bloody in her myth-folk form but much reduced in her current state. They went into the car with Meredith.
Luke’s breath caught as August raised the next door. “Brent!” he cried, and rushed in. His friend and coworker skittered into the corner, his nerves as shot as his eyes. He waved his hands frantically, as if trying desperately to ward off anyone coming close to him.
“Not him! Not him!” Brent yelped.
“Him?” Luke looked over his shoulder at August. “Ah. Brent, he switched sides. He’s a good guy now.”
“Good guy? Good guys don’t–don’t bust into your house while you’re fixing your motherfucking breakfast and slam your hand down on the stove element before saying a goddamn word!” He said this all in one slurred breath.
Luke focused on Brent’s hands. One of them bore a nasty wound, clearly infected despite sloppy bandaging. There were circular red marks on his skin, filling with pus in spots. Luke wished they weren’t on concrete, wished he could ground himself, reach out with his magic for something stabilizing. He cursed modern civilization for the umpteenth time.
“We’re leaving,” Luke said. “C’mon, get in the car. It’s gonna be tight.”
“Thank you,” Brent said as Luke and Orson started working on his bonds. “I’m so sorry. God, I was so scared that you’d never find me, that you’d leave me here, after that happened–”
“Don’t be absurd,” Luke said. “You getting left behind–it’d never happen.”
“You’re a better man than I am, Luke. I’m so sorry.”
“You keep saying that.” The bonds came loose, and Orson cracked through the first shackle.
“Well I am. I had no idea how far they were going to go with the chupacabras. It doesn’t make any sense, them wanting to kill you. Hurt you, yeah, or frighten, but killing and kidnapping and possessing? I had no idea.”
Luke leveled his gaze at Brent, a man he’d known all his life, and a shadow of doubt crept into his heart. If he confessed he didn’t know what Brent was babbling about, Brent might explain… or if he’d done wrong, he might clam up, and they might never know the truth. The question was whether he believed Brent, who had worked at his side for the past several years, was capable of doing him harm. How much did he trust the tinker fae?
Not enough, he decided. He stood up, pulling Brent with him. “We’ll discuss it later, man. Don’t waste your strength.”
“I could say the same thing to you.”
A hundred feet away, a man stepped out of the shadows and leveled a gun at the four of them. Alan wore his police officer’s uniform, and his troll magic made him appear bigger than he was. Luke was helpless; his rifle was in the trunk of the car, and Orson’s shotgun lay several feet away in the shadows. August alone returned the gesture with his Glock.
Alan’s trollish face curled into a snarl. “It’s time for your part in this to end.”
* * *
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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