Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Fifty-Four.
The next morning, Luke was up with the dawn, and the rest of his entourage followed suit not too long after. He handed them each a cup of coffee as they staggered from the bedroom, each declaring him far too cheerful and energetic.
They took turns in the shower. It crossed Luke’s mind to suggest to Sally that they shower together, but a look at the incredibly tiny bathroom dashed that idea. He wistfully stowed the thought away for another time, perhaps at a nice hotel on their honeymoon, and contented himself with quietly being aware that she was naked a few rooms away. And then with the idea that Charlie was naked. Luke’s own shower might have been more exciting, given how stirred up he was by then, but the hot water ran out early, and he rushed through rinsing the shampoo out of his hair. He used a pink plastic disposable razor with daisies on it to shave, leaving a neat goatee, sharp sideburns, and just a couple of nicks. His hair disobeyed his instructions to comb out, preferring instead to follow the whims of his cowlicks. Finally he just got the tangles out and let it go, hoping for artfully messy. He borrowed a set of clothes from Charlie, who had packed more than enough: a pair of jeans with intact knees and hems and a T-shirt proclaiming support for a band Luke had never heard of. He didn’t feel like himself until he put on his boots.
Sally took Charlie with her to collect eggs from the hens’ nest boxes, a process he found absolutely thrilling. He was disappointed there was nothing to milk.
“The Saanens are milk goats,” Sally explained, “but the does are all pregnant, so we’ve dried them off.”
“What does the goat being wet have to do with milking?”
Sally shook her head. “It means we got them to stop making milk.”
Charlie looked taken aback. “You can do that? Is it special food? Something in the water?”
Sally held up her hands. “Dear heart, your urbanism is showing.”
Luke cooked the eggs, along with a hearty portion of bacon, and presented it to the others with a flourish. “Ta-da! Fresh from the chicken’s butt!”
The girls rolled their eyes and tucked in, but Charlie looked a little pale. “The eggs come out of their butts?”
“They only have one rear orifice,” Luke said. “Eat up!”
“C’mon, Jersey Devil,” Sally kidded him, “join us in consuming the mangled unborn!”
It clearly took Charlie a minute to regain his sense of isolation from the reality of eating bird embryos, but the aroma of fresh-scrambled eggs with sharp cheddar cheese, freshly ground pepper, and bacon soon convinced him not to care.
Clean bodies, fresh clothes, and warm food soon had all four myth-folk feeling more human. While they were finishing the remains of breakfast, Charlie reached behind him and picked up the pan pipes from the kitchen bar. “So this is what the trolls were using to call and command the chupacabras?”
Luke nodded. “That’s the one bit that doesn’t fit. Sure, they could make a pipe like that. You could get all the parts for it at Walmart. But how did they imbue it with magic? That’s not troll magic. It had to be someone else, someone who knew a lot about chupacabras.”
“Or someone who specialized in the creation of magical objects,” Charlie said. “It might not be just chupacabras it can command.”
The table grew silent, and Luke exchanged worried looks with the others as he thought of August and Mae.
“In that case,” Allison said, “why not use it on all of us?”
“Well, good tools don’t make the carpenter,” Luke said. “Maybe they tried. Maybe they tried it on a whole assload of people and only managed to snag August and Mae. And chupacabras. August because with him present, no one would call the council, and Mae to rob me of my greatest strength–you girls. If she disrupted my relationships, or drained my magic, I couldn’t possibly have stood up to them magically.” He took the pipe from Charlie and gazed into the pipes, turning it over, as if hoping it was signed somewhere.
Sally looked suddenly grave. “Can I see that?” Luke handed her the pipes, and her expression deepened. “This… looks like it was made out of popsicle sticks, acrylic yarn, and a wind chime.”
Allison guffawed. “Jeez, who would make a powerful magical object out of dollar store crap?”
“Brent,” Sally said definitively.
Luke and Allison stared at her, and Charlie piped up, “Who’s Brent?”
Luke shook his head. “Sally, I know you don’t like Brent and you think he’s a creep. But he’s worked with me for four years. We’re friends. And he was one of the ones kidnapped by the trolls, remem… ber….” He trailed off, trying to recall what Brent was blubbering about when they rescued him. Some kind of apology? He couldn’t summon it up through the tumultuous recollection of violence and fear that was yesterday.
Sally set the pipe on the table. “I saw him at Walmart. I hate that place, but it was two a.m. and I was buying Pepto Bismol for a sick goat.”
“Like ya do,” Charlie muttered.
“I turned a corner heading to the checkout and ran into Brent, almost literally. It was real awkward, you know, because he was such a twit toward me before. But he was carrying an armload of stuff, including a wind chime and red yarn. I smiled at him and said, ‘Craft night?’ ‘Cause, you know, it’s two a.m. Of course you need to pick up that stuff right then. I only remember because it struck me as such a random bunch of stuff at a funny hour. In classic Brent style, he told me to fuck off. Such a classy dude. And he could definitely do this kind of magic.”
Luke dropped his face into his hands. “Oh wow. When was this?”
“Months ago. Well before the first attack.”
“Shit. Shit shit shit shit.”
“Where’s Brent now?” Allison asked.
“He went with the other damaged myth-folk to Austin. That’s five hours away…. Who took them?”
“Kristin,” Allison said. “She can handle herself. She’s one of mine, a sea serpent.”
“She can handle herself when she’s expecting an attack,” Luke said, pulling out his cell phone. “But any one of us is vulnerable to a gunshot to the back of the head when we’re not expecting it.” Luke looked around the table. “Did anyone account for all the guns yesterday?”
“Crap, no,” Allison said. “We were either fucked up or taking care of the fucked up.”
“I’m gonna call Kristin. You have her number, Allison?” Allison gave Luke the number, and he called. It went straight to voice mail. Luke stood up, the pine chair squeaking on the linoleum. “Sally, can I use your computer? I gotta look up the number for the center they were heading toward. We’ll see if they made it there last night.”
Charlie pulled out his phone and tapped the screen. “I’ve heard tales of you trying to use a computer. What’s the name of the center?”
“Sundance Hospital. Technically in Dripping Springs.”
Charlie tapped a couple more screens and then handed the phone to Luke. It was already ringing.
“What an amazing modern world we live in,” Luke said, admiring the sleek miniature computer that masqueraded as a phone. “Boy, I’m keeping you around.” He winked at Sally and turned to pace nervously around the room while the phone rang.
* * *
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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