Welcome to Capricious by Julie Cox, a Texan tale of love and magic. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Tuesday. This week is Chapter Sixty-Three.
Luke sat in the passenger seat, exhausted but smiling, and Charlie sat braced and wincing in the back seat while Sally recounted her aerial battle with Brent and his flying machine. Her dark hair was a mess; she’d thrown on an old baseball cap of Charlie’s from the depths of the trunk, drawing a ponytail through the hole in the back to keep it corralled. With every dramatic gesture she made, the ponytail flipped up or back or around, mimicking her excitement.
She finished her narration as they pulled up to the hospital. Luke helped Charlie out, and Sally followed in their wake. They went through the automatic doors into a blast of freezing cold air; no one had yet flipped it from AC to heat in the unexpected cold front. A woman sat with a boy holding a bandaged arm, both sullen and exhausted, and a heavily flushed young man lay across three of the orange plastic chairs, somehow asleep under a blanket despite how uncomfortable he must have been. They were the only other patients in the small town hospital, which also housed every medical professional in the county, save the veterinarian.
An iron-haired woman with a broad frown took Charlie’s information. She looked up at him over the forms he’d filled out. “Kicked by a mule?”
Charlie had thrown on a T-shirt, also plundered from his trunk, to replace the one with the bullet hole. He tugged down the collar of the shirt to display the colorful bruise blossoming across his sternum. It reminded Luke of a watercolor painting he’d once seen of an exotic purple daylily.
The intake nurse whistled. “Lucky he didn’t get you in the head.”
No one said anything, but the three exchanged a dark look. Lucky, indeed. They got Charlie settled as comfortably as possible to wait for someone like a doctor to examine him and his “mule kick.”
“Anything we could get for you?” Sally said.
“Actually,” Charlie said, tapping his mouth, “something to eat would be great. It’s past lunch, inching toward dinner, and I tremble to think what they serve here.”
“It’s not so bad,” Luke insisted. “Least someone else is cooking.”
“A real American cheeseburger?” Charlie said, looking at Luke with doe eyes.
“Aw shit he has wiles! It’s not fair! Fine, pretty boy, I’ll fetch you dinner.” He leaned over and kissed Charlie’s forehead, much to the interest of the intake nurse. “Anything else you want?”
“Anything for sale in Fox Pass.”
“Naw,” he said, settling back. “I have the internet in the palm of my hand. Thanks.”
As Luke and Sally headed out the front door of the hospital, Luke looked back at Charlie. The lenses of his glasses were lit up by the light of his phone. Luke got the distinct impression that Charlie was a little relieved to be left to himself for a while.
Sally and Luke went to the only decent restaurant they knew of close to the hospital–which, by happy coincidence, was Allison’s diner. Luke’s face broke into a grin as he pushed open the glass door with its little chime. Cormick sat chatting animatedly with Allison in the back corner booth. He grinned and waved the newcomers over.
Allison’s wet hair was pulled back into a ponytail and threatened to start frizzing if she didn’t do something about it soon, but she, like Sally, appeared not to care too much about her hair at the moment. She beamed up at Luke, flushed with pride and excitement. She was wearing her work clothes, a skirt and collared shirt and apron over comfortable shoes, presumably the closest set of clean clothes she’d gotten her hands on after coming out of the river. She must have had a spare set at the diner. Luke was suddenly reminded of the time, not too terribly long ago, when she’d dragged him into her office and had her way with him. Despite having been run sexually ragged, he couldn’t help but perk up and take interest. Inwardly he gave a little sigh; he might never get to fuck Allison again. That was a habit that was going to die hard. Long, slow, and hard. Unless Sally warmed to the idea of sharing him, which at the moment wasn’t entirely out of the question, but he was not going to press his so-far astounding luck.
Cormick was talking, and Luke tuned back in as he tore his gaze from Allison. “I’ve just gotten off the phone with the council in New York,” he said. “They’re beside themselves that this went on as long as it did without their… management. And that it was a handful of rebellious, dare I say, secessionist hicks who solved it, not their own wayward representative. So they are making, uh, reparations, so that we don’t raise a shitstorm and have them voted out of office.”
“We could do that?” Sally mused.
“Well, if the whole nation got an earful of what happened here, and the council did nothing, yeah, I could actually see that happening. So they’re throwing money at the problem until the problem goes away.”
“I love being a problem,” Allison sighed.
“Yes, honey, we know,” Cormick said, patting her hand.
“How much money?” Luke said, eyes narrowed.
“Well, they’re paying for the damage to Sally’s folks’ homestead, and to replace the car that got trashed. They’re keeping tabs on every known troll, and especially every known bridge troll, in case a chupacabra shows up with the Wild Hunt on its heels. The trolls seem to be fine with that, considering what happened to Alan and what’s-his-name. They’re paying Luke’s medical bills–”
“Oh Hallelujah!” Luke cried. “Bring on the copayments!”
“–and anyone else’s who got caught up in it.”
“Charlie will like the sound of that,” Sally said.
“They’re paying each one of us major players–that being everyone here, plus the kidnapped folk, minus Brent of course, plus Orson and Mae–a compensation package for ‘endangerment,’ whatever they mean by that. As for you….” He leveled his eyes and index finger at Luke. “They’re paying you a field operative’s salary for the past six months, since you kinda went and did a field operative’s job for him.”
“Ohhhh, man. I can’t tell you how much that will help. What’s a field operative make, anyway?”
“Ooh yes,” Allison said, leaning on her elbows. “Tell us how much August is worth.”
“You’re getting seventy-five thousand.”
Luke stood up abruptly, knocking his chair over backward. “Holy shit! Seventy-five? That dude makes a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year?”
“Oh, now he is hot,” Allison said. “Cormick, you have to marry him.”
Cormick ignored Allison entirely and held up his hands. “I have no idea how much he makes. Feel free to ask him. I’m just the messenger.” But he was smiling.
Luke beamed down at Sally and swept her up in an enormous hug. She hugged him back, squeezing hard. “This’ll make getting started a whole lot easier.”
“Getting what started?” she asked teasingly.
He pulled back and kissed her, touching her belly with his fingertips. “Everything.”
In all the excitement, they almost forgot to bring Charlie his cheeseburger. Almost.
* * *
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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