24 hour Wooden Spoon Challenge – The Naiad, A Cookie Club Romance
I accepted the challenge and found the prologue to my next Cookie Club Romance! If you’d like to read the other stories, the links are here:
There are many more to come, I think…as the challenges go on, but here is the first bit of The Naiad
“Oh, look, Cecilia! It’s the cutest little store.”
Hannah smoothed her black apron printed with the store logo, Sensual Delights as the two women pushed through the doorway and crooned over the display of soaps and bath salts, candles and other good smelling things. The woman who’d first noticed her place of business lifted a lavender scented candle in a bell jar and sniffed.
“Oh, this is lovely.” She waved it toward Hannah. “Are you having an after Christmas sale?”
Hannah rolled her eyes. As did most of the travelers coming through town on their way to the ski slopes this time of year, the pair were clad in stretchy pants and long clingy sweaters, and they had plenty of money to pay her full price. But also at this time of year, the customers felt that everything should be as close to free as possible.
It sucked out the bit that was left of her holiday spirit. But she twisted her lips in the best imitation of a smile she could muster and led Cecilia and her friend to a table where she’d marked down a number of items.
None of them were spelled.
Hannah’s best products held magical properties that drew the customers, that called to them. She noted that the first woman still held the lavender candle in her hand, probably unaware. She needed peace, serenity in her life, but her desire to save a few dollars warred with her true desires.
She spent many of her off hours reconfiguring the spells in her late aunt’s book of shadows and sought to use them for the benefit of family, customers…and of course her friends from the cookie club. Sometimes things backfired, but with the wild designs the local nail salon inflicted on people, blue and black striped nails simply seemed to be a fashion statement. And if her cookies intended to up a kindergarten class’s interest in good, healthful milk caused her sexy next door neighbor to forget his lactose intolerance…well it was a small price to pay.
As the two skiers pawed through the sale table, the bell above the door rang—odd because it hadn’t been working in quite some time—and a thin woman stumbled in. Gangly, blonde hair in a long braid down her back, she glanced from left to right. Who did she think to find in the store? At first, Hannah thought she was a teenager, but the fine lines by her eyes placed her at least in her late twenties. Her parka was unzipped to reveal a bump under the sweater underneath.
But rather than the glowing joy she expected to see in a pregnant woman, the woman radiated anxiety, and the hand that repeatedly went to her belly clutched rather than caressed. Even when she’d been abandoned by the father of her own child, Pansy, she’d never felt as bad as she sensed this mother-to-be did.
Closing her eyes, she muttered a spell and then opened them again. As she’d hoped, the bedraggled woman reached for a pair of tapers held together by a single wick. Their scent of lilac, the scent of mother’s sacrifice, and orange blossom, the traditional wedding flower told her what she needed to know.
Soon the bargain shoppers wandered out the door without buying anything and since nobody else was there, Hannah came around the corner and approached the young pregnant woman.
“Would you like to buy the candles?”
She seemed startled, her hand jerking and one of the candles snapping away. “No, I can’t, that is I….”
Hannah took her elbow and steered her toward the back of the shop. “You don’t have the funds?”
The woman nodded and Hannah settled her in a chair.
“It doesn’t matter. Those are for you. Let me make you some tea. I have a blend of raspberry leaf and peppermint that I enjoyed when I was pregnant with my daughter.”
Hannah turned on the electric kettle and measured tea into the blue ceramic pot. Soon they sat side by side, sipping the beverage—even not pregnant, Hannah found it tasty. In fact, very tasty. Her guest had a sad tale of abandonment, just like her, but Hannah now was in a relationship with the wizard next door and he wasn’t going anywhere.
She patted the girl’s back and made comforting sounds as outside the blue sky clouded and the first fat drops of rain began to fall. And fall, until a downpour pounded on the roof, lighting streaked across the sky and thunder growled.
“Wow,” she said. “Snow flurries were predicted, but this rain is a surprise. I would have said it was too cold for rain.
Marie—her guest—turned a mournful face on her, tears streaking down her cheeks. “I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your listening to me.” A fresh wash of moisture poured from her eyes and outside the rain sheeted down the window. “I never dreamed I’d find myself in this position. When I left my spring—” Marie froze, her eyes filled with alarm. “I have to go.”
Holy cow. “Wait, you don’t have to leave. You’re a naiad, right?” And the first one she’d met, but the water nymph’s tears seemed to correspond with the weather. Even more than common kindness, she feared if she didn’t stop her, the town would be flooded.
Wide eyes and a trembling chin confirmed her suspicions, and Hannah hurried to hug the girl “Marie, you don’t have to be frightened. We’re all friends here and if you need help, to get back to your spring, or a place to stay until you have your baby, just calm down. We can make it work.”
Jerrin would shake his head and scowl, but in the end her formerly jet-setting wizard would support her decision. His kind heart had overwhelmed his cold, ritzy upbringing.
“I…I couldn’t!” Marie said. As tears continued to flow, a puddle formed at her feet. “It would be too much trouble. I’ll just find a motel room or somewhere until I can figure out what to do. Alroy comes through here every year. He has a daughter here; the mother won’t let him see her though.”
God. Hannah leapt to her feet and gaped at her visitor. “Alroy. Traveling wizard? Came to town, spent a few nights….and you ended up pregnant?” The bastard!
She sniffed. “Yes, but he doesn’t know about the baby and I don’t have any other way to get in touch with him. He says his daughter’s mom is a real ballbuster.”
Rage suffused Hannah and in her belly her second daughter, this one Jerrin’s, somersaulted. She gave her bulge a pat and sucked in a breath. “We have a lot to talk about, Marie.” She thrust out a hand. “Meet the ballbuster. And if Alroy’s been through here, he’s never had the guts to stop by.”
“Oh, no!” The waterworks increased, as the little nymph dropped her head to the counter and wept as if her heart would break. “This was my only hope. I can’t go back; my tribe won’t accept the halfling baby until she’s old enough to determine whether she has the water genes. And that’s at least five or six years old.”
Hannah thought quickly. She and Jerrin still had their two houses, side by side, although they spent most nights in hers—depending on how his remodeling efforts went. Her sexy amazing wizard was trying to fix the decrepit place up “the human way,” with varying degrees of success. But the downstairs was done, and there was no reason Marie couldn’t hole up in the den until she had somewhere else to go. Another thought occurred.
“Marie, I don’t know any other naiads personally, only by reputation, so I don’t want to offend but since you have nowhere else to go, what do you think about working here for a bit? My assistant was called away to take care of her ill sister, and I could use the help.”
Marie blinked at her. “You would do that for me?” The tears slowed, giving Hannah hope for the town’s future without arks
“Your baby is my Pansy’s sister. And my unborn daughter’s distant cousin. And I once was where you are now.”
Wiping her eyes, thankfully no longer spilling crystal droplets, Marie sniffled. “You are pregnant with another wizard’s child? I may be naïve, but even I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.”
Hannah didn’t take offense. The naiad’s comment was exactly what she might have said when she was pregnant with Pansy. “My wizard is not anything like his cousin. In fact, he’s not anything like the rest of the family. When we have more time, I will tell you all about it, but I think when you meet him, you’ll understand. Alroy has charismas; he’s charmed the pants off more than just you and I although I am not aware of other children. Jerrin is…well, he’s special.” Just how special, she couldn’t even express. But his behavior would speak for itself. “Look, it’s getting dark out and I can close just a little early. All the tourists are off the slopes and back at the lodges cleaning up for dinner somewhere.”
She moved to the front of the store and flipped the sign to closed, spinning the lock. As she began to turn away, a movement across the street caught her eye. A lean figure strode along, looking neither left nor right, and she swallowed hard. Should she tell Marie what she’d seen? How could further contact with the man who’d abandoned them both be helpful. As she stared, he disappeared around a corner and she doubted her own eyes. Perhaps it had been another man of his general build. After all, she hadn’t seen Alroy in nearly seven years.
It was logical her imagination might be getting away from her under the circumstances. What she couldn’t understand was why the wizard had even shared that he had a daughter with the naiad. What she’d managed to glean about him hadn’t been from his own lips . In fact, she’d learned more from Jerrin who barely knew his customer than she’d learned from the man who’d shared her bed and given her a child.
“Marie,” she asked, pulling the heavy draperies over the window behind the display of bath and body products, “how long were you and Alroy together?”
Marie poured tea into the delicate china cup and took a long sip. “About a year. I met him in the forest near my home while I was berry picking one summer day, a year and a half ago. Then he turned up again the next day and the next.” She drank more tea, her eyes glazed in memory. Hannah could almost see the pretty nymph and Alroy among the trees and meadows. Marie had the gift of projection.
Bright summer sun streamed through the leaves as the slim girl, long hair waving in the breeze, danced naked around the trees and splashed through a stream. Alroy chased her, laughing, his face open in a way she’d never seen. In the brighter light, the greenish blue of the girl’s complexion glowed with health. She ducked under a branch and crouched beside a low bush heavy with crimson berries. The wizard slowed, prowling, peering left and right, calling her name and tugging his black shirt off as he moved
“Come here, nymph.” He brushed aside a branch that blocked his path and paused, listening. “I will have you today.”
Marie panted, both eager for him and frightened. It would be her first time, and it would be today, he was right. No warnings from the elders could keep her from him, the one meant for her. Standing, she stepped from behind the bush and stood, hands at her sides. With a growl, Alroy leapt for her and swept her into his arms. She cried out but parted her lips in welcome for his kiss. He bore her to the ground and buried his face in her throat, murmuring endearments.
Hannah gasped and wrenched herself from the intimate vision. The heat she’d seen in Alroy’s eyes, through Marie’s perspective, the quirk in his full lips, there’s been none of that in his casual, charming seduction of her. If Alroy was indeed in town, he wasn’t there to see her or Pansy. He followed his true mate, even if he didn’t know it. And while Jerrin was all the father her daughter needed, one day she’d want to know more about the man who’d given half her biological material.
Everything had changed. The universe spun on, offering its twists and turns and once again, she’d never seen it coming. Her Cookie Club friends would never believe this one!
If you’d like to read the already released Cookie Club Stories click here for more information