Blood Martinis & Mistletoe (Faery Bargains #1.5) by Melissa Marr




Chapter One





Giant aluminum balls hung around me even though I was standing in the cemetery not long before dawn. I didn’t know who hung the balls, but I wasn’t too bothered.

Winter in New Orleans was festive. We might have draugr and a higher than reasonable crime rate, but damn it, we had festivities for every possible occasion. Gold, silver, red, blue, purple, and green balls hung from the tree. Samhain had passed, and it was time to ramp up for the winter holidays.

November--the month after Samhain--was uncommonly active for necromancy calls. Unfortunately, a certain sort of person thought it was festive to summon the body and spirit of Dear Uncle Phil or Aunt Marie. Sometimes the relatives were maudlin, and sometimes they were thinking about the afterlife.

Now, the dead don’t tell tales about the things after death. They can’t. I warn folks, but they don’t believe me. They pay me a fair amount to summon their dead, so I always stress that the “what happens after we die” questions are forbidden. Few people believe me.

Tonight, I had summoned Alphard Cormier to speak to his widow and assorted relatives or friends who accompanied her. I didn’t ask who they were. One proven relation was all I needed. Family wasn’t always just the folks who shared your blood.

Case in point, the faery beside me. Eli of Stonecroft was one of the people I trusted most in this world—or in any other. I closed my eyes for a moment, which I could do because he was at my side. I was tired constantly, so much so that only willpower kept me upright.

“Bonbon,” Eli whispered. His worried tone made clear that a question or three hid in that absurd pet name.

Was I going to be able to control my magic? Did he need to brace for draugr inbound? Were we good on time?

“It’s good.” I opened my eyes, muffled a yawn, and met his gaze. “I’m still fine.”

Eli nodded, but he still scanned the graves. He was increasingly cautious since my near-brush-with-death a couple months ago.

My partner stood at my side as we waited in the cemetery while the widow, her daughter, and two men spoke to their reanimated relative. Mr. Alphard Cormier was wearing a suit that was in fashion sometime in the last thirty years.

Why rouse him now? I didn’t know and wasn’t asking.

“Twenty minutes,” I called out. I could feel the sun coming; I’d always been able to do so—call it in an internal sundial, or call it bad genes. Either way, my body was attuned to the rising and falling of the sun.

“When he is entombed, we could--”

“No.” I couldn’t force myself to glance at him again.

I was bone-tired, which made me more affectionate, and Eli was my weakness. Cut-glass features, bee-stung lips, and enough strength to fight at my side, even against draugar, Eli was built for fantasy. His ability to destroy my self-control was remarkable—and no, it wasn’t because he was fae.

That part was why I wasn’t going home with him. Trusting him, wanting him, caring for him, none of that was enough to overcome the complications of falling into his bed. Sleeping with a faery prince had a list of complications that no amount of lust or affection overcame.

“I won’t get married,” I reminded him.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Mr. Cormier asked, voice carrying over the soft sobbing women.

The man with them handed Cormier something metallic.

I felt as much as saw the dead man look my way, and then his arm raised with a gun in hand. The relatives parted, and there was a dead man with a gun aimed at me.

“Fuck a duck. Move!” I darted to the side.

Eli was already beside me, hand holding his pretty bronze-coated sword that I hadn’t even known he owned until the last month. “Geneviève?”

“On it.” I jerked the magic away from Mr. Comier.

It was my magic that made him stand, so I wasn’t going to let him stand and shoot me.

REST, I ordered the dead man.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. They made me. Threatened my Suzette if I didn’t . . .” His words faded as my shove of magic sent him back to his tomb.

I could hear the widow, presumably Suzette, sobbing.

“I do not believe those gentlemen are Mr. Cormier’s relations.” Eli glared in the direction of the men who had hired me to raise a dead man to kill me. They’d grabbed the two women and ducked behind mausoleums.

“Why?”

“They seem to want you dead, buttercream,” Eli said. “If they were his family, that’s an odd response.”