His roar, even from the garage, shook the walls of the bedroom where I was busily ironing ruffled shirts. The outside door slammed open, adding to the collection of dents in the wall, and Javier Rodriguez de Orbaneja stalked in. I glanced up at him, then away. It’s never a good idea to lock eyes with an alpha creature, even one I was married to.
“Where is it?” he asked, the click of his fangs punctuating his question.
“Do not toy with me, Kym. My pegboard.” He was suddenly behind me. I’d never seen him move. He had to be upset; Javier knew how much it bothered me when he did that. “I had a second piece prepared for my tools, and now when I prepare to attach it to the wall, I find that it is missing.”
I breathed in his scent, a twinned smell of fabric softener from his clothes and mahogany from his coffin that still lingered on his skin. “I haven’t seen it.” I ducked under the ironing board and walked into the garage.
He was already there. “Dear, you know I don’t like you moving faster than I can see.”
He wasn’t listening. Javier had lifted one pale hand to point, finger trembling, at the garage wall. “You see? The first piece is complete, lacking only its mate.” The hanging piece of pegboard was immaculate, with outlines for all of his tools. It reminded me of a crime scene, tape marking the spot where corpses had fallen. I was all too familiar with those scenes.
“I expect you loaned it to Arkas.”
Javier growled softly. I watched the fluorescent light play along the angular planes of his face. “Child, I would remember had I done that.”
It was my turn to growl. “Look, you may remember fighting the Grande Armée, but you have trouble remembering what we had for dinner yesterday morning.” First he pulled his his Road Runner tricks, then he reminded me of the three centuries that separated our dates of birth.
“Roast duck and pinot noir, and my usual glass of blood.” He ran his hand through his shock of pale white hair. “Mi amor, I am sorry. You are correct.”
I hugged him tight, feeling the heat leech slowly out of me as I did. “It’s not the pegboard that’s bothering you.”
“It’s not the pegboard,” he agreed.
I held him tighter. “You knew this would be an adjustment.”
“I know. But I miss it so!” The arm he had wrapped around me flung wide, gesturing dramatically. “The city! How could we leave it! The nightlife! The parties!”
“The crime. The late-night calls from the police.” I toyed with the blackout curtains covering the garage windows.
“I shall never have that pegboard back from Arkas, even were I to press the matter. If I offend him, he might retaliate.” Arkas and his wife, a dryad named Erato, were some of the newly-public Greek figures of myth. They had been hiding from mortals for thousands of years, only now revealing their existence as more and more supernatural creatures revealed themselves. One of Arkas’s neighbors had made fun of Erato’s oak tree, so Arkas convinced Demeter to fill that neighbor’s yard with kudzu.
I shivered, not liking where the conversation had wandered. “We can get another.”
“Just so.” Javier paused and sniffed. “What, pray tell, is that ungodly smell?”
“Oh, crap.” I banged open the door to the house and ran back into the bedroom, yanking the iron off of the now-burnt shirt. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.”
Javier picked up his shirt, admiring how it shaded from its original pearl white to brown. The ruffles on the front were especially burnt. “This would certainly be a new look for me.”
“Crap. Four years of college and I still can’t iron shirts.”
“You did not study home economics, you studied forensics.” He held his shirt up against him, as if he might actually wear it.
“Whose fault was that?” I’d wanted to drop out of college, but Javier wouldn’t let me. Even before we were married he bossed me around. I supposed he was right. If I ever had to get a normal job with a police department, the degree would help. But, really, what does a girl who can talk to ghosts need a forensics degree for?
“Knock, knock!” Philip stuck his shaggy head in our front door. “Hey, Kym. Hey, Roddy. You guys ready?”
Javier tensed. One alpha male was bad enough, but having two in the same room could be deadly. Philip had always been very determined, a useful trait in a professional assassin, but now that he was a child of Lycaon, he was more alpha than ever. Unfortunately being a werewolf meant that he no longer had good control of his emotions. He’d had to give up being an assassin and fall back on his earlier training as an accountant.
“To what do you refer?” Javier asked. I could have chilled wine with his tone.
“Boys, boys, settle down.” I stepped between them, making sure not to meet either of their eyes. Philip had never taken it well that I had chosen Javier over him. “I’m sure Philip was making sure we were coming to the homeowners association meeting tonight.”
“It’s going to be a doozy.” Philip’s grin revealed his strong white teeth. “Haven’t you heard? They want to pass an ordnance to keep people from covering any windows that face the street. The better for property values, they say.”
“They can’t!” I said, as Javier said, “Mierda.”
“They can and they will. Better get a move on.”
I was already in motion. Ten seconds later I had my go-bag in one hand and a scratched book in the other. I’d laughed at Javier when he gave me the homeowners association bylaws. The leather-bound volume seemed ridiculously over-the-top for a collection of rules and regulations. But after last year’s battle over allowable shades of house paint had come to blows and the book had stopped a neighbor’s claw from going through my chest, I stopped scoffing at Javier’s gift. “Let’s go.”
Javier took my hand and squeezed it. He stared, seeing some ancient bit of history unfurling in his mind. “There’s always another battle, eh, mi amor?”
“Don’t worry.” I hefted my bag, listening to the stakes, holy water, and back copies of the Skeptic Magazine jostling together. “We’re ready for this one.”
I had no idea how wrong I was.
–from my forthcoming book, “Subdivisions and Succubi”.