If someone called me a witch, they’d have no idea they were right.
I didn’t ride around on broomsticks or look like your average Wiccan hippie. In fact, I was quite ordinary with my flat, brown hair, a petite physique, and a chest that could’ve been way… fuller.
Putting it simply, I was bland, and that was great.
Keeping a low profile was a must for a witch. If we misbehaved, we’d be pretty much fucked.
That’s why I had an ordinary life and an ordinary job, thanks to the Wizardry Council. The Council established laws for all magical beings—Yes, J.K. Rowling totally ripped that off—and one of these laws said, “No money conjuration”. Ever.
No one dared defy the rules. The Council’s Court of Illicit Magic was rough, as in cut your hands off kind of rough. So I was stuck forty hours a week in a little cubicle world, working as an account manager. But I couldn’t complain. My life used to be pretty good.
Sure, I wished the Council would loosen the rules a bit, but magical creatures tended to go crazy and humans usually paid the price. What was it humans said?
Nothing in life comes for free.
So I earned the big bucks by day, and by night I sold harmless spells or conjured gnomes to do chores for me. In the morning, I’d stop time for the allowed fifteen minutes to shower in peace. And because I was a sword witch—a subclass of warrior witches—I had a license to practice every day for half-an-hour in exchange for the occasional assistance in catching felons. Since the Council rarely summoned me, I considered that a win-win.
Yeah, I used to have a pretty good life. But it all went to hell after my company hired Joseph.
Joseph was six feet tall with the body of a god—I saw it at office barbecues. His green eyes would put Sinatra’s to shame, and his smile could end wars. And his hair, cauldrons, his hair… a dance of velvet and silk that mixed several shades of fiery orange.
“Guess we’ll be neighbors,” Joseph said when he moved into the cubicle next to mine. That day, he wore an impeccable dark-grey Hugo Boss suit. “I’m Joseph Byrnes. And you?”
I shook his hand, barely sensing the dorky smile I must’ve displayed. “S-Sally.”
He let out the you-dig-me smile. The you-dig-me was released by a man when he knew a girl liked him; it was pretentious and sweet at the same time, and it was usually followed by a nod. Nerdy girls such as myself have had their shares of this kind of smile. After a you-dig-me, a guy like Joseph would avoid a nerdy girl like the devil avoids Sunday Mass. There were plenty of reasons why, but it all boiled down to a simple truth: he wasn’t into her.
But against all odds, Joseph continued talking to me. In only one month we became best office buddies. We had lunch together, we gossiped about office frivolities, we shared meals and inside jokes… I thought we’d get somewhere. I can’t explain why there was this pull between us. At first I thought he had placed a spell on me, but Joseph was as human as humans could be; not an ounce of magic in him—if there was, my skin would have tingled. He often knew what I was thinking with just a look and I felt so comfortable around him…I had never felt comfortable around a guy before.
“I wish all girls out there were like you, Sally,” he once said.
Right then, I wished so hard that the High Witches of the North could grant me this one little wish: being his.
“Sorry to break the news to you, buddy, but I’m one of a kind,” I said while sorting the pile of papers stacked on my desk. I’d have to pull an all-nighter to finish them.
I tolerated my job but our boss, Mr. Towsend, enjoyed making our lives a living hell. Sometimes I wondered if he was secretly a lady suffering from the monthly struggles. His mood shifted like freaking wind blows, the same way it did during my time-of-the-month. Unfortunately, turning him into a cockroach would get me the death sentence.
“Don’t worry Sally,” Joseph said. “Mr. Towsend is overstressed. You know how month-end is.”
Cauldrons, he could read me like a book.
“Yeah,” I said mindlessly, eyes down. Of course I knew how Mr. Towsend was. He’d scream at me—and a bunch of others, Joseph included—and the next day, he’d buy us lunch and be all nice and caring.
I was getting tired of it.
“Oh come on, pull yourself together,” Joseph insisted. “This is not the Sally I know.”
I kept gazing at the floor, imagining what it would be like if I handed in my resignation and started conjuring money for a living. Was I very attached to my hands?
“I’m okay,” I muttered.
He put his finger below my chin and lifted my head. His picture-perfect smile followed suit. “Amazing people don’t get upset over assholes, Sally. And guess what?”
I melted beneath his touch. Just like that, he turned the worst day ever into the best day ever.
His hand left my chin and he cleared his throat. “So, Deirdre asked me out.”
Aaand back to the worst day ever.
To put it lightly, Deirdre from Customer Support was a black-haired Latina mermaid with a body that would make most women weep in shame. Not to mention her perfect Barbie face. Seriously, there was no competing with her.
I ignored the waves of desperation that rushed through my body. “And what did you say?”
“I said yes.” He shrugged. “There are better girls out there, though. Amazing girls…” His look lingered on me for a heartbeat. “But amazing girls don’t seem to like me.”
Oh, Joseph, you fool. Any girl in their right mind would be crazy about you.
He smiled and leaned a little closer. “I have the feeling I already found Mrs. Right, you know? She just needs to see it too.”
Sucker-punch. Deirdre was his Mrs. Right, that’s what he meant…
I swallowed back the tears. “If it feels right, go for it.”
His smile vanished and he blinked. He put his hands on his pockets. “Yeah, sure.”
I should have expected that. I was the best bud, not the prom queen—always had been, always would be. But I needed Mr. Right, too. Heck, I deserved Mr. Right. Joseph didn’t belong with Deirdre… So when I got home, I did what no smart witch should ever do.
I conjured a Fae.
J.M. Barrie must’ve been smoking weed when he created Tinker Bell.
Fairies are not tiny or cute. Try vicious man-sized monkey creatures with shark teeth that could scare someone out of their wits.
I thought I’d be dead and buried before allowing a Fae—especially a Dark one—to stand in my living room, but desperate times and all.
“Y’ello there, witchy.” The Fae stared at me with beady black eyes. “You summoned?”
“I need your help,” I said point-blank.
His snake-tongue licked his thin lips. “I’d assume so.”
Fae loved opportunities to trick someone, and there I was, dropping one on his lap. This Fae in particular wore a black turtleneck and blue jeans, which made him resemble a civilized Neanderthal. The hairs on my neck stood, because I knew what he was capable of.
With clenched fists I said, “Bjorn.”
He raised his hands and shivered in mockery. “Oh no, she knows my name!” He clucked his tongue and straightened his back before waltzing through the room at his own pace. When he passed my kitchen counter, he grabbed an apple from a fruit basket and tossed it up. “You grew up with stories about me, lill’ child. I fooled kings and held knights under my debts. I ruled the Underworld for five hundred years after the war of a Thousand Tears. You think just because a witchy knows my name, I’ll piss my pants?”
I tried to stay still and wore my best poker face, but his eyes sparkled with realization.
“You want someone to fall in love with you.” He grinned and clapped his hairy, four-fingered hands. “Fine, witchy, fine. But you know how it goes… What’s in it for me?”
The words were stuck in my throat, but there was no going back now. I couldn’t lose Joseph. “I’ll grant you two boons if this doesn’t work.”
“Two? Try three.”
He had the upper-hand and his cocky posture told me he knew this too. “Fine, three. As long as no one gets hurt. And it can’t be something that would get me arrested by the Council.”
Bjorn grinned with malice. “Aye, you take all the fun away.” He observed me for a moment. “I heard of you. You one of them sword witches, ain’t you? Very strong, good value. But you’ll succumb to your pathetic insecurities, just like them humans.” He shrugged and waved his hand in the air. “Witches and humans, all the same to me.”
I pointed a finger at him. “Don’t think it’ll be easy. I’ve read every trick you’ve ever used to fool your Slaveys.”
He shrugged. “I’m very creative, witchy, but don’t worry about that. The important thing is that you just put the fun back in the game.”
My Defense Against the Fae classes popped to mind. One, ignore the creature as much as possible, and two, do not ever, under any circumstance, show fear.
All right. I could do this.
“I don’t want him to fall madly for me.” I had to cover every possible aspect. “He will love me as much as I love him. It won’t bring ruin to his life. I will not be his only priority, and the spell will last as long as we’re both happy.” I paused to think of some point I might have forgotten. “If he becomes aware of the spell, the contract is over. And his name is Joseph Byrnes. He’s twenty-seven and here’s a picture.” I showed him a selfie of me and Joseph on my cell phone. Joseph had one eyebrow raised and his lips pursed, forming a funny “clever man” face, while I smiled at the camera. “It’s this Joseph Byrnes.”
“Handsome fellow, witchy.” Bjorn smiled before snapping his finger.
A scroll burst out of thin air along with a feather pen. All my words were scribbled in fancy handwriting.
After reading the contract, every item seemed clear, except one. “Here, it states that if he becomes aware of the spell, you still get your boons.”
Bjorn snapped his fingers and the letters rearranged to: If lessor, hereby known as Bjorn, directly informs subject, hereby known as Joseph Byrnes, about the spell, the contract will be invalidated. If subject is made aware of the spell through any indirect means not influenced by lessor, then lessor will be granted his three boons.
“And if I tell him?”
Bjorn rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers again. If lessee, hereby known as Salander Willshire, informs subject, the contract will be invalidated.
There were no breaches, yet Bjorn’s cocky smirk said he had me in the palm of his hand.
I shivered when I read the line: Assuming three boons are granted by the terms of this contract, they must be completed. If lessee fails, lessee will become lessor’s slave to the end of time.
Sadly, there was nothing wrong with that line. But another sentence caught my attention: A deposit from lessee is required as a show of good faith.
Good faith with a Fae? Hilarious. “What’s the deposit?”
“Controlling emotions is forbidden by the Council, and as you know, they can make a Fae’s life very unpleasant.” He looked at his own nails as if they were more interesting than our current situation. “There are lots of risks here, love birdie.”
“Never thought such a powerful Fae would be so afraid of the Council.” I snorted. “What’s the deposit?”
“It’s a small thing, quite convenient for you, actually. I need you to kill the critter that lives in your office basement.”
The right question would’ve been how the hell did he know where I worked. Instead, I said, “There’s a critter in there?”
The clause for the deposit appeared on the scroll: Kill critter that lives in lessee’s office basement.
“Cauldrons,” I hissed.
But he could’ve made worse demands. The building where I worked was ten stories high. You’d think the basement would be huge, but the parking lot took all the space. The basement was so small, that the first—and only—time I went down there, I felt claustrophobic in a second. Which meant the critter had to be the size of a Chihuahua. Besides, those nasty things reproduced like bunnies. The Council wouldn’t punish me for slaying one. In fact, they reduced the critter population every year to control attacks on humans.
When I signed the contract, it disappeared into the air, along with Bjorn.