I’m super excited to share Elle and Alec’s story! Check out Chapter One from SLIPPERS AND THIEVES (Fairy Tales of the Magicorum Book 4), which releases on November 26, 2019. It’s the kick-ass Cinderella.
First homework, then jewel heist. Oh, yeah.
Rubbing my eyes, I refocus on my computer screen. A final study question appears.
SUN is to BRIGHTNESS as MAGIC is to…
I click on c) fading. A green check mark appears on screen. A happy ding sounds. I got it right, yay me. Not that the question was super-tough. Everyone knows magic’s disappearing from the world. Shifters, fairies and casters—folks called the magicorum—are basically an endangered species. I should know. I’m one of them.
A knock sounds on the door. “Elle, may I come in?” That’s my mother, Rae.
The door swings open; Mom steps inside. She’s willowy and petite with large blue eyes and long blonde hair. I can’t help but notice how her shoulder bones jut out against her yellow sundress. My heart sinks. Mom’s lost so much weight. Plus, her once-tanned skin turns pastier by the day. There’s no doubt about it; Mom’s getting sicker. Meanwhile, I’m a younger, healthier version of her. I can’t help feeling a little guilty about that.
“How are you feeling?” I ask.
“Better and better.” She waves me off. “Is your homework done?”
A thread of worry winds through me. In Mom’s mind, if you don’t talk about illness, then it isn’t happening. And today, like most days, I don’t have the heart to bust up her system. If she says she’s better, then I won’t push it. After all, we’ve tried every human and magical healer to stop her cancer. Nothing works.
I plaster on a fake smile. “Almost finished.”
Mom closes the door behind her. I frown. Closed door chats are never good.
“I wanted to chat alone,” begins Mom. “You see, Marchesa’s daughters are the same age as you.” She twists her fingers together at her waistline. “Both Agatha and Ivy love their high school. They’re meeting all sorts of new people.”
Lady Marchesa Oakwood is Mom’s lifelong frenemy. Marchesa always shares helpful tidbits about her spawn. Sadly, every story makes Mom feel like she’s losing the parental Olympics or something. A protective urge runs up my spine. Marchesa’s supposed to run our family store, not crank up Mom with worry. Can’t Marchesa see that Mom is sick?
A little voice inside me says that, of course Marchesa knows Mom is ill. That’s why she tells these stories in the first place. I set the thought aside and focus on Mom’s question.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” I say. “I like online stuff.”
Mom gestures across the room. “But this is your parents’ office. Not a regular classroom.”
“It’s a cool spot.” And I mean it. The office is small with red brick walls. All our furniture is simple and sleek. There are some shelves, filing cabinets, and a desk … along with the main attraction. I point toward the front window. “Voila! Second Avenue.”
Even though I’m a teenager, I score this prime view because my parents own the building. On the first floor, there’s our store, Cynder Mercantile. The second floor’s where we live and work, including this office. And the top two levels are studio space. The artists up there make stuff; then we sell it. Although artist really isn’t the right word for them. They’re more enchanted objects; we call them animates.
Mom still looks concerned, so I go on. “Hey, I get the deal.”
There’s no need to explain more.
In this case, the deal is the fact that Mom’s fae, Dad’s an enchanter, and I’m the warden of all fae magic. It means I’m super-powered, which is certainly cool. But fairies aren’t like other Magicorum—they trick and destroy their wardens, not follow them. That’s why I take online classes and generally avoid new people. My parents even had my wings removed to help hide my warden-ness. Good call on their part. Most fae wardens don’t live past ten years old. I’m a record at this point.
Mom’s face brightens. “I’m glad you understand the, uh, deal.”
I raise my pointer finger. “Now I have to tell you—”
“If it’s about Marchesa, please don’t say a word. She’s a good friend.”
“Who upsets you all the time.” I raise my hands, palms forward. “Just saying.”
“Marchesa’s heart is in the right place. Don’t forget how her husband, Marshall, ran off right after Agatha was born.”
A nasty part of me thinks, maybe Marshall escaped because Marchesa is a horror show? Or because his daughter just got named Agatha? But I keep that bit to myself.
Mom sighs. “Then Marshall died in Amsterdam.”
Say it that way, and it doesn’t sound too bad. But in reality? Marshall died because he was drinking like a fish and passed out.
By an open window.
Which then he fell through.
Thus ended Marshall.
“That’s why we live in New York,” I state. “More window safety regulations.”
Mom shoots me a serious look, but it doesn’t last long. “Yes, New York does have that.” She smiles. “So you’re good with online classes?”
“Do you really think I’d keep my yap shut if I hated it?”
Mom chuckles. Sadly, that quickly leads to a cough. “No, I don’t.”
“Then we’re both good, right?” In my heart, I want everything to be good, not just conversations about online classes. That’s not possible, though.
“We’re fine,” replies Mom. She heads back toward the door and pauses. “Your father and I will be in the shop this morning. Give us a yell if you need anything.”
Mom takes off. After she’s left, I watch the closed door for a time. With every passing second, a weight of worry settles more deeply into my soul. All members of the Magicorum get pulled into a fairy tale life template. Mine’s Cinderella. So I can’t help but notice some facts.
Fact one. Marchesa has two nasty daugters who are my age.
Fact two. Marchesa also stares at Dad with googly eyes that make me want to puke.
Fact three. Mom has been sick for a really long time.
I’ve seen the Disney movie here. In short order, I’m heading into the not too pleasant phase of the Cinderella story. This is where my parents are gone and I’m stuck with a frenemy stepmother who names her kid Agatha. Other Cinderellas may sing at their window and hope for the best.
Me? I’ve got a plan.
Turning to my computer, I close out the school stuff and fire up Magicweb, which is the secret internet for our kind. Scanning through message boards, I look for lost valuables. My goal? Find stolen jewels that I can return and get a reward. I’ve been saving up a nestegg for the evil stepmother-n-sisters stage of my life. There’s no way I’m hanging around and becoming a servant in my own house. And marriage? That’s a someday-maybe thing. Besides, I don’t expect a wedding to fix my problems. I flip through my favorite boards for lost jewels.
Each site’s the same—nothing new is listed. After that, I check some web chats. A particular conversation catches my eye.
GemBabe1000 – Any new bounty jewels out there?
HuntAndFound – Nothing. Only Q of H crown in CPP
In regular speak, CPP is the Central Park Pond. And the Q of H stuff? That’s the Queen of Hearts, baddest of the badasses. She’s part fae. Part Vampire. All bossy.
Here’s the deal. Magic is tricky. You may think you secured a sweet deal with another supernatural being … but most magical locks can get picked, if you know what I mean. Best to hire someone to witness and enforce your magical aggreement. That’s where the Queen of Hearts comes in. If anyone welches, she’ll cry off with their heads and mean it.
GemBabe1000 – 100 yrs and Q of H crown is still in the CPP
HuntAndFound – Truth
GemBabe1000 – No one will ever go after that thing
I rub my palms together. Ha! I am SO going after that thing. The crown of the Queen of Hearts? One hundred years and no one shleps it out of a pond? Sign me up.
After shutting off my computer, I head downstairs. The first floor holds our warehouse. It’s a maze of metal shelves, all of which are are crammed with boxes of stuff for sale. I march toward the building’s front … and a wooden door with a small window.
Soon I see it.
The entrance to the Cynder Mercantile store.
I open the door. Sure enough, my parents stand inside. The shop itself is a small wooden space lined with fancy shelves, all of them overflowing with same things from the warehouse. I’m talking blown glass, hand-made laces, and carved doodads. Only here, the objects stand in neat rows instead of being jammed into boxes.
The radio plays a song, Do You Believe In Magic? It’s a totally ancient and corny tune, but my parents sway in sync as they stock the shelves. It’s sweet.
An itchy feeling crawls up my neck. Someone’s watching us. I look backward and sure enough, Marchesa is making doe eyes at Dad through the warehouse door window. Marchesa’s bony and nervous with loops of brown hair piled high atop her head. In my opinion, she looks like someone just offered her a small turd to eat. In other words, her features are all scrunched up while her nostrils flare out. Right now, her regular poop-look stays combined with a longing stare in Dad’s direction.
Ick, ick, ick.
I take care to step into her line of sight, blocking any view of Dad. Take that, creepster.
“Hey,” I call. “You guys need any help?”
Dad spins around and grins. “Hey, yourself.” My father is handsome in an earthy way with his brown hair, strong build and easy smile. I can almost picture Marchesa craning her neck for a better view.
“How’s my Ellie Belly?” Dad asks.
I mock-gasp. “You did not just say that out loud.”
“You were such a chubby baby, what else could I call you?”
“Come here and give your old man a hug.”
So I do. Dad gives the best hugs; they’re always full of love and warmth. That’s just how Declan Cynder is in general, too. My father always gives. He founded Cynder Mercantile to help desperate folks from the magical world, and the rest of his life centers on me and Mom. It’s pretty awesome. A little voice in the back of my head reminds me that I probably won’t have my parents forever.
All the more reason to enjoy them today.
Mom stares pointedly at my purse. “Where are you off to?”
“A walk in central park.” I’m wearing jeans, Doc Martens, and a Disney Princesses T-shirt. Therefore, my morning stroll story is totally believable, if I do say so myself.
Dad frowns. “Are you sure it’s safe to go alone?”
“I’m a careful girl,” I reply. “I just want some air.” And a crown.
My parents share a long look before Mom focuses on me again. “It’s fine. Bring your phone and be back in an hour.”
“You got it. Thanks!”
And with that, I’m off to find Queen of Hearts’ crown. Afterwards, there will be a major reward in store for me. And goodness knows, I need it.
This is one Cinderella life template who’s kicking butt and taking charge.
–end of sample–