a short story in
The Duchess and the Dirtwater Faery finaled in the P.E.A.R.L Awards for Best Short Story, so I decided to post an excerpt, especially since Kegan is one of my favorite heroes. 🙂 He’s a tall redheaded fae man who is hiding out in the Human World because he can’t stand the woman Princess Keely is trying to match him with. So he’s in Idaho Territory working as a blacksmith.
Idaho Territory, 1885
It was going to be either the best day or the worst day of my life.
Whichever, when I saw the classy dame’s wagon stuck in the mud, I knew my day would be interesting. With a final plink on the hinge I was shaping, I laid my hammer on the anvil and chuckled at the general confusion on the street outside. I’m from the Faery World, of the Red Clan, and my name is Kegan.
The clay mud gave the town its name—Dirtwater. We locals (meaning those of us who have lived through the four seasons here) glean great amusement from outsiders thinking they know our country better than we do. And so it went with the covered wagon and the driver who took it upon himself to whip the mules, when the animals were smart enough to know that a wagon sunk in mire up to its axles wasn’t going anywhere.
The lady was as beautiful as she was snooty. I’d place the cost of her fancy gown at about my yearly income, and maybe throw in the next-door baker’s, too. She didn’t seem to care one whit for her finery, though, as she bailed off the wagon, slapping away the driver as he tried to assist, then trudged with her skirts dragging through the knee-deep mud, and barged right into my blacksmith shop, waving her parasol like a sword. Hells bells, what do you do with a woman like that?
“I want the wagon fixed and a new driver hired,” she ordered in her refined English accent as she stood to her entire five-foot height, chin up, lips pinched. I cleared a chair by pushing the tools onto the floor and she sat, her reticule perched on her lap and her parasol leaning against her skirt. “And I want dinner.”
“Howdy-do, ma’am.” I leaned back on the shop’s center-support pole and wondered what a Brit lady like her was doing in Dirtwater. She needed to learn a thing or two about this country if she planned to stay more than a day. “I’d like a new roof, walls that don’t leak cold air in the winter, and you can have the woman who runs the confectionery. I never knew such a sour woman could make such sweet things.”
“You make light of me.”
“And you don’t seem to ken where you are. This is a hard country, ma’am. You play by its rules—it doesn’t play by yours. If you do that, you’ll enjoy yourself. If you don’t, you’ll probably die. Your choice.”
She chewed her lip for a moment, then took a deep breath. “What would you do, Mr. . . ?
“Kegan. I’d fire whoever told that driver to take a team and wagon through foot-deep mud.”
She looked me straight in the eye. “I told him to.”
That didn’t surprise me. “Then I’d hire some men to take care of those mules, and a blacksmith to fix that wagon of yours.”
“I’m hiring you.”
“Well, ma’am, I’m mighty expensive.”
She opened her reticule. “How much?”
“A kiss and five dollars ought to cover it.”
Her gaze faltered a bit, but she recovered quickly. “Here’s ten dollars.”
“That’s nice, but it’ll cost a kiss, too.”
“You, sir, are sweaty.”
“And you, ma’am, are muddy.”
Royalties go to Children’s Tumor Foundation,
ending Neurofibromatosis through Research
Coming soon: Down Home Ever Lovin’ Mule Blues