“Where did everyone come from?” Jasmine said, wide eyed as she dragged up yet another tray of cans of pop.
“Just get them in the fridge, love, then I’ll need you to clear tables. Where’s Callum?”
“He’s just gone for some more milk and bacon.” Jasmine quickly unloaded the cans into the drinks fridge.
“I’m here now.” Callum hefted the large packs of milk and bacon around the corner. “I’ve got some more downstairs.”
“Jasmine will put those away.” Mrs Tuesday ran a quick cloth over the counter. “I want you to bring out some tables and chairs from the back room and set them up here. Squeeze them in if you can.” She smiled up at the tall man at the counter. “How can I help you, Lord Spike?”
Jeanette perched uncomfortably on the stool behind the shop till. She was still aching and bruised and while she had insisted on working, Fiona and Ian between them had insisted that she worked sitting down. It was just as well as the shop was heaving with people. The shop had only been open an hour and already she was running low on bags. She looked around. Adele was restocking the herbs, Callum had pitched in at the café and Steve and Fiona were helping Lords with their long shopping lists.
Almost every Prince in the UK had either attended Lord Ragnar’s Memorial yesterday or they had sent a representative. And they all seemed to have had the same idea. While they were in York, they could call in and see what all the fuss was about at the White Hart. Many of the Princes were handing over long lists of items to be shipped, but one or two were taking an interest in exactly what was on offer. Even worse, one of the Princes had brought a shopping list from the members of his court and Jeanette suspected that more would follow.
As Jeanette watched Callum dragging the tables around and putting out extra chairs, she realised another reason why the shop was so packed. Everyone was here for the gossip. Suddenly Freydis was Lady Freydis and no-one knew what that meant. People had been writing Lady Freydis off for centuries and now suddenly she was a power to be reckoned with.
Ian came up behind her and dropped a light kiss on the top of her head. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, honest.” Jeanette smiled up at him. “But busy.”
“I’m just checking what I need to bring up.” Ian said. “You need more bags and I’d better bring up a box of till roll.”
“There are a few here already.” Jeanette said. The ledges under the till were still comfortably full.
“This isn’t the busiest it’s going to get.” Ian said. “I’ll be back in a tick.”
Jeanette watched him walk around, noting down gaps in the shelves on his phone and dodging enquiries. Her heart turned over.
“So you’re Ian’s girlfriend?” The man at the counter placed down a stack of books and a dog biscuit selection box. “I used to be his pack leader. He’s a good man.”
“I think so.” Jeanette started scanning the books. “He’s very good to me.”
“I should hope so.” The man looked to where Ian was helping Adele explain the differences between Tarot decks to a bewildered vampire. “I’m Mike, by the way, and if he ever gives any trouble, give me a call.”
“I can’t imagine him causing me any trouble.” Jeanette glared at Mike. “He’s been a perfect partner.”
Mike laughed. “I’m glad to see that he’s fallen on his paws with you.” He looked back over to where Ian was now quickly listing the gaps in the display of herbs. “I’ve still got a lot of time for him. How did you get the bruising?”
“A tree fell on me.” Jeanette said bluntly.
“Hmm.” Mike passed her a card. “Seriously, if you need help with him, or if he needs help with something, give us a call. We’ll be there for him.”
Jeanette packed the books and dog biscuits as she tried to process it, adding in the staff discount. “Thanks. I appreciate it.”
The morning rushed by. Mrs Anderson and Mrs Cadwallader were called in to help with the lunch rush, Dave brought up stock between readings and, with the help of some teenagers from Kieran’s pack and a few of the younger boggarts, the shop staggered on. Egerton had claimed one of the tables in the café and was effectively holding court to anyone who would sit next to him. Atherton was keeping a close eye on him from the other side of the shop where he was loitering near the plastic pixies.
Fiona felt like she was losing her mind as the shop was getting more visitors but most weren’t leaving. It was too tempting to hang around and catch up with gossip that was now rattling around visitors from Kent to the Orkneys and from Newcastle to Caerphilly. Knots of visitors were hanging around the sunny car park and spilling out onto the pavement. “I can’t deal with this.” She whispered to Steve as she passed him on the way to fetching a sample of their silk Tarot bags for Lord Lothar.
“I know.” Steve said, juggling the packs of wormwood he was bringing out for Lord Gwill Mawr. “Oh no!”
The groups in the car park were scattering as a large transit van backed into the space, heedless of obstacles. Steve thought he heard one of the brownies groan as a planter was knocked but his eyes were fixed on the driver. “Who the hell allowed Lady Freydis behind the wheel of a van?”
Lady Freydis was half leaning out of the window and watching almost carefully enough as she manoeuvred nearer the doors. There was a rush to the windows. Very few elfen ever got the hang of machinery and, with the exception of Lord Marius, elfen preferred someone else doing the hard work of driving. She caught Steve’s eye and waved, before coming to an immaculate stop. She jumped out and opened the rear doors before beckoning to Steve. “I have brought something perfect.”
“Stay at the till.” Steve said quickly to Jeanette before racing across.
“Behold!” Lady Freydis waved an arm. “A coffee machine!”
Steve peered into the van. “We already have a coffee machine.”
“But now this machine is for me when I make coffee in the mornings and Jasmine can use the shop machine when she makes coffee the rest of the time.”
“What an excellent idea.” Egerton said, coming up behind Steve.
“Hang on a minute…” Steve looked around the packed store. “Can we at least keep it in the warehouse until later?”
“Absolutely not!” Lady Freydis said. “Evan Tuesday and Ian Tait will aid me to move this over to the kitchen and you can add an extra cupboard next to the drinks fridge.”
“No, wait…” Steve watched helplessly as Evan and Ian manhandled the heavy machine out of the van. “Lady Freydis – who taught you to drive?”
Lady Freydis waved a vague hand. “It’s not that hard. Please, place it gently next to the other Coffee Machine, so that they are in company.”
“Have you even got a licence?” Steve trailed after Lady Freydis as the crowded shop jostled and shifted to make room.
“Hmm.” Lady Freydis sighed as the coffee machine was tilted, turned and swung into place. “I expect so. Don’t you think it looks splendid? It’s the latest design.”
Steve ran a hand through his hair. Then he took a breath. He needed to pick his battles and let Dave or Luke try and explain what Lady Freydis shouldn’t do to any police that stopped her. “I’ll get it plumbed in as soon as I can, but as we are a little busy right now, it will have to wait, possibly until tomorrow.”
“Of course.” Lady Freydis looked around the packed shop. “I wouldn’t interrupt this wonderful gathering for anything.”
“What about the van?” Steve asked. Lady Freydis had left it parked directly outside the shop door and a few puzzled faces were peering around the doors.
Lady Freydis shrugged. “I paid real money for it, so I suppose I ought to get enjoyment out of it. What do you suggest?”
Someone had sold Lady Freydis a van? Steve’s felt a shiver pass through him. But all the problems that could come from that could wait. “I’ll drive it around to the back and park it outside the storerooms.”
“Excellent.” Lady wasn’t paying attention. Instead she was advancing on Lord Darcy with an outstretched hand and a bright smile. “How wonderful to see you before you leave. I trust you are finding York pleasant.”
Finally the last straggler left for the journey home or the ongoing networking at the court of Lady Freydis. Mrs Anderson and Mrs Cadwallader had left long ago, along with the cubs and kitlings that had been helping out. It was just the White Hart crew, slumped at the freshly wiped and finally clear tables near the café.
Steve brought in a stack of pizza boxes. “I thought we all deserved pizza. Everyone help yourselves. I’ve got some news to share.”
Dave looked up wearily. “As long as it doesn’t take too much energy.”
“It’s okay.” Steve started handing out plates. “I wish Kadogan was here, but he’s been missing, so I’ve gone ahead with things on the understanding that if Kadogan objects then it all goes back.”
“Within reason,” Ian added.
“Within reason.” Steve waited for everyone to get pizza and settle down. “Right, first of all, Ian is leaving us – sort of.” He looked over to Ian. “Ian is going back to his trade of plumber and setting up his own business.”
“It makes sense, now that we are settling down as a pack.” Ian said. “It’s good to have more than one workplace. Jeanette is growing her business as well, so while she will be here to help out now and again, she’s not going to be here full time.”
Steve nodded. “Callum is taking over the warehouse, Evan Tuesday is taking over the post and deliveries, and Mrs Anderson and Mrs Cadwallader will be helping in the café part time on a proper rota. We’ll also be getting a lot more casual staff in, some for just a few hours a week, others more regular. We should be able to deal with rushes like today just a little easier.”
“Today was crazy.” Jasmine said.
“And apparently Jasmine is taking over as barista from Lady Freydis,” Steve sighed. “And that means that mornings are going to be busy as lots of people call in to get an informal chat with Lady Freydis.” He looked over at Callum. “We are going to have to expand the café.”
Darren stared at his laptop screen. He was nowhere near finishing his sermon. He ran a weary hand over his face. Perhaps he was in the wrong job. He always struggled with the basics. The weekly challenge of sermons and visiting was wearing him down. He had felt so inadequate at Lord Ragnar’s Memorial. Most of all, he felt old. He looked at the scatter of books on his desk and the swathe of open tabs on his laptop. Perhaps a run would clear his mind. He froze as he heard a knock on the front door.
Darren forced a smile as he saw Callum standing outside. He recognised the tense expression of someone who needed to talk. “Come in. Tea?”
Callum shook his head. “I’m fine, thanks. I hope you don’t mind me coming around, but I needed to ask you something.”
“Sure, not a problem.” Darren said, hoping it was a straightforward theology question that he could just rattle off. He led Callum into the sparse sitting room and waved him into an armchair. “What’s the problem?”
Callum took a deep breath. “I want to marry Adele.”
“Congratulations!” Darren relaxed a little. “I can get my diary out and set a date.”
Callum shook his head. “I can’t ask her. I can’t get married until Ian gets married.”
Darren’s heart sank. The ranks of a werewolf pack could be complicated and inflexible. “Do you think Ian wants to be married?”
Callum took a deep breath. “I think you should tell him to get married. He’s reading the Bible and all that, but he’s living in sin with Jeanette. That’s adultery, isn’t it?”
“Fornication.” Darren corrected absentmindedly as the horror of what Callum was asking sunk in.
“It’s just, he loves Jeanette, and I love Adele, but I can’t do anything until he marries.” Callum twisted his hands together. “I can’t even hint to Adele until Ian makes his move.”
“Perhaps it’s Jeanette that doesn’t want to get married.” Darren suggested. “It’s a big decision and shouldn’t be made lightly.”
“But they’ve known each other for months.” Callum said. “They should know by now.”
“A wedding is a big expense.” Darren said. “And it can be a lot of work.”
“I know,” Callum said. “Adele’s sister is getting married next month and it’s been crazy at her house. But if they at least got engaged I could say something to Adele. She has no idea how I feel about her.”
Darren suspected that Adele had already picked out a practical, in budget engagement ring and chosen her dress. “As you say, it’s only been a few months. Marriage is too serious to rush into. It’s a big commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
“Us werewolves know.” Callum said. “You have to tell Ian that it’s time he got married. It’s up to you.”