“What do you think?” Jasmine twirled in front of Darren as he grabbed a quick breakfast.
“You look nice.” Darren took another bite of his sandwich. “Is Steve going to be much longer as I need to know if there’s any magic I need to avoid.”
“You look great.” Mrs Tuesday said, “For once Ian got something right. That colour looks great on you. Now get some breakfast. It’s going to be a busy day.”
Jasmine looked down at the sky blue top, loose and cropped to rest on her slim waist and the fitted black jeans. “It feels great.” She twirled again. “I didn’t know I could wear clothes like this.”
“I’m surprised Ian let you get that.” Darren said. He leaned back in his chair and tried to look down the corridor. “I could do with picking up any chatter from Kadogan as well.”
“What do you mean?” Jasmine asked. “Freydis said it was in fashion.”
“I don’t know anything about fashion, but go into your room, stand in front of the mirror and raise your arms above your head.” Darren stood up. “Is there any more tea in that pot?”
Jasmine shot out of the kitchen, leaving Mrs Tuesday chuckling. “Spoilsport. I was hoping that Ian would notice it this afternoon.”
“I suppose it would have been even better if Callum had noticed it and had to break it to Ian.” Darren poured himself another cup of tea. There was a shriek from Jasmine’s room.
“I couldn’t be that cruel to Ian at the moment.” Mrs Tuesday said.
Darren sat back at the table. “I thought he was all sorted with Jeanette.”
“She was upset that he didn’t tell her he was a werewolf.” Mrs Tuesday sat down with her own bowl of porridge and sighed. “Then he went out to talk to her last night.”
“That seems sensible.” Darren said.
“Not when she was still upset. According to Luke, they argued.” Mrs Tuesday sat for a moment. “I have to stay out of this, but I could knock their heads together.”
Jasmine bounded back in. She was now wearing a pale blue embroidered tunic which looked fresh and summery over the jeans. “How did you know? It nearly showed my, you know…” She waved her hand vaguely over her chest area and blushed.
Darren shrugged. “Wasn’t it obvious?”
“It wasn’t obvious to me!” Jasmine said. She narrowed her eyes. “Were you planning on looking?”
“What does that even mean?” Darren picked up another bacon sandwich. “I knew you would be uncomfortable wearing a short top, so I told you.”
“But you could have seen my underwear.” Jasmine snapped.
Darren remained unmoved. “If I wanted to see underwear I could look in the laundry basket. Are you going to have any breakfast?” He took a large bite out of his sandwich.
Jeanette walked in and smiled a little shyly at Mrs Tuesday. “Fiona said I should get a bite to eat before it starts.”
“Good to see you. Take a seat.” Mrs Tuesday waved at a chair. “You may need to make a fresh pot of tea.” She looked sternly at Jasmine. “You can make something for Jeanette while you’re making your own breakfast. You need to have something to eat.”
“You look nice.” Jeanette managed a smile at Jasmine. “That top looks really sweet. Where did you get it?”
Jasmine twirled again. “Isn’t it great? I have such a lot of new clothes, they won’t all fit in one bag. Ian took me to the charity shops because he said that there was no point in buying new and spending a load because I was bound to put on a bit of weight now I was eating regularly and I found a load of stuff. You should see the top I nearly wore…” Jeanette trailed off as she noticed the frozen expression flit across Jeanette’s face. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Jeanette managed. “How about some toast?”
“You sit down, Jeanette.” Mrs Tuesday said firmly. “Jasmine can make a good plate of breakfast for you.”
“I’m not really hungry.” Jeanette said, sitting on the edge of her chair and glancing at Darren.
“You need to have fuel, even if you have had a row with Ian.” Darren said. “I’m glad I’m only going to be fighting revenants. It’s going to be busy here.”
“Is there really undead underneath the shop?” Jeanette asked.
“There are some very old graves below the street, yes, but they are all sleeping.” Darren said. “It’s all sorted out.”
“Good.” Jeanette folded her hands and looked down at them.”
Jasmine started putting the bacon in the pan. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, of course,” Jeanette lied.
“You know I’m a werewolf as well.” Jasmine watched Jeanette’s face carefully.
“Yes, Mrs Tuesday said. She said that you needed a place to stay and were helping out here.”
Jasmine shot Mrs Tuesday a grateful look. “It’s good here.”
Jeanette forced a brave face. “Did Ian really take you shopping for clothes? I didn’t think he knew anything about that.”
“He doesn’t.” Darren said.
“At least he doesn’t go looking at girl’s underwear.” Jasmine said hotly.
“Neither do I. It’s just that the top was too short for you if you were going to be lifting stuff. I’m sure it would be great for going out.” Darren drained his mug.
“Crop tops can be difficult if they’re loose.” Jeanette said. “Was it very short?”
“You could almost see my underwear.” Jasmine turned the bacon, her face burning with mortification.
“You keep going on about your underwear.” Darren said. “People will think you’re obsessed. I wouldn’t mention it again if I were you.” He looked through the doorway. “Great, there’s Steve.” He stood and put his empty mug and plate on the side. “I’ll see you later. Good luck today.”
Mrs Tuesday closed the door behind him and waited as Jasmine put a large stack of bacon sandwiches on the table. “Jeanette, are you alright?”
Jeanette shook her head. “I don’t think Ian will ever forgive me.”
Fiona took a breath. It was now almost lunchtime and it wasn’t getting easier. She had never seen so many people in one place. Steve had said a lot would attend, but she hadn’t expected this.
Fortunately, her husband was a sorcerer which meant that he not only managed to track down the landlord of the empty garage across the street but had also managed to persuade them to rent the space for a few days. Two large marquees had been pitched in the forecourt and were full of tables. It wasn’t just stuff from the White Hart. Quite a few other people had taken stalls and the atmosphere was wonderful as people who hadn’t seen each other in a century were catching up as they browsed the knitted mug cosies and embroidered peg bags. Non-normals who didn’t leave their grove or cave from one decade to the next were suddenly on the edges of a city and wide eyed and stunned with the overload of new experiences. Half of the local werewolf pack were on watch for lost or struggling souls. Some of the tourists who thought this was one of the city events had also got sucked in and were mingling around the tables covered with plants, crafts, flint arrow heads, cut price incense, marked down books and shiny cake decorations. The elfen band was sticking to traditional jazz for the moment. Kadogan had promised to have a word if they strayed away from normal music.
Fiona carried a large tray filled with lunch through the crowds to where Jeanette was working her plant stall. “How are things?”
“I’m doing okay.” Jeanette said from behind a fixed smile. “I’m selling plenty and Gavin seems interested in a few things. We were talking again today about what I can start of for him for next year.”
“That sounds optimistic.” Fiona said. She glanced out of the marquee and across the lot to where Ian was packing up a bundle of arrowheads. “Here’s your tea and a sandwich. Are you okay knowing that most of these people aren’t…”
“They’re okay.” Jeanette said. “They’ve been great to deal with. I was talking to a dryad from the Lake District earlier and it was fascinating. I’ve sold a lot of Callum’s pictures as well. So many people are surprised that a werewolf is a painter.”
“It’s good of you to sell them for him.” Fiona said. “He still has problems with crowds sometimes and I’m glad he’s driving the van. I’ve just had to send him back to the warehouse for more fidget spinners.”
“It’s not a problem, and the pictures are so good that they practically sell themselves.” Jeanette took the mug and plate gratefully, the smile still fixed.
“I’d better keep moving.” Fiona said. “It’s frantic!”
Jasmine and Ian were in the next marquee and doing a roaring trade. “Is Callum back with those fidget spinners?” Ian asked. “We could do with another box of glow in the dark stickers. I think there’s another two boxes in the warehouse, aisle four if I remember right, on the left hand side.”
“I’ll text him when I get back to the shop.” Fiona said. “Here’s your lunch snack.”
Jasmine watched Ian warily as he picked up a well-filled chicken sandwich and took a bite before nodding at her. She sighed and picked up her own plate. “I’m starving. I thought Mrs Tuesday was joking when she said I needed a good breakfast, but she was right.” Jasmine took a large bite before darting off to help a bewildered boggart chose between the varieties of cheap incense.
Ian shook his head as he rested his plate down. He caught Fiona’s expression. “She can’t eat until the head of the pack has eaten. They were pretty strict over in Liverpool, not that it’s a bad thing. It’s good to have a strong structure.” Ian looked at Jasmine as she joked while wrapping up a packet. “She’s like a cub today. She’ll collapse by around 8pm and sleep for twelve hours. It won’t do her any harm.”
“She’s really thrilled by the clothes. Thank you for taking her. I would have taken her myself, but I didn’t have time.” Fiona said.
“I’d rather deal with revenants than clothes shopping.” Ian said. “But she’s a good kid.”
“Next time perhaps one of the girls from the White Hart can go with her.” Fiona said. “Not Mrs Tuesday,” she added.
“Mrs Tuesday wouldn’t see her go wrong.” Ian said. He took a small bite of the sandwich. “How are Callum’s paintings selling?”
“They’re going well.” Fiona said. “I was in there a minute ago and I think almost half have gone. He’s done really well.”
“It’s good of Jeanette to help him out like that.” Ian said, his voice carefully controlled. “Especially as she’s, well, working things out.”
Fiona wished she knew what to say. “I’m sure it will all turn out fine.”
“Yes, I’m sure they will.” Ian sounded unconvinced.
Dean found it strangely comforting to walk with Martin. The late afternoon sun was still bright but welcome shadows stretched across roads and paths. Before all this he had always been a morning person. Now he barely functioned before noon. “There seem to be less revenants.”
Martin squinted into the sun as they passed the entrance to the Yorkshire Museum. “I think that was just the edge, the foam on top of the wave. I know that there’s something else around. I just can’t work out what.” He turned and looked at Dean. “But we take this opportunity to strengthen our defences. What are you doing for money?”
“I’ve got some money saved and I’ve registered for some graveyard shift phone jobs. It’s covering the rent.” Dean said.
“There’s a lawyer, just outside Chester, called Mr Beddoes. He handles a lot of vampires’ affairs. I bought a few bits of property a few years back and I’ve been renting them out over the last century or so. While I’ve been… sleeping, Mr Beddoes managed it all for me. We always need money, Dean. We need to be able to pay for presents for the people we feed from, need to buy silence sometimes, and the sort of privacy we need can be expensive. Do you have a trade?”
Dean shook his head. “I used to work in a call centre.”
“You need to learn one.” Martin said. “And I am too out of touch still to give suggestions. It is something to think about.” They walked on in silence for some time as the shadows spread and the air cooled.
There were no revenants but there were small pockets of darkness in the very heart of those shadows. Smaller than Dean’s hand, they were inky drops that seemed ready to spill out with malevolence. “What are those things?”
Martin shrugged. “I never had a name for them. I’ve only seen them once before and never spread out. At my best guess, it’s like a curse pocket. A tiny drop of energy looking for malice. What did this Rey do?”
Dean shook his head. “I don’t know. I was just a fall guy, someone to use and discard. I didn’t know that there was a court or anything.”
“But he was having a love affair with an elfen, right?” Martin said.
“Yes,” Dean tried to think back. “He was sleeping with the wife of Lord Ragnar. I think he was using it to get influence. They’re divorced now.”
They walked on a little way, sweeping around past the Minster. Martin looked up at it thoughtfully. “A lot of people died building that. Accidents happen on the best building sites and a load of stone landing on your chest can hurt.”
“Did you work on it?” Dean asked.
Martin shook his head. “But I knew people who did. It is a wonderful place and a great memorial.” He looked around. “Let’s head back to the river.”
“Freydis gave Rey a corner of the faerie kingdom to have for himself.” Dean said. “I used to visit him down there and it was always tricky.”
“Did he try and shape it in any way?” Martin asked.
“He did shape it. I remember he set it up as a trap for anyone hunting him there the night he was killed.”
“And that’s the problem.” Martin looked at Dean. “We need to get off the street.” They walked briskly away down towards Picadilly and Martin headed into the corner of a closed car park. After a careful glance around, he turned to Dean. “We are dead. We are literally dead men walking and we bring death with us. We can carry the plague in our bites and spread typhoid and worse. We do not bring light.” He watched Dean’s face set before carrying on. “We can choose what we do. We can choose to bite gently or bite hard, to sip or drain, and even whether we pull a paladin out of a hard fight or watch him fall. But we cannot choose what we are. Rey took our dark essence and mingled it with the wildness of faerie and now we have strange death.” Martin took a deep breath as he caught up with his thoughts. “You know how crazy the elfen can get, how they twist the world around them? Something in the faerie domain is infused with our death and looking to find a way to show it. It’s tried revenants, but it hasn’t worked. We can expect a lot more ghosts, now, and who knows what else.” Martin grimaced. “I think I’m going to have to call on Lord Ragnar.”
Ian gave Jeanette her lift home at the end of the day, because they had always done that. Any conversation to arrange anything different would have been far too awkward. The half dozen plants that Jeanette hadn’t sold out of the many she had brought in were rattling in the back of the truck. On all practical levels, it had been a good day.
Jeanette looked blankly out of the window. Ian was the best thing that had happened to her for a long time. But he was a werewolf. She didn’t even know what that meant. Besides, she could feel the hurt coming from him. He may never look at her that way again. Jeanette felt her heart break a little. She had hurt him, and she had never, ever wanted to do that.
The van drew up smoothly outside Jeanette’s house. Jeanette was relieved to see that there was no sign of Luke’s car. “Thank you for the lift.” Jeanette forced herself to look at Ian. His face was unreadable.
“I’ll give you a hand with the plants. You sold a lot today.”
“Yes, I made quite a bit.” Jeanette got out of the van and joined him to pick up an armful of plants. “It’s no trouble. I can manage.”
“I’m happy to help.” Ian swept up the few remaining dianthus and slammed the van door shut. “Should I put these in the greenhouse?”
“Thank you.” Jeanette walked ahead of him, trying not to remember the day he had stripped off in the greenhouse and hosed himself down. He was just so kind. She glanced over her shoulder. “I really appreciate all the help you’ve given me and all that you’ve done…”
“I’ll finish off the irrigation, that’s not a problem.” Ian said. “Like I said, it’s good to keep busy.”
The greenhouse was still sauna warm after the day and Jeanette felt her skin prickle in the sudden heat as she placed the plants onto their bench. She looked up at Ian and their eyes met. “I’m sorry I called you a monster.”
“It’s okay.” Ian said. He swallowed and turned away. “I suppose I am. I’m a werewolf, after all. I’ve fought with vampires and I even summoned a demon once.”
“Mrs Tuesday said the demon was an accident. I can believe that. Besides, you took Jasmine shopping for clothes and I think that makes you a hero.”
Ian looked back. “What do you mean?”
“I mean you put yourself last. You went with a girl that still acts like a young teenager and got clothes when she had no idea and neither did you. You watch out for Callum and keep him on the straight and narrow. I know that Luke has been glad of your help. You’re a hero and I don’t know if I’m up to your standard.” Jeanette heard herself admit a hard truth. Was she up to Ian’s standard? She wanted to be. “Can we try again?”
Ian held up a hand. “No more lies. I want to, but I’ve got to be honest. I don’t want a quick fling or a casual hook up. I want something permanent, something strong. I don’t want something that fades and changes. I want a home and a family and someone who I can trust to have my back. Do you think we could have that?”
Jeanette held his gaze. “You mean, put down roots, build something up, work and get the satisfaction of seeing what you’ve achieved? I want that, more than anything but…” She took all her courage in her hands. “Would I have to become a werewolf?”
Ian shook his head as he stepped warily towards her. “It’s not usual, but it’s known. You’ll have to get used to our ways. I’m sorry. It’s who we are – what we are. But you would be okay. Besides, it’s just me and Jasmine and Callum. We’re pretty safe.”
Jeanette stepped slightly closer to him. “No more lies. I’m scared of what it all means, but I want to be with you. I want the amazing sex and I want the roots. I want the passion, but I want something permanent, just like you said. I don’t know how well I’ll manage with the werewolf part of things.”
“Are you brave?” Ian asked.
“I don’t know. I hope so.” Jeanette was so close to him now.
“I’ve been called brave, but I’ve never been more scared in my life.” Ian rested his hands gently on her shoulders. “Why don’t we risk it? Why don’t we try? If we don’t, we’ll never know.”
Jeanette nodded, her mouth too dry to speak. Ian took a deep breath and swung her into his arms. “Let’s go to bed.”