Adele and Callum stood next to each other, catching their breath. The shop had opened as normal, pristine thanks to the efforts of the brownies who had left a tasteful bouquet for Fiona. The shelves had been restocked and the furniture put back in its usual positions.
It was still obvious that something had happened the night before. The brownies were not the only ones who had left flowers. Mrs Tuesday had started swathing cut down plastic bottles in crystal gauze left from the last night’s decorations to hold the extra bouquets. Not all were like the neat arrangement left by brownies. Miss Patience had taken the whole thing personally and the flowers she had sent filled the office.
Not only were there lots of flowers but there were also lots of people popping in for a small pack of gossip. The shop was full of knots of people sharing the news with as many details as they could get and the café was doing a brisk trade.
Adele looked over at Freydis climbing a ladder to put up another ‘Get Well’ card on the wall behind the coffee machine. “She really shouldn’t be doing that with a bad leg.”
“It’s not just her leg.” Callum shook his head. “I can smell how badly she got scraped but it’s hidden by her glamour. But it seems a shame to stop her. She’s happy.”
“She’s happy that Fiona is okay.” Adele said. “Was it really that close?”
Callum nodded. “If Steve hadn’t been able to work out where she was, she would probably not have survived. As it is, she’s safe, Rey’s dead and Lord Ragnar and his court got a lot of tension out of their system.”
Adele was unconvinced. “I suppose things will settle down. We’ll need someone else for the café now Louise has gone. Do you know how she is?”
“Lord Ragnar was talking about paying her bail money, but I don’t know if she’ll accept it.” Callum said quietly. Then he swore.
Mr and Mrs Appuck came in, tenderly escorted by their son Geraint. Mrs Appuck wasted no time bustling over to where Mrs Tuesday was stiffly buttering some toast. “Jane, we came as soon as we heard, well we had to tell Geraint, didn’t we Cecil, but he was happy to bring us.”
“Geraint was happy to bring us, wasn’t he, Mildred.” Mr Appuck helped Mrs Appuck off with her coat. She was wearing a flowered pinny underneath. “And Geraint did take a liking to Fiona. She’s a good girl with a good heart and I’m glad she’s alright. We both are, aren’t we, Mildred?”
“We really are.” Mrs Appuck nodded firmly. “She’s a good girl with a good heart. Mind you, we weren’t surprised to hear about the wedding. You can tell she’s a gentle soul. I said that, didn’t I, Cecil? Sometimes people don’t know when to give a little space.” She shot a sharp look at Kadogan who was lurking nervously near the candles. “Now, Jane, get sat in a chair and just point us in the right direction. We can take it from here.”
Geraint nodded politely to Kadogan and came over to Adele and Callum. “I hope you don’t mind. Mum and Dad can’t keep going for a full week nowadays, but it means a lot for them to be useful.”
“Any friend of Mrs Tuesday is a friend of ours.” Adele said warmly. She hadn’t been warned about Geraint and his brothers. “And I’m glad someone can make her take a break.”
Callum nodded warily. “Mrs Tuesday hurt her back intercepting a phone that was thrown past her. It’s a strange way to get an injury, but it kept her…” He hesitated. “I would worry if she was on the front line.”
Geraint nodded. “I know, you’ve got to be tactful, and I’m sure I’ll be the same when I’m their age, but they can’t keep up like they used to.” He looked across to the café area. “How badly is Freydis injured?”
“She was in the middle of a serious situation, I believe.” Callum followed his gaze. Freydis was showing no sign of injury but was stroking a hand over the top of the coffee machine as she frothed some milk. “Fiona was being held under York Railway Station. So Steve Adderson and a few of us who weren’t affected by iron went to get Fiona. Lord Ragnar and the rest of his court decided to attack the rebels who had barricaded a corner of his realm. Mrs Tuesday stayed here with Adele.”
“And Fiona got bitten?” Geraint looked calm but Adele could tell there was an undercurrent of anger.
“She’s been kept overnight in hospital, but she should be fine.” Adele said. “We’re hoping she’ll call in before she goes home. Steve’s keeping an eye on her.”
“And the vampire?” Geraint asked with an edge.
“Destroyed.” Callum shuddered. “I always knew about Steve’s reputation, but I’ve never seen anything like it. He unravelled Rey out of being, he just…” Callum groped again for words. “It’s like he found a loose end of Rey and pulled until there was nothing but a pile of thread. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he repeated.
“Good.” Geraint said with a certain satisfaction. “I’ll just go and get the chocolates from the car.” He looked between Adele and Callum. “People always bring flowers so I thought I’d do something different and pick up a little box of chocolates for Fiona. Mum and Dad wanted to do the right thing, and she’s a good kid.” He disappeared back to the car park.
The morning passed uneventfully. Geraint’s ‘little box of chocolates’, which turned out to be the size of a small suitcase, was joined by baskets of fruit, more chocolates and plenty of home made goodies. Kadogan was overwhelmed.
“I did not realise that Fiona Greene was so well thought of,” he said as he brought a flourishing potted geranium into the back room.”
“Of course she is.” Mrs Tuesday said as she picked up a pack of napkins. “She’s polite, she’s pleasant, she’s friendly, she does her best and even though she’s only known about non-normals for the last six months, she’s never held it against us.”
“She is very honest in her heart.” Freydis added as she came in for another pack of coffee. “Mrs Tuesday, I am concerned for your back. Let me take it.”
“It’s okay.” Mrs Tuesday worked her back. “I need to keep moving gently and this stuff is nice and light.” She cast a shrewd glance over Freydis. “You’re obviously not feeling your injuries.”
“I think I needed that fight.” Freydis said. “It was as good as a Spring tonic.”
“Indeed, I also feel much better.” Kadogan agreed.
“Yoohoo!” Mrs Appuck called from the front. “We’ve got visitors.”
It was Lord Ragnar. He was walking with a cane but looking smug. He had dealt with a threat to his rule and had had a very good fight. He limped over to Kadogan and nodded politely as Ian rushed to put a chair next to him. He blinked a little seeing Geraint Appuck carrying a tray of bottled water in for his father, ‘just to feel useful’ but settled back with a satisfied sigh.
“Kadogan, your efforts and those of your associates have been most exemplary. You are a credit to my court.”
Kadogan nodded. “I believe our small shop has made an impact on the wellbeing of your court and I am proud.”
“Indeed you should be.” Lord Ragnar took a cup of coffee from Ian with a regal nod of thanks. “And I am very glad that Fiona Greene is without serious injury. It has been a relief to many of us.”
“Indeed.” Kadogan said, looking around the shop which had vases of flowers on every spare surface. “She is very dear to us at the White Hart.”
Lord Ragnar beckoned Kadogan closer. “I was in conversation with Lord Lothar last night who had been speaking to Lord Harold and he mentioned big cat sightings. The thought intrigues me. There have been many rumours and I think that there are many parts local to Yorkshire that lack the excitement and mystery that a rumoured magical or unusual creature would bring.” He sighed. “I used to enjoy sending glamours and throws of black dogs to remote places. Nobody is interested in them anymore. All they want are aliens.”
“I suppose we could do aliens.” Kadogan said. “I’m sure appropriate pictures could be lucrative.”
“But I don’t know anything about aliens.” Lord Ragnar said plaintively.
“I’m sure the White Hart can find someone to do research. We may even be able to get a network of sightings with other Princes. We could try talking about ley lines again.” Kadogan looked thoughtful. “I am getting very involved in commerce. When this store opened, barely six months ago, I knew little apart from candles. Now I know about a great deal of other things and it is curiously satisfying.”
Kieran beckoned Ian and Callum towards him. Adele watched with some concern. Ian and Callum were painfully respectful in front of the York werewolf pack leader. Kieran bent his head towards them for a low voiced conversation which Adele couldn’t even watch as the till was so busy.
“It’s nice to see Mildred and Cecil.” An older lady was buying some bay leaves as an excuse to call in. “They don’t get out much, these days. And I’ll have this dried mint as well. Your herbs and spices are a lot fresher than the supermarket. It’s made quite a difference in my shepherd’s pie and my husband, Mr Anderson, said he thought I should always get them.”
“We’re very keen on quality here.” Adele said, sliding the packets of herbs into a paper bag.
“I said that they are tuppence cheaper in the supermarket, but Mr Anderson said that it was tuppence well spent if it makes such a difference to the shepherd’s pie.”
“I completely agree.” Adele nodded. “Our Daryl, my cousin, he works as a cook, well, he’s a chef really but he doesn’t put on airs, he says that the ingredients make the meal and a cook can only do so much with bad materials.”
“That’s what I said.” Mrs Anderson handed over the exact money. “You’d better check that. I find myself thinking in shillings sometimes. Yes, I said that it’s better to have good sausages than bad steak. You should do more cooking spices.”
“The money is spot on.” Adele said, handing Mrs Anderson her receipt. “And I’ll let the boss know about the cooking spices. But they are very strict on quality, you know, so it depends whether they can get the right stuff at the right price.”
“That poor girl.” Mrs Anderson shook her head as she slipped the herbs into her mesh bag. “I’m glad she’s okay. She’s always got a kind word to an old boggart, even if she’s busy. Right, I’d better say ‘hello’ to young Geraint. He’s a good lad deep down, and always good to his mum and dad.”
Callum was fizzing with excitement when he got back to the till. “Mr Latimer, he said we were okay, that we’d done well last night.”
“Well, you did.” Adele thought that if Callum had been in wolf form his tail would have been wagging so fast it would have been a blur.
“He said that while we’re not part of his pack, he’s not ruling it out. He said,” Callum took a deep breath. “He said that we could be a sub pack, me and Ian. We obviously defer to him, but we have our own place. He said we could treat the White Hart like a pack, and if we kept our fur flat we could maybe see about being part of his pack in time.”
“That’s great.” Adele could almost see the happiness spilling out of Callum. She had no idea what was going on, but it obviously meant a lot to him and that was great. She looked over to where Ian was telling Mrs Tuesday as he bounced around straightening the café, too excited to stay still.
“Here they are!” Kadogan called out as he watched a battered Range Rover pull up and Darren help Fiona out of the car. Steve hurried around to give her his arm. Fiona looked pale and had a dressing on her neck, but otherwise she looked fine. She swayed backwards a little when she saw the crowd waiting for her but she clung on to Steve’s arm and walked into the hubbub.
“It is so good to see her safe.” Freydis said to Mrs Tuesday. “I know she would normally prefer tea, but I think it will be good to keep her strength up with a hot chocolate.”
“I think you’re right.” Mrs Tuesday looked Fiona over. “She’s going to be struggling for a bit after those potions, though you did a good job with the antidote.”
“Thank you.” Freydis expertly frothed the milk, caressing the handle as she created the exact amount of foam needed. “I admire her courage.”
“I agree, Freydis.” Lord Ragnar had heard this from the other side of the room and he turned and bowed. “I am deeply in your debt. You were swept up in matters that did not concern you and you faced great trials with fortitude and courage. You are a welcome guest to my court and a good friend, Fiona Greene.”
“It’s Fiona Adderson.” Steve said quietly. Every head snapped around.
“It’s true.” Darren looked smug. “I may not have many friends at the Archbishop’s Palace, but I have people that will do a lot to get me out of their office if I stand in front of their desk. I picked up a special license and married them in the hospital chapel without any fuss.”
There was a pause, then a babble as everyone rushed forward to hug Fiona, shake Steve’s hand and admire the matching rings that Steve had bought only a month before.
“I feel so happy for her.” Freydis sighed. “I just hope they stay happy and blessed.”
“We need wine!” Kadogan said suddenly. “Everyone must have a beverage of choice. Ian, please get out the wine from last night. Mrs Tuesday, please bring out what snacks are possible. Freydis, we need drinks with spray cream. We must celebrate.”
“Indeed, we must celebrate!” Lord Ragnar jumped to his feet and winced a little. “We must have cakes, and drink and spray cream with glitter. And we can have a proper reception at the Autumn Equinox. I think that would be the best time.”
“What?” Fiona said, looking at Lord Ragnar.
“I agree.” Kadogan nodded. “I think that if we have a joint reception and harvest celebration on the Autumn Equinox we could have an appropriate feast.”
“What?” Fiona repeated.
“Absolutely.” Lord Ragnar took a glass of wine from the tray Callum was already carrying round. “Lughnasadh is too soon, and it would be wrong to add any celebration of a wedding near Samhain or the Winter Solstice.”
“We could have the reception separate from a festival.” Freydis paused between expertly swirling spray cream onto mugs of hot chocolate. “I think the beginning of September is a good time. You still have a good selection of flowers but it isn’t as hot as August for those in heavy dresses.”
“What?” Fiona looked at Steve who looked blankly back.
“Indeed, although we can make sure that favourable weather occurs.” Lord Ragnar nodded. “I quite like connecting the feast of the Autumn Equinox with the reception. It would make the reception quite a grand thing.”
“Excuse me.” Fiona waved a hand.
“But we risk overshadowing Fiona’s celebration with the celebration of the festival.” Kadogan pointed out.
“If it’s linked to the festival then no-one can forget their anniversary.” Freydis said, setting down the hot chocolates and adding a sprinkle of edible pink glitter.
Steve put a hand on Fiona’s arm. “I think we’re just going to have to go with this,” he said. “As long as we don’t have to have Armani as a page boy.”
Fiona smiled up at him and for a few brief moments the rest of the room faded into unimportant background noise. “But at least we got our happy ending.”