“So you’re definitely getting the house, then?” Mrs Tuesday said as she stood next to Fiona at the till. The shop was quiet and for once everything was ready at opening.
Fiona nodded. “It’s not far away, just outside Scholes, and it’s a nice big house with a lovely garden.”
“Are you getting the brownies to sort it out?” Mrs Tuesday asked.
Fiona doodled on the scratch pad next to the till. “We’re going to spend some time clearing it out first. It is absolutely full, but that was part of the conditions of sale – bought as is.” Fiona added a cute flower to the corner of the pad. “There’s a lot to do.”
“I daresay you’ll be doing most of it, with him always away.” Mrs Tuesday said. “I hope he knows how lucky he is.”
“Mmm.” Fiona kept doodling.
“He’s off to Lancaster again today, isn’t he?” Mrs Tuesday shook his head. “I hope he gets a good deal. But don’t worry about Leanne. She’s a baggage, but Steve won’t look twice at her. He knows what she is.”
Fiona turned the pad around to get a better angle on the kitten she was now sketching.
“He’s loyal to you, though I think he could do with a slap sometimes.” Mrs Tuesday said. “Leanne is a leanan sidhe. She’ll make a nuisance of herself until she finds someone else to obsess over, and then you won’t hear from her again. And Steve won’t be fooled.”
Fiona concentrated as she added a puppy to the kitten on the scratch pad, with a long, lolling tongue and huge paws.
“Even if he did like her – and he doesn’t – Steve wouldn’t be so crazy to get involved with a leanan sidhe. They are no better than they ought to be and they use men up before throwing them aside. And they sulk. Steve can’t bear someone who sulks.” Mrs Tuesday looked around for some sort of inspiration. “He does love you, you know. That’s why he’s so keen on the house.”
“I know.” Fiona said, ripping off the page and scrunching it up. “But is that the right reason to buy a house?”
“Don’t go looking for reasons to be unhappy.” Mrs Tuesday snapped. “You’re getting a nice house with a nice husband and there’s many people who would be grateful for it. You need to stop moping.”
Fiona took a breath. “You’re right. And could you cover for Dave if he can’t get here? He took the car over to Helmsley to check out the reports of the skeleton hands there, but he can’t get back. All the traffic lights in York seem to have gone crazy and everywhere is gridlocked.”
“And you know whose fault that is, don’t you?” Martin snapped, stalking in, looking very thin and pale. “Good morning, Lady Freydis, why didn’t you warn me that Jack is back?”
Lady Freydis dropped the tray of cups she was carrying. “Jack is back?”
Martin’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “You didn’t know?”
“When did you see him? What happened? Is that why you were so terribly injured? Where has he been?”
Mrs Tuesday looked worried. “Who is Jack?”
“Um.” Fiona wondered if she should have said something. “Um.”
“Yes, Jack is back.” Martin snapped. “Which is why none of the road signals are working correctly. It’s just his brand of mischief. I hadn’t realised how much I treasured the peace without him.” He looked at Mrs Tuesday. “Jack is complicated, difficult and unpredictable.”
“I know.” Lady Freydis sighed. “Do you remember the time he summoned all the rats within twenty miles to where the Legion was unloading its grain? They shrieked and wailed.”
“I know.” Martin said grimly.
“And the time he baptised a cat in the Minster?” Lady Freydis said. “The cat made such a singing.”
Mrs Tuesday rubbed her hand over her face. “Jasmine, clear up the cups, please, there’s a love. I need to find my Tarot deck. But is Jack a boggart or an elfen?”
“Um.” Fiona said.
“He’s complicated.” Lady Freydis shrugged. “But Martin, perhaps Mrs Tuesday has a tonic that may aid you. It must have been a hard fought argument.”
“Um.” Fiona looked around desperately.
“I will be fine after feeding a little more.” Martin waved an irritated hand. “Are you sure you didn’t know?”
“She didn’t.” Jack was suddenly there, leaning casually against the counter next to Lady Freydis.”
“Jack!” Lady Freydis vaulted the counter and hugged Jack. “Where have you been? What has happened?” She looked at Martin. “I am surprised Jack can even move! It must have been a battle indeed.” She looked back at Jack. “But your glamour isn’t showing a trace, which is impressive. It is so good to see you. I’m getting married.”
“To Martin?” Jack looked at the simmering Martin. “Congratulations.”
“I don’t know who I’m marrying yet.” Lady Freydis smiled happily. “It’s such fun.”
“What about Ragnar?” Jack asked.
Lady Freydis’ face suddenly stilled. “His is no more.” She straightened. “And I am the Prince and I am getting married to someone next midsummer.”
“I am sure it will be very entertaining for the next few months.” Jack smoothed a hand over his hair. “I may try courting you myself. I mean, you have always been delectable, but now with all that power and competition, you’re almost irresistible.” Lady Freydis giggled.
Martin noticed Fiona edging away. “Fiona, what is it?”
“I am sorry, my darling Lady Freydis, and I am sorry, my most dear Martin, but while I am so glad to see you both, I actually came here to meet with Fiona Adderson. I am at her service, you see. She freed me from my prison. I am bound to her for the rest of her life.” Jack swept gracefully over to Fiona, caught her hand and kissed it, bowing low. “Perhaps I could steal spices from the Orient for you, my most treasured lady.”
“We already have a very good stock of spices coming in.” Mrs Tuesday exchanged a worried glance with Martin. “Does Kadogan know you’re here?”
“I can’t wait to tell him!” Lady Freydis said. “Jack, may I offer you a beverage?”
“Wine, my sweetest Prince? It is scandalously early for wine.” Jack kept hold of Fiona’s hand as he grinned wickedly at Lady Freydis.
“Coffee, or hot chocolate with syrup and cream.” Lady Freydis said. “Watch this!”
Jack strode back to the café counter, dragging Fiona with him. “Chocolate?”
Fiona managed to extract her hand while Jack flirted with Lady Freydis and bickered with Martin. She sidled over to Mrs Tuesday. “I opened a pot when we were clearing the house. Armani was terrified and Steve was really worried. I don’t think he would have gone to Lancaster, though, if he thought Jack would come here. Who is he?”
Mrs Tuesday ran worried hands down her apron. “I’m not sure.” She took a cloth out of her pocket and wiped the clean counter next to the till. “I can tell he’s old, and I can tell he’s trouble.” She put the cloth back in her pocket. “Jasmine, keep an eye on the grills, please, I need to go and make some calls.”
“And you can tell everyone that I’m staying here.” Jack said, with another sweeping bow to Fiona. “That I may be of assistance to my lady fair at her place of business. I even have real money to pay rent.”
“How have you got real money?” Martin asked suspiciously.”
“I know where all the buried treasure is, so I dug some up and found a buyer.” Jack smiled wickedly. “And as she was willing to play fair, I was kind.”
“We have two paladins in York, now.” Martin said. “And I can see why.”
“And who are these fair maids?” Jack bounded towards the door as Adele and Jeanette came in, their arms full of boxes from the cash and carry.
“I’ll just go and make up your room.” Fiona said, and fled.