Rosemary and Rue - By Seanan McGuire

THE PHONE WAS RINGING. Again. I turned my attention from the rearview mirror and glared at the cellular phone that lay jangling in my passenger seat next to a bag of Fritos and one of Gilly’s coloring books. It had been less than ten minutes since the last time it rang, and since there were only three people who had the number, I was pretty sure I knew who it was. I’d only had the damn thing for a month, and it was already complicating my life.

“These things will never catch on,” I muttered, hitting the flashing call button. “Toby Daye Investigations, Toby Daye speaking, what is it now, Cliff?”

There was a long, embarrassed pause before my live-in fiancé asked, “How did you know it was me?”

“Because the only other people who use this number are Uncle Sylvester and Ms. Winters, and they know I’m on a stakeout, which means they’re not calling.” I’ve never been good at being mad at Cliff; the words might be irritated, but the tone was purely affectionate. Call me a sucker for a man with a great ass who knows how to bake a macaroni casserole and can tolerate six hours of Sesame Street a day. Shifting the phone to my left hand, I reached up and adjusted the mirror to keep the front of the restaurant in view. “What is it this time?”

“Gilly wanted me to call and tell you she loves you and hopes you’ll be home in time for dinner, and that you should bring back ice cream. Chocolate would be best.”

I suppressed a smile. “She’s watching you make the call, isn’t she?”

“You better believe it. If she wasn’t, I would’ve just called Information. But you know how she gets. She’s got ears like a rabbit.” Cliff chuckled. Our affection for each other didn’t come close to our love for that little girl. “That’s from your side of the family, you know.”

“Most good things are, but yes, she gets her hearing from me,” I said, fiddling with the mirror. Was that a figure or a fingerprint? I couldn’t tell. The man I was following was so far out of my league that he could be strolling naked down an otherwise empty street and still keep me from seeing him.

Abandoning my efforts to make the mirror behave, I pulled a spray bottle full of greenish water out of the glove compartment and liberally misted the glass. Call it experience or call it intuition, but I know a good don’t-look-here spell when I fail to see it. A very good don’t-look-here spell, if I had to break it with a marsh water charm. That’s the sort of trick the purebloods disdain as being practically beneath the humans.

Beggars can’t be choosers, and it didn’t matter if the charm was cheap, because it worked; as soon as the water hit the mirror, the reflection of a tall redheaded man snapped into focus, standing just in front of the restaurant I’d been staking out for the last six hours. A valet pulled up in a sleek-lined sports car painted that particular shade of red peculiar to expensive vehicles and hookers’ lipstick.

The valet could see him, yet I hadn’t been able to: he was only blocking himself against fae eyes. He knew he was being trailed.

“Damn,” I whispered and dropped the bottle. “Cliff, the guy I’m after just came out of the restaurant. I gotta go. Tell Gilly I love her, and that I promise I’ll stop for ice cream on my way home.”

“You don’t love me?” he asked, mock wounded.

“I love you more than fairy tales,” I said—a ritual phrase that had long since replaced “good-bye” for us—and hung up the phone, throwing it into the backseat. It was time to get to work.

The man tipped the valet, got into the car, and pulled away from the curb, merging into passing traffic. His snazzy red sports car stood out among the more workaday vehicles like a cardinal in a flock of pigeons . . . at least until he took the first corner and disappeared, leaving the reek of smoke and rotten oranges in his wake. The smell of magic can cut across almost anything else, and since every caster has their own magical “taste,” it also serves as a signature of sorts. The scent confirmed that I was following Simon Torquill and not some paid double. Which was good to know, except for the part where I’d lost the man.

Swearing, I grabbed the pot of faerie Copyright 2016 - 2021