Excerpt: A Faire Encounter

Elena wiped clammy palms on the heavy black skirts of her costume, ready to plunge, ready to walk up and open her mouth to ask that dangerously cute girl on a date. Except she wasn’t, she totally wasn’t, she was super-glued to the spot, she was a total freakin’ coward. Why?! Why was that girl so cute? Look at that perfect bob of shiny black hair, curled ever so faintly at the ends. Elena wanted to kiss each curl, then kiss those round cheeks and that bubbly nose until it fell off, ay, ¡que linda! That skin was a smooth, buttery dark tan, and Elena could nibble those pouty brown lips forever, ay, oof, ack! Elena couldn’t handle it.

She sneezed.

Several sparks of sizzling magic shot from her nose, shit! Shit, shit! She slapped her skirts vigorously, growling as she snatched the mischievous little fires off. She threw them in the mud, ignoring the squeals. Stupid. She wiped her nose, glancing at the girl. Still there. Good. Elena watched. The girl stood awkwardly behind her two friends, cracking an adorable yawn every few minutes. Elena absolutely didn’t want to lose sight of her, though she couldn’t say why that would do any good. She was supposed to be working. Not, like, harassing guests.

Sniffing, she patted her smoking skirts, then scowled when her brass knuckles and metal bracers caught. She definitely didn’t want to get fired. She enjoyed working the Renaissance Faire, and she was today’s Conquering Queen! But the idea of this one disappearing into the crowd, just a glimpse of perfection and nothing more? Unbearable. Elena nodded. Unbearable.

Though disappearing would be kind of hard to do because—because—oh, she could not handle that level of cute, she was going to die—because—

Elena swooned.

Because the girl was wearing a dragon onesie.

A dragon onesie.

Elena yanked her arms free with a nasty tearing sound. A few more sparks shot free of her fingers, singeing a jerky peddler who yelped, then waddled away in a huff.

Pink! The onesie was cotton candy pink against a sea of dark cloaks, leathers, and furs. Maybe on pirate weekend that wouldn’t be so impressive, but dragon girl was a shining beacon of bubblegum against the overcast sky. She sparkled amidst the mist and mud. Elena swooned again. Her little dragon girl looked so small, so cuddly, so very cute as she jiggled in place, obviously chilled. Elena wanted to snatch her away, tote her off—

“Elena, I would make a joke about you staring a hole into her, but you can actually do that, so maybe stop,” Luís muttered, fiddling with his costume’s belt. The leather was smudged, the golden clasp twisted at a bad angle. His nose twitched, eyes staining black for a moment. “Definitely broken. I told that asshole not-Claudio to stop throwing me so hard in the live chess games yesterday.” He jerked his scabbard off. “I’ll have what’s-his-face fix it. What’s-his-face again? Elena? Elena, seriously, stop. You’ll kill her. Bruja, remember?

“She’s wearing a dragon onesie, Luís! A pink dragon onesie!” Elena hissed, the strain cracking her voice to pieces. She dug her nails into her cheeks, ready to rip her own face off because this girl was destroying her just by existing. Sucking in a breath, she let out a barely audible moan. “Did you see that, Luís? Did you see her push up her glasses? That was perfect. Those tiny hands, just going boop! ¡Me fascina!

“You’re so gross,” Luís replied. A snap of his fingers and Elena’s head snapped back, a chunk of her hair yanked backwards, ow! She squawked. Ow! Ow! “Mira, mensa, you’re supposed to be Conquering Queen today—”

“I know that! Ow! Get off!”

He rolled his eyes, but released her. She rubbed her scalp, scowling at him. He continued to fuss with his belt and scabbard. “We’re at Faire. At our jobs. Don’t give me that look. I know you, prima.” She scowled so hard she bit her tongue, spewing a bit of blood. “You’re dumb as a dog sometimes. Once you get ahold of an idea, you don’t let it go until you’ve made a mess. And I am not cleaning up your mess, not this time.” Elena gawped, insulted. She wasn’t dumb! “Get back into character. You’re a queen. She’s a frumpy pajama dragon.” Luís whipped his scabbard back on, tying it all together with a loose piece of leather—wait, hey! That had been hanging from her belt! “Scream, swoon, faint, whatever. Just stop staring. I’m not cleaning up your mess.”

“No one asked you to clean it up last time,” Elena replied.

Luís shot a blistering glare at her, and a welt opened up on her cheek. She wiped it away, annoyed, because Luís could be a real petty asshat when he wanted. “Shows how much of a brat you are if you still think that.”

Elena glowered. She couldn’t exactly argue. She was a brat. Luís would know—they were cousins, one year apart, but it felt like fifteen sometimes. Or forty. He acted like a crotchety old dude most of the time, and Elena was admittedly reckless on a good day. Downright destructive on a bad. Which meant their parents had kind of designated him as the ‘responsible older one’ and Elena as a disaster to be mitigated. She didn’t mean to be such a wreck, but sometimes it was hard even for her to figure out how she had gotten from point A to filling the ice cream truck with scorpions.

Oh wait.

That’s right. It had been the song. The song on the speaker had been super annoying, yep, she remembered now. Woke her up from a nap during the worst part of her period.

Eh. She’d do it again.

Luís rolled his shoulders. His cape, coal black with tips dipped snowy white, twitched as he did so. A snout peeked out, nosing Luís’ neck. He smiled as he gently yet quickly scratched at the muzzle before pushing it back into the depths of the cloak. Elena regarded him for a moment. His thick black hair was disheveled, which couldn’t be intentional because Luís either ignored his looks or preened until he was perfect. His usually flushed brown skin was ashen, and his eyes were blacker than normal. He could be a pain in the ass, but Luís spoiled her.

Elena stepped forward and ran her fingers through his hair a few times, then kissed his cheek. “Stop stressing about it,” she commanded, snatching the sword away from him. “I’ll hold it. You track down Martin and have him fix it. Make sure he bills not-Claudio or Claudio or whoever over it. I know this one’s your favorite.” Then she stuck out her tongue and he did too, blowing a raspberry for extra points.

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