Read With a Kiss (Twisted Tales) Online
Authors: Stephanie Fowers
Tags: #Paranormal, #romantic, #YA, #Cinderella, #Fairy tale, #clean
He didn’t seem bothered by it, just nodded to my shadow in greeting.
The baby beat the swirly toy against the guy's arm. The face of it seemed to reflect snow inside. “The toy,” I tried to control the quiver in my voice.
He shrugged. “There’s a curse on us until the daughter of the queen takes her rightful place as our princess. That’s what you see mirrored in that toy—snatches and images of our homeland wasting away.”
the one sent by the faery queen. The thought comforted me. He let me take the mirrored toy and I stared at his homeland. Winter had stayed too long. It was a strange thing to contemplate since we were in the middle of an Omak drought—what we called one, anyway. The toy showed me a bleak and frozen landscape of another world. The fuzzy screen was really falling snow. I looked past it. The trees were dying. A few weak animals. No people or faeries. How long had the baby been gone? A few hours at the most. It didn’t look good. We couldn’t return her for three more days. “Why was I chosen to bring her baby back?”
“You heard the faery queen. She called you the keeper.”
“How did I become a keeper? What’s a keeper?”
The blond gave me a secretive smile and gathered the pink blankets around the baby, picking her up. Oh. No. He. Wasn’t! This guy wasn’t taking her anywhere . . . not with the way my head reacted when we separated, and I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere public with either of them. I tried to stop him from going, but he danced away from me with a smirk. “We’ve got to get some food in her. She could probably use some diapers, too.”
My hands fell limply to my sides. I hadn’t even considered that. “You really expect me to go out in public with this thing on my head?”
He gave me a maddening grin and headed for the door with the baby in his arms. My fists clenched. The guy knew exactly what that did to me—separating me from the baby, not the grin. With a few long-legged strides, he was almost out of my range. The tiara whispered a warning in my ears and I charged after them before it could give me a headache that rivaled getting hit in the head with a baseball bat. I hoped my shadow was tagging along too. The mirror was at my back, and there was no way I’d look behind to see what waited for me there. I was afraid of what I might find.
Listen to the fairy history of Snowbell, the most fair.
A little babe, who, on a winter’s night,
Snow-white and softly falling as new snow,
On her queen mother’s pillow did alight;
There lying rare, And spotless fair, All fairy-wise bedight.
hat did you say your name was?”
The blond smiled at me. The baby’s hand wrapped around one of his rough fingers. “I didn’t.”
I couldn’t even give him a proper set-down—I was too tired. I pushed the shopping cart through the aisles of the grocery store, using it like a walker. Was this how all new moms felt? The aisle wouldn’t stay still and the florescent lights blurred my vision yellow. As soon as my eyes drooped, the world played tricks on me. A creature crouched behind a cereal box. It was a green slimy lizard thing with a human face. It pushed a can of soup over. Just the image of it and then it was gone. I shook my head and forced my eyes to open wider. I didn’t know what was happening to me.
My shadow brought a hand to its mouth in a wide yawn. It lingered behind in the candy section when it shouldn’t, stopped to read headlines on the fashion magazines, pawed at the most expensive make-up. But that was the least of my worries. Apparently faery babies wet like human babies. At least I wasn’t the one to figure
out the hard way.
We headed for the diaper section. My nameless companion threw everything stupid he could into the cart: honey, ice cream, candy bars. He read the back of a cake box. “Good. It’s got sugar.” He threw it on top of everything else.
“Stop it.” I tried to block him from the next aisle.
His hand went to my waist. Before I could register that he was touching me, he moved me out of the way. He found some cereal boxes. “Should we get the frost tipped sugar plops or the chocolate-puff yummies?”
He threw them both in. “She doesn’t seem to be growing. We think
you know who
had a hand in it.”
“If you were feeding her this stuff where you live, then I’d say it was
fault she’s not growing. We need some milk.”
“Does it have sugar in it?”
“No . . . I don’t think so.”
“Well, forget it. Sugar is mother’s milk to faeries. When we can’t find saffron, that is.”
“I gathered that.” At least there was milk at home. Then I’d show this guy how fast a baby could grow with some proper nutrients. I left him and steered my girl to the baby cereal and pulled some off the shelf. It was for six-month-old babies—I didn’t know her age for sure. “How old are you?” The baby stared gravely back at me. I couldn’t really tell, especially with that wise look she gave me with those hazel eyes. I tried not to laugh at how serious she looked.
A lady in a power suit pawed expertly through the cereals next to me. I briefly toyed with asking her how old she thought our baby was, but decided against it. She had a very no-nonsense air and would probably think we kidnapped the kid or something. And if someone tried to take her away? I shivered. Most likely, it would kill me. Or maybe, I’d end up killing
. I didn’t want to think about it.
“I don’t know how old she is,” I kept my voice down, turning to my mischievous partner in crime.
He leaned over to get a good look at the baby through his thick lashes. The freckle under his eye was the only thing marring his perfect complexion. Yeah, definitely faery material. He smoothed the baby’s fuzz of hair back, almost getting a smile out of her. He glanced over at me. “How old are
?” he asked.
“What does that have to do with anything?” I sputtered, but I tried to keep it down. The stiff lady glared at me anyway.
He laughed. “I was asking the kid.” After an intense staring contest, he shrugged. “She doesn’t know. I’d say she looks to be about your age.” The baby shouted out in indignation. Apparently I wasn’t the only one he liked to tease. “Yep, about seventeen.”
If I had more energy, I’d stomp my foot. He wouldn’t take
seriously, and he wasn’t being discreet at all. You would think the faery queen would’ve sent someone a little more sensible. “Would you, I don’t know, grow up or something!” I raged at him. The lady scorched me with her eyes. I felt my cheeks go red.
“You want me to grow up? Really? How old do you want me to be?” He guffawed at my angry expression and pushed the cart away from the
I grunted in pain, feeling the tiara tighten around my head the farther he pushed the baby. I ran after him and tried to hang onto the cart with all my might, but he just kept wheeling it down the aisle. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Another shopper dodged out of the way. She pressed annoyed lips together. She should be giving the real troublemaker those looks. I straightened, seeing that he was getting into the children books at the end of the aisle. We didn’t have time for this. I tugged
from him, but he nonchalantly picked up another. This one was a compilation of faerytales.
“Hey look, it’s about your people.” He gave the book to the baby and she stored it in her mouth.
“You paying for that?” I asked him.
He frowned sternly at me. “Babies can’t pay. Are you crazy or something?”
And that was beside the point. I wasn’t talking to the baby and he knew it. My hand went to my aching head. I was torn between laughing and strangling him. “So . . . is there anything in this store that breaks curses, like four leaf clovers? You know about those kinds of things, right, or are you just annoying and that’s all you do?”
“Sure, I know.” He gave me a challenging look. “Frog’s breath, St. John’s wort, English daisies . . . got any of those here?”
“Well, let me check the aisle where they keep the ingredients for spells. What do you think this is—a witch’s shop?” I pushed the shopping cart to the closest register. To my dismay, the cashier was one of my frenemy acquaintances. She barely knew me and yet she still seemed threatened by me. Valerie wore a horrible blue polyester number, her bleached blonde hair squashed in the front and big in the back and squeezed into a tight ponytail. It was the newest style about three years ago, I think. I, on the other hand, knew I looked odd.
Valerie gave me a tight smile. “What’s with the hair thing?” She pointed to the tiara and popped her gum. “Wait, I get it. It’s from the play, isn’t it? Why are you wearing it in public?”
“Um, yeah.” I patted it gingerly. “I still have it on? That’s weird.” I avoided her eyes, watching the black sky outside the glass windows.
Her hands were busily sliding groceries across the belt. The price reader beeped rhythmically and I tried not to look too guilty as every sort of junk food imaginable passed over the scanner. It took me back to the days when I had scrounged for change under the couch cushions and used my plunder to score about ten candy bars at once—about two months ago?
Valerie brought the book of faerytales through. I glanced over at the tabloids on the shelf, my attention caught by the strange headlines, the ones that were way too embarrassing to buy. I read one of the titles:
“Suspected Skinwalker. Guy Peels Off His Face at Golf Course.”
The blond ripped the tabloid from its holder and threw it on the conveyer belt. After an intense staring contest, I gave in with a roll of my eyes. “I’ll take this too,” I said, feeling even dumber.
“Fifty-two dollars,” Valerie announced with a smug voice. Though I had to give it to her, she didn’t even lift an eyebrow at my sweet tooth and choice of reading material. Probably part of the job description.
I turned to the real culprit. He leaned against the cart, playing with the baby. He glanced my way and she tugged on the silver medallion hanging from his necklace. He choked and gave her his leather wristband from his watch to chew on instead. “You’re gonna help pay for this, right?” I asked.
He looked confused. Of course he’d act oblivious when it came to money. Valerie laughed and took that as an opportunity to pop her gum again. “You’ll have to do it, nut job. You have the money.”
What? Did she just call me nut job? And why was I expected to pay for everything? But the blond just grinned. When he turned to the pretty little grocery clerk, the grin got even wider, and I groaned when he turned his charm on her. The flirt. “Hey, why don’t you introduce us?”
Well, maybe if I knew his name for starters
? I tried to shame him with a heavy stare, but he wouldn’t break, so I introduced him the best way I knew how. “Don’t mind the imbecile,” I told the cashier.
Valerie looked scandalized. “The . . . baby?”
The imbecile swallowed a laugh behind me and that’s when I felt a shock spread from my toes and explode out my head. It all made sense now—the glaring customers, my disapproving family. No one but me could see this jerk, could they? Everyone thought I was yelling at this poor . . . this poor . . . baby? How real was
anyway? What if I was dragging around some doll? “Um,” I met Valerie’s eyes. “What do you think of the uh . . . the kid?” I winced at the question, but still waited for the answer.
Valerie snapped her gum. “You babysitting?”
I sagged in relief. There was no way she’d think I was babysitting a doll. “No . . . I mean, yeah, I am.” My head was spinning. I dug through my purse and laid the money down before I could faint and make her duty bound to tell the senior class I was on drugs or pregnant or something. Valerie counted out all my change while I tried to drag the baby out from her cart seat. It wouldn’t do for her to be floating across the parking lot in this invisible guy’s arms or falling on the cement because he wasn’t really there. I was having a hard time getting the kid out. She grunted, her small fingers digging into my arms. Was she getting bigger or was I getting weaker?
Mr. Hot-But-Not tried to brush me out of the way. “I’ll get her.”
“Get away from me,” I hissed. “
You’re not real
.” I met the baby’s eyes. They were so solemn and I broke into a smile in response. I wish I could make
smile. Wow, what was I thinking?
I couldn’t make anyone smile.
I was stuck with a baby and had invisible friends—well, enemies anyway. I messed up her fuzzy hair and with my last remaining strength pushed the cart to the automatic doors. Hot air from a typical Omak summer night rushed inside to greet us. The doors swished shut behind us, almost smacking my shadow in the head.