Maybe she should get some work done. She logged into her email and heaved out a sigh. Martin Burnside’s emails had not stopped. Instead, her inbox was full with a new assault. There were love poems. She skimmed on and realized it was probably stuff he’d written while drinking a beer. Or maybe, “Your beauty shines like the scales of a speckled trout” was seductive stuff to most female trolls.
Then there were the links to love song videos on YouTube. And finally there were pictures of the place he wanted to take her on their honeymoon.
Like she would ever want to spend two weeks at the Burnside family fish camp, complete with his and hers outhouses.
Ugh. She loved nature, but that kind of roughing it was so not her vibe. She tried to explain how their differences made them incompatible in another clear but gently worded email.
The effort was wasted. Actually, it made things worse, because his emails continued, taking a decidedly darker turn. One that made her think it might be time to talk to someone about this. But Burnside hadn’t exactly made any threats. Had he? Wanting to meet her, telling her he was the only man for her, asking her what kind of engagement ring she would design for herself, how he wouldn’t be able to live without her…none of those things were really threatening.
Just to be safe, she got up and went to check the lock on the outside door to the apartment. She rarely used it, preferring the interior door that led directly into the office of the jewelry store below.
She unlocked it and locked it again, then pushed the curtain aside to peer out the window. A bunch of greenery caught her eye.
She froze. Someone had left flowers on her landing.
Her pulse kicked up a notch. She forced herself to take a deep breath. She could see a card nestled among the brightly colored blooms, stuck in with a florist’s clear pick. That probably meant Burnside hadn’t dropped them off, they’d been delivered. Probably from Marigold Williams’ shop in town. After all, he’d been busy sending her emails all night.
She glanced down the steps that led off the landing. Not a soul. But then, it was getting late, almost midnight, and even Nocturne Falls quieted down a little near the witching hour. She opened the door, grabbed the flowers and hauled them in, pushing the door shut with her foot, then resting the vase on her hip to lock the door.
The vase went on the kitchen counter as she ripped the card out of the holder and tore the small envelope open.
May this be the start of something beautiful.
Oh, hell no.
Now she was mad. And she really wanted to talk to someone. But she still didn’t have anything real to go on. Sending flowers wasn’t a crime. But common sense told her this wasn’t a problem that was going to go away any time soon.
What on earth had gotten Martin Burnside so fixated on her? She backtracked through everything she’d done on the job. The magic she’d performed to bind his sacrifice to his new ring had gone perfectly. The stones she’d selected had been excellent quality, no flaws or cracks that might cause their purpose to go awry. The platinum was from her regular supplier, and she’d never had issues with it before.
Jasper bumped his head against her leg, the same way he had when she’d worked on that job and cut herself.
“Are you really hungry again?” Then she froze.
She’d cut herself while making Burnside’s ring. She’d cleaned the blood off thoroughly, but what if she hadn’t gotten it all off? What if some of her blood, stuck in the crevices of the ring, had mixed with the magic and the metal and was the reason Burnside was so focused on her?
Was it possible she’d done this to herself? Her magic didn’t work on herself. So whatever this was, it had to be on Martin’s side of things. Her mind was spinning with what that could mean and how it could be undone.
She slumped into a kitchen chair, then immediately got back up.
There was no way she could sleep when she was this wound up. She had to figure this out, but how? It would be nice if she had parents to talk to. They might know what to do or if something like this had ever happened before, but that ship had sailed. Or sunk. Either way, this was brand new territory and her problem to unravel on her own.
Sometimes her mind worked things out when she put the problem aside and did something else. She could clean the apartment, but vacuuming at midnight seemed slightly mad. She had a couple of other jobs she could work on, but just thinking about doing them made her realize her concentration for that kind of work was in the toilet with this Burnside nonsense.
No, a better idea was getting some air, clearing her head, and figuring out a plan. She grabbed her keys and her pepper spray and went out through the jewelry shop. A walk along the very safe, well-lit Main Street was just the thing. It often helped her when she was blocked on a design, so why not now?
Double checking that the shop door was locked, she strolled toward the center of town. A few inhales of evening air took the edge off her nerves and brought her a sense of peace. For a fae, being outside had a measured calming effect. Didn’t mean her problem was solved, but she could feel her stress levels decreasing with each step she took.
A clear head would go a long way toward figuring things out, but so would giving her brain some room to maneuver by letting go of her focus and letting her subconscious take over. She walked with no real direction in mind, just let one footfall in front of the other. The only real thought in her head was that she’d go see Sheriff Merrow in the morning. Probably nothing he could do, but at least she’d get his take on it.