Somehow after dropping out of college, Cora’s life has become one part Dresden Files, one part Buffy. She thought she was heading for a boring, uneventful future. Instead she tumbles into the supernatural underbelly of Fairview as a PI’s freshly minted assistant. Will she manage to tame the not-so-vampiric lover who has her on his radar?
Valerian enjoys his life eating the greed of humanity. When he stumbles into Cora, he happens to find her quite the delectable morsel. He wants to savor her fully and introduce her to the paranormal world she’s never known about before. There are annoying creatures to overcome before Valerian can have his way with her. But nothing will keep him from making Cora his.
Content warning: There is brief mention of depression and suicidal thoughts in Cora’s story, but those thoughts are not acted upon.
Praise for A Taste of Magic (Fairview Chronicles 1)
"This was extremely entertaining.Pick up this book if you want some light-hearted fun and good writing at the same time!"
-- 4 Stars from Cécile C, Goodreads Review
"Absolutely recommended! Alexa Piper is a new author to me, but she's going on my auto-read list. Her voice and style remind me of other favorites like Seanan McGuire and Laurell K. Hamilton (if you enjoy those, you'll enjoy her). Cora is sassy and fun, and Valerian is dangerously delightful. Looking forward to more in the series. "
-- 5 Stars from Willa Okati, Goodreads Review
"Bloody brilliant. A great story to go with the action (of many kinds). I love the humour Alexa adds to her writing, the characters are likable and have real depth, the story is fun and engaging. Bring on the next one in the series! "
-- 5 Stars from Brandi, Goodreads Review
"With a loveable cast, and a killer romance, this novella is a great way to spend an evening. Can't wait to see more of Cora and the crew of Fairview. "
-- 4 Stars from Jesse, Goodreads Review
"This was an interesting paranormal romance. There was a great pace to the book between the romance and the action. Add in some werewolves, danger and mind blowing sex with a vampire … you have A Taste of Magic. There was a dose of humor that I found very entertaining. Overall, I really enjoyed A Taste of Magic and it definitely deserves its four shiny stars!"
-- 4 Stars from Bella, The TBR Pile
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A Taste of Magic (Fairview Chronicles 1)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Alexa Piper
Rose felt her back pressed against the alley wall. Marcus’s arms on either side kept her facing him, made sure she didn’t run from this tall, dark-haired man.
Not a man, she reminded herself. Her lips quivered. Rose wasn’t sure why, but she was holding her breath. His eyes were sparkling like green fireworks. The need to run gave way to a different need.
“My Rose,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. I would never hurt you.” The spark was curling along his lips now too. “Unless that is what you want me to do.”
Rose swallowed. Her body seemed so noisy. “You mean, my blood -- you want to drink my blood?”
“My Rose,” Marcus said, and the way he smiled at her now showed her his fangs.
Why didn’t I notice them before? she wondered.
“My Rose. I would taste you. But I would also have your pleasure, would see your face when it blushes a delicious red with the heat of your climax. Oh, Rose, I want to have you any way someone like myself can have a human, a lover.”
Rose’s legs felt like jelly. Her cheeks were hot, red, a fire that seemed to radiate through all of her body. And her body was reacting to the heat in the most exciting ways, feeling so warm and full of longing. Rose wanted him. She wanted his hands on her skin, she wanted to feel his body press her against the wall, and she wouldn’t object if he saw fit to pull her skirt up and tear a few buttons off her blouse. “Marcus,” she said, looking at the vampire in front of her through fluttering lashes. “I want you to have me like that.”
“Yes, my Rose. But not here, not in an alley. You are no whore. You deserve to be wrapped in silken sheets when I take you.” Marcus’s arms suddenly fell away, and although he had never touched her, Rose hated to lose his nearness. “Come with me,” he said, extending his hand.
All other thoughts had gone from Rose’s mind. She took the hand Marcus offered, willing to follow him. Willing to follow him anywhere.
* * *
Cora let the book drop to the floor of her apartment, next to her bed where she liked to read. With its unbent spine and glossy cover, the book was among the nicer things in her place.
“Aww, why are vampire lovers so damn scarce? Wish I had one just like you, Marcus.” She looked down to the bare-chested vampire on the cover and tried to wink at the book. Unfortunately, Cora, like many people, couldn’t get her eyelids to move independently, and her wink came out as an awkward blink. She was sure a proper vampire lover would be tolerant of her shortcomings in the facial expressions department.
“If only this wasn’t the vampire-lover-free real world. Where one needs a job to buy food and romance novels and things,” she told Marcus, whose head was not actually pictured on the cover.
Cora got up from the creaky bed that was probably older than she was -- not that a college drop-out could be picky about her furniture, especially since she hadn’t shared her new status with the most relevant people in her financial life, her parents.
And I’d rather tell them I got a job, she thought. That would also be the best excuse not to hear their opinions about uneducated plebeians and about how dropping out of college is as wrong as a thing can be.
Luckily, Cora had a job interview lined up for this afternoon, and even if journalism wasn’t her passion, she wouldn’t let that stop her from pursuing it, with determination if not passion.
She dressed sensibly, brushed the tangles from her dark hair, and left her too small, too cockroachy apartment with high hopes of following a career in the newspaper industry while bare-chested vampire lover Marcus was left there all alone, staring up at the dark spots of uncertain origin that patterned the apartment’s ceiling -- his chest was staring up, at any rate.
* * *
A deceptively warm January had the city of Fairview fully in its grip. It showed in the way a blue sky haloed all the buildings, in how the parks were dressed in budding green and visited by winter-sick people of all ages, and showed in how even the ocean that was always nipping at the harbor seemed to bring warmth on its waves.
The entire scene clashed with Cora’s feelings of dejection and uselessness. Her interview with the Fairview Chronicle editor had gone fine -- gone fine until the editor thanked her for coming in and told her she wasn’t right for the position.
How did I manage to screw that up? she wondered.
She had walked out of the Chronicle building without really knowing where she was going. She was in shock, obviously. She should have just headed back to the subway, should have taken the silver line and gone back home where she could cry in private and consider the best way to approach her parents with the news, but her head had needed clearing, and her feet had just kept on walking. Now, she had no idea where she was or what she was doing there, which more or less summed up the entirety of her life.
Shit, she thought. Which summed up everything even more concisely.
She stopped at a traffic light. Traffic was slow as it always was at rush hour, so when she considered throwing herself in front of a car, it was rather more sarcasm than defeatism. As the light turned green again, she walked to the other side of the road just like everyone else around her. Except all of them are high on the smell of spring air, she thought. And all of them have things to go toward, goals, milestones. After another ten or so steps, she came to a coffee shop, the Queene Bean Fine Coffees & Artisanal Honeys. Their logo was a coffee bean with wings, framed by a hexagon.
Might as well blow my last money on some java, not that it matters much at this point. I’ll probably have to move back in with my parents. She put her right hand on the door, pushed, and entered.
Some adventures always start with walking through a door and not knowing what lies behind it. Cora’s adventure was one of those.
* * *
“Can I get a soy latte, please?”
“Right up,” the barista said. Her hair was light brown, and she had the most expressive almond-shaped eyes Cora had ever seen. The woman’s smart maroon blouse, yellow kerchief and apron all sported the Queene Bean’s logo in brown on yellow.
Cora exchanged coin for caffeine and sat down at a corner table, fully prepared to do some brooding and possibly form some sort of plan for what to do with the rest of her life. Her parents had suggested art history, and somehow Cora had taken their advice. She had tried, she really had, but she hadn’t liked the classes she was taking, nor had she liked the people who sat in the classes with her. Cora also hadn’t been able to shake that nagging feeling that there was nothing at all about art history she had ever liked to begin with. Dropping out had seemed like a good way to get her life back.
She stirred sugar into the hot beverage in front of her, more sugar than she would have put in on a normal day. A few grains sprayed onto the polished wooden table, and she brushed them to the floor.
The coffee shop was pretty empty for this time of the day. There was only one other customer two tables over. Funny, this really is a nice place, Cora thought, taking in the decor. The reprint of a portrait of Shakespeare was staring down at her. Its frame was decorated with about a half dozen tiny plastic bees. Books in hexagonal bookshelves lined one wall, while another was sweetened with jars of honey, large and small, ranging from the darkest ambers to almost quartz pale.
If I were a bee, at least I would know exactly what the point of my existence was, Cora thought. She stared back up at the Bard. If I lived back in the 1600s, I would probably be a multiple mother by now, living in questionable sanitary conditions. I think I’d rather be a bee.
Movement to her right caught Cora’s attention and pulled her from her daydreams. The other customer rose from his table and approached the counter with a piece of cardboard in his right hand. He was a weird-looking guy -- his salt-and-pepper hair appeared estranged from comb or brush. He wore a pair of brown corduroy pants with an orange sweater, and his black-framed glasses were intended to look stylish, but somehow, they didn’t rise to the occasion. Cora decided, from her place of a little higher-than-sensible heels and black knee-length dress, that the man looked weird.
“June,” he said to the barista, “can I put this in the window?”
The barista turned and looked at the piece of cardboard he was holding up to her. “What, your ‘Help Wanted’ sign?” There was the slightest sliver of distaste on her face in the way she crinkled her nose at the hand-drawn design.
“Yes. People are more likely to see it here. All the glass windows. Not something I need in the PI business.”
Cora wasn’t sure she was hearing right. Help Wanted? It was, quite literally, a sign. She got up from her table, the sugary coffee all but forgotten, and tapped the man lightly on the shoulder. “Excuse me,” she said as he turned. “Are you hiring?”
The man had missed a shave or two -- either that or he was trying to grow a beard, with the emphasis on trying. Despite his unkempt appearance, Cora froze when he focused on her with a set of sharp blue eyes. “Serendipitous. You are looking to be hired?”
“Erm. Yes. Yes, I am.”
He stared at her as if she were a gallery painting to be examined and evaluated. Cora almost thought he was about to tell her he didn’t need her. “Hold this,” he finally said and dropped what looked like an old-fashioned pocket watch in her outstretched hand.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” she said. The thing wasn’t a normal watch as far as she could tell. It had hands, but they were not ticking the seconds away, and the symbols on it were not numbers, or at least not a script she recognized. One hand was spinning quite fast.
“Nothing,” he said and took the watch back. “The alphabet,” he said after a tiny pause.
“You know the alphabet?”
“Odd hours too.”
“Oh, that’s great. I love odd hours. I mean --”
“You’re not a screamer? I absolutely cannot have a screamer.”
“What? Scream about what? What kind of job are we talking?”
“Answering the phone, greeting clients, filing, that sort of thing. If you can start right away, that would be best. Screaming, as in at big spiders, things to do with violent murder, darkness in general, and special circumstances.”
“I kill my own spiders, and so long as I’m not at the receiving end of the violence or the murder, I’m good. As for darkness, I carry a flashlight in my purse, right next to the pepper spray. Don’t you want my resume?”
“You’re too young to have anything interesting on there. I’m Dominic Rafe St. John, private investigator. No one calls me that. You can call me Rafe,” he said, holding out his hand.