Magically Ever After
Tale as old as time? I don’t think so…
Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, they’ve all grown up and found themselves thrust in our modern world, filled with new dangers, excitement, and adventure.
Inside you’ll find charming men who shift into deadly beasts, old books that suck the reader straight into their pages, wicked relatives, secret pasts, forbidden loves, and splintering realities.
Immerse yourself in this collection of 10 full-length novels and over 2,000 pages of modern, twisted takes on all your favorite classics.
Because these kick-butt princesses don’t need a prince to find their happily ever afters. They can make them all on their own…
Sulphur Springs, Texas
Surely, Jaqueline “Jaq” Taylor hadn’t heard what she thought she had heard.
The C.E.O. of the cleaning agency frowned. Nobody actually had a fairy godmother. Despite what her favorite stories promised.
Jaq pressed the button on the old-fashioned intercom system, determined to figure out what her long-time secretary had meant. “Can you repeat that, Eleanor?”
“Yes, ma’am. Your fairy godmother is holding on line three,” the disembodied voice answered. “She requests a meeting ASAP.”
It had been a long day of processing new clients from her top-floor office. The sunset light poured in from the bank of windows behind her. Maybe it was time for her to call it a day. The air freshener in the corner spritzed as though someone passed by it.
Her pen clattered in the “You’re the best-est boss ever” mug she kept as a memento from her first boss-job as the manager of a temp agency. The air freshener in the corner spritzed again. The sensor must be going bad. She’d have to turn it off or the whole office might be drenched in calming lavender.
Jaq leaned back in her ergonomic leather desk chair and considered the speaker on her desk, contemplating her options. It could be a Halloween prank. Things like that happened from time to time.
“I’m sorry. Can you repeat that, Eleanor?”
Jaq’s gaze narrowed. “The end part.”
“The fairy godmother part?”
“Well, that’s what she called herself.”
Jaq scowled. “Doesn’t it seem a little off to you?”
“Why would it, ma’am?”
“Fairy godmother. As in, F-A-I-R-Y?”
“Yes, ma’am. Fairy godmother. That’s what she said. She’s on line three.”
Jaq bit back a sigh. “Did she say why she wanted a meeting?”
“No, ma’am, but I could ask her?”
Could Eleanor not hear herself? She spoke as though having a fairy godmother was the most normal thing in the world. Fairy godmothers weren’t real.
Jaq drummed her fingers on the surface of the desk. “Oh, no, it’s fine. Never mind. Thank you, Eleanor.”
Jaq released the mic button. It had to be an October joke. That was the only explanation she could come up with. She tapped the flashing button and then pressed the speakerphone option. “This is Jaqueline.”
“Oh, there you are,” a woman’s voice sing-songed in a heavy French accent. “I know this is quite unusual, sweetling, but I simply must see you this evening.”
The air freshener sprayed, and Jaq gave it a nasty look.
The woman spoke as though she knew Jaq, but the woman’s voice didn’t sound familiar in the slightest. “I’m sorry, Mrs.…?”
“Oh, silly goose, I’m your fairy godmother. My surname isn’t important.”
Jaq didn’t answer immediately. Perhaps she misunderstood. “You’ve reached the Cleaning Fairies Agency.” The largest cleaning agency in Texas. But Jaq didn’t say the second part aloud.
The woman tittered. “Yes, it’s such a clever name for your business, dear. Much better than calling your company Broonies. No matter what Nomi might think.”
Jaq grimaced. “What’s a broonie?” And who is Nomi?
“Oh, never mind, dear. Nomi thought it was a better name than the one you selected, but she’s assigned to the middle ages. Are you free this evening?”
“I’m not sure.” Jaq spoke carefully. “Do you have a cleaning job for us… Mrs.? Miss? How should I address you, ma’am?”
“Call me fairy godmother, of course.”
Jaq didn’t answer. She couldn’t bring herself to say the words fairy godmother. The customer is always right. Except when they’re dead-wrong. She drummed her fingers on her desk. Was this some kind of joke because of the name of her company? It wouldn’t be the first time she’d received prank calls
The woman on the other end of the line sighed. “I understand, dear. You can call me Sandrine. This will be harder than I expected, no?” she added. “There is so much beyond what we can see.”
“Mrs. Sandrine, I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake.” Tuesdays weren’t for conversations about the metaphysical.
The woman on the other end of the line chuckled. “Not Mrs, sweetling. Just Sandrine, and I have not made a mistake. You are Jaqueline Taylor in the uppermost floor of the Murray building in downtown Sulphur Springs. You are slowly converting the floors beneath you into apartments and live on floor number one. Yet you work on floor number five, no? You have a spacious office and a private garden, isn’t that so?”
She froze, fighting the urge to look around. Her office was on the top floor of a building she’d bought the previous year. It had been a hotel, and she’d converted the spacious, well-windowed penthouse into an office. A wilting, end-of-the-growing-season garden surrounded her office. Was the woman watching her even now? It was a little more than a little creepy.
Jaq cringed. The conversation needed to end. “Something like that.”
“Ah, ha, I am not watching you. Though, I do know you.”
“How do you know those things about me?” The police would probably be interested in that detail.
“Because I must know these things about those I am responsible for.”
Responsible for? What could the woman mean? “Do you have a job for our team? Where is it located? Is it in Sulphur Springs?”
“I’m in Paris.”
Jaq paused. She’d never been to Paris. “Like the city with the Eiffel tower? The Paris? That’s a little out of our coverage area.”
“Oh, no, no. As in only an hour from you. I live in Paris, Texas, love.”
Jaq hadn’t been to that one either.
The woman continued. “I own a shop here, but I must meet with you. It is imperative. It must happen today.” The urgency in the woman’s voice seemed out of place for a new cleaning client.
Jaq shook her head, even though the woman on the other end of the line wouldn’t be able to see it. She would be able to hear the tone change in her voice. “I’m quite busy for the next two weeks. We won’t have an opening until next month.”
“Nevertheless,” the woman answered. “I will see you.”
The pages of her desk calendar flipped to a day with no appointments as though a stray gust of wind was her assistant, and the air freshener sprayed once more.
Jaq spun around. She didn’t know how to answer. She checked the caller ID on the phone base. Nothing showed. She took a breath. “Perhaps I can check my schedule and get back with you?”
“Indeed.” But Sandrine’s tone made it clear she didn’t believe Jaq.
“Listen. What organization are you with, Sandrine? Perhaps I can make a note what cleaning services you require? It would help me understand how I’m to help you or help you find someone who can.” Like a counselor.
When Sandrine spoke next, Jaq could hear her smile. “Of course, dear. I’m a member of the Organization of Fairy Godmothers, or O.F.G., and I have been assigned to you, but I do not require cleaning services. I’ve done enough spell-work to accomplish that for myself.”
Jaq sat quite still, trying to process what the woman was saying. The woman had clearly gone off her rocker. She didn’t know anyone who was a member of O.F.G., and who admitted to being a fairy godmother? They weren’t real.
She asked the first question that popped into her brain. “Where is the O.F.G. office? Also in Paris?”
Sandrine snorted. “We have members all over the world. In this time and others.”
This time and others. Other times? Surely, the woman meant time zones. Her hand hovered over the End Call button, but she couldn’t bring herself to press it. Her curiosity and the need to understand was getting the better of her.
Sandrine continued. “We’re an organization of fairy godmothers that keep track of those with the magical spark.” She chuckled. “As my friend Nomi likes to say, we’re world-class meddlers. In and out of time.”
In and out of time? This woman wasn’t altogether sane. Not in the slightest.
“I must request a meeting with you, Jaqueline. Your destiny depends on it.”
Your destiny depends on it. Who did she think she was?
Jaq leaned forward and placed her elbows on her desk. “I’m sorry, no. You need help.”
Sandrine chuckled. “You will see.”
The line clicked, ending the strangest phone call she’d had all year.
Jaq stared at the phone for several minutes. She depressed the intercom button. “Eleanor?”
“Can you check the call logs and look up the number of the woman who just called? I want it blocked from ever calling again.” She spent way too much valuable time on it.
“Which call, ma’am? The last call I took must have been just after lunch. Is that the one you meant?”
Jaq’s gaze narrowed. What game could Eleanor be playing? “The older woman? The sing-songy one that just hung up? Heavy French accent.”
A long pause answered.
“I’m sorry. Were you on a call, ma’am?”
“Yes.” Jaq drew out the word. “The one you just put through? The one with the fairy godmother?” She mumbled the last two words to gloss over the oddness of them.
“You didn’t put a call through?”
“It’s 4:52 p.m. right now. Get me the call logs for the last thirty minutes. I want that number blocked.” More lavender scented the air.
Another long pause. “I understand, but I don’t recall routing one through to you.”
Jaq shook her head. Suddenly, this Tuesday felt rather Monday. “Nevertheless. Get me the logs.”
Jaq released the intercom button. Her computer chimed to alert her of a new email, and she pulled up the app. The top email O.F.G. showed in the subject line. She clicked on the email, almost afraid to see what might be in it.
One line showed in the body. When can we meet? ~S.
Eleanor appeared at the threshold to Jaq’s office, and Jaq pulled her eyes away from the screen. Her assistant held one sheet of paper. “I printed the log for all of today. We haven’t had many calls today.”
Thankfully. The one from Sandrine would have been enough for anyone. Jaq crooked her finger, and Eleanor trotted to the desk and deposited the single sheet.
“Thank you,” Jaq murmured.
“No problem.” Eleanor darted out.
Jaq lifted the paper and blinked. According to the log, there had been no calls for the entire afternoon. That couldn’t be right. She’d spoken to Sandrine. On speakerphone. She dropped the paper on her desk. This log showed nothing. There had to be a way to trace who had called.
Her intercom buzzed, and she pressed the speaker button. “Yes?”
“But did you speak to me through the phone lines?” Sandrine asked. “Or some way else?”
Jaq froze. “Did you hack into my phone system?”
“Yes, of course. I used Voice Over Magic Protocol.”
Jaq made a face. “Is that like VoIP?”
“So… VoMP?” Jaq couldn’t resist making the joke.
Sandrine’s voice held a smile once more. “I know. It’s not as catchy as the other.”
“Who are you?” Stop calling.
“Not to worry, I’m not interested in anything other than you, Jaqueline. Your accounts and private files are all safe.”
“I’m not sure I understand.” Why had she brought those up? It made it extra suspicious. “I’m sorry, but I have to hang up now.”
“I’m happy to explain everything. When can we meet, dear?”
Jaq bit back an exasperated groan. How she was actually considering a meeting with a woman who claimed to be her fairy godmother, she would never know.
“I’m free this evening. Say about six. I’ll be in the square. In public. In front of the cameras.” She enunciated the final words. “No funny business.”
Jaq opened her mouth to ask another question, but Sandrine cut her off.
“Yes, we’ll meet at the star on the square. The mirrored box beside the chess set, do you know the one?”
It was Jaq’s turn to chuckle. “We’re a town of sixteen thousand. Everyone in Sulphur Springs knows about the mirrored boxes. They cost fifty-four thousand dollars, and they made world news.”
“It was such an interesting idea.”
“You could call it that.” Sulphur Springs residents hadn’t quite known how to take the public restrooms made out of one-way glass on three sides. They had already become a notable landmark. People visited Sulphur Springs just to try them.
“Well, we will meet beside the chess board, yes?” Sandrine repeated. “At six o’ clock this evening?”
Jaq hesitated. Against her better judgment, she had just made a plan to meet a stranger. As the leader of a cleaning organization, she met with people she didn’t personally know all the time, but this… This was different.
None of her clients began their tenure by claiming to be her fairy godmother with a sing-song-ish French accent. It was the most unique phone call she’d had in a long while. And her curiosity—and small-town niceness!—was about to get her into a world of trouble.
“I’ll be there.” Jaq sighed, and lavender spritzed air.
“C’est magnifique! Ta-ta, dear!”
The line didn’t click, not exactly, but the sound changed. The intercom beeped.
Jaq hit the button. “Yes?”
“Oh. Ms. Taylor?”
“I have a message for you.”
“Bring it through.”
A minute later, Eleanor appeared in the doorway with a slip of paper in her hand. “I tried to put the call through, but the phone system was tied up somehow. It didn’t show you on the phone, but it sounded like you were talking to someone.”
Jaq folded her hands on her desk. “No, just talking to myself.” Easier than having another argument about the call Eleanor didn’t want to admit to.
Eleanor tucked a strand of pink hair behind her ear and frowned.
“Do you have a message for me?”
Eleanor’s eyes widened. “Oh, yes.” She stepped toward Jaq’s desk and laid the slip of paper on top of the empty call log. “The Donnellys have an event this weekend, and they would like a quote for a Friday deep-clean. She made an appointment for tomorrow morning.”
Jaq swiped a pen from her desk and began clicking the end. “I’ll work on that tonight then.” She tapped the notebook. It would take, maybe, an hour.
Eleanor took several steps and then stopped. Her lips compressed into a tight line.
Jaq considered her assistant. “Was there something else?”
“Are you okay?”
“What do you mean?”
“The fairy godmother and then talking to yourself. Maybe you need a vacation?”
Jaq’s chair creaked when she stood. “I don’t doubt I could use a vacation, but I’m fine.” She gestured toward her assistant. “You can go home. I’ll lock up.”
Eleanor hesitated but finally nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Have a good night.”
“Will do.” Jaq put her hands on her hips, trying to decide which work to take downstairs to her first-floor apartment.
She settled on the Donnelly file. No doubt Eleanor had taken down all the particulars. Mrs. Donnelley was thorough when she called. She could get a head start on prepping a quote. She moved to the client filing cabinets and opened the top drawer. After she removed the file, she dropped it on her desk and then tucked the written message inside.
Since she had a little time to use before heading down, Jaq opened the French doors at the end of the penthouse and stepped into the garden. It had taken her all of last year to cart in enough containers and pots to grow a small vegetable garden. Flowers climbed the lattice that lined the south perimeter of the rooftop. Flowering bushes lined the western edge. A small seating area took up the middle.
At the edge of the wilting garden, two hummingbirds darted from flower to flower. The first she’d ever seen in her rooftop oasis. They should be migrating for the season. She scowled. For a moment, she saw tiny human faces in place of bills. Perhaps they weren’t hummingbirds at all. Tiny fairies?
A shadow moved overhead, and Jaq blinked. How long had she been standing here like that? It felt short and long at the same time.
She shook her head then checked her watch. Ten minutes until six. She strolled toward the exit, leaving the Donnelly file behind. She’d come back and get it after she grabbed some dinner to-go from the diner.
Had she been in the garden for forty-five minutes already? Impossible. She never allowed herself to lose track of time. Each moment belonged to a task.
How the day grew curiouser and curiouser.