QSFer Tay LaRoi has a new FF fantasy book out:
After several long stressful months, things are looking up for seventeen-year-old Jocelyn Lennox. She’s almost finished with her first commission gig, her family has no idea she’s not in school, and she can say for a fact that her mother is about to wake up from a coma.
But when Jocelyn meets and rescues the beautiful Rina Fischler from the depth of a seedy nightclub, things get complicated.
For one thing, the nightclub is a favorite hangout for local faeries and not all of them are friendly. For another, their queen doesn’t like it when humans stick their noses in faerie business. For a third, the queen herself is Jocelyn’s commissioner and holds the key to her mother’s healing.
Now Jocelyn must tread lightly on the thin ice she’s made for herself, finish the last of the queen’s portraits, and get as far from the Faerie Realm as possible by October 31st, for that is the night of the Hallowed Offering. On that night, the realm will renew their tie to magic and they will do so in blood.
If Jocelyn isn’t careful, they just might use hers.
The Faerie Court Chronicles Book 1
I don’t breathe.
The slightest nudge could ruin the brush stroke, destroying the entire effect I want. According to the Faerie Queen, I have yet to properly capture what she calls her “unique blend of splendor, grace, and power.” She rejected the first two attempts in mere seconds. She’s a picky one, Her Majesty.
On the canvas, she looks over the wild fields outside as if she has just conquered them. Wreaths of roses surround her in honor of the fallen. An auburn waterfall of braids frames her heart-shaped face, tumbling over her bare shoulders and brushing against her elegant gown. It’s a funeral shroud that silhouettes her curvaceous body. She could be wearing it in memory of any number of the dismembered skeletons beneath her feet.
Or is it to honor her next victim? It’s a toss-up.
All those details were a cakewalk this time around, compared to the depths of her green eyes. Those eyes are always the hardest part. It’s nearly impossible to mimic the way they trap you. The way they sparkle as you pour out your heart and plead for a miracle. The way they coldly calculate whether you’re worthy.
I lift the brush from the canvas, leaving all of her mystery and seduction embodied in oil paint. My body and soul alike give a relieved sigh.
Six paintings down. One to go.
One more painting and Mom will wake up.
Thanks to my housemate, I don’t get to savor the moment.
Faeries like him have this power about them. They heighten your senses, bringing the world to life and sharpening everything in it. He thinks I spend too much time in my head and the only suitable remedy is spontaneous guerilla attacks, apparently.
I take a breath, then tumble out of my chair and fling a clean paintbrush at him, letting loose a war cry like the world has never known.
The kitchen broom comes down and raps against the back of my chair. The brush sails past my housemate’s face and he watches it land in the hallway.
“Better, Jocelyn,” he concludes, “but now you’re defenseless. And what exactly was that god-awful noise?”
“My war cry,” I answer, propping myself up on my elbows. “It was supposed to either startle or confuse you. Judging by your expression, it worked.”
He smirks, drops the broom, and offers me his hand. “Oh, I’m confused, all right. Confused as to why you thought it would startle me.”
I take his hand, stand up, and point a paint-covered brush at him. “Keep it up, and I’ll give you whiskers while you sleep.”
“Do so and I’ll steal your firstborn child.”
I study him and wonder if he’s serious. He can’t be. Can he? He can’t.
The day we first met, the day I made the deal with the Faerie Queen, he asked me to call him Dominic, but I doubt that’s his real name. Faeries aren’t keen on giving them out, especially to the lowly humans they’re supposed to babysit. Lucky for me, he doesn’t take his job seriously. Given his disheveled clothes and messy pine-green hair, he’s literally been sleeping on the job.
“You feeling okay?” I ask, retrieving the clean paintbrush.
“Right as rain.” He yawns, itching a pointed ear. “Just needed a nap before I meet a friend.” His yawn closes to a grin when his obsidian gaze falls on the painting. “You finished it?”
“Sure did,” I reply as I begin to wash the paint-covered brushes. “Come have a look.”
Dominic sets his hands on his hips and studies the canvas. “To be fair, ruining this would have been a pity. This is stunning, Jocelyn.”
“It better be.” I sigh. “That’s my third attempt.”
“I’m sure Her Majesty will love it.” Patting me on the shoulder, Dominic adds, “You deserve a break. Could you take something to Iver for me?”
“Running errands counts as a break?” I tease.
Dominic digs in his pocket and pulls out a small wrapped package. “Well, you don’t know how to relax, and it’s pitiful for a seventeen-year-old to stay home on a Friday night. Maybe you’ll find inspiration for your last painting.”
I take the parcel. “How is a nightclub going to inspire me to paint the Queen of Faerie?”
Dominic shrugs. “You tell me. You’re the artist.” He points to my shirt. “Change first, please. You know how we folk are about appearances.”
“Paint-spatter and turpentine aren’t all the rage in the Faerie Realm?”
“Not at the moment, no,” Dominic replies crisply.
I quickly change into clean jeans and a black T-shirt, barely noticing the large scar on my chest shaped like deadly nightshade; its badass aura wore off a while ago. It’s the only real noticeable mark left on my body. The scars from last summer’s car accident, the beginning of all this faerie craziness, have mostly faded.
After my mother and I swerved to miss a small figure in the road early last spring, everyone told me it was a fawn, or maybe a lost bear cub. Neither of those walk upright on twig-like legs with a hunched back, so I went looking for answers shortly after being released from the hospital. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto a whole hidden world of strange creatures, including the Queen of Faerie herself. And, lucky me, she was in a bargain-making mood. Unlucky me, she likes to physically mark those she makes a deal with. Apparently a simple signature isn’t binding enough.
A metal cross hangs around my neck. My sister, Annalise, gave it to me before I moved to Grand Harbor, supposedly to enroll in an intensive art program for high school seniors. In reality I’m here under the queen’s orders since it’s the closest human town to the Faerie Court. I’m only an hour away from them, but they feel a world away sometimes. It’s better than Her Majesty’s original idea of making me live with her at court, I guess. Dominic stepped up and offered to look after me, thank God. I don’t like to think about the kind of life I’d be living now if he hadn’t. All I know is that it would be the farthest thing from a fairy tale.
I look in the bathroom mirror long enough to rake a comb through my hair. Light blue eyes that match my dad’s stare back. I’ve got his thin Anglo features too, but with a softer jaw, longer lashes, and a slender figure. Mom always said he was good looking and I guess I am too, except in a girlish sort of way. Emphasis on the “ish.” My shaggy pixie cut, lack of makeup and simple wardrobe prevent me from being labeled anything close to “girly.” That’s okay, though. I’ve also got my dad’s killer sense of humor to help me get the ladies.
I mean, it hasn’t helped me lately, but it will one day. Mark my words.
Downstairs, Dominic skims his vast collection of herbs and spices. There are so many jars, bags, and boxes that I hardly remember what the counter looks like. “Care for some tea?” he asks.
“No, thanks,” I reply, hunting for my tiny leather satchel and keys. They’re on the table. The only photos in the house catch my eye as I slip them into my pocket.
Nine-year-old me took the first, so it’s crooked. I took it in our backyard. Annalise stands behind my mother in a bright yellow dress and weaves flowers into Mom’s hair. A temporary unicorn tattoo glitters on her chubby cheek. My mom kneels in a matching dress with her crow’s feet revealing how often she used to laugh. I hope she still laughs like that once she wakes up .
The other photo is of my dad. He sits at a picnic table wearing flannel and denim, warming his hands by a campfire as he grins at the camera. Our hair even seems to fall in our faces the same way.
He died of leukemia shortly after I turned thirteen. Annalise was ten.
He would never let us know how much the disease ate at him. Even toward the end, when he couldn’t even sit up, he’d crack jokes and tell stories. He only got serious when we were leaving the hospital. He would always say, “You’re in charge till I get back, Jocelyn. Take good care of your mom and sister for me.”
Safe to say I wasn’t the best woman for the job.
Tay grew up reading too many fairy tales and watching too many movies, which is probably why she writes fantasy now.
When she’s not at her day job or writing, she can be found taking spontaneous drives to new places, and drinking way too much coffee. Her first book, “Portraits of a Faerie Queen,” is now available from NineStar Press.