Chapter 1


         She's late, Razi thought. Kala is never late, especially when she has a commission check to pick up. Kala had sold a whopping five pieces of artwork this month, more than she'd ever sold at one time, so her check was a big one.

         Razi propped her chin on her left hand, her right gently curled around a warm mug full of chai latte with a liberal dash of cream. Almost invisible steam curled up from the chipped white mug, the smell of spices rising with it to tickle her nose.  She gazed out from the counter at the few customers sitting in chairs drinking their coffee. The usual red-eye crowd was here tonight. Ron was playing an MMO on one of the three computers tucked against the back wall, Jodie was curled up on the worn green couch reading one of the old books scattered throughout the coffee shop, and Ryan was around here somewhere, probably in the back courtyard, probably smoking some kind of illegal something.

The overnight shift suited Razi, who'd always been more comfortable creeping around after the sun had set. The darkness made her feel safe, hidden. But tonight she was restless. It was all she could do to keep herself from sending Kala a billion texts asking her where the eff she was. Seeing Kala always brightened her day… or night… whatever.

When Kala had first walked through the bright blue doors of Z’ots looking for a chance to sell her artwork around the shop, Razi had been inexplicably drawn to her. Maybe it was Kala’s forceful, carefree attitude. Or maybe it was her eyes. They sparkled when she talked, as if she could see the humor and joy in every bit of life.  

Even though Razi didn’t really have the authority to offer Kala some spots on the wall for her art, she did it anyway. And seeing as there were a grand total of three people in the coffee shop besides them that night, Razi whipped them up some mochas and sat with her on the couch. They talked until the sun came up and parted ways with the promise of a movie, which led to dinner, which led to a sleepover, which led to Razi cornily asking Kala if she’d be her best friend forever.

        Thankfully, there was one thing tonight that helped Razi not go completely insane with the anticipation of seeing Kala. There was a new person in the coffee shop tonight, which by itself was enough to peak Razi’s interest. He'd come in around midnight and gotten a latte, and what intrigued Razi more was that after he took the first sip, he seemed completely astonished by it. Even now he was still taking only the tiniest sips, as if the drink was something precious that needed to be conserved. Weirder still, he'd paid her with really old money printed before World War I, but it looked like the bills had never been used. Razi furtively took the bills and replaced them with her own, just in case they were worth something more than their face value.

         His clothes looked even older than his money. His flamboyant shirt had lace ruffles dripping from the neck and cuffs, and peeking ever so slightly out from the front of his vest and jacket. He would fit right in at a steampunk party. But no one had given him a second look when he'd come in, because all of the other customers were dressed just as eclectically. Vintage is so in right now. And after all, weird was the norm in New Orleans.

         She, however, had been surreptitiously studying him, not just because of his effortless good looks. His slight face was sharp, sharp cheekbones, sharp nose, sharp mouth. His raven-dark hair was tousled as if he never thought about his appearance, and simply took  for granted that he was breathtaking. But there was something else about him that drew her gaze. If she looked hard enough, she could see the edges of him flickering ever so slightly. His outline blurred softly, as if Razi was seeing him through a photographer's filter.

         This Fae's glamour was incredibly well constructed, she mused to herself. Razi’s shoulders and neck were tense with worry that he was here to cause trouble.  She soothed her fears with the observation that he seemed more interested in his coffee than making mischief. Razi decided to leave him alone and stop attempting to see through his well-made glamour, partly because successfully unraveling his spell would involve her staring at him for a creepy amount of time.

             Seeing the Fae made her think of her Fairy father. I wonder what he’s up to, she thought. He was probably focused on one of his many tinkering projects. He loved to take things apart and put them back together in strange new ways. Sometimes he got so wrapped up in his work, he didn’t even notice when a whole year had passed, though when you’re immortal, time seems less important. Razi hadn’t seen him in person since before her mom died. Now that she was gone, Razi had a feeling she’d never learn exactly how a Fae had ended falling in love and having a child with a human. Her father had been even more distant than usual lately. Feeling nostalgic for the grove she played in as a child, Razi unfocused her eyes and started the slow process of peering into the Fae realm. Luckily for her, there was a doorway to Faerie just a few blocks away from Z'otz, which made it much easier for Razi to see between worlds. Even when she was far away from an entrance, she could still feel Faerie calling to her, urging her to come back. But the call was a subtle one, one she'd been living with her whole life, and was used to ignoring.

         For her, seeing through the worlds was like peeling back layers of gauze. With each layer, Faerie became just a little bit clearer. It was delicate work that took time and patience. Go too fast, and all the layers slipped out of her grasp, landing her back at square one. She kept at it, delicately stripping away the layers until she could see her dad's grove.