Today’s #1lineWed theme is “DECORATE.” I checked all my current WIPs and dang if I could find the word or the idea. So…I pulled this out of my files. It’s a piece I wrote a couple of years ago for a Christmas blog hop and a lot of you might not have seen it–or remembered it. 😆 I hope you enjoy.
So, this Mistletoe Madness thing? Yeah, my writer volunteered me for this gig and my boss, who happens to be Director of the FBI, didn’t give me a choice. In fact, he called me off my current assignment just to show up here. I should introduce myself. I’m Special Agent Sade Marquis. Say-dee. Not Shaw-Day. Not Saud. Say-dee. Don’t ask. It was my mother’s idea of a joke. So was trying to pass me off as the daughter of Oberon, King of the Fae Court. My real dad is just a CPA. Who happens to work for a master vampire. Technically, I guess Mathias is THE master vampire since he’s the Veşnic of the effing Vampyre Conclave. I head up the FBI’S MAGIC unit. When magical crime spills over to affect humans, that’s when we effing take over.
*glances over shoulder* Yeah, yeah. No cussing, Silver. You, Sinjen, Caleb, and Roman all made me promise to keep this effing PG. Where’s Ariel when I need him? Oops. I shouldn’t have said that. The da—er…dang fae always shows up when I least want him around.
So, Mistletoe Madness. It’s all about Christmas. As you can imagine, me growing up in the household of a master vampire led to some interesting Christmas celebrations. There was the time I was six and Caleb appeared under the Christmas tree wearing a big red bow and fur. Werewolves stay furry until they hit puberty so I thought he was my Christmas puppy. And that whole puberty thing? Werewolves don’t really have control of their shifts due to all those raging hormones. So…there was the Christmas when I was fifteen. Now, that’s a good story and it embarrasses the cra—carp out of Caleb. Win-win for me!
Christmas in Mathias’s household was, and still is, boringly traditional. Vampires hid in plain sight back then. Hell, all the magicks did so. I dreaded the annual Christmas party. Myriad sparkling lights lit the mansion from within and without. As a pampered child, I loved the holidays. In my teens? Ugh. Just…ugh. I coated my upswept hair with one more spritz of hairspray, sighed, and with a fake smile firmly fixed on my face, I headed out to confront the dragons. No, not literal dragons. So far as I knew, Mathias didn’t hold court with them. That came later when I got my own pesky dragon stalker.
Anyway, the house was like something out of a magazine. A huge tree, covered in antique glass ornaments and tiny lights, adorned the formal living room. I avoided the people hanging out there and drifted along looking all bored and shi—stuff. A second tree graced the family room. It was just as large as the first but homier, with tinsel, garlands, old-fashioned lights, and mounds of presents heaped beneath it. This was technically the family tree. People lounged on the comfortable furniture, the whispers of their quiet conversations filtering through the soft Christmas music playing through hidden speakers. A few people looked up, waved or nodded, and then ignored me. Yippee.
In the dining room, the table was set with china, antique silver, and crystal to Hoskins’s exacting standards. Hoskins is a stick-up-his-a…arse English butler who’s been with Mathias for a lifetime. He also hates me. The feeling is mutual. Each place setting contained enough china and cutlery to accommodate a full seven-course meal. I did a full-body shudder at the sight. Should I mention I hate formal meals? Oh, I know which fork to use and all that sh—stuff, but that whole clink of silver on china, the sharp tink of crystal glasses? Makes me grit my teeth. *glances at the sexy vampire lounging on the leather couch* You should remember that Sinjen. And stop looking so damn yummy. Now…where was I? Oh, yeah.
People were everywhere, milling around with drinks in their hands, hors d’vours in their mouths, and doing that whole fake kiss-kiss cra-crud. My skin prickled from the level of magic in the air. Damn shit actually created static electricity in the air. Hoskins shuttled from room to room directing the staff. When he announced dinner, all those people channeled like lemmings toward the dining room to mill around the table searching for their names. Hoskins agonized over the sitting arrangements and in previous years, Caleb and I played tag with the place cards, moving them helter-skelter. I got grounded for a week the previous year. Caleb was banished to wolf form and tied up in the yard for the duration. We learned our lessons. Besides, there were more subtle ways to create havoc.
Did I mention this was a formal dinner? That meant I was supposed to be in a gown and Caleb wore a tux. Some of the guests were strictly human—business associates or social acquaintances of Mathias. An old woman who looked like a dowager queen reigned over the event. She’s Aunt Polly to me, though everyone else calls her Dame Apolline. She’s an old friend of the family—old like centuries. There was also a small bevy of unmarried former débutantes who were edging over into the old maid category, sent by their mothers to try to seduce either Mathias or my father.
Nothing about this troubled Mathias. He’d always said débutantes tasted of mimosas and white wine spritzers. He much preferred the rich, earthy tones of a good lager, a single malt scotch, or a dark red Cabernet Sauvignon. Dad, on the other hand, was just baffled by members of the opposite sex, including me. He’d been seduced by my mother and I think he was sort of traumatized by the ensuing war over my custody.
I waited until Caleb finally showed up. He kept tugging at his collar and looked a little green around the gills. He hated mixing with people even more than he hated the tux. Caleb escorted me into the dining room and dude, the reaction! Dad looked stunned, like he didn’t recognize me. I’d refused to wear a formal gown, opting instead for a little black dress—and I do mean little. I’d piled my hair in haphazard curls atop my head. It helped the illusion, along with the high heels so I stood almost six feet tall. I didn’t miss a nuance as people turned to watch. I knew the moment Dad realized his baby girl was all grown up.
Everyone eventually found their places at the table. Caleb even managed to hold my chair for me. The first course? Bacon-wrapped scallops in crispy phyllo pastry cups drizzled with apricot vinaigrette and alder smoked salmon lox with crème fraiche served atop a miniature onion-chervil scone. None of the humans seemed to notice that neither Mathias nor Apolline partook. The staff served steaming bowls of Mediterranean Tomato Bisque, a rich & creamy blend of tomatoes, fresh mint and lemon along with a salad of wild winter greens mixed with spiced pecans, apples, dried berries, and goat cheese crumbles in a forest berry vinaigrette.
Grapefruit sorbet garnished with fresh mint was served—to clear the palate, Mathias once explained when the little kid me asked about ice cream in the middle of dinner. The main course arrived at the table amidst a good deal of pomp and ceremony. Hoskins placed a crowned rib roast surrounded by whole new potatoes caramelized in a sauvignon and butter sauce before Mathias. The vampire made the first cut, carving off a slice and placing it on the plate in front of Apolline. Amidst polite applause and exclamations, Hoskins removed the platter to the sideboard and carved the rest of the roast while maids distributed the plates filled with beef, potatoes and steamed asparagus stalks in a Hollandaise sauce.
Mathias picked up his wine glass, the burgundy in it gleaming dark crimson beneath the subtle glow of the Austrian crystal chandelier. “A toast,” he proposed. “To good friends and family.”
“Hear, hear.” The group murmured in reply, each taking a sip from their glass—all but Caleb. He downed the whole glass of the potent wine in one gulp. I cut my eyes but didn’t say anything. Conversation ebbed and flowed over the main course. The matron on Caleb’s left leaned against him, giving his bad sixteen-year-old wolfy self an excellent view of her cleavage. She whispered something to him and his reply came out as a short bark. I cringed and tried to get Mathias’s attention without being obvious.
I poked Caleb in the side and whispered harshly, “I need to talk you—outside.” Caleb shook his head, a low growl rumbling in his chest. “Caleb,” I insisted, wrapping my hand around his biceps. “Now!” I stood up, attempting to drag Caleb out with me.
The next few minutes blurred. Surprised exclamations and screams mixed with snarls and growls. The sounds of ripping cloth added to the confusion. I felt a brief moment of vertigo and stars danced in front of my eyes. When my vision cleared, Caleb, in his wolf form, sat quietly beside Mathias’s chair at the head of the table. His chair and place setting had been removed and I now sat next to the matron. Mathias fed bites of his roast to Caleb. Glancing around, I realized no one seemed perturbed that a sixteen-year-old boy had just changed into a wolf in their midst. The magicks acted as if nothing had happened and the humans just seemed…dazed.
That was the moment I realized I was different—really and truly different from the rest of humanity. I could see that Mathias and Aunt Polly were different; that Caleb was different. None of the other humans could, not even my father, though he was aware of the fact that Mathias and Apolline were vampires and that Caleb was a werewolf. I could see through the magical glamours the magicks wore.
The revelation so stunned me that I missed what the matron said until Mathias said, “Sade is still three years from her debut.”
I was all sorts of freaked right the hell…o out. “Debut?” I blinked. Repeatedly. “Me?” My voice squeaked. “Uncle Mathias, I am so not débutante material.”
The lady patted my hand. “Nonsense, Sade,” the woman asserted. “When your time comes, and it will—” she broke off to look up the table toward Mathias. “I’ve already nominated our little Sade for the honor, Mathias.” The woman simpered and actually batted her eyelashes at him. “Our little Sade will be a rose among thorns when she’s presented at the summer ball.”
A rose among thorns? Seriously? Gag me with a spoon! Then I freaked out even more. Did the magic world have the equivalent of the human débutante ball? I managed to get through dinner. I inhaled dessert—some sort of hot pudding pie thing—as as soon as the last spoon hit a plate, Caleb and I were out of there. We hid at the top of the stairs the rest of the night and made bets on who would wrangle Mathias under the mistletoe to claim a kiss. No one, it turned out. Not a bad Christmas memory, all things considered, though I did make my entry into formal society. That’s a story for another day.
That’s Sade for you. Do you have any words to decorate the comments with?