The first chapter of my urban fantasy book Coffee and Faerie Cakes, which also works as a short one-shot.
Nowadays hardly anyone notices if you’re of faerie descent and Jeanne has no trouble whatsoever running a nice little café in Paris. They keep their magic in check, save the occasional splash of comfort in the coffee or a dusting of joy on the pastries, and are happy with simply observing their mortal customers without ever giving themself away.
At least that’s how it was, before a young man waltzed in who is just a bit too pretty and definitely a bit too light-fingered. Rule number one: never steal from a faerie.
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[Gentle theme music]
Laura: Hi, you can call me Laura, I’m here to tell you a story if you like. For this special episode of Patchwork Fairy Tales I’d like to read you the first chapter of my urban fantasy book Coffee and Faerie Cakes, which was originally intended as a short story. I hope you enjoy it, and remember: never steal from a faerie.
Coffee and Faerie Cakes, by Laura Simons
On the whole, faerie heritage was quite easy to hide. Nowadays most people tried to pretend that anyone of that kind had died out anyway. Nobody could deny they had existed once, but that didn’t stop people from saying that they didn’t exist anymore. That was advantageous. It’s much easier to hide in plain sight if the people looking don’t really want to see you.
Jeanne knows that the average customer would rather not believe in fae and they take full advantage of that. Their little café is as popular as it is tiny and most of the regulars have no idea that it’s the magic in the food and drink that keeps them coming back. Not that Jeanne actually makes them come back. They don’t lay spells on people, they pride themself in that. All they use is a little glamour…and a little glamour goes a long way. Some of the customers do actually taste the burst of happiness Jeanne bakes into their pastries, but that doesn’t mean that they can tell the difference between faerie magic and the other glimpses of ancient power that some people are still born with.
Which is good, because when they do believe in it, faerie magic freaks people out. Jeanne doesn’t resent this, but it does make them smile sometimes. Or the way people talk about it does at least. The days of faerie rings are long gone. They have never lived in a grassy mound with a hawthorn growing on its top. They live in a little apartment above their café, like so many people do. And they don’t wish themself back in the old days either. Jeanne likes the city and they love their shop.
Because faeries make deals, that’s what they’re all about, and Jeanne makes a deal with every customer that walks through their door. They offer the shimmer of the silver and gold that they earned and Jeanne gives them the food and drink they crafted with their own hands. That is the deal and Jeanne honours it, for a faerie is never in debt. This way they can make countless deals, countless trades a day. They smile at every customer and everyone smiles back, because far away in their mortal subconscious, they know they ought to. It’s wonderful. Jeanne loves their life among the mortals. Loves to be surrounded by the bustle of the city. And adores to see the same happy faces coming back to their counter week after week.
They have favourites, of course. The three young men that come in with laptops, books and pamphlets every Friday for instance. They are always friendly, always full of conversation, and their backpacks are adorned with pride buttons. Jeanne likes them. Just like they’re always pleased to see the two girls that treat each other to scones most Wednesdays. They are here again today. Jeanne is watching them laugh and talk together. One of them, a tall brunette, is nicknamed Principessa, Jeanne has learned. She always comes in with a lovely plump girl with bubble-gum-pink hair, who they presume is her girlfriend. Or girlfriend-to-be, perhaps. Jeanne is still discretely watching them when the shop bell rings and a small crowd of semi-regulars comes in. Jeanne turns back to the counter, smile at the ready, when they stop breathing for a full second.
Coming in behind the group of chattering women is the prettiest mortal Jeanne has ever seen. For a moment they doubt whether he really is mortal, so graceful are his movements. The young man is tall, clad all in black, and has such a striking combination of fair skin and dark features that it makes Jeanne’s heart ache. He moves with ease and confidence and the faint smirk around his lips looks as if it never leaves him.
“Luce!” Principessa suddenly calls out.
The smirk turns into a grin as the young man joins her table, kissing both her and the pink-haired girl on the cheek in greeting and suddenly Jeanne understands. For the first time in their life they know why their ancestors played their flutes in the dark woods just at the edge of hearing and wove spells in the moonlight. Because of mortals like this.
It takes all their willpower to serve their customers with a tolerable appearance of care and attention, because the young man named Luce has risen from his seat and is joining the queue. They try to keep their eyes on the hot chocolates they’re making, but the tall, dark shape is still at the edge of their vision.
The three women that placed the order are still counting out their money when Luce steps past them and leans on the counter.
“Double espresso, please,” he says.
“Nothing else?” Jeanne asks, their eyes firmly fixed on him now that they finally have an excuse. His eyes are green. So green…
Luce glances over the various piles of freshly baked goods displayed both on the counter and behind the glass and shakes his head. “No thanks.”
Jeanne would be offended, but that grin…
“I’ll get you your coffee then,” they say, turning away. When they turn back, Luce is still leaning against the counter nonchalantly, while the women laughingly hand over a handful of coins.
“We always forget to hit the ATM before we come here.”
Jeanne’s café is the last cash-only place left on the block. Because it’s the shimmer that counts as well as the value and even paper money has a glitter to it.
“It’s really Manou’s fault this time,” one of them says conversationally, but Jeanne isn’t listening.
Luckily they don’t seem to mind. They move to a table by the window, chatting happily all the while.
“Here’s your espresso,” Jeanne says, turning back to Luce.
He takes his hands out of the pockets of his leather jacket. It looks expensive. Jeanne doesn’t like leather much, but he wears it well. Very well. “Thanks,” he hums and he flashes them another grin.
Jeanne watches him take the cup and walk back to his friends. They barely manage to swallow a sigh. No spells. They aren’t allowed any spells. Not even a little hint of magic mixed into the coffee to suggest coming back. They promised themself they’d never do that, to anyone…
Soberly they return to stacking the clean cups. Every now and again their eyes inevitably drift in the direction of the table where Luce sits with the two girls. They seem to be having a good time, only Luce is sitting with his back to the counter, so Jeanne can’t really tell. After a while the two girls get up.
Jeanne lets out a breath. He’s leaving and the thought alone makes them miserable, but at least they’ll get to see his face again as he turns.
To their surprise, however, Luce hesitates and then shakes his head. “You go ahead.”
Jeanne feels a flutter in their stomach. He is staying behind? Alone?
“Okay,” Principessa shrugs. “See you!” And she leaves with her pink-haired companion.
Luce seems to shift in his seat uncomfortably, but then he chooses a new spot in the corner and picks up one of the magazines scattered around the tables. Jeanne considers going up to him to ask if he wants something else to drink, but they decide against it.
Customers come and go, the chatty trio of women leaves, and still Luce remains. Sometimes he gets up and walks through the café as if he’s about to leave…but then he doesn’t. Jeanne is watching him more often than not now, but Luce never looks in their direction.
“Enjoy your muffins!” Jeanne smiles at the old man with the friendly eyes that comes in once a week just to buy some pastries to take home. They’re pretty sure he buys them for his sister.
“We always do,” the man replies happily and he gently closes the door behind him, leaving the café empty for the first time that day.
Well, empty apart from Luce, who is still sitting in the corner. Jeanne makes a decision and speaks up:
“Hey, can I get you anything? I do sandwiches too…”
Luce’s head snaps up from the magazine that he clearly hasn’t actually been reading, because he hasn’t progressed at all. He tensely glances around the now deserted café and then quickly gets to his feet. “No,” he says, his voice oddly strained. “You can’t get me anything. You can do something for me.”
Jeanne raises their eyebrows. They’re not sure they like that tone of voice. Pretty as he may be, he does not get to order them about. “And what might that be?” they say, crossing their arms.
Luce walks up to the counter with long, almost threatening strides. “Let me leave,” he says roughly.
Jeanne blinks in surprise. “Let you–”
“I can’t leave,” Luce snaps. “You did something to me. I can feel it.”
A spark of panic ignites in Jeanne’s chest and they hurriedly feel around for their own magic. They hadn’t– They couldn’t have. Weaving a spell takes effort and concentration, they couldn’t have done it unconsciously.
“You can look sweet all you want, I’ve been to the hidden places in Paris,” Luce growls, leaning towards Jeanne across the counter. “I know magic when I feel it.”
Jeanne lifts their eyes to his and something clicks. When they speak again their voice is sunk, suddenly calm and nearly triumphant. This isn’t their fault. “Then you should have known better,” they say deliberately, “than to steal from a faerie.”
Luce’s eyes widen and Jeanne feels their cheeks burn. They shouldn’t have said that. It’s an utterly stupid thing to do. But this guy has no right to come in here with his too green eyes and his too perfect smirk and accuse them of spellbinding while he is the one that stole from them.
“I…” Luce begins and then he draws back, running a hand through his hair as he steps away.
Jeanne can tell that he’s shocked, but he is not as shocked as he could have been. Obviously the existence of faeries is not a surprise to him, just that he happens to be stuck with one at the moment. A flutter of curiosity shimmers through their other feelings for a second. How does he know? Who told him fae still live among mortals? More importantly, what made him believe it?
Their thoughts scatter in the face of Luce’s conflicted grimace. “I took a damn muffin,” he says finally.
“Freshly baked lemon-curd muffin,” Jeanne corrects smugly. “And it doesn’t matter what you stole. You stole from me. You broke the deal.”
“What deal?” Luce groans. He’s still standing a few paces away, full of very belated caution.
“You took coffee and a muffin,” Jeanne says accusingly. “You only paid for coffee.” They smile at Luce and they use their actual faerie smile for once. “You have a debt.”
One corner of Luce’s mouth twitches and Jeanne can’t help but notice that he is neither actually angry nor really afraid. If anything he look slightly amused now. He’s uncommonly cocky in the face of all this.
“Fine,” he says and he comes back, closing the distance until it’s once again only the counter between them. “Then I’ll pay. How much are they?”
Jeanne scoffs and shakes their head. Now it’s their turn for amusement. “It doesn’t work like that. A contract broken can’t be mended that easily.”
“So I’ll pay you more,” Luce says, spreading his hands against the counter. He smirks. “Or are you just trying to keep me here, fae?”
“You can call me Jeanne,” Jeanne says pointedly. “And don’t blame me for your thieving fingers.”
The smirk wavers a little. “Look,” Luce sighs. “I’m sorry, alright? Force of habit…” He gives Jeanne a slightly gentler look. “How can I repay my debt?”
It’s not much of an apology, but Jeanne is willing to take it. That doesn’t mean they need to be entirely helpful however. “We’d have to make a new deal,” they say airily. “You give me something in return for your freedom…”
“My freedom,” Luce scoffs, but the shine in Jeanne’s eyes is dead serious.
“That’s what’s at stake here, isn’t it?” they say and they flash Luce another smile. He really is a little too confident. “And I don’t have to let you go…” they add. “Maybe I could use some help around the kitchen.”
Now there actually is a shimmer of nervousness on Luce’s face, but it’s immediately buried under a sneering smile. “You can make me stay, but you can’t make me work,” he says.
“True,” Jeanne hums. “And you’d probably be rubbish at it anyway.”
Luce opens his mouth in an offended manner, but Jeanne interrupts him.
“So, what are you willing to give in exchange for your freedom?” they ask teasingly. “Are you a traditionalist? There’s always firstborn children…or the ability to speak…”
Luce doesn’t answer that, but he is neither sneering nor smirking anymore.
“Or…” Jeanne hums, really enjoying themself now. “Something smaller, like the colour of your eyes, or the darkest shade of black from your shadow…”
“You’re not serious, right?” His expression has grown very uncomfortable.
Jeanne snorts and that sound alone is enough to dispel the tension in the air. “Of course I’m not!” they say, in a kinder tone of voice. “But I don’t hear you making any offers.”
“It’s not like I know what would be a proper price,” he grumbles, looking away, and for a moment he looks a little younger. Slightly softer around the edges.
“And here I thought you knew so much about magic,” Jeanne teases. “There’s all sorts of things you could give me. An object you made with your own hands, a secret you’ve never told anyone.” They wave their hands about, trying to think of something else. Something that means enough to break a binding. “It could be anything, as long as it’s worth something. A word you’ve never spoken before, a tear shed for joy.” They smile again, because they haven’t felt this fae in a long time, and add playfully: “A kiss…”
The green eyes spark. “Really?” Luce grins. “Why didn’t you lead with that?”
And before Jeanne can even say a word in reply, he curls his slender fingers around the front of their apron and, leaning across the counter, presses his lips to theirs. Warm and soft and startlingly sudden.
Jeanne’s eyes open wide in shock as Luce’s close for a moment. Then he opens them again and pulls away.
“There,” he grins.
Jeanne gapes at him. “You can’t do that!” they blurt out. If ‘never make a deal you can’t keep’ is rule number one, ‘never kiss a faerie’ is definitely rule number two. Their heart is racing and the twinkling lights in Luce’s eyes aren’t helping. “I could have stolen your soul,” they breathe, mildly horrified.
“Maybe,” Luce grins. “But you wouldn’t.” He chuckles. “Takes a thief to know one, and you’re not.”
Jeanne shakes their head helplessly and straightens their apron.
“So,” Luce smirks, leaning comfortably on the counter. “Is my debt repaid?”
“Yes,” Jeanne mutters, trying to will the blush out of their cheeks. “You’re free to leave.”
“And free to come back, right?” Luce says, smiling slowly. “Because I think I’d rather like to come back…”
Jeanne folds their arms again and hides their confusion of feelings behind a stern look. “Do whatever you like,” they say. “Just try not to steal anything next time.”
“Oh I don’t know…” Luce muses. “If this is the only penalty…”
“A faerie never exchanges the same thing twice,” Jeanne warns him seriously.
“Pity,” Luce sighs. “I’ll keep my hands to myself from now on then.” He turns around and strolls to the exit, as calmly as if he’s not even slightly anxious whether he’ll actually be able to leave. “Au revoir,” he chuckles softly.
“Bonsoir, Luce,” Jeanne replies and all their mixed feelings of flustered indignation and reluctant admiration are clearly audible in their voice.
“Actually,” Luce grins, turning back in the doorway. “It’s Lucien.” He winks and lets the door slam shut behind him.
Jeanne stares at his retreating form through the glass pane. They stand glued to their spot behind the counter until he is completely out of sight. Then, slowly breaking through the genuine shock, a smile starts spreading across their freckled face.
Rule number three: never give a faerie your true name…
Laura: I really hope you enjoyed that! If you did, you can download the full book for free on books2read.com/coffeandfaeriecakes. And that is 2 as the number two and faerie cakes with f-a-e-r-i-e cakes. Or do you think this should be an entire audiobook? I might do that when I have run out of fairy tales. Let me know what you think on firstname.lastname@example.org or laurasimonsdaughter.tumblr.com.
There’s another tale to tell soon, but until then…
Never steal from a faerie, never kiss a faerie, never give a faerie your true name, and be safe~
Copyright Laura Simons, please do not copy my stories without my permission, lest you insult the fae.