SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST (Book 1, Fey Realm)
by Jody Wallace
First released by Samhain Publishing, July 2008
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Length: Novel (103K)
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No magic for two weeks? What’s a fairy to do? Go to Vegas, of course!
Princess Talista of the fairy clan Serendipity has been sent, like all young fairies, to a remote forest in humanspace for mandatory survival training. But headstrong Tali’s got different ideas about where to spend two weeks without magic. What better place than Las Vegas to learn to live like humans, a true test of survival?
Tali might not blend, but she’d like to be shaken and stirred with stage magician Jake Story. Their attraction is instant and electric…and Tali senses there’s more to Jake’s show than flashy tricks.
Jake always knew he was different, even before he developed an unusual flair for hypnotism. He has no trouble mesmerizing the luscious Tali during act three, but the lights that appear around them when they kiss weren’t part of the program.
When the authorities from Tali’s homeland track the missing princess to Vegas, Jake and Tali end up on the run. In between magic experiments, evil gnomes and astonishing sex, Tali learns what it really means to be human—by falling in lust, followed closely by love.
But Tali’s not human. And Jake doesn’t believe in fairies. The truth will either bind them together—or tear the fairy realm apart.
Warning, this title contains the following: Intoxicating sex, misuse of magic, gorgeous cross-dressers and flesh-eating gnomes.
Note: Survival of the Fairest was nominated for a 2008 CAPA from The Romance Studio, awarded by the reviewers at TRS for their top picks in romance fiction.
Fey Realm #2: One Thousand Kisses
**** An excerpt from SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST *****
“I need a new tooth.”
Talista, Crown Princess of the fairy Clan Serendipity, dropped the last of the bribe onto her twin’s rosewood dressing table. The spell chits represented half her savings and her sister probably wouldn’t take them, but she had to try. “Will you be my tooth fairy?”
Anisette eyed her warily from the edge of the canopy bed, brush mid-stroke down her long auburn hair. “I thought you just had a physical.”
Tali widened her eyes and tried to look ill-treated. “The Court Healers worked me over for survival training, but they’re not gentle like you.”
“Oh, Tali, you had to remind me. I wish you’d reconsider that training tomorrow.” Ani eased through a tangle, her brush and long fingers working in concert. The rest of her hair rippled like a waterfall down the front of her sapphire-blue gown. She spent more chits on clothing than Tali did, who used most of her credit for, well, bribes, but also human artifacts. “Humanspace is so treacherous, even the remote area where you’re going. What if you run into humans?”
Tali hid a smirk and cradled her jaw. She had every intention of running into humans once she got to the far side of the fairy ring. A registered humanophile like herself. No way was she going to waste this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
She’d probably end up telling Ani everything, but first she’d try to con the new tooth out of her. Trickery was fun, and it might even work.
“I can’t quit now,” she said. “I campaigned too long to be allowed to take survival prep like the rest of the Court trainees. Why should we have different rules?”
“Because there aren’t many fairy twins, Tali.” Ani finished the left side of her hair and started on the right, meticulous as always about her appearance. “Everyone else has more than one birth sibling and they’re not as powerful as we are. You know that. If a second Incident occurs, there’ll be enough people to take care of us.”
“Son of a sevensie, Ani, that’s so snobby. I want to know how to take care of myself.” Tali met Ani’s gaze with conviction she actually did feel, unlike her fake toothache, and shook her finger at her sister. “You should too. Don’t be such a pampered princess.”
Court trainees didn’t get jobs or maintain a household. They spent their days in magic coaching, endless classes and political maneuvering as the young fairies of today prepared to lead the Realm in two hundred years. Even though it wasn’t easy at Court, a girl couldn’t help feeling a little entitled. Most high-level trainees had attitudes like Ani.
But not Tali. She wouldn’t even have pursued the Court as a career, but some fairies—twins—didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Ani began plaiting her hair. “I passed survival prep in Secondary, but I’m not setting foot in humanspace. I don’t want to be separated from the Realm’s magic. The Court thinks you’ll be humbled by the experience, and to me that doesn’t sound pleasant.”
“It’s only for two weeks.” Tali sighed as her sister’s forehead crinkled with worry. Her sister was an earth-water specialist. Maybe those skills were harder to lose than the air-ether combination Tali possessed. And maybe Ani was a mouse. “Anybody can live without magic for two weeks.”
Ani allowed her hair to unweave and plucked some leaf bits from Tali’s skirts. Tali sensed anxiety slip through their sibling bond. “Anything could happen in two weeks,” Ani said quietly. “If you had an accident, I’d—”
“I promise I’ll be fine. Nobody’s ever died during training.”
“Don’t even mention that possibility!”
Fairies lived up to five hundred years, but the reality of premature death had struck their race thirty years ago when magic disappeared from the Realm. It returned, but not before great hardship and chaos swept through the magically dependent fairy clans. Clan Serendipity had plenty of fairies with little native power accustomed to physical labor who sustained the ones reliant on magic, but other clans hadn’t been so lucky.
Now most fairies took basic training, as mandated by the Court. Just in case.
Tali hopped onto the bed beside her sister and propped a foot on the pink bedspread. Her too-short skirts hiked up to reveal ratty pantaloons. “Whatever happens, I’ll survive it. That foursie got pregnant, sure, but that’s what she gets for messing around with another Fey in a place with no magic. She should have found herself a human—and you know what they say about human men.”
Ani raised an eyebrow. “Yes, but I’m surprised you do. You don’t even follow the Thousand Kisses.” She adjusted Tali’s skirt to cover her undergarments; Ani always fidgeted when she was anxious.
“Just because I’m not bedding every fellow I meet in hopes of finding a bondmate doesn’t mean I’m ignorant.” Sure, the rare fairy found a bondmate during bed-hopping and the Thousand Kisses was designed to increase the odds, but most fairies mated without the bond. Her reluctance to accept bed partners had given her a certain reputation, but she had her reasons.
“I just don’t think you know enough about humanspace to go there. Other bad things could happen to you there. You could be injured. Or get sick.”
“You do realize it’s me and seven other dorks, I mean, trainees, right?” Dorks Tali intended to shed like cat hair in the spring. “I won’t be over there alone. I just hope this toothache doesn’t flare up.” She laid her fingers along her jaw again. “If they hadn’t quit running the humanspace tours after the Incident, this would be a moot point.”
Ani’s blue eyes narrowed. “You’re up to something.”
It had taken her this long to figure that out? Her sister was usually more insightful.
“You’re supposed to go to the Court Healers for medical complaints,” Ani continued. “I’m not supposed to heal you behind their backs any more.”
Tali shifted so she faced her sister. What she had in mind was going to take some convincing, though she was determined to get her way.
She always did.
“They’re the ones who messed me up!” She opened her mouth and pointed at a back molar. “My toof hurts,” she said, finger in mouth. “Haf pity.”
Ani conjured a small light and peered into Tali’s mouth. “That’s not even a tooth. That’s your emergency spellglobe. What’s wrong with it?”
All fairies sent to humanspace were implanted with a concealed globe in case of serious injury or discovery by humans. Nothing extravagant, just a tiny one with enough power for them to transport to the closest fairy ring. But Tali had other plans for it.
She removed her finger and wiped it on her brown skirt. “It’s not strong enough.”
Ani doused the light and placed the hairbrush on her dressing table with a sharp click. “What do you mean?”
Tali could do two things here. She could play on her sister’s fears for Tali’s safety—twins were so closely bound that what affected one affected the other—or she could tell Ani the truth.
She picked the truth, so at least one person in the two worlds would know her whereabouts.
“It’s like this. I’m going to transport myself to human civilization when I get there.”
Ani’s mouth dropped open. “By the six spirits! You can’t do that. Your spellglobe’s not…” Her mouth closed and her pink lips, usually so smiling and gentle, firmed. “I am not giving you a new tooth.”
Anisette, Tali reflected, was definitely the chicken half of their twinning. Tali was the windstorm half, and everybody knew what happened to chickens in windstorms.
“If you don’t, sister, I’ll just find another way to a human city that might be less safe. The instructors will check me for smuggled spellglobes everywhere else I’m willing to hide one.” She waggled her eyebrows, but Ani didn’t smile.
“No, it’s not. I’ll have the exact same equipment as the other trainees. Some pots and pans, a knife, a really lame tent and a disguised transport tooth for emergencies. Oh, and my luxury item.” She grinned. “I’ll be taking my collection of human money.”
Ani shot up and paced to the other side of her bedchamber, decorated with bright, elaborate tapestries of leprechaun manufacture. Her slippered feet made no noise on the thick rugs covering the stone floor.
“This has got to be your most idiotic…” She spluttered. “Only researchers are allowed into humanspace. You’re not trained to mingle with humans. Are you hag-fried?”
Tali clicked her teeth together twice and watched Ani pace. Unless she mentally “squeezed” her emergency globe, it would function like a normal tooth. “Want to know my theory?”
“True survival training should be learning to blend with humans, not mucking around in the wilderness with tents and germy water. Why else would they make us learn English? In case the magic disappears and we all emigrate, where we can access human medicine and technology until the Incident passes. If it passes. They still don’t have any idea what caused it.”
“The Elders say it was isolated.” Ani paused by the window and twitched the curtains aside. All trainee rooms on this side of the castle dormitory overlooked the expansive gardens. A bar of late afternoon sunlight warmed Ani’s pale features. “Permanent blending is a New Expansionist theory and nothing more. No sane fairy would want to live with humans any longer than she had to.”
“So what if it’s Nexie? It’s still true.” Tali laughed and waved her hand in the air. “Think about it. Can you see His Haughtiness, Elder Embor, living in a remote forest?”
Ani wrapped her arms around herself and leaned against the narrow windowsill. “I’m sure if he did, his tent would be flawless. Then he’d find some reason to criticize everyone else’s.”
One of the two Primaries who presided over the Elder Court and thus the Realm, Elder Embor seemed to have made it his secondary purpose in life to vulture their every move. Though not old in fairy terms, his status at Court, his role as the epitome of fairy discipline, had turned him into a humorless geezer two hundred years ahead of time. Tali thought he was a pompous ass. For some reason, Ani feared him.
Tali dug her toes into Ani’s soft bedspread, rucking up the smooth fabric. “Why do you think the Court researches humans? It’s not so they can contribute articles to HumanWatch Monthly, no matter how many subscribers it has.”
Ani’s shoulders lifted in a shrug. “In case humans stumble across the Realm. We need to keep abreast of our neighbors. Humans are, after all, a barbaric and warlike race.”
Not to mention exciting and vital, Tali thought. Not to mention rich with opportunity and free from the constraints of birth status.
“You’re such a worry bump.” She rolled off Ani’s bed in a flurry of skirts. She was never going to get her high-powered tooth this way. Time to change tactics—she had an adventure to conduct and fascinating human secrets to unveil.
“If researchers can mingle with humans, I can too. I’m a humanophile, after all.”
“You flunked human studies in Secondary. And they don’t teach us everything, just enough to understand humans as a species.”
Tali stuck her hand on her hip. “I flunked one semester on mating customs. Useless class. Sex with humans is nothing but recreation. I want to find out about science and technology.”
Ani replaced the curtain and faced Tali. “It doesn’t matter that we can’t catch a child from a human. Courtship and family dynamics are vital indicators of a race’s nature.”
Think, Tali, think. What could she say to reassure her sister that she’d be as careful as a cat in a gnome’s den? “I know enough to hole up in a hotel and eat chocolate and tacos and pizza and watch Opera. And learn. How I’ll learn! You’re always telling me to be more serious about my future. Ani, I really want this.”
“I think you mean Oprah.” Ani nibbled her finger, her gaze unfocused.
“You know what else I think? They tell us we can only siphon enough power in a fairy circle to request transport home, but I bet I could find a circle in the city and transport myself. Conjure food. Make myself invisible. I’m stronger than the other fairies who take training. Not that I would, since I’m going there to play human. But I could. I just know it. I’ll get you a present,” she wheedled. “Human clothes. They’re nicer than ours.”
Ani quit chewing on herself, which meant Tali was close to swaying her. She knew this from many years of talking her sister into scrapes or alibis. “The Court says circles are only in isolated areas, not cities.” Ani’s eyelids lowered. “You can’t rely on finding a circle.”
“Circles are everywhere. The Court hides most of them so we can’t pop into humanspace at will and see whatever we want, like Disneyworld and Stonehinges. Even you’ve heard of those, and you don’t read HumanWatch.”
Ani shook her head. “You can’t prove any of this.”
Tali felt her patience, never vast, grow parchment thin. “Nor will I ever be able to, if I can’t experience humanspace. It’s my duty as a future Court member not to miss this rare opportunity. Why waste it rubbing sticks together to make fire?”
“The instructors give you a flint,” Ani muttered.
“You know what I mean.” Tali crossed her arms over her chest, echoing Ani’s posture, and glared.
They stared at one another for a long moment.
Ani spoke first. “If you find a way to do this, you’ll get in so much trouble when the Elders find out. They’ll sevendust you again, and you know how dreadful that is.”
Tali tossed her hair out of her face. Unlike Ani’s, hers was bright red and difficult to comb through. “It’ll be worth it. I won’t tell them you switched my tooth. There’s no way you’ll be involved.” She tapped her forehead with two fingers. “Court’s honor.”
“What about separation sickness?”
“I won’t be there long enough to suffer from the absence of magic. It’s only two weeks,” Tali repeated. “Two itty-bitty weeks.”
“I sometimes wonder if you’re daring the Elders to kick you out of Court.” Ani rubbed the bridge of her nose. “You’re going to do this whether I help you or not, aren’t you?”
Tali clapped her hands with glee. “Thank you, Ani! You won’t regret this. I’ll tell you everything I find out and then we’ll both be better informed.”
“I’d rather not know some of the things you find out,” Ani commented dryly. “If I do this, you can’t eavesdrop on the Elders for a whole month after you get back.”
“Done,” Tali agreed. “No sneaking for a month. Just make sure my tooth is the kind of globe that doesn’t dissolve in humanspace.” She’d probably get sevendusted when she returned, like Ani said, which would leave her temporarily without magic anyway. She’d hardly get away with eavesdropping on the Court without her powers to facilitate it.
Ani flexed her slender fingers. Through the bond siblings shared, Tali could feel her twin calm her mind and prepare herself for the intense, precise magic required to switch out the false tooth. “Do you really think you can get away with this?” Ani asked.
“The survival instructions say trainees are to use the equipment they’re given to survive as best they can. The best way I can survive is in a luxury hotel. After all, nobody told me I couldn’t go to Las Vegas.”
© 2008 Jody Wallace