Read Under the Bridge Online

Authors: Autumn Dawn

Tags: #urban fantasy, #paranormal romance, #shapeshifter, #fae, #troll, #pixie

Under the Bridge

 

Under the Bridge

 

By

Autumn Dawn

 

 

SMASHWORDS EDITION

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

PUBLISHED BY:

Autumn Dawn

 

Under the Bridge

Copyright © 2011 by Autumn Dawn

www.autumndawnbooks.com

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the
rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the
prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above
publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author
acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various
products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used
without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not
authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark
owners.

* * * * *

 

 

 

 

Preface

 

A freshly slaughtered animal has a
distinctive smell. It’s not like supermarket chicken; bland, washed
and neatly packaged. If it weren’t for the label, a girl might not
even realize the two were kissing cousins.

No, fresh entrails had a certain musky,
earthy quality, highlighted by the scent of warm fur or feathers.
Anyone who’d ever prepared a farm animal for the table knew that
blood made the hair stick to hands and knives; Elmer couldn’t make
better glue.

And the smell! She could wash her hands,
shower…blood scent took forever to fade.

The troll had made no effort to wash away the
scent of his kill. The carrion stink of it polluted the air, forced
her to breathe through her mouth. Even then, she could almost taste
the rot…

 

 

1. Hush, my darling. It’s only the
boogieman.

 

“Not now, Lance.” Carrie pushed her boyfriend
away, wincing at the alcohol reek of his beer breath. “I’m not
going to make it with you under a bridge.”

There was nowhere to do it, even if she’d
wanted to. The concrete block walls looked cold—she wasn’t going to
let him grope her on the rocky ground, either. She shouldn’t have
let him drag her into the shadows here, but Yasmine had been all
but pasting herself to him earlier, and he hadn’t exactly been
fighting her off. If she wasn’t careful, Carrie was going to lose
him to another cheerleader.

Besides, it stank under here. Smelled like
something had died.

“Don’t be like that, Car,” Lance slurred. He
pushed her up against a boulder, running his hand up under her
short skirt. “Be nice.”

“Lance,” she shoved him, aggravated. “I said
no
.”

He grunted as he pushed her harder against
the rock, fumbling with his fly. “Only take a minute,” he
mumbled.

She fought him in earnest then, angry,
disbelieving. He was really going to do this? This wasn’t going to
happen to her. “I said stop!” She smacked him hard, her palm
stinging.

He reared back, furious. He raised his fist.
“You little b—”

A low growl slid from the shadows under the
bridge. Dark, hungry. A breath of wind brought a choking haze of
stinking air; like the exhalation of a ravenous dragon.

Lance froze. Fist still raised, he looked
slowly over his shoulder—and screamed. The shadows moved, too
swiftly to take in any details. Lance’s scream was abruptly cut off
as an enormous hand reached out of the darkness and closed around
his head. He was jerked into the shadows. There was a loud, wet
crunch
.

Carrie was frozen for perhaps two seconds,
but it was long enough for several things to fly through her
head.

On top of everything else, the most
overwhelming, was icy terror. Lance was dead.

The second was the biological imperative to
run like mad: run or die.

The third came as she was stumbling over the
rocks in her stupid spike heels, in sight of the bonfire with its
mob of milling teenagers. When she thought of the way Lance died,
the last moments of his life, she felt a surge of satisfaction. She
thought, g
ood
.

 

2. Grandma didn’t raise good girls. She said
they had poor survival rates.

 

Billy fingered her Kubotan keychain as she
watched the action on the library steps. The skater flashed a smile
as he jumped his board up on the handrail, grinding the axles of
both trucks on the edge of the stout pipe, raising sparks.

Jason was all right. Not her type, but she’d
give him an A for effort—he was really going all out to attract her
attention. Too bad he was a punk. Flunking his second year of
college as he partied away daddy’s money didn’t impress her. It
made her sick, especially since she had to work her butt off to
afford classes.

Saturdays were not for play, not for Billy.
Saturdays were spent in the library studying, and nights were
crammed with the same. She’d been poor too long to waste a single
moment. At twenty-one, she realized that life would not get better
unless she fought for it. Guys like Jason had daddy’s couch to
crash on if they failed at life. Her family was more likely to
command their couch to
eat
her if she let down her
guard.

She dumped her overdue books into the outdoor
slot and slung a leg over her bike. The hand-me-down Harley growled
as she pulled away from the curb, garnering envious looks from the
overgrown boys with their skateboards. She suspected half of
Jason’s passion was lust for her dad’s old panhead; though she was
willing to concede she looked hot in biker gear.

Hey, it was a fact that chaps made anybody’s
butt look good. Even scrawny ol’ Bubba the mailman could rock in a
set of leathers.

The protective gear was there to prevent road
rash, but it didn’t make her job at the Flower Power Greenhouse any
more glamorous, and it didn’t make her…mom’s… ancient farmhouse
look like Cinderella’s palace. It did make the handful of miles to
her house pass pleasantly, and the Harley dressed up the front
yard.

Not that the five secluded acres needed it;
between her influence and
mom’s
, the land stayed in constant
bloom. Pixies had a way with plants.

She tended to get confused when she thought
of “Gran” and “Mom”, but she was working ruthlessly to drill the
truth home. The pixie that raised her had told her that she was her
grandmother and that her mother and father had died when she was a
child. She did it to confuse any emissaries of her old lover, the
Summer King. If anyone asked, she wanted them to think that Billy
was a mixed-blood grandchild, not a full-blooded daughter, heir to
the throne.

Billy had found out the truth the summer
after high school. Gran had dragged her to Underhill for a little
education. When she tried to leave at the end of summer, Gran and
the “suitor” she’d selected had tried to force Billy to stay. She
wanted Billy impregnated before the Summer King could
interfere.

For the fae, offspring were rare treasures.
As with any treasure, the one who had the most won. Billy had been
the means to producing more treasure. Like any red-blooded modern
girl, she’d objected…with bloody results.

Billy parked in front of the house and
considered the black BMW lurking there. It was fall in Spokane,
early enough that the weather was pleasant. Maura didn’t need the
car heater, so that wasn’t why she sat there on her expensive
leather throne. Since Billy had taken over the house, the property
had become her turf. Maura might be her sister, but she was weaker.
She wouldn’t exit her car until Billy invited her.

Billy let her squirm. Maura had never liked
her, and she showed it in many little ways. Though Billy was
first-born, her mother had drugged her into an enchanted sleep
until Maura could mature and provide an effective decoy for her
baby “niece”. The product of a union with a human, Maura was only a
half-blood; second best in her mother’s eyes.

She’d taken it out on Billy every chance she
got.

Billy waited until Maura’s fingers began to
drum on the steering wheel. “Come out, then. Wait on the porch;
I’ll fetch some tea.” It was even more important to cling to
protocol when another fae was your enemy. Billy offered it now
because she was thirsty. Besides, someday she might need to poison
her.

“How is school going for you? You have
several classes with Carrie, don’t you?”

It was a dig. Time had flown while Billy was
Underhill. When she’d emerged, it had been three years later. Her
mother’s house had been musty with disuse and Maura’s bratty little
girl had aged three years, putting her in the same freshman classes
as Billy. Made in the same mold as her mother, Carrie lived to
aggravate Billy. They got along best when they ignored each
other.

Billy sipped her tea as she waited for Maura
to state her business.

Maura sighed. She sounded frazzled, tired.
“Carrie had a…difficulty last night.”

Billy snorted softly. “Yeah? What’d she do?
Get in a chick fight over her deadhead football player?” She
smirked. Even though she knew Carrie would win such a fight, she
was amused to think of Carrie having to break a nail to defend
herself. Or glory—maybe she’d be sporting a fat lip at school
tomorrow. Though with her face, she’d probably end up looking like
Angelina Jolie. Ugh.

“She ran afoul of a troll. It ate her
boyfriend.”

Whoa! Billy lowered her drink. If Carrie were
dead, Maura wouldn’t be so calm, so she moved on to the next
question. Cautiously, she asked, “Did anyone notice?” It wasn’t as
crazy a question as it sounded. Most humans had a way of blocking
out the supernatural.

“Of course not. Once Carrie collected
herself, she acted as if nothing had happened. As humans do, their
friends came up with their own ideas about the boy’s disappearance.
No scandal will attach itself there. It’s the troll I worry
about.”

Billy considered that. “Trolls stink, right?
How did Carrie miss that?”

Maura’s mouth tightened. “Carrie ignores what
her senses tell her. She’s made such a habit of it that she
probably deluded herself into thinking the smell was just river
stench. Her boyfriend may also have been distracting her. It didn’t
sound as if she would mourn for him.” The rage was unmistakable.
Whatever the boy had done, he’d stirred Maura’s wrath. No one
messed with her child.

He was probably lucky the troll got him.
Pixies were big on revenge.

Billy didn’t worry about what might have
happened. Even as a quarter-blood, Carrie was capable of throwing
some major pixie juju at anyone who ticked her off. She considered
the problem of the troll. “Okay, the troll killed her boyfriend.
They were trespassing. Neither of them paid a toll…” She frowned. A
troll would not take that lightly.

Maura nodded. “I tried to track him down and
offer a forfeit, but he was no longer under the bridge. He may well
decide to hunt for her.” She worried her thumbnail, a nervous habit
she’d mostly broken with expensive manicures.

“I’ve given her some of my good gold to wear.
He may eventually accept it, but he may decide to cause mischief
first. Trolls don’t often leave their haunts, but once they do,
they sometimes linger a while. The hunting is so easy…”

Billy drew a deep breath. If the troll was
the big, bad cat of the fae world, then that made everyone else the
mice. “Maybe it would be easier for Carrie to skip town.”

Maura gave her a hard look. “This is not a
joking matter,” she said sharply. “This is
our
territory. It
belongs to our family. We can’t afford to concede it to a
troll.”

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