woman relented as the little girl whined, her wings down in a pitiful display. “But you’re going to eat twice as much tonight!”
    “Thank you, Mama!” she chimed out, and Jenks watched for birds until she reached her brothers and sisters, already buzzing in and out of his new office.
    Happy, Jenks settled himself beside Matalina, thinking she was beautiful out here in the dappled sun. She handed him a sweetball, and he took it, pulling her close to make her giggle. “I’d rather have you,” he said, stealing a kiss.
    “Jenks,” she fussed, clearly liking the attention. “I’m pleased it ended well.”
    A flash of guilt darkened his wings. “Yeah, as long as Sylvan doesn’t come back and Rachel doesn’t find out,” he said, gaze going to his kids as they doused Jumoke in pollen from an early dandelion, temporally turning him blond until he shook himself.
    “You’re such the worrier,” Matalina teased. “Let the future take care of itself. Vincet’s family is safe, and Jumoke is considering a career outside the garden. I’m proud of you.”
    He turned to her, his guilt easing. “You think it will be okay?” he said, and she leaned in, putting her arms around his neck and her forehead against his.
    “I’m sure of it. That dryad is long gone. No need to worry.”
    Jenks sighed, feeling a knot untying, but still…“How do you like the office?” he asked, trying to change the subject. “I’ll get a little bell and they can ring it. I don’t think anyone will come, anyway.”
    Matalina smiled as a shaft of light found her face. “They’ll come, Jenks. Just you wait.”
    The sound of one of their children wailing drifted to them, and together they sighed.
    “Not today, though,” Jenks said, giving her a kiss before he took to the air, his hands leaving hers reluctantly. “Today, I belong entirely to you.”
    And, happy, he rose up, scanning his garden, assessing in an instant what had happened and darting down to make things right.
    It was what he did. It was what he always did. And it was what he would always do.

Jeaniene Frost

    February 16, 2004
    New Orleans
    E ric swallowed the last of his beer and then set the empty bottle on the sidewalk.
Not my fault there isn’t a trash can nearby
, he thought, ignoring the glare the tour guide gave him. The brunette off to his right didn’t seem to mind. She smiled at him in a way that made him glad he’d blown off his buddies to take this stupid haunted tour.
    “…in front of us is the LaLaurie house,” the guide went on, gesturing to the big gray structure on the corner of Royal Street. “This is reputedly one of the most haunted places in the French Quarter. Here, in the mid—eighteen hundreds, an untold number of slaves were tortured and murdered by Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife, Delphine…”
    Eric sidled closer to the hot brunette, who didn’t seem to be paying any more attention to the guide than he was. She was thin, the way he liked ’em, and though her tits weren’t big, she had great legs and a nice ass. Her face was pretty, too, now that he noticed.
    “Hey. I’m Eric. ’S your name?” he asked, fighting back his slur.
Smile. Look interested.
    “Where are your friends?” she asked. She had an accent that sounded French, and it was a weird question. But she smiled when she said it, her eyes raking over him in a way that woke his cock up.
    “They’re at Pat O’Brien’s,” Eric said, with a vague wave. The guide was glaring at him more pointedly now, going on about the LaLauries’ medical experiments on their slaves and other weird, gross shit he didn’t want to listen to. “You wanna grab a drink?”
    The brunette came closer, until she was right next to him and her nipples practically brushed his chest. “I’m in the mood for more than a drink. Aren’t you?”
    Oh yeah. He had definite liftoff in his pants. “Baby, like you wouldn’t believe.”
    Eric glanced around to find a few people

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