Death and Relaxation
Author: Devon Monk
Publisher: Odd House Press
Released: June 20, 2016
Series: Ordinary Magic Series #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
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There, at the back of the place, sat a man in black.
Death, I presumed.
He stared out the window at the forested hills that drew off into ever-rising blues of the distance, his face in profile to me.
If I didn’t know what he was, if I couldn’t sense the power he carried, I would immediately know he wasn’t from around here.
He was very thin, very pale, and sat very stiffly. Only the fingertips of his long hands rested on the edge of the table, like a piano player paused mid-song. His hair was black and meticulously trimmed. There wasn’t a wrinkle on a face that seemed to be so much older than it appeared.
When he turned his eyes to me, they were gravestone black and devoid of humanity.
It was like staring into an empty gallon bucket of ice cream: both sad and disconcerting.
His gaze lowered to my shirt, and one eyebrow twitched ever so slightly.
I crossed the room toward him.
“Reed Daughter.” He spoke in a cultured accent. I swore the temperature in the room dipped by five degrees. “Join me.”
I did so, settling down into the chair opposite him. Most gods didn’t like idle chitchat, so I got right down to brass tacks. “Thanatos. I am here because you have requested to vacation in Ordinary, Oregon.”
It was formality, but words were a binding thing among deities, so words needed to be said.
“That is correct.”
“You understand that my family is the law in the town, and our word is the final justice.”
I placed the envelope on the table. “You will fill out the paperwork with all true intent and honesty. If you agree to all that is written and required of you, you and I will both sign on the final page.”
I slid it across to him.
Only one finger moved. He stretched it out to press against the envelope and better position it. His eyes, those cold, cold eyes, remained on mine for an uncomfortably long time.
“Do you enjoy telling the powerful what to do?” he asked coolly.
His beautiful accent did that god-echo in my brain. Power was a noisy thing for me. My Dad had said it was too bright, like a fire burning. But to me, power was loud.
“I am honored to uphold my family’s agreement with all those of power,” I replied. I smiled extra brightly, because we both knew I hadn’t really answered him. “Coffee sure smells good. Would you like me to get you a cup?”
“I do not require it.”
“That’s all right,” I said. “My treat. It will give you time to read.”
I slid out of the booth and strolled over to the barista, who was restocking the refrigerator with quarts of heavy cream.
The girl turned and gave me a quick smile. “What can I get for you?”
“I’ll take your dark roast, sixteen-ounce hot.” I glanced over at Thanatos, thinking about what kind of coffee I should bring him. “And how about a twenty-four-ounce double-double mocha caramel raspberry blended.”
“You want whip on that?”
Thanatos had slipped the papers out of the envelope and held them pinched between just his forefinger and thumb as if they were made of dirt and shame. He was so not a frou-frou drink kind of guy.
“Oh, I definitely think I do need whip. All it can hold.”
I paid and lingered while she fulfilled the order. Then I strolled back over to the booth with both coffees.
“Here you go.” I plunked the frosty cup of sugar-high whipped-cream overkill in front of him. The barista had really outdone herself and added shaved chocolate curls, a ruby-red cherry, and a bright pink straw.
Thanatos paused. His gaze flicked to the caffeinated monstrosity, flicked to my humble cup of plain black coffee, then up to my face.
“This is a beverage?”
“I am assured it is.” I sat down again and took a sip of my coffee.
He seemed to consider the situation and make a decision.
Thanatos drew the straw to his lips with one finger, and, still staring me in the eye as if this were a game of Drink-the-Poison, took a sip.
Okay. I had to admit it was all kinds of satisfying to watch Death suck on a whipped cream and coffee milkshake through a pink straw. Totally ruined that dangerous vibe he’d been throwing.
He straightened and went back to reading through the contract without comment.
“Well?” I asked after a second or two.
He raised one dark eyebrow. “Yes?”
“Do you like it? The coffee?”
He still wasn’t looking at me. “Not at all.”
Still, at least he had tried it. It was a good sign that he might actually want to give the whole vacation thing—the actually being a mortal thing—a try.
Because vacationing for a god wasn’t quite the same as vacationing for a mortal or creature. For one thing, the god had to give up his or her power for the entire time they were in Ordinary. For another thing, while any god was vacationing and powerless, he or she would be mostly human, and therefore could be injured, and even worse: killed.