DISCLAIMER: This my own original work and may not be reproduced electronically or posted at another site without my written permission. You may print the story for your own use but the title and copyright must remain on the printout.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Diane is my beta reader and the one who applies the cattle prod to my Muse. Bug her here or myself here. © 2006
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Story Idea by Golden_Ruhl
Guaire wiped the blood from his blade on the dead man at his feet. He placed the crude iron knife into its scabbard and turned to the woman who was slumped over the fairy mound. His eyes softened as he took in her ethereal beauty.
Even unconscious and injured she glowed mysteriously in the soft mist of the early morn. The woodsman stepped closer then hesitated. Did he dare lay his hands on one of the fair folk? He knelt next to her but couldn't bring himself to touch her. Perhaps he'd find the courage in a moment but for now he only permitted himself to look at her injuries.
Dark bruises were already appearing on her milky-white skin. The thief had certainly abused her. Guaire almost regretted allowing the scum such an easy death. Sighing, he lifted his hand and nervously held it over her silvery blonde hair. His fingers were barely touching the fine tresses when he felt something. Nape hair rose on his neck and he spun around. A gasp burst from his lips as another of the fair folk stood before him.
His hand reached for his knife instinctively but he didn't unsheathe it. Her mossy green eyes were kind. The man stood still in shock as she glanced down at her kin for a moment and returned her eyes to gaze at him.
"You have done our family a kindness. May I know your name?"
"G-G-Guaire, my Lady," he managed to utter. She smiled sweetly.
"A fitting name for one who would rescue a stranger. We owe you a debt, our family. Perhaps it would be fitting that your family would benefit from our gratitude."
An iridescent glow seemed to light her skin from within just before she closed them. She silently chanted something as a light wind suddenly swept through the dry autumn leaves. Then as suddenly as the wind rose, it ended and she opened her eyes.
"It is done, brave one."
"What is done, my Lady?" he asked nervously.
"For your deeds this day, your are rewardedor cursed. Your goodness begets goodness. As long as your family and descendants perform a kindnessit will be returned to you tenfold. However, take heed, a selfish or cruel act will return to your kin also tenfold. I hope you and yours shall always be as caring as you yourself are this day."
With the last word spoken, she and the fallen woman faded away.
"I told you it wouldn't do you any good," Sherry gloated.
"Oh shut up, will ya? I haven't given up yet. Eventually I'll get through, just wait and see." Maggie leaned back in her chair and ran her fingers through her short dark hair. It was getting shaggy and would need a trim soon. It wasn't quite a butch cut. After all, she didn't want her appearance to scream 'dyke', not in her line of work, but it was close.
"Face it, Maggie. The woman is a recluse and isn't about to grant you an interview. Especially to a reporter known to be as aggressive and probing as you are. Find another wealthy do-gooder to do your piece on," her co-worker advised.
The tall woman sighed and reopened the file on Nessa O'Shea, her eyes rereading the data for the hundredth time. She flipped the paper to the back and gazed at the hazy photograph that had been taken a few months go. The quality was poor and in black and white, but it was compelling.
The image was of the woman in her garden. She was dressed in a simple over-sized shirt and linen shorts, her feet bare. She was smiling at a bold squirrel that had come down from a tree to take the offered peanut held in her palm. Maggie felt the same flip-flop in her stomach at the expression on her face. Serene and kind as she indulgently held her arm steady as the squirrel sat on her forearm, his bushy tail lazily wrapped around her wrist.
She was lovely. Even without color she generated such warmth in the photo. Maggie knew her attraction for the stranger was half her appeal. Of course, the fact the woman was richer than Trump and never, ever spoke to reporters was the other lure.
"No, it's gonna be her or no one. I just have to keep trying," Maggie told Sherry.
"Well, you've gotten my attention, Ms. Garrett. You have exactly thirty seconds to state your business before I have you forcibly removed from my property," Nessa growled.
"No you won't Ms. O'Shea," Maggie said smugly. Nessa's strawberry brow rose in surprise. "You see, I'm a damned good reporter and do my research. Never have you allowed your guards to harm anyone. They may escort them away but they don't harm anyone unless there is no other recourse." Maggie shook her handcuffed hand against the barred gate. "Hence the cuffs. If your guards try to get the key I guarantee to put up one hell of a fight."
"And you believe this behavior will leave me inclined to grant you an interview?" Nessa was now furious at the cockiness of the tall brunette.
Maggie shrugged. It was unethical as hell but she was desperate. Nessa O'Shea was reeling in shock and outrage. She had better give her best pitch now before the police arrived.
"Nessa," she whispered in her lowest pitch, her voice rich with need. The redhead's eyes met hers and the reporter felt like she had been sucker punched. Her brain refused to work. She tried to step closer to the woman but was held back by her own handcuffs. Cursing her own foolishness she swallowed hard. She had to say something.
"Nessa " Her voice barely audible and Nessa's aqua green eyes making it difficult to think at all. "God have mercy will you please look away? I can't think when you look at me," she found herself confessing pitifully.
The redhead wrapped her arms around herself and managed to turn sideways to break eye contact. What was happening to her? Never had she felt such a powerful connection to anyone before.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap like that," Maggie whispered. "I Ms. O'Shea, Nessa, I damn." She took a shuddering breath and just allowed her words to come. "I had to see you. I saw a photo of you and all I wanted was to meet you. My job seemed a rational excuse since you were such an unknown quality. Your family has avoided publicity for as long as anyone can remember. But your face I saw it and I couldn't forget it."
"I've become an obsession?" Nessa asked. Maggie nodded. "I can't say your words are very comforting Ms. Garrett. For all I know you're a stalker or psychopath." Nessa dared another look into the reporter's eyes. Their dark depths held no malice. Strength, certainly. Brashness and sheer audacity was clear, but her eyes didn't speak of someone who would be dangerous to those undeserving of her ire. She made up her mind and spoke before she could reconsider.
"Remove those silly handcuffs and follow me."
Maggie let a breath of relief and grinned as she dug into her pant pocket for the tiny key.
The interior of the mansion was cool after the heat of the late spring day. Maggie took a few steps and could hear the sound of her boots on the marble floor. Glancing around the entry took away her breath. It was classic and clean yet simplistically elegant. She told Nessa that the house was beautiful.
"Thank you. My family built it in 1856 with few changes except modernizing it." Nessa looked uncomfortable and gestured towards the den. Maggie followed her into the room but couldn't help watching the sway of her hips as they entered the room.
Nessa was wary and needed some space between them. She sat down in the large leather chair behind the massive desk and felt better with the old mahogany desk acting as a barrier.
Maggie understood the unspoken body language and smiled indulgently. At least this told her Nessa wasn't unaware of the tension between them. Maggie almost laughed aloud. Tension hell, more like an explosion ready to happen. Her humor left her. Such chemistry could burn them alive. She leaned back into the visitor's chair and waited. People often spoke more than they intended if she allowed silence between them.
The reporter watched as Nessa sat just as silently behind the desk. Maggie could tell that breeding and habit prevented her from squirming in an unlady-like manner. Nearly a minute passed, the silence only broken by the tick of the mantel clock over the fireplace.
"So," Nessa began, "tell me about your article and how I come into the story."
The reporter smiled. "Well, it's a piece I've been thinking about since 9-11. How celebrities and the wealthy contribute to disasters. Some donate money, some time, but there's always a reason for what they do. Frankly, some donate because it's a hell of a tax write-off. A few of the celebrities do it because their careers have slowed down and beginning a fundraiser helps put them in the spot light."
"But many are genuinely trying to help," Nessa added.
"Yes, many are just doing what they can to help the victims. A lot give money quietly and don't look at the public and say, 'See? Aren't I a swell guy?'" Maggie snorted.
"You sound quite cynical, Ms. Garrett. Your words alone make it sound as though you are writing a tribute but your tone says something very different. If I dared to venture a guess I'd say you're really penning a story about the 'real' reason people help victims and in your view, it has nothing to do with compassion."
Maggie felt herself flush, caught between guilt and anger. The redhead was glaring at her, her eyes accusing and her body stiff with outrage. Nessa was outright furious with her. Maggie was seething too. Why should she take these people at face value? Everyone was selfish and rarely did anything out of the goodness of their own hearts. There was a real motive behind each do-gooder and she wanted to dig around until she found it. Was that so wrong?
Her job meant a lot to her and gave everything to her career. Maggie took a deep breath, realizing that unless she diffused this confrontation she'd loose her opportunity to interview Nessa. She let her breath out, ready to speak when Nessa turned the tables.
"I know a little about you, Ms. Garrett. You do interviews for your magazinenot investigative reporting. Why the departure from the norm?"
Maggie was thrown for a loop for a moment then answered. "It's where I want my job to lead. I have no real talent for lightness and fluff interviews but I do my best."
"And digging dirt and possibly destroying lives and careers of others is your goal?"
"What? No! I don't want to ruin peoples' lives. I just want to-"
"Dig into peoples' closets and see what you can find?"
"No, not exactly. I just want to know the real reasons behind people's actions. Why do you give so much time and money to charities, Ms. O'Shea?"
Nessa didn't seem as angry but rather was amused. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you, so why bother?" She sighed and picked up a small figurine from the desktop. Maggie glanced at itit was of a fairy. She remembered that the O'Shea's company logo was a fairy dancing on a mound.
"Do you know of the belief some hold about what goes around comes around, Ms. Garrett?"
The reporter snorted. "Like those witch cults?" she scorned. "You one of them?"
"No," Nessa answered coldly. "I'm Protestant. This little 'chat' has now ended, Ms. Garrett." She pressed a button and a large man in a pristine business suit entered the room.
"Yes, Ms. O'Shea?"
"See this young woman out will you, Charles?"
The computer didn't tell her much. Maggie had been Googling the web looking for any reference to the last question Nessa had asked. There wasn't a reason for it but she felt it was important. She sighed and tossed her pencil onto her desk. Just then her screen flickered and went blank.
"What the hell?" Maggie sat up and pressed several buttons. Disgusted, she reached for the power button to reboot when the screen once more turned on. Instead of the 237,000,000 hits listed it now showed results, 1. The reporter scratched her head before reaching for the mouse and clicked on it, feeling everything was surreal.
The page loaded and she merely glanced at it until the name 'O'Shea' caught her eye. Focusing, she managed to read a few lines about Blessed of the Sidhe and a few lines of the legend. Something about tenfold was read before the screen once more flickered. When the screen lit up again it once more showed the two million plus hits it displayed earlier. Maggie blinked. "I need to get more sleep." She reached for the mouse and shut down the computer.
Maggie took a sip from her cooling latte. She had been watching Nessa's home from half a block away. She had parked away from the view of her neighbors since she didn't want them calling the cops to report a loiterer. Glancing at her watch made her antsy. She had been there several hours because someone tipped her that Nessa left her home every Tuesday afternoon. The source didn't know where she went but she did this religiously.
It would be just her luck that Nessa stayed home today. Maggie was about to give up when she spotted the ornate gates open. Then she blinked. She didn't actually have an idea about what Nessa drove but it certainly wasn't a beat up old Honda she would have imagined.
The old silver hatchback zoomed past her and turned before Maggie came out of her daze. Cursing at her own stupidity she quickly started her own engine and whipped around to follow her. Her heart rate slowed a bit once she spotted the car. At least she hadn't lost her. She kept her distance though because she was afraid of tipping off the billionaire. Block after block she kept pace with the little hatchback as they headed for the old part of town. Finally the young woman parked. Maggie found an empty spot and pulled in.
What in hell was she doing in this part of town? She watched Nessa leave her car and noticed she was dressed in old blue jeans and a long sleeved cotton shirt. Old Nikes were on her feet. The reporter thought she looked cute in a sloppy sort of way. Maggie got out of her own car and tried to stay out of sight as she followed. She noticed how run down this neighborhood was. Graffiti covered walls and half the building had boarded up windows. She was feeling a little nervous. What if she got mugged? She regretted dressing nicely and wearing jewelry. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching she removed her watch and rings and stuffed them into her pants pocket.
Nessa stopped as she passed several men who were milling about on some cement steps. Maggie couldn't hear what was said but she noted that the conversation went on for quite some time before the redhead reached into her pocket and handed several folded bills to one of the men. He saluted her playfully and headed for her Honda and sat on the curb near it. Maggie guessed that she paid him to keep an eye on it but wondered why. It wasn't exactly a target for thieves in the shape it was in. It was faded and rusting and even the hubcaps were missing. Maggie shook her head at the waste of money.
She followed Nessa for several more blocks until she entered a building. Maggie was careful to keep her eyes peeled as she got closer. The old glass and wood door Nessa had entered told that the building was a homeless shelter. Okay, so the billionaire was slumming a little, doing her charity work in this pitiful place. Why come here in person? Wouldn't writing a check do just as well and be a hell of a lot safer? Maggie shook her head and turned around. She couldn't hang around just outside and not get grief. She decided to go back to her car and park nearby.
Maggie's mind wasn't on her return but instead was asking herself many questions. She began stepping off the curb to cross the street when she felt a hand grab her shirt and pull her backwards. She gasped in surprise as a truck zoomed by, missing her by inches. Maggie spun around to thank her rescuer but no one was there. She looked around in every direction and saw no one nearby.
"What the hell " She knew someone grabbed her, but whom? She shivered and this time looked before crossing the street. She approached her car which was now about fifty feet away. She glanced at it and stopped dead in her tracks. It was up on blocks and stripped bare.
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