The lovely people of Instagram convinced me to drop the next chapter of ‘Elf Shot’! To give you a quick update on the whole book, I can see the end! I’m about 10-15k words off wrapping it up but we’ll see if we blow out my word target lol.
Hope you enjoy this next installment.
The light buzz of Reeve’s tattoo gun was like straight dopamine to Layla’s brain. From the first sting of the needle, her anxiety seemed to ease, and it was like she could breathe again. She sat in a chair in the Greatdrakes’s laboratory, staring up at suspicious stains on the roof and wondering what spell had backfired to cause them. Anything to take her mind off what she was about to do.
“Remind again why I thought going on a date was a good idea?” she said, turning her head to watch the blood and ink well on her pale skin.
“Because the world has almost ended like three times in the last six months?” Reeve replied, wiping the ink away. “I don’t know why you’re nervous. Seamus is a cool guy. Apollo wouldn’t set you up with anyone who was a jackass. Trust me, the O’Connells are magicians and good people.”
Layla huffed out a breath. “I know. It just seems, I dunno, like a frivolous thing to do with another general walking about.”
“Or, it’s more important because another general is walking about,” Reeve pointed out. “No one has seen or heard from Vili anyway. Killian thinks he’s not even in the human world. We know he won’t stay gone forever, so we might as well have fun while we can.”
“Yeah, I suppose your right.” Layla stared up at the ceiling, relishing the feeling of the tattoo taking shape. It was a clean pain that was easier than figuring out messy emotions.
“The elves have their summit in a bit. I’m sure if they know anything about Vili, Tor or Arne will say something,” Reeve continued.
Just hearing Arne’s name was like a stab in her chest. “Or they won’t say anything at all, like usual,” she said, sounding way too bitter.
“You gotta get over that, Layla. If my dad was a psycho primordial god, I wouldn’t want to advertise it either.”
“We were hunting a general and information on Vili, and he just said nothing. That’s not cool, Reeve. We are meant to be allies.”
Reeve lifted the gun from her skin. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe he didn’t say anything because he doesn’t know himself? Vili has been one of Morrigan’s generals for centuries. Depending on Arne’s age, maybe he knows as little about his father as we do.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Layla wasn’t convinced. She didn’t know why it bothered her so much. The princes had gotten over it and were friends with him again.
Arne had tried to send her emails and messages. She had obsessed over every line before doing herself a favor and deleting the lot. The elves could find someone else to be a human advisor at their summit. It wasn’t like she was even qualified for such a job.
Sure, she spoke elvish, but she had learned it from an online course and wasn’t even sure she would be fluent enough to sit in on meetings or anything.
Apart from that, she didn’t have the skills needed for that kind of posh job. She didn’t even look the part. She had two sleeves of tattoos and looked like the hunter she was. She didn’t have the delicate manners and didn’t think she could fake them either. If she went, all that would happen was she would make a total ass of herself in front of the elvish leaders and embarrass Arne.
Prince Arne, because let’s not forget his mother is the fucking queen, Layla’s inner asshole prompted her. That was another reason she hadn’t answered any of his messages. Maybe if he was just an average warrior, she wouldn’t feel so awkward, but he was a real-life, honest to god, prince.
A prince who had asked her out for a drink, and she had turned down because she was a dumb ass. And now, she felt even more awkward.
I wonder if this is how Frodo felt when he learned that Strider was really a lost king? Was he hurt that he was never told?
Layla’s feelings were definitely hurt. More than that, she felt like a total dork at how she had talked to him before she knew. She had anxiously gone over every one of their interactions for all of their cringe content.
“Maybe a date is exactly what you need to take your mind off the broody elf,” Reeve said, breaking into her thoughts.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t think about him at all,” Layla lied.
“Ah huh. Well, you are all done anyway.”
Layla looked down her forearm where Reeve had fitted an Evenstar in a patch of bare skin that she’d had between two roses.
“I love it so much. Thanks, bro, you’re the best,” she said, throwing her arms around him.
“You know I’m always happy to provide spontaneous tattoos and advice whenever you need it,” he replied, patting her on the back. “You should get going, or you will be late.”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s only a short walk.”
Ten minutes later, Layla stepped out of the Greatdrakes mansion. She could feel spring in the air, so she had decided to wear a black skater dress with black tights, heeled boots, and a blazer. According to Apollo, the restaurant wasn’t overly formal or anything, so she had tried for a mix of what she thought of as classy casual.
“Yeah, a date is a great idea,” she said to herself as she checked her red lipstick in the reflection of a shop front. “I look amazing. Fuck, handsome elves and their bullshit baggage. I’m going to have fun tonight.” She was doing her best to psych herself up, and it was working.
The fresh sting of the Evenstar tattoo made her feel better about life, and she was hoping all the post-tattoo euphoria would carry her through dinner.
Seamus was waiting for her outside of the restaurant. They had met once before at the Monkey Paw, so she knew who to look for. He was lanky and handsome, with a shy smile, auburn curls, and the cutest spray of freckles on one cheek. His blue eyes lit up when he saw her.
“Layla Ironwood, you look outstanding,” he said in greeting.
“Thanks. I just want to get out of the way that I haven’t been on a date in ages, and I’m super nervous,” her mouth said, already running off without her.
Seamus’s shy smile widened. “Me too. Also, you are one of the famous Ironwoods, which is intimidating. So I’m thinking drinks first?”
Layla laughed. “All the drinks. I like the way you think, O’Connell.” He held out his arm to her, and she took it.
Inside, the restaurant was already packed. It was all polished timber and black tables and was lit with Edison bulbs tangled in with hanging greenery. It had a fun and funky vibe that suited Layla. She didn’t usually like crowds, but the table they were led to was tucked out of the way, so she didn’t feel the press of people. They were next to a glass wall that looked out onto a courtyard garden.
“This is a great spot,” she commented, sitting down when he pulled the chair out for her.
“Yeah, as soon as it opened, I knew I had to eat here. I remember Apollo saying you don’t like too many people, so I requested this table. Besides, I want to be able to hear you over all the noise,” Seamus replied.
Layla couldn’t help but be weirdly touched. “That was really thoughtful of you.”
“Dating is awkward enough without making it worse.”
Reeve was right; Seamus was a cool guy. The tips of his ears went a little red when she smiled at him, and she liked it.
“Let me get a waiter’s attention so we can get some drinks,” he said, looking about. He sent out a small pulse of magic, and a waitress in a white and green dress headed toward them.
“That’s a cool trick,” Layla commented.
“You felt that? I wouldn’t normally use magic for such a small thing, but I will need that drink if you keep smiling at me.”
Layla laughed. “I don’t think I’ve made anyone nervous before.”
“Not that you’ve noticed, maybe. You’re an Ironwood; people know who you are and are nervous by default.”
“Don’t be. I’m not one of the important Ironwoods,” she said before she could check herself.
Seamus frowned. “I don’t understand?”
Shit. She had to say something now.
“I mean, I’m not one of the famous ones. Bron is the best hunter and married a fae prince, Imogen is now a consort to a god, and Charlotte is a magical protege. I’m just…Layla,” she finished lamely.
Before Seamus could reply, the waitress arrived. Layla ordered a double Jameson on the rocks. She was going to need it.
“It’s okay, Layla. I get what you’re saying. Having that much spotlight on your family must be hard, and you have a massive legacy on top of that. I can’t imagine how fucking annoying that all is,” Seamus said once they were alone again.
Layla blew out a relieved breath. “It really fucking is. Even before the fae returned and outed the magical world, I was kind of the odd one out anyway. I sound like I’m bitching, but I really don’t mind. I hate being the center of attention. It’s like ants under my skin. I’m happy to be in the background doing my own thing.”
“I’m kind of the same in my own family,” Seamus said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m an okay magician, but I still haven’t found a specialty. I like too many things, making me the odd man out. My brother and sister knew what kind of branch they wanted to pursue from the cradle. And they are overachievers. It’s very annoying.”
“Siblings are the fucking worst,” Layla said, making him laugh.
“Yeah, they really are.”
Their drinks arrived, and Layla lifted her glass. “To being the odd man out and hiding from the spotlight.”
“Hear hear,” Seamus said, tapping his glass of gin and tonic against her whiskey. Jameson caught in her throat as she looked up and saw the elvish warriors in full armor filing into the courtyard beside them. She swallowed an ice cube in surprise.
“What the hell is going on?” she whispered hoarsely.
“Shit, I hope there hasn’t been another horde creature sighting,” Seamus replied.
The restaurant hushed as six warriors walked through the maze of tables, and at the head, looking like he was about to burn the place to the ground, was Arne.
Elf Shot is coming soon!