Welcome to the world of Jenniffer Wardell, author of “Beast Charming," "Fairy Godmothers, Inc," "Dreamless" and more. It's a place where fantasy runs smack into reality (after which they both exchange business cards and hope no one calls the insurance company). Perfect for fans of Terry Pratchett and Mercedes Lackey's "500 Kingdoms" series.
was the soon-to-be Viscount of Thornby, a young man who had spent the last six
months as an enchanted squirrel. He’d annoyed whoever cursed him enough that
they’d also taken away his ability to talk like a human, but Kate had found a
squirrel translation charm that solved that problem.
could only be broken by a kiss from a maid who was genuinely pure in heart,
which was a slightly more complicated problem. Still, careful research and some
legal wrangling over the definition of “pure” had turned up a perfectly nice
young woman named Leslie who seemed to fit the bill. A rumor about a unicorn
sighting had gotten her into the clearing, she had found the artfully displayed
translation charm that someone had just “happened” to leave behind, and
everything was ready to go.
behind a tree, Kate turned to the enchanted squirrel perched on her shoulder.
“That’s your cue,” she whispered.
squirrel nodded, then leapt down off her shoulder and headed into the clearing.
He’d stop in front of Leslie and begin the speech they’d prepared, and Kate
would add a little sparkle just to help get the point across. She lifted her
wand, ready to nudge things along….
have Thornby head straight through the clearing and disappear into the trees on
the opposite side.
Kate frozen for a split second, then she hurried through the clearing after
him. Leslie looked up, the hope on her face disappearing as soon as she saw who
it was. “You’re not a unicorn.”
planned on dignifying that with a response, but she realized she was missing
something. Doubling back, she plucked the charm out of the woman’s hand. “I
It took her
15 minutes to find Thornby, who was high on a branch cuddled up to another
squirrel. She yanked him down by the tail, causing a horrified squeak from the
other squirrel, and held him upside down in front of her. “I should make you
into a hat, you little sneak. What do you think you’re doing, running off with
a poor innocent real squirrel? Does she even know what you really are?”
started chattering at her at once. Apparently, the translation charm worked for
fine. But if you were so honest with her, why didn’t you have the guts to tell
me what your little plan was?”
understand wanting to be free of your mother. But you can’t really want to
spend the rest of your life as a squirrel, do you?” Kate didn’t add that she
wouldn’t get paid if she didn’t produce a human Thornby.
know she’s a squirrel. But you’re going to miss food that isn’t seeds. And
surely you have friends somewhere.”
you be so sure you won’t regret this? And if you do, nobody’s going to be
standing around with a convenient squirrel translation charm.”
the female squirrel jumped off the tree and knocked against Kate’s hand long
enough to make her drop Thornby. Kate swore, ready to start chasing them again,
but then the female squirrel touched her nose to Thornby’s.
There was a
swirl of magic, and a second later a very human man was standing in front of
her. It took Kate a second to realize what had happened. “Mental note,” she
murmured to herself. “Wild animals count as ‘pure in heart.’”
Thornby, however, wasn’t listening.
He dropped to his knees in front of the squirrel, his face a picture of
despair. “Reetcheet, what did you do?”
squirrel started chattering, and Thornby looked even more despairing. Kate,
taking pity on him, held out the translation charm. “This might help.”
it tight in his hands while the female squirrel kept talking. Kate could no
longer understand what she was saying, but a moment later his expression
cleared. “If you’re sure, then I’m absolutely thrilled. I’ll find a witch right
squirrel leapt onto his shoulder, and they both stood. “She wants to become
human,” he said, looking absolutely delighted.
smiled. She hadn’t quite gotten over being annoyed yet, but Thornby’s pleasure
was infectious. “Great. Just let me handle explaining this to your mother.” It
was, technically, everything the woman had contracted with Fairy Godmothers
Inc. to provide.
hadn’t bothered to specify a daughter-in-law who didn’t speak squirrel.