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Gray Seas
Author: Hailey Edwards






The dainty clip-clop-clip of delicate hooves on stone was enough to make me twitch at each blasted little step the cervitaur made in my direction. The director assigning me an assistant who was sleek deer from the waist down still galled me. The Silver Stag case was the turning point in my life, marking the moment I woke up and realized I had been living a nightmare. And he had chosen to taunt me with it.


Arms folded across my chest, I stared at the ornate door in front of me and grunted in Inga’s direction.

“They’re wheatgrass and coconut.” She swallowed loudly. “I—I made them myself.”

The director, for all his come back to work or else threats, was hiding from me.





A smile crept up on me at the confirmation he was afraid. Of little ol’ me. But it wilted at the proof he no longer had any intention of even pretending to trust me in his immediate vicinity. Hence the locked door with a nasty ward keyed to me and only me, which I had been poking at for the last hour out of spite.

Odds were good he felt a teeny jolt each time I disrupted the spell. Nothing painful, sadly, just annoying. Akin to poking him in the side for attention each time he relaxed, ruining all hope of him focusing on his work.

You waste my time, I waste yours.

That was my mantra for the day.

“I can take a bite first,” Inga tried again, “if you’re worried I poisoned them.”

As she hovered around me like a carpenter bee dive-bombing anyone who trespassed on their territory, I got a bitter taste of my own annoying medicine.

“Until you mentioned it,” I murmured, lining up my next jab, “the thought hadn’t occurred to me.”


“Why does it matter if I eat your muffins?”

A snicker-snort told me a certain golem with the maturity of a twelve-year-old boy had overheard me.

“I m-made a b-bad impression.” Her voice grew higher, tighter. “I want t-to make amends.”

The urge to bang my forehead against the door in front of me was strong, but I resisted to avoid another zap from the repellent magic coating it and pivoted to face her.

“I’m in fascination with Agent Montenegro, which I’m sure you know now even if you didn’t last time we met.” I suppressed a growl at the memory of her flicking her cutesy tail at Asa. “I advise you to keep your hands, hooves, and horns to yourself if you want to keep them.”

“I r-requested th-the week I was in h-heat off work.” Her stammers grew worse the longer our gazes held. “I-it was d-denied.” Her fingers tightened on the greenish muffin in her hands until she crushed the base and the top plopped onto the floor. “I-I m-meant n-no o-offense.”

Once upon a time, I would have relished terrifying Inga into a quivering mess of prey instincts. Say, while she was swishing her hips at Asa the last time I was in my office. But her fear didn’t thrill me. Neither did the news she had tried to avoid the inevitable come-hither routine with Asa and been denied all hope of maintaining an amicable working relationship with me. Probably by the director. As yet another taunt.


“You’re not in any trouble.” I pried the crushed muffin from her trembling hand. “We’re good, okay?”

To punish her after that hard-won confession would be as satisfying as kicking a puppy.

“Yes, ma’am.” She bent her front legs, sweeping into a bow, allowing her to clean up the crummy mess. “Thank you.”

As a token of good faith, I bit into what remained of the muffin and gulped fast. “These are great.”

Tasty as fresh-cut grass arranged in a cupcake liner and then iced with sunscreen.

“Mr. Kerr said you prefer h-homemade treats.” Her lips almost curved before flatlining with no hope of a resuscitation. “They’re vegan. I hope that’s o-okay.”

“I love all muffins equally,” I lied, relieved when her eyes lost their deer-in-the-headlights quality.

“Oh good.” Her knees, all four of them, knocked with the instinct to flee. “Do you need anything else?”

“No.” I waved her off and faced the door once more. “You can return to your desk.”

Clip-clop-clip. Clip-clop-clip. Clip-clop-clip.

How long was that hall anyway?

Clip-clop-clip. Clip-clop-clip. Clip-clop-clip.

“You’re cute when you growl.” A heavy arm draped across my collarbones, almost buckling my knees with its unexpected weight, and Clay rested his chin on top of my head. “Like a kitten with its back up.”

“Don’t make me hurt you.”

“Oh, like when you dropped off the face of the earth for ten years? That kind of hurt?”

“You’ll never let that go, will you?”

“Ask me again in ten years.”

“Ha.” I studied the whisper of magic responding to my proximity. “As if I would remind you.”

“You were very nice to Inga just now.” He shook me gently. “I’m proud.”

“Take it back.” I glanced up and got a lovely view of his nose hairs. “I’m evil. Horrible. Cruel.”

And I was stumped as to why he had paid good money for hair implants there of all places.

“You ate a wheatgrass and coconut apology muffin. A vegan muffin.” His scoff warmed my face. “What horrors will you unleash upon the unsuspecting world next?”

“Just because I can’t think of one—” I shrugged him off, “—doesn’t mean I don’t have ulterior motives.”

“Mmm-hmm.” He slid in front of me. “How long are you going to stand outside this door?”

The magic read his identity and dissipated, which meant he could knock and get himself invited in.

Not that he would ever venture into the study unless under a direct order for fear of his master slapping more restrictions on him. Or, more likely, grilling him until poor Clay spilled every secret of mine he held.

“You’re on guard duty.” I poked his shoulder. “You would be standing outside a door all day anyway.”

“I’m bored.” His bottom lip thrust out in a perfect pout. “Let’s break for lunch early.”

“Fiiine.” I let him hook his arm through mine and drag me away. “You’re such a crybaby.”

“Slap a diaper on me and stick a binky in my mouth. I don’t care as long as it gets me to food sooner.”

“Let’s discuss your kinks after I’ve eaten.” I tapped my chin. “Or never. Never is good. Actually, it’s great. I’ll pencil you in right after the apocalypse.”

“Works for me. I’ve always wanted to meet the four horsemen’s ponies. I bet they’re adorable.”

“You’re not adopting a harbinger of doom as a pet.”

Now that he was a homeowner and lived on a farm, his new hobby was adopting anything that couldn’t outrun him.

“Harsh.” He hauled me out of the compound into the sun. “Harbingers of doom need love too.”

A weight lifted off my shoulders as I filled my lungs with fresh air. Even the distant crash of ocean waves pummeling the cliffside beneath the stark mansion where I spent the bulk of my childhood failed to cast my mind back to those dark days. Maybe because I had Dad now. Mom too. Sort of.

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