It wasn’t the first time she’d let her mother harass her into losing her wits, but it was very likely going to be the last.
The sound was getting closer, along with a foul odor that assaulted her nostrils. Her chest tightened with fear. Goblin. He’d steal the clothes from her body and crack her bones for the marrow. There’d be nothing left of her body by sunrise.
She quickened her pace. There was a weed choked lot several blocks ahead; maybe, just maybe, if she could make it to the lot in time she could grow the plants fast enough to tangle up the goblin’s feet so she could run for it. She had no other options.
She broke into a run, with the heavy thud of footsteps pounding behind her and dread filling her like helium, swelling throughout her body. She only made it half a block before he flung his heavy body onto her, sending her sprawling onto the sidewalk.
She only had time for a brief, blinding second of terror – and then the weight was gone and she had a vague impression of something flying through the air and hitting the wall of a building with a sickening crunch, and then falling to the ground with a wet plop.
“Fancy meeting a nice girl like you in a place like this.” She looked up, stunned. It couldn’t be. It was, but it couldn’t be.
Erik Bloodstone, home from the Troll Wars.
“Explain to me again why I shouldn’t have you committed to a mental asylum for walking through this neighborhood at night without protection. For walking through this neighborhood at all.”
Erik and Fiona were strolling back towards her shop. She was hugging herself to keep her hands from shaking. Her heart was pounding inside her chest, and she felt tingly all over; she told herself that it was from her near death encounter, not because Erik was back.
But she knew the truth. Tingliness sweeping through her body, concentrated in the nether regions, pounding heart, shaking hands, swelling nipples…those were all Erik-related symptoms.
“Two words. My mother.”
“Your mother wanted you to walk through this neighborhood at night?” He skewered her with a skeptical look.
Fiona shook her head in exasperation. “No, my mother came by the shop with some pathetic washrag who she wants me to marry, and I got so frazzled I literally ran out of the shop without my bag of charms and weapons, and the next thing you know, a goblin is sizing me up for his dinner plate.” She laughed bitterly. “It would have to be an extra large dinner plate.”
Erik glanced down at her with a gleam in his eye, and a smile curving his lips. “I like your curves.”
Fiona managed a rueful smile. “That makes one of you.”
“You always were too hard on yourself. I guess with a mother like yours it’s inevitable. You did well to move away from her.”
She shrugged. “Not everyone would say that it’s a step up.”
“What about you? Are you happy here? Other than nearly becoming a goblin snack?”
Fiona almost blurted out “A goblin five-course meal, you mean.” She had to struggle with a tendency not to put herself down, especially after encounters with her mother.
But instead, she said “I am happy here. The only people I could serve with my plant magic in my mother’s neighborhood were old men who wanted an herb that would stiffen their wand when they visited their mistress, or spoiled society women who want to look prettier than all their friends. Here, I can really help people.”
“I’ve heard that you do wonders here. I’ve heard that your store is such a marvel that the cream of high society actually flock to see you, even in this hellhole.”