Another year in Maple Grove, another pointless festival that Tori had no interest in. At least, she wasn't interested in seeing the happy families running around celebrating, kids getting their faces painted and shrieking about everything they saw. The whole damn town got involved in the founding festival, but in Tori's opinion, if the town was so old how were they even certain this was the right time? Not that her thoughts mattered, considering the festival still happened every year. In her father's words, it was something that brought the townsfolk together, and even some out of towners. Maple Grove was a small town already and didn't need people swarming it, Tori felt, but again it wasn't her call. When she was younger, she remembered being amped to help out her dad, but looking back she knew it was only because she wanted something to share with him. Not because of the festival itself.
Since this was her first festival since coming back to the town almost a year ago and she'd missed the one from the year prior, her father had guilted her into helping with this one. She hated how he still seemed to have some hold over her, even though he hadn't wanted much to do with her her entire life. But he'd tugged at her fucking heartstrings when he said he was so happy to have her back, and wouldn't she want to help him and take some of the burden from his shoulders? She scoffed to herself as she replayed the conversation over and over in her mind, scowling as she recalled how he hadn't even looked at her as he'd asked. He'd been busy wrapping up some paperwork for something else, and even though the word 'no' had screamed out in her mind, it was 'sure, dad' that had left her mouth.
So that's why the blonde currently stood on the edge of one of the performance stages that had been set up, watching as the sound tech guys set up for the band that was going to be playing in a little while. People could take a break from rides, shopping or whatever else they were doing to come make camp in a field, watching whatever band was onstage. When Tori was younger, she remembered dreaming of being on that stage, singing her heart out for all of the town to hear. But despite her father's many promises to make it happen, her dream had never come true. After graduating high school, determined to show the man, she left town and headed to Hollywood. That's where dreams were supposed to come true, right? Countless people fled to Hollywood, wanting to make a name for themselves. Actors, models, singers, dancers, all of the above and more. Tori had been no different.
But real life slapped her in the face and within just a few short months, she was broke, exhausted, and starving. She'd done a few things she wasn't proud of in order to make ends meet, but eventually, she realized that she would either have to keep up that lifestyle or return home. So much like a kicked puppy, Tori returned to her childhood home, tail tucked between her legs. Her father had scoffed as he moved aside to let her in, muttering something about how he knew she'd return. Of course, his daughter's return was in all the tabloids for the town, and he paraded her around for a while, playing the part of a happy father. It all made Tori sick, but then again, what did that make her that she went along with it? Honestly, she didn't want that answer.
Feedback sounded off in her ear, and Tori wrenched the headset from her head as she whirled on the tech people setting up behind her. "Can you not figure out what wire goes in what hole?" She snapped, marching over to the edge of the stage, peering down at the two guys who were likely in their early twenties. Clearly college aged, a part of some company her father hired to make the music part of the festival grand. Well, so much for grand if they couldn't even figure shit out. Dropping her clipboard on the stage, Tori turned and headed for the stairs, descending them to waltz over to the speakers. One of the guys scrambled to get out of her way, knocking over a cup of water and causing it to hit the ground. "You're lucky that wasn't a speaker, or you'd be paying for that instead of your tuition. Can you fix this, please?" Her last sentence had been directed at the other guy, who just nodded and walked around to her side.
He quickly unplugged a wire and then plugged it back in somewhere else, and when Tori lifted the headset back to her ear, sweet silence greeted her. "Thank you. At least someone has a brain around here." She muttered, turning around and heading back to the stairs that led onstage. It was still early in the afternoon, and the band set to play hadn't arrived yet. Snatching her clipboard from where she'd dropped it onstage, she glanced down, seeing that they were supposed to go on at two. A quick look at her phone told her they had less than half an hour to arrive. Just as she was about to tuck her phone back in her pocket, she saw her dad's face and heard his ringtone. "Jesus christ." She thought about not answering, but knew he'd just call again. Swiping to answer, she greeted the man on the other end.
The conversation didn't last long, and in just a few minutes, Tori was tucking the device away and fanning herself with the clipboard. Her eyes scanned the area around the stage. A few people had already set up camp in the field, just enjoying the sunshine or the shade from their umbrellas. Some people had food, some people had drinks, and Tori could hear music playing from a speaker somewhere. Beyond the field was the rest of the festival, set up pretty much all over town, though most of the booths and stuff were set towards the center of Maple Grove. Deciding she could use a drink herself, she tucked her clipboard under one arm and left the stage again, not even bothering to tell anyone where she was going as she headed to find a drink booth.
Adrian remembered his last time in Maple Grove, and he remembered it well. Though most of the faces of the wives he'd had throughout the years had faded, Emily was the most recent and still fresh in his mind. The dark haired beauty had been just that-- beautiful-- but she'd never opened up completely to him. Adrian could sense in the beginning that she might not, but he'd really held out hope that she would change her mind as their time together went on. He found out early on that she wasn't the one who would stay with him forever, and he'd felt his heart break a little more with the knowledge. Despite what some people might think if they knew about the Seasons, being immortal and taking wives wasn't easy. At least humans, when they got married, they grew old together and from what he saw, once one died the other wasn't far after. Or they could take that time and find someone new to share their lives with, but it wasn't exactly the same for Adrian and his brothers. While they did get the opportunity every hundred years or so to find someone new, they didn't get to grow old with them. Instead, they just got to watch them die.
In the case of Emily, that's exactly what happened. No matter what Adrian tried, the woman refused to open up to him, choosing instead to spend as little time with him as possible. She'd never forgiven him for taking her away from her life, and she told him that pretty much everyday. She'd died early on because she just gave up, both with her body and her soul. She'd been the first one of the four girls chosen in the 20's to die, though his brothers had shared his fate. Just like every other time. At this point, Adrian wasn't even sure he believed that there were girls out there for them that wouldn't meet the same fate. How could they expect to find their end games when they only went to one town, every hundred years? Adrian wasn't sure how his brothers felt about the situation, but he was just tired.
Still, life went on, and the Seasons had a job to do. Today was the second day of the festival, and so far, Adrian had chosen to enjoy himself. Just like he did every other year. He'd met up with a pretty blonde the day before, and he hoped they would meet up again today. Currently, the tattooed male was just browsing the different booths that had been set up in the main part of town, just looking at the different wares. Jewelry, food, drinks, games, stuffed animals, clothing, and so much more. All stuff that he really had no use for, but maybe his soon-to-be wife would enjoy something. He paused by a booth selling different brightly colored clothing items, and he couldn't help but smile. The world had really changed in the last hundred years or so, and even though it always did, this time it just seemed... more.
Moving on from the booth, Adrian lifted his head to look around at everyone. The world had advanced, and so had the clothing, definitely. Women weren't afraid to show more skin now, and Adrian was pretty sure he just saw a man in a skirt. Not that he judged, it was just interesting to see compared to what they'd seen the last time they arrived in Maple Grove. Though it wasn't like it came as a complete shock; they weren't shut off from the rest of the world outside of the festival, and supernaturals were sometimes more close to humans than they wanted to admit. As a merman, Adrian was most comfortable in pretty much nothing, though he figured public nudity probably still wasn't accepted. And he certainly couldn't get around with his tail, so jeans and a t-shirt it was.
He didn't know where any of his brothers had gone, though he figured he'd run into them eventually. He briefly wondered if any of them had had luck finding their chosens yet, and that thought brought a smirk to his face. The brothers were all intelligent and strong in their own ways, but when it came to women they all had their struggles. Art could be considered closed off, Alarick temperamental as a bull, and Asher too straightforward for his own good. And when it came to Adrian himself, well, he didn't always take things seriously when he should. Even being an immortal hadn't taught him that he needed to be a bit more serious at times, and think of how other people might feel, whether it was in relation to something he said or did or even otherwise.
Adrian had been so lost in his thoughts that he stopped paying attention to his surroundings, and he crashed right into someone. Thankfully, he had pretty good reflexes and immediately reached out to grab the woman, steadying her on her feet before he released her. Unfortunately for the drink and stack of papers she'd been carrying, they hadn't been so lucky. The woman was beautiful, that was the first thing he noticed once he got a good look at her, and despite what he'd done a smile presented itself on his face. "My apologies, ma'am." He told her, slightly bowing his head in an apologetic gesture. Leaning down, he collected the papers that hadn't flown away, and picked up the now empty drink cup. "Well, I guess that's what I get for not paying attention... though it could be worse." He stood again, glancing down at the papers in his hand. "Realtor, hmm? Marissa Locke. Well, it's nice to meet you, Marissa. I'm Adrian."
Sun filtered in through the mostly closed blinds, barely lighting the studio apartment. The pattern of shadows and light created bands across the queen-sized bed, perfectly falling across the face of a blonde woman sleeping there. She groaned loudly, rolling over in an attempt to cover her face. But the damage was already and Jolene Soriano was already awake. Letting out an annoyed breath, she swung her legs over the side of the bed to pull herself into a sitting position. The digital clock on the makeshift side table blinked early afternoon in bright red letters. Sure, Jo had slept through the entire morning. But after working until three in the morning at the festival bar, she deserved to sleep in a bit.
Realizing she had to work in less than an hour, the blonde bounty hunter pulled herself groggily to her feet. Her hair was a mess and she probably looked dead, but such was her life. Ever since Jolene had arrived in Maple Grove, she had kept her nose to the grindstone in search of the criminal she was hunting. The bar was a place she could earn some money while also talking to the locals and hopefully learning more about the person she was chasing. As much as she hated to admit it, the small New England town was beginning to grow on her. The people were kind, generous, and generally cared about each other, including the newcomers. She had a set of regulars that came to visit, sometimes just to chat and tip her while ordering water. But at the end of the day, Jo knew she couldn't stay forever.
Something about the idea of settling down again, of getting stuck somewhere scared her. After she had caught her fiance in bed with another woman, Jolene realized how alone she was, and how she should be wearier about trusting people. At the end of the day, she always needed a way out. It was one of the lessons her father had instilled in her, being a fireman and all. He had a way of cloaking life lessons in fire safety metaphors. Dressing in a pair of denim shorts, a T-shirt tied to a crop, and a pair of sneakers so her feet wouldn't hurt too terribly at the end of the day. Running a hand through her blonde locks, Jo applied a light coating of make-up before venturing out into the world.
The festival was in full swing outside. Families with small children milled about, giddy screams filling the air. Couples walked hand in hand, obviously on dates. Jo had only been in Maple Grove for a couple of months. But by the way people in town had talked about the yearly festival, she could tell it was a big deal. The bar she worked at had decided to set up an outdoor area near the center of the festival, claiming they would make more money there. The blonde bartender wasn't entirely sure, but she had made some good tips the day before and couldn't discount their logic just yet. Before too long, she was stationed behind the counter, sliding glasses of beer and mixed drinks alike across it.
An hour or so later, and things were seeming to calm down. The band would be playing soon, and the rides were in full swing. Few people were into the idea of day drinking, especially those with children tagging along. Handing off pale ale to a younger guy, the sound of a cup clattering to the cement ground caught Jolene's attention. Thankfully they were made of plastic, or she would surely be cleaning up glass shards. The man at the counter was nearly beyond his limit, having been there practically since Jo had started her shift. He was one of her regulars, a nice old fellow who had told her several stories of the war he had been in and retired from. In a few ways, he reminded her of her dad. Jo moved around the bar to pick up the glass, throwing it into the bus bin behind the counter. "Now Gerald, we've talked about how I don't quite like cleaning up after you. Cups stay on the counter, remember?" the blonde said, her southern drawl curling around the words.
The man glanced at her with a semi-glazed look in his eyes, a relatively sloppy grin on his face. "Sorry about that, Jo. You know how I get when Marsha isn't around," he answered with a shrug. "Now how about one more?" Jolene smiled at the man, already filling him a new cup of ice water. "If I gave you one more, you'd be drunker than a backwoods priest at communion. Now drink some of this and give Marsha a holler. Wouldn't want you to have to walk all the way home." Letting out a chuckle, the man grabbed the glass of water and turned away to call his wife. Letting out a sigh, Jo took the lack of customers as a break and poured herself a shot of whiskey. Even though her father had been gone for a couple of years, she didn't enjoy the feelings of missing him all too much. Alcohol seemed like the best option to quell those, and so she threw back the shot without a second thought.
A light breeze rustled through the slightly overgrown grass of Maple Grove's central park, creating a beautiful symphony that almost sounded like the crackling of waves in the ocean. The sun filtered through the canopy of ash and birch trees, creating beautiful moving patterns of shadows on the undergrowth below. A small group of gorgeous swallowtail butterflies flitted amounts the flowers, collecting nectar as they passed. A collection of birds sung from their safe havens among the tall tree branches. Altogether, these things created an atmosphere of serenity and beauty that starkly contrasted the loud excitement on the pavement of the Maple Groves festival that was mere yards away. To the unobservant eye, they were just creatures existing in nature that didn't matter all that much. But to him, they were a depiction of life itself.
Though he was the king of autumn, Asher Westbrook had a particular fondness for the summer months ran by his brother. Things seemed to be thriving and surviving, adapting to their surroundings in a way that was quite fascinating. While he mostly dabbled in harvest and the end of a cycle, summer existed as the middle, a period of exponential growth and preparation for what came to follow. Asher particularly loved visiting the earthly realm, exploring all the intricate complexities it had to offer. He hadn't been back in one hundred years, when he collected his previous wife, Alexa. She had been an intellect, and most certainly had a bright future ahead of her before he stole her away. But, she oftentimes told him how much she loved the Kingdom of the Four Seasons over her own home. And so, the guilt didn't settle in for too long.
Despite no lack of trying, Alexa was not the prophesized "One" that Asher was destined to marry. Upon receiving his jewels, there was no change, and he would be lying if he said he wasn't disappointed. Existing for millennia, constantly watching the women he cared for pass away had certainly taken a toll on him. And Alexa was no different. Unfortunately, her time was on the shorter side. Only a few years after joining him in his kingdom, she developed an earthly disease that he could not fix, and subsequently passed away. Though he didn't know her as well as some of the others, Ash loved her just the same and upon her death, spent days locked away in his studio painting.
Art was one of his ways of self-expression, to put the emotions he felt and was so in tune with into a visual portrayal. In a way, it was a coping mechanism. Over the years, Asher tried to get his brothers to follow suit, hoping that they would find their own mediums and methods of self-expression in the face of tragedy. Nevertheless, they usually chose more toxic methods despite his best efforts. But now, the time had come to once again choose another wife, and Ash would be lying if he said that things were feeling particularly positive this time around. Then again, he said that practically every time. Taking one last look at the floating butterflies, Asher crossed the park to the pavement to join the festival.
Much like elves, humans rarely needed a reason to celebrate. The true reason for the festival had been lost several generations before, and now it just seemed to be a way to celebrate their community. People from other towns and even states ventured into Maple Groves to experience the festival, eating and drinking to their heart's desire. Deep down, he envied their sense of blissful ignorance and free will, wondering how things would change if they knew how truly manipulative the world around them was. Being immortal was far from easy, and Ash had seen his fair share of death and destruction in the human realm. But just like his wives, those eras grew old and died, only to be repeated several years later under a new name.
Glancing around the masses of people, the elf king scanned absentmindedly for the familiar faces of his brothers. He knew the other three men were somewhere in the crowd, each search for their own bride to take back to the kingdom with them. It was a bit of a tall order, courting and convincing a woman to go home with them in less than a week. But then again, the brothers had developed a technique of not being entirely honest with the women either. While that took a stab at his moral code, it was either that or risk throwing an entire universe of realms into disarray and putting far too many lives at risk. By their mother's orders, it had to be done. And so, slipping his hands into the pockets of his khaki pants, Asher milled idly among the crowd, in search of a pretty face to catch his eye.
Growing up, Maple Grove's annual festival had always been Marissa's favorite time of year. Since she was an infant wrapped in her mother's arms while her siblings ran around the fairgrounds without her, the blonde attended every festival for the first nineteen years of her life. The significance behind the special week in the little Maine town was lost on Mari, as it was on all but a select few who'd had the secrets of the town's history passed down to them. To the blonde, the festival was simply a time for the town to gather together, invite visitors from other towns and states, and celebrate Summer. Her favorite season.
The weather was perfect in the seaside town during the summer months, rarely too hot but almost always warm enough to leave the cardigans at home. Yet, the cooler evenings offered just enough breeze to welcome bonfires or the arms of a loved one to keep warm. Sailboats were a constant sight on the horizon as families, the rich, and young people alike all sought to take advantage of the perfect boating conditions. Kids were out of school, parents were hosting backyard barbecues and tourism was at its peak. Once upon a time, Marissa would have described life in the town during the summer as almost magical. But now... it was just another season that reminded her that she was letting life slip by without her.
For the past five years, Marissa had done everything she could to avoid attending the week long festival that consumed the town. The once joyous event now held too many memories that Mari was constantly running from. It had been the place she'd ridden her first roller coaster. Saw her first concert. Had her first kiss with the man she'd one day marry. She and James would spend day after day riding the same rides over and over and walking around the same booths, without a care in the world. There was no such thing as too much cotton candy, or too many turns around the ferris wheel. Life had seemed limitless and endless during those happy Summer days... until it didn't.
The last festival Marissa attended was bittersweet. James had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. The newlyweds still attended the festival each day at the insistence of James, as if he already knew that it would be the last one he would ever attend. Despite Marissa's protests against the idea, the couple still rode all the rides, and still ate copious amounts of cotton candy. They had to walk slower, and James was prone to bouts of nausea, but despite everything, the two found a way to laugh like they hadn't since the word cancer entered their lives. Unfortunately, when the next year's festival came around, James was already lost from the world and Marissa couldn't bear to attend without him.
The years passed, and Mari still couldn't find it in her to join the festivities. She'd successfully found excuses to stay home or reasons to be out of town each summer... until this year. The perfect storm of her niece being old enough to attend the fair, her assistant suggesting that it would be good for business to have a booth during the festival, and some prodding from her family and friends resulted in Marissa having to finally face her demons and participate once again in Maple Grove's festival. Though not without a little help.
Almost immediately upon arrival to the fairgrounds, the blonde realtor found her way to one of the bar stands that had been set up. With her flyers and sweet iced tea in tow, Marissa had convinced one of the male bartenders to top off her drink with something a little stronger. Not wanting to conspicuously carry around booze so early in the day, but not able to stomach the festival without something to take off the edge, Marissa was satisfied with her plan to spike her to-go cup from one of the local coffee shops with something a little extra. Unfortunately, she hadn't been terribly specific in which liquor she wanted mixed in with the sweet tea, and ended up with whiskey instead of her preferred vodka. Beggars couldn't be choosers though, and she paid for her doctored drink, with an extra tip for discretion, and went on her way.
Marissa hadn't planned to attend the festival until later in the day when she was supposed to babysit her niece, Megan, for her brother, but her assistant had forgotten the freshly printed flyers for the booth and asked Marissa to bring them over. Work came first for Marissa these days, so despite her reluctance to spend any more time at the fair than necessary, she obliged. Making her way to her business's booth, Marissa was intercepted by a woman she'd sold a house to recently who was running a boutique clothing stand. Not particularly in the market for the wispy dresses the woman was selling, the blonde did her best to slip away from the lady before she ended up purchasing something out of guilt.
Just as she offered a quick goodbye, Marrisa turned to make her get away and ran right into what felt like a brick wall. Her tea instantly found itself on her instead of in the cup, her flyers went, well, flying, and Marissa was cast off balance at the unexpected impact. Before she could fall though, a strong grip caught her arm and saved her from even more embarrassment. The front of her shirt and shorts now soaked, the blonde was about to chastise her assailant for his negligence, but the words died on her lips when she finally got a look at the man. Tall, muscular, and seemingly covered in tats from what she could immediately see, the man already had a smile on his face as he looked down at her. Marissa's annoyed expression softened in surprise as he apologized with a bow of his head that seemed almost out of place for such a young man.
"Oh, ugh, it's okay..." Marissa uttered as he knelt down to pick up her cup and what was left of the flyers. Her cheeks flushed a little as she recalled that her tea wasn't entirely non-alcoholic, and had to disagree with the man's sentiment that things could be worse. She wasn't able to worry about that long though as the man read one of her flyers as he stood and introduced himself. Realtor, hmm? Marissa Locke. Well, it's nice to meet you, Marissa. I'm Adrian. As much as Marissa liked to tell herself that she was safest and happiest at work or at home hidden away from people, she still was a woman and not entirely immune to the charms of certain men. Particularly those men who weren't from around town, which she was almost certain included Adrian. If this man lived in Maple Grove, Marissa would have been acutely aware.
"Nice to meet you as well, Adrian... despite the circumstances." Marissa replied, offering a polite smile as she tried to ignore the stickiness of her shirt. She took the flyers from Adrian's hand and held them against her chest a little, using them to hide some of her soaked state. "Yeah, a realtor... Are you in the market?" The blonde asked with a small grin, her blue eyes studying him curiously. "Or just passing through?" Either answer would work in Marissa's favor, though she wasn't sure which she was hoping for more.
Typically, Alarick enjoyed Summer. It was the season that followed Spring, and it's beginning meant the end to a large portion of his duties as King of the aforementioned season. He could pass on the responsibilities to Alarick, and enjoy a little more freedom until next year. However, every one hundred years, the month of July carried more significance, and it was during these special years that Alarick didn't particularly care for Summer. The warm season was usually spent dreading the annual festival that the brothers would attend, until they did, and then afterward, trying to convince an unsuspecting woman that she should be happy spending the rest of her life with him. The singular week of the festival was usually the highlight and happiest week of Summer, as well as, the happiest week with the woman who would become his wife.
It was the calm before the storm. Alarick usually tried to find the woman who would become his bride fairly early in the festival, so that he could have as much time with her as possible to learn about her in a more natural environment. Ignorance truly was bliss, because as soon as the woman learned of her fate at the end of the week, things expectedly changed. Whatever relationship Alarick had with her before, was almost always strained once his bride learned he had tricked her into giving up the life she once had. Yes, it was all to keep balance in the world, yet even when that was explained, it was hard to resume the easy going nature of the relationship. If it had ever been easygoing to begin with.
Some years, Alarick was luckier than others. It seemed that in the earlier days, the women were culturally less independent and more submissive. Their lives weren't in their control anyways, as fathers often married their daughters off as a form of transaction, so it didn't matter so much to the young women when they found themselves captive in a kingdom with Kings and mythical beings. In fact, many of Alarick's first brides were thrilled to be married to him and live in such luxury compared to their lives at home. However, as the centuries went on, and overall living conditions for women improved, Alarick's wives became less and less thrilled at the thought of giving up their freedom to a man they'd known for seven days or less.
Rose, the werewolf king's last wife, made their first Summer together unbearable, along with their first Autumn, Winter and beginning of Spring. It wasn't until she was able to watch Alarick preside over his season that she finally accepted her fate. After that, Alarick shared a few decades of general happiness with Rose before she began to grow noticeably older than the werewolf's perpetual young body. It was then that the disdain and resentment that had been present their first year of marriage returned, as Rose realized her life was coming to an end while his would continue on forever. Alarick's once young and beautiful wife fell into despair and her mental capacities began slipping as she drove herself crazy. Not wanting to rub his immortality in Rose's face, Alarick spent less and less time with her, choosing to keep his then widowed (again) brothers company. Adrian and Asher's wives had died already sometime ago, and Alarick too was preparing himself for another loss.
The end of the Spring King's relationship with Rose did not go as it had with his past wives. One night, during the New Moon, Rose finally snapped and in her rage of having her life stolen from her by Alarick, attacked him in his sleep. It would have been easy to put an end to her attack, even with the absence of his usual powers, but Alarick could not bring himself to deny her the release she so desperately sought. So he took it, without raising a single hand to his aging wife. After the attack, Alarick fell into a coma, spending the next six months healing from his wounds. His immortality had saved him, but the New Moon left his body unable to heal as it usually did, and so the scars remained, physically and emotionally. Upon waking up, Alarick found that Rose had died, though no one would quite tell him how, and he was once again alone, with no one but his brothers as family.
Understandably so, Alarick was now not entirely thrilled to start the cycle of finding, wedding and disappointing another wife. Yet, as he walked the fairgrounds and watched the humans interacting with each other, he couldn't help but be reminded of better times. The festival, in a way, acted as a "do-over" button, and Alarick was determined, at least for the week, to see it as a new opportunity and not something to dread. Yet. He'd spent the first day of the festival speaking with different young women, trying to find any kind of spark with one of them, but was so far empty handed.
Times had certainly changed since the last festival, and the women were certainly more outgoing, flirty, independent and headstrong than the former festivals. While this would make things much more difficult in the long run, it also intrigued Alarick. He'd been alive for so long and acquired more knowledge than he had use for, that it was hard to find a bride who could keep him entertained. Maybe this year, he would find a woman who could keep up. Perhaps even match him in ways that more modest and traditional women had not. Speaking of which...
Alarick had been watching a dark haired beauty as she rode the bumper cars, when he heard a woman's voice over the crowd say the most peculiar string of words he'd ever heard. If I gave you one more, you'd be drunker than a backwoods priest at communion. The twang in the woman's voice was unfamiliar, and Alarick couldn't help but look around for the source, quickly forgetting the woman he'd been eyeing a moment before. As he weaved his way through the crowd, ignoring the flirty glances from a giggling group of co-eds, Alarick scanned the crowd. Even before he heard the woman speak again, his gaze landed on a beautiful blonde behind one of the pop-up bars. Part of him hoped that the voice that had piqued his interest belonged to this girl, and he made his way over towards her.
Unfortunately, the young woman had fallen silent as all her customers, or lack thereof, were tended to. Hanging back for a moment, Alarick grinned to himself a little as she poured herself a shot and tossed it back easily. If nothing else, the woman would make a good drinking buddy, he thought to himself as he continued his stroll over to the bar. Taking one of the empty stools, Alarick leaned an elbow on the bar and cocked his head to the side a little. "Feel like sharing one more of those with some company?" He asked, nodding to the empty shot glass the blonde had set down, and offering a mischievous smirk. It was the moment of truth, if the next few words out of this woman's mouth carried that southern drawl, then he had perhaps found a woman of interest. And if not... well, he could always have a little fun with this girl nonetheless.
The time finally came for the town festival to begin. Ever since the morning, Carina was restless and she couldn’t wait for the time come so she could finally dart off and join the festivities. That morning, she woke up incredibly early. As always when anything exciting was happening. Granted, to the redhead, many things were exciting that others just considered ordinary and mundane but that was the magic of her persona. She could find the beauty in everything and make even the most basic item seem like it was the best thing since sliced bread.
The second day of the festival was even better than the first one because at this point, Cari knew what was where and what she wanted to see, try, ride, eat, everything. The afternoon seemed to be much brighter, much warmer than the previous day, the sounds of the festivals echoed in the air throughout the whole Maple Groves, buzzing and chirping, soaking through every building, every tree, every single person in the town.
Carina could barely sit at home and finish her lunch. Alone. Dean was still gone. Well, not gone gone, but he went to get a room in a small local inn after the big blowout with him and Tori. One might say that it was nothing. One might say that Carina was making a mountain out of a molehill. But to her, it was the greatest betrayal ever because Dean was the first real man in her life, the one she truly loved and the one she said yes to. The small diamond that used to sit on her left ring finger, now resting in her bedstand, was the perfect proof. But seeing him all comfy and cuddly with Victoria Zabielski was definitely painful. Especially since Carina thought they were friends. She and Tori.
Blinking the worries away, the redhead finished her chicken cheese pasta and placed the dirty dishes in a dishwasher to wash them later. Now, a new adventure was calling her name and there was no time to think about past miseries. She ran out of her house as if she was a young teenager hurrying for her first date and not a twenty-six-year-old grown woman. Carina always had a soul of a child though and since her whole life, she had been denied everything considered funny and entertaining, this was finally the time of her life when she could enjoy herself thoroughly.
The girl ran the whole time, ran as if somebody was chasing her and when she finally stopped right in front where the major part of the festival was taking place, she looked up with a silent “whoa” on her lips. There were already so many things she was tempted to do. Taking a deep breath in, she reached inside her purse and pulled out a piece of paper, neatly folded in four. Frowning a little bit with focus over the list, Cari studied it for a while. “Cotton candy, fried twinkies, ride a mechanical bull, check out the petting zoo…But first, ride a roller coaster.” she grinned and folded her list again, put her sunflower sunglasses on and valiantly walked in, marching straight to the roller coaster built on the other side of the fair.
It was safe to say that she had never ridden one. Carina had no idea what to expect but the tall snake of rails and loops looked so exciting that she simply couldn’t have passed the opportunity. The Internet was full of videos of people riding these but you know what they say. It’s so much better to experience once than hear about it thousand times. Or something like that. Cari had no time to ponder over old sayings. Instead, she gleefully clutched the purchased ticket and let the attendant bring her to a car, securing her in. But as much as she wanted to be already going up that first hill, there were still a few more people to get in. The seat by her side was empty as it seemed no one was brave enough to take the very front. No one but Cari.
It was safe to say that Summer was not Arthur’s favorite season. It was not only because he himself ruled over Winter and as one of the most cold-blooded creatures, he enjoyed the lower temperatures more but also because Summer was way too loud, way too chirpy, people were always always out, yapping, yelling, screaming, children were running around and squealing as they were trying to bestow this tag, whatever that was, upon each other. God, how Arthur hated that rush and rustle of summer days. How Adrian could handle it, Art would never understand. Then again, Adrian was the wildest of all four brothers so apparently, it was only fitting that he was the Summer King.
That one particular day, though, Art made an exception and left to Maple Groves in the middle of a warm summer day. It was that time again. Hundreds years have passed once again and it was time to find a new Winter Queen. For Arthur, it was always a painful experience because in his min, there was only one that was worthy of such a title and the one was never going to take that title and rule by his side. Viktoria was gone and so was Arthur’s hope for love eternal. At least that was what he thought. Each of the Kings was destined to find a woman who was going to be special, one to surpass everything and stay by their sides for all eternity. For now, neither of them was lucky enough to find her. And Art felt that maybe, just maybe, his one and only was already gone and he was condemned to life with burying his wives.
And not all of them were lovely and kind in nature. Art actually preferred to choose a spitfire. Maybe that kind of girl was going to make him feel something else than just utter sadness. Maybe the next girl would melt the everlasting ice growing inside, around his dead heart. But the truth is that the had thought the same about Jocelyn, his last wife. She was beautiful, gorgeous really, very lively and chatty but also knew when to shut up. Art felt the ice thaw for a moment and maybe it was even true because around Josie, he was a bit different. He was not his usual stoic quiet self. Josie could get him to do all kinds of stuff and with her by his side, the old vampire actually decided to leave the castle and show her the world.
He was a damn idiot to believe that she truly loved him. And he was even worse kind of stupid for actually turning her. He had never done it before. No matter how much his past wives begged him, he never turned any of them. But Josie was an exception. He fed her his blood, he tasted hers, sweet as ambrosia, he was the one to snap her neck and he was the one waiting by her side when she awoke as the creature of the night. And that was when all his trouble began. It’s enough to say that, once again, Art was the one who snapped her neck. And while not breathing, he was the one to rip her heart out. And with that, the ice grew even more. It was the first time after centuries that tears rolled down Art’s face as he buried Jocelyn with all his other brides.
No wonder that he was not optimistic anymore. But for the sake of maintaining the world order, the Vampire King of Winter joined the crowd gathered to attend the festival and looked around in search for the next Queen. The sun was shining way too brightly for his taste and it was making him thirsty. With a deep sigh, he located the closest drinks booth and walked towards it. As he understood it, there were several drinks booth and one major bar set up but he was more than sure that neither of those would pour a glass of Sassenach to him so it didn’t really matter what he was about to drink. On the other hand, if it was not either his favorite Scotch or his favorite 0 neg, why bother, anyway?
Art was about to have a look what that damn drink booth had to offer when he felt something. As if something made him to look up only to see a person approaching. She looked angry, upset, something was not the way she wanted to be. Her blonde hair shone in that damned summer sun and made the day brighter and Art tilted his head in curiosity. She was definitely the type Art might have been looking for but he was also old enough not to be hasty. For now, the girl was a pretty face. One that he wanted to test before he would either pursue her further or move on. “I don’t think this is the weather for such a frown, ma’am.” he smiled at her, tucking his hands in the pockets of pants. “It seems like this whole charade cannot put that satisfying smile on your face, am I right?”
If anyone really wanted to get a hold of Tori, they could just call her. She had no doubt that her father had given her phone number out to just about everyone he could, as long as it meant one less thing he had to worry about. Only Tori's father was not the type to not worry, hence the earlier phone call. Even though it had only lasted a few short minutes, that was enough to last Tori the whole day. There were times where she wondered why she'd even come back to Maple Grove, but then she remembered her life in Hollywood and she remembered. Even Maple Grove was better than that. Besides, she only planned on regrouping and coming up with another plan. Tori was a small town girl with big city dreams, and she was determined to make something of herself in this world, and that wasn't something she could do trapped in this town. Anyone who saw Tori could tell that she was a girl on a mission, and most people knew to just stay out of her way.
Summer was by far her favorite season. The ungodly hot weather aside, it was the season of freedom, and that's what Tori craved the most. Freedom to be who she wanted to be. Though if she were being honest with herself, that wasn't her top want in life. Yes she wanted to be herself, whoever she ended up being, but she wanted to be accepted for that version of herself. She was not blind to her faults: she was impatient, impulsive, stubborn as a bull and not afraid to speak her mind. These were all traits that had been pointed out to her her whole life. Traits that her father swore would make her a terrible wife, if she ever even found someone who would want to be tied to her forever. Honestly, his words were hurtful and they had lingered in Tori's mind her whole life.
But fine. She just wouldn't get married. She'd become a career woman while she was still young, and once she was famous she'd have people begging to spend their time with her. Ignoring the fact that she didn't fully believe that's what she really wanted, she just always shoved those thoughts aside. Shit, before she even started thinking about marriage she needed a boyfriend, and she definitely wasn't looking for one of those right now. Her most recent ex had been someone she met during her time outside of Maple Grove, but she'd realized too late he was not the type of man she wanted to be with. He was seedy and shady, dealing in all sorts of underground matters. Of course, she'd only found this out after showing up to his place once while he was in the middle of a drug deal.
That had been the final nail on the coffin, what had made her high tail it out of Hollywood and back to Maple Grove. That didn't change all of the things she'd done before that moment, but that time in her life was dead and would remain buried. Forever. With her headset still in place, she'd left the stage area to find a drink station. They were everywhere around town, to prevent people from getting dehydrated. She didn't need liquor, though she actually rather liked the idea of a shot right about now. Her fake ID was safely tucked in her wallet, though, back in her purse which she'd stupidly left hidden backstage. Fuck. Figuring that she'd settle for a water or even a lemonade for right now, she spotted one of the drink booths and angled her body to head in that direction.
She'd just stepped in line when she heard a male voice, and her eyes shifted from the menu above the booth to a man looking directly at her. “I don’t think this is the weather for such a frown, ma’am. It seems like this whole charade cannot put that satisfying smile on your face, am I right?” She couldn't help but stare at him, her lips slightly parted as though she were going to respond but nothing coming out. How had he...? Well, maybe her facial expression left little to the imagination. But still, not everyone would just call her out like that. Realizing he was probably looking for an answer and she was still staring, she snapped her lips shut and glanced back at the menu to give herself a moment. "This whole event is bullsh-" She started to say, when her father's ringtone started going off again from her pocket.
Her eyes shut for a moment as she pulled the device out, answering it without looking at the screen. "Yes, dad?" She asked, her voice clipped. "No, they're not here yet-- what do you mean, not coming? What the hell do you expect me to do about it? Finding a backup performer was not my- jesus christ. I don't-" She stopped abruptly again, pulling the phone away from her free ear, glancing down at the screen to see that the call had ended. And that was that. Something else was somehow her fault, and she'd never hear the end of it. Shoving the phone back into her pocket, she tore the headset off of her head. "As I said. This whole event is bullshit." She muttered, her words directed at the man from before. The line moved some and she followed, crossing her arms over her chest. "Are you having fun, though? So I can let daddy dearest know." Her tone implied that she didn't care much at all, though. After a moment, she sighed, looking down at the ground. "Sorry. I probably shouldn't take my shitty life out on a stranger."
It was safe to say that Adrian didn't have choosing a wife down to a science like one or two of the other kings. He went mostly by feeling, by the emotion he felt when he laid his eyes upon the woman he would choose. He'd had wives of all different shapes, sizes, hair colors, skin colors. He honestly wasn't picky, as long as she meshed well with him. He wasn't sure what it was that usually had him making his final decision; all he could say was that he felt it inside. Despite being immortal and despite the fact that he and his three brothers only visited one town every century or so, there was always someone for them to choose from. Adrian had wondered many times what it would be like or what would happen if they chose a different town. Would it really make that much of a difference? Maple Grove wasn't exactly a supernatural town, but it was the chosen town.
Hell, he didn't pretend to know everything. Walking through Maple Grove in the year 2020, he could see how things had changed over the course of time, same as it always did. He liked this ear, though. It was bright, colorful, and fun. It helped that summer was his season, because the 20s had been fun too, just in a different way. But people had become more open in the last century, and Adrian was happy about that. Still with doubt in his heart that he would find his eternal wife this time around, he was ready to mingle and see what Maple Grove had to offer this time around. Looking around, he saw many beautiful women. Mothers, daughters, family members and friends of all sorts surrounded him, enjoying the festival and the warm weather and the time spent with their loved ones.
He didn't expect to run into someone so soon, though. Or rather, have someone run into him. It seemed that neither one of them had been paying attention, though, and he quite literally knocked her drink and papers from her hands. He bent down to help her collect the ones he could, straightening and almost immediately noticing the stain on her pretty top. Glancing down at the stack of papers in his hands, he noticed they were flyers for a Marissa Locke, Realtor. And he knew this Marissa Locke was the woman in front of him, because her beautiful face smiled up at him from the flyers. Introducing himself as well, he handed her back the papers he was still holding onto, the smile on his face widening. There was something shining from within the woman before him, but the light was dimmed by a darkness surrounding her heart. A sadness in her eyes.
"Nice to meet you as well, Adrian... despite the circumstances." He noticed the politeness of the smile as she took the flyers, holding them against her chest. To protect the stain on her shirt? Or to protect her heart? "Yeah, a realtor... Are you in the market? Or just passing through?" Hearing her voice again, he tore his gaze from the flyers, realizing too late that he was staring in the general direction of her chest. Not that that was a bad thing, but he'd learned well enough over his lifetime that not every woman appreciated staring. But when his eyes met hers, she was smiling, her eyes studying him even as his studied her. "I've visited Maple Grove a few times in my lifetime, though I've never thought about settling here." He told her, which wasn't exactly a lie.
Deciding to change the subject, he looked again down at the stack of papers in her hands, a small frown appearing on his lips. "I really am sorry for... that." He nodded towards the stain hidden by the flyers. Looking up and around, he spotted a nearby booth selling clothing. "Let me replace it." He told her suddenly, placing a hand on the small of her back and turning her towards the booth. "You can't walk around all day with a stain on your shirt. I assume you're here to celebrate, same as everyone else, right? Well, what better way to celebrate than allowing the man who ruined your shirt to buy you a new one?" Gently leading her towards the booth, he glanced down at her as they got closer, his eyes lingering on her pretty face again before he spoke. "It's either that, or you can take mine."
His was already hanging open some, revealing some of the ink underneath of the shirt. His sleeves were rolled up, revealing some of the ink on his arms as well. If he were to strip down, she would see he was inked all over, but thankfully for the general public, he left his clothes on. For now. "I'd say you could go home and change, but I'm afraid you might not come back to me if I let you leave." He winked as he released her, heading over to the racks of clothing. "What about this one?" Pulling a yellow item from the shelf, he turned and looked at her, then shook his head. "No, I don't like it. Come, come, Marissa. Pick one. And remember, mine is still an option." He grinned as he turned to face her again, drinking in her figure as he waited for her answer.
The whiskey went down smooth, warm the southern sweetheart from the inside out. She took a moment to think about her father. Captain Soriano had never hidden the fact that Jolene was adopted. In fact, as soon as she was old enough, he told her the story of how they came together as a family. If she were completely honest with herself, she had certainly wondered about her birth family, why they had given her up in the fashion that they did, where they were now. Beyond all of that though, her father had always been enough for her. She never felt like she was missing out by not knowing who or where they were. However, she was sad that she could never meet her adoptive mother, the captain's wife.
In a way, they had saved each other's lives without really knowing it. He was sad and alone, drifting slightly after the death of his wife. She was a wayward child with no family who would have just ended up in a system to be forgotten. They were a match made in whatever afterlife was out there. Jolene specifically remembered the first drink she had ever taken. It was some random Wednesday afternoon and Jo had just gotten out of school. She wasn't scheduled to work, and she didn't have any homework. So, the blonde decided to stop by the firehouse to visit the older man. It was a rather rough day, with back-to-back fires and long work hours. But they were finally done and gathered around the conference table with a bottle of scotch.
Captain Soriano poured a shot for his entire team, including his daughter, and they sat in silence. Raising their shot glasses, each person threw theirs back in succession, ending with Jo. She didn't know what had happened or what they had seen, and the amber liquid nearly made her gag at the time. But she did know that the alcohol was well needed. As she stared into the shot glass in front of her, Jolene couldn't help the smile that turned up the corners of her lips. She hoped that wherever her father was, he was reunited with his wife and happy.
A strong voice caught her attention, causing the blonde bartender to flinch in surprise with a hand over her heart. "Goodness gracious!" she yelped, turning around to find a striking man now sitting at her bar. She had been so lost in thought that she hadn't even heard him approach. "You almost gave me a heart attack! Ain't your mama ever teach you never to sneak up on a lady in thought?" Jo chastised with a teasing tone, giving him a once-over. He was ruggedly handsome, the type of guy she would mind spending more time with and definitely had in her past. At the very least he could make for some interesting conversation and potentially information.
"I suppose one more wouldn't hurt. I was always taught it's impolite to let someone drink alone. But then again, my father didn't think I would ever be a bartender," Jolene said, pulling out two more shot glasses and filling them to the brim. She slid one in front of each of them, delicately picking hers up. Gently clinking it against his, the blonde took the shot with ease, slipping her empty glasses into the bus bin below. Turning her hazel gaze back to the man in front of her, Jo leaned forward against the counter. "So, stranger. You aren't one of my regulars. Can't say I've seen you around these parts before either. Visiting from out of town, or are you a bar shy townie?"
Humans were so peculiar, having the notion to mostly live for today and yet worry about yesterday and tomorrow. As Asher slipped among the crowd, he certainly felt the looks and stares from co-eds in search of a fun time. He heard their flirtatious giggles and winked in response to their small waves. But they weren't the type of girl he was looking for. Over the years, he had become a bit more selective in the women he chose as his brides. In the beginning, it seemed as though parents were more than willing to offer up their daughters in exchange for some sort of penance or nepotism. As the brothers were the kings of the season, it was only fitting that they had certain powers and controlled certain aspects of the yearly cycle. Many thought that by giving away their daughters to the kings, they would receive some sort of special treatment.
Asher, however, recognized their selfish natures, watching as fathers tried to give away daughters with no regard for their wants. For a long time, he really despised that way of thinking. But, as the years dragged on, he realized that's exactly what they were doing. They tricked women into returning to their kingdoms with them, forced them into a marriage they may or may not want, and captured them away from their loved ones. At the end of the day, how was Asher any different from those fathers that he so looked down on? Even though some women were submissive in nature and did as they were told, it didn't remedy the guilty feeling each time he tricked them.
But, at the end of the day, it was all about balance. Mother Nature required queens to help rule over the seasons, claiming the brothers needed the 'women's touch' to run things properly, whatever that meant. Ash had always thought he was perfectly fine, speaking to the elves and making decisions for the fall. His wives were generally more like figureheads, not getting involved with leadership duties mostly because they didn't want to rather than he wouldn't let them. But this time around, the brunette found himself wanting something new and fresh, someone different.
Though they all searched for women that fit them best, Asher was the type to follow his heart rather than make a calculated decision. He went where the breeze took him, let his feet fall where they may. Twisting around games booths, by food and drink stands, through entertainment venues, Asher moved in search of something or someone that caught his eye. He hadn't seen his brothers since they separated earlier, and hoped that they were following their hearts rather than their minds as well. Eventually, he made his way over to the rides, staring at the tall miniature trains as they twisted and curved along the skyline. These certainly hadn't been around the last time he had visited Earth. Curious and drawn to the so-called 'rollercoasters,' Asher found himself strapped into the seat of a cart alongside someone else.
"Are these safe?" the elf king found himself asking the person next to him, tugging on the straps across his waist. "I've never been on one of these before. They seem like they are the best designs." He hadn't even had a chance to look up at that person yet, too preoccupied with the strange contraption he sat in. But when he did, Asher felt his heart clench almost painfully in his chest. If he wasn't immortal, he would worry that he was having some sort of heart attack. The woman alongside him was absolutely enchanting, with striking red hair and doe eyes he could get lost in. While Ash usually liked to take his time to make the right choice, he knew automatically that she was the one he would make his bride. Offering her a grin, he asked the first thing he thought of: "Have you been on many of these?"
For the past four or so years, Marissa Locke had taken her new last name quite literally and kept the girl she'd once been locked away. It was much easier to reinvent herself than to deal with the pain that the old her went through. She'd lost the man she thought was going to be her future so young, before they even really had the chance to begin adulthood, and that had its effects. Marissa skipped what should have been the fun, adventurous years of her early twenties, and dove head first into working. Without a college degree, her options were a little more limited, but through a friend of her mother's, she landed an assistant position at a local real estate company. Without the distraction of a significant other or social life, Marissa easily climbed the ranks and earned her real estate license, eventually even branching off and creating her own business early last year.
Running a company had kept the blonde busy, and what free time she had was often spent babysitting her niece or nephew and avoiding being set up with guys from town by her sister. According to her family, it was about time that Marissa tried opening herself up again to the possibility of finding new love- a sentiment that Mari did not share. The young woman never wanted to feel the heartbreak she had again, and the only way to ensure that was to never let anyone get close to her. Even casual relationships were too much, and as soon as Mari found herself getting attached to a man in town, she ended things. One night stands were one of the few releases that Marissa could handle though. Visitors offered a fun night or two without any strings attached, the promise that she wouldn't have to run into them again, and the comfort of knowing she couldn't get her heart broken.
Since Marissa had avoided the Maple Grove festival the past few years like the plague, it had never really occurred to her that the fair might be the perfect place to meet strangers who were just in town for the festivities. At least, not until she met the man who introduced himself as Adrian. His smile was contagious, and despite her initial annoyance at having her tea and papers knocked out of her hands, she couldn't help but return it. Marissa's flyers supplied Adrian with her name and profession, which was more than the guarded woman might have shared otherwise, though as his grin widened, she was thankful for said marketing.
When Marissa asked Adrian if he was looking to buy a house or just passing through, she was too busy taking in the sheer number of tattoos he had to notice his gaze trained a little lower than eye level. The man looked to be a walking canvas of intricate ink, which might have been intimidating if not for his warm demeanor. Maybe it was the few sips of spiked tea she'd managed to take before the spill, but this man seemed... radiant. Adrian's eyes lifted to meet hers, and her initial polite smile grew into a genuine one. I've visited Maple Grove a few times in my lifetime, though I've never thought about settling here. His answer broke her trance, and Marissa realized she'd gotten a little caught up.
"Well, if you ever change your mind, you know who to call..." The blonde half joked, pleased to hear that he didn't have any intentions of sticking around Maple Grove permanently, so she didn't have to run away quite yet. Adrian's gaze lowered as he apologized again, and Mari glanced down at her damp shirt too. She opened her mouth to offer her own apology for bumping into him as well, but he continued talking, offering to replace her shirt. "Oh, um, that really isn't..." The blonde started to reply, before his warm hand was suddenly on her back, turning her in direction of the clothing booth. You can't walk around all day with a stain on your shirt. I assume you're here to celebrate, same as everyone else, right? Well, what better way to celebrate than allowing the man who ruined your shirt to buy you a new one?
Marissa frowned for a moment, forgetting that this festival was supposed to be a celebration, at least for most people. "Right, celebrating..." She echoed softly, deciding it better to go along with his assumption than bring up a messy subject. Besides, Adrian was right about her not being able to walk around as she was. Even once the spill dried, she could hardly promote her business or babysit her niece later while her clothes smelled like whiskey. Glancing at the booth, Marissa let the tattooed man lead her over. She was about to insist that she could pay for a new outfit herself though, when he added- It's either that, or you can take mine.
Surprised by his flirty ultimatum, Marissa glanced up at him, her cheeks flushing ever so slightly as she briefly considered the option of relieving him of his shirt. It wasn't like the button up was being put to full use anyways, and Mari was curious as to how far the tattoos continued beneath the cloth... Wait, what was she thinking? An amused laugh escaped Marissa's lips as she realized how silly she was being, and she shook her head, dismissing the idea. "I think I'll let you keep it for now." Mari replied with a small grin, before the outgoing man continued to talk. I'd say you could go home and change, but I'm afraid you might not come back to me if I let you leave.
If not for Adrian's wink at the end of his statement, Marissa may have been concerned about the sentiment of his words and shown him that he wasn't in control of letting her do anything. However, he seemed to be teasing, and he released her right after that comment, so Mari ignored any red flags that might have otherwise been raised. Besides, a part of her also worried that if she left she wouldn't come back, and would later regret leaving this alluring stranger. Even if his choice of women's fashion was questionable as he held up a yellow tunic. Mari scrunched her nose and shook her head, and luckily Adrian also decided that it wasn't a good fit. Running her hand along a rack of clothes, Marissa tried to find something that wasn't entirely out of the realm of what she'd wear. Her shirt had suffered most of the damage, but her white shorts hadn't escaped entirely unscathed, so a dress was the most economic choice for now.
Come, come, Marissa. Pick one. And remember, mine is still an option. Marissa looked over at Adrian at his urging for her to pick something, and she laughed again at his reminder. "I'm starting to think you just want an excuse to ditch your shirt..." She teased, pulling a sundress from the rack and holding it up to herself for a moment. It was simple, yet cute, reasonably priced, and would do nicely in the warm weather. "And as tempting as it is, I think I'd need to borrow it longer than you're willing to part with it." She added as she walked by him, disappearing into the curtained off area that served as a small changing room. It only took a minute or two for her to discard her clothes and slip the new dress on instead.
Re-emerging from the dressing room, Marissa smiled a little awkwardly. "Alright, I think I’m going with this one... But you honestly don’t have to buy it. I should have been paying better attention." She insisted, carrying her other outfit with her as she walked over to the woman who ran the booth. It was the same woman who had tried to goad her into purchasing something minutes earlier. Looks like the lady got her wish. “I’ll be wearing this out, but can I still get a bag?” She asked, gesturing to the clothes in hand she hoped a little stain remover would fix once she did return home. “Should have known better than to wear white.” Mari sighed.
Over the centuries, Alarick had interacted with millions of people from all walks of life. However, no matter how much he tried, he just never could get used to being in crowds. He hated it, to be honest, but maybe that was just the lone wolf in him. He didn't mind small groups, his pack mentality allowing him to put up with a select number of people, but overall, the chaos of masses of strangers was draining. Prior to the festivals in Maple Grove that the brothers had to attend every 100 years, Alarick would disappear into the woods for a few weeks, to recharge his social battery and prepare himself for the onslaught of interactions that would be necessary to find his next bride. He didn't mind talking to the women who caught his interest so much, but he could do without the hoards of friendly townsfolk that stood between him and them.
The previous day, Alarick had kept out of the fray as much as possible. Lurking in the few quiet areas of the fair, he'd found a handful of pretty women that had potential... but after a half hour or so of talking to each one, he usually was able to tell that they would not be a part of his future. While the werewolf was strategic in his game plan, aiming to find a match within the first day or two, he didn't really have a way to describe how he made the final selection. Some years it was just because the women made him laugh, other years because he found that he wasn't constantly checking the time with them, and once just because he was too tired to keep looking for anyone else. That was 50 or so years wasted, but wasn't like he was running short on time.
After the unfortunate end with his last wife though, Alarick was particularly on edge about picking his bride this year. Or, at least he had been. His standards were very high this festival, and he tried to tell him not to rush into anything. He had a week to decide, he needed to make sure this next woman wasn't going to go off the deep end again... for the sake of the seasons. Despite his caution though, when the voice of a young woman caught his ear, Alarick's plans to not rush into anything were quickly forgotten.
The voice had fallen silent, but after a scan of the crowd, Alarick took a gamble that it belonged to the pretty bartender. At least, the voice had come from that direction and though her dialect was a little, well, unique, it sounded like something that a bartender would say to a customer. Taking a seat, the dark haired man hadn't meant to startle the blonde when he asked if she'd join him for a drink, but she yelped in surprise nonetheless. Goodness gracious! You almost gave me a heart attack! Ain't your mama ever teach you never to sneak up on a lady in thought?
Yep. This was the woman he was looking for alright- in more ways than one. Alarick couldn't help the large grin that spread across his face, and he chuckled, holding his hands up apologetically. "Sorry, sorry..." He replied, not blind to the once over Jo gave him. "I suppose I must have missed that lesson. Didn't mean to startle you." Even if the entity that was considered Alarick and his brother's "mother" had taught them all manners in their younger years, those days were long forgotten. Truly, Alarick wasn't even sure if he had what one might consider a childhood. He hardly counted himself as having a mother even, but he wasn't going to divulge that right now.
Despite her scare, the blonde woman agreed to have one more shot with Al, much to his satisfaction. He was curious about her comment about her father, but decided to save his question for a later time if they continued to get along. She slide a shot of whiskey over to him, and he raised it. "To your father's fine teachings, then." He toasted as she clinked her glass against his. Alarick watched her for a moment as she tossed back the second shot just as easily as the first, before he swallowed his as well.
Savoring the slight burn at the back of his throat, Alarick drank Jo in as she leaned against the counter. He'd been rather transfixed by the way she spoke up to this point, but her looks were just as beguiling. Her hazel eyes were fixed on him, and Al had a feeling that he wouldn't get tired of looking at those eyes should he bring her home with him. Had she not been looking at him intently, he might have let his gaze roam all over her, but he didn't want to be rude. Not if she could potentially be his next bride. So, stranger. You aren't one of my regulars. Can't say I've seen you around these parts before either. Visiting from out of town, or are you bar shy townie?
Alarick leaned forward on the counter as well, mirroring Jo's action, propping himself up on one elbow. "I've never been called bar shy in my life." He smirked. "I'm just visiting for the week." He added, turning to look at the festival for a moment. "Just can't seem to stay away from the festivities." He said, a little sarcastically, before turning back to Jo. "Though it doesn't sound like you're from around here either... You been in Maple Grove long Miss...?" He asked, leaving a silence for Jo to fill in her name. "What brought you here?"
It was a relief that despite all the people at the fairgrounds, the early hours of the afternoon made the bar a small oasis. With any luck, the lull would continue and Al could use the relative quiet atmosphere to get to know the blonde woman. He already had a feeling that his search would end with her, but he wasn't cashing in his chips quite yet. He still hadn't determined if she was single or in a relationship. If the latter, Alarick would likely have to move on. Despite his questionable choices for other things, he didn't want to break up a relationship. He did have some morals.
Group home where Carina had grown up never really offered any entertainment. The highest peak of it was going out on a field trip to the local library because there was park on their way and if the kids behaved themselves, borrowed nice little books approved by the home management and were polite and smiled right, they were allowed to stop there on their way back and play for around a half an hour. That was the most fun Carina had in her life back when she was a kid. Jumping in between the families did not help her either because when away from the home, she usually missed something, a good movie on their movie nights or an ice cream evening. And she rarely stayed with the foster families for long enough to actually go on a trip with them.
Once, only once, she got close to going on a trip to Orlando. They were going to spend the whole weekend there and visit Universal Studios, ride all the roller coasters, eat all the cotton candy and just enjoy the hell out of it. Little Cari had her little suitcase packed and that morning, she woke up extra early to make sure she was ready and not causing any trouble. She was six years old back then and a trip to see roller coasters was the biggest thing that had happened to her at that point and the squeals of joy were echoing through the house as the little family was having their breakfast. However, as the saying goes, what man thinks best, God knows better. Or something like that Carina remembered vaguely from the nuns back at school.
Before they managed to leave, her new mom became sick, like really sick. The trip was cancelled and a week later, the couple found out that miracles indeed happen and they were going to have their own child. Which only meant that Cari packed her suitcase again. But this time, her trip was much shorter and she simply returned back to the group home. Broken and disappointed.
That disappointment was partially the reason why she was in such a hurry now, running straight for the roller coasters. For twenty one years, she wanted to ride one and only got to it now. The giant construction in front of her raised respect and the excitement was bubbling in her stomach alongside joy and even a tiny speck of fear, seeing all the loops predicting one might find themselves hanging upside down.
But she was here, there was no going back. This had been her dream for so long now. If she backed out, if she decided not to do it after all this time, there was no way the redhead was going to forgive herself for impersonating the cowardly lion so closer to making one of her dreams come true. And so she marched to the booth, purchased a ticket and with the glint in her eyes, the very same one a child would wear, Cari took a seat in the very front car.
The noise around her was fueling the girl with so much needed adrenaline. Children welled, cried, laughed, parents chased them around, music was swirling around in the air which was filled with the most delicious smells of street food and sweets. Carina was becoming rather overwhelmed and she had no idea what to do first because everything simply seemed too appealing.
But it was only after a while that another voice brought her back to reality, tearing the train of her thoughts. There was now a man sitting by her side, his chocolatey eyes pinned into her and several questions coming out of his lips. A warm smile spread across Carina’s face, seeing another person brave enough to take the front seat. “This is my first time. On a roller coaster I mean.” she laughed softly, feeling the machine move a little. Everyone was now aboard and the coaster was ready to go. “But if you’re afraid I’ll let you hold my hand.” she grinned, feeling her stomach tighten as the cars moved up the first hill, very slowly, gaining its momentum. “Oh my god…this is gonna be awesome…” Cari whispered, gripping the lap bar. The car made its way up the hill, Cari’s eyes went wide and the second the car fell down, yet another squeal left her lips, mixed with fear and laughter.
Finding a wife seemed like an easy enough process. At least in theory. All Art was supposed to do was get out to Maple Grove, find a girl he liked and take her to his kingdom to marry her and make her his Winter Queen. That was the deal, that was what his mother asked him and his brothers to do. But it was definitely a process which was easier said than done. Especially with Art’s taste in women which he considered rather refined. No ordinary fair girl would do.
Paradoxically, Art hated noise but all his girls were very much opposite of him. The old vampire was a silent creature, rather stoic and enjoyed his place quiet as well. But there was not one of his wives that could have been described as that quiet humble angel of the house. There was something in those firecrackers that Art liked. Maybe it was the fact that he got to tame them, mold them to his will. Anything. But he rarely chose a girl that would sit with him in the library and enjoy a glass of Scotch and either silence or a deep talk.
By no means Arthur liked them dumb. But maybe him selecting lively girls that brought a voice to the castle was his way of trying to find something in this life that would excite him. At his age, the vampire had seen and experienced it all. Sometimes he even found himself slightly jealous of Adrian. The summer king was free spirited and despite his age, he could still run around as if it was his first day in this world. Maybe merfolk was different in perception of the world, maybe it was just Adrian. But Art had no idea how he was always so excited about everything around them. They all had seen the fair so many times already, they had seen all the girls, all kinds of people. And while it was still interesting to see how the world changed since their last visit, Art found that people rarely surprised him.
However, he would never dare to disrespect his own mother and so, here he was, roaming around the fair, trying to soak the atmosphere in. The girls certainly wore much less fabric that in the 1920s. The flappers were gone, so were to intricate hair-dos. They were replaced by different designs and hair in all kinds of styles. Blowing in the wind, put up in some kind of messy balls on top of their heads, high ponytails, you name it. Colors have also changed and Art was drinking in the parade around him, scowling here and there when the sound of the fair became way too loud.
The whole atmosphere was doing a very little for Art. Not that he hated it all. It just was not his kind of fun and even Mother knew that if he didn’t have to, he wouldn’t have come. But the seasons had to go by and Art needed to make sure not to disrupt the natural order so he walked around the colorful stands offering all kinds of clothes, beverages, food and attractions. He was not intrigued by anything just yet. And then he noticed her.
There was something in the way the blonde was walking towards the drink booth, something almost regal. She looked like she was not even from the Maple Grove, judging by the way she held her head high. Art watched her take her position in the row and only then spoke to her, calling her out on the unamused face expression. Her lips parted slightly in surprise and Art knew he got to her. She even started to say something back when her device went off.
Art was a clever observer and though usually polite, he couldn’t help to make use of his enhanced hearing and eavesdrop on the conversation a little. Definitely looked like the expression daddy issues was in order. Once she hung up and returned her attention to Art, her lips parted one more time but this time, she finished her sentence, calling the whole thing bullshit. “Well, let’s just say I couldn’t agree more.” Art smirked. “But for the sake of…daddy dearest, I’m going to say I am enjoying myself immensely.” Offering something close to a genuine smile, Arthur took a few steps closer to the girl. “You’re fine. I don’t mind listening if you need to vent. Maybe over something much better than water though?” he asked. “It seems like neither of us wants to be here so what would you say if I asked you for a drink away from this circus?” Art engaged all his moves he had learned on TV and attempted a smile even though he didn’t do that often. “Can I ask what your name is? In that case, we won’t be strangers anymore and you don’t have to feel bad about taking your shitty life on a stranger.” he shrugged. “I’m Arthur. Pleasure to meet you.”
When she'd woken up that morning, Tori had just laid there in her bed for some time, wondering if she even wanted to get up. She had no doubt her father was already gone, and once she'd managed to drag herself out of bed and to the kitchen she found a note from him stating as much. The note was also a reminder of what her own duties were for the day, and she had scrunched up her nose after reading it, balling it up and throwing it in the trash can. She already knew what she needed to do, because he'd been drilling it into her mind for weeks now. He'd acted like putting her in charge of the music portion of the festival was a favor to her, because he "knew how much she enjoyed music". Well while that much was true, she also knew he wasn't doing this as any favor to her. He hated loud music, and live concerts were right there on top of the list. If he didn't have to deal with it, well, that was just one less thing on his plate. But of course, the man couldn't stop himself from being overbearing, could he?
While being angry with herself for leaving her purse and ID back by the stage, someone called her out on her sour expression and she couldn't help the look of surprise that flitted across her face. Looking at the man addressing her, she felt her heart rate pick up some, which definitely wasn't like her. She wasn't blind to attractive men, and the one standing in the line in front of her definitely fell into that category. But Tori didn't normally feel the quickening of her heart, or the slight tremor that coursed through her body. Telling herself it was just because of his bold words, she snapped her lips shut from where her mouth had fallen slightly open. But before they could get into too deep of a conversation, her phone was ringing, and it was none other than daddy dearest. Once again, the call was short, leaving her feeling as though she was the one at fault for something going wrong at his precious festival.
She could practically feel the venom in her next words directed at the stranger, and less than a minute later she was dropping her head and apologizing. Even the apology had some bite to it, but definitely less than before. Tori wasn't heartless, and she did feel bad for taking her anger out on him. Figuring that'd be the end of it, as usual, she looked back up when she heard him actually agree with her. Once again, a look of surprise settled on her features, though it relaxed into one of amusement when he echoed her sentiment about her father, and a small laugh even tumbled from her lips. Lifting a hand to cover her mouth, she shook her head, removing her hand when she heard him take a few steps in her direction. Yet again her heart skipped a beat and she nearly fell over from that right there.
“You’re fine. I don’t mind listening if you need to vent. Maybe over something much better than water though?” Managing to recover, she tilted her head as she tilted it back some to look up at him. “It seems like neither of us wants to be here so what would you say if I asked you for a drink away from this circus?” Her eyes flicked towards the drink booth, though they landed back on him a second later. It seemed she'd forgotten how to English, and that was definitely a first. “Can I ask what your name is? In that case, we won’t be strangers anymore and you don’t have to feel bad about taking your shitty life on a stranger. I’m Arthur. Pleasure to meet you.”
Tori didn't know what it was about the stranger in front of her that had her shaken and intrigued at the same time. Maybe because he'd called her out like some people who'd known her years still wouldn't do? Or because he seemed to be honest about this festival and didn't want to be here either? Or was it simply because he was incredibly nice to look at? Though that last one didn't seem right, she'd definitely hooked up with some lookers before. So that couldn't be it. Right? Realizing again that he was waiting for her to answer, she shoved all of her questions from her mind and shifted her weight to one side. "Victoria." She told him simply. "But please call me Tori. I hate my full name." A small smile curled her lips upwards, and she closed the distance between them, linking her arm through his. "You're speaking my language, Arthur. Come with me to grab my purse?"
Without waiting for an answer, she tugged him from the line, forgetting about her want for water entirely. They walked in silence back to the stage, where Tori finally released his arm and held up one finger. "One second. It's backstage." She smiled at him again before she disappeared around the back, finding her purse exactly where she'd hidden it. Throwing it over her arm, she walked back around, glancing down at the headset in her hands. Her path shifted some, and instead of returning directly to Arthur, she headed for the soundcheck guys. "Here." She tossed the headset on a table, enjoying the surprised looks the guys gave her. "You can tell my father I quit." She chirped before she spun on her heel and marched back out of the area, finding Arthur where she'd left him. Returning to his side felt natural, but she ignored that as she peered up at him again. "Shall we?"
While Adrian walked around the festival checking out the women (hey, he had a legitimate reason to do so) he couldn't help but marvel over the changes in the last hundred years. The world had definitely grown more colorful over the years, especially when it came to the humans. Though he might not seem the type, Adrian did take time to enjoy the little things in the world, even nature. Even in the coldest of months, Adrian could appreciate an intricate snowflake or the serenity of a fresh blanket of snow. That didn't make winter his favorite season, not by a long shot, but he could appreciate it. The summer months were much more his speed, which was good, considering those were the months he ruled over. A small part of him had always wondered if he was chosen for the season, or if the season chose him. He'd never asked Mother Nature about it, nor had he brought it up with his brothers. They each seemed to fit their time of the year so well, and there was definitely no changing things, so why ask?
He definitely didn't expect to run into someone he would be so interested in right away, though. He could tell as soon as he laid eyes on Marissa that she was someone he wanted to spend more time with. The realtor was strikingly beautiful, and had to have a brain in that pretty head of hers to do such a job, he was sure. He could tell by looking into her eyes that she was more than a little closed off, though, which could go in a few different directions if he chose to pursue her. Worst case scenario, he would choose her to become his wife and she would close herself off to him completely, and die a slow, painful death as she wasted away being his queen. The thought saddened him, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, she could blossom into a beautiful flower if watered properly. The most beautiful flowers survived in the heat of the summer, and he just knew in his heart of hearts she would be that most beautiful flower, if she wanted.
She didn't pick up on anything odd about him having visited a few times, but then again, he didn't expect her to. He watched as her eyes scanned his visible tattoos, and he had to bite his tongue to keep himself from offering to let her see the rest of them. He could feel his grin growing on his face when she joked with him about calling her if he ever needed a place. Leaning forward, he swiped one of the flyers from the stack he'd given her back, his eyes flicking down to the paper again. "This your personal number, or an office number?" He teased, folding the paper and tucking it into his back pocket for safe keeping. After this week he wouldn't be needing her number, but the sentiment and the flirting was there, which was something he felt like he was pretty good at. When he offered to buy her something new to wear, he refused to listen to her as she started to decline, turning her and gently nudging her towards a clothing booth anyway.
He did glance down at her when she echoed his word about celebrating, feeling a glimmer of what she hid behind those high walls. But he didn't press, just decided to keep the conversation light, offering her his shirt if she didn't want him to buy her anything new. He liked the laugh that escaped her as she told him he could keep it, for now. "For now." He echoed her words suggestively, smirking as he released her after adding a little more flirting to the conversation. He moved to the racks of clothing first, almost immediately second guessing the first choice he made as he picked up something bright yellow. She didn't seem to like it either, so he wrinkled his nose as he placed it back on the rack, turning to see Marissa searching the racks herself now. He stepped out of someone else's way, just watching the girl as she browsed the racks of clothing. It was such a simple task, but one that he liked watching her do, watching the different emotions flick across her face.
He laughed when she mentioned he might just be looking for a reason to ditch his shirt, the sound a deep, rumbling sound. "Maybe I am." He crossed his arms over his broad chest, looking at the sundress she picked out. "And how do you know how long I want to part with my shirt?" He asked her, his hand darting out to brush over her waist as she passed him to head into the changing tent. When she returned, dressed in the new dress, he let out a low whistle. "You definitely have better taste than I." He told her, his tone teasing again as they headed to find the woman to pay. He waved off her words about not having to buy the dress, reaching into his pocket to pull out some loose bills. Money wasn't really an issue for the seasons. Not that they could magically conjure it or anything, but Mother Nature made sure that her 'sons' knew how to take care of themselves in any world. He handed the bills to the woman before Mari could make any move to pay.
Once the woman handed over a bag and they were done with the transaction, Adrian placed his hand on Mari's back again, leading her from the tent. His arm slipped a little lower after they'd left, sliding around her waist as he looked around the festival. "So you're telling me, Marissa Locke, that you only came here to work?" Letting his eyes land back on her again, he moved so that he was standing in front of her. "Not to have fun? And if you try to tell me work is fun, I'm going to die right here, on this spot." He chuckled, stepping closer, but not close enough to spook her. Hopefully. "Come on. Tell me where you need to get rid of those, and we're going to actually put a smile on her face." He gestured to the papers in her hand, then looked out at the festival grounds again. "There's a whole world of fun out there, waiting for you."
Over the few months Jolene had been in Maple Groves, she had met quite a cast of characters. Despite her sass, the locals seemed to like her, opted to welcome her in as part of the community rather than cast her aside for being a newcomer. It was strange, how quickly she was accepted. Jo had traveled to many places, chasing the worst of the worst to bring them to justice. Most people looked down on her for her promiscuous and nomadic ways, her independence. But not in Maple Groves. Whether it was the husband grabbing a drink after a long day of work, or a single lady wanting to enjoy her weekend, and everything in between. Jo was there to listen to them vent and provide them with booze.
Living above the bar wasn't that bad either. It was a short walk to work, it was quiet, and it was cheap, all things that Jolene rather enjoyed. She pretended to prefer things simple, easy. But deep down, the blonde knew that complicated meant interesting, and that's what drew her in. It was one of the things that originally drew her in about Charlie. He was the tall, mysterious, and handsome type. He wore a leather jacket, drove a motorcycle, and had several tattoos. They fought hard and made up harder. It was a whirlwind of toxicity, and couldn't help but believe that she loved it.
The bearded man grinned across from her, seemingly pleased with her words. His darker hair complemented his blue eyes quite nicely, and Jo would be lying if she said she didn't fancy him. He leaned towards her, supporting Jo's thoughts that he may be interested in her. He turned to look at the festivities, causing her to glance that way as well. Lots of people milled about, chattering and having fun. In a way, she envied them. But such was the job. "Well, I hope you're enjoying town," she answered. Thinking that an outsider wouldn't have any information on the bounty she was looking for, Jolene made the executive decision to leave that out.
"No, sir. I'm from Tennessee, born and raised. Ever been out to that neck of the woods?" the blonde questioned, raising an eyebrow. Over the years, Jo had learned some tips and tricks for bounty hunting. Some criminals got a little nervous when they knew someone was on their trail. And what did she have to hide from an out-of-towner? "Well, I'll let you in on a little secret," Jolene said with a smirk, leaning in a bit closer. There wasn't really anyone around, but she lowered her voice anyway. "I'm here on a job, a hunt of sorts. I find people that cops can't and deliver them. And there just so happens to be one of those people here in Maple Groves."
The man in front of her was intriguing, mysterious, and, for lack of a better word, different than most men she encountered. He elicited some of those same feelings she had felt when she first met Charlie, and the blonde bartender found herself getting sucked in again. Grabbing two glasses from below the counter, she poured more bourbon into them and slid one in front of him. Taking a sip from her own, her hazel gaze met his once again. "Well, I reckon I should probably introduce myself. My name's Jolene Soriano, but you can call me Jo if you like. You are?"
In the beginning, Asher didn't think that he would ever need a wife. The fall was a beautiful time of year, quite easy to manage, and the growing population of elves seemed to adore his calm by firm leadership. Ash was the type of man to wear his heart on his sleeve, to live and lead transparently. Unlike a few of his brothers, he wasn't afraid to feel and let others know what he was feeling. After all, what good could come from hiding one's emotions? But, as the years went on, his mistakes often came from his inability to hide things. Though he was a firm believer in the 'people need to know' mentality, that wasn't always what was best in the long run. It was one of his few flaws.
That became all the much harder when it was time to start looking for a wife. Maple Groves was a quaint little town that seemed rather happy to serve the leaders of the seasons. But over the years, they forgot what the men represented. Because of that, Asher and his brothers had to resort to trickery, one of his least favorite aspects of their seasonal curses. It became increasingly hard to find a woman who would drop and forget about her entire life to join him in the kingdom and never see her friends or family again. It was practically an arranged marriage where the woman didn't have much of a choice, and that didn't seem fair.
But, to avoid devastation, it had to be done. The life of one to save the life of the many, or so his mother had said. Nevertheless, that hadn't made him feel any better about himself and what he was doing. So, as Asher looked over at the pretty redhead who sat alongside him in the car, he could help but hear the bit of guilt nagging at the back of his mind. She smiled, and he felt his heart clench, chocolate brown eyes tracing the shape of her lips for just a moment. "Mine too, if I'm honest," Ash answered, a grin of his own turning up the corners of his lips. The car began to move and take them up the hill. But somehow, the elf king knew that wouldn't be the only rollercoaster he was riding that evening.
"I think I might take you up on that," Asher stated, reaching out to take her hand softly in his. His heart began to race, not really because of the coaster, but because of her soft skin held against his. They crested the hill, paused for just a moment, and then it was on. The train of cars raced along the tracks and lightning-fast speeds, the sounds of squeals and screams drowning out by the air racing past them. While Asher wasn't necessarily afraid, he couldn't help but laugh from the excitement and giddy fun the coaster instilled in him. All too soon, it came to a stop at the beginning, the lap bars creaking out of place. Still holding on to her hand, Asher turned to the woman and grinned, "You were right, that was awesome! Was it everything you dreamed of?"
Marissa was no stranger to flirting. Though she hadn't needed to hone these particular skills until after James's death, they'd become necessary for successfully finding one night stands to keep her from turning into a celibate widow. Since the blonde didn't plan to, nor want to, spend much time getting to know the guys she hooked up with, flirtatious banter at a bar was about all her conversations consisted of. Rarely were any topics beyond surface level pleasantries breached, and when they were, Marissa usually diverted the discussion, or ended it entirely. Pillowtalk was nonexistent, and few men woke up to Miss Locke beside them the next morning. The men came and went, and Mari hardly gave them another thought afterwards. They were attractive, but as a rule, rather dull and forgettable. And as much as she was a stickler for sticking to her rules, she was already on her way to breaking at least a couple with Adrian.
The tattooed man was quite charming in a way that seemed effortless rather than forced, and definitely didn't fall into the category of "dull or forgettable". Marissa even found herself blushing at a few of his flirtier comments, which was another red flag that she was playing with fire. He had some kind of effect on her that she'd long forgotten was possible. And had Marissa not already discovered that Adrian had no intention of remaining in Maple Grove, she would have been heading for the hills alone instead of towards the dress boutique booth with Adrian.
When the blue eyed man offered his shirt up for the second time, Marissa couldn't help but teasingly call him out for it. His deep, rumbling laugh was warm and inviting and not one that Marissa would expect from a man who had spent so much time in the chair getting inked. Perhaps she was prejudiced, but her experience with long haired, tatted men usually wasn't so... carefree. Maybe I am... And how do you know how long I want to part with my shirt? Adrian's reply, coupled with the sensation of his hand brushing against her waist as Marissa walked to the makeshift dressing room made the blonde glance back at him for a moment. Goosebumps prickled her skin beneath her shift where his hand had grazed, and she tried to think of a quippy comeback, but her words failed her. Smiling a little as she simply shook her head in amusement, Marissa disappeared behind the curtain.
The blonde caught herself smiling in the mirror, and she quickly had to remind herself of the rules. No getting attached. For those two minutes she was alone in the dressing room, Marissa was just about able to convince herself that as soon as this outfit business was taken care of, she should just part ways with Adrian. It was safer, and for the best. Even if he wasn't staying in town, he was too charismatic. She'd start to like him and then he'd leave and she'd feel... Well, better not to find out how she’d feel.
Marissa's resolve did not last long though once she exited the dressing room and was in Adrian's presence once more. The blonde tried to ignore the whistle, just responding to it with a playful eye roll, and even was able to concede to letting Adrian pay since he insisted without faltering in her decision to part ways with him. His hand moved to her back once more to lead her from the tent, and Mari thanked him for the dress as she tried to conjure up words of farewell. However, by the time Adrian's arm found its way around her waist, the idea of running away suddenly seemed foolish. What was she afraid of? Having a nice afternoon?
So you're telling me, Marissa Locke, that you only came here to work? Not to have fun? And if you try to tell me work is fun, I'm going to die right here, on this spot.
Mari glanced down at the flyers before around them at the fair, a sheepish expression on her face forming as her gaze eventually turned back up to Adrian. "Well, yeah, but I..." She began, trying to find a way to explain herself without causing the rhetorical death of the man standing before her. He chuckled and stepped closer, continuing to speak and saving Mari from finishing her excuse. Come on. Tell me where you need to get rid of those, and we're going to actually put a smile on her face.
The blonde laughed a little when Adrian gestured to the flyers, staring down at her forced smile in the picture as she mulled over his declaration. A few minutes ago, Mari had decided to do the exact opposite of what she was about to... but it was so much easier to resist Adrian's charms when he wasn't standing feet, or was it inches now, away. "My company has a booth, just down a little further..." Mari replied, glancing back up to Adrian and turning the flyers over in her hand so her now obnoxious picture wasn't mocking her anymore. "I can just leave them with my assistant I suppose." Marissa wasn't entirely sure there was a whole world of fun out there waiting for her like Adrian mentioned, but she'd settle for an hour or two of fun with him at least. It had been a while since she loosened up a bit, and it would help keep her mind off of memories from the past haunting her while at the fair.
"This way then..." Mari smiled, gesturing for Adrian to follow after her as she started walking down the aisle of assorted booths on the way to her own. Having committed herself to actually trying to enjoy the fair now, the blonde allowed herself to expand her earlier tunnel vision to take in the sights and sounds of the festivities around her. She'd been numb to it all before, but maybe now she could find some good in it again.
"So... is this your first time at the festival? Or is it what brought you to town in the past?" She asked, glancing up to Adrian. "We usually get a lot of people in from out of town or state during this week each year... It can be a bit crazy, but it's great for business..." Mari added, gesturing to the flyers as if to excuse her earlier intentions of only coming here to work.
When one has lived as long as Alarick and his brothers have, it is easy to take time and moments for granted. There is no need to stop and smell the roses, because Al had already smelled millions of them, literally and figuratively. The concept of enjoying something or being excited about something, at least to the werewolf, had lost its luster, with days and experiences just morphing into one long stretch of time. He liked things these days, and preferred things... but the idea of enjoying something, truly enjoying something, rarely entered his thoughts. Alarick just did things, not taking much time to check in about how he felt about them unless they annoyed or angered him, because in the long run feelings hadn't mattered much and more often than not, got in the way. To feel anything good just opened him up to feeling badly about whatever was likely to follow. Enjoyment was fleeting in his long life, the curse of having to watch so many people and the world around him die, inevitably ruining it.
At this moment however, Jolene's question made Alarick consider how he was feeling, and for the first time in a long time, he was having a rather good time amongst the humans. "To be honest, I was dreading this trip, but yeah, I suppose I would say that I'm enjoying town, now." Alarick replied, training his blue eyes on Jolene with a smirk. He absentmindedly spun the empty shot cup she'd poured for him earlier in his hands, needing something to occupy his fidgety spirit while he remained stationary at the bar. The werewolf wasn't necessarily against remaining still or in one place, particularly when out in a more natural or forest environment, but with all the surrounding commotion and his heightened senses, it put him a bit on edge. Not enough though to chase him away from his conversation with the beautiful blonde though.
"Tennessee, huh?" Alarick mused when Jo asked if he'd been there before. "Can't say that I have." He replied, his response mostly true. The last time Alarick had been through the area that was now considered Tennessee, it wasn't yet a state or been given it's modern moniker. And people certainly hadn't sounded like Jolene then either. It would hardly do to try explaining that to the blonde, so it was just easier to say he hadn't been. "But I do like the woods..." He joked, playing off of her idiom.
When Alarick inquired as to what brought Jolene to Maple Grove, she leaned in even more, lowering her voice. Al raised a curious eyebrow, intrigued by this secret that the young woman was going to share with him. Her close proximity also intrigued him though, and he couldn't help but let his gaze trace her features. Her long lashes framed her hazel eyes, and those lips of hers were so very tempting as they were pulled into a smirk. The bouquet of delicious scents wafting off of the woman did not help Alarick in his attempts to resist his more animalistic urges either, and the disposable shot glass crunched as it constricted under his firm grip. And this was all before Jo shared that she was also a badass.
I'm here on a job, a hunt of sorts. I find people that cops can't and deliver them. And there just so happens to be one of those people here in Maple Groves. A wide grin spread across Alarick's face as he didn't even try to hide his fascination with Jolene. This little blonde was just full of surprises. "A bounty hunter, huh? I imagine your father didn't think you'd become one of those either..." He chuckled a little, referring to her comment earlier about her father not thinking she'd be a bartender. "Well, I must say, if you were chasing me..." Alarick whispered, leaning even closer to Jolene, now only a few inches from her."... I might just let you catch me." And with that, Alarick extended his arm over the bar to drop the crunched shot glass into the waste bin, before leaning back onto his stool casually.
Jolene subsequently brought out two more glasses and poured more intoxicating amber liquid into each, much to Alarick's satisfaction. Her gaze met his, and he raised his glass in a silent toast to her before taking his first sip. He smiled, swallowing the bourbon when she offered her name. Jolene. She certainly was from Tennessee. "Well, Jo, I'm Al..." The werewolf replied, taking a second sip before putting the glass back down on the bar. His full name could wait, as half the time when women heard it they were curious about it's backstory and he wasn't quite in the mood for that song and dance right now.
"I imagine since you're here bartending and not out... pursuing other interests... that you are still on that hunt of yours? You think you're close to finding your guy?" Alarick inquired, trying to keep the conversation vague in case anyone passing by were to overhear. "Or does the festival have your schedule pretty busy for the week?" If he had to, Alarick would sit at this bar everyday to get to know Jolene more, but if there was a possibility of her not being cuffed to work everyday, he wanted to take advantage of her time off. He'd noticed her watching the festival patrons earlier, and had a feeling she could use a little fun herself at the fair.
Magic was something Carina firmly believed in. Granted, not the wands, spells and charms kind of magic but rather the kind provided by people and places and experiences. To her, the large metal construction with rails, loops, curves and cars, eliciting screams and laughter from people, that was magic too. Growing up the way she did, there were not a lot of things considered magical or enchanting and so now, despite a few years shy of thirty, Cari was still more like a child than an adult. It was as if she was trying to catch up, make up for all that lost time from her childhood. Well, not as if. She was definitely doing it at the expense of being called childish and immature. Though she never really bothered herself with what the others thoughts.
Her only trusty companion was old faded copy of Alice in Wonderland. There was no telling how many times Carina had ready that book already but it was the source of her belief. An ordinary girl ventured down the rabbit hole and discovered a whole new world full of new adventures. The part where it all was just a dream was quite lost on Carina because the redhead chose to believe in power of magic. Maybe, if she was brave enough, she could too discover something that was going to take the ground from under her feet in the best way possible. For now, it was definitely this roller coaster. And maybe even the eyes a of stranger sharing a front seat to the theater in front of them.
Cari was not exactly well-versed in the art of flirting, or rather, she never did do that on purpose, never tried to be that seductress to lure a guy to her side or her bed. One reason was definitely Dean (even though it probably didn’t matter anyway at this point) and the other, much simpler one, Cari was way too busy discovering the world and while she was always very chatty and open to any conversation, she never spoke to men with another agenda than a nice talk. On the other hand, though, if they were interested in her as a girl, who was she to say no?
A smile was brought to her face upon hearing that her companion was in her shoes as well, experiencing the adrenaline attraction for the first time. She offered her hand to hold but the real surprise came when he actually reached for her hand, hiding it in his. Her little heart fluttered for some reason and as the car went up that first hill, Cari allowed herself a few very brief looks at his face. But the real butterflies exploded in her tummy the second the car tilted over the hill, dipping down, flying through the tracks, making everyone scream whether it was fun, fear or anything else this ride might bring in people. Carina’s hand rested comfortably in the hand of a man by her side and she even gave him a few firm squeezes when the curve was too sharp or the loop made her stomach somersault in that good tickly way.
Not hiding the disappointment after the train cars stopped, Cari sighed quietly. Her cheeks were flushed with darker shade of red and eyes sparkled with excitement. Her hand never left his as they turned to face each other once the lap bars opened. “You were right, that was awesome! Was it everything you dreamed of?” he asked her and Cari pursed her lips for a moment, thinking. “No.” she said simply after a while. “Because it was way too short.” A grin graced her features immediately after her little addition. “Do you want to go again?” she exclaimed all of a sudden, tightening her grip on his hand. There was something so tantalizing in those eyes she could barely stop looking at him. As if they examined her, trying to see the depths of her soul. She was probably imagining things anyway but still, the feeling was real. “Or we could go get a cotton candy! Have you ever had that? Or maybe…” Cari bit her tongue right in the middle of the waterfall of ideas. “I’m sorry. You probably have your…ehm, own program.” Looking sheepishly at her roller coaster friend, Carina never pulled her hand away, not realizing they were the only ones sitting in there as everyone else had already left, emptying the cars for more eager festival visitors to take their turn.
Finding a wife was always a long and obnoxious process for Art. He was not exactly the bubbly type to come and immediately click with someone. Sure, he had that older guys mysterious vibe and all that jazz and it surely helped him some to lure in some female attention but in general, Art was not that kind of easy-going person as Alarick, Adrian or Asher. His three brothers usually mingled and fitted in the crowed way better than Arthur and found their brides way before he even had any idea about his wife. It was definitely a difficult task with Viktoria setting the bar for every other woman in Art’s life so high.
This whole place was incredibly innovative to Art. In comparison to the last time he came here, the attractions looked wilder and more dangerous, people were much louder, music was weird, kids screeched more than ever and not all clothing was up Art’s alley. He remembered elegant ladies in heels and flapper dresses, holding long thin cigarettes, enveloping them with thickly painted lips. Their hair was pinned in elaborate curls and intricate updos held by feathery headbands, pearls decorated their pale swan necks and the giggled in much lower voices. But the picture in front of Art now was way too different and from what he could see, the girls lived by the rule less is more. Showing skin was the trend today. Apparently.
But this year’s festival proved to be a little bit different than all the previous ones. Simply because there was already a woman catching Arthur’s eye. Maybe it was just a false alarm, maybe it was the whole showing legs and more mood, but Art was watching the petite blonde in black top and the coral red skirt walking towards the drink booth. The skirt was swaying around her legs in the most delicious way and the girl was strutting on her devilishly high heels like the whole place belonged to her. Yet Art couldn’t have missed her face expression and so he decided to call her out a little and see the reaction.
Very obviously, the two shared the opinion about this whole place. From what Arthur could see, the blonde was intrigued so he pushed his luck a bit more, inviting her for a real drink and introduced himself. It was then Art’s turn to nearly fall over. Her name echoed in his head, deafened him for a moment and a flicker of shadow ran across his face. For a moment, his expression fell but he put it back up immediately. Victoria. She then told him to call her Tori because she hated her full name but it still stuck in Arthur’s head. Victoria. Tori. Viktoria. His Viktoria. Could it be…?
But she did accept his invitation for a drink so Art put his slight smile back on his face, determined to explore this woman. Her arm looped with his making him feel tingles running all over his spine. It had never happened this fast for him and suspicious was written all over it but Arthur decided to give this a shot. He accompanied Tori back to the stage so she could pick her purse up and while waiting in front.
While she was gone, Arthur sank into his thoughts again, rubbing the lapis lazuli ring on the ring finger of his left hand. A little trinket, courtesy of his mother, allowing him to walk in the direct sun without turning into a pile of ash. Was it possible that the first woman he approached would be the one he would marry? Was it really her or was he just stunned not only by her beauty but also smitten by the name? Though answers for these questions would have to wait because Tori rejoined him. She made a quick stop at the table and set her strange headpiece down, quitting her job just like that. Once again, Arthur smirked widely because this blonde seemed to be exactly the firecracker he liked. Another point on the pro list. “We definitely shall.” he smiled at her, offering his arm. “I saw a bar set up nearby. Would you like to go there or shall we rather leave this place completely and venture deeper in the town? Your pick. Wherever you go, I’ll follow.”
mood; intrigued even more | location; fair | outfit;click! | tags; Tori Goldieloxx