For a sneak peek of Kim Alexander’s Pure: A Paranormal Romance (Captive Quill Press, March 12, 2017) check out the excerpt below!
Pure: A Paranormal Romance
The unicorn walked right past me.
Maybe it didn’t notice me because I was standing behind my car. I know, a Mini Cooper isn’t that big, and I was just standing there with my key in my hand and my mouth hanging open. But it didn’t look my way; it just kept walking up the middle of Kenyon Street like it was an enchanted grove or something. It was getting close to 4:30 in the morning, so there wasn’t any traffic, just some late night drinkers looking for Ubers, and me, getting off my bartending shift at the Hare. I had to park two blocks away as usual, and I just stood there, watching as it went by. At the moment I was alone on the street, so no one else saw it. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even think to take a picture.
When it was about a half a block ahead of me, I quietly stashed my purse under my car, hunched over and followed it, hiding myself on the other side of the line of parked cars. I didn’t want to startle it, I guess. I looked up the street, and saw where it was going. Another block up, lit up by a streetlight, a girl stood in the middle of the road. She was slight, wearing skinny jeans and a gauzy blouse, and she looked young. She had a lot of blonde hair, and she had her hand held out, and the unicorn went straight to her. It stood in front of her and lowered its gorgeous head, and she laid her hand on its nose. Neither one of them noticed me, and I felt like I was looking at something private, something I ought not to be seeing. The unicorn, in case you’ve never seen one (which is actually pretty likely) wasn’t anything like a white horse. I mean, it was horse shaped, in that Jon Hamm is monkey shaped, but you’d never mistake one for the other. It wasn’t even white. It was silver, or mother of pearl. Its nose and feet were darker silver, and it was surrounded by rainbows shimmering off its body like they do over water sometimes. It did have a horn, though, and that was made of light. It was too bright to look at.
After a minute of the girl and the unicorn looking at each other, and me looking at them, three men in black clothes came out from the shadows between the cars. One had a rope. One had some sort of industrial looking oven mitts; elbow length ones, like glassblowers use. When I saw what else he had, I thought I was going to throw up. He had a hacksaw. The unicorn saw them, too, and it began to shiver. But it looked like the stories were true the ones about unicorns and purity. I guessed right away the girl was a virgin, I remembered the story from those tapestries—you can still seem them, I think they’re hanging in a museum in New York. That’s how you’re supposed to be able to catch a unicorn—get a virgin to snare it. As long as the girl was touching it, it couldn’t move to save itself other than shift from side to side and stamp its feet. Two of them went to its head, and the guy with the gauntlets pulled the horn down far enough for the guy with the rope to get a loop around it. The other went to its side and put his hands on it, I guess to make it stop moving around. Black smoke blotted out the rainbows, and it began to make a noise that if I’m super lucky I’ll never hear again. The guy slapped its smoking side and laughed. That guy had his back to me.
So I made a decision that honestly, I knew was pretty stupid, but wouldn’t you have done the same? Wouldn’t anyone?
I got my garlic spray out of my pocket and slowly stood up. The girl looked almost hypnotized, and the two guys at the unicorn’s head were busy getting the rope tied to it, so they were all busy. I squeezed between the two cars I’d been hiding behind, and then I walked up to the guy nearest me and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned, I blasted him in the face with the garlic spray. Now, he wasn’t a vamp, but I get the spray from a guy online who weaponizes it with a blend of Carolina Reaper and Ghost peppers, and it doesn’t matter who or what you are, you’re going down. He did, clutching his face and howling.
The girl looked under the unicorn’s trembling neck and saw me and the man rolling in circles and holding his head, and she screamed. So did I. She must have yanked her hand back just enough to break whatever magic spell was going on, because the unicorn lifted its head and gave a huge, ringing bellow, and flicked the rope off of its horn, rearing up on its back feet. As it did, it clipped the guy with the rope in the forehead with one of its shining hooves. That guy went down, too, and harder. There was a lot of blood.
I don’t know what happened next, because the flash of light from the explosion was too bright. It was like a transformer blew up. When I could see again, the unicorn was gone. I got up off the ground and ran to the girl. I thought maybe the men were holding her captive, or something.
“Let’s get out of here.” I held out my hand.
She pushed her glorious long blonde hair out of her face and blinked her huge blue eyes at me. “You stupid fucking bitch! What the hell are you doing? Do you know how much money you just cost me?”
So she wasn’t a captive. Now, I wasn’t a fan of the xenos wandering the streets in those days, but what I really hated were poachers. Too many actual people got killed when the xenos fought back. Of course, if you asked them, the xenos weren’t the guests, or the strangers (that’s what xeno means in Latin) we mortal humans were, despite what we decided to call the various tribes of fairy tale creatures—from elves to werewolves to unicorns—who revealed themselves all at once. They’d been here all along. Mortals trying to turn a profit on them was a slightly more recent development.
I held my hands up, palms facing out. “I already called the cops,” I said.
The third guy had stuffed his crying, red-faced friend into the back of their car, and was trying to drag the one with the head wound in. “Margaret,” he hissed, “let’s get out of here. We’ll get it another night.”
She turned away, but stopped long enough to give me the finger. “See you soon, bitch.” She hopped in the car, a piece of crap Honda with Maryland plates, and they were gone. Nothing left but a black, oily puddle in the road.
I took a couple of deep breaths. No sirens, I obviously hadn’t called anyone, but with all that noise someone would be on their way, and soon. I hurried back towards my car.
If you got dragged to museums all your young life like I did, you’ve probably seen a statue called The Dying Gaul. If not, you’ve probably seen a picture of it. It’s basically a big naked dude with a mortal injury. For a second, I thought someone had dropped that statue on Kenyon Street, and propped it against my car. It took another second to realize that first—this was an alive person, not a statue, and two—no beard and no broken sword. He sure was naked, though. In the light from the streetlamp his skin looked almost like silvery marble. That must have been why I thought of the statue.
I came up a little closer. He was clutching his side and panting, his hair was plastered to his scalp and stuck to his neck. I asked maybe the stupidest question possible, but what are your options?
“Dude, are you okay?”
His eyes flew open. “Don’t touch me.”
“Wasn’t going to. Do you, um, need an ambulance or something?” I carefully reached around him and recovered my purse. “Did you see what just happened?”
He got to his feet. His legs were shaking and he was holding his side, and he was still super naked. “What? No. I just got here.”
“Right.” I got a towel out of the back of the Mini and shook bits of leaves and grit out. I handed it to him and when he took it, I saw a huge purple-black bruise on his ribs. “Damn, did you get hit by a car or something?”
“Something,” he agreed vaguely. He looked pretty woozy and I was afraid he might pass out.
“I really think I should call you an ambulance.”
“No,” he said. “You. Can you help me?” And he looked at me in a way that made me think I’d never been seen before. The way your oldest friend looks at you, who knows all your secrets and loves you anyway. Your mother. Someone you trust. And the next thing I knew he was in in the passenger seat with his head back and his eyes closed, and I was driving back up 16th and heading for my apartment in Columbia Heights.
There was plenty to complain about with my apartment—the water pressure was more like a dainty trickle, and there were rats and Kagkai in the alley, but one thing I couldn’t find fault with was the parking spot that led directly to the staircase to my second floor entryway. With my hours and what’s out there I couldn’t be trolling for parking all night. Anyway, I had a back door for a front door, and so no one saw wrapped-in-a-towel guy and me go inside.
“You want a beer?” I asked, which seemed to be the polite thing to do. The sensible thing would have been to call the police or an ambulance, but all I can say is I didn’t want to upset him. I know, it sounds nuts. Anyway, he agreed a beer would be good. When he reached out to take the bottle, I saw the blood on his hand. While he was drinking, I took a pic of him.
“Why did you do that?” he asked.
“I take a picture of everyone who comes over,” I lied. He frowned like he didn’t believe me, but was too tired to argue.
“Can I use your shower? I have dirt from the ground on me. And. . .” he lifted his bloody hand and looked at it. “I must have cut myself. When I fell.”
“In the car accident. Sure.” I didn’t think it was his blood, but I was pretty tired, too. “There’s clean towels hanging on the back of the door.”
I heard the door click shut and the shower begin to run. I got myself another beer and texted my best friend Marly. I knew she’d probably be up; for a middle school English teacher, grading papers was like a second full time job. I sent the picture and typed:
<Strange hot dude in shower. If I get murdered it was him>
She texted back three eggplants and a question mark. For a lover of language she adapted to texting pretty fast.
<Come by Hare 2morrow & find out>
<Proud of U for getting back on the horse!>
Marly knew it had been a while—a long while—since anything like this had happened to me. She’d tried to set me up with everyone from her assistant principle (nose hair issue) to the woman who delivers her mail (Cait is cute but I’m not into girls. I’m really not into anything, I guess).
The water stopped, and he came out wearing the same towel as went he went in with. He was pulling his clean hands through his hair, which was longer than I thought, shiny and dark.
“I like that,” I said, pointing at the silver streak that fell in a damp curl over his right eye. “Very Rogue.” He looked at me blankly. “From the X-Men?” Nothing. “Okay, so very Bonnie Raitt, then.”
He smiled for the first time, and that was a whole different thing. It was an actual jolt. “Angel From Montgomery,” he said. “I. . .I spend a lot of time in the mountains. The Schind-han-do-wi. I, um, camped near people who liked to sing that song.”
“Schin. . .Shenandoah?”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not how you pronounce it,” he informed me. Then he yawned so hard I thought he was going to dislocate his jaw.
“Look,” I said, “my eyes are slamming shut. Let me get you a blanket and find you something to wear. I have to get to sleep. Are you going to be okay?”
He gave me that look again. “I’ll be fine. I’m feeling better.”
I dug out an old pair of stretched out sweatpants and an XL University of Miami t shirt, and handed them over. As I did, our hands brushed. I didn’t do it on purpose, I actually forgot what he said about not touching him. But he yelped and jumped back, dropping the clothes.
“Jeez, what was that?” I bent to pick them up. He was staring at his hand.
“It was nothing,” he said, looking at it as if he were surprised it was still attached to his wrist. “Nothing at all. I’m sorry.”
By the time I pulled out clean sheets and a blanket for the couch, he was already stretched out and asleep with an arm flung over his face. Normally I don’t notice them, but I have to say he had very nice feet. Wherever he came from, he was getting pedicures on the regular. Before I threw the blanket over him, I took another picture. Then I shut the light and went back to my bedroom. Despite the nice feet and the even nicer smile, I locked my door. I scrolled to the second picture. The bruise on his side was definitely smaller—in fact, it was almost gone.
There was already weak sunlight coming in from under the blinds when I set my phone down and turn out the light. That was when I realized I never asked his name.