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Paper Stars

By:Devon Monk

Paper Stars_ An Ordinary Magic Story - Devon Monk


Chapter One





“Snow Queen, Jack Frost, Old Man Winter,” Jean said as we clomped our way through wet sand toward the cave. Rain sliced sideways, stinging hard despite the all-weather police jackets we wore.

“Uh...the Abominable Snowman. There. That’s four people besides my boyfriend who could grant my wish, Delaney.”

“We are literally at sea level.” I waved toward the Pacific Ocean roaring and churning behind us like some kind of monster with a toothache. “We’re not going to get snow here on Christmas.”

“Not with that attitude we won’t.” My sister Jean Reed. Eternally optimistic. And just a little obsessed with Christmas.

“Don’t ask Hogan to grant you a snow wish, Jean.”

“Just because he’s half-Jinn doesn’t mean he’ll grant wishes willy-nilly. Also, his schedule at the bakery is crazy right now.”

She snapped her fingers. “You know who could ask someone to make it happen?”

“Give it up.”

She ignored me.

“Why you could ask, Delaney. I bet Jack Frost or Old Man Winter would listen to the amazing Delaney Reed, Ordinary, Oregon’s chief of Police.”

I grinned even though she couldn’t see me. I had never known someone more into Christmas than Jean. “As if. You know how Jack gets this time of year.”

Sassy was one description. Mob-boss-ish was another. You wouldn’t think being in charge of frosty spangles on car windows would make someone such a militant, sulky diva.

“Besides, Jack doesn’t live here. And if he did, I’m sure he’d rather not have his town buried in a snow storm.”

“But it’s almost Christmas,” she whined. “Three days, Delaney. You could send an email. Make an official request. Ooh, make a wish.”

I snorted. “One: What are you, a three-year-old? Two: Do you know how many actual three-year-olds are wishing for snow for their Christmas? Who do you think Jack or Old Man Winter are going to listen to? A twenty-something police officer who should know the reality of weather patterns on the Oregon coast, or little kids who have their hearts set on magic and snow?”

“We’re all little kids at heart. Plus, I like magic and snow.”

“Like it somewhere else. We aren’t prepared for snow. Ordinary doesn’t even own a snow plow.”

“You sound like Myra.”

“Good. Myra acts her age, and like me, saves her wishes for more important things. Unlike our youngest Reed sister.”

We stopped at the mouth of the cave, Jean muttering the whole time.

“What?”

“Where’s your Christmas spirit? I don’t remember you being this grumpy last year.”

“I’m just waiting for Christmas, like a normal person, instead of going all Jingle-bell crazy before the Thanksgiving dishes have even dried like one abnormal person I know.”

“Hey, I waited a whole week before Thanksgiving to play my holiday tunes in public. That’s a late start for Christmas music. It’s no fun to wait all the way until December.”

“It’s not about fun, Jean.” I picked my way over the huge rocks that jutted out of the sand.

“It’s about being a police officer who doesn’t wear a Santa hat for six weeks straight.”

“What’s wrong with wearing a Santa hat?”

“Along with a gun? It confuses people.”

“Don’t hate on my hats just because Ryder’s been gone for two months.”

Ryder, my long-time-crush and recent boyfriend, had been on a job building a new care center over in Bend.

Our daily texts and long after-dinner phone calls had dwindled down to him sending me an occasional text every other day complaining about the weather, and how slow the project was going, and why no one could follow simple directions and do what they were contracted to do on the job site.

I missed him. I hadn’t heard him say he missed me, which was making me worry that he’d been gone long enough to re-think our relationship. Re-think the spark that had drawn us together in the first place.

Had we been drawn together because of a natural attraction or was he just interested in the supernatural things that surrounded me and filled this town?

I’d like to think it was natural attraction that brought us together.

But Ordinary was full of unusual people, powers, and things, including vacationing gods and supernatural creatures.

I was in charge of looking after everyone who lived here. Those duties meant Ryder’s and my relationship had already been tested by some heavy stuff.

This year alone, I’d been shot twice in the line of duty. I’d bargained away my soul.

Ryder had tied his life to a god of contracts who really didn’t like me or my sisters being the law here in Ordinary.

I’d died.

My heart stuttered and my stomach clenched. Every time I thought about that, it hit me hard.

I licked my lips, tasting salt and pushing away those memories.

Ryder had been there for all of that. Had been there for me. So why was I worried?

He hadn’t made it home for Thanksgiving and wasn’t coming home for Christmas. That’s why I was worried.

Looking at our lives through the high-stakes we had experienced could make the holiday less interesting. Less important. Would it matter if we missed our first Christmas together?

Our relationship was strong enough to miss one holiday. We’d been there for each other when it really counted. Many times.

When things were dangerous.

But what about when things were happy? Safe?

Worse, what about when things were boring?

Just because we weren’t talking, never saw each other, and he hadn’t been brave enough to say he loved me (except for that one time when he was yelling it at a vampire) didn’t mean our relationship was sinking before it had even left the shore, right?

I sighed. Maybe I was kidding myself. Maybe we were boring now.

Maybe there was a big ol’ iceberg out there ready to sink this ship and it was time to deploy the floating door.

“Has he said it to you yet?” Jean asked.

Jean didn’t have mind reading abilities. Her family gift was that she knew when something bad was going to happen.

Actual mind reading didn’t run in our family. Or at least I hoped it didn’t.

“Not talking about it.”

“You don’t have to be afraid of the ‘L’ word, Delaney.”

“Lifeboat?”

She gave me a weird look. “What is going on in your head?”

Yep. No mind reading.

“Not that ‘L’ word,” she said. “Love. As in: “I love you, Ryder Bailey with your dreamy green eyes and your hunky strong shoulders and your superpower patience when I’m being stupid like getting myself shot. Or when I’m being too stubborn to just call you and tell you I miss you. Or when I’m too moody to admit I want you to come home before Christmas.” Love-love. I checked the rule book and women are allowed to say it first.”

“Good. You should say it to Hogan.”

“You think I haven’t?”

“Have you?” I wouldn’t be surprised. Out of all of us sisters, she was the freest with her affection.

But she and Hogan hadn’t been dating for very long. She had spent most of that time worrying about letting him in on all the supernatural secrets of the town.

I’d just assumed she would be cautious with the secrets of her heart too.

On the other hand, this was Jean. Fearless and full of surprises.

She grunted as she hopped from rock to rock. “Not yet. I’m waiting for the right time to spring it on him. When it’s totally inappropriate and he least expects it.”

I laughed and wiped rain off my face. We ducked under the cave’s overhang. “Why is it so easy for you to believe that romance always works out?”

Jean’s cheeks were red from the wind. Her hair, bright green today, escaped her hood to frame her face.

“Wait. I have an answer for this one. Romance, my dear Delaney, is also known as love. Love is one of the best things about life. A magic thing. A magical romantic thing. Magical romantic things always work out, otherwise they wouldn’t be magical.”

Her blue eyes sparkled. “You know what else is magical and romantic?”

“Don’t say snow.”

“Snow! Especially Christmas snow. Add in a handsome guy, a nice warm fire, and ooh la la, is it hot in here or what?”

“Stop it,” I said.

“What?” All innocence.

“Stop trying to make Christmas romantic.”

“Why shouldn’t Christmas be romantic?”

I opened my mouth to tell her it couldn’t be romantic because my boyfriend wasn’t going to be around, but before I could say anything, movement deeper in the cave caught my eye.

I flicked on my flashlight and Jean did the same with hers. Twin beams cut into the restless shadows.

“It’s the police,” I shouted loud enough to be heard over the waves grinding behind us and the damp dripping inside the cave. “We need to talk with you. Please come out into the light.”

My heart beat a little faster, a little harder. I wasn’t sure what we were dealing with here.

An over-excited rockhound who shouldn’t have been exploring the hidden cave at this time of year, had come into the station this morning.

He had insisted some kind of huge, dangerous creature was snarling around in the shadows.

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