Touch of the Werewolf
Must Be Magic
Under A Werewolf Moon
Jule Reigh and the
Jim Stone Affair
The Wizard's Staff
Dina's Double Delight
— 3 Spellfire Stories
The Wolf Man's Legacy
Lust in the Dust
Lanette's List —
Suspend belief and step into the magically fun and sexy world of Spellfire, Texas!!
by Lani Aames|
Taffy and Manny grow close as they work hand in hand to help each other solve personal problems. Manny, a disembodied hand, encourages Taffy to put her life in order after it falls apart around her. Taffy, tooth fairy non grata, wonders if Manny is all the man she'll ever need.
A year later, Taffy and Manny are still together. Manny has a special surprise for Taffy, and Taffy uncovers clues to both their pasts. Will their relationship survive what they discover about themselves?
Magical fantasy romance novelette, approx. 20,000 words or 67 pages.
Coming soon from Silver Heart Books.
Excerpt from Taffy's Man (Part One)|
Copyright © Lanette Curington / Lani Aames
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction.
Taffeta Trueheart slammed the empty glass on the counter. “Hit me again.”
The waitress standing next to the cash register blurred into identical twins then reformed back into one body and picked up the glass. “Are you sure you want another, Taffy? This’ll make your third.”
“I’m shhhure.” Taffy nodded and belched. “Hit me again, Harpy. I can handle it.”
Harpy Spellfire, night manager of Sinful Sundaes Ice Cream Shoppe, propped her hands on her hips. “You know how sugar affects you tooth fairies.”
Taffy frowned. “I’m not a tooth fairy anymore.”
“You may not be a practicing tooth fairy, but it’s still in your blood.”
“There’ssh no money in it, except for the kids who lose their teeth. Why, if I had a dime for every tooth I collected, I’d be rich—as rich as the rich witch my boyfriend left me for.”
“Sorry to hear about that,” Harpy called over the sound of the blender as she mixed the toffee shake. “You lost your job at Otto’s Oddities, sprained your wrist, and now this.”
“Thanks for reminding me.” Taffy stuck out her tongue at Harpy, but she wasn’t really mad at her.
“Hey, that’s what friends are for.” Harpy set a full glass in front of her.
Taffy stabbed a Spooktacular Straw into the frothy frappé and sucked until she made noises at the bottom of the empty glass.
“And as your friend,” Harpy continued, “I’m cutting you off after this one. You’re three shakes to the wind, and you’ll never be able to fly home.”
“I can’t fly anymore. The tooth fairy queen resshin…resshind…uh, took away my wings and wand when I quit the biz.”
“Gee, that’s too bad.”
“That’s okay. I never much liked flying anyway.” That wasn’t true, but Taffy didn’t want to admit how much she really missed flying. She shrugged then quickly laid her head on the counter to stop the room from spinning around her. “Besides, I could only fly at night and only to houses with children who lost their teeth. What a drag.”
Harpy laughed. “I love flying.”
“I saw you at the Valentine’s Day Picnic,” Taffy murmured. “It’s wonderful your wings are working. And it’s great about you and Derek getting married. I wish I could have been at the wedding the following year, but the tooth fairy queen called a shp-special meeting that day. On Valentine’s Day of all dayssh!”
Taffy felt and heard a thump on the counter, and found herself staring at eight fingers and two thumbs. She blinked, and a hand with only four fingers and one thumb came into focus.
“Hey, Manny,” Harpy greeted him.
Mano A. Mano, whom everyone called Manny, wore a dashing black leather bandana, pirate style, over and around his wrist. The knotted end trailed down along his pinky, where he wore a simple gold ring. Manny was a disembodied hand—or a hand-thing, as some called him.
The strange and magical city of Spellfire, Texas, was home to many unusual beings and creatures.
Without a day job to keep her on schedule, Taffy had returned to her natural tooth fairy hours—awake all night, sleeping all day. Since she started drowning her sorrows in sugar two weeks ago, she had seen Manny in Sins every night. But she’d never seen him dressed up like this before.
She raised her hand and waggled her fingers at him. “Hi, Manny.”
Manny tip-fingered closer to her then jumped as if startled when Harpy opened the cash register.
“Ready when you are, Manny. I’ll be in the back.” Harpy disappeared through the kitchen door.
Manny gave the thumbs up to Harpy’s retreating back then hopped into the cash drawer.
Taffy closed her eyes and let the sound of ruffling bills and clinking coins soothe her frazzled nerves. So she didn’t have a job and she didn’t have a boyfriend. Who cared? She would find another of each and get back on her feet soon—as soon as her wrist healed.
As a last resort, she could return to the tooth fairy biz. It paid a pittance, but she would have free room and board at the Tooth Castle. The tooth fairy queen might not like her, but Her Royal Pain-In-The-Ass would have to take Taffy back. Taffy was a Trueheart, after all. She could trace her fairy lineage farther back than any other tooth fairy at the castle, including the queen herself!
A sliding sound on the counter made Taffy open her eyes. Manny had finished counting the day’s receipts, the bills and coins stacked neatly beside the register. He tapped a piece of paper near her head with one finger.
She raised her head. The words on the flyer ran together then separated and became legible…
Taffy Pulling Contest at Sinful Sundaes!
Join in the fun of an old-fashioned taffy pull.
Winner receives a year’s supply of ice cream.
“You going to enter, Manny?” she asked.
Manny’s thumb and pinky stuck out and he twisted his wrist in a shrug. =Can’t,= he tapped in Morse code. =One hand.=
Manny was one of the few who knew she understood Morse code. Taffy’s maternal grandmother had been the telegraph operator at the Tooth Castle in the late 1800s. Grammamá insisted Taffy learn the series of dots and dashes. With a sparkle in her eye, she said one never knew when it might come in handy. Taffy now wondered if Grammamá possessed a bit of the Fae sight and foresaw Taffy’s friendship with Manny.
“Oh, sorry. I’m in the same boat with my sprained wrist.” She held up her left hand and showed him the bandage. “I saw the witch doctor today, and I can’t use it for two weeks. The taffy pull is in two days.”
Manny made a fist and scratched his thumb with his forefinger, as if thinking. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers. =You can use your right hand and I’m a lefty,= he tapped.
She smiled at him. “You’re a genius! If we work together, we can win that taffy pull.”
She held out her right hand for a low five, and Manny’s fingers slid onto hers instead of slapping her hand. Her eyesight blurred and she blinked. Something shot into her palm, reminding her of heat lightning. She’d been struck a few times—another downside to the tooth fairy biz—while flying on stormy nights to some ungrateful brat’s house to make the exchange.
This sensation felt the same, yet different. The electric buzz that started at her hand turned into a warm thread spiraling up her arm and weaving its way into her abdomen…and even lower. This was the most unusual low five she’d ever experienced in her life.
Taffy jerked her hand free. She shouldn’t have lusty thoughts about Manny. His body consisted of nothing other than a hand—a sentient, sensitive hand, but only a hand nonetheless. Maybe another milkshake would make her forget what his touch stirred in her. Surely, she could talk her friend Harpy into just one more.
She reached for the empty shake glass, but Manny pushed it aside. He shook a “no-no” finger at her
She rolled her eyes, knowing very well what Manny was talking—er, fingering about. She really didn’t need any more. A couple made her tipsy, but more than that, like she’d had tonight, and she was on a sugar drunk.
Manny pushed the glass farther away and tapped out a message. She shook her head to clear it, and then listened more closely as he repeated it, to make sure she heard correctly.
“You want to walk me home?”
“That’s sweet, but you don’t have to, Manny. I’ll stumble home safely by myself. It’s not far.”
He rapped the counter top loudly.
“Hey, no need to get upset with me, buddy. Stop being so insistent. All right, already, you can walk me home.”
Manny dipped his wrist in a nod. She smiled at him, but found it odd that a bodiless hand wanted to walk her home. So how did a hand walk a woman home? With quick little fingertip steps, she imagined.
He hopped on her left shoulder as she grabbed her purse and stood up on wobbly legs. “Okay, little guy, let’s get outta here before Harpy throws me out. I’m cut off, you know.”
He took an indignant stance with thumb akimbo.
She chuckled. “Sorry, Manny, didn’t mean to imply you’re short, so don’t go getting all huffy on me. Y’know, you have very long, strong fingers.”
He slid down until his palm rested on her shoulder then squeezed affectionately. Nope, he wasn’t mad at her. Manny was something else. No wonder everybody in Spellfire liked him. Well, almost everybody. Otto the Ogre and Frightful Frieda didn’t like anyone.
She smiled at him and started out the door. Manny was light on her physically, but somehow, she felt safer with him accompanying her. She liked having him for a friend. It beat that deadpan boyfriend…er, ex-boyfriend.
“Hey, Manny, where do you live?”
=Boodoirs,= he tapped on her shoulder. She couldn’t hear the taps, but feeling them worked just as well. =By the fishpond.=
“I didn’t know they had a guest cottage in the back.”
“Oh, hmmm—” Before she could ask about it, her foot slipped on the edge of the curb and she grabbed the lamppost to keep from falling. “Whoops!”
Manny gripped her shoulder to keep from tumbling off. He shook a finger at her.
“I’ll be careful. Not to worry,” she assured him.
He rubbed her cheek, his knuckles a soft caress against her skin. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the gentle stroking of a man’s hand. How long had it been? Even her ex hadn’t touched her in such a way. He’d been too rough and brutish. She really didn’t miss him at all and was glad to be rid of him.
Taffy turned down a side street that led to a residential area. A waist-high wooden fence enclosed the first yard they came to. Manny jumped off her shoulder and onto the ledge created by the top cross board holding the pickets together. He finger-walked along now at her side.
“I’m staying at my friend Shai’s townhouse. Shai is off on a wild two-week vacation in France with her boyfriends.” Taffy sighed. “She has two nice guys at her beck and call, and I can’t even find one!”
Manny stopped, and Taffy did, too, to listen to what he had to say.
=You’re beautiful, smart, and sweet. Any man would be lucky to have you.=
“Aw, thanks, Manny.” She started walking again. “You’re a sweetheart yourself.”
Manny hopped on her shoulder just as they reached the end of the block. When Taffy stepped off the curb, a figure dressed in black came out of nowhere and snatched her purse out of her hand before she could react.
“Hey, come back here!” she shouted.
Before all the words left her mouth, Manny took a flying leap and landed on the purse snatcher’s back. Wide-eyed, Taffy watched as the force of Manny’s attack knocked the man to the ground. Manny jumped to his neck, flipped him over, and wrapped his fingers around his throat. The man made horrible gurgling sounds, kicking and pulling at Manny. He finally managed to free himself from Manny’s powerful grip, scrambled to his feet, and raced away.
Taffy gaped at Manny hurrying back to her, purse trailing behind him by the handle hooked around his thumb. He leapt up on the narrow ledge of the concrete base of the nearby lamppost and presented her purse to her.
“Oh, wow, that was incredible, Manny. Thank you.” She took her purse. “You are amazing. My hero.”
She reached out to touch him, running her fingertips across his knuckles and down the side of his pinky. She took him in hand, her fingers pressing into his warm palm. Then she did something she never thought she’d ever do…she leaned over and placed a kiss just above his row of knuckles.
The kiss sobered her and left her breathless. She picked him up and sat him on her shoulder then crossed the street to the next block.
His palm rested near the curve of her neck, and his fingers dangled casually on the skin exposed by her off-the-shoulder blouse. His thumb gently rubbed the back of her neck. His touch now sent her senses reeling. How could she be attracted to a hand?
There was much more to Manny than just a hand, of course. Somehow, he saw without eyes, heard without ears, and comprehended without a brain. All that suggested magic was involved, bad magic. More than likely, someone had placed a curse on the man Manny used to be.
“Here we are.” Taffy turned onto the walk leading up to the three-story townhouse. “Shai said I could stay as long as I want, but I’d like to find a job and get a place of my own before she returns.”
Inside, the delicious cool air hit her and everything fled her mind except how tired she was. She didn’t think she could make it to the guest bedroom. She kicked off her shoes on the way to the sofa and flopped down on it.
“No point in going all the way across town this late, Manny. You can crash here tonight,” she offered with a yawn. “Pull up a pillow or just bunk with me on the sofa. I have to get up early to go job hunting tomorrow.”
She snuggled in, closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep.
Excerpt from Taffy's Man (Part Two)|
Copyright © Lanette Curington / Lani Aames
All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction.
Taffeta Trueheart, non-practicing tooth fairy, took a seat at the counter in Sinful Sundaes Ice Cream Shoppe. Her boyfriend Mano A. Mano, whom everyone called Manny, hopped off her shoulder and onto the counter. No one minded that Manny rested on top of the counter because he was a disembodied left hand.
=Taffy pulling contest,= Manny tapped on the napkin dispenser in Morse code, and then slid a flyer across in front of her.
Taffy laughed. “I doubt they’ll let us enter. I don’t have a sprained wrist this year.”
=Can’t hurt to ask, if you want to do it.=
“Sure, why not?” She pressed her fingers to Manny’s and squeezed. “We came in third place last year and won a pint of ice cream. Electra was good enough to put a charm on it.”
Electra Spellfire Ruveaux, the owner of Sins, called the special ice cream Manifestival Mocha. When a little was spread on top of Manny’s wrist, it temporarily replicated his real body. The effect lasted about an hour. They eventually realized the spell was depleting his DNA, using it to create the rest of his body instead of merely replicating it. Eventually, if used too often, he would completely disappear. Taffy had noticed that his wrist area was a little shorter than when they first started going together, and he’d only used the ice cream a dozen times or so in the past year.
=Too bad it didn’t work like we wanted,= he tapped against her hand.
“I know,” she said softly. “Electra tried, but she explained it’s very difficult when creating a spell that works with DNA. I know you were expecting to be able to use the Manifestival Mocha more often so you could have your body.”
=I wanted to be normal.=
Manny’s taps were sad. Somehow, she had come to know his emotions even though he didn’t have a voice to inflect with or a face to express his feelings. She sensed them, especially when he was touching her.
“What’s normal?” Taffy tried to cheer him up. “Here in Spellfire, it’s normal to be different. I’m a tooth fairy, and there are sorcerers, witches, elves, ogres, grumpkins, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and too many other supernatural creatures to mention that live in this town.”
=I know…but there aren’t any other beings who are just hands.=
She lifted him and brushed a kiss across his knuckles. “That just makes you special. And you are a very special man.”
He rubbed her cheek with his forefinger, but she sensed he was still unhappy. She set him down on the counter again.
“Hi, Taffy, Manny. How’s it going?” Damien Spellfire greeted them as he came from the back. He was Electra’s twin brother and had taken over running Sinful Sundaes while Electra was out of town. Damien held out his hand to Manny, who gave him a quick low five then formed a circle with thumb and forefinger indicating A-OK.
“Great,” Taffy answered, although life would be better for Manny if he had his body. She totally accepted Manny as he was, but he would be happier if he knew his name, and where he came from, and was a whole body instead of only a hand.
“Here you go, Manny.” Damien opened the cash drawer. Manny hopped in and started counting the day’s receipts. Damien looked at Taffy. “Can I get you anything?”
“Seltzer with a twist. It’s one of the few things you serve that doesn’t make me tipsy.”
Damien’s golden eyes sparkled with humor as he grinned and started filling her order. “Yeah, Harpy told me to watch you and milkshakes. I didn’t know sugar made tooth fairies drunk.”
“It’s true even though I’m no longer a working tooth fairy. I had it out with the tooth fairy queen and quit last year. It was the best thing I could have done. I now have a great job at the Spellfire Wax Museum. Best of all, Manny and I got together.”
Manny gave a thumb’s up then continued counting the money.
“How’s your job at the museum going?” Damien set a glass filled with sparkling water, topped with a wedge of lemon in front of her.
“I just received a promotion.” Taffy took a sip of the refreshing drink.
“Congratulations.” Damien leaned over the counter and rested on his elbows. “So you won’t be guiding tours anymore?”
“I still have a schedule of tours, but not as many as before. I’ll be going out in the field to pick up donations and do research. When they add a new wax dummy, they need physical descriptions, pictures, and portraits, when they can get them, if the person is deceased. I’ll be helping to track them down.”
“Sounds interesting.” Damien glanced at Manny who had just finished counting the money and jumped to the counter, picking up a pen to write the amount on a pad. “Thanks, Manny.”
Taffy sipped her seltzer water. Manny stood expectantly on tip-fingers, angled toward Damien.
She set the glass aside. “We were wondering if you’ve talked to Electra lately, and if she’s had a chance to work on the Manifestival Mocha spell.”
Damien shook his head and ran a hand through his dark hair. “Electra’s in a place where it’s difficult to reach her and she can’t work on any spells. When you asked me to look into it, I finally found the scroll with the original spell work, to make whole things from parts. My sister didn’t leave any notes with it, so I’m not sure how she changed it to work on living DNA. I’ve done everything I can think of, and the insects I’ve experimented on—well, let’s just say I haven’t been successful.”
She could feel Manny’s disappointment. When Electra left, she apologized because she felt as if she were abandoning Manny but her trip was unavoidable. Taffy asked Damien to look into the Manifestival Mocha spell because Electra didn’t know when she’d return and Manny was growing more anxious. Damien explained it was difficult enough changing another sorcerer’s spell when it was known what he or she had done. Not knowing the exact specifications of the spell made it even more difficult—but not impossible. He had given them hope, but each time he told them he’d failed they knew he had less chance of succeeding.
Manny tapped on the counter.
“Manny says thanks for trying,” Taffy interpreted.
“I’m sorry,” Damien apologized. “It would be easier if Electra were here.”
“You haven’t heard anything from her about when she might return?”
Damien shrugged. “Nope. Whenever I do manage to get in touch with her and ask, she says she has no idea when she’ll be back. She’s helping out a friend and it’s taking longer than she thought.”
Taffy patted Manny, knowing he felt even more disheartened with that news.
Damien bagged up the money Manny had just counted. “I’m going to put this in the back.”
“I need to get home, and Manny will be finishing his counting run.” Taffy stood, and Manny hopped up on her shoulder. “We’ll see you later, Damien.”
“Good night,” Damien called.
Taffy sat on the outside bench waiting for the ghost trolley to take her to her apartment. Manny waited with her.
“I wish you’d go on and finish your counting run.” Even before she and Manny became close, she’d been amazed that even a hand-thing had a job and home. He counted the day’s receipts for many of the businesses in Spellfire and rented a little Victorian dollhouse situated in an idyllic setting by a small goldfish pond behind Boodoirs Bed and Breakfast. “I’ll be all right here, waiting for the trolley.”
=I’ll wait with you.= Manny tapped on the bench seat. =I have plenty of time to do my run.=
“You’re such a gentleman. No wonder I fell in love with you.” After Manny’s declaration of love, during the first time they’d used the enchanted ice cream, and they’d made love while Manny had his body, it didn’t take Taffy long to realize she loved him, too. He encouraged her every step of the way while she started her new job and found a new apartment. She’d been crazy to think that what she felt for Manny was anything other than love.
=I love you, Taffy.= He paused then tapped again. =Come to my place for lunch tomorrow. I have a surprise for you.=
“Oh, how sweet. What is it?”
=If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.=
She laughed. “Can’t blame a fairy for trying.”
The rumble of the ghost trolley sounded from down the street. Manny jumped onto her shoulder and nuzzled her cheek. She pressed into him and kissed him as the trolley stopped in front of them.
=Good night, love,= he tapped on her cheek then dashed away into the dark.
* * * * *
Manny waited in the third story room of the turret of the Victorian dollhouse he called home. For decades, he’d stayed in any little nook or cranny where he could fit until one day, many years ago, he’d cut through the Boodoirs’ back yard and found the dollhouse sitting beside the goldfish pond.
With the Boodoirs’ permission, he’d moved in and begun to fix up the little house. According to human measurements, it was about three feet high, and the rooms were spacious enough for him although they weren’t in exact proportions. Most of the furnishings had been intact and he’d scoured antique shops until he replaced what was missing.
The small room at the top of the turret was his favorite even if the narrow bed wasn’t quite large enough to hold all of him. He felt most comfortable there, as if it were where he belonged. Now, he stood by the window “watching” for Taffy. He had no eyes, but he could somehow see what was around him. Just as he had no ears or mind, he could hear and think. When he saw Taffy coming around a bend in the path, he raced down the two sets of stairs. He waited in the parlor so he wouldn’t seem over-eager. If he’d had a heart, it would have been trip-hammering in anticipation of being with Taffy and the surprise he had for her.
She knocked at the front door, and he slowly counted to ten before opening it and stepping out onto the wraparound porch decorated with fancy gingerbread trim.
=Hi, sweet Taffy,= he tapped on one of the posts. =You’re right on time.=
She kissed him on his knuckles. “I love surprises and wild unicorns couldn’t make me late.”
=I hope you like this one. There’s a picnic lunch set up under the tree by the goldfish pond.=
She laughed. “Now, that’s a wonderful surprise. It’s a lovely day for sharing a picnic lunch with the one you love.”
He led the way. When the red-checked cloth with a wicker basket sitting in the center came into view, she gasped, kicked off her shoes, and sat beside the basket.
“I hope someone helped you because this would have taken hours to set up by yourself.”
=Dina Diablo at Sins helped set it up. I hope you like it,= he tapped on the basket.
“Oh, I do. It’s fantastic. But I only have thirty minutes left to enjoy lunch. It’ll take almost fifteen minutes to make it back to the museum. I can’t be late getting back from lunch the first day after my promotion.”
He tugged off the red-checked cloth that covered the basket. He dove in and handed her a sandwich wrapped in a matching napkin.
“Sins’ Roast Beast Special on homemade bread. My favorite. Yummy.” She took a bite.
He wished he could eat with her, but he knew using the Manifestival Mocha ice cream too often wasn’t a good idea. He’d rather wait and use it so he and Taffy could make love.
He carefully handed her a glass of dark red wine, and she took a sip. Alcohol didn’t affect tooth fairies, so she could drink wine and not get drunk. Dessert, on the other hand, was different. He brought out a bowl of fresh cherries. For some reason, the natural sugar in foods didn’t affect her like the added sugar in prepared sweets.
While she ate, he climbed to her shoulder and started massaging her neck—but part of him stayed aware that she barely sipped her wine.
After she was almost finished with the sandwich, he paused and tapped, =Did you know Dina is marrying Lance and Rance?”
“No, I hadn’t heard.” Taffy set down what was left of her sandwich. “She’s marrying both of them? That’s illegal even in Spellfire.”
=Technically, Lance and Rance are the same person. A glitch in the Double Delight Sprinkles on a banana split created an exact replica of Laurance Boudreaux, and Dina called them Lance and Rance to avoid confusion. No one, not even Electra, could figure out which is the original.=
“So…” Taffy said slowly and picked up her sandwich again. “She’s marrying Laurance Boudreaux which means she can marry both.”
=Even the mayor, Perry Normil, couldn’t find a legal loophole to stop them,= he tapped gently on her neck.
“Wonderful. Those three were meant for each other.”
Manny continued massaging her neck and shoulders until she finished eating. She lay back and he sat on her chest, nestled between her generous breasts, and dropped cherries into her mouth until she checked her watch.
“Oh, no. I’ll have to hurry to catch the ghost trolley.”
He dropped to the ground as she sat up.
She drained the last of her wine then a puzzled look crossed her face. She put her hand to her mouth and withdrew the surprise he’d planted in the bottom of her glass: a diamond engagement ring.
Coming Soon from Silver Heart Books