Here is the first installment of a Valentine themed short story for those who favor a mix of cozy stories and romance. Please enjoy!
Dead-on target. It was a well-aimed shot, which landed right in the heart of Will Montague. He was mid-step onto land and mid-sentence into a greeting when he took the fall.
“Good morning, isn’t great to be on land again, Valen-” he began in his posh British accent. He ended with, “Oh my, I think I’m in love.”
Valentine caught Will’s hand and pulled him all the way off the boat. He couldn’t save Will’s attention for the life of him. Once his charge was safely on the ground, Valentine Cupid turned around to look in the objects of Will’s affections.
She was cute, but Val wouldn’t categorize her as beautiful. A bit smaller than average build for an American, brunette, short, and looking in their direction with a self-satisfied smile - she was trouble. The blonde next to her seemed puzzled as if something strange had just happened. Which, of course, it had.
An arrow, Cupid’s own design, was the only explanation for Will being lovestruck. But Valentine hadn’t shot the arrow, and he was the sole Cupid agent assigned to the Montague case. He wasn’t about to let this one get away from him.
“Will, look away from the girl,” Valentine said.
“But she’s …perfect.” Dreamy-eyed and dazed, Will was seconds away from smitten.
Valentine cupped Will’s chin, squashing the stupid grin on his face, and physically broke his gaze. “Look at me, Will. You’re here to meet Julie.”
“Julie, who?” Will’s eyes strayed to the woman, the stranger who was ruining everything.
“You said it yourself. It’s finally time for the Montagues and Capulet’s to reconcile, remember?”
If they didn’t stop trying to undermine each other, two of the wealthiest families in the shipping business would sink each other into the sea. Pirates in West African coasts, in the Indian Ocean, and on the Red Sea had already been targeting their vessels. It didn’t help that they were finding out details about each other’s cargo and deployments schedules and posting them online. When that proved ineffective, they turned to sabotaging the cargo itself. The Capulets did not know how close their New York warehouse had come to being reported for a rodent infestation. Val had, thankfully, shut down the elder Montaque’s inquiries about where to purchase the rats. It was time to stop the backstabbing and bring in the arrows.
The Cupid database said Will and Julie were a match for each other. So, Val went to work. After considerable persuasion from the new “PR consultant,” Valentine Cupid, the family-heavy board of directors were convinced. The future president of Montague Shipping and the granddaughter of Capulet Enterprises were a perfect match.
Will hadn’t protested too much when he saw Julie’s picture. He stopped complaining at all after exchanging emails and long talks over the phone. Now, he couldn’t peel his eyes away from the stranger.
Valentine had to work a little magic to get him to stop. Literal magic was used as little as possible since HR started their “Free Will” training seminars. But, Valentine supposed if he used magic to free Will of the love spell placed on him, he was still in compliance with the Human Relations department.
Valentine sprinkled faerie dust in Will’s eyes, saying, “All right, Will. Time to stop gawking at the brunette.”
Will blinked. Coming to, he said, “Sorry. Anyway, it wasn’t a brunette. It was a blonde.” He glanced back, only for a second. Looking back at Valentine, he added, “Just looking, no harm in that, right? I’ll give Julie a call, see if we’re still on for coffee.”
As Will stepped away with his phone, Valentine looked back at the pair of women. If Will had been obsessing over the one who had been confused, why had the other one been smiling? And which Cupid agent had accidentally shot an arrow at two complete strangers? In a busy port, perhaps it was an agent who had missed his mark. That didn’t explain the dark-haired woman with the deliberate smile at Will.
When Valentine saw her again, she was stomping away from the blonde woman, looking angry as Hades on a good day. There was his answer. Even before she walked right up to him like she owned the beach, he knew she was the one who had harpooned his charge with a love spell. And by her look, she’d done it deliberately.
Just another demi-god agent out to undermine Valentine for his last name. He was used to it. One of Poseidon’s descendants once gave him the advice to stay away from his own family business.
“If your Godfather actually cares about his great, great, great grand-something, then you’ll be accused of nepotism. Other demi-gods, fae, and magical beings will hate you. If your Godfather doesn’t care, they’ll hate you anyway, but you won’t have a God watching your back.” The young Poseidon had wanted nothing to do with the sea. He took a job with the Gaia Foundation, and Valentine guessed he regretted it after the climate change debacle had rendered the Earth hopeless. But, if the world was ending, Valentine figured the best way to face it was with the ones you love.
For that, a cupid would always be needed. Helping hopeless romantics was his calling. And he didn’t care for rogue agents who had a problem with that.
“You used magic on my charge,” said the woman with the quiver on her shoulder. He could see it now that she was standing a foot in front of him. Close enough to smell her perfume, a spicy-scent he hadn’t encountered before. Essence of Troublemaker, Valentine sized her up.
He used his considerable height to his advantage, crossing his arms and towering over the five-foot pipsqueak. “Recheck your charges. That one is mine.”
“Oh, sorry, I was under the impression he was straight.”
Valentine’s face reddened. He uncrossed his arms. “What? No, that’s not what I-”
The woman beamed at his befuddlement. “Great! So, that means he’s matched with Sarah. So, I’ll just shoot him again, and we can call it a day.”
Valentine stepped in front of her, “Look, Miss...”
“Darla, he is not meant for her.”
“Valentine Cupid.” He kept it cordial, not quite offering his hand, but not threatening dis-arrow-ment either.
“One of Cupid’s descendants? No kidding. Full God, or…?”
“Demi. And you didn’t tell me your surname, so don’t hold mine against me.”
“I don’t have one.” She pushed her hair behind her ear. Pointy.
“You’re a fae? But you’re so…”
“Human?” She finished his sentence. “Yeah, there are a few humans in my bloodline. Can’t help who you fall in love with, ain’t that right?” Her smile was so annoying it hurt to look at.
“You can if you have the right agent,” Valentine shot back.
“Darla? Are you all right?” The blonde woman, Sarah, called out.
Darla gave her a thumbs up. She may have identified as fae, but she clearly blended well with humans. She must have lived somewhere close by.
“Tell me who would be better? No one, that’s who. They’re a perfect match.” Darla’s American accent was laced with stubbornness and pride. So, Boston then.
Valentine, part-god, part-British as he was, looked his nose down at her as he replied, “Who handed you your assignment?”
She squared her shoulders. “I did. American agents find our own charges. Don’t tell me you’re handed yours?” She snorted.
Valentine responded, “Upper management in Olympia handed it down to me directly – and not because of my last name. I’ve been the top agent in all the United Kingdom for three years running, and this is an important family.”
“Every family is important here. And I got a 100% rating with every algorithm with these two,” Darla said.
Valentine inched closer to her amber-brown eyes, her full lips, and that sweet scent that might have tugged his heartstrings if it hadn’t presently been punching him in the gut.
He said, “Not every couple is meant to be, despite how they look on paper. There are many factors to consider, especially in complicated families. And I do view everyone as equally important. Still, this one has ramifications on many other families, which means it was looked at by the highest authority. Don’t you think Cupid would know who belongs together?”
“This is New York. There’s nothing but complicated families. And I really doubt Cupid would have looked at this case. Maybe he wanted you to think it was important, you know, so you feel good. I think that’s really sweet of him, looking after his great-grandson like that.” Darla flashed a smile so sweet it gave candy hearts a run for their money in the cavity-causing business.
Valentine turned red as a heart, lost for a response. She was so infuriating, she caused his heart rate to spike. The blood pumped in his ears, so he barely heard Will called out somewhere in the background. “Val, the car is here. We should go.”
Now Valentine could compose his response. He held a finger up, inching close to Darla’s face. In as grave a tone as he could muster, Val warned, “Don’t follow us.”