Black Magic and Mojitos

By: Alexia Chamberlynn
A Zyan Star Novelette

For my mother, Pamela,

for her never-failing belief in me,

and for being a wild woman,

and for teaching me to curse like a pirate


Rio de Janeiro in February is hotter than a demon’s lair. I would know — I’d visited more than my fair share of them. Stupid southern hemisphere. Even standing in the shade of a colorful awning, I felt I might incinerate from the inside out. My leather halter top clung to my skin, and I was way regretting my customary choice of jeans. Even my katana had lost its usual kiss of coolness. In its sheath across my back, it burned like a slice of meteoric rock.

“Jesus,” I moaned, glancing over at Riley and Quinn, my two best friends/business partners. Immortal or not, I didn’t know if I could survive this heat.

Riley pointed at the gargantuan stone Jesus in the hills above us, arms stretched wide over Party Central, South America. “I’m here Zyan, my child,” he intoned. “Staring from on high and laughing as you sweat.”

“Not funny,” Quinn panted, fanning herself with a palm frond.

I squinted up at the Jesus statue. “He’s mocking me.”

“You’re not going to start bitching about your eternal damnation again, are you?” Riley grinned. “Such a whiner.”

I punched him in the arm. “Seriously. I’ve got to change clothes. I’m disintegrating into a flow of molten lava.”

“Shopping!” Quinn clapped her hands together under a sweat-dewed face, and both she and Riley turned to me with hopeful looks.

I sighed. “Fine.”

Riley struck a pose, showing off his incredibly well-toned caramel muscles. “Fashionable werewolf takes Rio by storm!”

Quinn laughed, but I held up a finger. “Just this once! We don’t have to meet our local contact for an hour, so we can look really quick.”

“You’re extra cranky when you’re overheated,” Riley remarked.

“Don’t push it, wolf-boy.” I forced myself to step out of the shade and head towards a row of shops on the street ahead. Bright, prismatic and chaotic, the streets were a tangle of jungle snakes unfurling their temptations.

An hour later, we were decked out in new gear: Quinn and I in light cotton mini-dresses, mine black and hers lavender, and Riley looking swanky in chino shorts and a crisp short-sleeved oxford. I’d kept my boots (necessary) and my katana (no question). At least my legs were uncovered now, and I had breathable fabric. I fantasized for a moment about the cool, rainy Seattle weather back home.

We made our way to the Wicked Lizard to meet our potential client. It had a dingy, faded vibrancy that couldn’t decide if it was seedy or shabbily charming. Tucked away on one of the crooked back streets, it was shoved haphazardly between the other buildings. Music poured from within, and the second floor balcony sagged over the entrance, dripping with some sort of flowering vine that smelled of vanilla and childhood. Well, someone else’s childhood.

I walked through the splintered turquoise doorframe into the dim interior of the bar. For just a moment, I closed my eyes in bliss as cool air from the ceiling fans wafted over me and soaked into my skin. I sincerely hoped they had ice in this place. At this point, I would’ve traded a decade of my life for a cool drink.

The place was crawling with a variety of supernaturals, scattered about at mismatched tables. As we made our way to the back corner, we passed a group of shape shifters on the left, tigers by the smell of them. They stared at Riley, sensing his inner wolf, the frenetic tension between them palpable. Two witches up at the bar turned to give Quinn a friendly nod, and she waved, showing off by adding a bit of sparkle to her fingertips. I also identified a djinn, a faery or two, and even a ghoul, sitting by itself. Ghouls weren’t exactly the sociable type, so it was most likely planning to make a meal of one of the other customers. What I didn’t see, and would have almost zero chance of seeing outside of Ireland, was a supe like me. No, I was rare. And it was definitely better that way.

I slid into a booth, the wood worn smooth from decades of use, and sat my katana next to me. Quinn slid in beside me and Riley across. A waiter stopped by and we ordered a round, margaritas for Quinn and Ri, a mojito for me. Martinis are more my thing but, you know, when in Rome. Or Rio. A couple minutes later three giant fishbowls were plunked down in front of us. I put my hands around the frosty exterior and sighed. Quinn went right for a big sip, getting salt all over her lips. A moment later I followed suit. Rum, lime, mint and sweet relief from the heat.

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