The serial novel begins today! Part One is below. In case you forgot what it’s all about, here’s the explanation post.
“The pain of a phoenix burn was somewhere between stabbed in the thigh by a unicorn horn and being slapped in the face by a flying monkey wing. Distracting, but not so much so that Vivian didn’t also notice the way Saul had trapped her dad in the corner again, super serious business face in place and smooth talk flying a thousand words per minute. If Saul had his way, the family business would be exiting the family and into his hot, waiting hands. They’d been together three years and despite his dark good looks and his very convenient habit of giving her little gifts almost every day, he did still try to overreach. Frequently.
Still nursing the burn on her hand, Vivian locked the phoenix’s cage again and wandered through the rows of cages and storage spaces, stopping to stroke a blue dragon’s fragile wing and drop a handful of lemon drops into the waiting claw of the flying monkey they hadn’t had time to name yet. Even with the delays, Saul spotted her coming from a distance. He angled his shoulders away from her and spoke faster.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” Vivian asked, sliding a hand over her dad’s arm and leaning over to kiss Saul’s cheek.
“Your boyfriend thinks he can angle himself into a spot as vice president after the company transfers to you. Why he’s not using your love as a foundation for employment, I’m not sure.”
“He knows it won’t work. I hire people who are good at the thing they’re being hired for.”
Saul’s cocky grin popped into place. “So you’re saying I’m good at other things.”
“Don’t get full of yourself.” Vivian slipped in between them, effectively blocking Saul out of the conversation. “Did you get the rest of the investors on board with the timing?”
When she was a little girl she’d thought her dad would never grow old. He’d always been faster, smarter, harder-working, and quicker to laugh than anyone else in her life. But now the creases around his eyes and mouth weren’t just visible, but deep like scars, and over the last year his hair had gone entirely white. The magic was showing.
“They’re on board. There’s still one or two dragging their feet, whining about the company going to a woman. But they’ll get over it eventually.”
“How soon is eventually?” Vivian grabbed a clean cloth from the stack and begin wiping out food dishes as they talked. The nerves and the tension had helped her make the entire lab cleaner than it had been in the last five years.
“Once you show them what you can do, there won’t be a single one left who’ll mind what gender you are.”
“I don’t see why I should have to prove it. You didn’t have to prove anything.”
Her dad sighed, stacking the dishes she’d finished into the cupboards and starting the presort of herbs and seeds for the nighttime feeding. “I don’t know where you ever got that idea. Everyone has to prove themselves in this business. You don’t get by on anything, not word of mouth, not recommendations. It comes down to keeping the animals producing materials and how well you can mix those materials into magic.”
Saul butted in, leaning on her shoulder and pulling a handful of seeds for his own snack.
“And everyone knows that you’ve already created more magic than people twice as old as twice as well-funded.”
Vivian was ready to encourage the conversation along in the hopes that half a dozen more compliments would wipe out the anxiety curdling in her stomach, when she realized the lab had fallen silent. Every creature was still, and the few techs on duty had paused mid-measurements.
“I didn’t expect to make quite such an impressive entry.”
She couldn’t see the person who spoke around the tall stack of cages holding magician’s rabbits, but Saul’s face was frozen in shock. Her dad was equally silent, standing like one of the magical beanstalk plants from the labs across the street had sprouted through the floor.
There was only one thing terrible enough to render them both silent.