Blame it on the Voodoo
“It’s getting to where you can’t swing a dead chicken around here anymore without it smacking into one damn psychic or another.”
Zirondelle Doucette couldn’t help the grin that spread across her face as she listened to her Aunt Serafina’s complaints. Her aunt stood at the window of their family’s shop, staring out at the street, and Zee didn’t have to guess too hard to figure out the cause for her discontent. Another “damn” psychic had recently put out her shingle in the previously vacant storefront directly across from their own.
“And if it’s not a psychic it’s a card reader,” the other woman continued, grumbling crossly. “Or a palm reader. Or tea-leaf reader—”
“Or a purveyor of Voodoo essentials?” Zee suggested, holding up the little gris-gris bag she’d just finished assembling.
Serafina turned her head to glare at her niece. “Don’t sass me, Zee. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I do.” Ducking her head, Zee started in on the next charm. She knew it wasn’t psychics per se with whom her aunt had a problem. Serafina was a tolerant soul, not the kind who’d ever take a stand against anyone else’s religion or spellcraft or spiritual beliefs. It was the idea of all those make-believe mystics making a mockery of their family’s calling that was trying the older woman’s temper, and not without cause. The Doucette family had owned and operated their establishment in the self-same Royal Street location for several generations, dealing in authentic rituals, in candles and jujus, talismans and spells. It was hard not to take it personally when your way of life was turned into a kind of circus act by greedy imposters. But as Zee and her aunt both knew, the charlatans did in fact have a place and a purpose in the grand scheme of things.
Oh, how the tourists loved them. They ate up their acts and purchased their trinkets as eagerly as they did the beignets at the Café du Monde. Or jazz on Frenchmen Street. Or hurricanes in Pat O’s Courtyard. It was all part of the Crescent City mystique, like po-boys and crawfish, pralines and beads. In an odd way, they kept things safe. They kept the merely curious from straying into dangerous territory.
“Oh, Lawd.” Aunt Serafina’s sudden gasp caught Zee’s attention. She glanced up in surprise.
“Auntie, what’s wrong?”
“It’s him.” Serafina scurried back behind the counter where her niece was working, babbling nonsensically. “He’s back. He’s coming this way. What should we do? What does he want this time?”
“Do about what?” Zee asked, feeling mystified and mildly exasperated. “Who’s back?” She loved Serafina; truly she did. Her aunt had taken Zee in after her parents passed without question or hesitation—the only member of their somewhat eccentric family who seemed to have any idea about what to do with a bewildered little girl who’d suddenly been orphaned. Zee would never forget the older woman’s kindness but, all the same, there were times, like now, when dealing with her aunt seriously tried Zee’s patience.
The Doucette family had a certain reputation; they were known for being fierce and fearless. They prided themselves on it, in fact. But Serafina had always been unusually timid for a Doucette. Right now, her pale eyes, also unusual in a Doucette, were wide with fear, the pupils dilated; her voice was but a whisper. “Monsieur Boudreaux.”
Boudreaux. The name itself meant very little. It was as common as dishwater around those parts. But between the look on her aunt’s face and the singing certainty in her own heart, Zee knew exactly which Monsieur Boudreaux Serafina meant. She meant Rene Alcide Boudreaux. Zirondelle’s Monsieur Boudreaux. Dominant. Vampire. Master.
But not her master. No, not yet.
As the door to the shop swung open, Zee trembled inside. She couldn’t even raise her eyes to gaze upon the shadow that she knew must be filling the entryway. Odd, considering that shadow contained the very thing for which she’d been longing.
“Good evening, Madame Doucette, Mademoiselle.” Rene glided into the shop with his usual, preternatural grace. He had a way of moving that Zee found mesmerizing. And his voice! That subtle growl, as dark and seductive as midnight, left Zee wanting to fall to her knees at his feet and declare her submission right then and there. She dared not, however. Not with her aunt looking on. Not when she hadn’t yet been granted the right.
“Monsieur Boudreaux,” Serafina’s voice shook a little as she returned his greeting. “What a surprise. We weren’t expecting you.”
“Well, yes. I mean…no! It-it’s so soon after Monsieur’s last visit.”
That was sadly true, Zee reflected. Although he’d once been a regular customer, stopping by every few weeks, things had changed in the last decade. Nowadays it was not unusual for a year or more to pass between encounters. Rene’s last visit to the shop had been three months ago. The occasion was burned into Zee’s memory because it was then she decided that enough was enough. It was time to take matters into her own hands, to go after what she wanted, to stop waiting, hoping or dreaming that Rene might someday recall her existence. She could be dead by the time that happened!
“Indeed,” Rene agreed. “However, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that circumstances have made it necessary that I return sooner rather than later. I’m here because of the spell that’s been placed upon me—the curse, if you will.”
“A curse!” Serafina gasped in alarm. “Oh, surely Monsieur is mistaken.”
“I assure you, Madame, the mistake is not mine. It would, in fact, be rather impossible for me to be mistaken about such a thing. You see, if there’s one thing we vampires are very familiar with, it’s curses. Centuries of people wishing one dead or ill tends to naturally have that effect.”
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