Home > Sin & Chocolate (Demigod of San Francisco #1)

Sin & Chocolate (Demigod of San Francisco #1)
Author: K.F. Breene

1

Alexis

I let my fingers trail across the beautiful designer handbags before glancing wistfully at the rows of shoe racks standing near the back wall. What I wouldn’t give for a few hundred bucks to spend frivolously on super-cute accessories.

I snorted softly, wandering around the shiny metal turnstile rack featuring the latest shipment of handbags dangling in messy clusters. What I wouldn’t give for a few hundred, period.

Wait. Is that…

My breath caught in my throat and my whole body went rigid. There, peeking out through the imprinted leather and strangely fashionable tassels, was none other than the Moby Dick of handbags!

I licked my lips nervously and pushed in closer, angling my body just so to keep any of the bargain-hunting trollops wandering around the spacious store from seeing what I’d found. With quick fingers, I pushed aside the lesser designer apparel and closed my greedy fingers on the unicorn in my midst.

Burberry.

Not just any Burberry. The buckle medium tote. In pink!

A season ago I’d eyed this bag in Nordstrom, wishing I had any means, whatsoever, to one day (when all of my many bills were paid and there was food in the pantry) afford such an extravagant lifestyle purchase.

I could just see it. I’d strut around the streets with the little beauty on my arm, swinging my shoulders in time with my bag. Maybe I’d swing my hips, too, if I could muster the body control. I’d keep my chin high and stride long, rather than scurrying around important people who demanded their space. Why? Because I’d be an important person. I’d be the person other people scurried from.

With shaking hands, I wrestled the supple leather strap from the hook, shoving the other (though still unaffordable) bags out of the way.

“Oh my God,” I whispered.

I, Alexis Price, was holding a Burberry buckle medium tote…in pink.

I eased the luxury item up my arm and onto my shoulder. Chest tight, I let myself imagine that other life: my peers nodding in greeting, non-magical people giving me my space, and a sharp new style that included not just this bag but shoes in my size with no holes.

“Is that a Burberry?” I heard in a breathy whisper behind me.

I clutched the strap of the handbag in a death grip and whirled around, ready to take on the enemy.

“Yeah,” I said, centering my weight.

A flat-faced woman with a hungry expression and wide nose narrowed her heavily made-up eyes.

Women in this store were vicious, and it was extremely rare for a Burberry to escape the first onslaught of interest on delivery day. These patrons were hellbent on getting first-tier fashion at reduced prices.

“Cute, isn’t it?” I said in a blasé tone. Summoning all my confidence, I settled the strap just a little more firmly onto my shoulder before walking around her. “I might just take it for a stroll. See if I like it.”

I started off at a speedy clip, using the sassy movement of my upper body to hopefully distract her from the tattered shoes painfully squeezing my feet. I wasn’t worried about my white top and slightly wrinkled khakis. They were clean and stain-free, and I doubted she’d know they were actually a uniform. In her eyes, I might just take home this fantastic handbag.

I could feel her stare digging into my back as I rounded a rack of clothing. A woman down the row had her hair done up in a ponytail tied with a familiar green bow that I knew read Proud to Be a Chester, a somewhat derogatory term for non-magical people. She glanced up before giving me the once-over, looking for signs that I might be different (a.k.a. magical). Wings, fangs, the ability to sprout fur and teeth…

I didn’t have any of those, sadly.

Those would give me status in the magical community. And status was one thing I’d never experienced. But I did have this fabulous handbag, for now, and a real bad attitude. We had to work with what we were given.

I matched her narrowed eyes with my own, silently letting her know I wasn’t to be trifled with. Fear was a strong deterrent to treating someone badly, even though she had nothing to fear when it came to me specifically.

A bad attitude and a bullshitter. There could be worse things.

My forceful gaze worked—her body stiffened and her head jerked away. But before she could completely go back to her perusal, she caught sight of the unicorn slung over my arm.

Hunger sparked in her muddy-brown peepers, and she swiveled her tanklike body to face me.

Fear did deter bad treatment, usually, but it wouldn’t keep the patrons in this store—a place cheaper than anywhere else because of the dual-society location—away from a Burberry.

Her gaze coated my body, taking in every inch. She paused on my shoes, then flicked to my tiny canvas sacklike…thing I used for a purse, draped across my cheap cotton shirt. Suddenly, I knew stainlessness wasn’t enough.

Excitement lit her eyes. “You can’t afford that bag,” she said in an accusatory whisper.

My knuckles turned white on the handbag strap. The effort to keep my chin up made sweat pop out on my forehead. Even though we were in the dual-society zone, something like the Wild West of San Francisco, this store only employed non-magical people. If this woman raised a big enough fuss, the non-magical management would check my ID, which would reveal that I had absolutely no clout whatsoever in the magical community. Management had the right to refuse service, and throwing me out to appease their customer base would be a no-brainer. I knew this from experience.

Not that I let that stop me.

“Yes, I can,” I lied, strutting past her. “It would take all my inheritance, but I could. I’m wondering if I should.”

“I saw it first,” the flat-faced woman from before called, now rounding the clothes rack, following me. Three other women looked up from around the store. A man in the back wisely minded his own business. “I already called dibs on it,” she continued.

Ms. Proud to Be a Chester frowned and clenched her jaw. “I didn’t hear you call dibs.”

“Dibs,” the flat-faced woman said.

I tried to block out their shrill voices as they argued about the use of dibs when it pertained to Burberry handbags, and headed toward the mostly deserted men’s section. The smell of newness flirted with my senses and the weight of my latest dream bag sat comfortably on my shoulder. I glanced at a button-up shirt that might look great on Mordecai’s thin frame, then a pair of slacks, something he’d never owned.

My heart sank.

Mordecai. His illness was the whole reason for this outing. The only thing I should dream about was the ability to afford his medicine. Or, pie in the sky, the procedure to cure him.

I slipped the purse from my shoulder and unceremoniously dropped it to the ground. The women were on it in seconds, battering each other to grab hold of it first. Without stopping, and ignoring the startled looks from the silent man, I made my way out of the store.

Mooning over luxury items wasn’t worth it. Not at this stage of my life, anyway. And honestly, probably never. Maybe once Mordecai and Daisy, my wards, were on their own two feet and happy, I could figure out a way to rake in money. But honestly, just like my mother, I had a habit of taking in strays. That wasn’t conducive to making money, but this world was the pits for anyone who didn’t belong. If I could keep one kid from dying on the streets, I would, even if it meant hustling for the rest of my days.

Dreaming small. That was the ticket.

For example, I’d always wanted a sleek little cell phone like all the powerful people had, with its app-ridden screen and impractical fragility. So, what did I do? I made friends with a dickface at my latest place of poorly paid employment who was horribly clumsy. This guy dropped his phone all the time, often while talking shit to someone or inappropriately flirting. I waited until the newest model phone came out, then for him to crack his screen again, and threw out a few comments about how the new phones were super durable, not to mention the height of cool.

In a week, he had a new phone. A week after that, when his sexual innuendos were really beginning to scrape my last nerve, he tossed me his not-that-old phone with three cracks in the screen and said, “Here. You can have the run-down piece of shit. It matches your whole…look.”

He’d been making fun of me, as usual, which had made the transaction so much easier. I’d mock-refused to take it, I’d kissed his ass for the rest of the day, and then I’d gone home with that sleek little number.

The week after I’d gotten what I wanted, I chastised him every time he was a dickhead, and often stormed off afterward. As desired, the pseudo-friendship fizzled quickly, and I was back to zero headaches and one stylish, newish phone.

It was a small dream turned reality. And my conscience was clear, too, because he was universally acknowledged to be an asshole, and everyone knew those types had it coming. They deserved a little manipulation once in a while.

I dug in my purse for the phone as I made my way down the sidewalk within the shopping complex, headed for the store I’d originally intended to solely visit. The phone’s large, bright face read twelve thirty-four. Irresponsible fashion bargain hunting had bled away half of my lunch hour.

Seeing a message alert from my home number, I tapped into my voicemail and watched the transcription slowly load. I stepped off the sidewalk and into a rarely used service driveway cutting through the stores.

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