Pretty Ladies by Becca Edney

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Jane took a deep breath of the cool, sea-scented air as she strode up a narrow, worn footpath weaving among the hills. She had left her friend Izzy behind, juggling the dogs at her own insistence, but she'd catch up soon enough; Jane wanted to get to the top of the hill to see the sea, and this meant that she could check the path was good.

A breeze whispered around the corners of the hillside, blowing Jane's long hair into her face and she grinned to herself as she quickly scraped it back into a ponytail. It would be stronger at the top. She was looking forward to it; it had been a year since she'd been able to go hiking in the hills and she'd missed it.

Then she rounded a corner and saw him standing in the path in front of her. For a long moment they stared at each other.

“Absolutely not,” she said, breaking the silence. “Vampires are one thing, werewolves are one thing, but I am not putting up with the likes of you.” She folded her arms and planted her feet firmly, glaring at him.

“Why not? What’s wrong with me?” he asked, opening golden eyes wide in a plausible show of innocence.

“Well, I could start with the fact that you’re loitering around the Welsh hills in nothing but a speedo,” said Jane, straightening the jacket she was wearing to emphasise her point. While it wasn’t exactly cold, the breeze was cutting when it blew.

“I’m hot,” he said, raising his hands in a theatrical shrug and cocking his hips to strike a sexy pose, grinning.

He was right - olive skin, tousled hair, long eyelashes, and muscles that could cut glass were quite a combination - but that was beside the point and Jane shook her head a little to focus. “Whatever. But I think I’m going to go with the fact that you have horns, a tail, and cloven hooves.” She punctuated the list by counting on her fingers, then she folded her arms again, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t know what a satyr is doing - as I say - loitering around the Welsh hills, but whatever it is he probably shouldn’t be doing it.”

“Oh, come on, Babe,” he said with another winsome grin, folding his own arms and tilting his head. The horns were hardly visible through thick curly hair and as he shifted to step slightly towards her, shifting to the side of the path, his feet were almost hidden by the tussocky ground. He twitched his long, donkey-like tail behind one leg and suddenly looked almost human. After a moment, in a softer voice, he said, “Let’s go get a drink and I’ll explain.”

Jane wasn’t falling for that. “You can damn well explain now.”

“What if I said that I was up here to meet pretty ladies?” he asked, bowing low and spreading his arms wide to the sides.

“I’d treat that with the contempt it deserves.” Jane’s heart wasn’t in it, though; unlike many creatures she’d met, that might actually be true in his case, though he evidently didn’t understand human behaviour as well as he thought. She sighed and shook her head, unfolding her arms and trying to relax the tension in her shoulders. “Look, Mate -”

“In that order?” he asked, with an innocently hopeful grin.

Jane stared at him for a moment, then shook her head impatiently. “No. OK, look, I’ve heard enough stories about how satyrs...” - she hesitated, choosing her words, her lip curling a little - “do their thing to know that you’re not going to be very welcome around here if that’s how you’re planning to behave. How about you... put some clothes on - and some shoes - and find a club or something? Talk nicely and keep your hands to yourself unless invited and you might get some luck.” It was a reasonable suggestion that would hopefully avoid trouble for anyone.

He raised an eyebrow and held out a hand, reaching towards her in a beckoning gesture though he was still several feet away. “Or I could stay here and talk to you.”

“Yeah, you’re not my type.” Even though his lean, toned body was normally just what Jane liked, she really didn’t want to get within arm’s reach of a satyr. She fought the urge to take a step back.

“Hey, Jane, I told you to wait up - woah!”

Jane swore to herself as she looked round. Izzy had finally caught up and was staring at the satyr with wide eyes and a slack jaw, ignoring the five corgis pulling at the leashes she held in both hands.

“He’s bad news,” Jane told her firmly. Izzy was only seventeen and Jane didn’t want this to even become a conversation.

“Yeah... yeah.” Izzy shook her head hard, looking away. After a moment, she looked back round surreptitiously, smiling slightly and licking her lips. Meanwhile, the dogs had scented the satyr and started pulling towards him, growling.

Jane looked back at him herself. He was standing with his head on one side and his hands on his hips, slightly flexed to show off his muscles to best advantage. “You, get lost,” she said firmly, jabbing a finger up the path ahead. Getting to the top was a lot less tempting with him around.

“Oh, but we’re just getting to know each other.” This time his grin showed more teeth, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Jane glanced at the dogs again. Izzy was having to brace her feet on the ground as they dragged at their leashes, straining towards the satyr, baring their teeth. “What’s wrong with you lot?” she muttered to them, her voice strained, but looking at them gave Jane an idea.

“Last chance,” she said, looking at the satyr.

“What are you going to do?” he asked, taking a step towards them, his grin broadening still more and his eyebrows drawing down, leaning forward a little, his pose becoming suddenly predatory. “This nice young lady didn’t seem nearly as scared of me; why deny her some fun?”

“Izzy?” said Jane, shifting her weight back, keeping her voice steady with an effort.

“Yeah?” Izzy glanced from the dogs to the satyr to Jane.

Jane looked back at the satyr herself as he took another couple of steps. Then she shouted, “Release the corgis!”

Izzy stumbled backwards as she let go of the five leashes. The corgis hurtled forward, transformed from bacon-loving sofa-warmers to one hundred and thirty pounds of salivating fury. The satyr’s poise vanished in an instant as he staggered back with a cry and sprinted off down the path with the corgis in hot pursuit, barely even looking over his shoulder.

“Jeez,” muttered Izzy, wiping her forehead with the back of one hand. “Creeper, I’m guessing?”

“Worst kind.”

Izzy nodded slowly with a small shudder. After a moment, she said,“Well, it’s going to take hours to catch the dogs.” Her voice trembled a little despite her attempt to sound cheerful, but even so Jane couldn’t help laughing nervously.

“Never mind. We’ve got hours of daylight and they’ll come when they’re hungry; none of those guys can hunt anything to eat. Come on.” She beckoned and they walked on together, listening to the sound of barking and occasional near-hysterical yells of “Good doggie! Good doggie!” in the distance.

“I don’t suppose they’ll eat him?” Izzy asked suddenly, sounding worried.

“Nah. I expect he’ll outrun them, but hopefully he’ll reconsider my suggestion that he put on some clothes and keep his hands to himself if he wants to meet girls.”

Izzy laughed. “Here’s hoping.”

This time Jane’s laugh was genuine and she put an arm round Izzy’s shoulders as they walked. They’d stick together from here, and if the dogs had chased the satyr off, she might finally get her first look at the sea.