“Let me guess, you want to come with me.”
“Well, you need someone with at least some fashion sense to help you out.”
“I think I’ve just been insulted,” I said, though her teasing had put a reluctant smile on my face. “I need some coffee in my system first.”
“Call me back when you know the when and where. This is going to be so much fun!”
I suspected that in this instance, Kimber’s idea of fun and mine weren’t going to be quite the same.
* * *
It wasn’t until I met Kimber outside the dressmaker’s shop—with Finn trailing in my wake, because I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without a bodyguard hanging over my shoulder—that I realized the potential problem. You see, there was this mark on the back of my shoulder … A stylized blue stag that looked like a tattoo, but wasn’t. It was the Erlking’s mark, and he tricked me into triggering a spell that put it on me. The mark allowed the Erlking to find me wherever I was—kind of like one of those microchips you put in your pet dog.
I hadn’t told anyone—not even Ethan—about the mark, and the last thing I wanted was for Kimber to see the mark while I was trying on clothes. I gnawed my lip with worry as Kimber and I stepped into the shop together with Finn bringing up the rear. There were a lot of things about my encounters with the Erlking that I’d failed to tell Kimber. In fact, I’d out-and-out lied about some of them. I was the worst best friend ever. But guilty as I felt about the deception, I just wasn’t ready to tell her the truth yet.
The dressmaker’s shop was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The front of the shop was a cozy-looking sitting room with overstuffed blue velvet chairs and a side table with cups, an electric kettle, and about twelve million different varieties of tea. There were a handful of magazines on another side table, but otherwise the room was empty and not like a shop at all.
“In the old days,” Kimber told me, “this is where the gentlemen would sit while waiting for their ladies.” She gave Finn a saucy look. “Are you a gentleman?”
Finn is actually a really nice guy, even if he isn’t a big talker. But he’s a completely different person when he’s in bodyguard mode. He wears suits that would look just right on James Bond and wears Men in Black sunglasses even when it’s raining. And he rarely, if ever, cracks a smile.
“I’ll wait here while you girls meet with the dressmaker,” he said, dead serious though he had to know Kimber was teasing him, “but I’m going to check out the back before I let you out of my sight.”
Just then, the dressmaker herself emerged from the curtained doorway at the back of the shop. She was a drop-dead gorgeous Fae woman wearing a powder blue silk suit and killer heels. Both the suit and the shoes screamed haute couture, even to someone like me who generally wouldn’t know haute couture if it bit me on the nose.
“Good afternoon,” she said, in what sounded suspiciously like a fake French accent. “I am Madame Françoise.”
I blinked at her stupidly for a moment. There was no such thing as a French Fae. Not to mention that I could probably do a better fake French accent than “Madame Françoise” was doing.
“Bonjour, Madame,” Kimber answered for me, then rattled off something quick and much more genuinely French-sounding. My foreign language was Spanish, so I had no idea what she was saying.
Madame Françoise laughed lightly and said something in response, her accent still sounding phony as hell.
“Show off,” I muttered to Kimber, who winked at me.
“If you don’t mind,” Finn broke in before we were subjected to any more French, “I need to take a look around back before I allow the young ladies to proceed.”
“Why, of course,” Madame Françoise said cheerfully, holding the curtain open and inviting him back with a sweep of her arm. “I will show you.”
As soon as the curtain closed behind them, I turned to Kimber. “If her name is really Madame Françoise, then my name is Jack the Ripper. What gives?”
“This shop has been here for at least three hundred years. There was a time when high society thought having a French dressmaker was a status symbol. Madame Françoise is hardly the only person to have faked being French to lure in clientele.”
Sometimes, the Fae are just freaking weird. “Yeah, but no one would actually believe she’s French. And hello, it’s the twenty-first century. Who even goes to dressmakers anymore, much less cares if the dressmaker is French?”
Kimber shrugged. “From what I’ve heard, some of the English women who took on French names were just as blatantly fake. And I suppose once she’d been talking like that for a century or so, it became habit.”
Finn and Madame Françoise emerged from the back before I could come up with a witty response. Finn declared the shop safe, and then I was swept into the back with Kimber and Madame, and if it weren’t for Madame’s modern outfit and the electric lights, I might have thought I’d been swept back in time.
It turned out Madame Françoise specialized in making clothes for Avalon Fae who were traveling to Faerie. Apparently, Prince Henry’s ridiculous outfit at the dinner was the height of “modern” fashion in Faerie, and there was nowhere else in the city you could buy appropriate attire.
Madame sat me down at a table with Kimber and plonked a couple of heavy books down in front of us.