Dare to Believe

 The Gray Court - 1


Dana Marie Bell


To Mom, guess what? He lied to you. I don’t care what he says, Dad DOES have scooter envy.

To Dad, just admit it. It will be better in the long run. You’re jealous because I have a headlamp and I beat you in that race. Come to the dark side. Resistance is futile. Besides, we have cookies.

To Dusty, thank you for daring to believe in me.

And to the woman who wrote our beautiful wedding vows over ten years ago. I hope you won’t mind that I adjusted them to be the binding of a Sidhe lord and his mate. Even today I read those words and smile. To me, they really were magical.

Chapter One

“You want me to wear that?”

“Shhh. Honey, this would look gorgeous on you.”

Ruby stared at the skimpy outfit Mandy waved in front of her like a red cape. The move was totally appropriate since Ruby would feel like a cow in it. “Don’t they have a lovely pumpkin costume? Oh! How about a pony? I could probably pull off a pony.”

Mandy glared at her. “You have a body most women would die for. You’re curvy, not fat.”

“No. Seriously. How about one of those robe thingies? With a hood! I could get a rubber knife and be an evil sorceress slash human sacrificer!”

“Ruby! Knock it off.” Mandy tapped one foot impatiently at Ruby’s attempts to get around her. “Try it on. I guarantee you’ll look incredible.”

“I’m short and fat, Mandy. Short and fat. There is no way I can get away with that costume and not look like a complete idiot.”

Ruby made one last attempt to move towards the evil sorceress robes, only to have Mandy hold up the red devil costume with an evil grin. The red leather miniskirt, red satin corset and red horns looked like something the blonde, beautiful Mandy could get away with. Short, well-endowed Ruby would look like a moron.

“C’mon, Ruby.” Mandy rocked the outfit, grinning wickedly. “I dare you.”

Oh, no. “No, Mandy.” Ruby turned away from the costume, praying she got away fast enough before her oldest friend said—

“Double-dog dare you.”

Aw hell.

She never could turn down a double-dog dare. Mandy had gotten her into more trouble with those three little words than anyone knew. Mandy was the one who’d double-dog dared Ruby to go out with Bobby in the eleventh grade, though she’d long since apologized. She’d dared Ruby to get even when Bobby had bragged all over school that he’d “scored, but she was a lousy fuck”. That double-dog dare led to The Pencil Dick Poster Incident that had gotten Ruby two weeks’ suspension and a stag trip to the prom.

In college, she’d found herself walking backwards for an entire day, just to prove she could. That had earned her a free meal at her favorite restaurant, though, so that one had been worth it.

Childish? Yeah. But she just couldn’t resist when a dare was thrown out, especially the way Mandy did it. I can almost hear the chickens clucking in the background.

Ruby huffed out a breath and turned. Mandy had added thigh-high black leather boots and a black leather belt. A red velvet choker with a dangling black glass gem completed the look. She grinned and waved the outfit in Ruby’s face.

“Oh, great. I’ll be a demonic hooker.” Ruby raised one cynical brow and put her hands on her hips. “I suppose you’ll be going as an angel?”

Mandy’s eyes went wide. “Oh, I like that idea. Wait right here.” And Mandy took off, dropping the Sexy Little Devil outfit to the floor. Ruby picked up the bustier and held it to her ample breasts, and sighed.

It’s going to be a long party. Watching Leo with whatever blonde he’d decided to bring would just be the topper on what she just knew was going to be a pretty crappy evening.

She had to stop wondering what Leo would think of the outfit. There was no sense in it. Leo Dunne, CEO of Fantasy Events, had women literally throwing themselves at him. The man had everything going for him. Black hair, brilliant green eyes and a body to die for all wrapped up in Armani, he epitomized tall, dark and handsome. Why the hell would a man like that look twice at five-foot-nothing Ruby?

True, she wasn’t exactly a beer goggle, but she wasn’t the tall, thin, blonde model type Leo was known to escort around town. It was just too bad she had a huge crush on him. She needed to get over it and move on. Maybe she’d say yes to the date Mark in accounting kept asking her for. He might not be Leo, but he was cute, and, more importantly, available.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a tall, dark-haired man exiting the costume shop, and her heart nearly stopped. Leo? Nah. Couldn’t be. Every tall, dark-haired man looked like Leo these days.

She snorted in disgust. Mandy had managed to find the exact same outfit in white and silver, complete with tinsel halo. Looked like she was stuck going to the party in the demon girl outfit. She picked up the rest of the costume off the floor and followed Mandy to the registers.

Maybe I don’t need a date. Maybe I need therapy. A twelve-step program to get over my addiction to Leo Dunne. She purchased the devil outfit with a grimace, ignoring Mandy’s satisfied smirk. She grabbed the bag from the gum-snapping teenager, smiling weakly in response to the clerk’s “Happy Halloween!”

Mandy made her purchase and the two women made their way out of the store. “I’m starved.” Mandy looked up and down the street before crossing. “How about we go for margaritas and Mexican? We can call some of the girls and have a night out.”

Oh, yeah. Now that’s my kind of therapy. “Sounds great. Let’s go.” She got into Mandy’s white convertible with a happy bounce, eager for good food, a drink or two, and the comfort of her friends. With any luck Leo would stay out of her thoughts.

Her head thudded onto the backrest. And maybe ducks will fly out of my butt.

Leo looked around at the Halloween party and nodded. This one was strictly for employees of Fantasy Events, a thank you for all of the hard work they’d put in that year, and so far everyone seemed to be having a good time. Almost all of his employees and their significant others had shown up. They were even in costume. Fantasy Events didn’t do an office Christmas party. They usually didn’t have the time, with all of the parties Fantasy Events coordinated around that holiday. So this was their yearly bash, and he made the most of it.

It was his favorite time of year, filled with everyone’s fantasies. And as an added bonus it was the one day a year when he could go to the office without a shirt on and not get arrested for indecent exposure or sued for sexual harassment.

No children had been invited. This was an adult-only party, and it showed. A few people had definitely had too much to drink already, so he was glad he’d contracted rooms in the hotel for anyone who felt they couldn’t drive home that night. Music played loudly, making conversation almost impossible.

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