The spoon in her mother’s hand dropped to the table with a clatter as she sat heavily onto the stool.
“Mama, are you alright?” Pepper leapt to her feet and crossed to her but the woman waved her off.
“Pepper Crimson Shroudcliffe, what have I said about humans dabbling with magic? It’s unnatural, it’s dangerous. You could be killed or worse!”
Pepper raised a hand. “Relax Mama, I won’t be doing anything with magic and I don’t intend to. I’ll just be taking messages, making appointments, greeting the clients, things like that.”
“But why a Fairy Godmother, of all people?” Her mother shook her head, then her eyes narrowed. “This is about becoming a detective, isn’t it?”
Pepper swallowed. Damn if Mama couldn’t read her like a book! Before she could answer a voice called from the living room.
“Who’s going to be a detective?”
Pepper closed her eyes with a groan. This was not how she wanted to approach the subject with her father who was now placing a kiss on top of her mother’s head as she glared at Pepper. The broad man’s flaming hair was flecked with gold while receding away from his forehead.
“Your daughter has taken a job with that Fairy Godmother detective,” Mama told him.
His green eyes flashed with anger, his nostrils flaring above his thick mustache.
“Tell me you’re her new cleaning woman.”
Pepper stiffened. “Would that be better than my becoming a detective?”
“At least I would know you were safe.”
“Papa, you can’t protect me forever. I am a grown woman, I can make these decisions for myself.”
“While you are living under my roof you are under my protection, which means you do what I tell you. I make the decisions here!”
“Alright Papa,” Pepper sniffed, “I will pack my things and be out on the morrow.”
Her mother wailed but her father merely crossed his arms over his chest.
“Oh, where will you go?”
“I saw many a vacancy within walking distance of the agency.”
He paled slightly. “The neighborhood is not ideal.”
“It is not but it will allow me to know our potential clients better.”
He frowned. “It surprises me that the Godmother so readily took you on as a detective. Does she not require training?”
Pepper started. “She knows I am not trained but I am not a detective as yet. I assist her in the office for the time being.”
Her father raised an eyebrow. “You do not go out on cases with her?”
“I do not although that will change in time.”
“The Godmother said this?”
Pepper hesitated. Fudge berries! Even her father could see right through her.
“Not in so many words but I intend to learn from her, absorb her methods and techniques so that I might be able to go out on my own someday.”
“I intend to have you married and heavy with child before that day comes.” Her father said. “Being human, I fear you may not learn much from a simple flick of the wand.”
Pepper chose to ignore the dig at her employer and snorted inwardly. She was a scrawny, gangly thing with hair like fire, cheeks dusted with freckles, and a mouth that was too wide for her face and never closed according to her older brothers. What man would want her?
She raised her chin. “And until that day?”
He grumbled before responding, “You may continue to work for the Godmother, providing your duties do not change.”
Pepper beamed as she threw her arms around the large man.
“Oh thank you, Papa! I promise you won’t regret it.”
“Be sure I don’t, Pepper.” She heard his muffled response as he held her.
“Get the children ready for supper now, Pepper.” Her mother sighed.
She kissed her mother’s cheek and as she rushed out of the kitchen she heard her father say,
“Fear not, wife, it is best she gets this out of her system. She will grow weary of such drudge work in the ghettos of the dirty city and return home for good.”
Pepper frowned and shook her head. She would never tire of the bustling city, the sounds, the smells. She would never tire of accomplishing something new and different, of being an asset to a wise and powerful Fairy Godmother and learning what she needed to become more than she was. Whatever she did, Pepper would make her Papa proud of her, they would all be proud of her.