Of Moons and Monsters - Willow Hadley

Chapter One


“Come on, Isla. Please!”

I narrow my eyes and continue searching through the racks. Out of the hundreds of gowns Madame Deverell keeps in stock, one of these has to be perfect for our newest client.

“Please,” my best friend Alistair whines again. “I’m begging you!”

My eyes catch on the gown I’ve been searching for, and a triumphant grin breaks out across my face. Lace, ruffles, beading, floral accents—this gown literally has it all, easily making it one of the gaudiest monstrosities I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing. But this client is so goddamn extra she’ll probably throw her money at Madame just for the chance to wear it.

Alistair steps in front of me, blocking the doorway of the storeroom. He clasps his hands together under his chin and sticks his bottom lip out in a ridiculous pout.

“Seriously, Al? You know Madame will kill me if she sees you back here or thinks I’m slacking off.”

“That ancient hussy? Nah, you know she loves me.” Al laughs and waves his hand dismissively. When he sees the unamused look on my face, he gives me an impish grin. “I’ll leave if you just say yes!”

I purse my lips, fully prepared to tell him to fuck off. As if she was summoned by the simple mention of her name, Madame Deverell glides into the room with a haughty expression fixed upon her stunning face.

“Did I hear someone call me ancient?”

She tilts her head in a way that’s almost predatory, her piercing blue eyes traveling over Alistair before turning to me. Her presence alone usually makes me feel anxious, but it’s so much worse when she focuses all of her attention on me. Madame is one of the oldest, most powerful vampires I’ve ever met. I’m terrified of her, but I’m still constantly hoping to impress her.

The downside to having a best friend who’s half-demon is being surrounded by supernatural creatures almost daily. It’s a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse where I spend pretty much every minute of my life wondering if I’m about to be killed because someone’s hungry or bored.

On the other hand, I met Madame because of Alistair. I’ve been working as her assistant for three years. Madame Deverell has been a fashion designer for something like two centuries. She changes her name and design style every few decades, of course. Her current fixation is on wedding gowns. While I’m not the biggest fan of some of her designs, she’s brilliant at what she does and people love her work. It’s amazing to watch these insane brides weep and bawl over these dresses, all while Madame sits back and spouts some bullshit about true love and charges tens of thousands of dollars.

Working for Madame also means I make enough money that I’ll never have to worry about living on the streets or going hungry ever again.

“Of course not, Madame.” I lower my gaze and nod my head respectfully. I hold up the dress for her approval and quickly add, “Alistair was just leaving.”

Her eyes rove over the gown and she grins in wicked delight. “Oh, Gwyneth! Yes, that’s perfect. Why didn’t I think of that? You certainly have a gift for reading people, Isla.” Madame names all of her designs after her former victims. Sometimes I can’t help wondering if there will ever be a gown called Isla. If there is, god I hope it doesn’t have ruffles.

She takes the dress from me and spins around, gracefully sashaying back through the doorway of the storeroom. I quickly move to follow her, but I halt when she pauses to glance over her shoulder at me with a coy smile on her ruby-red lips. “Alistair can stay, so long as he makes himself useful.”

Al punches the air triumphantly, and I grit my teeth at him in warning as I follow Madame. Al is usually pretty helpful with just about anything, so long as he has supervision and explicit directions. Still, he’s lucky she’s in a good mood.

The main floor of the shop is busy. There’s a flurry of excitement while hopeful brides browse through the few selections Madame currently has shown on the floor. Tatiana, a pretty siren girl with rose-gold hair, stands in front of a full-length mirror with a client while she helps the bride-to-be choose a veil to go with her just-bought gown. Amber, the only other girl working today, stands behind the register while she assists another customer. Amber smiles lovingly at Madame as she passes before glaring at me.

Amber is