GREEN’S HILL was a magical faerie commune that rested in an unspecified location in the Northern California foothills. Green was the leader, a beautiful sidhe (or elf) with hip-length, butter-colored hair, a penchant for mortals, and what should have been a minor gift that he’d parlayed into a major one. He had the gift of sex and the ability to gain magical power from the sharing of flesh and the whisper of skin on skin. Using this power, Green managed to gather every supernatural being—shape-shifters, vampires, lower fey, sidhe, all of them—under his aegis and protection. Everybody loved Green and his vampire consort, Adrian, including Whim.

Whim was the second-youngest sidhe on Green’s hill, and possibly the least powerful one.

Smaller fey—pixies, nixies, sprites, gnomes, goblins, trolls, brownies—reproduced like rabbits. They were everywhere, hiding in the corners of houses like dust, but sidhe, the big elves, did not, as a whole, procreate a lot. They had sex frequently (for them it was as natural as eating or breathing), but they didn’t actually produce offspring. Whim’s parents were both sidhe, and in the tumultuous, terrifying (for them) trip overseas on one of the vast sailing ships of the 1800s, they had lost control of their will and their power. Will and power were a sidhe’s birth control. Whim was the result.

The youngest sidhe on Green’s hill was Bracken. Bracken was (as most elves are) exactly like his name. Fierce and sturdy, prickly, somber, and strong. The terrible, beautiful, painful story of Adrian, Green, Bracken, and Cory—the very mortal sorceress who loved (and was loved by) them all—was the stuff of songs. Whim, however, was not the type of elf that songs or stories were written about. He was beautiful, as were all of his people—with triangular, perfect features; wide, limpid eyes; a full, wide mouth; a clean, proportional nose; and pointed ears—but other than that, he was perfectly average. His hair, which hung—like most of the sidhe’s—down to his waist, tended to change color according to his mood, like one big silky mood ring, and he had the attention span of one of the lower fey, but that was why he was named “Whim.” He was as insubstantial as the breeze and as reliable as a bumblebee in a hurricane.

At least that was what everybody believed about him, with the exception of Green and Adrian. Adrian, who, as a vampire, had once been mortal, not only told Whim that there was something of substance, of passion, inside his mild, mercurial self—Adrian also introduced Whim to the world of mortals.

Mortals were Whim’s secret passion.

Many of the sidhe—including Whim’s parents—avoided the mortals, including the mortals-that-had-been, like the vampires and the werecreatures. Sidhe traditions held that their shorter life spans made them incapable of understanding what true life and love and beauty and sacrifice were all about.

We’re sidhe, Whim. I know we’ve relocated to this wild place, but that is because our leadership in England was corrupt. We need to maintain all of the mystique and magic of being sidhe. Try to remember that as you see the other elves running wild with the rabble.

Whim didn’t care. Adrian had been a mortal once, and so he thought there must be something beautiful and amazing about mortals. It was that simple. Whim hadn’t loved Adrian as a lover, although they’d shared flesh on occasion. It had been Adrian’s friendship that Whim had loved. Adrian, quick with a joke, quick to blush if he’d just fed, quick to listen, to understand, to forgive. He had forgiven Whim for being an elitist snob, and Whim had ceased to be one. He had forgiven Whim for being afraid to go outside the hill, and Whim had ceased to be afraid. He had forgiven Whim for once forgetting that they were in the middle of sex and starting to sing a bawdy song that Adrian had taught him, and Whim tried very hard to pay attention during sex after that, because he learned that mortals-that-had-been, especially, got a little irritated when their partners forgot that sex was being had.

It had been Adrian’s influence that had sent Whim outside the hill for Litha, the time of the vampires’ greatest weakness and of the elves’ greatest strength:

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, mate, get the hell out of here.” Adrian had been born in the poorest stretch of London, or so his accent still proclaimed even till the day of his second death. He always claimed not to remember. “Your parents will be doing what your people do during this time. I’ve taught you how to drive, and we have plenty of cars that have been treated so you can drive them. Your glamour is solid, and unlike Bracken, you can keep your temper for more than two and a half seconds at a stretch.”

Adrian and Bracken weren’t monogamous at this time, but there had been a period in which they’d been exclusive with the exception of Green. As he talked about his lover, his brother of the heart, his best friend, Adrian’s fine-boned face arched wickedly, and he smiled. He loved Bracken—he’d die for him—but that didn’t mean that he and Whim couldn’t appreciate the vagaries of such a young sidhe. The mercurial Bracken often lost control of his glamour in front of humans. He was practically too young to be let out of the hill. Whim, at sixty, should have no trouble. The Goddess’s children all looked young and beautiful, but they had an eternity—if they chose one—to learn about the world. Whim was just old enough to cut loose on an unsuspecting human populace and just young enough to appreciate an adventure.

But still, Whim looked at Adrian, who, at almost six feet tall, was tall for a human and short for a sidhe, and felt a pucker at his brow. Adrian had moonlight-pale hair and sky-spangled blue eyes, and he was almost more beautiful as a vampire than most sidhe—a thing Whim’s parents would have said was impossible. Adrian was different than mortals. The world could not possibly offer everything Adrian said it did.

Adrian saw Whim’s adoration and shook his head. “There is somebody out in the big world who will give you back that look full measure, Whim. Don’t you want to see who that is?”

“Yes,” Whim sighed, “but if I do find them, I will probably forget who it is I’m looking for as soon as I see their face.”

Adrian laughed then. Whim’s attention had never been very faithful, it was true. Most of the other sidhe concentrated on some sort of art or science and mastered it. But as soon as Whim picked up a book of poetry, he was singing a ballad he’d made up himself. He’d tried to master the harp and ended up suspending paper birds from harp strings. Once he’d instigated sex with a female vampire on the cusp of dawn, forgetting that they died with the birth of the sun. The woman hadn’t minded, especially because Whim had forgotten what he was supposed to be doing at sunrise and rolled out of her bed and went to find something else to occupy himself—it was considered a case of no harm, no foul. Even among a species considered eccentric in its proclivities and belief system, Whim was an anomaly. To say he was cursed with a butterfly mind was to say cow shit was cursed with methane gas. The two simply went hand in hand, and that was the nature of things.

“Don’t worry, Whim,” Adrian said then, kindly. “We will know it’s for real when you can remember a name.”

So Whim had done it, had gone outside the hill to experience full Litha magic, just for Adrian. That first night he had met a mortal woman—an unwary mortal woman, to be outside her husband’s home and wishing on the shortest night of the year. Whim had spoken softly to her, had heard her heart’s desires, and had touched her bare skin freckled by starlight. He had taken her sweet body in the country quiet. When the morning came, he’d dressed her and put her to sleep next to her husband, with nothing but a pleasant yearning to convince her it had been anything more than a dream.

The experience—the flesh, the power of the solstice night, the mortal woman’s sweetness and painful want—had been exquisite. Whim resolved to do it again, and so he had. Every Litha, he had gone into the mortal world and found a mortal who wanted him and only him, even if it was only for the shortest night of the year.

One night, nearly thirty Lithas later, he was wandering along the railroad track in a deserted back field in Auburn. It was there that he met Charlie, and Litha changed for Whim forever.