Talking Dirty


By Elliott James

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ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 19, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

John Charming. Ex knight. Current monster hunter.

While trying to deal with a monster he can’t bring himself to kill, John Charming soon runs into another problem: Magic and technology don’t mix. . .so how is a phone sex operation enchanting men through their cell phones?

This is a short story from contemporary fantasy author, Elliott James, within his Pax Arcana world. The first of his novels, Charming and Daring, are available now.



Once Upon a Time, I was attending a support group for survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder. We were in the basement of a Methodist church in Vista Verde, West Virginia, sitting on folding aluminum chairs, eating sticky pastries, and drinking herbal tea out of plain white ceramic cups. Justin, the soft middle-aged therapist with a gentle voice and a gray sweater, said that he wasn’t in favor of caffeine at these sorts of things. He probably wasn’t in favor of people shaking him violently and screaming “GIVE ME COFFEE RIGHT NOW, MIND-FUCKER!” either, so I just sipped the damn tea quietly.

Cassidy was talking at the moment, a brown-haired thirtysomething who had been severely beaten by her ex-husband, Steve, right before he disappeared. “I didn’t see the bills until after he left. Then I couldn’t stop seeing them. We were still legally married, and the credit card companies knew they weren’t going to get any money out of him. He lost his job for calling some kind of sex hotline on his company’s phone, if you can believe that. He was thousands and thousands of dollars in debt, a lot of it from calling that number. It was crazy. He was crazy.”

Justin leaned forward, his watery blue eyes intent behind his small square glasses. “So, what I hear you saying is, you felt betrayed on multiple levels.” Justin was a bit of a tool, but his good intentions were palpable.

“If it had been drugs, I could have maybe understood it,” Cassidy said. “But he was paying these women…or this woman…just to talk. He had the real thing at home.” She indicated herself. She was quite pretty in a worn, tired, dark-eyed, dehydrated kind of way. “I would have loved to have had more sex!”

“It’s never a good idea to generalize about—” Justin started, but Cassidy wasn’t finished.

“I actually called the number,” she confessed. “I was almost hoping it would be a man or something.”

Just for the record? People only say that kind of thing when they’ve never met an or something.

“It would mean that it wasn’t something wrong with me,” Cassidy finished when no one responded.

“This man broke into your house and beat you half to death, and you’re still trying to figure out what was wrong with you?” This from a graying woman named Cheyenne who had been emotionally terrorized by her stepfather and was tired of failed relationships. “That’s what’s crazy!”

Cassidy visibly faltered. “He just acted so different. And he changed so fast….”

Justin cleared his throat and waited for a go signal this time. “When someone’s internal life is extremely different from their external life, it seems like they change fast, but it’s not that simple. They’re actually revealing the real person they’ve been hiding for a long time.”

Cassidy was still focused on the sex number. Something about it had lodged in her mind like a splinter, and she couldn’t stop squeezing and plucking at it. “It was so weird. This woman was saying these intimate sexual things, but it was in this half-singsong way, like she was talking to a child. It was…I don’t know what it was. It sounded like some sick sex lullaby. Then I thought about Steve and I just started screaming at her. Just screaming and screaming. I couldn’t stop. I don’t even know what I said, but it must have been pretty bad.” She laughed shakily. “She hung up, and I was paying her eight dollars a minute.”

Trina, a teenaged prostitute who was there as part of her probation, made a scornful sound. “I didn’t even know people paid for phone sex anymore!” Despite the tough talk, Trina was so tiny that she had her feet up on the edge of her seat and her arms wrapped around her knees. She looked like a tight little fist. “Hello. It’s called internet porn?”

Justin cleared his throat. “Let’s take the emphasis away from Steve for a while,” Justin said. “Let’s talk about you, Cassidy.”

Things kind of stalled after that. Cassidy ran out of gas, and Justin gave her a few things to think about before letting her retreat back into herself.

When it was my turn to talk, I cleared my throat. “My name is John Charming. I know, it’s a weird name. The thing is, I come from a long line of monster hunters, and I came here tonight because I have a dead cop on my hands, and I really want to get rid of the body in a way that makes it look like he died in the line of duty. I figured meetings like these would be a good place to get a lead on some violent criminals who deserve to get framed for murdering a police officer.”

Well, okay, I didn’t really say any of that. These people were traumatized enough. But that’s what I wanted to say. It was a support group, after all; it would have been nice to get some support.

*  *  *

I volunteered to be the somebody who washed the ceramic cups and plates after the meeting disbanded. The deacon who showed up to close the church told me he would take care of it, but he said it in the perfunctory way of a person doing what’s socially expected of them, and he seemed grateful when I ignored him. “We’ve got Styrofoam cups and plates in the pantry, but that guy over there”—he indicated Justin with a nod—“said something about landfills.”

I remained neutral. The basement had a little kitchenette walled off behind a huge counter, and I went ahead and filled one of the side-by-side sinks with soapy water. I could still smell the remnants of a lot of intense emotions in the air, and I like methodical, mindlessly repetitive tasks when I’m trying not to think too heavily about my past or my future.

Cassidy came over to help me dry while some people put away folding chairs, others left, and a few hung around to talk to other members about something that had resonated. I had mumbled some vague story about being a cop who had quit the force after seeing too many bad things. All respectable enough, but Justin wasn’t going to let me walk off with Cassidy without saying something about it . I liked that about him.

“He was buying her gifts too, wasn’t he?” I asked Cassidy quietly. “Steve.”

She actually froze with the dishrag in her hand as if she were in a still frame. Then she tried to answer coldly, but her voice was shaky. “How’d you know that?”


  • "Loved it! Charming is a giant gift basket of mythology and lore delivered by a brilliant new voice in urban fantasy. Elliott James tells stories that are action-packed, often amusing, and always entertaining."—Kevin Hearne, author of Hounded
  • "The Pax Arcana books are seriously good reads. Action, humor, and heart with unexpected twists and turns. If you are (like me) waiting for the next Butcher or Hearne--pick up Elliott James. Then you can bite your nails waiting for the next James, too."—Patricia Briggs, New York Times #1 bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson series
  • "This debut introduces a self-depracating, wisecracking, and honorable-to-a-fault hero who can stand up to such established protagonists as Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden and Seanen McGuire's October Daye. Combining action and romance -- with an emphasis on action -- this is a top-notch new series opener for lovers of urban fantasy."—Library Journal (Starred Review) on Charming
  • "I loved this book from start to finish. Exciting and innovative, Charming is a great introduction to a world that I look forward to spending a lot more time in."—New York Times bestselling author, Seanan McGuire
  • "James's world is rich and complex and well worth diving into."—Richard Kadrey on Charming
  • "In a saturated literary realm, James's tale stands out for the gritty, believable world he builds...This is masculine urban fantasy in the vein of Jim Butcher and Mark del Franco."—Booklist on Charming
  • "Grab some snacks and settle back as splendid debut author James serves up a Prince Charming tale yanked sideways...Mark this name down -- you will undoubtedly be seeing more from James!"—RT Book Reviews on Charming

On Sale
May 19, 2015
Page Count
47 pages

Elliott James

About the Author

An army brat and gypsy scholar, Elliott James is currently living in the Blue Ridge mountains of southwest Virginia. An avid reader since the age of three (or that’s what his family swears anyhow), he has an abiding interest in mythology, martial arts, live music, hiking, and used bookstores.

Learn more about this author