Authors: Bonnie Lamer
The time for fun is over. I do not imagine any of us will be laughing in the foreseeable future. I grab Xandra’s hand and squeeze it in reassurance as we walk up the terrace steps and into the house. I think she would rather be covered in the green snail slime than speak to Dagda again.
At the top of the stairs, we go our separate ways. Kegan and I turn left as the room he uses is next to mine. We both need a shower after our little run in. Xandra and Alita turn the other way.
Tabitha knocks on my door as I am combing my wet hair. “Isla would like you to go directly to the sitting room. She wants to make sure Dagda’s guards do not get any bright ideas. Ruddy bastards.”
I chuckle at her description but I am not pleased. I was planning to show a united front with Xandra and walk in together. But Grandmother is right. It is probably more important to scope the situation out before she arrives. “Alright. I will be right there.”
“Good luck to you,” Tabitha says. “I am off to get that girlfriend of yours ready. Personally, I hope she blows them all up.” I do not think she means that. But she might.
The first thing I think when I walk through the door is how pissed Xandra is going to be. Grandmother does not seem all that pleased herself. Dagda is sitting on one of the sofas and he has five guards standing behind him. That is as insulting to Grandmother as it is to Xandra. Grandmother guaranteed him protection in her home and him bringing these guards along says that he does not believe she can do it. Not smart on his part.
I take a seat in a winged back chair next to Grandmother. Dagda barely acknowledges my entrance but his guards do. I feel them pull magic. As if I could not take them all without magic let alone with it. Idiots.
It is only a moment before the door opens again and Kegan enters with Xandra and Alita. Bringing Alita must have been Xandra’s idea. I do not care that Dagda does not like her because of her blood lines, but I do care that Alita is terrified of him. And she looks it at the moment. Grandmother gestures to a small settee and the three of them sit.
Grandmother turns to Xandra. “I was just explaining to Dagda how surprised I am that he felt the need to bring his own bodyguards.” I must have come in right after that.
Xandra’s voice is impressively even when she says, “That’s ridiculous. Any of these five men could turn against him any minute.” That is true.
Five glowering Fairies turn their eyes to Xandra but it is Dagda who speaks. “It would be more ridiculous for me to assume that you genuinely care if I live or die. These men have been my loyal guards for a very long time. I trust them to do what you may not.”
I expect her to tear him apart either verbally or with her magic. She goes another route. She starts laughing as if he just told the funniest joke she has ever heard. The more she laughs of course the angrier Dagda gets. Her laugh is infectious and I cannot keep a smile off my face. Grandmother is struggling to hide hers.
“What exactly is it that you find so amusing?” Dagda practically growls.
It takes Xandra a moment to get her breath under control. She fans her face in an attempt to get more oxygen into her mouth. Her cheeks are cherry red. Finally, she says, “What’s funny is that you still don’t get that everyone around you is suspect. You have some strange confidence in the idea that your fellow Pooka still respect you and care if you live or die.” The more she talks, the more uncomfortable the guards get behind the very angry king. Their magic is ready to explode. “You’ve already proven that you can’t accomplish what they want. Any one of these guys probably wouldn’t hesitate to stab you in your sleep. And what’s even funnier? The idea that you think they could protect you from me.”
Two of the most furious of his body guards start walking towards Xandra. She does not even bother to rise from the settee. She simply raises her brows in challenge. Oh, these guys are stupid because they keep walking. They are saved by Dagda raising his hand to stop them.
Looking at Xandra, he asks, “How am I to know that you will not ‘stab me in my sleep?’”
Well, I can prove this one to be true. A crossbow forms in my hand and I pull the trigger. The arrow is pointed right at Dagda and I will admit to having some degree of satisfaction that there is fear in his eyes even if it is just for one second.
He never had anything to worry about. Before the arrow even left the crossbow, Xandra had thrown up a wall protecting him and his guards from harm. Unfortunately, the only one in the room amused by my actions is me. Oh well. I can live with that.
Apparently, Dagda’s guards cannot. They come around his chair in one motion with eyes only for me. Except they cannot get to me because they are surrounded by a wall of magic. One of them does not realize this and walks right into it. Ouch. That had to of hurt. There is a little bit of blood dribble from his nose and his eyes are watering just a tiny bit.
Smug smile firmly in place, I say, “As you can see, her reflexes are lightning fast. If she wanted you dead, she would not need to stab you in the back.”
Dagda’s eyes are riveted on me. “That was a risky display of her talent. Are you that sure of her, or are you the traitor I once thought?”
My smile falls from my face as I growl. “I am loyal to this realm.”
Grandmother has remained quiet during these exchanges. Her watchful eyes are taking everything in, but I think she’s curious to see how Xandra handles the situation. From what I can tell she is satisfied thus far. She does not even seem upset with me for the crossbow stunt. That helps calm my temper down.
With a sigh, Xandra says, “Fine, keep two.” Is she serious? I cannot believe she compromised. I think I am a little disappointed in her for caving. Whichever two he keeps, one of them could be the traitor he likes to accuse me of being.
“Two?” Dagda says.
Xandra rolls her eyes as if he asked something inane. “Two guards. They can do twelve hour shifts apiece pretending they could do anything if I really wanted to kill you.”
Okay, that brightens my mood again and even Kegan cannot hold back a snicker. Mine is louder. That brings Dagda’s attention back to me. But he must be tired of sparring with me. His eyes continue on and land on Alita. If he tries to hurt her, I will stop him. She is one of my oldest friends and he knows that.
Disdain oozes from his lips as he says, “I know that you lived among Cowans, Xandra. But it is really too much to bring some home.”
Uh oh. Xandra’s cockles are up now. Even Grandmother sits forward in her chair in preparation for Xandra’s response. An act that does not go unnoticed by Dagda.
With a considerable amount of restraint, Xandra simply takes his voice away. “Good lord, if all you are going to do is pick, pick, pick, then write me a memo. Because I don’t want to hear it.”
He tries to say something, but he can’t. In a rage, he stands and rushes towards Xandra. Now it is his nose bleeding. Much more profusely than the guard’s. It has started to drip onto his clothes and the bridge of his nose is already turning purple. No doubt about it. It is definitely broken.
At the sight of the blood, the guards start throwing their magic at the wall holding them back. They are kicking and shouting. Much of what they are saying is not for the faint of heart. Dagda has pulled his own magic and is pushing with all his might to free himself but to no avail. Xandra is the stronger of the two.
Ignoring the Fairies who are now calling for her arrest and trial, all except Dagda because he is not stupid, Xandra rises to her feet. Turning to Grandmother, she says, “I’m going to go do a perimeter check. Make sure no one followed him here.” She looks around at the rest of us. “Who wants to come with me?”
“Would love to,” Kegan says right away.
Alita is too shy to say anything, but she nods her head. I give Grandmother a questioning look and she nods her head once. Rising from her own chair, she says, “Dagda, you should not push someone whose temper is as short as your own. As they say, like father, like daughter and all that. Once you cool down, I am reasonably sure that Xandra will release you from her hold.” And then she follows us out the door. I believe she is taking great satisfaction in Xandra’s actions. She and Dagda have bickered for years but as High Chancellor, she has to maintain a diplomatic air about her. Xandra does not have that restriction and probably would not hold back even if she did. Politics is definitely out as a career option for her.
No one says anything until we get downstairs. Grandmother speaks first, but all she says is, “Xandra, do be sure you do not leave him there too long. He needed a display of your strong will and strength, but poking a caged tiger with a stick is never a good idea. He may get loose someday.” Sage advice even if it is falling on deaf ears. With that, she goes in the opposite direction that the rest of us are going.
Xandra looks shocked. “I thought she’d be mad.”
I shake my head and grin. “You have no idea how much Grandmother has wanted to say the things that you have said to him today.”
Her forehead scrunches her brows together. “She’s stronger than him, right? Why doesn’t she just say it then?”
“Because she can do more good by remaining the High Chancellor. She must pick her battles very carefully.
“Oh, okay.” Satisfied with my answer, she says, “I guess we should actually do a perimeter check. Someone really could have followed him here.”
“Can I just say, that was the most impressive use of magic I have ever seen,” Kegan says with a grin. “Every minute in your presence proves more and more what I said earlier. You are way too special for the likes of my cous…” He doesn’t get to finish because I punch him in the arm. Hard.
Xandra shakes her head. “Come on, you two. Let’s go walk around the house.”
Walking hand in hand, Xandra and I walk around the house and then make a few concentric circles outword to search the surrounding areas where Fairies could hide and still have a clear view of the house. It gives me an opportunity to take a measure of Xandra’s emotional state as well. “You were a lot more restrained than I thought you would be in his presence.” She knows who I am talking about.
She sighs. “I’m trying to be calm and collected like you and Isla but I’m not as good at it yet.”
I stop and put my hands on her shoulders. “You are being the epitome of calm and collected considering the situation you are in. The man tried to kill you for god’s sake. No one expects you to fall at his feet and call him father.”
She smiles sadly. “I know. It’s just that everything is happening so fast. I can’t even take a breath before some new problem comes up and I’m afraid I’m going to totally lose it and accidently kill him myself. I really don’t want to protect him, Kallen.” She sighs again. “But I will because it’s the right thing to do regardless of my personal feelings for the man, Fairy, whatever.”
I wrap my arms around her and pull her into hug. “You are one of the bravest Fairies I have ever met. There are not many who will do the right thing even when every fiber in their bodies are telling them to do the opposite. It is because of things like this that I love you.”
She wraps her arms tightly around my back. “I love you, too.” She smiles up at me. “Can we just run off somewhere and pretend there aren’t any problems in either of our realms.”
Oh, the things we could do if we ran off together. As that thought flows through my brain I cannot help but find her lips with mine. She tastes so good and the feel of her tongue dancing with mine drives me crazy. When I have used up every last oxygen cell in my lungs, I finally release her lips. She moans softly as the kiss ends.
“I would love to run off with you and I promise, I will do that as soon as you say the word.”
She looks at me thoughtfully for a moment. “You would, wouldn’t you?”
I chuckle. “Xandra, I have already given up my realm for you once. Do you honestly believe I would do anything less again if you asked?”
She gets a teasing glint in her eyes. “Technically, I did not ask you to give up your realm. You decided that while I was drunk on Fairy darts.”
With a growl, I capture her lips again leaving her more breathless this time than the last. Leaning my forehead against hers, I say, “I did not hear any complaining on your part when I decided to stay.”
Her hands cup my cheeks and the teasing is gone from her eyes. There is pure love there. “I would have asked you to stay if you had not chosen to on your own. I am the luckiest person in both realms because you decided to stay with me.” Wow. She actually does love me as much as I love her. I think my heart is going to burst.
I lean in for another kiss, a more sensual kiss, when I feel a small, hard object hit me in the head. Kegan seems to have a death wish. I pull back from Xandra and turn towards him, ready to defend myself against whatever else he decides to throw at me.
“You two really need to get a hobby that does not involve locking lips in public. You are starting to border on obscene.”
I grin at his envy. “Perhaps someday some unlucky Fairy will find you attractive enough to kiss you. There must be someone who is so desperate.” He throws another pebble at me from the pile he has in his hand. I easily avoid it.
With a roll of her eyes, Xandra says, “Okay, knock it off.” I laugh and grab her hand. We all walk back to the house positive no one followed Dagda.
“I am starving,” Kegan says from behind us.
“I could eat,” I say. “We can see what Tabitha has. Maybe we will get lucky and she will be gardening.” Xandra looks up at me with a questioning expression. “We have strict orders to stay out of the pantry when Tabitha is not in the kitchen. That is where she keeps all the good food,” I explain with a grin.
“But you’re supposed to stay out of there?” Xandra asks with a raised brow.
“That only counts if we get caught.” She shakes her head and laughs.
In the hall leading to the kitchen, Xandra stops. Looking up at me, she says, “Hey, I’ll catch up with you guys. I have to go take care of something.” Which means she is about to confront Dagda.
“I will come with you.”
“No, stay here with Alita and Kegan. This is something I have to do on my own. For me.”
I want to argue. I want to insist that she either come with us or I go with her. But I do not. I can only protect her from so much and this is something that she has to do for her own sake. With great reluctance, I nod and give her a kiss on the cheek. Then I let go of her hand and walk to the kitchen with Kegan and Alita hoping that there will be less bloodshed than I am imaging.