Authors: Bonnie Lamer
After a while, Dagda looks around and says, “I would like to make a sandwich. Would anyone else like one?”
I think the person most surprised by that question is Tabitha. She gets up from her chair muttering something about him in her kitchen but Dagda says, “Sit down, Tabitha. I know my way around a kitchen enough to make a sandwich.”
She gives him the evil eye. “I still do not want you messing around in my kitchen. I will make a platter of sandwiches and fruit and bring it out.” She stops and looks towards the spiders. “Unless the smell of food will divert those things from their jobs.”
Grandmother smiles. “The magic is specific. The food will not bother them. Kegan, please help Tabitha get things together and carry them out.” Kegan gets up without argument and follows Tabitha inside.
“You love her.” I look up at the tone of Dagda’s voice. It was more of an accusation than a statement.
I keep my voice even when I say, “Yes, I do.”
“Why? Because she is powerful?” Another accusation.
Grandmother is looking between the two of us trying to determine whether or not she should step in. There is no need. “The only one of us who cares about her power is you. I see her, not her magic. She is beautiful, intelligent, funny, infuriating, clever, pig-headed and independent. She would sacrifice herself for those she cares about but only after she has tried everything in her arsenal to protect them. She is fearless when she should be scared yet the thought of a spider anywhere near her person scares her half to death. She is fierce when expected to be meek and she has not seen the right side of either patience or diplomacy in her entire life. If I had made a list of all the characteristics I wanted from the one I loved, I would have thrown it away when I met her because she is so much more than I ever could have imagined.”
Dagda studies me for a long time before responding. “That is quite the testimonial from the one who vowed to never love anyone who was not full-blooded Fae.” He sighs and shakes his head. “I guess I did pass on some of those pig-headed and impatient genes.”
“Yes, there are several obvious family traits that came from you,” Isla says. It was not a compliment so I scowl in her direction.
Dagda just chuckles and shakes his head. “I have been a fool.” He uses the bottom of his palms to rub his eyes. Then he looks back at me. “The moment I saw her I knew that. That moment she became real; not some faceless, nameless creature who I had never met and who I thought I could use to get what I wanted.”
“Forgive me if I have a hard time believing that. A change of heart is apt to follow a failed attempt to murder her. Not to mention she is the only one powerful enough to get you out of this mess.”
He wants to argue with me. I can see it in his eyes. But he does not. He sits back in the chair he was occupying and shakes his head. “If I cannot convince my nephew whom I have treated like a son all these years, then I fear it will be impossible to convince my daughter of my sincerity.”
Grandmother’s brows rise towards her hairline. “Careful Dagda. You will set our entire realm upside down if you keep acting as if you care about someone’s opinion other than yours.”
Dagda chuckles. “I guess I deserved that.”
“If you lot are done soul searching I have sandwiches,” Tabitha says setting a tray laden with sandwiches on the table. Kegan follows with a large bowl of fruit and a pitcher of lemonade.
At Tabitha’s insistence, Alita has joined us on the terrace again. She puts a sandwich and an apple on a plate and sets it beside me. Making herself a plate, she comes back and sits down next to me. “How is she?” she asks.
I look down at Xandra’s beautiful face against my shoulder. She looks like she is sleeping peacefully though I can still feel the strong pull of the magic channeling through her. I am awed by what she can accomplish even when she is not conscious. “She seems fine. I will feel better when she wakes up.”
Kegan sits down on the opposite side of Alita. “I believe we all will. But for the time being, we can sit here and enjoy the horrifying scene that is playing out in front of us. Do you know how many of those spiders are poisonous?”
With a wicked grin, I say, “No. You could go count them.”
He gives me a withering look. I guess I just lost his sympathy. That is okay; I would rather have our usual banter.
“You have always been sharper than me. How about if I hold Xandra and you go count them. Be sure to get up close to them so you do not miss any.”
Alita laughs. “I cannot believe you can bicker like this with everything going on.”
I shrug. “The most normal thing I can think to do right now is bicker with my cousin. If I cannot have that then I fear my mind will focus too much on everything else that is going on.” I look down at Xandra as I say this.
“Here, here,” Kegan says raising his glass of lemonade to me. “Bring on the bickering. I love to prove that I am right in all things.”
Alita shakes her head. “Impossible. Both of you.”
Kegan and I continue to lob insults back and forth to the great amusement of Alita. After a while, we run out of things to say so we play cards, trying hard not to focus on the fact that we are being cocooned. Finally, even cards stop serving as a distraction and we just sit and watch the spiders.
At some point, Rhiannon comes outside to stare in abject horror at the mess she has gotten herself into for the sake of her sister. She sits down on the terrace floor and just sits there wide-eyed. I do not believe she is capable of speech at the moment even if she had her voice back.
Xandra startles me when she sits up. I did not even notice a change in her breathing as she regained consciousness. With her eyes wide, she takes in the scene around her before she says anything.
“What have you done?” Dagda asks in awe. I’m not sure if he’s talking to Xandra or Isla. Probably both. “We are literally their prisoners.” It is not an accusation, simply a fact.
Xandra does not respond. Rhiannon is not the only one left speechless. I wrap my arms around her and pull her close. We all sit in silence again for quite some time until Xandra says, “Um, why did we do this again?”
Grandmother answers. “To give us time to prepare our defenses without the possibility of ambush.”
“Oh. That’s right.” Xandra sounds far from convinced that this is a good idea. I am with her on that.
It takes another hour for the spiders to bring the wall together at the top. Someone says something every now and again, but no real conversations get started. As the wall on top gets closer to being finished, a collective sigh of relief is breathed over the terrace as the spiders file towards the last tiny opening, putting themselves outside the wall. And then, our tomb is complete.
“Where did they go?” Alita asks. “Are they still on the outside of the wall?”
Xandra shakes her head. “No, the spell set them free once they did my will.”
Just as she says this a rush of magic surges back towards her. Her back arches and she is gasping for breath. The magic keeps coming. It wants to go home. And I am part of the path of least resistance because I am touching her. The magic floods into me burning me from the inside out. I cannot describe the pain other than to say I might not survive it. My arms have fallen from Xandra and I slump sideways towards the terrace floor.
“He can’t take that much magic! Dagda, take her hand or he will die,” I hear Grandmother shout just before I lose consciousness.
My hearing is the first thing to return. Xandra and Kegan are speaking softly a short distance from me. I am sure that I have been moved from the terrace because I am lying on something much softer. A bed, I believe.
Xandra’s voice becomes clearer as she says, “I’m not with Kallen because he doesn’t die when my magic goes out of control.”
“That is good to know. Why are you with him?”
She pauses for a moment and then says, “Because he’s kind and generous. And he’d do anything for me, including risking his own life to save mine. Which he has. And he’s even funny on occasion.”
“My cousin? I do not believe he has ever been generous or funny.”
“I love him. I’ve never been in love before, but I know I love him.” I open my eyes so I can see the truth of her words on her beautiful face.
Kegan smiles. “He is very lucky. It makes me wish Grandmother had asked me to go to your realm instead of him.”
“You never would have survived her first hissy-fit,” I rasp through a throat that has apparently been scrubbed with sandpaper.
Xandra turns to me with a smile. “You know, you’re lucky I’ve already tried to kill you once today, so I’ve filled my quota. Otherwise, I’d be tempted right now.”
I chuckle but it ends in a dry cough. “Your attempts are getting stronger.”
“Maybe you’re just annoying me more.”
“You must be confusing me with someone else.”
She purses her lips. “That’s right, I keep confusing you with that other Fairy I’m dating.”
Suddenly, my body does not ache as much as it did a few seconds ago. Before she has time to see it coming, I grab her and pull her farther onto the bed with me kneeling over her. She laughs. “I thought you were injured.”
“I heal quickly. Now, about this other Fairy?”
“Oh, you’d love him. He’s always nice and never tosses me in the ocean or anything.”
I grin at that. “Then he does not know you as well as I do.”
She grabs my t-shirt and pulls me forward. I fall onto the bed next to her laughing. Unfortunately, my head was not quite ready for these types of movements. I put a hand to it to try to stop what I am sure is my scrambled brains from pounding into my skull.
“Not yet recovered, cousin?” Kegan asks with a smirk.
I glower up at him. “I find I recover faster when you are not in the room.”
Kegan has a retort on his lips when the door opens. Alita pokes her head into the room shyly. “Come on in,” Xandra says as she sits up.
“I would hate to intrude.”
Xandra rolls her eyes. “Alita, will you please stop doing that? You are not intruding.” She gets off the bed to pull Alita into the room.
“Yes, Alita, you should stay. I do not believe I can stand being alone with the two of them for another moment without retching.” Kegan gets off the bed and flops down in one of the chairs. Alita smiles shyly and sits in the other one.
“How are you, Kallen?” she asks.
I sit up and the world starts spinning. I try to ignore it. “As well as you would expect after having all of my insides charred.”
Alita looks down at her hands. “I am sorry I was no help to you.”
“Good lord, if you don’t stop apologizing for things that don’t matter, I’m going to feed you to the spiders,” Xandra says.
The horrified look on Alita’s face makes all three of us laugh. “Then you will never hear another apology from my lips.”
With a grin, Xandra says, “Good.”
“Those spiders were dreadful. You were not awake for much of the time they were here. Every moment, I expected a couple hundred of them to stop what they were doing and come to see how tasty we were.”
“Yeah, I’m glad I was passed out through most of that.”
A thought hits me as I think about that. “It is odd that your wings did not come to you when your magic went out of control. I wonder why that is.”
She shrugs. “The only thing I can figure is that they believed I could get control myself. Which I eventually did.”
“I am afraid I was not awake for that.”
She makes a face at me but I am saved from the retort on her lips when Tabatha comes through the door. “How is the patient?” She walks to the bed and places a hand on my forehead. “You look well enough.”
“I am accustomed to being tortured by Xandra’s magic. I will heal in time.”
“I would watch my mouth if I was you. This young lady has proven that she could take you out if she wanted to do so.”
I try for innocence when I say, “A charmer like me? Never.”
I must have failed because Tabitha rolls her eyes. “You are every bit as modest as you were before travelling to the human realm. But you need some rest now. Isla has a busy day planned for all of you. Kegan, Alita, you need to go on down to the training room. Xandra, you need to…”
“I want to stay here until I know Kallen is okay.”
Tabitha purses her lips for a moment. “Half an hour. Then you need to be in the training room as well.”
Xandra smiles. “Thanks, Tabitha.”
She nods and then herds Kegan and Alita out the door. When the door is closed behind them, I pull magic and turn the lock. Xandra gives me a questioning look. “And why, exactly, did you do that?”
I scoop her up from her spot on the bed and pull her onto my lap. “Because I want to do this without interruption.” I put my lips to hers in a long, sensuous kiss that makes me forget all about my headache.
A groan escapes from deep in my throat when she repositions herself so that she is straddling me. “Take this off,” she whispers as she tugs on my t-shirt. Instantly, I make it disappear.
“It is not fair that I am the only one without a shirt,” I whisper back. With a shy grin, she leans back slightly and lifts her t-shirt over her head. I almost lose it when I see her alabaster skin covered only by a lacy pink bra. “My god, you are beautiful,” I say as I feast on her with my eyes. With a mind of its own, my hand moves the lace aside so I can cup her bare breast. With my thumb, I stroke her and she gasps in pleasure. Her lips are back on mine and the way she arches her back to increase the pressure is driving me insane.
Gently, I roll us so that she is on her back with me above her. I kiss her mouth first and then kiss a trail down her chin to her neck and find the spot that makes her moan in pleasure. She uses her legs to pull me down on top of her so that my weight is pushing into her in all the right places.
I am going to kill her. I have always hated her but right this moment, I want her dead. Tearing my lips from Xandra, I grind out, “Damn, damn, damn.” Pulling magic, I have both of us dressed properly again. I get off the bed, pull Xandra up and then plant a quick kiss on her lips. Then I go to the door and rip it open. “What do you want?” I demand as Rhiannon almost falls into the room.
Her face is contorted into a really unattractive sneer. “I want out of this house!” she practically screams. Apparently, Xandra gave her voice back.
Xandra has joined me at the door and she smiles sweetly at her. “Thanks for sharing. Not going to happen until that web comes down.”
Rhiannon rounds on Xandra. “Then take it down. You cannot hold me hostage like this.”
“If you hadn’t agreed to bring that ridiculous message from your sister, you wouldn’t be stuck in here.” I smirk at that.
“You are vile! You reek of Cowan. You are an aberration and watching my sister kill you will be the best day of my life.”
“You know, if you want to go to the other realms so badly, I can rip open a doorway and shove you through it. Then you can go all on your own to rid the universe of those pesky Cowans.” From the look on Xandra’s face, I think she is serious. That makes me smirk more. I lean against the door frame and cross my arms over my chest. This is quite entertaining.
The anger in Rhiannon’s eyes is quickly being pushed aside by fear. “You would not dare.”
Xandra laughs. “I called millions of spiders, which I hate by the way, to come and do my bidding. Why would I be afraid of pushing you into another realm?”
“My sister will make your death slow and painful.”
Xandra tilts her head and frowns. “You know, you keep talking about what your sister will do. What about you? Aren’t you from a strong, full-blooded family? You should at least try to do it yourself if you have any sort of pride.”
I snicker at that. “It is believed that if a supposed full-blooded Fairy has the animal form of a sea creature, the blood line has been tainted at some point by Cowan blood.”
“I assume that means that her magic is not as strong as her sister’s?”
I nod trying to look serious. “Rhiannon has always struggled to keep up with her sister.”
We both look at Rhiannon expectantly. She does not say a word; she just stands there fuming. Finally, Xandra takes pity on her. “Look, you’re stuck here. It’s as simple as that. You can be stuck and still able to move about, or you can be stuck here glued to a chair with only three bathroom breaks a day. Which do you prefer?” Okay, I have to laugh at that.
With a frustrated screech, Rhiannon stomps her foot. “I demand you let me go!”
“A traitor such as yourself be set free? What a ridiculous notion.”
Rhiannon whirls around and finds herself face to face with Dagda. He must have heard her yelling and came to investigate. His arms are crossed over his chest as he looks down his nose at her like the king he is. “My lovely daughter has given you a generous offer. For some reason, she can find it in her heart to take pity on someone who has betrayed her. I, on the other hand, am not that forgiving. Your days of freedom are numbered, as are your sister’s. At the end of this, my daughter may come and go from this realm as she pleases, without fear that attempts will be made on her life.” As nice of a speech that it is, Xandra looks like she wants to throttle him. I do not believe she is buying his sudden change of heart.
“But…but you wanted her dead!” Rhiannon exclaims. Whether he is simply trying to scare her or not, she is definitely terrified.
Dagda’s lips form a thin line before he responds. “I acted rashly, out of anger. I have since renounced the idea of opening the realms to each other.”