Authors: Bonnie Lamer
This time, she does not come right back up. She swims away from me towards the shore. And towards Kegan. When she surfaces in front of him, he says with a wicked grin, “I believe you were right, it may have been safer for you to swim alone. Come to me for protection?”
I am close enough to hear her uncomfortable reply. “Um, actually, I thought I was going in the opposite direction.” I know I have a smug look on my face when I come up behind her and wrap my arms around her.
I can tell that Xandra feels awkward at the moment. Perhaps I should act a little less possessive. I try not to be annoyed when she moves out of my arms and says, “I’m starved. We didn’t have breakfast back home; do you think we could have brunch?”
“Of course,” I say, “we can see if Tabitha will let us raid the kitchen.”
Just to bother me, Kegan says, “Yes, I could use some food myself.”
“Great, let’s go.” Xandra starts walking towards the shore which gives me the perfect opportunity to punch Kallen in the arm. But with my attention focused so much on him, I am not paying close enough attention to Xandra. When I turn in her direction, she is being forced underwater by a stingray. A very distinctive sting ray. Damn it.
Xandra does not stay underwater for long. A whirlpool forms at the spot she went under with her lying at the center. On top of the whirlpool is the stingray. And she is about to be a dead stingray. Not that I would mind so much, but Xandra may be unhappy about me letting her kill a Fairy.
Xandra is lying in a waterless circle on the ocean floor and is gasping for breath as her magic swirls about her. As her breathing evens out, her magic turns the spinning water into a small hurricane. Before I can get to her or even shout above the storm, she flings the stingray to the shore. And then turns into her Fairy form. Well, she is definitely unconscious. I would not be surprised if she had a broken bone or two as well.
“Xandra,” I say when I am close enough for her to hear me. “She’s not the one you should be angry with.”
She whirls around and I think she is half a second away from using her magic on me. “She attacked me, tried to drown me and made me bleed. Why, exactly, shouldn’t I be mad at her?” she demands. “Who is she? A friend of yours?”
Even if she was, I would not be stupid enough to say yes at the moment. Fortunately, I cannot stand her. That still does not mean that she should be held responsible for her sister’s brainwashing. I shake my head no. “She is a girl who has had the misfortune of growing up with a cruel sister.”
“That clears things right up, thanks.” I am tempted to look down to see if the sharp edges of her words have cut through my skin.
“Xandra, truly, she is but a child who has been led astray by a sister who feels scorned.” Kegan says earnestly. “Let her go. Please.”
She turns towards Kegan with hellfire in her eyes. “Tell me who she is.” From the look in Kegan’s eyes, he distinctly remembers what Xandra’s magic feels like.
“She is Xenia’s sister,” he says as if Xandra should know what that means. Oh god, I had meant to tell her about this when I came to her room earlier but I was distracted when we were alone in her bedroom. Now she is going to think that I intentionally kept this from her. I may have put it off until the last possible moment, but I did intend to tell her.
“Because again, that clears things right up for me.” I am not sure if she knows that she said that out loud. A little spin and I am in the line of fire once again. “Who is Xenia?”
Kegan looks amazed. “You do not know who Xenia is?”
Kegan looks at me in disgust. “You have not told her?”
Xandra can be mad at me but I will not be a target for Kegan. If I did not have Xandra to deal with at the moment, he and I would be discussing that in great detail. Instead I frantically try to search for words to make this right. My thinking is affected by the hurricane collapsing on top of me and Kegan sending us both reeling in the water.
When my finally head resurfaces, Xandra is standing with her hands on her hips in front of me. “You had better start talking. Otherwise, I’m tearing another hole in the realm walls and going home. You and Isla can deal with the Fairies who want to jump realms all by yourselves.”
“What?” Kegan asks. “What are you talking about? And what do you mean, tear holes in the realms.”
“Later,” I growl. To Xandra, I say, “I will explain, but first, I need you to let the girl go.”
Xandra looks back towards the beach where she is still holding her with her magic. I am not sure what thoughts are going through Xandra’s head at the moment, but I feel comfortable saying I would not like any of them. I think most of them probably end with her either killing me or leaving me. I am such an idiot.
Turning back to me, she says, “You’re always going to keep secrets from me, aren’t you?” I want to answer; I want to tell her no. But there is so much that she does not know I do not even know where to begin. Before the right words can find their way out of my mouth, she lashes out with her own words. Words I cannot blame her for saying. Pounding on her chest with her finger, she says, “I am so sick of this. I can’t keep myself, or anyone else, safe if I don’t know what I’m up against. Your little secrets just got me attacked. But I’m supposed to sit back and say, okay, he’ll tell me when he’s ready? You know what? I’ll do what I came here to do because I gave my word, and I don’t do that unless I intend to follow through. But from now on, I’ll use my magic anyway I see fit to keep my realm safe. If that means collateral damage resulting in innocent Fairies getting hurt, or even it means blowing up your whole damn realm because I don’t have the right information about who’s my enemy and who’s not, then let that rest on your conscience, not mine. I’m also not going to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t have enough faith or trust in me to tell me the truth. So, you need to keep your distance from me. If you can’t be honest with me about whatever is going on here, and everything else, then our relationship is a complete fraud. As soon as I take care of these Fairies, I’m out of here. The sooner that happens, the better.”
My throat has gone dry and the color has drained from my face. How can I argue with that. It was my own stupidity for keeping things from her. I keep trying to tell myself that I was protecting her but in reality, I was protecting myself. I do not want her to know all of the dirty little secrets of my past. Maybe that is why staying in her realm was so appealing. I would not have had to tell her any of this. I watch her walk out of the ocean and up the beach to the house. I am so screwed.
Kegan and I make our way to the beach. He is smart enough to not say anything as we walk into the house. When we reach the door, I turn to him. “Will you please make sure she is okay? I do not believe she wants to see me at the moment.” He nods and turns into his bird form to check on her.
I decide to stay out on the terrace and watch the ocean. Maybe the tide will bring me ideas on how to make this right. So far, I have nothing. I am pretty sure that when she calms down and I can explain, she will understand. But, will she still trust me?
Eventually, Kegan comes back. His hands are in the pockets of his tan shorts and he does not look like he is bringing good news. “Company is not what she wants right now. Nor does she want food or drink. I think it best to give her some time.” He sits down in a chair next to me. “Why did you not tell her about Xenia?”
I lean forward with my elbows on my knees and sigh. “I thought that we would be living out our lives in the Cowan realm, so there was no need to even bring it up. And then Grandmother arrived and we really did not have any privacy until earlier today.”
“And you took that opportunity to focus on other things?” he says with a laugh.
I give him a dirty look. “Yes, if you must know.” Sitting back in my chair again, I say, “How do you tell your girlfriend that another woman thinks she is married to you?”
Kegan shrugs. “You just say it I guess. There is really no way to sugar coat it. It is what it is.”
I shake my head. “Your grasp on the situation astounds me. You will be considered a sage in no time.”
He chuckles. “I suppose it is easier to give that kind of advice than to take it. But you have to explain everything to her now. Soon. Before she really does leave you. Though, that might work in my favor so feel free to keep your mouth shut. Ow!”
He had to have seen that coming when the words left his mouth. He is rubbing his sore arm as he glowers at me. “Whether she is still mine or not, she will never be yours.” With that, I stand up and turn into my raven form, leaving him chuckling on the terrace.
I find Xandra sleeping when I fly through the balcony doors. I watch her for a few minutes without disturbing her. She is so beautiful. Her black hair is spread out over the pillow and the anger lines on her forehead have smoothed out. Her red lips make me want to change back to my Fairy self and kiss her breathless.
I cannot stand it anymore; I have to wake her so we can talk about this. I move to her pillow and gently tap her cheek with my beak. She wipes at her face but is still sound asleep. So, I do it again. This time, she opens one eye and startles. Once she realizes it is me, she scowls. “Go away.” She rolls over so her back is to me.
I poke her in the back and she rolls over, her hand swinging out in my direction. “Go away!”
I back away to the end of the bed and fluff out my feathers, smoothing out the few that she had managed to catch with her hand. “Kallen, I mean it. You need to leave or I’m going to start using my magic. I don’t want to be around you until you’re ready to tell me everything.”
That is my cue. I will myself back to my Fairy form and quickly dress myself in a pair of shorts. “Xandra, I want to tell you everything. But, I believe my grandmother should be here, as well. She has more current information on what is going on.”
“You could tell me what you know.”
Even here when she is giving me the chance to explain I find it difficult to find the words. “I believe it is best to wait.”
With a frustrated growl, she gets up from the bed and storms to the door. “Fine, if you won’t leave, I will.” I sit and watch her walk out the door.
After a few minutes, I go downstairs in search of Kegan. Maybe he really does have sage advice for me. He is generally better with people than I am. He has the ability to make them feel at ease whereas I mostly put them on edge. I start with the terrace but he is not there. I try the kitchen and the room he stays in when he is here. He is nowhere to be found. And neither is Xandra. That gives me a pretty good idea where my cousin is. Or at least, who he is with.
Reaching out with my mind, I send my dear cousin a message. Hopefully, a painful message. “If you are making a pass at Xandra I will chop you up into tiny pieces and feed them to the sharks while I enjoy watching them savor every bite. Bring her home now! I mean it, Kegan. You had better not touch her.”
A couple of minutes go by and I send him another message. “Your life span is getting shorter by the second. Cousin or not, I will kill you.”
After another few minutes, I see Kegan’s form come around the bend in the beach. Alone. Did I overreact and he was not with Xandra?
When he is in hearing range, he says, “Are you trying to give me a bloody aneurysm? You know how much it hurts when you do that.”
Yes, I do. I am starting to regret my messages when he says, “Xandra is not ready to respond to your brutish demands.”
So he was with her. “Where is she?”
He gestures with his head back the way he came. “She is collecting shells and pondering how much she hates you at the moment.” He walks up the terrace steps and sits down, putting his legs up on the terrace wall. “You may want to lay off from the threats and demands, she does not seem to be in the mood for them.”
“What is it you think she is in the mood for?”
He shrugs. “You know her better than I do. I suppose an apology would be a step in the right direction.”
“I have tried that.”
He shrugs again. “Try harder.”
So much for his sage advice. “I am going to find her. You need not tag along,” I say as I walk down the steps.
“Would not dream of it,” Kegan says as I walk away.
I shift into my raven form so I can get there faster. As I round the bend, I find that Xandra is not alone. She is with Alita, one of my closest friends, but she is also with Rhiannon and someone else I do not know. I land at Xandra’s feet just as Alita warns her that Rhiannon’s magic is strong. Not strong enough.
Morphing back to me again, I clothe myself as quickly as possible disgusted with Rhiannon’s admiring glances. Xandra also noticed her looking at me. That will not help Rhiannon’s situation at all. Or mine. Still, I hide a smile. If Xandra is jealous then there may still be hope.
Looking at Rhiannon, I say, “Rhiannon, I have spared your life once today. You should not go for twice. You may not be as lucky this time.” A jealous Xandra is no one to mess with.
With a leering smile, she says, “Kallen, it is nice to see you have figured out where your priorities should be and have come home. Though, I am not so sure that my sister is in a forgiving mood. She was quite upset when you broke off the hand-fasting.”
Jealous and angry. That just may be a lethal combination for the entire realm. “You were married to her sister?”
I want to wrap my hands around Rhiannon’s neck and strangle her. “No, I was not. Not in a binding way.”
“So, you were you married to her in a non-binding way?”
“It is complicated.” And I do not want to explain it with this particular audience. To Rhiannon, I growl, “Rhiannon, I suggest you leave. Now.”
Xandra responds first. “That’s okay, I’ll leave.”
As she turns to do so, Rhiannon says, “It is rude to walk away in the middle of a conversation. I am going to teach you a lesson about what happens when you cross a member of my family.” She draws magic.
My god, she does have a death wish. I shake my head. “You really do not want to do this.”
“What is the matter, Kallen. Are you afraid I will hurt your precious,” she looks Xandra up and down, “
Are you going protect her again now that you know it is me?”
“No, I am not.”
Rhiannon has a shocked expression on her face but she recovers quickly. “Then you will not mind if I show her a thing or two?”
I step aside with a smirk and use my arm to gesture in Xandra’s direction. “Be my guest, but remember, I did warn you.”
Alita gasps. “Kallen, this is not like you! Why are you being so horrible? Rhiannon could kill her!” Turning towards Rhiannon, she says, “You will have to go through me first.” Alita firmly plants her body in front of Xandra. Alita is one of the most loyal and sweet Fairies I know.
“Oh, good lord, enough of this,” Xandra says with disgust. “Rhiannon, let your magic go. I’m not in the mood for this.”
She puts her hand on her hips and says childishly, “Make me.”
Xandra smiles sweetly. “Really?”
I am tempted to take cover. I have seen that look on her face before and nothing good ever comes of it. “Xandra, remember what I told you about magic here.”
She gives me a sour look. “Weren’t you just leaving?”
So much for her not being angry at me any time soon. I cross my arms over my chest. “No, I was not.”
Taking advantage of our little standoff, Rhiannon pulls magic and sends it rushing towards us. Instantly, Xandra has responded with her own magic. The two meet and Rhiannon’s magic buckles under the onslaught. Xandra has pulled so much magic you can actually see the air disturbance from it as it blazes a path to push Rhiannon’s magic back inside of her. Then Rhiannon is screaming.
Xandra’s magic is literally burning her from the inside out. It’s like she swallowed a bunch of iron and it’s eating away at her insides. Xandra has lost control and it will not be long before she kills Rhiannon. I feel her trying to pull it back, but she cannot.
With pleading eyes, she says, “Kallen, help me.”
Damn it, this is going to hurt. If I did not already hate Rhiannon, this would certainly have pushed me in that direction. I would gladly do this for Alita, but I resent having to do it for any member of Xenia’s family. But I do it anyway.
Pulling magic, I begin to push against Xandra’s magic. I shout over the screaming to her. “You have to try harder, Xandra. If you cannot pull it back, shift it to me.”
I brace myself as she apologizes with every muscle of her face. Then I feel it. She has pulled it from Rhiannon but there is too much. It flows through me burning every bit as much as I thought it would and then overflows to Rhiannon’s friend. The girl falls to the sand and I nearly join her as I stagger from having a raging inferno inside of me. I believe my skin is actually starting to melt from the inside out. At this point, I am okay with that. Once my nerve endings are gone, I will no longer feel the pain.