Authors: Liz Schulte
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Ollie, Ollie Hex n’ Free
Easy Bake Coven Series Book 5
Copyright © 2015 by Liz Schulte
Editing by Ev Bishop
Cover design by Once Upon A Time Covers
All rights reserved.
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I shifted my swollen feet on the stool Cheney had brought into his office for me. The soft leather couch hugged my body, but I was still uncomfortable. Elf pregnancies were different than human pregnancies. They went fast, but the pains, so I was told, were much worse because the body had less time to adjust. “Admit it. You made a rash decision.”
“Elves don’t make
decisions.” Cheney didn’t look up from the listed points Sebastian had given him, reading them over and over again until they would become as natural as breathing.
“Funny ‘cause you did.”
His stoic face raised and his golden eyes flashed, betraying his frayed nerves. “I did not.”
I laughed, holding onto my enormous belly. “That’s why we’re campaigning while I’m a million months pregnant.”
Cheney smiled and shook his head as he leaned closer to my stomach. “Your mother is impossible, little one,” he whispered to our unborn daughter.
“She’s also right,” Sebastian said from the other side of the room. “It was a hasty decision to step down from the throne.”
Cheney scowled. “No, it was the right decision. Having an election and giving the fae a choice in who they are governed by and how that government is run will give everyone a voice and hopefully end the rebellious discontent.”
I pressed my lips to Cheney’s smooth cheek. “But that isn’t why you did it,” I said. “You quit because I was being threatened, but we’ve pretty much taken care of that. If the same decision were before you now, would you still make that choice?”
“Yes.” His arm went around my shoulders and pulled me closer. “Because you and our child are more important to me than anything else, and as Erlking that is unacceptable. The fate and success of the fae should always be my priority.” He looked back at Sebastian, a new knot of worry tightening his jaw. “Do you think Gillivray or Kalan will bring that up tonight?”
Sebastian took a deep breath. “Probably Gillivray. Bauchans like to stir up trouble when they can. They are good at knowing which buttons to push.”
“You guys are completely underestimating Phoebe.”
“She’s a woman,” Cheney said as if that explained everything.
“So?” I elbowed him.
“All I meant was she is less likely to use family against me.”
I rolled my eyes. “If I were running against you, I would have no problem exposing all of your weaknesses—family or otherwise. Don’t underestimate her.”
He kissed me softly. “Then I’m glad you’re not my opponent.”
“Phoebe is too focused on her own cause,” Sebastian said. “She won’t turn the conversation away from the environment. No dryad would—male or female. So unless she can tie Cheney’s love for his family to the decline in the environment, she won’t mention it.”
“What really worries me is that Kalan hasn’t made a strong move yet. He has something planned, but I don’t know what angle he’ll come at us from.”
“What if Kalan was Tahlik’s backup plan?” It had been quiet since the wedding, too quiet. Tahlik, my biological father, had promised that death wasn’t the end of his reach just before he died, and Sebastian didn’t believe it was an idle threat. The more time passed with nothing happening, the more on edge Cheney and Sebastian got. “Then again maybe not. I can’t imagine the asshole who abandoned me for being a half-breed would ever willingly work with another half-elf.”
Cheney shrugged. “If he thought it would guarantee his success, I could see it. Tahlik wasn’t like my father. He didn’t care about a person’s race nearly as much as he cared about how important he looked to everyone else. But how would he even know Kalan?”
Even dead, this man who was half responsible for my life was the bane of my existence.
“Everything I’ve heard about Kalan says he is fair, compassionate, and completely devoted to equality among the races. I’m with Selene on this. He’s not the sort of person Tahlik would seek out.” Sebastian crossed his arms. “We have to at least entertain the possibility that Tahlik was just trying to intimidate us—and that we’re wasting time now.”
Cheney shook his head. “No, he had something planned. Whoever he worked with is waiting to strike until there isn’t enough time to recover.” Cheney absentmindedly rubbed the back of my neck. “I’ll relax when the election is over.”
“That’s only a week away,” I said. “Maybe it’ll be quiet.”
He pursed his lips. “You just had to say that.
can happen in a week.”
“Whatever happens, we’ll manage. The only thing we can do is make sure the two of you stay focused on the election and nothing interferes with that,” Sebastian said and both men looked at me.
“What exactly do you think I’m going to do? If I stand too long none of my shoes fit. How much trouble can I possibly get into barefoot?” I took a deep breath, mustering up as much indignation as I could. “I don’t appreciate the implication that I seek out trouble. It finds me.” Strictly speaking, that wasn’t entirely true all of the time—far too often I brought it on myself—but this time it was. No matter what sort of crisis came up, I absolutely wanted no part in it.
“Well, let’s just make sure you stay hidden from your next adventure a little while longer,” Sebastian said, not at all convinced of my innocence—which was completely unfair. “The debate is in two hours. I think you should stay home, Selene.”
My mouth fell open. “Why?” Now I was legitimately struggling not to feel hurt. I had been with them every step of the campaign and had done a damn good job charming people and smiling and making small talk—and, more importantly, my presence was working. For once, the crowds actually seemed to like me. We wanted people to get used to the idea of a half-elf being part of the royal family. Staying home wasn’t going to accomplish that.
“It may get…heated tonight. Things will be said, possibly things you will find personally offensive. You’re pregnant and your hormones are higher than normal. I don’t want a slip of control to mean losing the election.” Sebastian didn’t believe in pulling punches.
It had been ages since my magical powers got away from me. Even when Devin died, I held it together. If I could make it through that, I could make it through a couple of mean comments. I looked at Cheney. “Do you agree?”
The skin tightened around his mouth, and the gold in his eyes churned as I watched him spin together the answer he thought I wanted to hear. “I think you should…do whatever you think is best.”
That was a chicken-shit answer if I had ever heard one. I took my feet off the stool, and both Sebastian and Cheney leaned back as if bracing themselves. If Cheney disagreed with Sebastian he would have said so openly. Obviously he thought I was a loose cannon too. I spoke as calmly as I could around the lump forming in my throat. “Fine. I’ll stay.” I stood up. My blood heated and my tongue itched to call them out, but they expected a scene. I wouldn’t give it to them. I headed for the door.
“Selene, you know I want nothing more than to have you at my side, but as you have repeatedly pointed out, you are very pregnant. Your temper…” Cheney closed his mouth and came near me. “You have been more sensitive recently and tonight is the first debate. We don’t know what to expect.”
I forced a smiled. “It’s fine. Katrina could use help packing.” I pecked a kiss against his cheek. “Good luck.”
I left as the pressure building behind my eyes threatened to expose itself. I would not cry. I was not sensitive, just annoyed. The long hallways made my shins ache as I headed toward Kat. A girls’ night would be fun. Probably the last one I could have for a while. Two of the house guards trailed me. Being constantly followed only made the urge to rebel even stronger. Lucky for Cheney, however, the baby made any sort of rebellion I could partake in a lot less fun and therefore less tempting.
I knocked on the door of Katrina’s room and waited, enjoying the faint music coming through the thick wood. Just hearing it eased some of the tension from my shoulders as the human part of me stirred to life. I had been around elves too long. No wonder I was being moody. They never were a good fit for me. All rules and appearances. Never happy with just being yourself.
Kat pulled open the door, hair piled on top of her head, a deep cleansing mask covering her face. “Hey Jackie-O, thought you were campaigning tonight.”
My eyebrows pulled together. “They don’t want me to go.”
She considered my words, then nodded. “Afraid it will inspire Jess to attack?”
I threw up my arms and went inside. “No, that would have been a logical concern. But no. They say I’m too sensitive and they’re worried I’ll get emotional and bring the house down—literally.”
Katrina slung an arm over my shoulders. “Sebastian’s still bent out of shape over that incident a few weeks ago, huh?”
“It was hardly an
.” In truth it had slipped my mind. It was small, trivial really. I had been in a shop looking at baby clothes with my customary guards and Sebastian, when two things happened at the same time: a sharp pain pierced my stomach and someone in the store made a snide comment about Jessica and the elves she’d killed just outside of the store. Instantly, the walls trembled and a few small items fell off the shelves. Sebastian and I didn’t discuss it—no need to that I could see. It wasn’t a big deal. There wasn’t any damage, no one was hurt, and I hadn’t even felt out of control. It wasn’t like the other times when my telekinetic gifts got out of hand. It was just a burst of energy. “How do you even know about it?”
Kat went back to the open suitcase on the bed and continued folding clothes into it. “He mentioned it. He wanted to know if there had been any other instances.”
I rolled my eyes. For all I knew, it was the baby and not me who caused it. And if that was the case, he should be much more worried about what was going to happen when I went into labor and a little less anal about campaigning. I lowered myself into a chair and surveyed the room. There were already three suitcases and several boxes packed and sitting by the door. She was really leaving.
Stewie peeked out from under the bed, then jumped onto my lap and rubbed against my belly. It had been ages since I’d seen him. I scratched his cheek and neck the way he liked. “Are you taking Stewie with you?”
She paused mid-fold. “I planned to, but technically he is yours, if you want to keep him. I’ve just gotten used to having him around.”
And I had gotten used to
having him around—a fact that made me sad for more than one reason. Elves didn’t own cats or other pets. “You should keep him,” I said softly, a cold chill spreading through me. Everything was ending. My human self was slipping away even with Kat living in the castle. What would happen when she was gone? “When do you leave?”
“Um, I was going to ask one of the guards to help me take some stuff to the house tomorrow, but I don’t know when I’ll officially leave. I know Cheney mentioned I should stay until the Jessica situation is taken care of, but we don’t know when or if that will happen. I kind of want to get things going. If I wait to start my life until nothing is going on, I might never get to start, you know?”
Cheney had a point, but so did Kat. I could see where waiting was the smartest thing to do, but elves also had long, long lives. A day was little more than a blink to them. Not so for humans. Our days quickly became weeks and months—and years. It was too easy for opportunity to slip away. Katrina deserved to live the life she wanted, and as much as I didn’t want my friend to go, I had to support her. After all, we hadn’t forced Leslie to live in the castle. We couldn’t force Kat—even if I was worried about possible complications or dangers because of Jessica.