Not every romance is a fantasy, but ours are!

The resonation of the slap bounced off the walls of the great hall. Aiden stood wide-eyed, watching as Alathea and I faced off. She towered over me by at least half a foot. Her skin was flushed with anger and her eyes gleamed with as-yet-unkept promises of retribution. My brother approached quietly trying to insert himself into our discussion. “I think we can handle this more peacefully…” he urged.

I turned and glared at him as his eyes stared helplessly at the handprint on my cheek. “I’m handling this!” I spat at him before turning back to glare at my assailant. Alathea straightened her back and quirked a brow at me.  I found myself mirroring her actions while ignoring the sting on my cheek. “I’ve killed one aunt – don’t make me repeat the performance,” I warned. Everyone around us sucked in a deep breath.

“You are tampering with the laws of nature. Did you learn nothing from what happened before?” Her voice was trembling with anger.

“I learned that I command the elements, and while I may not be trained in Arcane magic, I am confident that I can harness the elemental power needed to complete the spells.” My jaw tightened and I forced it to release the tension.

“Let’s say you successfully summon Romijeer. Then what?” She threw her hands wide. “How will you defeat him?”

“I will. I’m stronger than ever before,” I argued.

“Strength isn’t enough. He has a thousand years of experience, versus your thirty-two. Not even. It’s been what? A year since you and I met and you became my unwilling pupil? Even that was short lived. I will be the first to admit that you have exceeded everything I ever expected of you, but this is insanity.” There was both bitterness and respect in her words.

“I have to believe that I can do this. Don’t you want to see your brother again?” My gaze drilled into her face.

I was rewarded when her breath caught and her mouth fell open. “Leonide? How is that possible?”

“He’s a Wraith, and the reason I was able to escape the tower. Alathea, I need your help. I’ve never faced a Mage before but you have. I need to be prepared.” Now began the game. Would she help me if it meant she could regain her precious brother? I watched quietly as she closed her eyes and bowed her head in thought. Silence, absolute silence filled the air.

Finally she started nodding, then met my eyes once more. “Alright. You’re right, if you are truly going to do this, you will need me. I can cast the summoning spell, but you’ll have to find a way to bind him.”

I paused. “You’re going to cast it?” I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly.

“Yes, Princess, I will cast the summoning spell. I’ve summoned Romijeer before with the Mage I was apprenticed too. I can do it again. It will be one less bit of magic you need to deal with, but only the Dragons will be able to give you an egg that you can bind to.”

“A Dragon’s egg?” I asked. “I was under the impression Dragons were born and not hatched.”

“They are,” she confirmed. “Dragon eggs are actually Drakes – Dragons that only have a lizard form and can’t interact like a Dragon can. They were pets and guardians for a long time.”

“OK, so let’s say I get one of these eggs, then what?” If she was offering suggestions I was willing to accept.

“Speak with your mother. She is a trained high priestess. She would know more than I.” Alathea had no clue what she was asking of me. The thought of setting foot in the nest caused my stomach to turn in knots, but I nodded anyway.

“Thank you,” I mumbled before turning to go. Nobody spoke as I left.

*******************************************************************************

The nest was as unnerving as I had expected. My bead had landed me in Hudraer’s chamber. Without thinking I pulled off my clothes and slid onto the bed, burying my face in the pillows. I breathed deeply and closed my eyes. It was a cruel illusion because it felt like he was there.

What are you doing? asked Voice.

Rolling around naked in my Soul Mate’s bed. It smells like him, I explained.

There was silence but I could still sense Voice was there. It sounds erotic.

It is, I told him as memories of Hue and I flashed through my mind. I twisted, hugging the pillow to my chest. My memory was so clear I could feel his hands drift over my body, caressing me. I could feel his lips graze the tender spot below my ear, down my throat, and lower on to my chest. I gasped at the sensation of his mouth closing over my nipple and my body jerked in unspent passion. The feel of his hands and mouth moved lower still, encouraging my legs to open before closing over my sensitive flesh.

I thrashed around the bed, moaning and gasping for air, afraid to open my eyes and discover it was nothing more than an erotic wet dream. The precision of the movement on my lower regions was diving me higher and higher. I found my self gasping Hue’s name, and then in an eruption of colors I was pushed over the edge, calling out release. I slowly opened my eyes, unsure of what had just happened. “That was crazy,” I whispered.

No, that was perfect, Voice answered. I sat up, startled by the revelation.

Voice, were you able to see that? I asked, my heart still pounding in my ears.

Yes – I just imagined I was there. I can picture you, laid out among the crisp navy sheets, aching to be touched, he explained.

How did you know the color of the sheets? I asked.

Voice was silent for a long moment. I don’t know. I just did. I could feel everything through you.

Voice are you Hue? I asked doubtfully.

I don’t know. I’m sorry I took such pleasure in your memories. He sounded concerned.

I’m not upset, but what do you mean you don’t know? I was growing frustrated.

Just as I told you before. I don’t know who I am or where I am. I’m just here, he explained.

I growled and shoved my way out of the bed. We will discuss this more later. For now, I need to find my mother and see if she can tell me where to get a Drake egg. I redressed quickly and headed out. Shortly thereafter I found her in the library flipping through a book on medicinal herbs. I stood there in silence, watching.

She sensed me and raised her head. Our eyes locked and she breathed a little easier before leaping off her seat and rushing towards me. Wrapping her arms around me she whispered words of love and comfort. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she told me.

I reached up and wiped away a few stray tears that had escaped my eyes and quickly started to explain my reason for coming. She never once looked hurt that I was seeking her out for help and not comfort, but I could sense that she wanted to give me both. When I finished explaining she pursed her lips and considered me. “I can prepare the spell for you, but you still need a Drake Egg. They are in short supply since we don’t keep Drakes as pets anymore.”

The vaults, whispered Voice.

I looked at my mother and gave a half-hearted smile. “I know where I can get one,” I told her.

 

I rolled my shoulders back and repeated my mantra: “I’m not sneaking, I’m just obtaining information.” Since the moment I met Vallen we had had a weird connection. It was like I had known him all my life. Now I’m not saying that it’s a Soul Mate connection like Kat’s, but I firmly believe that if there is such a thing as past lives, he and I have known each other before. He doesn’t make me nervous. Quite the opposite, really. I feel off-kilter, like a I’m a little too comfortable and shouldn’t be. No matter how I look at it though, he knows me. More impressively, he reads me like one of the thousands of books he keeps proudly displayed in his chamber.

With one more deep breath I climbed down the stairs and entered the Dragon’s nest. It had been months since I was last here. You never know how much the loss of one person can shake your world until you lose them. Though Hue and I were not deeply connected I mourned his loss, but I think I mourned the loss of Kat more. With each passing day she became stronger, and there were more glimpses of who she was before, but I was also not foolish enough to think she would ever be the old Kat again.

I greeted familiar faces, stopping in the kitchen to enjoy some freshly baked cookies before building up the courage to face the beast. I raised my hand and knocked on the door to his chamber. There was a faint stirring within, but nothing really discernible. I knocked again with a bit more force.

“Enter,” came the simple command from a groggy voice. Oh no! I woke him, I thought to myself before pushing the door open. I entered the black chamber, feeling as if I was being swallowed by the darkness, and pushed the door shut.

“Vallen?” I asked softly. There was more shuffling before a hum and lanterns around the chamber illuminated the walls softly. Vallen sat at the center of his sunken bed with his hair tangled and deep black circles under his eyes. I tried not to let my shock show, but based on his glare I knew I hadn’t succeeded.

“Yes, Danielle? How can I help you?” He seemed to almost purr my name, which made me swallow hard.

“Are you all right?” I asked, not letting my concern ring too heavily in my voice.

He waved it away. “You know, as OK as one can be, having failed to protect his master.”

“You and Hue were equals and we all failed him, but he didn’t fail Kat. I think if we could ask him he would passionately believe he made the correct choice.” I resisted the urge to run to him and throw my arms around him to give comfort.

“How long has it been?” he asked gruffly.

A bit confused, I met his gaze. “Going on two months now.”

He sighed. “Thank you. What can I help you with? Why have you come?”

“I know that you oversee Maht and I have some questions?” I moved to the large wingback chair near his bed, taking a seat.

“I do.”

“Is Maht a portal city?” I asked straight out.

He smirked at me. “It has a Fairy Circle a few hours south near the beach.”

I shook my head. “That’s not what I am asking about.”

He studied me carefully. “What are you asking about?”

I could read between the lines. He wasn’t going to spell it out but he would answer me honestly if I asked. “Is there a portal to the Forgotten Realm within the city’s boarders?”

His smirk slid away and he fell back on the bed. “Why are you asking?”

I carefully thought about how to answer, not wanting to alarm him, but knowing my question had already done so. “Kat is going after Romijeer.” It was all I could come up with.

He shot up in bed and looked at me. “What? Why?”

“Because he holds her father as a Wraith.” I explained. His eyes flared, but he didn’t look mad. He seemed to understand.

“Of course, the caters…” he mumbled. I immediatly wanted to ask him to explain, but I knew now wasn’t the time for. “I cannot confirm if there is or isn’t a portal within the city walls, but I can promise both my brother and I are sworn to protect the gateway to that realm – so it would be fitting to be in a place we could easily access.”

I nodded understanding. “Thank you,” I told him, and started to leave.

“Dani?” he called.

I turned to give him one last look. I already knew what he would say, but I nodded yes anyway. “Be careful.”

“Of course,” I reassured him before I left the chamber.

The Collection

Dani, Ian, Oliver, Aiden and I all stood around a heavy oak table hidden deeply within Aiden’s castle behind the heavy doors of his Solar. It was a room usually reserved for the lord of the castle, but I had taken over it. I searched each face for any sign of regret, unwillingness, or pity. All I met were clear and calculating eyes. “If you are here, you know the gist of my plan. If you intend to stop me walk away from the table now, but if you stay, you are mine and you will commit to this madness.”

Aiden’s brow twitched. “I’m here to protect you.”

I slammed my hands down, angrily meeting his furious gaze. “You wanted to be privy to my plans and swore you wouldn’t stop me. Decide now if you are with me or against me. I have no room for second guessing. No tolerance for playing it safe. What I am proposing is reckless and dangerous. I don’t need an over-protective brother right now, I need a partner in crime.”

His knuckles grew white where his hands gripped the table, but finally his head dropped in acquiescence. I sighed in relief and nodded to Dani. She spread three large maps out on the table before us. The first was of a city called Maht that lay near the southernmost coast of the main continent in Drakemoore. The second was a roughly drawn map of what I believed was the Forgotten Realm, and the last were schematics of Ramijeer’s Tower as best I could remember. Everyone poured over the graphics in front of us, putting pieces into place.

I knew what I was about to say would rock Aiden’s world as it had my own. “Aiden, Leonide is prisoner within the Archmage’s tower. He’s not dead. If he were, I would no doubt be myself.” His eyes narrowed and then returned to meet my own.

“How?” was all he asked.

“How he came to be in his power, I don’t know. He isn’t whole – he’s a Wraith. But he is our father.” I bit my lip and watched as he sank down onto the chair behind him.

“Why did you wait so long to tell me?” he asked.

“At first I wasn’t sure what to think. Then I had to put the pieces together. Once all was said and done, I had to decide if it was worth reopening the wound that I know is so painful.” He went from white to red.

“You should have told me,” his words dripped with tightly controlled anger.

“I know, and I’m sorry I kept it from you. I wasn’t sure you would help me.” I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t ride off and do something stupid, is what I wanted to say.

Then you should say that, said the Voice.

Shut up. I feel bad enough as it is. I don’t need encouragement to say things that are hurtful. I took a deep breath, trying to clear my mind.

He was fuming. “I don’t want to help you – this is a fool’s errand. But I will go to the end of the worlds and back for you.” His final words were snapped out with precision.

I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. This was already off to a bad start.

Leading is never easy. Dig deep within you heart and speak from there. That is what people will rally behind, the Voice encouraged.

You make it sound so easy, I told Voice.

I do, don’t I, was his only reply.

I nodded and looked up around the table. “You’re all right to be worried. It would be strange if you weren’t right now. Aiden, I was just so afraid if I told you that you would rush off to save our father, only to become another victim. I had just lost Hue and I couldn’t bear the thought of possibly loosing anyone else. What would I have been left with? A brief memory and a Kingdom I know little to nothing about. It was selfish of me, I know.”

He stammered and I watched as his anger washed away. I motioned for everyone to take a seat. Ian reached under the table and gave my knee a gentle reassuring squeeze. “Dani and I believe that with my elemental connections I may be able to incite Arcane magic and summon the Archmage.” I looked around the table and nobody seemed to shocked. “Before I can do that, I need to gather the needed materials.”

Dani cleared her throat and I looked at her. She stared hard at me. Finally I rolled my eyes and nodded in silent agreement. “Romijeer is just the first step,” I explained. “I believe that I can use his tower to bypass the gate to the Forgotten Realm, and from there I may be able to retrieve Hue.”

That’s when everyone looked at me like I had gone mad. Oliver was the first to speak. “Do you understand how forbidden what you plan to do is?”

I processed his question slowly, then met his gaze and nodded. “Yes. I want to bring back the dead and allow a Wraith to walk within this world. Make no mistake, I will save my Father from his fate worse than death, and then I will tempt fate again by going after the Dragon I love.”

Oliver’s gaze slid to Dani. I could see his eye imploring her to use good judgement. “You can’t be okay with this plan?” he asked her softly.

Dani smirked and met his eyes without fear. “You’re right, I’m not okay with it. I completely endorse it, because I helped plan it.” She rolled her shoulders back and met the gaze of each person at the table. “Is there a single person here that doesn’t believe she would do the same for any one of us?” Nobody answered. Nobody dared to.

Oliver finally spoke up again. “I’m in, but why would you follow her so blindly?”

Dani’s smile never softened. “I’m not blind. I see clearly that where she leads, I will follow.”

Ian stood up and met each person’s gaze before turning to me. “I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I am yours until I draw my last breath.”

Aiden and Oliver exchanged looks with a shrug, then nodded towards me.

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Book 1 in Otherworld Realms

Book 1 in Otherworld Realms

The Summons

I was sitting across from Aiden in my chambers. His hand carefully hovered over his bishop as he eyed the chess board. I watched carefully as his brow arched and then lowered into a sharp slant. “This is more difficult then I expected,” he explained.

I smiled softly. “I know,” was all I said as I watched him struggle with a decision.

“This is an outstanding strategy game.” Finally heaving a sigh he slid his bishop into place, taking my knight. I grinned wickedly at him. “What? What did I do wrong this time?”

“Check,” I said enjoying the look of frustration that flitted across his features.

He growled under his breath and focused more. He slid the rook, lifted his hand and immediately regretted it. “Tek! That’s not what I meant to do.”

I laughed, moving my Queen and calling, “Check Mate.”

Aiden sighed and rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, you are the master of strategy and I’m not.”

“You know what that means?” I said, clearing my throat and pointing towards the door.

“Yes, I’ll go try and convince Chef Mistress Seya that she should provide me with yet another tray of desserts.” He chuckled to himself as he climbed to his feet. He crossed the room quickly while I packed up the chess pieces into their bag.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, looking up at him. He wore a simple and content smile.

He shook his head. “It’s nothing really. I longed for a younger sibling all of my life. Now that I have one it’s like some small wish from my childhood has been granted.”

I nodded. “I had brothers growing up in the Human realm. I always have room for one more.”

His chest swelled with pride before he left the room, closing the door behind him. I stared at the closed door for a moment and my smile widened.

Well you seem rather happy today, said the voice.

I am. Is that a problem? I asked.

No, when you’re happy it fills me with happiness. I greatly prefer this feeling to your sorrow.

Me too, I answered.

Just then there was a knock on the door. I rolled my eyes and climbed to my feet headed for the door. “You can just come in Aiden,” I called as I approached. I flung open the door to my chamber and jumped back a little in shock.

Staring back at me was a three foot tall Gnome. Her hair was curled into two tight buns at the back of her head. Her eyes seemed black and almost beady. Birda glared at me. “Marthailain wants you. Dani captured the Unicorn.”

I blinked at her. “Dani?”

She nodded.

“My Dani? The Pixie?” Once again she nodded at me. “Well, hot damn. Look at her go.”

Birda rolled her eyes. “If you don’t mind, we should get going,” she stated firmly.

“Yeah, let me just summon Ian and let him know where I am going.” I told her. Birda looked less than thrilled, but waited for me.

Soon Ian, Aiden, and I were standing in Seoul. It was the first time I had returned since I lost Hue. I looked up at the old converted school which now served as the headquarters for the OAC Asia branch. Ian stepped forward, opening the door for me while Aiden stared around at our surroundings. It was his first glimpse of the world I called home. The rush of traffic, quiet cool breeze that smelled like rain, and the decaying stones of the building cast an almost surreal glow to the place. Of course, it could have also been the large flux of magic that kept the surrounding world unaware of the existence of the OAC.

I brushed through the doors and into the lobby. Without waiting for Birda’s directions I pushed into what was the main office area and wound myself through the maze of cubicles until I arrive at Marthailain’s. The old Dark Elf sat at his computer with his glasses seated atop his head while he rubbed his eyes. The circles under them told a story about how he hadn’t had much sleep lately. I waited in silence for him to turn around. When he did it was with a slow, controlled movement. “Lady… or should I say, Princess Alizeyah?”

I did my best to smile warmly. I knew he could see my lack of comfort with the title. “Is Dani all right?” I asked, not waiting for small talk.

He didn’t look surprised in the least by my question and he nodded. “Oh yes, your little protege is doing quite all right for herself. She managed to put the entire library to sleep the day she apprehended  Lord Jellenaine.” I resisted the urge to shudder.

“I’m glad she is well. I hope to see her before I leave. Where is Lord Jellenaine?” I asked firmly.

Marthailain rose and directed us to follow him. We passed through a number of halls, up a flight of stairs and into a room on the second floor. My skin sizzled and crackled as we passed through a powerful ward over the doorway. Inside, Lord Jellenaine sat staring at a wall hollow-eyed. Dani sat at a desk surrounded by notebooks. I watched as she walked over to the Unicorn and firmly demanded information. “Was this the glyph you used to summon the Archmage?”

The Unicorn briefly looked down at the paper, studying it before looking away and saying “no” flatly.

Dani swore under her breath and was just turning around to head back to her table, when she looked up. Her eyes grew round when she saw me. A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth but she quickly pulled her emotions in check. I could tell she didn’t want to overwhelm me with my first trip “home”. Instead she sat her notes down and glided across the room to stand before me. “I’m glad you are here. I’ve missed you,” she said.

I smiled. “I’m sorry I missed seeing you turn the lights out on everyone in the Library. That’s a pretty awesome new skill.” Aiden cleared his throat behind us, mumbling about being on the receiving end of it. We both ignored him.

“It was something. Oliver still isn’t terribly happy with my methods.” She grinned.

“Why not? I would think he would be thrilled you handled what could have been a dangerous situation without you being harmed.” I couldn’t help but catch the gleam in her eye.

“He would have been had I not put him out too.” Her face scrunched up when she said it.

“Ah,” was all I could say. I looked back at Lord Jellenaine. “So what are you doing now?”

“He is under some sort of spell that prevents him from telling me about Romijeer, but I found that if I ask him direct questions about the spells and rituals involved he can confirm yes or no.” I looked at her pile of books, then back to the Unicorn where he sat motionless.

I walked over and dragged a chair to sit right in front of him. At first he didn’t look up at me, but I sat down in front of him, crossed my legs at the knees, folded my hands in my lap and stared at him. My eyes were as cold and unfeeling as I could make them. Slowly he realized I was there. He lifted his gaze to meet mine and stopped. His eyes flared widely, his mouth fell open, and he began breathing hard, processing what was in front of him. “YOU!” he said accusingly. His hand shot to his mouth where he covered and then rubbed his lips. “You should be dead. You should be walking the void,” he said in a whisper. “Has he sent his Wraith to collect me?” Lord Jellenaine asked with terror.

I grinned and did my best to make sure it was as chilling and cold as I felt. “You failed, and so did he,” I said finally. His hands trembled. “And now, I want revenge.”

Everyone in the room stopped to turn and look at me. I’m not sure it was the words as much as the honest intensity behind them. He held up his hands. “I can’t say anything. I’ve sworn a blood oath that holds my tongue,” he protested frantically.

I stood up and walked back to the table where Dani had her books. I brought over the one she had been studying intensely. “Show us the glyph we need to summon Romijeer.” It wasn’t a question.

“I can’t tell you. I sword a blood oath,” he argued.

“You and I both know that blood oaths can be overcome, it just hurts a little bit. Now show me or you won’t get to stay with these nice people. Do you know what Dragons do to Unicorns?”

He paled considerably. “Unicorns are rare. Dragons respect magical balance and law.”

“Just the same, you are little more than a treasure, and more importantly, a delicacy. I’ve never eaten a Unicorn, but I’m told if you skin them alive and roast them they taste pretty good.” His eyes streamed with tears as I leaned closer. He looked around at everyone else in the room. They all looked horrified, except for Ian, who locked gazes with me. He strolled across the room and grabbed my shoulder, trying to tug me around to look at him.

“You can’t threaten to harm him,” he insisted.

I let out a bitter laugh and shoved him away to turn back to Lord Jellenaine. “He cost me my Soul Mate, and for that he deserves to die… slowly,” I added.

Lord Jellenaine grabbed the book from my hands and began flipping through it. He screamed in pain as his skin steamed and smoked. No doubt the result of him breaking his magical blood oath of silence. Finally with a bone-chilling shriek that rent the air, he tossed the notebook down at my feet. “There! That one will call the Archmage, but you’ll need a Mage powerful enough to call him without a sacrifice.”

I bent down and picked up the book. I studied the glyph carefully, then turned and handed it to Dani. She took the book and nodded at me. I turned back to face Lord Jellenaine. “Were you ever in love with a Gargoyle?”

He shifted uncomfortably. “No.”

“Why did you choose me?” I asked.

“Because you were one of the few Elves I knew of in the area. I wasn’t aware you were half Dragon. Are you going to kill me?” he asked meekly.

I thought about it for a moment, then shook my head. “No.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. “Then you’ll let me go?”

Aiden laughed. “Not a chance,” he filled in before anyone else could.

I turned to leave the room and began walking down the hall. I heard feet running after me. Ian’s hand closed on my shoulder and turned me around. “Kat, you were scary in there. Are you going to be all right?” he asked.

I nodded. “I will be. I will be, when all of this is over.” I told him.

 

I sat, staring out the window in the library. The OAC had a massive library hidden right beside the old one in downtown Seoul. Even though it was April, the air was still cold. In some ways it reminded me of Kat. You knew it was supposed to be warm and welcoming, but instead it had a sudden iciness to it. The rain probably didn’t help. The droplets beat against the glass in an almost melodic rhythm.

I looked down at the text in front of me. I had been focusing on the same old Elven and Dragon texts for a week. I knew Kat was planning to go after Romijeer, but I wasn’t sure how to help her with that. Neither of us were Mages. I ran my fingers over one passage again and again, processing the words carefully and considering them. Arcane magic tapped into the elements, and Kat could command the elements. What was to stop her or any Tempest from accessing arcane magic? Was on to something?

Just then there was a crashing noise from across the library. Everyone looked up. My eyes narrowed and I had check my anger. Some of these texts were thousands of years old. Who could be so careless? I slid from my seat and quickly marched in the direction of the noise. When I turned the corner, I came face to face with a strikingly handsome man. He was dressed in a navy hoodie and well-fitting jeans. His eyes were absolutely piercing when they looked at me, causing my breath to still. I looked at the mess at his feet and sighed in exasperation.

I shoved him out of the way and crouched down to gather up the tomes on the floor. “You don’t have to stand there. You can help, you know?” I said snidely as I gathered too many books in my arms.

“I don’t do menial tasks.” His tone was almost bored.

With the books gathered in my arms, I climbed back to my feet and took them to the nearby table so I could inspect them for potential damage. “Obviously, you don’t do manners either,” I snipped.

“Excuse me?” he snapped loudly.

Hefting the books down, I turned with my hands on my hips. “No!” I replied in a tone that was perhaps louder than is appropriate for a library. “You come into MY library, throw priceless texts on the floor, and then refuse to help clean up. There is no excuse for you. Who are you anyway?”

He smiled a gleaming smile that made my stomach do a flip. I shook my head to clear it. “Awww, a little Pixie that is more than a pair of breasts and wings. How quaint. Do you bite too?” he taunted.

“Not as hard as my boyfriend does,” I mumbled.

He pushed back his hood, allowing his hair to tumble free past his shoulders. The mark on his forehead, previously covered, was now visible. “Listen you insolent little twit, I don’t have time for this. I am looking for a very special text. An Elven arcane manual.” I processed the information. I knew the book he was talking about. It was the one I was working with – but I wasn’t about to tell him that.

“Are you a Unicorn?” I finally asked.

He stopped and blinked at me in surprise. He then let his annoyance fade, to be replaced by a smoldering look that called ‘come hither’ to me. “I am,” he said as he approached me with a slow deliberatness. “You know what they say?” I shrugged at him. “Unicorns are the realms’ best lovers.”

I snorted. “What? Since when? I’ve read a number of books on the topic, and I will have you know I have never heard such a thing. Did you just make that up?”

His eyes narrowed. “You’re obviously not a virgin,” he said with a pout, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Ha! That ship sailed long ago, my friend.” I shook my head and reminded myself to tell Oliver about this conversation so he could share the laugh. “Wait, I just figured it out. You’re a Unicorn and you attract virgins. Is it possible you only think your’re good in the sack because they have no frame of reference?”

His face began to turn red. “I am Lord Jellenaine. I am a high born, not some lowly inbreed like you. I demand you find me that text.”

The name clicked it all into place. My eyes flared and I had to fight to keep my calm. With a deep breath I forced my best smile. “My Lord, forgive me. If you have a seat over there and help yourself to a cup of tea, I will make some calls and track down the whereabouts of that book.”

He rolled his eyes, then huffed away. I rushed off down a row and tucked myself behind a bookshelf. I pulled out my cell phone and hit the auto dial for Oliver. On the second ring he picked up. “Hello?” he said in a groggy voice. I looked outside – the sky seemed fairly dark because of the storm.

“Oliver?” I said in a hushed tone. “I need you to get to the library, now.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked, snapping to full alertness.

“That Unicorn that setup Kat is here. I am trying to distract him.” I glanced his way, trying to look like I was busy searching for the book he was after.

I could hear Oliver rustling. “Stay safe. I will call and get an enforcer there as soon as I can. I’m on my way.” There was a brief pause. “Dani?”

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Promise me you won’t do anything dangerous?” I could hear in his tone of voice that he wasn’t sure a promise was good enough.

“I love you, get here soon,” I said, and ended the call. I knew I was going to hear about that later. I slid the phone back into my pocket.

“Pixie!!” Lord Jellenaine cried.

I rushed over to him. “Yes?”

“Yes what?” he snapped.

I closed my eyes to prevent the roll that desperately wanted to happen. “Yes, my lord?”

“Better,” he approved. “Where is the book?”

I hesitated and pulled out my phone. “I had to make a call. It is currently on loan for a research project.”

He growled. Who knew Unicorns could growl? I grew up thinking they were gentle creatures. “How much longer do I need to wait?”

“Someone is on their way now,” I told him. I didn’t mention they weren’t bringing the book.

He yawned. “My time is precious. Let’s hope they arrive soon, lest I am forced to write a strongly worded letter.”

I made a few more attempts at small talk but he shot them all down. I looked at the door, growing antsy. Where is he? I thought. Lord Jellenaine stood up and stretched. “I’ve grown tired of waiting. Put the text on hold for me and I will return another time for it.”

Panic shot through me. I couldn’t let him get away. “Wait!” I cried out. He turned to face me. I casually unbuttoned the top 2 buttons of my shirt. His eyebrow lifted. “I was hoping you could help me – I have some questions for you before you go,” I said.

Something within him stirred and I felt drawn to him once more ,but I focused on my goal. “Really? And what would those be, my dear?” His voice was deep and soothing again.

“I’ve always wondered about Unicorn sexual orientation,” I explained.

He smiled with a wicked, wolf-like grin. “Why do people have to choose just one orientation?” he asked. “Why do we have to be labeled?”

I smiled sweetly. “I guess you don’t,” I told him, drawing in a sharp breath as he grabbed me by the waist and ran a hand down my hip.

“I like to consider myself pansexual,” he explained. “I just let love come to me as it likes.” He dipped his head close to mine and ran his tongue along my neck. I shuddered and he took it as a good sign. Holding deathly still, I kept my eyes on the door. “Relax, little Pixie,” he said.

The door burst open and there stood Oliver, looking a little pink, but no worse for the wear.  My heart thudded in my chest and his gaze narrowed on us. His eyes turned black and his teeth lengthened. “Get your hands off what’s mine!” he growled.

Lord Jellenaine lifted his head to turn and look at him, confused. His hands slid off of me as he realized I was the object in question. He held them up. “There is no need to behave like this. We can all be friends.” In a blink of and eye Oliver was on him and they were both struggling on the floor.

I jumped out of the way when they knocked over a table. Their struggles got closer and closer to the rare books and my palms started sweating. They bumped a shelf and I winced as it rocked back and forth. They bumped it again and it swayed harder. I couldn’t take it anymore.  I flung my arms out towards them.

“Precious are those things we wish to forever to keep.

With binding Pixie dust I command you to sleep.”

I recited the quick spell and the whole room shimmered. Everyone in the library but me collapsed to the floor, asleep. I sighed and pulled out my phone, calling the head office of the OAC. I waited for Birda to pick up. I was surprised when the cool mellow tones of Marthailain answered me. “Head Office?” he said.

“It’s Dani, I need a clean-up crew at the library,” I said exasperatedly.

“Oh?” was all he said before I launched into the story about how I’d spent my afternoon.

 

 

 

Aiden stood before me in the great hall. Crushing my shoulders in his grip, he pulled me close and hugged me tightly. It was easier to play docile then to fight it. When he had sufficiently squeezed the air from my body, he stepped back to look at me. “Your skin is still so cold, and you are growing visibly paler. Are you eating? Getting sleep? Are they treating you well?”

I looked up at him. I had only learned a month or so ago that I had a brother and that I was a Princess. In that time I had escaped an evil Archmage, defeated a ghostly Pixie, watched my Soul Mate die protecting me, and now was negotiating peace and travel between the realms of Everbloom and Vesaria. My cousins here in Vesaria had been welcoming and kind. “Everyone is kind to me. I eat meals three times a day plus a snack, and yes, I sleep at night. The maids have to fight with me each morning to get me to wake up.”

“Then why isn’t your health improving?” he asked.

“Can’t I just be this way?  The doctor here is excellent and he says I am healthy.” I resisted the urge to yell.

“Well, I am glad to see you are well. I’ve just heard you are spending a lot of time alone and I was concerned. I know how depression can darken one’s heart.” I shook my head and turned to walk away from him. Aiden caught my arm, turning me around. “This is a dark time for you. I do understand that. Don’t shut me out. Just because I wasn’t there in the past doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there in the future.”

“You want to know what I am doing?” I asked. He gave me a smile and a nod that did nothing to warm me. “Follow me and I’ll be happy to show you.” Aiden padded along behind me as I climbed the stairs to a chamber that had once been our father’s. I pushed open the door and stepped inside without a word.

Aiden’s eyes darted around the room, finally settling upon the portrait. There forever emblazoned in oils was a an Elf that could almost have been a reflection of my brother. The long golden hair, the piercing dark green stare, the gentle arch of the brows. This was Leonide, handsome and powerful. Aiden looked back at me and grinned. “You look a great deal like him.” I laughed, resisting the urge to roll my eyes.

“Thank you, I think. You’re certainly not the first person to tell me that since I arrived.” I looked back at the portrait. “See, when I look at that painting, all I see is you.”

“Are you saying all Elves look alike, Alizeyah?” The teasing tone caught me off guard and I finally relaxed some, letting a smile stay on my lips.

“That’s more like it. A real smile.” Aiden nodded his approval before crossing the room to take a seat on the small sofa. Quietly he thumbed through the books on the table. “Light reading?” he asked as he perused a particularly heavy tome. “I’m impressed you read Ancient Elven. The common language can be passed on, but Elven?”

“I also read Ancient and Modern Dragon in most dialects. As soon as I discovered my origin I became obsessed with learning all I could about them.” I leaned back against the desk watching him.

“These books are all on very old magic. Old rituals we haven’t used in thousands of years.” He paused when he opened a book I had marked. His brows knit down over his eyes. “This is a summoning spell for Romijeer.” His eyes shot up to meet mine. “You know better than anyone how dangerous he is. You shouldn’t invite trouble to your doorstep, Alizeyah.”

“Did I say I was?”  I flicked my wrist and the book slammed shut before racing to my waiting hands. Aiden jerked in surprise. “I need to know why I was chosen. I need to know what spell I was supposed to fuel.”

“You’re playing with forces greater than you. Don’t you understand – there has been enough death.” Aiden crossed the wooden floor to stand in front of me. “Hue died to protect you. There are a legion of warriors and scholars that are ready to fight for you. I don’t want to lose you now that I know you exist.” I stared at him unblinking. “Would Hudraer want you to put yourself in harm’s way?”

I recoiled as if I had been slapped. “Hue knew better than to try and control me. If he couldn’t stop me he would damn well make sure he was there beside me.”

“Then where is he now?” His voice had elevated. “He died, Alizeyah. He’s DEAD. The responsibility of keeping you safe now falls to the rest of us.” Tears started to prick my eyes. My heart tightened in my chest.

What’s wrong? asked the voice softly.

Hue’s gone and I don’t want to be here dealing with any of this, I told the voice.

Stop letting others upset you. It’s ok to be sad, the voice told me.

I know. I just feel like everyone wants me to be happy all the time. Why can’t they see how much I hurt inside? Why can’t they see how alone I feel?

It will get better, I promise, said the voice.

“Alizeyah?” Aiden waved a hand in front of me.

“Huh?” I said snapping back. “I’m sorry, you said something?”

Aiden rolled his eyes and looked at me with consideration. “Where were you just now?”

“What do you mean? I was standing right here.” I blinked at him.

“Yes, physically, but you weren’t here. You looked like you were anywhere but here.” He took my hand in his and drew me to have a seat beside him on the sofa. “I realize I don’t know you as well as Dani or Ian, but we’re family. You’re my closest family, actually, and that alone is a reason to be concerned about you. The fact that I actually like you just makes it something I must insist on.” His thumb stroked the back of my hand. “Alizeyah, what’s going on?”

“I hear a voice,” I answered flatly.

“What?” He was quiet for a moment.

“I hear a voice in my head. Where Hue’s used to be, there is a voice.”

Aiden swore under his breath but he gave me a look. The look people give you when they think you’re off your rocker. “Who does the voice belong to?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Nobody as far as I know. I think it’s a hallucination.”

“And you’re aware it’s not really there?” he asked, still giving me the crazy look.

“Yes. I believe my mind is trying to soften the blow of me losing the love of my life.” He seemed to relax, but didn’t let go of my hand.

“Have you told anyone else about the voice?” he asked.

“No, but if I did it would probably just be Dani.” I pulled my hand free and stood back up.

“You may not like what I am about to say, but it warrants your consideration. You are a mixture between two worlds – Darkling and Elf, Human and Magic, Soul Mate without a mate. A few of us have considered the possibility, but you may have another Soul Mate.” He looked away like he was in pain at the comment.

I couldn’t help it – I laughed, and he stared at me as if I were suddenly sprouting antlers. “Soul Mates are rare, and by definition, I doubt I could have another.”

Aiden shook his head. “Your bond with Hudraer was deep, and I’m not saying that this other would be a replacement. What if rather then a Soul split in two, yours was split in three because it was so powerful the universe couldn’t justify two beings with that much power?”

“So what? I’m just talking to a complete stranger in my head? Why haven’t I heard him before now?” I argued.

“Well, maybe Hudraer’s signal was just that much more powerful. He was a Tempest as well, correct?” Aiden had been looking at me like I was out of my mind, but he seemed to take offense to me returning the look.

“The voice is a hallucination brought on by stress and grief. He will fade away when I can cope without him,” I explained.

“He?” he asked.

“Oh, shut up,” I told him.

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