Home Sweet Cat Trap (Dani POV)

“Sheldon, I’m home!” I cried as I came through the front door.

“Well it’s about time. I’ve been wasting away here, unloved, unfed, and unappreciated,” he mewed pitifully at me.

“Unfed? Unloved? Unappreciated?! You ungrateful, ankle-biting lint ball!” Oliver growled as he came from the living room as he untied his apron. “I feed him three times a day. I’ve let him sleep on the bed every day and night. AND I have been nothing but nice and supportive when he explained to me, at length, how a gnat was wandering free in the apartment all day until he finally got fed up and killed it.”

I looked at Oliver with wide eyes. “Was he really that big a problem while I was gone?” I asked with concern as I shot Sheldon a warning glare.

Oliver’s face softened before he wrapped his arms around me tightly and picked me up to spin me around. “Not really. He’s just been bitey and whiny the last few days. The time apart from you has been hard on both of us.” He smiled before setting me down gently and pressing a kiss against my mouth.

“Well, I’m home now. I’m sorry I was gone so long. I left Vesaria two weeks before Kat and ended up being sent to Maht to help organize the library there. The building was destroyed in the attack earlier this summer,” I explained.

“I know,” Oliver said, turning to take my luggage into the living room so I could unpack. “Do you want to take a quick shower before we go to dinner?”

I paused, sniffing the air. “Go to dinner? The place smells amazing – I thought we would be doing homecooked here tonight?” I was already peeling out of my clothes and searching for a towel as I asked.

“Oh, we’re still having homecooked. I made part of dinner. It’s going with us,” he explained from the living room.

I took a quick shower and found clean jeans and a tshirt waiting for me when I got out. Sheldon was sprawled on the couch with his belly pointed towards me. Unable to resist a kitty belly I rushed to get dressed and flopped down beside him. I successfully managed three pets before a CHOMP and pain ran through my hand. “Ouch! Sheldon! What was that for?”

“That was for being gone ALL summer. You will also find special presents in all of your shoes in the closet. You’re welcome!” he snapped before rolling over and toddling away. He sat at the far end of the couch with his back to me. I watched, annoyed and amused, as his tail twitched back and forth.

“Oliver, maybe we should stay in tonight. I think Sheldon needs me,” I said.

Oliver scoffed. “Just bring him with us. I’ve got everything packed to go. Throw on your flip flops and lets get out of here.”

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” was the only explanation I received. I followed him out the front door to the elevator, where we rode it two floors up and got off. My heart raced faster as we approached the apartment that had been Kat’s. Had Oliver met the new people living here?  I watched carefully as he slid off the lock cover and typed in the code. As the door opened the scent of fresh bread and other food washed over me.

“Well it’s about time. I should have known Dani would be late,” I stared agape as Kat set the table in her living room, surrounded by pillows and a sofa. The place was clean and rearranged. Kat stood grinning at me as Tessa rushed by with hot vegetables.

“What’s going on here? I thought they were renting out your apartment?” I asked, realizing I sounded absolutely lost. Sheldon wiggled out of my arms and went to inspect the table. He made it only as far as the couch when a flying white furball collided with him, knocking him across the floor. Flurry pounced playfully on him again and again despite his best efforts to escape.

“I just signed another two-year lease,” Kat said matter of factly.

“What about Everbloom?” I blurted out.

She gave me a shrug. “This is my home. I have a portal bead. I can commute.”

“Hue and Ian are all right with this?”

Her grin told me everything I needed to know. “I don’t think they really have much say. Now grab a wooden spoon the plates from beside the stove. I’m hungry.”

What I’m working on

There have been a lot of rumors floating around about my projects and I want to let you know what is true and what isn’t. I have had a bit of a wonky summer and am finally getting back into my rhythm. At this time I am actively working on two books. The first is Fairy Princess’s Field Guide to Dragons. This is the much-requested story about Geren. The second book is Snow Pixie.* It takes us back to the world of the North Pole with Justin and Grace. While they are not the primary focus of the story, they are certainly major players.

There are no official release dates for either of the books but details are coming later this fall, so stay tuned and tell your friends!

All my love,

Isabelle
*Editor’s note: You have no idea how excited I am about Snow Pixie, Isabelle’s been talking about it for almost a year now, pretty much since she finished Holiday Spirit for Hire. She’s had the cover picked out for months.

Making Amends

It was my last day in Vesaria before heading home. I just didn’t know what home was anymore. Everwood, Drakemoore, and Tarell all had reasons to claim me as their own but I wasn’t entirely sure where I belonged after all of this. I let out a slow breath and leaned forward over the top of the battlements to look at the field below. “Oh, come on! I’m over thirty. I thought this whole ‘where do I belong’ phase would have been over by now,” I whined to myself.

I heard a chuckle behind me and spun around to face Tallyn. My frustrations must have still been painted on my face, as he held up his hands to show he came unarmed. “You’re still young. You’re barely out of your adolescence among our people. You’ll have years ahead of you to figure out just who you are.”

“You do know that Lily and I are the same age, right? Only a few weeks apart. We never knew each other even though we grew up just a few towns apart. Do you tell her that she’s still just a moody kid?” I asked.

Tallyn shook his head. “I didn’t say you were a moody child, and I have told Lily when she is behaving like one. It’s part of being in a relationship. You aren’t afraid to tell each other when they are acting out of character. She tempers my moods as well.” He crossed the distance between us, coming to stand beside me. His strong hands gripped the stone wall in front of us as he looked out over the land. “Perhaps with time Lord Hudraer and Lord Ian will be able to temper you as well.”

I rolled my eyes. “I wouldn’t count on it.”

“Well then, maybe you can convince them you don’t need to be tempered or calmed,” he suggested. I watched him carefully as the corner of his mouth tugged upwards.

“Do you think I need a calming influence?” I finally asked.

“I think you need to decide for yourself if you need tempering or not.” He paused to look at me. “I would hate to think that someone like you would let someone else make that decision for her.”

I nodded, finally understanding what he was trying to say. “Tallyn, I’m sorry if I caused too much trouble on this visit.”

He held up a hand and waved it away. “I don’t think you caused an ounce of trouble for me. If anything you helped my kingdom and family immensely. If you ever decide that you want to get away from the Dragons for a bit you are always welcome here. Please know that.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said, giving him a smile in return.

He reached out and wrapped his arms around me in a bear hug. “Please do, little cousin. Not only do my mate and I hope to see more of you, but your new nephew will no doubt want to spend time with the aunt he was named after.”

I laughed. “That poor kid. I hope he forgives you both for that name.”

We exchanged a few more laughs before I returned to my chamber to make sure I was totally packed. I knew dinner would no doubt run late with my farewell party, and I was leaving in the morning.

A Bigger Family

“Are you sure you want me trying this on?” I asked Lily.

She smiled and caressed her swollen abdomen. “Yes, if it fits or can be altered to fit you should take it with you and wear it. My guess is that you still haven’t slowed down enough to let the seamstresses make you any real gowns. You’re a princess, but I think all have ever seen you in are tunics and leggings or jeans.”

“I’ve seen your closet, you can’t give me that line of crap. I wear what want and what I am comfortable in,” I argued.

Lily laughed. “Try on the ball gown,” she said emphatically. Realizing that there was no way she would drop this argument, I slid out of my clothes and allowed a maid to help my into a corset and the famous blue ball gown. Queen Mab had designed this dress for Lily’s grandmother. She never wore it, but Lily had at her wedding. The gown slid effortlessly into place as the maid laced me in. Lily’s breath caught in her throat. “Oh Kat, it’s beautiful on you.” Her lip quivered and tears filled her eyes as she smiled.

Finally, I turned around to look in the mirror. The intricate beading and silverwork on the bodice was breathtaking. It fit beautifully, clinging just the right way to all my curves. Then there was the skirt – it was full and sparkled in the light. It looked like I was sitting in a cloud of shimmering blue fog. Despite my determination not to enjoy this game of dress up, I too was smiling. “Ok, you’re right it looks amazing.”

“Of course it does!” she chirped happily. “So I will have that and this pile of dresses packed to return home with you.” She pointed to a pile of at least a half a dozen gowns on the table.

“What? Be serious. You wore this for your wedding. I can’t take this,” I tried to argue. I looked over at the pile of gowns. They were all ridiculously elaborate. “When am I ever going to need to wear anything as elaborate as those?”

“Every day,” she answered flatly. “I didn’t understand it at first either, but Elves have expectations for their rulers. I’m sure Dragons do as well.”

“I don’t rule the Dragons,” I spit out quickly.

Lily considered me for a moment then shrugged. “If you say so. Do me a favor, wear the purple and gold dress tonight. I haven’t seen it in months. I think it will be striking with your golden hair.”

Not wanting to get into another battle with her like I had the day before regarding always wearing my hair in a messy ponytail, I agreed. I was helped out of the blue gown and corset and into the purple and gold dress. After a few more exchanges of pleasantries I excused myself so that Lily could take an afternoon nap. I made my way down the stairs carefully so as to avoid tripping on a hem and made a B-Line for the kitchen.

Mistress Seya smiled at me as I entered. “Take a seat child. I have some of the fresh-baked tarts you like so much. How about a bit of tea with those?”

“Sounds wonderful.” I smiled as she sat the warm tarts down in front of me. As I enjoyed my first bite, a couple of maids rushed into the kitchen and whispered into Seya’s ear. She looked surprised.

“All right girls, one of you get some water boiling and the other go find Grelyem,” she ordered. Meeting my gaze, she grinned. “Lily is having the first of her contractions.”

“I just left there. She was fine.”

“She’s had contractions for a day or so now but nothing strong. This was strong,” the older Elf said.

“Ahh, has someone been sent to find the boys?” I asked.

“No need. They will be back for lunch,” she assured me.

When hours had passed and dinner preparations were being made in the hall I returned to Mistress Seya. “Have you seen the men? Lily is asking for Tallyn, and Hue, Young, and Ian went with him this morning.”

She swore under her breath. “They aren’t back yet?”

“No ma’am.” I took a deep breath and gave her a nod. “I’m on it.” I turned on my heel and headed for the King’s solar. The door opened after just a few knocks.

“Princess Alizeyah, how can I help you?” Naelym asked.

“Hue and Ian aren’t responding to me. Tallyn should sense that Lily is in labor and they still are not back. I would like your permission to ride out with two of your men that know the area well enough.”

“I can’t let you go out there,” he said firmly.

“I can sense my mates. I can go alone or you can give me a guide. This is purely me being polite, your majesty.”

King Naelym frowned but nodded in agreement. He motioned for his guard. “Send for Sir Cylan and one of our huntsmen,” the man nodded and disappeared from the chamber. “You can meet them at the stables,” he told me.

Half an hour later I was dressed to ride and saddling Ghost. When the men arrived they kept a little distance from me but followed orders well enough. We rode out along the same path the huntsman insisted Prince Tallyn normally took. Crossing into the darkness of the woods, as the sun began to set we were forced to ride slower. By the time we hit a clearing, hours had passed with no sign of any of them. My heart told me we were getting closer, but no matter how I tried I didn’t seem able to reach them. I growled with frustration and had us push on through the night.

When we hit the shore we turned west and rode along the coast line. We could see a town off in the distance and it suddenly struck a spark of familiarity in me. I spurred Ghost on to a full gallop and pointed him further up the coast to where I knew a certain cove was waited. The men behind me shouted but pushed their beasts to catch up with me. As I approached the cove I heard Sir Cylan call after me. “Princess Alizeyah, slow down! We are here to protect you.”

I turned around and glared at him. “No you aren’t. You’re here because I asked King Naelym to lend me a few men who knew the land well. I don’t need to be protected.”

“Yes you do, otherwise Prince Tallyn wouldn’t have mortally wounded you,” he said, smirking with pride over his prince’s victory.

“He didn’t mortally wound me. It was an accident,” I snapped. Giving up, I slid off my horse and walked the path down into the cove. Sure enough, Mermaids sat on rocks in the water. The guys sat and reclined, transfixed by their beauty. The mermaids played with their hair, massaged their shoulders, and fed them delicacies. I walked to the water’s edge, looked at the row of stone I had surfaced the last time I was here, and walked out on the jetty. I looked at the group with disgust. “Excuse me, but I’m going to need my mates, cousin, and squire back.”

All of the Mermaids turned to glare at me. The one closest to me had glowing eyes and hissed in my direction. “Leave them. They are ours now.”

“Oh, I see. You don’t remember me.” With a flare of my temper I hurled a fireball in the direction of the one closest to Hue. “I can beach you all again with more rocks or I can just enjoy a fish fry.”

The Mermaid growled in disgust. “Oh, it’s you,” she said flatly. She chirped something to the others and they all slid into the water, leaving the men on the rocks. Cautiously I made way to each of them. It took a while, but I managed to convince all of them it was time to come home. The first out of his stupor was Ian. In his wolf form he had no problem keeping up with the horses. When he regained his senses he shifted back to a man and grabbed the reins on Ghost. “Kat?” he asked, sensing my annoyance.

“This was your idea, wasn’t it?” I prompted.

Reaching up, he urged me to scoot forward and pulled himself up behind me. Encircling my waist he pulled me back into the curve of his thighs and against his chest.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered by my ear. “Young had never seen a Mermaid so we thought it would be a fun stop for a hour or so before riding back. We didn’t plan on them putting us under a mesmerizing spell.”

I forgave him and we chatted and rode through the night. By early morning we were back at the castle. I was exhausted but didn’t stand in the way of Tallyn racing off to be with Lily. I saw the others to bed then went to see Lily for myself. The room was dark but people were still rustling around. Mistress Seya spotted me and made her way over. “Thank you for getting the Prince home just in time to meet his son as he entered the world.”

I offered her a gentle smile. “It was nothing. If everything here is all right, I’m going to find a bite to eat and retire for the night.”

Seya took my hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. “I had my wife set aside dinner for you and the others.”

“Thank you,” I said, turning to the door.

“Alizeyah?” I heard Tallyn call to me.

Ignoring my grumbling tummy I turned and crossed the room back over to where he and Lily sat on the bed. “Yes, your Highness?”

He grinned. “Without you I would have missed the birth of my son, there wouldn’t be a peace treaty between our realms, and my family would never have gotten King Leonide back. We want you to be the first one to know our son’s name because we named him after you. The newest member of the family is Alizym.”

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “I’m flattered, but why are you doing that to the poor kid? He’s going to be teased with a name like that.”

Tallyn chuckled. “We think he will grow to love it and be as proud of it as we are of you.”

I sighed again and laughed. “Good night, I’m going to go eat something. I would encourage you to sleep on that name overnight before you go announcing it to the Kingdom.”

 

The Princess’s Recovery

Ian burst through the door of my chamber gasping for breath. “How are you?” he asked before taking another deep inhalation of air.

“I’ve never seen you out of breath like this,” I tell him.

As his breathing slowes he sank down on the chair beside the bed where I sat reading. “I ran here from the portal.”

“Oh,” I said. The closest portal was four hours by horse. “Why didn’t you just use a bead?” I asked.

“I left it with Briar in case there was an emergency.”

“Are there problems at home that she may need to use it?” I couldn’t help but ask.

He nodded. “The Vampires are on the move again,” he explained. “My uncle Arjin is taking care of the clan while I’m away. We don’t think there is an immediate threat but it’s better not to need to worry.”

I understood Ian’s concern. His first mate and both his sons had died in a battle with an old Vampire house. Most of the Vampires were peaceful but some were a little less willing to play nicely with others. Every year in the fall they went on a major recruitment kick, which always left a trail of death in its wake. “Let me know if I can do anything to help,” I offered.

He smiled warmly. “I heard Hudraer has you on house arrest?”

I let a sigh slip. “Blah blah blah, made of glass. Blah blah blah, acting like a child. Blah blah blah, for my own good,” I said, rolling my eyes.

Ian burst out into a round of laughter. “He hasn’t figured out yet that putting you in a cage doesn’t work. If it did, I would have done it last year and none of this mess would have ever happened.”

I felt my face scrunch as I glared at him. “That’s not what I want to hear,” I said, waving my hand and pulling a fireball from the air.

Holding up his hands in defeat his laughter softened to a grin. “Hold up. How about you play by his rules for a couple days until you are fully recovered? Then, I promise I will fully help you with the Hue problem.”

“I don’t wanna,” I whined.

“Hey, lighten up or I won’t show you what I brought with me from our home realm,” he teased.

Giving up I gave a heavy sigh and met his gaze again. I watched as he reached into his bag and pulled out an envelope with familiar red letters. I accepted the envelope my excitement already building. I pulled out the photos and thumbed through the pictures of Ian holding his new squirming bundle of joy. “Squeee! How cute!” I told him, suddenly unable to be upset about anything.

“I know!” he said beaming with pride. “The sooner you are all healed the sooner you can meet my cub.”

“I’m mostly healed now. The doctor has given me permission to return to my normal activities as long as I make sure to keep up my strength. Hue just won’t let me out of this room.”

Hue in Hysterics (Dani’s POV)

I sat patiently as Grelyem explained to Hue and I that Kat had suffered a fair amount of blood loss but should make a full recovery. Hue was ashen white, his jaw clenched in pain and concern. As the Dark Elf doctor left, I let out a breath I hadn’t been aware I was holding. I reached out to squeeze Hue’s arm. “She’s going to be fine,” I said.

He pulled his arm out of my grip and turned to face me. “That’s all well and good, but two things have become clear to me. The first is that obviously I am incapable of protecting her. The second is that she has a death wish and keeps taking foolish risks.”

I shrugged and smiled. “You don’t need to protect her. Maybe talk some sense into her, but she is perfectly capable of protecting herself. She’s just young and reckless. You’ve said it before – she’ll grow out of it.” I wasn’t sure I believed that last part but I couldn’t allow Hue to stand there and beat himself up for what was an accident.

“Dani, she’s a princess, not a warrior,” he snapped. “I should never have allowed her to participate in such a foolish game. Tallyn is an amazing fighter. Sure, in another twenty or thirty years with heavy training Kat could give him a run for his money, but not now.” Hue growled loudly and I watched as his eyes shifted and glowed.

“A princess not a warrior… you shouldn’t have allowed her? Do you even listen to what comes out of your mouth?” I realized how angered I was by his outburst as I suddenly noticed how loud I’d become. “She can be a princess and a warrior if she wants to. Also, who the hell do you think you are to say you should or shouldn’t allow her to do something? You’re not her parent and you aren’t her king. You are her Soul Mate. When last I looked that made you her equal.” I planted my fists on my hips and leaned into my toes. I wasn’t about to back down.

“Look at you. Were you always this obstinate or did you learn this from her?” He threw a hand towards the door.

“I’ve always been able to think for myself. Kat and I are friends because we both have strong opinions and can be passionate about the things we like. So to answer your question, yes I have always been this obstinate, and so has she. Maybe if you spent less time putting her on a pedestal and more time getting to know what makes her tick you wouldn’t be standing here saying things that make you sound like a jerk. She has flaws and shortcomings just like the rest of us. Ask her! She will be the first to tell you she isn’t perfect.”

Hue rolled his eyes before turning his back on me to leave. “Run along little Pixie. I’m going to wait for her to awaken and then we are going to discuss her future endeavors,” he shot over his shoulder.

“Fine, don’t listen to me, but you and I both know Ian will have an opinion on this. When he arrives you’ll have someone your own size to try pushing around, Lord Dragon!” I hurled a ball of Pixie dust at his back as he closed the door to her rooms, causing it to glow and glitter a soft pink color.

What’s going on?

Hi everyone,

You may have noticed that last week I didn’t write any new blog entries. No, I’m not dead. As many of you know, last month I fell and broke my ankle. Since then I’ve had a very difficult time focusing on my writing. Then at the end of last week some really scary stuff started happening here in Korea. My family, team, and cat are all safe but it really served as a reminder that life can get a little crazy and out of control. I will be back this week to continue the stories of Alizeyah, Dani, Hue, Ian, and Tessa. I’m sorry to have left you all hanging.

Thanks for reading,

Isabelle

Captains of the Guards Square Off

I glanced down the field towards my opponent. Tallyn sat astride Mavba. His dark hair whirled in the wind behind him. The sun shone brightly off of his armor and for the first time since being convinced this was a good idea, I had butterflies in my stomach. Tallyn was born and raised a warrior and I was a girl from New England that thought surviving a blizzard made me tough. I shook my head. “Now is not the time to start doubting yourself,” I said out loud.

I felt a gentle squeeze on my knee and looked down to see Hue smiling up at me. “You’re going to do fine. Just keep your chin up and don’t let him get close. Magic hasn’t been banned and you’re not trying to kill each other. You’re just trying to make the other submit.” I nodded in understanding.

Ghost felt perfectly calm underneath me. I could feel his heart beating against my leg, showing no signs of distress. It was like our hearts beat in perfect sync with one another. “You ready?” I asked, reaching out and stroking my hand down his neck.

A trumpet at the center of the field sounded and Tallyn spurred Mavba towards us. I stood my ground and refused to move. Calling to all four of the elements, I dug deep within myself and connected with the earth under me. With a yank of my hand a wall of stone rose between us. I heard Tallyn pull his horse to a halt. I urged Ghost to move towards the far end of the wall. As I came around the end I was surprised to find Tallyn waiting there for me.

Tallyn brought a heavy blow down on the shield that I had just barely managed to raise in time. Ghost shifted under me as if he could read my mind and I swung my own sword, causing my cousin to withdraw his blade quickly to prevent my attack. Before he could swing again I pushed Ghost to jump ahead quickly, and soon I was draped over his back riding at a breakneck speed. As we went I pulled walls and boulders up around and behind us.

Pleading with the skies I finally felt a strong gust of wind hit me and was thrilled when heavy fog started to roll in around us. I slowed Ghost and pulled him to a halt. “Is your plan to make me run into a wall, little cousin?” Tallyn taunted.

I allowed my body to shift and felt my wings grow to life. I pulled my feet free of the stirrups and crouched on Ghost’s back. I felt the air beside me stir and I pushed into the air half a second before Tallyn’s blade cut through the fog. Setting my feet down gently on a boulder behind me, I watched as Tallyn’s gaze shifted up to mine on my perch. “Be careful not to harm my horse. He was a very special gift from my brother and I’ve grown rather fond of him.”

“The horse or your brother?” Tallyn teased.

“Both,” I said with a shrug.

“Come down and finish the fight,” he called, waving me back down.

“You have a rather pointy sword. I think it’s best I stay away from it.”

“Fair enough.” Tallyn slid his sword back into his scabbard and instead pulled his bow free from his back. I wasn’t going to wait for him to draw an arrow. Instead I leapt from the rock and glided overhead, coming to rest on the ground behind him. He quickly turned, but not before I hurled a fireball at him. It hit him full force, almost knocking him to the ground. He still managed to release his arrow, which dug deeply into my shield arm.

I hurled another fireball, ignoring the burning pain in my arm, and successfully unseated him from Mavba. He hit the ground gracefully in a crouch and came up with another arrow notched. This one caught me across the hip. I dodged in time to escape a direct hit, leaving only a small trail of blood from a deep scratch. More angry than annoyed, I rushed forward. His bow came up to meet my sword with a clank that didn’t sound like wood hitting steel. “Sorry, enchanted bow,” he said with a grin.

I pulled back for only a moment, then lunged and pushed a thrust at him that would have no doubt punctured his leg had he not been so light on his feet. The weight of my shield was starting to weigh on my injured arm. My next slash rewarded me though, as my sword glowed to life and sliced through his bow and also opened up the front of his tunic. A thin red welt arose on his chest as he paused long enough to look sadly at his bow.

Tallyn drew his sword and traded blows with me for a while until I could no longer wield my shield. With a bit of a struggle I managed to toss it to the ground while defending. In my moment of vulnerability my side screamed in pain. I had accidentally leaned into what had no doubt been meant as a light blow. I heard my cry of pain as if it was disembodied. I looked up at Tallyn, whose eyes were large with alarm and staring at my arm and my side.

Tossing his sword to the ground, he wrapped his arms around me and gathered me to his chest. I had no concept of what was happening around me through the red haze of pain. I heard Hue and Dani both call out in panic. Crushed against my cousin’s chest I felt him swing up onto his horse with some helpful hands. The world seemed to rush by me in a blur of greying colors. When we road through the castle gates everything looked hazy and continued to grow dark. I could sense people around me but I felt tired and parts of my body sizzled with white hot agony.

Concerning Questions (Dani’s POV)

“So you still haven’t told me much about your trip to Italy,” Kat says from across the room.

I look up from the book I had been pouring over for the last hour to meet her gaze. “There isn’t much more to tell. It was a lot of fun. I did a lot of shopping and gained almost ten pounds from all the delicious food I ate.”

“Yeah but…” Kat was cut off as Tessa handed her a handful of papers.

“These need your attention. Your brother expects you to handle diplomacy and trade negotiations while you’re here. King Naelym wants to know if these terms are acceptable?” Tessa pointed to the relevant paragraph on the page. Our mysterious Banshee had fallen into the role of Kat’s assistant almost without meaning to. I wasn’t sure if it was out of boredom, a need to help, or if she genuinely enjoyed it. Tessa didn’t talk much to me so I still wasn’t sure.

Kat flipped through the pages before looking back up at me. “Yeah but what about his family? More to the point, what about his mother? Is she scary? I noticed you wearing new jewelry sporting the family crest. Details, lady, I need details. Did he propose?”

I shook my head. “No, luckily he didn’t.”

“What do you mean luckily? Are you not in love with him?” she asked.

“I love him,” I found myself quickly reassuring her. “It’s just complicated. I would give up a lot to be with Oliver, but I’m not sure I am ready to make those sacrifices. I’m still really young for a Fae and I’m wondering if there aren’t other people out there I’m supposed to be with or meet.”

Kat and Tessa exchanged glances and sighed. “Fine, fine…” Kat said, dropping the conversation.

“I would think your own binding and ceremony would be enough to keep you busy.” Kat shrugged at my question and looked back down at her pile of papers. “You do love Hue, don’t you?” I teased.

“Of course. Things aren’t that simple for me.” She quickly changed subjects. “Can you believe that Morgan goaded Tallyn and I into a duel?”

I laughed. “Yes, after watching it I can. Vallen has his hands full with his new mate. I won’t lie either, I am ridiculously excited to see baby Fae Dragons.” I hugged in anticipation of cuteness overload.

“Do you think I stand a chance?” Kat asked.

Before I could answer Tessa cut in. “Nope, not if you are unable to use your magic. You may have some training and a lot of raw talent, but he’s been using a sword for over two hundred years. Just do me a favor. I would rather not go Banshee mode, so try not to kill each other.”

Kat offered her toothy grin that always sent tremors down my spine. She was going to do something brave, and most likely a little foolish. “How bad can it be? I mean as long as I’m using magic, what could possibly go wrong?”

“Famous last words,” I mumbled as I pictured exactly that.

Lily’s Baby Shower

I stood back and smiled at the handiwork we had all put in. There were piles of cupcakes, yards of banners, flowers, games, fizzy colorful drinks, and more food than I could ever dream of eating. The table in the corner of the hall was already overflowing with presents. The people of Vesaria loved gift-giving more than New Englanders at Christmas. Lily’s mother and Queen Mab had both arrived the night before in secret. How we had managed to sneak the Queen in without notice was beyond me. Even now Tallyn had Lily out on a walk.

“Everything looks beautiful,” said a voice behind me. I turned around to come face to face with Grace.

“GRACE!” I yelped loud enough for the entire hall to hear. I couldn’t help but laugh with joy. I threw my arms around her shoulders and hugged her tightly.  “How have you been? How are the wedding plans going?”

She smiled broadly, hugging me back. Even after we stopped squeezing, we still stood gripping each other’s shoulders. Grace and I had met and become instant friends for life last December. Now it was like we had known each other our entire lives. “Things are going well. Justin is stressing out a little bit. Markus wants to start training him to take over as Santa, so he will be riding along this year.”

“Oh wow. I bet he is super excited and overwhelmed.” I knew Justin Kringle was an absolute control freak.

“He is,” she grinned. “All that along with running the Pole and the wedding plans.” Grace shrugged. “What are you going to do?”

“Come take a vacation for a week before the season starts. Come stay with us in Everbloom. I would love to host the two of you of at least you for a couple days,” I encouraged her.

“Sounds like a plan. We’ll make arrangements before I leave.” Grace grabbed my hand and tugged me over to the side of the hall. I didn’t resist when she pulled me down on a chair. “Kat… er Princess Alizeyah?” I saw the confusion on her face.

“You’re welcome to call me Kat since that is how you know me,” I reassured her.

“I’m never sure since we’re in an Elven castle. We are doing a traditional Human wedding. Mom wants it. I was wondering if you would be a bridesmaid?” she asked.

“Of course. I would be honored. When is the ceremony?”

“New Years Eve,” she quickly said. “I was also hoping you would be coming back up as a Harbinger of the Season this fall?” Grace looked uncertain. I understood why. A lot of things had changed in the last eight months for me.

“I do plan on it, but I most likely won’t be up to stay until the end of October. I’ll be commuting for earlier events,” I told her. She breathed a sigh of relief and gave me another quick hug before heading off to make herself social.

By now all the guests had arrived and the hall was teeming with women of all ages and races from around the realm. I sent a page to find Tallyn and have him bring Lily back. A short time later Lily strolled through the doors. She let out a cry of surprise in excitement when she saw all of her friends and family. I watched delighted as tear-filled hugs went around the room. Fairwynn and I took turns handing her gifts to open and coo at, while Dani made sure we fed her a steady supply of sugar and real food. Tessa was an absolute lifesaver, noticing when Lily was reaching the end of her energy and encouraging me to wrap things up for the afternoon.

Happy and sleepy mommy-to-be was escorted to her chambers, the guests were dispersed to return home or enjoy the comforts the castle had to offer, and the castle’s staff began cleaning up with my and Fairwynn’s help. When Hue appeared at my side, he took my elbow and escorted me towards the empty fireplace and the table beside it. I looked over my shoulder apologetically at Fairwynn and she just smiled and waved me on.

When we arrived at the table I took a survey of those sitting around enjoying wine. I recognized my cousin Tallyn of course, and was surprised to see Sir Vallen sitting there among the guests. To his right sat his brother Young with a young lady I had never met. Vallen protectively held the hand of a woman to his left who had multicolored hair. I could only assume this was the infamous Lady Morgan. I sank into one of the chairs and waved away the Dragon’s attempts to stand. “It’s good to see you Sir Vallen.” I turned and smiled. “Hello Young, staying out of trouble?” He gave me a toothy grin that confirmed he definitely had not.

Vallen cleared his throat. “Princess Alizeyah, I would have preferred a formal introduction, but Lord Hudraer insisted otherwise.” He shot Hue a look that almost made me laugh. “This is my mate, Lady Morgan. She is a knight in Queen Mab’s court.”

“Ah, a Fae. I was curious,” I told her. “I’m honored to meet the mate that has warmed Sir Grumpleton,” I said with a nod.

Morgan’s face glowed with a large grin. “The stories I’ve heard about you, Princess, left me excited to finally meet you. Young’s desire to be a bard has encouraged him to spin great stories about you,” she said.

I laughed. “Your adventures have been equally entertaining. Leaping from war machine to war machine. I was nervous just hearing the tale.” I noticed Vallen’s grip tightened on Morgan’s hand as she laughed.

We were all later joined by Fairwynn, Maerryn, Tessa, James, and Grace. Dani seemed to have disappeared. I had little doubt she had escaped to the solitude of the library, her favorite room in any Elven castle.

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