Not every romance is a fantasy, but ours are!

“Oliver, can you take me to the North Pole?”

“I can,” he responded slowly. “But why? Kat has commitments this weekend.”

“I know, but she doesn’t have them the whole weekend. We have a ton of stuff to take care of before the book release and it’s been weeks since I saw her in person.” I flashed a smile that resulted in him rolling his eyes.

“Fine, I’ll take you up after work. While you’re at school I’ll pack. Are you taking Sheldon with you this time?”  He finished putting veggies into a plastic container. Snapping the lid shut he tucked it along with the rest of my lunch into my backpack.

“How cold is it there? Is there snow in October?” I pictured myself wrapped up in an oversized parka.

“I don’t really notice cold too much but there is already snow. I’ll pack warmly for you.” He held up my backpack to help me put it on. Without much thought I slid my arms in and struggled to stuff my feet into my shoes.

“You know, you don’t have to pack for me. You didn’t have to make me breakfast or pack my lunch either.”

Oliver shrugged. “I realize I don’t have to do any of it, but I figure if I end up keeping you awake all night watching movies the least I can do is help out while I’m here. I enjoy cooking for you. I enjoy that while I’m here I don’t have to be a Vampire, I don’t have to be a council member, an Enforcer, or anything but me. I can wear pajamas, not gel my hair, and eat whatever I want at four in the morning. When you have had to wear titles for hundreds of years sometimes it’s just nice to wear your name. It’s like walking around in your underwear or naked at home. You, Kat, Ian, Hue all of you don’t care who or what my title is. Ok, well Ian and Hue care a little, but you and Kat grew up Human.”

“I’m glad you feel comfortable, but you could just make friends with Humans,” I offered.

“I could, but then I always have to be on my guard that I or someone else I know doesn’t give it away. Vampires have an extra layer of frustration towards Humans. We consume blood, we have sun allergies, and we are the only Darkling that can actually pass along our race traits to non-mates. You’re part Pixie, and it’s because you were born that way. You could talk to some grand-master Fae and they could activate your blood so that you are full blooded. Then whoever you chose to mate with, if they were not magical, could enjoy the benefits of your blood blond and live longer, but you can’t pass that on to anyone who is not your mate. Vampires… full-blooded Vampires can be born or made. When Humans find out they have two reactions. They either run away or they want to be changed.” He fumbled washing the breakfast dishes.

“I get it. I do. Wait, my bloodline can be activated fully?”

“Yes, I thought you knew that.” He rinsed the last of the glasses.

“No, none of the texts I’ve read have said anything about that. Kat didn’t need to do that.” My mind was racing over everything I had read the last several months.

“Kat is fully magical. A bizarre combo but fully blooded. Normally a half blood would never need to be activated but when you start getting furthur out like you at a quarter or more, the Fae or Darklings need to see you as awakened before they will activate your blood. They want to know you show the genes and want to be Fae or Darkling.” Tossing the dish towel over his shoulder he took a seat at the table.

I looked at the time. Letting out a deep sigh I took off the backpack and went to sit at the table. Gleaning knowledge won over my Friday morning pre-work bubble tea. “Who would I contact?”

He thought about it for a moment. “I’m not totally sure. Marthailain would know for sure but probably someone in Queen Mab’s court.”

“The QUEEN MAB? Like from fairytales and books?” I tried to keep my voice down.

“Yeah, that one.”

My jaw almost his the table it dropped so much. “I could become full Pixie?”

“Yes.”

My mind raced at the possibilities. All the places I could go, the things I could learn and study. My vision glazed over as the daydream world took over.

“Dani? Dani?” I could hear Oliver calling to me but I wasn’t quite ready to leave the daydream. Finally I relented and blinked it away.

“Yeah, sorry. I was just thinking. How hard is it to get an appointment?”

“An appointment with the Fae court?” he asked.

“Yes, how long does it take?”

“As a Darkling and as someone in my role I’ve never had to do it. You would need someone highly respected within the Fae community to request the appointment and make a recommendation on your behalf.” He paused, considering the information he was giving me.

“Like Marthailain?”

“Yes and no. He himself is a Darkling. He would know who to ask and may even be able to set the appointment but you would need a recommendation from a member of the Fae community.”

“Kat is half Elven, would that work?”

“Maybe. Her other half is Dragon which is Darkling, but like the Dark Elves they are closely aligned with the Fae courts. It may be possible. I would talk to Marthailain, he would know more.” He glanced at the clock. “You should go. I’ll get you packed up and will meet you here this evening around eight. Email or call Kat so she knows to expect you.”

With that, I thanked Oliver and made a mad dash to get to school before the students did.

“Hold still!” Maggie snapped.

I wiggled out of her grasp again as she came at me with another pin. I stared at the full length mirror at the back of the uniform department. I was dressed in a low cut white gown that was strapless, laced down the back and slit to the hip on either side. “Why are you making me wear this?” I asked more than a little exasperated.

“Oh it will be so pretty!” she chirped happily. “You’re wearing it for a red carpet event in a few weeks kicking off the Holiday shopping season. You and Lord Hudraer are going to be dressed as the winter Prince and Princess!”

I glanced over at Hue who was being dressed a white waistcoat and tails with a red and gold sash. He looked every part of “Prince Charming” in the costume. He was holding deathly still but managed a smile for me. The bruises are fading nicely he said as his mind connected with me.

Thanks, but I feel like the holiday edition of Slave Leia.

He was unable to stop the laughter and was quickly stuck with a pin, making him hiss.

“That’s what you get for not holding still” I chastised him. His narrowed eye glare was all the thanks I needed.

“So do have to wear sparkling crowns with these get-ups?” he asked as the last of the annoyance drained from his voice.

“Yes, you will both have sparkling crowns. Her gown has a see-through Fairy silk cape that attaches at the back which will drag like a train behind her.” Maggie seemed overly pleased with herself.

“So how long is this function?”

Maggie looked up at me considering me with her dark eyes for a moment. “A couple of hours. You two will pose for pictures, talk to some reporters, have dinner and be done. Shouldn’t be too bad.”

I shrugged and immediately regretted it when the prick of a pin caught me in the back of the arm. “What happens to these costumes when we’re done with them?”

“They’ll be recycled for use. Someone will find a use for them and they will be used again. Lord Hudraer’s will be easier to reuse. It’s based off of traditional royal dress for the Dwarves,” she explained.

“It looks like every Disney Prince Charming costume,” I commented.

Hue seemed to stiffen at my words, shooting me a curious glance. “That wouldn’t surprise me. A number of Dwarves have worked for the company in the Human Realm.” Maggie finished up the pinning. “There you go. You’re both all pinned up. What do you think?”

Hue, always smiling and handsome, turned up his charm. “They’re stunning. Your team is amazing, Maggie.”

She grinned wider and looked at me for an opinion. “And what about you?”

“I’m going to freeze to death. I’m going to be a Dragon-flavored popsicle.” The small Gnomen woman’s face fell. I instantly started scrambling. “But it’s beautiful! I will look amazing.” She smiled again.

“Well I designed it to be worn indoors, so you should be alright.”

I waved away her concern as her assistant helped me carefully out of the dress.

When Hue and I finished our fitting we both headed to the cafeteria for lunch. I knew he was aching to say something. “Say it!”

“Say what?” he asked.

“Whatever it is you want to say.”

He grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me back against him and began leading me in an imaginary waltz in the hallway. “Am I your Prince Charming?”

“Ha!” was all I could get out.

You can’t hide it from me. I know how your pulse quickened when you looked at me. Admit it, I am your dreamy Prince Charming.

There was something that felt so intimate when we spoke this way, using our bond. Who needs Prince Charming when you’ve got a Dragon?

Oh, you’ve got a Dragon, do you?

I stopped dancing and looked at him. Yes, it would seem I do.

 

I opened the door of the apartment fully expecting to find my place in its usual state of not-quite-messy but more than a little cluttered. Instead I came home to fluffy bunny slippers at the door that I had never seen before, a clean apartment, a new small table with 2 chairs in the kitchen, and a tall blonde Vampire humming while he roasted garlic for some pasta dish that smelled amazing.

“Did the cat let you in again?” I asked sliding off my shoes and slipping on the bunny slippers.

“Yes, he did. Do me a favor, look in the refrigerator and grab the Parmesan, please?” Oliver didn’t miss a beat, he never missed a beat. He seemed more at home in my home than I did.

I tossed open the door to the fridge and stared in disbelief. Since I had moved in, I had never seen it so full. Veggies, meat, cheeses, milk, yogurt… it was all there. “You went shopping for me too?”

Oliver chuckled to himself. “No, I can only take credit for the table and slippers. Kat had all the food delivered for you. I just happened to arrive in time to sign for it and unpack it.”

I glanced at the table. It was a warm honey-colored wood with matching chairs. I shook my head to clear the daze, handed him the cheese, then went to try out the new slippers. “So have we progressed to this level?”

“What level?” He asked, his brow wrinkling as he flipped the pasta one last time in the pan.

“You buy me furniture and cook for me?”

“Oh, well the table and chairs are from my place. I purchased a new set and thought it would be nice to be able to sit and have meals together here instead of on the couch. If you don’t care for them I can sell them. The bunny slippers were staring at me all cute like and I thought you may like them with the basement apartment. As for cooking for you… yes. I’m comfortable with cooking for you. Kat cooks for you.” He turned, holding up a spoon for me to taste.

I leaned forward and accepted the bite. The sauce was a light lemon cream, over chicken and fine angelhair noodles. My eyes almost rolled back in my head. “It’s amazing!” I said looking up at him. “Thank you for the table and slippers, they are very nice. I like them… a lot. As for cooking for me, I was teasing. You are welcome to cook for me whenever.” He nodded and turned back to the stove. I reached up into the cabinets, grabbing plates and glasses to set the table.

“I thought I would stop by and fill you in on the newest info about the war between the Dragons and Werewolves.” He commented as he turned to serve the pasta dish. As he finished with the pasta, the oven sounded and he retrieved fresh garlic bread.

“What war?” I asked, unsure if I had heard him correctly.

He motioned for me to take a seat and then sat across from me. “Kat came home this weekend to work things out with Ian. Something happened and Briar attacked her. Kat refused to fight back, so of course Hue came riding in as a gallant white knight to save her.”

“Like he does,” I added.

With a nod and a bite he continued the story. “Hue threw a fit that Ian had allowed Kat to be put in danger and said that since Briar is a mate to the son of Cariss this is an act of war against the Dragons. He sent a list of demands with Ian to take to his father. Both Ian and Hue thought the demands were simple and forgiving but Cariss has grown bored over the last century and declared it war. He’s demanding Ian and Briar both return home at once. Hue took Kat back to the nest to recover from her injuries.”

“Oh shit! How bad is she injured?” I let the concern slip fully into my voice.

“Well, she is banged up pretty bad. She feels horrible she’s causing all this trouble but believes she still did it for the right reason. Ian agrees she did it for the right reason. Honestly, I don’t really know what to think.”

“Wait, how do you know all this?”

He grinned widely. “Marthailain  has officially named me to head up Enforcement for Korea. He has also granted me permission to seek a seat on the council!” He looked so proud of himself.

“That’s great!” I nodded, shoving another bight of the heavenly dinner into my mouth. I was already contemplating how to get to the Dragon’s nest to check on Kat.

“Yeah, I’m pretty excited. You must have really enjoyed dinner. You finished it in record time. Would you like me to make you something else? Are you still hungry?”

I glanced down and realized I had in fact cleaned the plate thoroughly. “No you don’t need to do that, but would you like me to treat you to a coffee, ice cream or something?”

“What are you in the mood for?” he asked

“Me? Cheesecake ice cream, but really it’s about what you want.”

He stood up moving our plates to the sink. “Ok, then you stay here and find us something to watch and I will go get us ice cream.”

“Wait, I was going to get it because you made dinner,” I tried to argue. He was gone before I could say much more than that.

Grumbling that I was one day going to win at this game I flopped down on the couch and began looking through the movies I had with me. I stumbled across a folder from Kat that had some new period drama in it. With a shrug I popped it in my laptop and awaited the return of the Ice Cream Vampire.

As if on cue the front door opened and Oliver sauntered in. Crossing the room and dropping down beside me he offered a pint of ice cream from around the corner before we both entered the mindless world of fancy costumes and beautiful castles.

Homecoming Chat

Snow whirled around me in a blast of cold wind. When it disappeared and a puff of heat hit me, I knew I had arrived back in Asia. I looked around my quiet apartment. All of Ian’s clothes were gone. His books, photos and other odds and ends were also gone. My stomach knotted tightly as the force of it really hit me. He had moved his things back to his place like I had asked. I sank slowly onto my sofa.

“I wondered when you would get in.” His deep voice startled me, causing me to jerk my attention back towards the front door.

“Are you alone?” I asked, not trying to hide my bitterness.

“I am.”

He was dressed in a heavy wool kilt, a long sleeve black t-shirt and was even now kicking off his boots. Wordlessly, he glided across the floor and sat down on the sofa beside me.

“Kat, I’m sorry for everything. I didn’t mean to hurt you or make you feel mislead.”

I held up my hand to stop him from continuing. “Ian, I want to understand. I love you. I realize I don’t say it much, but I do mean it.”

The words seemed to hit him like a ton of bricks, knocking the air out of him. He stared back at me with eyes full of pain. “Kat, please hear me out. I’ll tell you everything, if you just listen to me.”

I nodded.

With a deep breath he began to speak. “I met Meridith when I was very young. I was probably your age or even younger. It was a whirlwind of a romance and despite my father’s objection because we were so young, we decided to be bound together. We were happy for a very long time. She gave me two amazing sons that became amazing young men. As far as I knew, my life was perfect. Three years ago a large group of Vampires from House of Sanguinites moved through our region. We were caught off guard and suffered many losses. Among them were my mate Meridith and my sons Scott and Aaron.” He paused to consider the his words carefully.

“I mourned their loss every day for a year. I was an empty shell of a person. A year ago, my father sent me on a diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of the Elves in that first realm I took you to. The new princess Lily had these amazing and rambunctious brothers that reminded me so much of my sons. I had decided to leave my homeland and travel here to Asia. I thought the change of pace may be good to get me out of my shell and back into life again. Before I left, my father forced me to bond with a new mate. I am his only son and he wanted to know I would carry on the family legacy. He chose Briar. I din’t argue, I figured she was there to do a job. There have been plenty of political bindings and marriages over the centuries. I was doing my duty to my people. We mated a few times, she assured me she was pregnant and I left for Asia.” He sighed.

“You left your Baby’s Mama while she was all preggers? Not cool, man!” I hissed at him.

“It was a political union only. She had the best care in the world and she only came to see me if she was in heat.” He ran his hand through his hair roughly. “She didn’t return my calls or have anything to do with me other than mating.”

“Ok, so you have a baby with her then?” I asked.

“No, she lied about being pregnant so I would leave. She was no more thrilled about our union than I was. She then told my clan a few months after I was gone that it was all a misunderstanding. As you can imagine, my family didn’t take it well. They insisted that I come home or she come here. I refused, because at that point I had met you. We weren’t together yet but I had already formed an attachment to you. I knew her being here would complicate things for us. I told my family I had met someone who could potentially be a real mate to me. Someone I cared for and she cared for me too. They were so shocked, all talk of sending Briar was dropped.” He reached out and took my hand. I was more than a little dumbfounded and unable to resist.

“My family called after they heard about House of Sanguinites having baby Vamps in the area. I told them that we were all fine and that you had accepted a position seasonally at the North Pole. Cariss thought that since Briar was in heat again it would be the perfect time for us to get together and work on the family line. He packed her up and sent her here without telling me she was coming. She just showed up. For a Were, if our mate is in heat we cannot deny them mating. While it is a law, it’s also a physical reaction. She has full control of my desire and physically and mentally can bend me to her whims during that time.” He studied my eyes for a moment. All I could do was quirk a brow.

“No, I didn’t want to. Yes, I tried to resist it. No matter how much I begged her not to, she still did it.” I sat there, shocked.

“She raped you!?” I felt my blood boil.

“No, men can’t be raped… not like that. We’re bigger, stronger, and it can’t be done. The primal side of my brain just kicked in,” he asserted.

“Did you want to have sex with her?” I asked.

“No.”

“Did you tell her ‘No’, ‘stop’, or that you didn’t want to have sex with her?”

“Of course, multiple times.”

I rolled my eyes. “Did you try to stop her?”

“Yes. I mean, I didn’t want to hurt her, but yes. I tried sending her away, I tried restraining her while I attempted to talk sense into her. All she did was stupify me, and it’s like all I could do was lay there.” He stroked his thumb over the back of my fingers.

“Did you ever willingly consent to having sex with her?” I asked as the final question.

“No, I told her I didn’t want to and when I tried to leave she put me in a sort of trance mates can use.” He was processing the information and the look on his face was slowly changing. He looked back at me, trying to form words.

“If you said no, continued to refuse, were then forced to have sex against your will, and worse, restrained, that is rape.” I captured his hand between both of mine and held it there. A storm of emotions crossed his face.

“She wouldn’t. It’s not like that. We’re a mated pair…” He paused and looked unconvinced.

“As you know, Hue and I share a mental link. What if he somehow used that in such a way that I couldn’t resist, then forced me to have sex with him? He wouldn’t do that,” I quickly added.

“I would kill him, that’s ra….” He froze. He stood up suddenly and started to head towards the door.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“She’s commanding me to come.”

I grabbed his arm and tugged on it. He slowed down and looked at me with pain and anguish in his eyes. “Don’t go!” I pleaded with him, but he continued out the door.

“Don’t let me go.” His voice was pleading and he sounded like he was almost at the point of tears.

I pulled with all my strength against his arm. “Where is she calling you to?”

“Home, she’s making me come home.” I dropped his hand. He looked hurt and betrayed when I turned back to my apartment door, closing it behind me.

I slid my feet into my sneakers and tied them. I pulled my hair up into a ponytail and paused a minute to look in the mirror. I stood looking out the window, trying to give Ian a bit of a head start. Then reaching up, I touched the portal bead at my neck. Closing my eyes I pictured Ian’s tiny apartment and felt the world shift around me. When everything came into focus Briar was sitting on the edge of the bed. She glared at me.

“You!” she said with such loathing it made my skin crawl.

“Yes, me!” I said walking towards her.

“If you come any closer I will attack you,” she threatened.

“Then stop calling Ian.”

She snarled a word or two at me that were anything but ladylike. “He’s my mate and he has a duty.”

“I understand that what you’re doing is wrong. I also understand that since I serve the local OAC I’m sure there is a way I can make you more than just miserable here.”

She growled low and began shifting forms before me. The door to the apartment closed. Ian stood there, horror on his face as he looked from the wolf form of Briar to me standing there rather unimpressed.

She lunged at me, knocking me to the ground. I didn’t fight back as her teeth bit down on the arm I had thrown over my throat to avoid her making contact. I cried out in pain, but didn’t fight back either. I just watched as Ian’s face grew more and more pained. Tears were running down his face.

She latched onto my shoulder, coming dangerously close to my neck, and it was then I felt the weight of her lifted away. She yelped loudly as she landed on the bed.

“Of all the STUPID, useless, crazy stunts to pull, this is the best you can come up with?” My eyes never left Ian’s as I was scooped up into Hue’s arms. His voice was rife with anger. He glared at Briar, who looked like she was getting ready to pounce. “Alizeyah may be fine with you mauling her, but I assure you there is no love loss between you and I. I will not hesitate to remove your head and turn your body to ash.”

Hue turned me in his grip so he could survey the damage. “You know that cold feeling you have right now? The disorientation?” I nodded. “That’s called shock and blood loss.”

“Who are you?” Briar bellowed.

“Lord Hudraer, her Dragon Lord. This has gone too far. You nearly killed her.” He turned to glare at Ian before looking back at her. “Cariss will hear about this. Ian is a friend of our clan, but even as his mate you have just committed an act of war against us.” Hue’s grip on me tightened and he leaned forward, kissing my forehead.

Ian was suddenly able to move and came to stand beside me. Everything was blurry, but I felt the world shift around us and then recognized the smell and cool air of the stone walls of the nest.

When I awoke the next morning it was to find both Hue and Ian stretched out beside me. We were on Hue’s massive bed and the room was dark. I started to sit up but felt both of them stir on either side of me. “You’re awake? Good.” Hue swept the hair our of my face and began poking at the bandages on my arm and shoulder.

Ian shifted to sit beside me. “Will she live?” he asked flatly.

Hue finished removing the last of the bandages. “Looks that way. Wounds are all closed and she has some wicked scarring that will take several weeks to fade.”

Ian nodded and slid off the bed. “I will leave you to lecture her on the finer points of suicidal behavior while I take the terms to my father.” I looked at him closely. Once again he resembled the Werewolf I knew and loved. Grumpy but normal.

Hue helped me sit up and I moaned as the muscles in my body screamed angrily. He sat there and stared at me with annoyance. “You’re lucky your mother is an amazing healer and you evidently heal quickly, even for a Dragon or an Elf.”

“Hue, she was hurting him. She was using some super secret mate power to rape him,” I explained.

“I know, you broadcast your thoughts loudly. When you left to go there I thought you were going to smack her around, not offer yourself up on a platter,” he snapped at me. He took a moment to calm himself and reached to take my hand. “I have sent a message to Cariss that Briar tried to attack you and kill you. That as a member of the clan, and specifically of your bloodline, it was an act of war. We recognize Ian as an ally, but Briar needs to go. We called for her removal as his mate or else we would pursue retribution.” I couldn’t keep the horror off my face.

“You would go to war… over me?”

“Yes. Your relationship with both he and I is a dangerous one, and you need to understand that. You could have died and I’m not sure I would have managed to go on if that happened.” His voice softened. “Our lives are tied together. I will always rescue you because I don’t think I could let my heart beat without you.”

I sighed. “Hue, I’m sorry. I hoped he would be able to push through the control if he…” He held up a hand to cut me off.

“Ian has a responsibility to his clan. He must produce an heir, and it must be with another wolf. If you’re going to be with him, you must accept it as a term and condition. Thousands of lives count on him. We have, however, decided that you will be responsible for finding his next mate. We both believe that if you have a part in it you are less likely to object. I would suggest that you focus on finding someone you can get along with and that he can care for. It would be nice, if things don’t work out between you two, he has someone he can be happy with.”

“What do you mean, if we don’t work out? Isn’t that a bit unrealistic?”

“On the contrary, I don’t believe that you are meant to be with him forever, but I do believe that he will hold a special place in your heart for the rest of your life. When the smoke clears from the fallout if would be nice if you could still be friends with them both.”

I wanted to argue with him but knew nothing I said would make a difference.

Saturday passed quietly as did Sunday, and soon Hue and I were packing up to head back to the North Pole. “Dani is going to be so pissed at me.”

“Why?”

“We were supposed to go shopping this weekend.”

“I’ll take you both shopping next weekend. You needed to heal.”

“Let’s just go back to work. You get to be on the conference call though, ok?”

Young stumbled back a few steps as his knight, Sir Leon, brought down another heavy blow of his sword. The knight was relentless, driving his squire further and further back. When Young’s heel clipped the large stone wall behind him he cried out for a hold. The knight sighed heavily and dropped his sword arm to his side.

“I don’t get it.” The knight said. “Your brother is ferocious. He’s one of the greatest warriors I have ever seen. He and his little band of Dragon brothers can bring enemies to their knees. You’re almost as strong, just as fast and you’re not a small lad. You’re a massive Dragon. Why are you so terrified to fight back?”

Young shrugged. His shaggy dark hair fell into his eyes. “Sir Leon, how many Fairytales have you read?”

“All of them,” the knight answered gruffly.

“And when a Dragon faces a knight, what usually happens to the Dragon?” Young smiled broadly, exposing a row of perfectly white teeth.

“The knight slays the Dragon… Oh, I see your point.” The knight looked uncomfortable. “Those were not REAL Dragons, or if they were, they were evil.”

Young shook his head. “Now imagine being a Dragon growing up on those stories. Everyone hates us. Everyone is afraid of us. People are always trying to kill us. If it were up to me, I would stay in Human form and devote my life to being a bard and wenching every night.” He smiled.

Sir Leon clapped a hand on his shoulder. “I understand your fear, my boy, but your brother didn’t send you to me so that I could teach you barding and wenching. He sent you here so that you would learn how to keep yourself alive.”

A sly smile grew across Young’s face. “If I prove to you I can fight, will you let me learn barding and wenching… and not tell my brother?”

Leon’s gaze narrowed. “I doubt you really need to learn wenching. I’ve seen the way the kitchen maids chase after you. BUT if you keep improving your fighting and other chivalry duties I will let you slip away from time to time to go hang out with the tavern riffraff. First I need to know you could handle yourself, though.”

Young started nodding, immediately agreeing to whatever terms the old knight set forth.

Practice raged on for several more hours. To end the day Young and his squire-brother Boht were chosen to square off. Boht was a big lout, half Troll and half Elf. Nobody wanted to ask how his parents had ended up together. The only things for sure were that now there was a big blue Elf with a very nasty underbite.

Boht LOVED to fight and this was the first time ever he had been allowed to face off against the Dragon. The two clashed swords in a loud fury that sent sharp noises across the practice yard. Boht had heard about the ferocity, strength and speed of Dragons. Now that he was meeting Young in combat, he knew they had been greatly exaggerated. With one last thrust Boht pierced Young’s shirt.

Young grabbed his side, screaming in agony, and fell to the ground. Boht and Sir Leon both rushed to kneel at his side. It was quickly evident that while the Dragon lay still as death on the ground, the only thing that had happened was a new hole in his shirt.

“Damn it, Young!” swore Sir Leon.

Young grinned with his eyes still closed. “And you were worried I couldn’t be a bard.”

Boht stared down at him, unsure what to think. “Maybe I should eat him?” he offered to his knight.

Young’s eyes flew open. “No, no, that’s alright. Dragons are high in cholesterol.”

Sir Leon helped the lad back to his feet. “For the record, I didn’t say you couldn’t be a bard. I’m just not sure you would survive an actual bar fight.”

My phone vibrated on my desk at school. Trying to look nonchalant, I flipped it over to see if there was a text message waiting for me. I waited impatiently, anxious to see who it was from and what it was about.

When the bell rang and the herd of pint sized monsters rushed past my desk, I reached for my phone.

Oliver: Dinner tonight?

I wasted no time with my reply, already thinking about the tasty goodness that awaited. Oliver had cooked a very sweet dinner for me Monday night and the prospect of another was exciting.

Me: Sounds great!

Another moment passed and my phone vibrated to life again.

Oliver: I was thinking Italian. I know a great place in Gangnam. I’ll pick you up at 7. Does that work?

Without thinking I hit reply.

Me: Perfect, it’s a date!

I didn’t think much of it until I got the text back.

Oliver: Haha. Are you sure about that?

I blinked, confused at the text before going back and rereading what I had typed. Then I saw my error – I had called it a date. Suddenly I was consumed with worry. Am I leading him on? Will he be disappointed if I say it was a joke? Does it make me a bad person to fool with his emotions? Will I hurt his feelings if I say it’s not a date? Do I want it to be a date?

I was so consumed with my own thoughts I missed the bell ringing, signalling the start of the next class.

A small voice cleared its throat. “Teacher, will you teach today?”

My head shot up looking at the smiling faces of my students. I tossed my phone back into the desk drawer and focused on them. I did my best to forget about my small snafu and work on getting through my writing class. When the bell sounded again it marked the beginning of my prep period. I raced back to my desk, digging through the contents of the drawer until I found the very valuable smart phone.

Oliver: You’re too quiet. You’re either busy or don’t know. I’m going to go with busy.

Me: Yeah, sorry. Class started before I could reply. I’ll see you tonight.

Maybe if I didn’t answer the question he wouldn’t push the issue. The rest of the day went smoothly and my phone sat silently on my desk. When the click hit 5 pm I quickly packed up and headed for the door.

The subway ride took longer than I would have liked and the crosswalk lights were against me. When I got home I had about an hour before Oliver arrived. I rushed to take a shower then struggled with my clothing decisions. Where’s Kat when I need her? Her two chief jobs as my friend are to dress me and keep me entertained with her writing. With her at the North Pole, she was slacking on both. Finally I decided on a fitted blue shirt and my skinny jeans. I hoped since she helped pick them out, they would have made the cut.

After a short battle with my hair I considered makeup but gave into my normal response of “Lip gloss is makeup, right?”

I stopped myself. “This is Oliver. This isn’t a real date. He’s seen me in my pajamas and knows I talk in my sleep. Why am I getting so worked up?” I tried to calm my nerves by playing around with my iPad and petting Sheldon but I still felt nervous.

When there was a knock on my door I jumped up, startled, and raced towards it. I caught myself a few steps away and forced myself to walk the last few feet. As I pushed open the door I took a close look at the man standing there to greet me. He was dressed in designer jeans, a button down shirt that hugged him and a pair of converse sneakers. I stepped out of the way so he could come in.

Ducking through the door he looked at me and smiled. Nervously he shuffled from one foot to another. “You called this a date and I wasn’t expecting it to be one, but when you didn’t correct me I thought maybe you considered it one…” He was totally awkward and I felt the urge to coo at him like I would a small baby animal.

“Anyway, I would have brought flowers, but I thought this would be more like you.” He handed me a small package wrapped in green tissue paper.

“Chocolate?” I asked as I unwrapped it. When the paper fell away I was holding a small leatherbound book with gold Fae printing on it.

“It’s a book written by Pixies, on flowers and plants from their mother realm. I thought it was sort of like flowers but more personal…” He trailed off. “If you don’t like…” I held a hand up to stop him.

“Thank you.” I ran my hands over the cover and smiled. “It’s perfect.”

He seemed to breath a sigh of relief. “You may want to grab a light jacket. It’s sort of cool tonight and I have the top down.” I didn’t resist as he helped me shrug on a windbreaker then guided me towards the door with a hand to the small of my back.

Parked just outside the front door of my apartment building was a small two seat roadster, with the top down. “This is your car?” I asked absently.

“Yes.” He reached out and opened my door for me. I slid in without hesitation, sinking comfortably back into the smooth gray leather seats.

“It looks expensive,” I said without meaning to.

He shrugged sliding into his own seat beside me. “Expensive is relative.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”

He laughed. It was the first time I really noticed the deep, rich tone of his voice when he laughed.

We glided smoothly across the busy Seoul city streets. Neither of us spoke as he drove. I wasn’t sure what to say. If it wasn’t a date, it sure felt like one. If it was a date, I needed to re-evaluate my opinion of Oliver a bit.

Dinner was outstanding, but then I hadn’t really expected any less. I lost the battle and ended up giggling when Oliver ordered extra garlic for his soup. We tried food off of each others plates and the entire experience felt like a date.

When dinner was over we returned to my place. I glanced at the time as we pulled up. It was already 11. Where had the time gone?

Hopping out of the car Oliver came around, opened my door then walked me into my apartment building.

“Thank you for dinner,” I said while we stood just outside my door.

With a smile and a wave he batted it away. “Thank you for letting me take you out.”

Then the even more awkward moment happened. I leaned forward with the intention to give him a kiss goodnight out of habit for a date and he leaned for a friendly but cool hug. I sort of kissed his cheek and his hug felt a little wonky.

“Uh, well goodnight,” I said and tugged the door open and stepped into my apartment.

“Goodnight, and sweet dreams,” he said before turning to leave. I pulled the door shut and came face to face with the evil furball.

“How was your date?” he asked with a particularly wicked tone to his voice.

“It wasn’t a date,” I insisted as I began peeling out of my clothes and pulling on my pajamas.

Taking a seat on the couch I was picking up my iPod when there was a knock on the door. Curiously, I made my way back across the room and peeped through the hole in the door. Oliver was there. Tugging the door open I smiled, thinking maybe he forgot something or needed something. “Hey, what’s up?”

“I’m sorry, but if this was a date, there is something I need to know.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

Stepping into my doorway he reached out and tugged me against him. His free hand cupped my chin and he lowered his mouth to capture mine. His kiss was soft and timid at first but I found myself leaning into it. He responded by relaxing and deepening the kiss. He tasted spicy and his scent was a little intoxicating. He broke the kiss, leaning back against the door frame. He closed his eyes and rested his forhead against mine for a moment.

“I sorry,” he said in a whisper. “I figured I may never get a second date with you, and as such may never get the chance to kiss you goodnight again.” He stroked my chin with his thumb before letting go of me and stepping back.

I almost wobbled on my legs for a moment because they felt a little like jello under me. I nodded because I couldn’t find any words.

“Goodnight,” he said one last time before fleeing. This time when I closed the door, I locked it tightly.

Sheldon sat just a few feet away. “Not one word, furball, or I’m taking you to the vet for something.” I ignored  his chuckle as I stumbled to my bedroom.

 

Hey there Otherwolders,

It’s here! The cover for Book One in the Otherworld Realms Series!  PRACTICAL USES FOR PRINCES WITH POINTED EARS

Pre-sales start this week on Amazon and through other retailers. It also means we can open up one of those new pages up there that everyone is asking about. We’re so excited to share this story with you and look forward to many more.

Enjoy!

Love,

Isabelle (Author)

Lisa (Editor of Mayhem)

Book 1 in Otherworld Realms

Book 1 in Otherworld Realms

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