Silence fell on both sides of the line.
I have to betray him. That’s what it all boils down to.
And then what happens to this place, to my co-workers, to all of his servants?
What will happen to me?
Will I be able to find another job?
What if I can’t?
Where do I go?
Where do I turn?
“Jay.” Maelin’s voice calmed him down. “What are you thinking?”
“I don’t know, Mae. Speak to me. Tell me what to think. Tell me what to do. Tell me what is right.”
She hesitated. “Do you have to do anything? Does this fey really need your help?”
“Yes.” He said it without thought or hesitation. “Preyuna assaulted him. She hurt him.” His throat tightened. “That witch damaged him.”
“I need to help him, but at what cost, Mae? At what cost? What am I willing to destroy? What am I willing to burn? Just for this one young fey. What am I supposed to do?”
She didn’t respond.
“Mae? Are you still there? Mae?”
“Jay.” Her voice was so soft and gentle he wanted to embrace it. “I’ll take the first flight back. I’m coming home.”
Isellta sat against the wall outside of Jay’s room, quietly singing “Perhaps Love” to himself.
The lyrics tugged his thoughts to Robin.
As he had expected.
Robin. If I hadn’t run away, where would we be? Would you still be mean to me? Or would you look at me in that wonderful, soft way you did on the monitor?
A couple of servants walked past, talking and laughing.
Would you love me?
Would you know you love me?
A woman with sleek black hair stopped in front of him. She wore a robe similar to Mark’s guards, but it was cut to compliment a woman’s figure. “Hello, Isellta of the Nor’eastern Fields.”
He blinked quickly. “Eschia?”
She laughed. It sounded like summer heat and melted ice cream. Red and black spotted wings sprouted out of her back.
He stood. “Eschia, what are you doing here? Did the schie a kehn send you?”
“No. I am here with Lady Queen Preyuna. We are both waiting for the day that Mark Caten will release her. When that day comes, we will both return home – the Fey’s debt fully repayed.”
“What if he doesn’t release her?”
“She will have him killed. Of course. I’m surprised you even had to ask when the answer was so obvious.” She gave him a scrutinizing look over.
His wings flittered.
It’s as if she’s taking all of my clothes off.
Preyuna’s fingers moved fast but efficiently. One button after the other unbuttoned.
His heart pounded with uncertainty and fear.
“Lady Queen Preyuna told me about how you failed her.”
He shook his head. “I don’t want to speak of it.”
“You failed her and you rejected her.”
She did nothing to reassure him.
“I couldn’t help it.”
“You rejected her for someone who looks—” She turned into Robin. “—like this.”
Isellta gasped. “Robin.” He held out his hands.
His heart pounded, but this time there was no uncertainty. No fear. Just anticipation and joy.
Robin walked up to him.
Isellta’s wings fluttered in an ecstatic pattern.
Robin curled his fingers over the tops of Isellta’s fingers.
Isellta smiled and sank to his knees. “Robin.”
Robin’s fingers thinned and delicated as he transformed into Preyuna.
Isellta let out a half-scream and struggled to pull his hands out of her grip. “Let me go!” His breathing became a series of frightened gasps.
She released him.
He crumpled into a grovel. “Please. Don’t touch me.” His wings spasmed.
“So. It is true. Why? It doesn’t make sense.” said Eschia, once more in her true voice and form. “How could you prefer a human male over our queen?”
Isellta didn’t try to explain.
He couldn’t explain.
The door behind him opened. “Okay, Isellta. You can…What’s going on out here? What have you done to him, fey?”
“Get away from him.” He didn’t raise his voice at all, but there was a dagger’s sharpness to his tone.
Eschia left without saying another word.
“Hey.” Jay knelt beside him. “Isellta. You okay?”
Isellta sat up and twisted his fingers. “Will I ever be okay?”