Jay smiled and rolled over on his side.
Maelin slept facing him. Her straight black hair spread in utter disarray all over the pillow.
He kissed her.
He kissed her again.
She opened her eyes. “Mmm. Jay.”
‘Mm?” She rubbed her eyes. “Is it morning already?”
“Just about.” He looked at her in wonder and love. “Is it really you? Am I dreaming this? Things can’t be this easy. I can’t really be this happy. You’re going to turn into Preyuna and—”
She rubbed her hands down his ribcage slowly and carefully as if she were counting his ribs.
“No. She wouldn’t know how to make me happy. She can’t even make one of her own kind happy.”
“Tell me about him. I see he means a lot to you.”
“I can’t help it. I don’t know where he came from or how he got dragged into this hellhole. He is a fey, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. But he’s different from the other fey I’ve met. He’s just this poor, sweet little urchin. Such stupid things make him happy. He appreciates every favor. He loves music.”
He laughed at the look on her face. “No. I’m not in love with him. I love and am madly in love with just you.” He turned serious. “But he has been hurt by Preyuna. I don’t know if it’s all psychological damage or if she’s physically injured him. I’ve been too scared to look.”
“My Jay? Scared?”
“She had him with her for five hours.”
Her face fell.
“And when he came back to me, he was so crushed and demoralized.”
She curled in close to Jay.
He pulled her in closer and kissed her head.
“You should check him.”
“I’m afraid to touch him. It will scare him.”
“Be gentle. Explain to him. Let him have control over the situation. Don’t touch him. Let him do all of the handling.”
“And if he’s hurt? What do I do?”
She kissed his lips. “I’ll handle that detail.” She kissed him again and again until he decided to join in.
She laughed out of sheer joy as his kisses left her lips and headed downwards.
Her Majesty can’t enter this room.
The monsters can’t enter this room.
Someone knocked on the door.
Isellta tightened his grip on his pillow.
They can’t come in.
I won’t let them in.
“Isellta. Open the door. It’s me. Jay.”
“Prove it. Prove to me you aren’t Queen Preyuna.”
There was a moment of silence.
“One plus one equals a German-made chapeau.”
Isellta frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Then, it can’t be Her Majesty. She would never say anything nonsensical like that. Not even in another form.
He carefully got out of bed and walked over to the door. He hesitated a moment before opening it.
Jay ruffled his hair. “You stayin’ out of trouble, kid?”
Isellta flapped his wings and hugged him. “Jay.”
He laughed, which made Isellta flap his wings even harder.
“Hey. I need to talk to you. Just you and me, okay?”
Isellta released him and tilted his head. “What’s wrong?”
“Let’s go back in the room. I’m not going to hurt you, okay? You know I won’t hurt you.”
Isellta nodded and retreated into the room.
Jay huffed out a nervous sigh. “Okay. I don’t know how to go about this, but it needs to be done. Hoo-boy. I don’t know how to say this without freaking you out.”
Isellta’s wings flattened against his back. “You said you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“I meant that. I’m worried about what Preyuna did to you. I want to make sure she didn’t injure you.”
Isellta returned to the bed and grabbed his pillow.
He shook his head.
Jay came over to him. “Hey. I’m not going to touch you. I promise I will not lay a single finger on you without your permission. I will let you do all of the handling. I’m just going to look.”
“It hurts.” he whispered.
“I know. That’s why I want to look. If you’re injured, I can help you. Or, to be more accurate, Maelin can help you.”
Isellta shivered. “I don’t want her to touch me.”
“I don’t think she will. So. Can I see?”
Isellta leaned his face against his pillow.
“Maelin can make it stop hurting?”
“I think so.”
Isellta squeezed his pillow extra hard before setting it down. He got off the bed and lowered his slacks.
Jay’s face went pale and his voice trembled as he directed the fey’s movements.
“Okay. It’s okay. I’m done. See? I didn’t touch you. Not even once. Not even…”
Isellta pulled up his slacks and returned to his pillow.
Jay left the room without saying another word.