Isellta frowned. “This isn’t the way to Jay’s room.”
Maelin smiled. “I know it isn’t. I wanted to show you something.”
He tried to pull his hand out of her grip.
“Don’t worry. You’ll like it.”
I’m alone with her.
I’m all alone.
I’m all alone!
What if she tries?
What if she’s just like Her Majesty?
What if she tries?
His wings flittered.
The monsters are here. I can feel them.
Standing just two small inches out of sight.
If I turn around fast enough, I’ll see them.
They’ll attack me.
They’ll tear my feathers.
They’ll break my wings.
His back muscles spasmed, causing his wings to bristle out.
“Isellta?” She let go of his hand.
He released a hard breath.
“Are you okay?”
“don’t touch me. please don’t touch me.”
“you’ll hurt me.”
She stopped walking.
He considered running away from her.
“Isellta. I don’t know what Preyuna did to you, but I will not do that to you.”
He looked at the wall on the other side of the hallway. “She said I could trust her. She said that…” He sniffled. “She said that no matter what she said or did, I could trust her. She has done nothing but betray my trust. She’s hurt me. She’s…”
He wanted to curl up and die as he remembered how she had grabbed him and squeezed him and pulled him. She had ignored his pained cries and kept trying and kept hurting.
His wings went flat against his back. “You’ll hurt me like that. I know it. I know. I can’t. I can’t. I shouldn’t. If I trust you, you’ll betray me. And it will hurt me so much more than her betrayal did. And. And and and and…”
Isellta could feel the monsters closing in on him, heavy with claws and fangs, ready to grab him and shred him.
He slunk down into a huddle and tried to hide his face.
I want to disappear.
I need to disappear.
“Isellta. I am not Preyuna.”
She knelt. “Isellta. I have a man that I love. My love and my body belong only to him. Only to my darling Jay. I swear that this is true. I have no hidden agendas. I have no desire for you and this is true. And this will always be true. Every day. Every night. Every moment always true.”
He raised his head.
She stood and held her hand out to him. “Will you trust me?”
He sat back on his feet.
Can I trust her?
Isellta saw in his mind how she smiled at Jay. How she touched him. How she kissed him. If she attacked me, Jay would be mad at her. She would be unhappy. “I can’t make any promises. Not right now.”
He took her hand.
“But I’ll try.”
She smiled and it was like a new dawn.
She helped him up and released his hand. “Come with me.”