But I ain’t got any idea who this woman is and what she wants. Best to play it cool. “Who?”
“Isellta Mal Hoven of the Nor’eastern Woods. He is a young fey. Soft. Gentle. Overly sensitive.” She smiled. “Madly in love with you, Robin.”
He picked up his glass and licked the coarse sugar and salt combo off the rim. “Mmm. What makes you think I know him?”
“Because he knows you.”
He drank down the very last bit of blue alcohol at the bottom of the glass. “Yeah, that’s nice. But your description don’t tell me much. Like, what does he even look like?”
“I was hoping you’d ask.” She pulled out her phone and pressed a couple of buttons. “He looks like this.” She handed him the phone.
He looked down at the screen and his heart jumped.
Isellta sat on a couch. He leaned forward with his elbows resting on his knees and his hands loosely folded. He looked at the viewer. His head tilted. His mouth a serious line. His eyes were bright with curiosity. His wings were slightly flared out, maybe getting ready to flap.
Robin’s gaze traveled over the painted lines, over all of the small, perfectly caught details.
He looked at Isellta’s arms and imagined them hugging him. He imagined his lips kissing him. His legs trembled. “Where’d you take this picture? Where’s this from? What? Who did…Who…”
“I painted it.”
He looked up at her. “Who are you? How you know my Isellta? What…what…”
“I’ve been living under the same roof as him – Mark Caten’s home in Henspence. I have a profound weakness for one of the guards there and he happens to be very close to your Isellta. So, I get to see him every day.”
Robin looked down at Isellta’s expression.
She gets to see him every single day.
But what about me?
All I do is sit here and miss him and want him and…
“Isellta misses you.”
Those three words were like a physical blow to his gut. “He don’t miss me. He hates me. I ain’t any good to him. Look at me.” He raised his gaze to her face. “Look at me. I’m broken. Damaged. He’s fey. He don’t want damaged. He wants perfect lines and pretty stuff and I ain’t that. I ain’t that anymore.”
“You may think all of that is true, but, Robin, I see him every day. I know he loves you.”
He shook his head. “Ain’t possible.”
“He misses you.”
“Robin, he needs you.”
He bowed his head.
Isellta looked at him with calm curiosity.
That long, skinny body.
I want him.
I want him in my life.
I want him in my bed.
He sat back, stunned by that last thought. I don’t get how we can…do anything physical, but that’s what I want.
I want him like that.
If he’ll have me like that.
But he won’t.
“I ain’t what he wants.”
“Robin. I mean what I say. He loves you.”
“Then, why ain’t he here? Huh? I’ll tell you why. Because he’s playin’ games with me. Tryin’ to lure me back there just so he can slap me down again. I ain’t playin’ that game. I ain’t stupid.”
“You’re making a mistake.”
“I don’t care. I don’t wanna get hurt all over again.”
“He won’t hurt you.”
“He did before. He told me exactly what he thought about me. I ain’t innerested in hearin’ it. Tell him I ain’t innerested.”
Her mouth dropped open. “I can’t tell him that. It would crush him. You have no idea. You don’t know. Everything he’s been through. At least, come see him.”
“He’ll just hurt me.”
“If you don’t come, you will hurt him. Please, Robin.”
He shook his head.
She reclaimed her phone and made a couple of quick gestures on the screen. “I painted one more picture of him.”
She slid the phone back to him. “A picture of him and you.”
Robin looked down at the image on the screen.
Robin sat on a rolling grassy hill.
Isellta lay beside him – his head in Robin’s lap. The moonlight made his fair hair seem to glow. He smiled at Robin. His slender hand stretched on the vampire’s face.
Robin’s hand covered the fey’s hand.
They looked at each other with peace and contentment.
And Robin had the strangest feeling that he was looking into the future.
“Isellta had asked me to paint a picture of you being happy. This image appeared in my mind.”
It’s a leap of faith. I gotta close my eyes and jump. And hope I wind up in his arms.
If I’m wrong, I wind up with a stake in my heart.
“I don’t know.” He grabbed his hair. “Gaaah! I don’t know. I don’t. Just.” He shook his head. “Go away. Just go away.”
She laid her hand on the phone and slid it away.
And Robin felt like she’d pulled out his heart.
He started to reach for the phone, but he was too late. The phone was already on her side of the table.
She put it away and smiled at him. “Then, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“You stupid or somethin’? Already gave you my answer.”
“It was the wrong answer.” She winked at him and stood. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”