Jay started to doze off in the rocker.
His phone rang.
He answered it before it could wake up Isellta. “Hello?
“Maelin.” He couldn’t help the feeling of relief. “What’s happening?”
“I found Robin. It was a lot easier than I’d expected it to be, but there is a catch.”
“Of course. What is it?”
“He doesn’t want to come back.”
Jay rose from the rocker. “What? Why?”
“He’s convinced that Isellta’s going to browbeat him.”
“But Isellta isn’t like that. He’s just a sweet kid.”
“He claims that Isellta did it before.”
Jay frowned. “That doesn’t make sense. Is he sure it wasn’t Preyuna?”
“He seems to believe that it was Isellta, but I feel like Preyuna was definitely involved.”
Isellta whimpered in his sleep.
Jay walked over to the sleeping fey and stroked his hair. “It’s okay, kid. I’m here.”
His whimpering died down.
“Mae, what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to stay here until I can change his mind. I can’t come back without him, Jay. Isellta wouldn’t understand.”
Jay shook his head. “No. He would understand and it would kill him. I’ll miss you.”
“But do what you have to do. Even if you have to knock him unconscious and carry him here in a bag.”
“No. Thank you for doing this for Isellta.”
“I’m not doing it just for Isellta. I see how you are with him. I know how much he means to you.”
“I love you, Mae.”
“I will always love you.”
He sat down on the bed. “I can’t wait till you come back.”
“I will come back, Jay. I promise.”
He frantically searched for the words to keep her on the line longer. Even just a little longer. “Mae. Maelin.”
Silence fell between them. Silence full of unspoken words and longing.
He closed his eyes and listened to her silence.
They said, “I love you.” at the same time.
“I’ll be home as soon as I can convince Robin to come with me.”
His chest hurt. “Do you think it will take a long time?”
“I don’t know, Jay. He’s surprisingly stubborn. Love you.”
“I love you, Mae.”
“Good night, Jay.”
She ended the call.
He hunched his shoulders and looked down at the silent phone.
“Robin.” Isellta tossed and turned, panting. “Robin. Rob…Robin…”
Jay patted Isellta’s leg, which startled him awake.
He sat up. “Robin?” He looked at the older man. “Jay? Is Robin here?”
Jay smiled. “Not yet.”
“Oh.” He twisted his fingers. “Do you think he will want to come back to me?”
Jay kept his smile on his face. “Why wouldn’t he?”
Isellta bowed his head.
“Hey.” Jay moved over to him and wrapped his arm around the fey’s shoulders. “Don’t get yourself all down. He will come.”
Isellta leaned his face against Jay’s chest.
“He will. You’ll see.”
And Maelin will come home.
Robin sat in the bar just a little longer before paying his bill and leaving.
He walked through the streets, quiet and alone.
He refused to think about anything, but Isellta slipped into his mind anyway.
And Robin saw his face.
So devoid of any cruelty.
Of any malice.
And Robin understood.
It ain’t his fault I ain’t goin’ back.
I don’t deserve him.
I ain’t never been nice to him.
Who knows why he even loves me?
If he loves me.
He deserves better.
He deserves someone who’ll make him laugh.
Someone who’ll love him like crazy.
I love him like crazy, but I ain’t enough. I’m all rough around the edges. I’m coarse and loud-mouthed and…
Up ahead, Raven escorted an overly willing woman into an alley.
What do I do?
Let him go?
It would be like lettin’ go of my own skin.
But if he can find someone better.
I need to see him.
If I’m gonna break up with him, I wanna do it all right. I don’t wanna play games with him. Leavin’ him guessin’ and wond’ring.
If I do it right enough, he’ll get it. He’ll understand.. He’ll see where I’m standin’ at. He’ll be okay.
Will I be okay?
All that matters is him bein’ happy.
He saw Isellta’s face in his mind.
I wanna be the someone he smiles at. I wanna be the one who makes his wings flap.
I wanna be the one he loves.
No one else.
I don’t want.
Robin imagined Isellta running into someone else’s arms.
He snarled. That ain’t what I want.
He should run to me.
I want him to run to me.
But he should be with someone who’d never slap him over nothin’.
That ain’t me.
He passed Raven’s alley and kept on walking.