She should have loved me? Momma? I can’t imagine her loving me like this.
Isellta pressed his face into the crook of Jay’s neck.
But what if she had?
But it wasn’t her fault. It was mine. I’m the one who didn’t turn out right. I’m the one who couldn’t pull his wings away because his body didn’t develop right. It isn’t her fault.
Robin called me beautiful. Robin thinks that I am beautiful. I wonder why.
Isellta raised his head. “Jay? I want to try again. Help me up. I know this won’t be easy. I know I’ll just fall again. But I need to get stronger. I need to keep trying.”
“Okay, kid.” Jay released him and shifted from a kneel into a crouch. “I have a plan: I’m going to carry you back to bed.”
Isellta opened his mouth to object, but Jay kept talking.
“I’m going to remove your slacks and rub your legs down to help with circulation. Then, we’ll try to get you walking. Are you okay with that?”
Isellta glanced at Maelin. “Um.”
She smiled. “Don’t worry, angel. I’ll leave the room to give you some privacy.”
He sighed with very subtle relief. “If it will help me walk, I’m okay with that, Jay.”
“Good.” Jay stood and carefully guided Isellta up to his feet.
Panic stole Isellta’s breath as his legs started to wobble again.
Jay, however, didn’t give him a chance to fall. He swooped the fey into his arms, bridegroom-style, as if it were the easiest thing to do.
Isellta leaned his head against Jay’s shoulder.
Robin, I will run to you.
Maelin walked alongside Jay in silence.
If only I could use my healing magic to make Isellta stronger. But it doesn’t work like that. I can heal injuries, but I can’t build strength. Maybe I’d be able to do it if I were a full fey or a full peace dragon. But I’m only half of each.
Maelin thought about Preyuna’s illusion of the dragon she could have been.
She thought about her fey mother.
I wouldn’t trade her for all the magic in the world.
Jay carefully laid Isellta on the bed. “Are you sure you’re okay with me doing this?”
Isellta nodded. “I trust you.”
Maelin kissed the side of Jay’s face. “I’ll go take his tea cup back to the kitchen.”
Jay stood. “I’m sorry for taking over. I—”
“Sweetheart, don’t apologize. I’m just glad that we’re both able to help him.” She kissed him again. “So, you do your thing. I’ll be loitering in the hall. Just let me know when it’s safe to come in.”
Jay nodded. “Watch out for Preyuna and Mark Caten.”
She smiled. “Always.”
Isellta curled his hands into loose fists on either side of his head. He stared up at the ceiling as Jay talked to Maelin.
He won’t hurt me. I trust him. Jay would never do anything bad to me. I know him. I know he wouldn’t.
But if he did? What if he did? What if he touched me and grabbed me the way Preyuna did? What would I do? Who would I run to? Who would hold me and comfort me if Jay hurt me?
But it doesn’t matter. I trust him. I know him. He cares about me more than he cares about himself. He would never treat me bad.
Jay and Maelin kissed one more time and she left the room.
“You sure you’re okay with this?” Jay asked. “If you aren’t, I need you to tell me. You don’t have to suffer and bear it.”
Isellta nodded. “I’m okay. I trust you, Jay.”
“If it scares you or makes you uncomfortable—”
“I will tell you.”
“Good. I’ll let you unzip your slacks and pull them down as far as you can go. I’ll take over from there. Okay?”