Jay felt like he’d been grabbed by a giant tidal wave and dragged from the shore. He couldn’t breathe. Everything sounded too loud and too fuzzy at the same time. He knelt. “What are you doing?” He wasn’t shouting at Isellta, but he felt like he was. “You can’t do this. You’re just starting to get better. You’re in no condition to….”
Isellta’s wings flattened against his back. “I’m sorry, Jay.” He struggled to stand.
Jay helped him up. “Isellta, please don’t do this. You deserve better.”
“So does Robin.” He looked Preyuna in the face. “Will you help me?”
Jay exchanged a desperate look with Hank as if the other guard could change Preyuna’s inevitable answer.
Hank shrugged helplessly.
Preyuna’s expression remained neutral. “When you say ‘I’m yours’, how do you mean that?”
Isellta’s wings flittered. “I mean that I surrender myself to you completely.”
“Completely…” Preyuna repeated thoughtfully.
Hank shook his head. “This is a horrible idea.”
“I know.” Isellta said. “But it’s all I have.”
Jay racked his brain for a solution. None came readily to mind. “Isellta. We can work this out. We can figure this out. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself again.”
“Robin was hurt because I did nothing to stop Olessa. I will not make that mistake again.” Isellta met Preyuna’s gaze. “Your Majesty, I am yours.”
Preyuna caressed his face. “I like the sounds of this offer.”
A handful of feathers fell from his wings.
Jay pushed her away. “Don’t you touch him.”
She laughed. “Oh, you simpery little idiot. He’s given himself to me. I haven’t stolen your lover away from you.”
“Isellta is not my lover.”
“Of course he isn’t. Why would he love a dirty wretch like you?”
“Jay isn’t a dirty wretch.” Isellta said.
“That would be a matter of opinion.” She smiled. “I need to go talk to Mark Caten now. Stay here, Isellta. Wait for me.”
“We’ll discuss Robin later.” She strode into Caten’s office. Hank hurried after her, leaving Isellta and Jay alone.
Isellta stared steadfastly at the wall.
Jay isn’t saying anything. He must be mad at me. I’ve disappointed him…just like I disappointed Her Majesty…just like I disappointed Momma. I’m stupid. I’m so incredibly stupid.
He anxiously twisted his fingers.
But what else was I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do?
Jay exhaled softly. “You know, there’s so many things I want to say, but I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“I’m sorry, Jay.”
“Look at me.”
Isellta shook his head. “You’re mad at me. I don’t want to see you mad at me. I don’t want to see how mad I…how….”
He said it so gently, so kindly, Isellta couldn’t resist. He turned to Jay and hugged him.
Jay hugged him. “Why didn’t you tell me you had this in mind?”
“I’m sorry, Jay. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“Shhh. I’ve got you, kid. Until she comes back, I got you.”