Jareth remained disturbingly quiet after rehearsal, and I didn’t dare engage him in any meaningless chit chat after what we had just shared together. I was certain he was mulling a few things over concerning his future and mine.
“You’ll allow her to choose or you will lose her forever.”
Ms. Vivian’s warning to him rang through my head, reminding me that a relationship between the two of us was at the very least complicated and at the very most completely impossible.
Choose what? Choose him? I would choose Jareth a thousand times over, but at what cost? What exactly would I be giving up? This world that I knew and loved? My dreams of becoming a professional ballerina? Just what was I willing to give up in order to be with Jareth?
Everything, I realized. For some reason, dancing with him had crystallized that knowledge into one irrefutable truth.
I could dance professionally for the rest of my life, but without Jareth, every moment would be meaningless.
I couldn’t begin to express how much that realization pissed me off. Suddenly furious at him for disrupting my life, weaseling his way into my heart, and then giving me no other choice but to love him above everything else that was important to me, I stopped walking long enough to turn and punch him as hard as I could in the arm.
He stepped back in utter shock and raised his hands to fend off another attack.
“Crysta, what in the world is the matter with you?”
“You,” I growled as I ducked under a defensive arm and nailed him in the stomach. The whoosh of air he let out was extremely satisfying. Since I couldn’t disappear into thin air like he could, I leveled him with one more thwack to the solar plexus and stormed off.
“Crysta,” he called after me, running to catch up, hardly even affected by my attack.
“You couldn’t just show up, do your job, and end me, could you?” I muttered. “Oh, no. You just had to satisfy your curiosity. Get to the bottom of our glowing skin, my crazy hair, and my actual parentage.” He grabbed my arm, but I shoved him off and kept power walking away. “You are wholly to blame for all of this, do you understand me?”
He grabbed my arm and spun me around, forcing me to face him.
“All of what?” he asked, clearly exasperated.
“This entire ordeal. This idea that I don’t belong here, in this world with these humans. The idea that I belong with you wherever you live and wherever you have a life and responsibilities. You’ve made me care about you and depend on you to the point that I feel as if I may stop breathing if I never see you again, but it’s not like we can have a long distance relationship between realms while you rule the faeries and I go on to professionally dance like one.” I stopped and ran my hand through my hair, tearing up and cursing myself for it. “I won’t give it up, Jareth. I don’t want to let go of everything I’ve worked so hard for, but the thought of losing you makes me want to lie down and never dance again.”
He gently lifted my chin and brushed a few stray tears from my cheeks. His kind eyes took in my distraught face and his concern for me deepened the faint lines surrounding his mouth and eyes.
“Do you love me, Crysta?” he asked.
“Yes.” I let out a ragged sob.
He crushed me to him in a warm embrace and used his magic to take us back to our apartment. When I brought my watery eyes to his, and saw the lock of his jaw and felt the intensity of his determination, I knew exactly what was coming.
My breath hitched as he pulled me closer and crushed his lips to my own, searing me with the most intense heat I’d ever experienced. I felt as if fire had consumed the whole of us, but never for one moment was I afraid of being burned. His lips explored the tender corners of my mouth and then gently massaged my bottom lip as I held tightly to him and matched his wonderful kisses with my own. I wasn’t afraid of Jareth, and I wasn’t afraid to love him, but I was desperately afraid to lose him. After a few more moments of intense kissing, we came up for air.
“Crysta? Does this mean you’ll come back home with me someday?” He lifted my chin with the curve of his finger and forced me to look him in the eye. His own eyes held questions, and I didn’t know what answers to give him. Then his eyes flicked upward and a huge smile spread across his lips.
His full smile made my knees go numb.
“What is it?”
“Proof. The kind of proof I was hoping might give you a little more faith in our future together. Proof that you and I are meant for one another, though I would have fought for you until my last breath whether this outcome had occurred or not.”
I gave him a questioning look.
“What proof are you talking about? Proof of what?”
“That we are fated for one another. You have a permanent mark on the right side of your temple now.” He leaned forward and softly kissed the mark.
I stepped away from his embrace and ran to the small mirror hanging above the desk against the wall. I stared long and hard at myself, not recognizing the young girl reflected before me. I hadn’t just received a strange mark on the side of my face—my whole being had transformed. My hair was the blinding white color I had worked so hard to cover, and my eyes appeared more slanted and frosty blue than ever before. I pulled my white hair behind my ears and stopped short. Gone were the surgically rounded tips I’d spent so much time saving for. They’d reverted back to their original pointy ends.
I might have felt frustrated that all my hard work in the pursuit of blending in was now a non-issue, but my strange “birth defects” no longer looked ugly or undesirable. I felt beautiful for the first time in my life.
I studied the mark on my temple. Two eternity symbols layered in gold overlapped and intersected with one another. The mark tingled slightly at my touch. I saw Jareth come up behind me and place his hands on my shoulders. The tenderness of his touch, the way his eyes sought mine and gave me a hopeful, almost pleading look made my legs go rubbery.
“Crysta, please say you’ll stay with me in the faerie realm once it is safe for you to do so.”
I studied the mark on my temple, my pointed ears and white hair, and realized that Jareth had accepted all of me. The before and after versions of me. I didn’t have to hide, change, or defend who I was, and I didn’t have to be ashamed of what I used to be.
“I’ll stay with you, Jareth,” I said.
He spun me around and pulled me to him, finding my lips with his and kissing me senseless. I nearly jumped out of my skin when a loud banging noise sounded to my left. Nuallan had apparated right next to us and plowed into the coffee table. I jumped in surprise and then narrowed my eyes into a killer glare.
“Nuallan, I need you to get on board with the concept of knocking,” I said.
“We don’t have time for that,” he replied. Then he really took me in and his harried look only intensified.
“It’s true. She’s your fated mate and one of the royals we thought murdered,” he rubbed his hands over his face. “This is very bad, Jareth.”
“What’s wrong?” Jareth asked.
“Your father knows I lied. He knows Crysta was never dealt with and that you never moved on to a new assignment. I don’t know how he found out, but he is definitely coming here.” He pointed to me. “Her life will be over when he does.”
There was heavy silence, punctuated by Jareth’s angered breathing.
“Nuallan, what exactly are you getting at?”
“Perhaps I can answer such a troubling question,” said a deep voice from behind us.
Jareth and I both turned to look at the door, where a slightly older version of Jareth stood. My faerie assassin came to attention in the presence of this rather imposing figure.
The older faerie gave him a somber nod. “Jareth, I became alarmed when you did not return to our realm within the time specified, but when Nuallan assured me you were simply eager to take on more and prove yourself,” he paused to give Nuallan a death glare, “I decided to allow you some space. Imagine my concern when I discovered your original target. Due to an unfortunate oversight amongst my leaders, you were given the task to kill someone you were never meant to have any contact with.” He paused to turn his hate-filled glare on me. “Ever. You were not meant to be here.” There was real fire in this old faerie’s eyes. I took a slight step backward as Jareth positioned himself in front of me.
“I demanded the assignment due to the nature of the target. I had no idea I was being sent to kill my future bride, and up until a few moments ago, I had no idea you were the one who ordered her death.”
The king laughed in derision. “We took great pains to exterminate all of the Tuadhe d’Anu family for this very reason. Our seer became aware of the eventual union when the princess was born, but uniting faeries from two different courts would have created a magical imbalance within the kingdom. Both of you cannot be king and queen over the Seely and Unseely Courts. They must remain separate and distinct.”
Jareth’s look of displeasure intensified. I was happy to not be on the receiving end of his righteous wrath. His comment to his father came out controlled, almost polite.
“It was quite sloppy of you, letting her get away.”
The king flicked his hand in annoyance.
“You will hand her over to me and leave the human realm immediately.”
Jareth shook his head. “If we are fated for one another then the outcome of our union will not end in chaos. You’ll not consider giving this union a chance? It is clearly fated. The marks are not something that can be faked. There must be a reason for this.”
“The only way for that to occur is for you to give up your birthright to the throne, step down, and allow your younger brother to take your place. But that would mean giving up everything. It would mean ruling the Unseely Court. And neither you nor this changeling know anything about the Unseely Court. Are you willing to give up everything you’ve worked so hard for, for this faerie?”
Jareth’s silence tore at my heart a little. I raised my eyes to his, but couldn’t get a handle on his thoughts, his face was void of emotion. I understood the choice he faced now, and I honestly didn’t expect him to pick me. That’s why his next words surprised me.
“Yes, I’m willing to give up my birthright”
His father sputtered in disbelief. “I can’t let you do that. I did everything I could to make certain you would never feel compelled to make such a destructive decision.”
“Father, I do not have to be king of the Seely Court to be happy, and Kheelan is more than capable of ruling in my stead.”
His father shook his head no.
“You said I had to be willing to give it all up, and I am. Perhaps that is part of the future the seer envisioned. Perhaps this is best.”
“I am king, and I know what is best. We’re not allowing the direction and fate of the Seely Court to be determined by a princess from the Unseely Court. Their only thought is for murder and conquest. They want to destroy us all.”
Jareth rolled his eyes as if this subject had been brought up between them repeatedly and was one they never agreed upon.
“Paranoia, Father. You turned into everything you fear when you ordered Crysta’s assassination.”
“I won’t allow it.”
“We’ve already exchanged our marks. Half the ceremony has been completed. This cannot be reversed.”
“It can if she’s dead.”
Jareth’s eyes narrowed and his nostrils flared as he gritted his teeth. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, though I sensed his temper reaching a breaking point.
“You are discussing the murder of the woman I love. Do you honestly think I’ll just stand by and let you kill her? Any of you?” He directed that last shot at Nuallan, who stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
I’d almost forgotten he was there.
“I didn’t murder an entire faerie bloodline only to be thwarted by a silly Fae tradition,” his father continued.
“Fated mates have nothing to do with tradition.”
“You cannot abdicate the throne, and she cannot live so long as you have feelings for her.”
Jareth stared at his father for a few moments and then looked at me, communicating something so profound and deep, I failed to grasp it until it was too late.
“Then I’m afraid you have given me no choice, Father.” Jareth stood taller, withdrew his dagger from its sheath at his waist, and began tracing a small, thin cut across the length of his right palm. “By the gods of our forefathers and the first faeries of our realm—”
“Jareth, you will stop this at once,” the king thundered, but his son paid him little heed. The king began to move toward us, but Jareth murmured some incantation and threw his left hand up, blocking his father’s advance. “Consider the consequences!”
“We must do this quickly.” Jareth turned to me. “I denounce my birthright and position in the Seely Court of faeries, and seal my life, my soul, and my essence with this winter faerie, Princess Crystiana Tuadhe d’Anu, and by so doing, relinquish any and all claims to the rule and reign of the Seely Court forever.” He quickly slashed the palm of my hand, making me squeal in surprise. Then he placed his bleeding one in mine. “Crysta, repeat after me.”
I stared at the blood seeping from the sides of our joined palms. Too stunned to protest, I repeated the words he gave me. “I seal my life, my soul, and my essence with this summer faerie, Prince Jareth Tuatha d’Dannan.”
Jareth ignored the ravings of his father. He only had eyes for me. “This union is now permanent and can never be undone.” White light exploded between us and then enveloped us completely. I felt a strange tingle encompass the whole of me. Not just my physical being, but my soul felt as if it was shedding its outer layer and becoming one with something better, something greater than myself.
When the light finally dimmed and my eyes adjusted to the change, Jareth and I still stood in the middle of my living room with a sputtering Nuallan and an enraged Fae monarch.
In a gravelly voice the king said, “The repercussions of these actions will effect an entire kingdom.”
Jareth inhaled a fortifying breath and gave his father a cold look. “Just your kingdom, Father. Just yours.”
“I will find a way to undo what you’ve done, my son.” His murderous eyes captured mine. Their pupils contracted and thinned into a dark line. I shivered at the malevolence they radiated. “And when I do, this insignificant faerie will most certainly die.”
His frame flickered before us and then vanished out of sight. I stared at the space the king vacated and wondered if I would ever feel safe in this apartment again.
“How could you do this, Jareth? Why would you do this?” Nuallan said in a grave voice.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“You mean besides giving up his right to the throne?” Nuallan shouted. “Jareth, are you insane?”
I shook my head in disbelief.
“Jareth, you gave up a kingdom for me.”
He shrugged his shoulders as if his selfless sacrifice on my behalf hadn’t been enormous. “I’d give up much more to keep you safe.”
“I love you, Crysta. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”
I blinked several tears and buried my face against his chest.
“I think I’m starting to.”
“While this is all very moving, it still doesn’t solve anything. That damned spell you just cast complicates things considerably,” Nuallan continued.
I raised my eyes to Jareth’s. “What spell? What exactly did you do?”
Jareth appeared agitated as if I might not like his answer.
“I tied my soul to yours.”
“You did more than that,” Nuallan said. He turned to me, worry creasing his brow. “Your souls are linked now.”
“What, like a marriage?” I asked in disbelief.
“It goes beyond marriage, Crysta,” Jareth said. “Because faeries live forever, it is sometimes unbearable for one spouse to continue on for eternity without the other. Though we are immortal, there are still ways we can be killed. In some situations couples will bind their souls together so that if one faerie dies, then the other soon follows.”
I gaped at him in disbelief. “You outmaneuvered your father. If he succeeds in killing me, he kills you too. You’ve put your life in danger for my sake.”
Jareth took my hand in his and brought it to his lips. “While it’s nice to pretend that what I did was brave and selfless, in reality, I know my father will never make another attempt on your life while I’m linked to you. I haven’t risked my life anymore than I usually do, Crysta, but I have managed to ensure that no one will endanger yours ever again.”
“And if your father makes good on his threat to undo the spell linking the two of you, what then?”
Jareth leveled a harsh look at Nuallan.
“It is impossible to reverse this.”
“Impossible once the two of you are married. Without the marriage ceremony strengthening the link, there is a way to undo it.”
Jareth shook his head in denial, but I wanted to know exactly what the risks were for both of us.
“How can it be undone?” I asked.
Nuallan shuddered. “One of you must renounce your commitment to the other, deny your love, and…and…”
“…willingly perform a counter-spell that severs the link, cutting our souls in two,” Jareth finished. “It’s incredibly painful.”
I looked between the two of them, waiting for a far more treacherous answer. When none was forthcoming, I gave Jareth a reassuring smile.
“That means the ball’s in our court.” I stated.
“Jareth, do translate,” Nuallan said.
I impatiently continued. “If the spell can only be reversed by one of us then it will never happen. I have no intention of ever denying my love for you.”
Jareth’s somber look lightened considerably, but his eyes were still tinged with a heavy sadness.
“Unfortunately, Crysta, it may be possible for my father to find a way to compel or coerce you into severing the link. One simple mind control spell would force you to do anything the spell-caster wished.”
“You have to marry her as soon as possible,” Nuallan said. “It’s the only way to tie up that weakness and make Crysta yours forever.”
I tensed at this. Marriage was a huge step for anyone, and I was only seventeen years old. I understood that this move might be the safest play in order to keep me safe, but did we really want to be forced into making such a huge commitment to one another to keep his father from killing me? Marrying for protection and safety didn’t sit well with me. I wasn’t human, I happened to be the current heir of the Unseely Court, I loved Jareth and he loved me, and now our souls were linked together.
If I died, he died.
It was too much.
Jareth placed his hands on my stiff shoulders and massaged them with his nimble fingers.
“For the record, I already want to marry you, so don’t go over-analyzing things by assuming my father has forced my hand.”
Dang. He knew me so well.
“Why can’t you be coerced into performing a counter-spell?” I asked.
Nuallan and Jareth both laughed at my question. I thought the reaction was a little inappropriate, considering the severity of the situation.
“Jareth is a powerful faerie with full command of his magic,” Nuallan said with a hint of pride. “There isn’t a faerie in the world capable of forcing him to do anything he would not wish.”
I nodded, understanding settling heavy in my gut.
“So I’m the weak link here.”
Jareth wrapped me in his arms and pulled me to him.
“I don’t want you to worry about this anymore. Do you understand me? You aren’t ready for marriage, and we’ve got an audition coming up that we need to prepare for.”
“Just like that? We’re not going to consider the danger you are in because of me? We’re not going to talk about the fact that you gave up an entire kingdom for me or what the repercussions are for you now?” I waited for him to communicate with me, but he glued his lips together in a taut, thin line. I turned to Nuallan. “Can he ever go back to the faerie realm?”
Nuallan looked at his prince, probably wondering if he dared risk giving me an answer, but my glare must have been a bit more motivating.
“He can return, Crysta, but why would he? He has nothing to return home to, and he cannot leave you weak and defenseless in this realm.”
Jareth’s sacrifice came into focus at that moment. He hadn’t just given up his kingdom. He’d given up his life, his friends, his family, his world, everything to ensure that I remained safe. He hadn’t planned on his father being the threat we fought against. He hadn’t planned on falling in love with me and then turning his back on everything else.
But he’d done it.
He’d done it for me.
“Nuallan, if I learned how to wield my magic would that protect me from another faerie’s compulsion?”
Nuallan studied me with a curious glint in his eye.
“Yes, of course, but the best way to do that is within the Fae realm. The magic there is more heightened. You would have greater access to your powers and more control as you learned to use them.”
“Crysta what are you thinking?” Jareth asked.
“You said my uncle would be very happy to learn that I am alive. You said he never wanted to rule the Unseely Court in the first place.”
Jareth’s monumental sacrifice on my behalf solidified my decision. He had given up everything to protect me, and I was more than willing to do the same for him.
“I hear there’s a position open in the Unseely Court. You wouldn’t be interested in ruling a kingdom with me, would you?”
Shock slackened the muscles in his jaw. His blue eyes widened in disbelief.
“You would do that? Give up your life here for me?”
“You’re my life, Jareth. And since we’ll both be living forever, I’m sure I’ll get another crack at professionally dancing in a century or two.” I held my hand out to him as an offering. “Are you gonna help me make things right? It seems to me the faeries might benefit from a king and queen who aren’t totally unhinged.”
Jareth took my hand and placed a gentle kiss upon my cheek. Then he took me in his arms and kissed me absolutely senseless before letting me come up for air.
“It would be my honor and privilege, sweet Crysta.”
I rested my head against his chest and reveled in the love and security I felt within his arms.
“Well, now that we’ve got that settled, there is one thing I want to make very clear before we leave,” I said.
“Under no circumstances will I ever refer to you as, Your Majesty.”
Jareth let out a soft chuckle and nestled my head just under his chin.
“You wouldn’t be my sweet Crysta if you did.”
Thank you so much for reading the first book in the Paranormal Misfits Series. Due to everyone’s enthusiastic support, My Fair Assassin is now a 2018 Author Academy Awards Finalist for Young Adult Fiction. If you would like to vote for My Fair Assassin as the Author Academy Awards Winner for YA Fiction just visit this link. https://authoracademyawards.com/finalists2018/
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