“I need some air,” I yell over the blaring music to Annabelle. She nods and dances further into the center of the crowd.
As I walk off the dance floor someone grabs my arm and spins me around. The unexpected movement causes me to stumble and I fall into a hard chest.
“You’re into him, eh?” A tall blond haired mortal with emerald green eyes whispers in my ear.
“Who?” I ask, furrowing my brows and stepping away from him. Taking a closer look, I recognize him as one of Annabelle’s former boy toys. After Annabelle was done with him, he turned his unwanted affections toward me.
“Him.” The guy tilts his chin, motioning toward Cole.
“Cole?” My voice raises. “Oh no, not at all.”
The guy leans in close as he whispers into my ear, “I see the way you look at him, how you’ve been watching him all night.”
“A little bit of vomit just came up my throat thinking about that.” I dry-heave and step away from him once more. “I’m not interested in him like that. Cole is an acquaintance, that’s all.”
His eyes narrow and his smile curves into a mischievous smirk.
“You’re beautiful, did you know that?” He flashing his white teeth and twirls a piece of my hair between his fingers.
His other hand tugs at my hip, pulling me closer to him. My pulse quickens and my palms sweat. This drunk mortal is invading my comfort zone. This is exactly why I don’t go out. Why didn’t I just stay home?
“Let’s dance,” he says, pulling me check-to-check.
“I was just going to get some fresh air.” I attempt to pull away from him.
“Oh come on, let’s have some fun,” he says and tightens his grip on my forearm.
Glancing to the dance floor, Annabelle steps away from the crowd for a moment to give me two thumbs up. Taking a deep breath, I slow my pounding heart. Maybe one dance will be okay.
On the contrary. He misunderstands my signals and begins to kiss my neck.
Placing my hands on his chest I push him away, “Please stop.”
“You’re so pretty,” he says with slurred speech and leans in, aiming for my lips.
“No,” I turn my head and his lips brush my cheek. He grabs my chin, forcing his lips on mine.
“Leave her alone,” a familiar voice says, pulling us apart.
Stepping behind Cole, I shield myself from the mortal.
“We were just having a little fun,” the drunk mortal says.
“Fun time is over.” Cole takes my hand and escorts me off the dance floor.
I look at our interlocked fingers and meet Cole’s eyes, “Thank–" we separate as Cole stumbles forward when he’s pushed from behind.
“I wasn’t done talking to her,” the drunk mortal says, spitting at Cole.
Cole looks to me for my response and I nod.
“You’re done now,” Cole says.
The drunk mortal takes a swing and his fist meets Cole’s jaw with a loud crunch.
“I don’t want any trouble,” Cole says, palming his jaw.
“Too late, let’s finish this outside.” The drunk mortal motions toward the rear door.
Cole shakes his head but reluctantly follows the drunk mortal down the narrow hall, and I watch them exit through the back door into the alley.
My pulse quickens and I stand frozen. Looking over my shoulder to the dance floor, Annabelle is nowhere to be seen, and the bar is flooded with customers.
Balling my fists, I take a deep breath and race down the hallway. Pushing open the back door, my eyes grow wide as the scene unfolds before me.
“Stop!” I cringe when I see Cole’s fist collide with a very bloody face.
My effort is too late, Cole’s fist rises again and hits raw flesh, splattering blood through the air and the drunk mortal falls to the ground.
“What have you done?” I ask, running to the crumpled body of the mortal laying on the cold pavement.
My quivering hands check for a pulse and I let out a sigh when I find a weak heartbeat. Laying my hands on his chest, I look up into the night sky, my Faerie Magick is weak, and I hope I have enough for this last effort. I’ll recharge tonight during the witching hour.
Focusing on the mortal’s body laying still in front of me, a light glows from my fingertips and a warmth spreads over my palms. I envision his body before the fight, healed and whole. The bleeding stops and the cuts and bruises fade.
Standing up, I glare at Cole. “He’s a mortal, you could’ve killed him.” I know I should not be this upset with him, but Earth Elementals are raised to protect the mortals, not harm them.
Cole steps back, leaning against the brick wall and stares at me with glassy eyes.
“I was protecting you,” he says in a low, child-like voice.
Narrowing my eyes I ask, “Why do you think you need to protect me?”
Just then a black witch moth crosses our path, flying between us diverting our attention. Her wings flutter on the cool night breeze, and Cole’s skinny tongue glides out of his bloody lips, catching the moth as a goblin would do.
My eyes flutter as I remember another time when I saw a similar thing.
Stepping away from Cole, I say, “I remember you, I saw you that night outside my window. You’re the Wicked Faerie’s beast. You killed Nicolas!”
His eyes grow wide and the black witch moth falls from his mouth. “I never killed anyone.”
Glaring at him I say, “Hiding in the realm of mortals all these years, you’re nothing more than a murderer and a coward.”
“A murderer? No. The only person I ever tried to kill was myself, but you can see how that turned out,” he says pointing to his face.
“Why should I believe a monster like you?” I ask.
“Because you know me.” He presses his lips together and lowers his head.
“We just met, I don’t know you.”
He rubs the back of his neck and I watch his Adam’s apple move as he swallows. “I’ve watched over you these past fourteen years–”
The hair on the back of my neck pricks up, “You’re one of the Wicked Faerie’s spies!”
“No! I wanted no part in her web of lies,” he says, clenching his jaw. “That’s why I left Aleiwen.”
“Right. So what was your plan, to seduce me and then kill me? Taking my heart?”
Running his hand through his hair and grabbing the back of his neck, he says, “Is that what you think? That I’m twisted and cruel like the Wicked Faerie?”
"Terror made me cruel,” I say, taking another step away.
“Well said, Ms. Brontë,” he says, casting his eyes down in shame.
“I thought it appropriate,” I say. “And to think, I actually felt sorry for you.”
His eyes narrow. “What do you really see when you look at me?”
My nostrils flare and I cross my arms over my chest.
Taking a step closer to me, he growls and says, “Look at me!”
Shifting my weight I say, “When I look at you, all I see is a repulsive beast.”
He casts his eyes down studying his upturned palms, and his shoulders slump forward.
“You’re a disgrace to the Earth Elementals. Stay away from me,” I say through a clenched jaw.
Walking away from him, he whispers, “As you wish.”
I continue through the backdoor, not once looking back.