As I enter the smoke-filled arena, I search for Annabelle on the dance floor. As I move toward her I can’t stop thinking about the beast. Why is he in the Mortal Realm? Has he been looking for me, or is he truly running away from the Wicked Faerie? Father said they were still looking for Nicholas’ murderer, and all these years he was here, watching over me? A shiver runs up my spine.
“What do you think they see when they look at him?” I ask Annabelle.
“What? Who?” Annabelle follows my gaze off the dance floor. “Oh, Cole?”
“Can you believe that many mortal girls are hitting on him?” My nose scrunches and I fold my arms across my chest.
Shrugging, Annabelle says, “Who knows what he looks like to people without the gift of sight. He’d appear a regular guy I suppose, like the rest of us.”
“Tricking mortals because they are blind to see the real person, is not very ethical,” I mumble under my breath. “It makes me sick to watch.”
At that moment, his head jerks in my direction and I tense when his sapphire eyes lock on mine. Did he hear me? I don’t care if he did. His behavior is making a mockery of the Earth Elementals, as the Princess, I can not stand by and allow him to continue.
Storming off the dance floor, my feet carry me in his direction. When I near, he steps away from his harem to meet me.
“It’s not right what you’re doing.” I glare at him through my eyelashes.
“And what is that?” he asks.
“You’re dancing and flirting with those mortal girls–“
“What’s wrong with that?” he asks. “They’re my friends.”
Gritting my teeth, my nostrils flare.
Cole raises his eyebrows and tilts his head, “Are you jealous?”
A tall redhead makes her way between us. Wrapping her arm around his waist she turns over her shoulder and smirks at me. Rolling my eyes, I turn and head toward the bar.
Why does it bother me so much? We are in the mortal world and he is not trying to kill me–yet. Am I being too hard on him? Wait! No matter how charming he is, he still killed Nicholas and that is something I can never look past.
Lost in my thoughts, I gasp when strong hands grab my shoulder, shoving my back hard against the brick wall.
“Where do you think you’re going, little faerie?” the troll says.
“Do you know who I am?” I ask in my snidest tone. I am not in the mood for this.
“Of course we do,” his lips turn up into a smirk, and another troll reveals himself from the shadows behind him.
“Then you know it’s best you don’t hurt me,” I say. His forearm crosses my chest and he presses near my neck.
“Oh, if only the rules of Aleiwen also guided us in the Mortal World. I don’t fear your empty threats,” he whispers into my ear.
“Especially not tonight,” the second troll says. “Tonight, when the witching hour strikes, I will have all your power flow through me.”
My eyes widen and I take a sharp inhale of breath.
There’s a myth in Aleiwen that if a troll drinks the warm and fresh blood of a faerie, the troll will gain all the faerie’s magick. This is a story told to faerie children in order to scare us to stay in bed at night. Could it be true? Doesn’t matter. These trolls think it’s true.
“No,” I gasp. “You wouldn’t dare!” I slap at the rough hands that press against my flesh.
“We can and we will.” The first troll leans in close, breaking the barrier of my personal space and sniffs my hair.
“Stop this nonsense now!” I say, squirming against his hold.
“Yell all you want little princess, your siren friend can’t hear you over the music,” the troll says with a dirty grin.
“Leave me alone,” I say. Focusing my mind, I dig deep down into my soul, finding what little energy I have left.
“Are you trying to use your Faerie Magick?” the troll asks in a mocking tone.
“Don’t bother, we’re immune to your little mind games,” the other troll says and licks his lips. “Save your strength.”
My eyes search the crowded dance floor, looking for someone to help. The trolls wet tongue touches my cheek and a spark of my last remaining Faerie energy surges through the air, landing on the one person that can help–Cole, the hideous creature that killed Nicholas. But will he help?
Cole’s head snaps up and his deep sapphire eyes immediately find mine. His brows furrow into a dark and menacing grimace, and I watch him walk with purpose down the hall towards me.
“Step away from her,” Cole’s deep voice commands.
“Who’s gonna make me?” The troll asks without flinching. But he moves away from my face and grips my neck with his hand. The second troll remains lurking in the shadows behind Cole.
“I am,” Cole says and steps closer to the troll.
“Cole–” I whisper, but the troll tightens his grip around my neck and I choke on my words, gasping for air.
“Is that right?” the troll says. “We’ll see about that.” Licking my cheek one more time, he throws me aside and lunges for Cole.
Cole blocks his charge, but the second troll hammers on him from behind. The first troll wails on Cole from the front, as Cole is bent over. Both trolls tower over Cole. They grab him by his arms and forcing him down the hall. Cole stumbles through the back door and the trolls throw him out into the dark alley.
My heart pounds in my chest. Rubbing my neck to soothe the bruise that I know is already forming; my eyes dart around for help. Logan must be in the back because he isn’t at the bar and Annabelle is in the arms of yet another mortal guy. I guess it will be just me.
Taking a deep breath to steady my shaking hands, I hurry down the hall toward the back door.
As I push the heavy back door open, my anxious feet trip across the threshold and I stumble into the back alley. The cool night air rushes over my sweaty body, and a chill washes over me, causing shivers to run down my spine.
The two trolls are gone, but Cole is on the damp pavement. When our eyes meet, he drags himself behind the overflowing forest green dumpster.
Rushing to him, my eyes adjust to the dark and the moonlight reveals his bloody and battered body.
“After everything I said to you, why did you help me?” I ask and kneel beside him.
“You’ll always be my faerie princess,” he says with a boyish grin.
“Why didn’t you fight back?” I wipe the blood from the corners of his mouth. It tears my heart apart seeing him in such pain. As awful as I thought he was, he saved my life.
“Who says I didn’t?” he says and attempts a smile.
Raising my eyebrows, I ask, “Did you?”
He lets loose a long sigh. “No.”
“Look at you, you’re a mess. Why didn’t you at least defend yourself?”
Studying his body, I find a stab wound, deep in the flesh of his stomach.
“Someone once called me a hideous beast and nothing more than a coward and murderer,” he says with a cough, splattering more blood from his mouth, “I wanted to prove her wrong, and show her I am more.”
A tear runs down my cheek. It falls onto his chest and crystallizes, turning into a faerie stone.
When he hands it back to me, I lean into his extended palm and he strokes my cheek with his thumb.
“Don’t waste your tears on me,” he says. I watch his chest rise and fall, before hearing the sharp inhale of his last breath.
Collapsing onto his chest, the floodgates open and my tears spill onto his lifeless body. In the distance I hear a clock tower begin to strike 3:00 AM, marking the beginning of the Witching Hour.
Looking up into the clear night sky, the moon is full and bright, casting a silvery glow on the pile of faerie stones that now cover his chest. The stones begin to shimmer and dance, twirling into a shower of glitter and light.
My mouth drops open and I rub my watery eyes. “Cole?”
He’s no longer a beast laying in front of me, but my Nicholas, my childhood best friend, my prince charming.
“Hello love,” he whispers. Reaching up, he cups my cheek with his hand and flashes a smile that warms my startled heart.
“How can it be,” I whisper. I blink several times and then search his face. “But, you died.” My stomach flutters and a heat rises up my neck.
“The Wicked Faerie cursed me and turned me into that beast,” he says.
I nod and rub my temples. “But why would she curse you, when it is me–”
“The Wicked Faerie followed me that night and ordered me to give you a poisoned rose.” He takes a deep breath.
“When I refused, she cursed me. I tried to warn you, to tell you what happened, but before I could get near you, your guards almost captured me.”
My heart pounds and I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants. He leans in close and I focus on his sparkling sapphire eyes. Our noses brush against each other and my pulse quickness as his warm lips meet mine.
“Will you be mine?” he asks gently against my lips.
“I’ve always been yours,” I say.
A smile stains my face, this is my happily ever after.
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