A small groan passed my lips as my mind came to. I stretched as a peeled my eyes open. The glaring light caused me to snap my eyes shut and turn my head into my pillow. I turned my body away from the open window. The coolness of the sheets was welcoming against my warm chest. I quickly snapped my eyes open and looked down at myself.
My breasts were bare, my bra was gone. The only material on my body was my lace panties. I frowned as I looked at myself. I sat up, pulling the sheets over my chest as I looked around my room. My dress lay in a pile on the floor and my bra looked like it had been thrown across the floor. I moved from my bed and tossed on some clothes. I looked back at my bed, trying to remember the events that transpired last night.
I felt heat move through my body as I remembered what had happened with Rupert at the ball and then what we had done once we had gotten home. I ran my hand up my neck as I remembered the pleasure that had turned into pain. My skin was tender but no pain was felt at the touch of my hand.
I left my room and slowly made my way down the hall towards the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. My heart was racing in my chest as I thought about all of the ways my next conversation with Rupert would go. Would he finally accept the feelings that were clearly blooming between us? Would he pretend like nothing happened?
I turned on the kettle and looked out the window. The sun was shining, the trees swaying in the light breeze. The house was quiet, it left me wondering if Rupert was in his art studio. I frowned, not wanting to think about the numerous paintings of the woman who held his heart.
“What’s rolling through your brain?” I jumped at the sudden touch at my back.
I turned to look over my shoulder. Rupert stood behind me, his arm came up beside me. He pulled his own mug from the shelf and set it next to mine. I stood there looking at him with a look of surprise on my face. I opened and closed my mouth as I tried to find the right words.
“I’ll take tea too if you don’t mind.” He smiled down at me before he placed a soft kiss on my temple.
I turned to watch him as he moved out of the kitchen.
What the hell just happened?
I felt confused. He had come in and reacted to me in a way that I had never seen from him before. He was gentle, kind…affectionate. I turned back to the kettle that was now screaming to be removed from the stovetop. I poured our teas before I picked them up and moved down the hall to find Rupert.
I poked my head into the study, figuring that I would find him sitting in the chair by the large window. I was right. I stood in the doorway and looked at him. He was sitting in his favourite chair next to the large window with a book in his hands. His hair was a mess at the top of his head. It looked almost translucent in some places from the light that reflected off of it. His eyebrows were narrowed and his lips were in a tight line as he focused on the words in front of him.
I moved into the room, careful to move quietly so I didn’t disturb him. I set down his tea on the small that sat in between the two chairs. I sat down next to him, keeping my eyes on him. He glanced up at me and smiled.
“Thanks love.” He picked up his mug and took a small sip.
I looked down at his book for a moment before I looked back at him. “Can we talk.”
He shrugged. “Sure.”
“I think we should talk about last night,” I started. He closed his book and leaned back into his chair. “A lot happened between us, and to me and I just need to clear the air.” I looked down at my hands. “Why did you kiss me?”
He stayed quiet. He looked as if he was trying to figure out what the right words would be.
“I couldn’t help myself. T-This feeling of need just washed over me and the next thing I knew I was kissing you.” He shrugged as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Everything that happened last night happened for a reason, and I don’t regret any of it.”
I bit down at my bottom lip. “Why? Why now? You’ve spent so long trying to avoid me in any way other than being friends.”
He ran his hands over his face. “I’ve spent so much of my life searching for Ella.” I cringed at the sound of her name. “When you came into this world there was always something about you that I couldn’t forget. Something about you kept me questioning whether or not Ella was really my mate. Human and fey relationships are rare but they happen.” He picked up his mug.
“I wanted to fight the feelings that were growing the more time we spent together. I spent so much time feeling like Ella was mine, my other half and then you came in and had me questioning everything. I thought maybe if I was distant and rude that you would learn to hate me and the feelings that were obviously growing would subside.”
“But that obviously didn’t work,” I whispered as I looked down at my steaming cup of tea.
“No,” He let out a small laugh. “Obviously not. I tried to make things right after how I saw how much I hurt you. Things were awkward after I gave a half-ass apology in my studio. Then last night at the ball, I saw you and Nix come into the ballroom together and…” He sighed. “And I couldn’t stop looking at you. You looked happy, beautiful. The dress she made for you took my breath away. I wasn’t the only one that felt that way either. I saw how some of the other men were looking at you and I wanted to hit them.” He laughed. “I wanted to walk right up to you and kiss you right there. I wanted everyone to know that you were mine.” He smiled as he shook his head.
“When I saw you go into the portrait hall, I knew that was my chance to talk to you, to be honest. When I saw you fall, I was still so far away from you. All I could think about at that moment was your head hitting the ground. T-This feeling, I can’t even describe what it was like, came out of nowhere and then the next thing I knew I was glowing, you were glowing and then I was kissing you. I couldn’t stop, once I started I couldn’t stop. I felt like I was glued to you like I need to feel every inch of you. I felt like a drug addict and you were my heroin. I couldn’t get enough of you.”
“I get it. Once you kissed me my mind went blank I couldn’t think about anything else but you.” I blushed.
“Once we stopped kissing I just remember feeling so overwhelmed. My mind was spinning. I needed to clear my head, I needed things to be normal for just a second to I could understand what all of this meant. So I left, and I realize now that it wasn’t right for me to leave you like that.”
“You were gone for a while. I got cornered by Valerian looking for you.”
“I could feel your anger, and fear when you were with the Nix speaking with Grace. I don’t know how, I don’t know why I could feel that. I just felt like I needed to find you, that something was wrong. Clearly, it was. The second you got away from them you threw up.”
I looked away, embarrassed that he had seen me throw up.
“There’s just something about Valerian that doesn’t settle well inside me. He scares me. I can feel the anger and evil energy that surrounds him. It’s like a thick black cloud surrounds him when he’s near it’s like I can taste the acid that spills from him.”
“He’s not a good guy.” His voice was bitter. “Do you remember what happened last night once we got home? Like after we had already made it onto your bed.” He smiled. A small blush formed on my cheeks.
“Sorta…” I shrugged my shoulders. “I just remember us kissing and then being in a lot of pain before I blacked out.”
He nodded his head. “Me too. After kissing you things get a little fuzzy for me.”
I cleared my throat. “So where does this leave us now?”
“Where do you want this to be?” He asked, instead of answering my question.
I looked over his shoulder before I glanced back over at him. “I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing where this goes.”
“Good.” He smiled before he stood up from the chair. “That’s what I was hoping you’d say.” He leaned down and kissed me before he took my, now empty mug, from my hands and headed back to the kitchen.
“There’s something that’s been on my mind,” I said as I looked up at the cluster of stars that twinkled in the night sky.
“What’s that?” His voice was soft next to my ear.
“There’s something that just doesn’t feel right about the King and Queen.” I wrapped my arms around my legs and made myself more comfortable on the blanket that Rupert had laid out for us.
“Why do you say that? The King and Queen are good people.” His voice came out defensive.
I turned to look over at him. He was frowning, worried about what I might say next.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I know they’re good people. They’re lovely, really. It’s just the fact that when we were speaking it almost seemed like she was going to introduce me as her daughter.” I shook my head. “Which doesn’t make any sense.” I ran my hand through my hair as I thought about how crazy it sounded now that I was saying it out loud.
Rupert was quiet for a moment. He gazed down at the pattern in the blanket while he took in what I had said.
“Well, you could be.” He looked at me. “Hear me out. You saw a Changeling ceremony that no normal human should be able to see. When you came through the gates the golden magic was drawn to you. I have never seen it react like that to any new person walking through the gates.”
I thought about what he was saying. My theory didn’t make much sense to me, but the things Rupert was saying made me start to believe that maybe it wasn’t so crazy.
“Maybe…but if they knew I was their daughter why haven’t they said so? Why didn’t they bring me to them right away?” I asked. “If I really was their long lost daughter wouldn’t they be over the moon and trying to make up for lost time with me?” I shook my head. “That’s why this doesn’t make sense. If I was Grace I would have brought my daughter to the castle the second she stepped foot into my land. I’m not the lost princess.”
“There could be something that we’re missing, but the likely hood of you being the lost princess is pretty low. Maybe she wanted to introduce you as her daughter because you have red hair and green eyes like the princess. Maybe there’s something about your personality that reminds the Queen of her daughter.” Rupert shrugged his shoulders.
“That’s true. I feel like that’s more likely than me being the princess.” I said as I looked back up at the Milky Way that stood above us.
Looking at the night sky that was light up by the bright shining moon and twinkling stars helped me relax. The last few weeks with Rupert was a new experience for both of us. I could feel the way he sometimes would hold himself back. A part of him was still attached to his life-mate, while the rest of him was ready to feel things for me. I understood his hesitation. I knew he wasn’t going to give himself to me completely overnight.
“So there’s been something I’ve been wanting to ask you.” I felt his fingers play with my hair that hung loose down my back.
I turned back and looked at him as I waited for him to continue.
“Nix doesn’t want me to involve you, but I think it’s something you’d be interested in being a part of.” I frowned as he spoke, not sure where he was leading with this. “In a few weeks, there will be a full moon, which means there will be a changeling ceremony.”
“You mean like the one I saw in the forest?” I wasn’t sure how to feel about the idea of being a part of the ceremony when I wasn’t a changeling like the rest of them.
“Exactly like that.” He smiled. “I feel like you’ve been here long enough that you should really see what we do. You know, actually, get an idea of who we are as fey but also as a community.”
I fiddled with my fingers while I thought about what he had said. Was I really ready to be a part of something that had fascinated, yet scared me the first time I had witnessed it?
“You don’t have to give me an answer tonight.” He jumped in as if he sensed my hesitation. “You’ve got lots of time to think about it.”
I turned and smiled at him. “Thank you, I’ll try to let you know soon,” I said.
“Come here.” He reached out and pulled me against him before he placed a soft kiss to the top of my head. I stretched my legs out and snuggled closer to his chest, thankful for his body heat on this cool night.
He fell back, taking me with him to lay across the thick blanket. I placed my head on his chest and wrapped my arm around his stomach. I could hear the soft beat of his heart next to my ear while the sounds of the night creatures buzzed off in the safety of the forest.