The Summer Of Light

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Chapter 14

The next morning they woke up many hours after the sun. Once again, they were off to a late start.

After getting a shower, brushing her teeth, and dressing, Annelise sat down on the bed and took out her dream journal as she waited for Dianna to finish her shower. It was already after eleven, but at least she and Athena were ready to go. If Dianna stuck to her normal morning routine, it would mean leaving at about noon. Still, she wasn’t too worried about it. They had more than enough wiggle room to make it to New San Francisco before the Seelie Lights. And they were having fun, which was the purpose for their trip in the first place.

Letting out a sigh as she tapped the bottom of her pen against the blank page of her journal, Annelise glanced around the room, taking in the unmade bed, the pea green wallpaper, the fake wood furniture, and the light pink rotary phone on the end table next to the bed. Athena, Percy, and Xander had gone to fuel up the van and get anything else they might need for the last leg of their trip, so she had the room to herself.

As she wrote down her dream, she couldn’t help but feel anxious about it. She’d reached the end of her dream journey at last. Soon, she’d know what it was all for. The fact that her dream journey had ended so close to them finally making it to New San Francisco wasn’t lost on her, either. Would she find the answers to her questions there? Would the Seelie Lights not only reveal what she was supposed to do with her life, but also the purpose of her dream journey too? She couldn’t say. And she still wasn’t sure if she was ready to find out. Yes, she wanted to know the answers to her questions, but those answers would also herald a change in her life. And like everyone else on the planet, change scared her.

She finished writing a few minutes later and replaced her journal in her bag. Then, with nothing else to do, she flipped on the TV, but wasn’t really in the mood to watch anything, so she turned it off again almost immediately. Sighing, she turned to the phone next to the bed. She hadn’t called home since Alexandria, and wondered how things were going back in Sunnyville. So she picked up the phone, and dialed her parents’ number.

She sat there, listening to it ring, glad that the line wasn’t busy, until her mother picked up.

“Hello?” Her mom said.

“Hi, mom. It’s Annelise,” she said, happy to hear her mother’s voice.

“Hi, honey! Hold on, I’ll get your father.”

Annelise could hear her yelling, and chuckled.

“Pick up the phone! It’s Annelise,” her mother yelled.

“What?” Her dad called back.

“It’s Annelise on the phone!”

“Hold on!”

There was a click as her father picked up the second line.

“Hi, Sugar Bear,” he said happily.

“Hi, dad.”

“How’s everything going? Are you having fun?”

“And have you been safe?” Her mother added.

“Yeah, we’ve been having fun. And we’ve also been staying safe, for the most part,” she answered.

“And what exactly does that mean?”

“Well Dianna almost ran over a family of gnomes, but they were really the ones in danger there. Since then everything has been fine. Other than when those Jello monsters tried to eat us.”

“There you go again, making fun of your poor, worried mother.”

To that, Annelise shrugged. Well, her mom could never claim that she’d lied to her.

“The point is that we’re all alive, and have all of our limbs. So you don’t need to worry,” Annelise said.

“Where are you now?” Her dad asked.

“A small town called Melody. We stopped to go to a fair they were having. It was a lot of fun. Before that we saw the Devil’s Tower, and Mt. Rushmore, and the world’s largest CD. And I saw a U.F.O..”

“You’re joking,” her dad said.

“Nope, I did. Last night at the fair was the most fun we’ve had yet, though. We danced for hours.”

“You danced with each other?” Her mom asked.

“Athena and I did for a little while. But then Dianna and Tyler left, so Athena danced with Percy and I danced with Xan-”

Realizing what she had just let slip to her parents, she froze in terror. She was pretty sure her mom wouldn’t react well when she found out that they’d spent the last few days with a bunch of boys.

“You danced with boys? Where did you meet them? And who are they?” Her mom asked, her voice rising

“They’re really nice, and respectful, and you would like them if you met them,” Annelise said hurriedly. “And they’re just friends, and when you think about it we’re probably a lot safer with them than we would be without them.”

“You didn’t answer any of my questions!” Her mother yelled.

At that moment, mercifully, the bathroom door opened, and Dianna walked out to use the sink.

“Sorry mom and dad, Dianna just got out of the bathroom so I have to go. Say hi to Grandma Emily for me. Love you, bye.”

“Do not hang up that-” Her mother began.

Before she could finish, Annelise did hang up the phone. Then she smacked herself on the head.

“Idiot!” She said to herself.

“What’s wrong with you?” Dianna asked.

“I called my parents. And they may or may not know about the guys now.”

“What?” Dianna exclaimed. “How’d that come up?”

“I was stupid. Sorry”

“Well, at least they can’t ground us while we’re all the way across the country,” Dianna said, finding the bright side.

“Tell me about it. That won’t help when we get back home, though.”

“By then hopefully they won’t be mad anymore, and it’ll be fine,” Dianna said as she applied her makeup.

“I sure hope so.”

Athena, Xander, and Percy returned about twenty minutes later, as Dianna was finishing getting ready.

“You’re not done yet?” Athena asked her.

“It’s been a while since we had a bathroom, okay?”

“Just try not to use up all the water in the west.”

“You should be more concerned by what Annie did while you were gone than my morning routine,” Dianna countered.

“Why? What did you do?” Athena asked, turning on Annelise.

“Wow. I’m right under the bus just like that,” Annelise commented, shaking her head.

“What did you do?” Athena reiterated.

“I may or may not have let slip about the guys when I called home a little while ago,” Annelise admitted.

“Oh. Is that all? No big deal,” Athena said with a shrug.

“That’s it?” Dianna asked, unable to believe that there hadn’t been more fireworks from Athena. “Our parents are going to freak out on us when we get back!”

“You said they wouldn’t!” Annelise replied.

“I was just trying to make you feel better!”

“My dad isn’t going to freak out. He trusts me to make good choices,” Athena said.

“Well what a little goody two shoes you are,” Dianna said.

“Thanks.”

“That wasn’t a compliment.”

“Sure it was,” Athena responded. “Now how long until you’re ready? I want to get out of here!”

It was another fifteen minutes before Dianna finished and was ready to go, so it wasn’t until after a quarter past noon that they were able to check out of the hotel and get back on the road.

In the wake of learning that Dianna and Tyler had finally kissed, no one wanted to ride with them. So they went in the car alone, while the other four took the van.

“Remember that all of us can see what you’re doing at any time,” Athena warned them before they left.

“Kinky,” Tyler remarked.

“Perv,” Dianna said, smacking his chest, though with a laugh.

That was enough to convince the others that they were making the right choice.

As Melody was so small, it only took them a few minutes to make it out of town. As they passed the site where the festival had been the night before, they were saddened to see that everything was in the process of being torn down and packed up.

“I hope I’ll be able to go to another one of those sometime,” Annelise wished out loud.

“I wouldn’t mind dancing with you some more, so count me in too,” Xander said.

“Anytime you want to dance, I’m game,” Annelise told him. “You’re a pretty great dancer.”

“Coming from you, that’s some high praise,” he replied.

Athena, hearing their conversation, was hit with the sudden urge to puke. She glanced back at the car in her mirror, wondering if that was the better choice after all, but knew it wasn’t when she saw the kissy face Dianna was making at Tyler.

Before long, as usual, the signs of mankind gradually lessened, until they were few and far between. Soon, other than the road and the occasional fence, all there was around them were more desolate desert ground.

Annelise loved that feeling of isolation and separation. She loved the quiet of the world away from the towns and people. Out there, in the wilds of the world, it didn’t matter what her mom thought of her dancing with a boy. It couldn’t effect her. Out there, she had no worries, or responsibilities. And she loved that.

“So are we headed to New San Francisco now, or are there going to be any more detours?” Percy asked.

“It depends on whether or not we find anything fun or interesting, I guess,” Annelise answered.

“Exactly right,” Athena agreed. “Either way, at the latest we’ll be there by tomorrow afternoon.”

“Good,” Percy said. “As fun as all this has been, I’m ready to get there already.”

“Well, it’s not about the destination, but the journey, right?” Xander asked rhetorically, glancing over at Annelise. “And this journey has been basically the best.”

“Yeah, it really has been,” Annelise agreed with a smile.

At about two, they passed through Jasperdale, where they’d planned on spending the night the day before. It was many times the size of Melody, but not really interesting enough to induce them to stop.

So they drove for hours more, until they came to the beginning of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The flat land became bumpier, the brown gave way to more green, and the increasing number of trees signaled the beginning of the great western forest.

At about five their stomachs began to growl. Just when they were about to grab some food from the back to eat, they saw what appeared to be another town about a mile to their left, off the main road.

“What’s that place?” Athena asked Annelise, who was navigating.

“I don’t know,” Annelise answered. “It’s not on the map.”

“That’s weird,” Xander remarked.

“Should we check it out?” Annelise asked.

“I don’t know guys. It might not be safe,” Percy replied.

“Well there aren’t any red circles around here,” Annelise said, checking the map again.

“I think we should check it out, then. At least to see what its deal is,” Xander said.

Everyone turned to Athena for the final word. As usual, the decision was left up to her.

“Let’s see what it is,” she said after a moment of thought. “If it’s not worth checking out we’ll just turn around.”

“Alright,” Percy accepted reluctantly.

A minute later they came to an offshoot of the main road heading to the mystery town. Percy turned onto it, and then they all stared out of the windows intently, waiting to catch sight or some clue that would tell them what they were headed towards.

What it turned out to be was a ghost town even smaller than Melody. The homes and other buildings made out of wood were collapsed, rotting, and covered in overgrowth. The buildings made out of brick and stone were holding up much better. While none were in pristine condition, most still had all four walls standing, and some even still had their roofs up. Still, they were little more than the bare bones of what they used to be, their interiors covered in rubble, plants, and dirt.

“We should stop here for dinner,” Annelise remarked.

“That’s a good idea,” Athena agreed.

“Seriously? There’s nothing here! And it definitely doesn’t look safe,” Percy dissented.

“It’ll be fine,” Annelise assured him.

“Yeah. Come on, man, pull over,” Xander said.

Despite still not liking the thought of stopping there, Percy obeyed. He’d been outvoted, after all.

“What are we doing?” Dianna asked, getting out of the car after they parked.

“Stopping in this awesome place for dinner,” Annelise answered.

“I feel like a bunch of evil kids are going to come out of these buildings with knives, and sacrifice us to their evil god,” Dianna remarked, looking around.

“Is that another one of your movies?” Athena asked.

“Yeah.”

“You watch really weird stuff,” Tyler remarked.

“Or awesome stuff, depending on how you look at it,” she replied.

“We should make the food you got last night,” Percy said to Tyler. “We can make a fire, and I have a little pan in the trunk of the car, somewhere.”

“Okay,” Tyler agreed.

Tyler went back to the car to fetch the basket, while Percy got the pan and necessary supplies to start a fire.

“This place is really cool,” Athena remarked as she walked around, taking in the buildings around them.

“Really? I thought you’d think it was dangerous, or we shouldn’t be here, or something,” Dianna replied.

“No, I said we should stop. And as long as we don’t go inside any of the buildings, or climb on them or anything, it should be fine.”

“How are we going to cook the eggs?” Tyler asked once Percy got a fire going.

“We could just scramble them,” Percy answered. “I do have the pan.”

“I’ll be fine without eggs, honestly,” Xander told them.

“I’m not really feeling eggs either,” Dianna agreed.

“Should we just scrap them?” Percy asked.

Everyone agreed that they should.

“We could make sandwiches with this other stuff, then,” Tyler proposed as he and Percy cut it all up with their pocket knives.

“Yeah. That would work perfectly,” Percy said.

“So you two are going to do the cooking?” Annelise asked, afraid of what might end up coming out of their pan.

“Don’t worry, they’re actually pretty good cooks. They’ll do a good job,” Xander assured her.

“If you say so,” she replied skeptically.

Together, Tyler and Percy whipped up some sandwiches using the bread, cheese, and meat. When all the components were together, they used the pan to toast the bread, until the cheese melted and oozed from the side, and the bread was crispy. The rest of the meat and cheese, meanwhile, they paired with the crackers to make smaller finger sandwiches.

“Okay, you guys did do a great job,” Annelise said when she took her first bite of her sandwich and found that it was delicious.

“This is really good,” Dianna added.

“Anything for you,” Tyler responded.

Everyone else rolled their eyes as they got back to their meal.

A half hour later they were all full from their delicious meal. All of the food in the basket, other than the eggs, that is, was completely gone.

Tyler lounged on the ground, quickly falling asleep. Dianna, who was resting her head against his chest, lay there contentedly as well. The others, meanwhile, all wanted to have a look around.

They casually made their way down the street, taking in the decrepit ruins, including a partially collapsed church. Through it all, one question reigned supreme in their minds.

“What do you think happened here?” Annelise asked. “Do you think everyone that lived here died in the virus?”

“I haven’t seen any bones,” Xander said, glancing into one of the ruined shops.

“Well a lot of the residents probably did die,” Athena answered. “But a lot of people migrated out of small communities like this while all that was going on. They thought there would be more help where there were more people, but all they got was more death.”

“That’s a really sad thought,” Annelise said.

“It could have been abandoned even before the virus,” Percy pointed out. “I don’t see furniture, or anything else that would indicate these houses were even lived in at all.”

“Either way, this place is really interesting,” Athena said walking up to an abandoned house that still had its front door attached. She grabbed the doorknob to pull the door open, only to have it fall off of its hinges.

“What do you think? Bring in the heavy equipment to tear this place down, or use charges to implode the buildings?” Percy asked her.

“What?” She asked, taken aback by the odd question.

“I think I’d go with charges, just because of the number of buildings that would need to come down,” Percy said.

“You’re really talking about tearing this place down?” Athena asked in disbelief.

“Of course. It needs to be, from my estimation.”

“Why can’t it just be left alone?” Athena asked. “We’re probably the first people to be here in decades.”

“That’s beside the point. It just isn’t safe or useful anymore, so it needs to come down.”

“Sure, I’ll give you that isn’t safe or useful anymore. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. This place isn’t just some raised branch of highway. Hundreds of people used to call this place home. It was important to them. And this kind of place should be important to us, too. It’s a piece of history. It’s an artifact, albeit an enormous one. It should be preserved. Taken care of.”

“None of that is really relevant,” Percy said with a shrug.

“It is in Chicago,” Athena retorted.

“Chicago could be salvaged. This place is too far gone. I mean, look at that load bearing beam in there. It’s rotting! And did you see what’s happening to the stonework in the other buildings? Between the elements, and the plants, it’s-”

That was all Annelise and Xander stuck around to hear before turning, and hurrying away. They didn’t want to listen to a lecture from Percy, and weren’t keen on standing there for another half hour while Athena and Percy debated the matter, either.

“Do you think they noticed we left?” Xander asked, not daring to look back.

“I doubt it. I don’t think they’d even notice a stampede of elephants behind them while they’re debating like that.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Xander said. “Once you get Percy started on something he cares about, it’s pretty much impossible to get him to stop.”

With that they fell silent, and just peacefully walked around, looking at everything they passed the same way they would have if they had been in a museum.

Inside, however, Xander was extremely nervous. That was the first time they’d been alone together since the night before, outside of their motel rooms. Privacy like that had been hard to find on their trip, which made it the perfect opportunity to tell her everything that he needed to tell her. Not only that he really did like her, but also everything else he needed to say as well.

The thought of doing that filled him with fear. He didn’t know how she’d react to any of it, much less if she actually felt the same way about him as he did about her. Yeah, Percy had said he thought she liked him, but girls was one of the few topics that Percy wasn’t exactly an expert on. Tyler was, though. Why hadn’t he thought to ask Tyler for his assessment of the situation? Oh yeah, because he was always too busy with Dianna.

And, even if she did like him, that didn’t mean that she’d take everything else he had to tell her well. The other stuff he had to tell her could very well change everything between them. Then again, it could also end up not mattering at all. He just didn’t know. Still, either way, it needed to be done. And he couldn’t put it off any longer. They had very little time until they made it to New San Francisco, after all. And there was no guarantee that he’d get another chance to do it like he had right then, right there.

“Hey Annelise,” he began, his heart feeling like it was going to beat out of his chest.

“Yeah?” She asked, looking up at him.

He opened his mouth to speak, to tell her everything, but before he had the chance to choke any of it out, they were interrupted.

“What’s up, guys?” Dianna asked, coming up behind them.

“What are you doing here, and not with Tyler?” Annelise asked.

“He’s still asleep and I was bored so I came to see what you guys were doing. And since Percy and Athena are fighting back there about some stupid building, I came to see what you two are up to.”

“Nothing much, I guess,” Xander said with a sigh.

“I’m sorry, Xander. What were you going to say?” Annelise asked.

“It can wait,” he answered, praying that he’d get another chance to do it before New San Francisco.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’s fine,” he lied.

“Hold up for a second,” Dianna said, stopping in her tracks.

Annelise and Xander obeyed, even though they had no clue why she wanted them to.

“Do you guys hear that, or is it just me?” Dianna asked.

No one said anything as they all listened intently for whatever Dianna was hearing. After a moment, Annelise heard a quiet ‘sssshhhhh’ sound. She wasn’t sure what it was at first, but then it dawned on her.

“It’s water,” she said.

Remembering her dream on the beach from the night before, Annelise stepped forward into the trees, towards the noise.

“What are you doing?” Dianna asked.

“I want to check it out,” Annelise answered as she disappeared past the tree line.

Xander and Dianna exchanged a quick look, before Dianna shrugged, and followed her friend into the forest.

“Okay then, I guess we’re doing this,” Xander said to himself. “Wait up!” He called out before hurrying after them.

Athena was sick of hearing about why every building was unsafe and needed torn down, and sick of Percy’s voice in general when they started walking back to the fire and Tyler. She didn’t know where the others had gone, but she wished that she was with them. She was fairly certain she’d literally scream if one more word about an equation came out of Percy’s mouth. And considering that she was already sick of hearing about the field she planned on going into, she had no idea how she was going to stand studying it for four years, especially if her classmates were anything like Percy.

As she’d said many times already, she didn’t like the thought of that little town being torn down. She liked it and wanted it to stand. She didn’t want it to be demolished. And she especially didn’t like the thought of tearing down places like that for a living, no matter how necessary someone determined it was. She didn’t want to tear stuff down for a living. When she died, she didn’t want people to look back on her life and only see the stuff that they didn’t have anymore because of her. She wanted people to be able to point to everything they had because of her that they wouldn’t otherwise. She wanted to leave the world richer than it was when she came into it.

It was with her head consumed by those thoughts that she and Percy got back to the fire and Tyler. Athena was dismayed to see that Dianna was gone, and both she and Percy were surprised to find Tyler awake and smiling widely. Considering that he and Percy were the two people in the world she least wanted to talk to, she had half a mind to go look for the others. But as she had no idea where they’d gone, she decided against it.

“Hey Tyler,” Percy greeted him simply.

“Hi!” Tyler replied brightly, grinning from ear to ear for no apparent reason.

“Hi,” Athena replied suspiciously.

“Hi!” He said back, as enthusiastically as he’d said it to Percy.

“How was your nap?” Percy asked, even though he wasn’t the least bit interested.

“It was great! It was the best nap I’ve ever had,” Tyler said, still smiling creepily.

“Are you okay?” Athena asked, getting unnerved by how he was acting.

“I’m great! I’m the best I’ve ever been!”

Athena and Percy exchanged a quick, puzzled look.

“You guys should sit down,” Tyler told them.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Percy asked.

“I’m great. I’m the best I’ve ever been! You guys should sit down.”

Athena and Percy exchanged another quick, unsure look.

“Let’s just go with it,” Athena said with a shrug.

So they sat down across from Tyler.

“Now what?” Athena asked him.

“Now you become the best you’ve ever been, like me,” Tyler answered, still grinning like the Cheshire cat.

Athena had no idea what he meant and was becoming increasingly alarmed, but didn’t get the chance to do anything about it. For before she could act, or even think, she felt a small pinch on the back of her neck and everything went black.

“How much further do you think it is?” Dianna asked Annelise as they continued walking.

“I don’t know, but it’s getting louder,” she answered.

“Why are you so intrigued by the sound of this water?” Xander asked.

“It’s nothing, just something I dreamed,” Annelise said.

“Not another dream,” Dianna moaned. “If we get taken captive by more of those troll things I will kill you myself.”

“That’s not going to happen. Now shut up,” Annelise ordered when it became clear that they were getting very close to the water.

A few seconds later the ground sloped down sharply before them. To their left there was a small river and a waterfall, which fed a pond at the bottom of the hill. A beaver dam blocked the other side of the pond, only allowing a small stream of water to flow out of it and out of sight.

From the cover of the trees at the top of the hill they reviewed the majestic sight below them. The water in the pond was bright, clear, and shining in the sun. Reeds covered the areas nearest the shores, and water lilies floated happily on the water. Ducks were swimming and cleaning their feathers there, and frogs, some resting on lily pads, some out of sight, croaked happily. It was a scene of absolute serenity and beauty. And it captivated Dianna and Xander.

Annelise, however, couldn’t help but be disappointed even though she told herself that of course the rush of water they heard didn’t come from the beach in her dream. That beach was by the ocean, after all, and they were still many miles away from the ocean. Still, despite her disappointment, even she had to admit that the pond was absolutely beautiful.

“You dreamed about this?” Xander asked her.

“No, not this pond. I dreamed about somewhere else. But I wasn’t sure, so I had to check,” Annelise replied as she snapped a picture of the scene below.

“Annie has a lot of weird dreams,” Dianna explained. “And she says a couple of them have come true.”

“They have come true,” Annelise contended.

“Wow. That’s…wow,” Xander said again, struggling for the right words.

“It’s fine if you don’t believe me. I know what I know, though,” Annelise said with a shrug.

“No, I believe you. And that’s really amazing,” Xander said.

Hearing that, Annelise couldn’t help but smile.

At that moment, though, bubbles came up from below to the surface of the pond, catching their attention. The water rippled and sloshed as a woman rose from below the water and to the surface. She floated on the water on her back, and then casually backstroked her way to the shore, before climbing out of the pond.

The woman was tall and slim, with pale, clear skin and long, flowing brown hair. She was wearing a long, loose fitting dress that didn’t even appear to be slightly wet, much less soaked from her swim, which covered her legs and feet entirely.

“Is she-” Dianna began.

“A fae? Yeah,” Annelise answered. “I can’t quite think of what kind, though.”

The woman fae, meanwhile, took a step closer to the base of the hill. Then she just stood there, her arms by her sides, and the palms of her hands facing out, towards the trio above.

To Annelise, it felt as if the fae wanted to make sure that they were seeing her. And while she was still drawing a blank as to what the woman was, she got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.

Then, as if able to sense the presence of humans, the fae looked up directly at the trio above her.

Her face was slim, with soft, perfectly symmetrical features. She had large, round eyes that were a striking, cold blue. For the first time they noticed that her skin had a slight radiance to it, giving off a gentle, almost angelic glow. Then, with a smile, she raised one of her hands and waved it at them, beckoning for them to come join her.

And with that, Annelise knew what she was.

“Xander, turn around!” She ordered frantically, covering his eyes with her hand.

“What?” He asked, turning his head away even though he didn’t understand. “What it is?

“What’s going on?” Dianna asked.

“She’s a glaistig! She enchants and ensnares men! When men see her they immediately fall in love with her, and then she drags them under the water and feasts on their blood until they die!” She explained.

“Well I don’t feel enchanted. And I’m not in love with her,” Xander said simply.

“But you looked at her,” Annelise pointed out.

“Guys, shouldn’t we, um, I don’t know, be running away?” Dianna asked, looking like she was about to no matter what they said.

“Glaistigs don’t chase people. They lure them,” Annelise answered.

“Still, you better let us know if she starts charging at us,” Xander said to Dianna.

“Will do,” Dianna nodded, staring at the glaistig with wide, terrified eyes.

“The enchantment should have worked. It always works. Unless…” Annelise pondered out loud before falling silent.

“Unless what?” Xander asked.

“Nothing. It didn’t work. That’s what matters,” Annelise said, though the look on her face seemed to indicate that she knew more than she’d said.

“Guys, I’d feel a lot better if we weren’t sitting here with some blood sucking monster standing there right in front of us!” Dianna said.

“Yeah. We should get out of here, just in case,” Xander agreed.

“In a minute,” Annelise said, raising her camera.

“Don’t mess with her!” Dianna exclaimed.

“I’m not! I’m not even using the flash! And stop worrying so much. She’s not going to attack us,” Annelise said before snapping a series of pictures.

“And you and Athena think I’m the dumb one,” Dianna remarked, throwing her hands in the air in frustration.

“If she wanted to kill us, she could have already Dianna. She wears such a long dress to hide her legs, which are deer legs. We wouldn’t be able to outrun her even if we tried,” Annelise revealed as she finished taking her pictures. “Okay, now let’s go,” she said to her friends.

With Xander, and especially Dianna, breathing sighs of relief to finally get out of there they turned, and left without another word.

Annelise, however, was still thinking about why the spell hadn’t worked on Xander. A glaistig’s enchantment was powerful, deadly, irresistible. It wasn’t something that could be fought, or beaten once it was cast upon someone. It demanded blood, and it always got it. It always got it, that is, unless the heart of the man the glaistig tried to enchant already belonged to another. That exception was only a theory; it was completely unproven and untested. But as the enchantment hadn’t worked on Xander, it was enough to convince Annelise that the theorized exception did actually exist.

Who did his heart belong to, though? Annelise couldn’t help but wonder. She knew what she wanted. She knew what she hoped. But she didn’t know, for sure, with whom his heart belonged. And it was that lack of knowledge, that doubt bouncing around her head, rather than the man-blood drinking glaistig, that filled Annelise with fear.

Xander, meanwhile, could tell that something was on Annelise’s mind. And he suspected that it had something to do with the glaistig and why the spell hadn’t worked on him. For he was certain that she knew why it hadn’t worked. She knew just about everything about every kind of fae, after all. Still, he decided not to press the matter just yet. At least not until they were alone again. She had a reason for not saying anything, after all. And he trusted her enough to believe that it was a good reason.

Dianna, meanwhile, wasn’t thinking about any of the nonsense Annelise and Xander were. Instead, she was wondering if Tyler would have thought that whatever the thing was they’d just seen was prettier than her. She thought that, that is, until she noticed Annelise and Xander glancing over at each other every once in a while, though never at the same time. Then, she wondered why they didn’t just tell each other how they felt about each other already. For it was clear to her that they both had feelings for the other.

So, each of them consumed with their own thoughts, they walked in silence until they made it out of the forest.

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