1 - love at first fright
Phaedra sat at the center of her small garden watering several of her blossoming flowers. A small cloud hovered over the bushels as tiny rain droplets nourished their stems. Her dark brown eyes lit up with joy as she saw the petals flutter in reaction to the droplets that sprinkled over them.
“She’s calling you.”
“She can wait,” Phaedra nonchalantly answered the tiny squeaky voice as she gently caressed the tulips. She smiled brightly as she enjoyed the velvety texture against her skin.
“She’ll tear her vocal cords if she keeps that up.”
“Please. Don’t give me any hope,” Phaedra smirked sarcastically.
“For the love of-” Phaedra rolled her eyes as she dropped her hands and the cloud slowly dissipated.
“The longer you make her wait, the more annoying she’ll be...”
Phaedra looked at her tiny sprite nestled on a flower next to her shoulder. A frustrated expression occupied her tiny malleable face.“I didn’t even think that was possible. Certainly wouldn’t want that now, would we, Fi,” Phaedra said rolling her eyes with a smirk.
She turned over and pushed herself up on her feet. Her sheer beautiful wings flapped gently behind her as the sun bouncing off of the thin membrane reflected the rainbow.
“Fix your dress,” Fiona reminded her.
“Yes, mother dearest,” Phaedra said sarcastically. She tugged and pulled at her blush-colored dress until it fell neatly down to her feet.
“I swear she’s like a banshee,” Phaedra muttered as she quickly headed out of the garden.
Phaedra quickened her pace though she was reluctant to get to her destination. She looked up at the large castle she called home. It was busy with what must have been hundreds of people frantically preparing for the evening’s highly anticipated festivities.
The Lords of Argon were coming.
And they were coming to claim a wife. Each.
Phaedra grabbed the sides of her dress until it lifted above her feet. She carefully walked up the long winding steps of her father’s castle.
“Excuse me, Lady Phaedra!”
“Lady Phaedra, please be careful!”
“Lady Phaedra, your wings!” someone said as one of her wings slapped him in the face.
“Eesh! Sorry!” Phaedra said trying to move out of the way of the workers carrying silverware, food, and wine in and out of the castle. She narrowed her wings to keep them from hitting anyone else.
“Always in the way...”
Phaedra turned around and saw one of the knights and her closest friend Archibald carrying a tray of fruit.
“Archibald!” she grinned. “Got you on food duty, do they?” she said reaching for a grape.
“Hey! Stop it!” Archibald said quickly moving the tray away from her. “Not until dinner tonight.”
“But, I’m starving now,” she whined.
“You can wait a few hours, Phae,” Archibald said with a raised brow.
“I’ll DIE by then!” she said dramatically. “I am your princess, Sir Archibald. Would you really let your princess die and whither away?” she said haughtily.
Archibald shook his head with a grin. “You can’t always pout and whine to get your way, Phae.”
“It works with my father,” she teased as she leaned up against him.
“Well, of course, it does. You’re his daughter.”
“And it works with you...” she winked at him. “Because you’re my best friend.” She reached behind his ear and made a beautiful rainbow-colored flower appear between her fingertips.
Archibald rolled his eyes. “Fine. One grape.”
“ONE GRAPE?!” she blurted. “Not even a mouse would be satisfied with that!”
“Fine, tw- PHAE!” Archibald snapped as Phaedra grabbed a whole bushel.
“Thank you! Love you! See you at tonight’s festivities,” she waved as she popped several grapes into her mouth.
Archibald shook his head with a chuckle.
Phaedra grabbed the hem of her dress again as she ran up the stairs. The screaming of her name became louder and louder the closer she got.
“I’m here, my lady!” Phaedra said quickly appearing in the large dressing room. Her 4 sisters, Illiana, Iris, Irene, and Isabelle were all gathered in the massive room. Two seamstresses helped each girl with their gowns.
A tall, woman with white pale skin, sharp green eyes, and long flowing blonde hair turned around and looked at Phaedra with disgust. But then... Lora was always disgusted with Phaedra.
“FINALLY! Why must you make me call you so- what is on your face?!” Lora scowled.
“It’s the juice from the grapes!” Fiona squeaked next to her.
“I got it, Fi. Shut up!” Phaedra whispered quietly as she quickly wiped her face.
Phaedra looked up as the tall woman approached her. The look of disgusted in Lora’s eyes made Phaedra want to cuss her out.
“Do you ever not look like a complete disgraceful mess?” Lora scoffed.
“It’s practically her default state,” Irene teased as the others snickered.
Phaedra rolled her eyes unamused.
“It is unbecoming of a princess to roll your eyes that way. And tuck in your wings!” Lora snapped.
No one made Phaedra miss her late mother more than Lora did. She was truly a cruel woman who seemed to have nothing but contempt for her.
She sincerely missed the days when she stayed with her mother in a small village of faerie folk. When the most she had to worry about was whether it would rain or if she’d have to create the small clouds herself to nourish her plants. Phaedra had lived with her mother for the majority of her childhood and into her teenage years. But her untimely passing from an illness that had claimed nearly all the faeries in her village is what led to Phaedra finally meeting her father, King Elyan.
Phaedra had never questioned the absence of a father in her life, for all families looked different. Some had two mothers. Some two fathers. Some had four. Some had none. She was content with just her mother whom she loved with every fiber in her being.
The fear of loneliness had invaded her when her mother passed. Until an entire royal brigade arrived at her empty cottage. A handsome brown-skinned older man draped in rubies and silk informed her with a grateful smile... that she was his daughter.
It took years for Phaedra to learn to not only trust but to love her father. Years of trying to understand why he had left her. Left her mother. Why he came for her at the moment instead of before? She wanted to hate him. For what he did.
But she couldn’t. Rather she loved him. He was a good man who took care of her and took the time to learn about her. He watched her blossom into a woman and become the princess she was always meant to be.
But despite how much she had grown to love him, she drew the line at tolerating his wife... and their many... many daughters.
Lora was unaccepting of Phaedra since the day Elyan brought her to their castle as a teenager. Her contempt for Phaedra only thickened as she became a woman.
Queen Lora and King Elyan’s daughters were considered to be among the most beautiful faeries in the land. They had their mother’s beautiful green eyes and tall, thin physique. Their hair, long and luscious, differentiated between straight and wavy. Their light beige skin and dainty, feminine wings made them the envy of the castle.
And Lora made it no secret that Phaedra absolutely was not her daughter. But literally... the black sheep of the family.
Phaedra tried to make nice with Lora and her daughters for the sake of her father. Only one sister seemed to treat her like a friend. Still... it wasn’t enough to keep Phaedra in the castle unless it was to sleep, bathe, and eat. And even then she had found ways to take care of herself in her own little garden.
“Must you stand there looking as dumb as a rock?” Lora scoffed.
Phaedra’s nostrils flared when she felt her sprite land on her shoulder.
“Nevermind her... don’t let her upset you again,” Fiona tried to comfort her.
“Seamstress,” Lora said snapping her fingers. “Help this one into something somewhat better than what she is wearing now. She will bring shame unto her father should the Lords of Argon see her like this.”
“If you can find anything that fits,” Isabelle grinned causing the others to laugh out loud.
“Must you be so rude,” Illiana snapped at them.
“Why is she even going? She’s not being married off,” Iris asked, fixing her hair in the mirror while two seamstresses fixed her hem.
“She is still her father’s daughter...” Lora sighed with reluctance as she fixed Irene’s hair.
Phaedra averted her eyes in frustration as one of the seamstresses grabbed her hand and led her to one of the tall mirrors. She was the eldest of her father’s daughters. No man had asked for her hand in marriage. Part of Elyan’s legacy as king was uniting kingdoms by marrying off his daughters to royalty. Three had already been taken. Tonight, two of the remaining four would be claimed as well.
But, Phaedra couldn’t care less. As long as she had her garden.
She stared at herself in the mirror as the seamstress tugged her dress from her body.
She could hear the others snickering and rolled her eyes as she tuned them out.
Phaedra loved her body. From her soft arms to her thick, lush thighs to her delicate round belly. She loved every inch of it. Her mother had taught her from the moment she was a young girl that she was beautiful. And Phaedra truly believed that, despite what the others said.
“How about this one?” one of the seamstresses asked Phaedra as she held up a light blue dress.
“It’s beautiful,” Phaedra smiled kindly.
“It won’t even fit her,” Iris scoffed.
“I created it specifically for her,” one of the seamstresses said annoyed.
Iris rolled her eyes. “Mother, I’m wearing blue. Tell her she can’t wear it.”
“Hell, you’re such a child,” Phaedra muttered.
“What was that, Phaedra?” Lora asked with a raised brow.
Phaedra turned around and plastered on a fake smile. “I said we can both wear blue, Iris. We’ll match,” she said as politely as possible.
“I don’t want to match with you,” Iris scoffed.
“My lady, the dresses aren’t even the same-” the seamstress tried to explain.
“Iris is wearing blue,” Lora said abruptly. “You can wear that one.”
Lora pointed to a plain brown dress hanging in the wardrobe. Phaedra shook her head and raised her eyes to the heavens.
“Of course, your majesty...” the seamstress said with disappointment in her voice.
“Come, girls. We’ll prepare for the feast while... Phaedra gets dressed,” Lora said pushing them to the door.
Illiana paused and walked over to Phaedra who was silently cursing to herself.
“Phae?” Illiana said softly.
Phaedra looked down at her suddenly and smiled. “Illi.”
“I’m sorry about her-”
“You need to stop apologizing for your mother,” Phaedra said. “I don’t blame you for how she is.”
Illiana frowned. “I just wish... she would stop.”
Phaedra rolled her eyes. “I’d have better chances of finding a husband,” she joked.
Illiana chuckled as Phaedra grinned. “Thank you for always checking up on me Illi... I’ll be okay. Promise,” Phaedra said reassuringly.
Illiana smiled at her sympathetically before she quickly left the room after her sisters.
Phaedra slipped on the brown dress. It did absolutely nothing for her physique. She tried to pull at the tight spots that clung uncomfortably to her body.
“Yea, I’m not wearing this,” Phaedra said tugging it down.
“But, Lady Phaedra. The queen-” the seamstress hesitated.
“Can suck my big toe,” Phaedra smiled at her. “I’m a grown woman. I’ll wear whatever the hell I want.”
The seamstress grinned. “The blue one?”
“Hmm,” Phaedra stood in just her undergarments, tapping her chin thoughtfully. She glanced at the gowns in the wardrobe. “I want something that shows off these lovely curves my mother blessed me with, but still makes me feel like the princess I am,” she said with a wink.
The seamstress beamed. “I know just the thing.” She disappeared into the wardrobe and reappeared with a golden gown that shimmered with movement.
“Hell. Yes,” Phaedra grinned.
The castle was abuzz with activity as the hour drew nigh for the arrival of the Lords of Argon. Excitement electrified the air as Lora and her daughters entered the large banquet hall.
“Look at my beautiful daughters,” Elyan said with pride. His massive wings fluttered with joy behind him. “You’re as beautiful as your mother.”
“My king,” Lora smiled brightly as she warmly embraced her husband. They shared a quick kiss before she moved to the side to show off her daughters. “Don’t they look absolutely stunning in these dresses? See how the hem matches their wings?”
“You did a wonderful job. As usual, my love,” Elyan smiled as he kissed his wife’s temple. He looked back at his daughters before his brows furrowed in confusion. “Where is my daughter?”
“They’re all here, Elyan,” Lora scoffed.
“Phaedra, Lora. Where is Phaedra?” Elyan clarified.
Lora rolled her eyes. “I don’t think she wants to be here. And we don’t have time to wait for her. They’ll be here soo-”
But before Lora finished her sentence, Phaedra walked into the large banquet hall wearing a light-golden dress that hugged her body beautifully and fell to her feet. Her massive wings fluttered behind her as all heads turned in her direction.
“Look at my princess!” Elyan said excitedly as he quickly approached his daughter.
Lora’s jaw tensed as she eyed Phaedra’s dress disapprovingly.
“You look absolutely gorgeous, Phaedra!” Elyan said taking her face between his hands.
“Thank you, father,” Phaedra smile at him as he walked her to the other side of the room. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled at Lora.“Phaedra,” Elyan said getting her attention.
“Yes, father,” she said looking at him.
“I want you to at least try to make nice with Lora,” he said.
Phaedra rolled her eyes. “Father-”
“Just for tonight,” he insisted. “For tonight is very important for us. For decades my dream has been to unite the kingdoms. Our union with the Lords of Argon will be sure to bring peace and protection for our people. For all faerie folk. It is an essential union for your sisters to make.”
Phaedra looked at him a bit perturbed. “... just my sisters...? Not... not me?”
Elyan sighed. “Phaedra-”
“So it is not only Lora who sees me as utterly disgusting and unfit for marriage but my own father?” Phaedra scoffed with disbelief.
“You know that is not what I mean,” Elyan said quickly. “Phaedra, I love you. With all my heart. You are ever so precious to me and any man would be lucky to have you.”
Phaedra twisted her mouth as she tried to accept his words.
“I only mentioned your sisters because Lora has been mentoring them for this very thing,” Elyan explained.
“Again... why am I left out of this picture? Why do you allow her to exclude me-”
“And why do you always take her side?” Phaedra persisted. “Why do you always come to her defense?”
“She is my wife, Phaedra,” Elyan said.
“And I’m your daughter,” she said a bit louder, garnering the attention of several in the banquet hall.
Phaedra’s wings fluttered frantically behind her. She looked down at the ground as she tried to calm her emotions.
“Phaedra,” Elyan said gently touching her shoulder. “You know how much I care about you. I only want what’s best for you. I want what’s best for all of us. Please, just...”
Phaedra looked up and met her father’s gaze. She hated that despite how much they loved each other... Lora was always the reason for their disagreements and contention.
She tried to put on her best smile. “I’ll behave,” she said with a teasing grin.
Elyan grinned as he gently kissed his daughter’s forehead. Phaedra watched her father head back to his wife, and her smile slowly fell.
“A princess shouldn’t frown.”
Phaedra jumped startled when she saw Archibald standing next to her.
“What’s wrong with you? Don’t sneak up on me like that!” she scolded him.
“My apologies,” Archibald grinned. “Are you ready for tonight? They’ve just arrived.”
“Have they?” she asked curiously.
“Are you hoping to be chosen?” Archibald asked.
Phaedra looked at him and scoffed.“Are you kidding me? Please. The sooner this is over, the sooner I can leave,” she said dismissively. “Now, where... is... the fooooooood,” she said looking around. “I’m starving.”
Archibald grinned as he handed her an apple.
“I knew there was a reason why I liked you,” she teased as she grabbed it from him.
Illiana stood on the other side of the room watching Phaedra and Knight Archibald laugh. She wished she could join them. She turned her head and looked at her sisters who were chattering like birds, gossiping about their guests.
“I hear they’re really handsome,” Isabelle said.
“That’s an understatement. I heard they look like gods,” Iris added. “And they’re extremely wealthy. Perhaps even wealthier than father.”
“Do you think they’ll make good lovers?” Irene giggled.
“All shapeshifters are,” Isabelle grinned. “Dangerous and passionate. Oh, I can’t wait!”
Illiana rolled her eyes. “How would any of you even know if they were good lovers or not? We’ve never even been with a man.”
“Well... one of us has,” Irene grinned mischievously at Iris.
“Irene! Hush!” Iris snapped at her. Illiana scoffed in annoyance.
Suddenly a loud horn blared that quieted the room.
“THE LORDS OF ARGON HAVE ARRIVED!” one of the knights announced.
Phaedra had never seen her sisters in such a tizzy.
And for what?
A rather handsome man...
She tried not to be obvious with the way she stared down Malachi. The rumors she had heard about how he looked certainly did not do him justice. His long dark blonde hair cascaded down his wide broad shoulders. The way his linen shirt clung to his muscular, toned physique had every woman and even some men in the banquet hall sweating.
“Why is father taking all of his time and attention?” Isabelle muttered impatiently.
“Calm yourself, Isabelle,” Iris said biting her lip. “...we have all night...”
“Why is he alone? Where is the other?” Irene asked.
Phaedra and Illiana exchanged glances as they rolled their eyes. She stayed silent as she watched her father speak to the handsome stranger.
“I can’t tell you how honored I am to have you here,” Elyan said standing in front of Malachi. “My kingdom has heavily anticipated your arrival for some time now. I hope we did not disappoint.”
Malachi glanced around the large banquet hall, taking in the decor, food, and people.
“It is... decent...” Malachi spoke in a deep, gravely voice.
Elyan smiled at the strange compliment. “Forgive me... I thought there would be two of you,” he inquired.
“Xander is... delayed. He will be here shortly thereafter...” Malachi said scanning the banquet hall.
Elyan found it curious the way Malachi seemed so intrigued by his surroundings. “Shapeshifters are not common around here. May I ask what prompted you to accept my invitation?”
Malachi’s eyes finally met Elyan’s. A small smile teased the corners of his lips.
“...you piqued our interest...”
“Well, aren’t we lucky!” Elyan smiled proudly. “Would you like me to introduce you to my daughters or should we wait for Lord Xan-”
“You may proceed,” Malachi cut him off.
The women quickly straightened their stance as they stood in a line waiting for their father to introduce them to their potential new husband.
“This is my wife, Queen Lora,” Elyan said as Lora walked up to them.
Lora politely curtsied and gave Malachi her best smile. “We are most excited to finally meet you.”
Elyan glanced over his shoulder and saw one of the knights giving him an anxious look.
“What is it?” Elyan asked a bit annoyed. “I’m rather busy with our guests.”
“It’s important, sire. It has to do with our security,” the knight insisted.
Elyan pouted when Lora touched his shoulder. “Go, dear. I will introduce Lord Malachi to his potential brides.”
Elyan looked at Malachi who nodded his approval. “If you’ll excuse me,” Elyan said before walking off with the knight.
Malachi watched Elyan walk off with the knight before Lora touched his hand. He looked down at the woman and raised a curious brow.
“I’m sure you’ve heard about our daughters,” she smiled charmingly. “Not only are they the most beautiful faeries in the land but they will make fantastic wives. Perfect for birthing healthy children.”
Malachi remained silent as he eyed the women standing in a line.
“This is my daughter Irene. She’s a musician who can play lovely music with over 35 instruments,” Lora said walking Malachi down the line. Irene politely curtsied.
“My daughter Isabelle is an artist who paints and sculpts and creates beautiful masterpieces,” Lora continued, walking down the line. “Illiana, my youngest, has the voice of an angel. The children of our kingdom are constantly begging her to sing them a lullaby.”
Illiana looked at Malachi nervously before she quickly curtsied and averted her gaze.
“And my beautiful Iris,” Lora said proudly. “She can speak over 50 languages and counting. She’s so brilliant that she has been her father’s key negotiator when meeting with other royals.”
Iris sensually bit her bottom lip as she kept her gaze on Malachi while she curtsied. Malachi raised a peculiar brow at her lack of subtlety.
He eyed the four women as he took in their form and analyzed the details of their faces. He let out a grunt before he stopped at the end of the line.
“... and what of her...?”
Phaedra was staring at the floor when she furrowed her brows in confusion. Was he asking about her? She slowly raised her head and felt all the air leave her lungs. Being this close. His face looked as if it were sculpted by the gods. And he had the warmest grey eyes she had ever seen.
“Her?” Lora said confused.
Phaedra felt her heartbeat quicken as Malachi held her gaze. Why was he looking at her like that? Why was his gaze so intense?
“What is your name?” he asked in such a deep voice it nearly startled her.
“Ph-Phae...Phaedra,” she managed to get out.
“...Phaedra...” he said with a bit of tenderness in his voice. His eyes slowly raked over her curvaceous, full-figured body in such a way that it lit a strange fire in her belly. He looked at her as if he wanted to devour her right there.
“She’s no one of importance,” Lora said quickly blocking Phaedra from his view. “She’s not necessarily fit to be a wife let alone mother any of your children.”
Malachi tilted his head in confusion.
“I mean her age... ” Lora clarified. “She’s far past her expiration date. And her magic... it leaves much to be desired.”
Phaedra was in pure and utter shock. Expiration date? Not fit to be a wife? A mother? Was she serious??
She felt her anger flare-up and the temptation to smack the back of her stepmother’s head was more intense than any other sensation she was feeling. But rather than acting upon it, she bit back her rage.
“This way,” Lora said gently grabbing Malachi’s hand.
Malachi looked back at Phaedra with concern before Lora dragged him away.
The feast had begun as King Elyan, Queen Lora and their daughters sat at the main table in the large banquet hall.
Malachi sat next to the king and queen while their daughters sat across from them. Phaedra sat all the way at the end of the table while her sisters talked Malachi’s ear off.
Phaedra could barely see him from her end of the table, so it surprised her when she caught him stealing glances at her every so often. She would look over her shoulder to see if there was someone else behind her that he was staring at instead.
Iris had gotten quite comfortable with the shapeshifter. Her hand frequently touched his. She batted her eyelashes and flipped her long hair as a soft chuckle escaped her lips to every little word he uttered.
Phaedra couldn’t help but roll her eyes. The man hardly spoke. What could she possibly be laughing at?
She stabbed a piece of tomato with her fork and shoved it into her mouth, praying the night would go by much faster than this.
Malachi stared at Iris with severe irritation and confusion as she went into detail about how much care she puts into maintaining the look of her wings.
“They’re the most envied wings of all faerie folk,” Iris grinned as her wings folded up, high above her head. “Faeries are constantly asking me what do I do to keep them so beautiful.”
“Do they now...” Malachi grunted.
“I see you’re having the time of your life!”
Malachi jolted forward as Xander’s large hand slapped him hard on the shoulder. “I see this beauty is doing well to hold your attention,” Xander said sarcastically with a grin.
“Why thank you!” Iris beamed.
Xander smirked at her with amusement while Malachi looked at her like she was stupid for not realizing it was an insult.
“What the hell took you so long...?” Malachi sneered at Xander.
“Had to make a few stops. Visit a few old friends,” Xander winked at the sisters causing them to giggle like school girls.
“Lord Xander,” Elyan said standing to his feet. “I’m so grateful you could make it.” Elyan held out his hand.
“Are you?” Xander grinned as he roughly grabbed Elyan’s hand and squeezed it tight. “Are you truly grateful? You’ve been waiting for this moment for a while, have you?”
Elyan winced at his tight grip before Xander let go. “Yes, we... we’ve only heard great things about the Lords of Argon,” Elyan said quickly pulling his hand back.
Xander’s grin widened. “...Interesting...”
“Please have a seat. We’ve prepared plenty of food for you,” Lora gestured to the open seat next to Malachi.
Xander pulled out the chair and plopped down as he threw one leg over the armrest. While her sisters gawked at his confidence, Phaedra rolled her eyes at his audacity.By the time they had finished eating, everyone seemed a bit more relaxed. Even Malachi came off a bit more comfortable when speaking with the family. Xander seemed to take a liking to Phaedra’s sisters more than Malachi did. He laughed. He told jokes. He was a real charmer that had them hooked from the moment he stepped into the room and every time he opened his mouth.
Phaedra noticed that Malachi and Xander had few similarities and far more differences. Other than their long hair, tall and muscular stature, and the fact that they were both shapeshifters, they seemed to be polar opposites.
Malachi was fairly quiet. More observant. As if he were studying for a test. He seemed to speak more with his eyes than his mouth. Her sisters had a significantly harder time interacting with him than they did with Xander.
Xander who actually couldn’t shut up. His voice was the loudest in the banquet hall as his laughter echoed through the hall. He constantly had a smile on his handsome face. He was certainly the more preferred of the two lords.
But Malachi’s stoic nature didn’t seem to stop Iris from claiming him as her own. From the looks of it, Phaedra guessed that Iris would be Malachi’s choice and Irene would be Xander’s.
She leaned against one of the large pillars as a soft melody escaped her lips. She watched as her sisters quickly left the Lords of Argon to freshen up. Her brows suddenly furrowed at the way the two lords leaned into each other. Malachi seemed to be whispering to Xander as he kept his eyes on her. She thought it strange until Xander suddenly set his eyes on her as well.
She quickly averted her gaze. Now they were both staring at her? For what? Was there something on her face?
“Fi,” she whispered. Her small sprite floated next to her and landed on her shoulder. “Is there something on my face?”
Fiona shook her small head.“There’s nothing. Perhaps they find you pretty.”
Phaedra scoffed. “They’ve been chatting up my sisters all night. If anything, they’re probably plotting my father’s demise for creating such annoying creatures,” she teased.
“Phaedra! That isn’t nice!”Fiona scolded.
“Whatever,” Phaedra said rolling her eyes.
She glanced at the Lords of Argon again. They were still staring at her...
Malachi leaned over on his knees, his gaze intense. Meanwhile, a playful smirk painted Xander’s face.
She tried to interpret what the looks could mean, but her sisters had already returned, stealing their attention yet again.
Phaedra let out a labored sigh once she realized their night was being transformed into a complete circus as they showed off their magic to their future beaus. She quickly walked out of the banquet hall and outside onto the balcony.
~Phaedra leaned against the banister, staring out into the night. She looked up at the sky littered with stars as she tuned out the music and laughter going on inside the banquet hall.
“Were you not enjoying yourself?”
Phaedra glanced over her shoulder and her eyes widened in shock when she saw Malachi step out onto the balcony.
“Uh...” she looked at him startled as he leaned against the balcony next to her. “To be honest, I was only there for the food,” she shrugged.
Malachi grinned and somehow he became that much more handsome. “Not for me then?”
“Well, I didn’t see you bring any snacks so...” she smirked.
For the first time that night, Malachi let out a chuckle.
He turned his head and held her gaze with that same intense look from before. “I...uh... just needed some fresh air,” she said.
Malachi raised his head and she couldn’t believe how much he towered over her. “Tell me about yourself,” he said.
Phaedra raised a brow. “Is this an interview?”
Malachi smiled that rare smile again. “I just want to know a little about you, Phae.”
Phaedra was surprised at the way he shortened her name. As if he were a life-long friend.
“Um... there’s not much to know,” she said, trying to think. “I am my father’s daughter. My mother died when I was much younger. And he... he took me in.”
“Is that why you don’t seem to fit in?” he asked.
Phaedra scoffed at his bluntness. “Well, thanks for that. I needed the reminder that I’m considered the ugly duckling of my family,” she said sarcastically.
Malachi tilted his head in confusion. “On the contrary, you’re the most beautiful woman here.”
Phaedra looked at him startled. “...are you sick?”
Malachi laughed for the second time that night. “Is this how you take compliments?”
“Sorry,” she said averting her gaze as her cheeks got hot. “I’m not used to anyone complimenting me.”
Malachi furrowed his brow as he looked down at her. “You’re not fond of your family?”
Phaedra sighed. “Well, they’re not exactly... my favorite,” she said frankly. She took a deep breath and stared at the garden below. “Honestly, aside from Illiana and my father, I could do without the rest of them. I just... I wish my father would defend me every now and then. He says he loves me but... his love feels conditional... I wish his actions reflected his words...”
Malachi caught the look of sorrow in Phaedra’s eyes. She looked up at him and put on a fake smile. “I bet you wish you hadn’t come out here now, don’t you,” she teased.
Malachi gave her a small smile. “Why do you hide your wings?”
Phaedra shrugged. “They’re too big.”
“Nonsense,” Malachi said quickly. “Let me see them.”
Phaedra couldn’t figure him out. Why was he so interested in her when Iris was just sitting on his lap a moment ago?
Her wings flapped behind her and his eyes lit up. How and why the hell did he seem so enraptured by such a small thing.
“Do you not know many faeries?” she asked.
“None as stunning as you,” he said looking into her eyes again.
Phaedra looked at him confused and went to speak when he cut her off. “What kind of magic do you practice?” he asked.
She hesitated before she slowly reached up and touched his hair. He kept his eyes on her until he glanced at the multicolor flowers she held between her fingers.
He smiled. “Your magic is as captivating as you are,” he said gently grabbing her hand. Phaedra shuddered at the contact as Malachi closed the distance between them.
Phaedra looked up at him, anxious about his next move. “M-my Lord-”
But Malachi quickly silenced her with a tender kiss as he hungrily pressed his lips against hers. Phaedra’s entire body lit up with heat as his lips caressed hers. His tongue nudged her lips apart before she felt it claim her own. Phaedra had always wondered what it would be like to kiss a man, but this... this was more than she expected.
Her heart raced as he wrapped his strong arms around her and pulled her lush body flushed against his, squeezing her with such possessiveness that it startled her. She felt his hands start to bunch up her dress when she quickly pushed him back.
Phaedra tried to catch her breath as Malachi looked down at her impatiently.
“I... I cannot kiss you if you are to marry another,” she said to him.
Malachi scoffed. “You still don’t get it.”
Phaedra looked at him confused when suddenly a drunk Xander walked out onto the balcony.
“Now here’s a party I’d like to join,” Xander grinned as he took a swig of mead. Phaedra looked at Xander startled as he walked up to her.
He leaned down and looked so intently into her eyes she could see the flecks of green in his dark brown eyes. “You were right, Mal. She’sfuckinggorgeous! I bet you’ll bounce nice and well on your first ride,” he winked.
Phaedra looked at him startled not knowing what the heck he was talking about. He leaned on the banister with one arm and eyed her with a grin. His heated gaze lingered on her body as he slowly licked his bottom lip.
“I wonder what your magic tastes like...”
Phaedra swallowed hard. “I... don’t think you can taste magic...?” she said confused.
She heard Malachi chuckle behind her. “Isn’t she cute...” she heard his deep voice reverberate behind her.
She went to look over her shoulder at him when Xander grabbed her chin and turned her head back around to face him.
“Tell me, little bird...” Xander smiled down at her. “How fast can you run?”
Phaedra was confused by the question. “I can fly.”
“Mmm...” Xander mused. “But what if I tore off your wings.”
Phaedra looked at him startled.
“...how fast... could you run then, little bird...” he said holding her gaze.
Phaedra looked at him a bit perturbed. “If you tore off my wings, that would hurt me,” she said with a bit of irritation in her voice.
Xander tilted his head and smiled at her. “Well, I wouldn’t want to do that now, would I? Not to a pretty, fragile little thing like you...”
Xander raised his eyes and met Malachi’s gaze before he cleared his throat. “I believe it’s time we concluded these... festivities...”
Phaedra felt stumped as Malachi and Xander brushed by her to head back into the banquet hall.
She tried to decipher what exactly this whole conversation was about when she saw Illiana beckoning her inside.
Everyone gathered around as her father proposed a toast.
“Not now, Fi,” Phaedra whispered as she watched her father raise a goblet.
“Tonight is a historical night,” Elyan said raising his goblet. Several others raised their tankards. “Tonight marks the official union of the Faerie Kingdom of Niendel and the Kingdom of Argon.”
“Phaedra, please! Something isn’t right!”Fiona insisted.
“Can’t it wait?” Phaedra whispered annoyed.
“No, Phaedra! Please! You have to get out of here!”Fiona squeaked frantically. Phaedra glanced over her shoulder and looked at her sprite with confusion.
“What? Why?” she asked.
“The people are eager to know your final decision. Which of my two daughters have you decided to take as your bride?” Elyan asked excitedly.
“We’ll only be taking one,” Malachi said with his hands clasped behind his back.
Elyan looked at him confused. “Just one?”
“There seems to be a misunderstanding,” Xander smiled as he took Elyan’s hand. “You keep saying union.”
Elyan looked at him confused. “Yes. That’s what this is supposed to be-” he groaned in pain as his bones cracked from the sheer strength of Xander crushing his hand.
Several arrows flew through the large windows, penetrating each of the king’s guards before they could protect him. People screamed at the abrupt attack. Elyan looked on in shock as his knights collapsed to the ground.
“This isn’t a union, you damn idiot,” Xander snarled with a sinister grin. “This is a fuckingconquest.”
Elyan looked at him wide-eyed before his head went flying off of his body.
Lora let out a bloodcurdling scream.
Phaedra’s mouth dropped open in pure shock as she watched her father’s bloody head roll on the floor.
“F-Father...” she breathed out in disbelief.
The doors burst open as several hooded men stormed the banquet hall. Terrified screaming erupted in the hall as the invaders charged at the people. The Lords of Argon let out a terrifying growl. Their clothes tore and a bright light lit up the room as their human forms disappeared. A massive lion and a ferocious bear appeared in their stead.
“Phaedra! We have to leave! PHAEDRA!”
Phaedra shook with terror as she quickly rushed for the nearest exit trying to avoid the hooded invaders. She could hear frantic screaming and crying behind her as she tried to move through several scrambling bodies.
Phaedra looked over her shoulder just in time to see Iris’s face get ripped off of her skull. She nearly lost her breath when the lion looked right at her while Iris’s flesh dangled from his mouth.
She ran for the balcony as her wings spread and she took off into the sky. Her heart traced as she focused on trying to get as far away as possible. She found it hard to breathe as she pictured her father’s head rolling onto the floor again.
But the harsh scream of Illiana quickly caught her attention.
Phaedra hovered in the air as she looked down at the massacre going on in her castle. Conflict danced in her mind. She heard Illiana’s scream again and felt her heart drop to her stomach.
“You have to keep going, Phaedra! They’ll come for you next!”
“I can’t... I can’t leave her, Fi...” Phaedra said as she flew back towards the castle.
She stumbled among the chaos as people trampled each other trying to escape. Several arrows flew into the air, shooting down any faeries that tried to fly away.
“ILLIANA! ILLIANA!!” Phaedra screamed frantically as she searched for her sister.
Phaedra spun around until she spotted Illiana crumbled and bleeding on the ground outside as several people trampled over her.
“GET OFF OF HER! HEY!” Phaedra growled as she shoved anyone else from stepping on her.
She crouched down and gently touched Illiana’s bruised and bleeding face. One of her wings was missing, and the other was torn and crumpled.
“Come on,” Phaedra said helping her up. “We have to get out of here! We have to go!”
Phaedra threw Illiana’s arm over her shoulder and wrapped an arm around her waist. She dragged her sister along as she tried to escape through the trees.
But Illiana’s weight became significantly heavier.
“Illiana, please! Please, Illi, you have to-” Phaedra stumbled to the ground once Illiana became too much to hold. She scrambled to her sister. “Illi-”
Phaedra’s mouth parted and tears fell from her eyes when she saw the arrow sticking out of Illiana’s back.
“No...no no no, Illi... Illiana...” she cried as she hovered over her mangled body. “Please! Please!”
She barely had a second to mourn her sister before she heard a ferocious roar.
Phaedra’s wet face popped up with a fright. She quickly scrambled to her feet and tried to fly off when she felt something pounce on her back, knocking her to the ground again. She fell to the ground hard and winced in agony as her wings were crushed against the rocks she landed on.
Phaedra turned over on her back, breathing heavily as she tried to alleviate the pain. Her eyes widened in terror as the lion and bear stalked towards her. Their mouths dripping with blood.
“Please,” she begged as she crawled backward. “Please leave me alone! Please don’t kill me!”
She covered her face as a bright light nearly blinded her and the two terrifying creatures transformed.
Xander and Malachi stood tall in their naked glory, towering over her.
She panicked as Xander crouched down in front of her. His long hair fell around his face, curtaining the dark, sinister look in his eyes.
“Now why would we kill our bride?”