Several hours later, night had fallen, Damien had not come to look for me, and Orland, Rayna, and I had developed what we hoped was a foolproof plan to get me in and out of the castle to meet the witch. It was quite simple, really. When everyone was asleep, I was to sneak out of the infirmary unnoticed and head over to the library. According to Orland, there was another secret entrance out of the castle behind the bookshelf in the far left corner. If you removed exactly thirty books from the right corner of the bottom row, you would find a small tunnel in the wall. The tunnel led to the front of the castle, which was why it was one of the riskier exits. Once I got out of the castle, I had to circle around to the back of it and make a run for the tree line, where the witch would be waiting. Easy, right? No.
"I have one issue with this plan," I objected, holding up one finger while Rayna flew in lazy circles around my head. "What if the King randomly decides to visit me in the middle of the night? It's happened before?"
Really, his night time visits weren't even that random. Ninety-five percent of the time Damien would either sleep in my bed or insist I sleep in his. If we did share a separate room he usually showed up at some ungodly hour and crawled into my bed like the disgusting snake he was anyways. I guess I should have been considering myself lucky that he didn't force me to have sex with him. Yet. He'd always claimed that he wanted me willing but I would never be willing, and he didn't have the best patience.
Orland waved a hand at me. "I thought of that already and arranged it so that the smallest amount of moonbass was added to his glass of wine at dinner. Trust me, when he falls asleep, he won't wake up until morning. You'll have plenty of time."
"And what about guards? We can't drug all of them."
Rayna landed atop my head and made an indignant chirping sound. It was similar to what I'd once heard a squirrel make. "You've snuck out before, to get to the meetings. You'll figure it out."
I sighed and accepted the cloak that Orland offered me. I held it around my throat with a silver clasp and pulled the hood over my head. With my fair complexion and hair, I would be easy to spot in the darkness, especially by the Fae and their excellent eyesight. When I had a cloak on, I blended more easily into the shadows.
"I guess I should go now," I said quietly, eying the moon through the large window. It was high in the sky, and quite full. Orland pressed a packet of herbs into my hand and patted my shoulder.
"It will mask your scent, so no guards will be able to pick up your scent. It will be helpful in the forest as well. Night is when all the nasty Fae come out, and they especially enjoy human flesh. Be safe."
I nodded and tucked the herbs into my dress the way I had with the vial of moonbass. Walking over to the infirmary doors, I opened them slowly and quietly. The hall was empty. When I'd first come to the castle, there'd always been a guard at the door but they'd gotten lax with me. Much to my happiness, that just made my job easier and, seeing that I was free to go, I slid out into the hallway and tiptoed to the library.
I was nearly there before I got caught.
"Just where do you think you're going?"
I halted, closed my eyes briefly, and turned around slowly. Darius was leaning against a wall to my left, with his arms crossed over his massive chest.
"The library," I said, opting for the truth. Or, at least part of the truth. Darius stepped towards me, looked me up and down, and licked his lips in a disgustingly suggestive manner.
"So late?" He purred, stopping merely a hairsbreadth away. He was so close that our breath mingled. It was disturbing, to say the least. I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from calling him a blasted wanker and letting him know exactly what I thought of him.
"I couldn't sleep and decided to find something to read."
He reached out and fingered the hood of my cloak, which was still pulled up over my head. "Dressed like this?"
I didn't let him see how his question momentarily threw me off balance. I simply shrugged and rolled my eyes. He thought I was annoyed when, in reality, the gestures were being used to buy me time to think of an answer.
"I was cold. And I didn't want everyone to see my bruise."
To illustrate that I did, in fact, have a bruise, I pulled the hood down. It was a lame excuse. I was often sporting bruises.
"Cold, huh?" Darius murmured. "Let me warm you up."
He grabbed my hips and pushed me up against the closest wall. Before I could even inhale, his mouth was on mine. He lips were cold and hard, he smelt of sweat and blood, and he tasted like year old scrambled eggs. I pressed my lips firmly together and pushed against his chest. I might as well have been pushing against a brick wall for all the good it did me.
"Bugger off!" I exclaimed past his lips. The moment my mouth parted he thrust his tongue into me. So I bit it. He pulled back with a muffled cry and drew his hand back to hit me across the face. He never got that far, though, because as soon as he aimed his hand at my already bruised cheek, a fist shot out of seemingly nowhere and clocked him in the side of the head. He went down, hard, and didn't get back up. I barely spared him a glance and focused my attention on the faerie standing in front of me, with his hand still in a fist.
"Why'd you do that?" I asked Michael softly, straightening out my cloak. He grabbed my chin roughly and brought my face closer to his. His cheeks were dotted with feverish pink spots and his breathing was laboured. He looked as if he'd just run a triple marathon.
"Because if anyone's going to hit you, it's going to be me," he growled before crushing his lips against mine. He pulled away before I could respond, shot a disgusted glance at Darius, who was moaning on the ground, and promptly walked away. I was faced with a decision then. Continue on, or admit defeat. Two people had seen me but neither had attempted to stop me. Darius had obviously been too focused on...other issues to care about my lame story and Michael hadn't even asked why I was wandering around at midnight.
I pulled my cloak back over my head and continued on my way to the library. I was too close to turn back now.
I found the secret exit with ease. My only worry was that someone would enter the library and notice that large pile of books that I'd removed to find the tunnel. My anxiety didn't stick around for long though, because, in all the time I'd spent at the castle I'd yet to see one person actually enter the library aside from the King. Clearly, Silver Fae were not book lovers.
As Orland had promised, the tunnel lead to a drainage pipe just to the right of the castle entrance. I crawled out, wrinkled my nose as the smell, and looked around. I could see two guards in front of the castle door and, due to the night, could not make out the area surrounding the castle. I suspected that there were more guards so, instead of getting to my feet, I very slowly crawled around the castle. By the time I reached the back, I was muddy and covered in filth but that didn't matter because I had succeeded, and all I had to do was make it to the trees.
The moon provided a very small amount of light but I was able to see that there were sentries patrolling the ground. Only two though, so I just crouched down behind a small shrub and waited for them to disperse. When they did, I abandoned all caution and just ran. Apparently, abandoning all caution was the perfect way to trip over ones feet because I did just that and achieved a very nasty cut on my palm from a sharp rock. A little slower, but not any less urgent, I scurried to the forest and let out a low sigh when I made it there.
Then I encountered another problem. There was no one waiting for me. Rayna had said that the witch would be there...and she wasn't. If I had gone through all that trouble for nothing I was going to be seriously buggered off—.
I froze, turned towards the eerie hiss, and couldn't breathe for a few seconds as my eyes took in the large, thick snake that was coiled around a nearby tree trunk. I couldn't tell how long it was but it was as wide as a dinner plate and its head must have been the size of my own. My eyes widened and I lost the ability to speak. It flicked out its forked tongue, tasting the air, and nodded its massive head towards a darker part of the forest.
"Follow the wissspsss," it slithered before sliding down the tree and disappearing in the opposite direction. I stepped back and shivered. I was not a snake person.
Only when I could no longer see the snake did I dare relax and look around. By wisps, the snake must have meant will-o'-the-wisps. I'd encountered them once before. They had led me into a mud pit where I surely would have drowned had Will not decided to save me. So no, I was not that keen on following the little, floating balls of light anywhere. But I had a job to do and, since I was just going to hold it in good faith that the snake was not leading me wrong, I would follow a stupid wisp.
The moment I mentally acquiesced to following the wisps, the first one lit up, right in front of me. Beyond it I could see a second, third, fourth, and fifth, as well as many others. As they had the first time I'd seen them, they filled me with an overwhelming sense of calm and happiness. I would follow them anywhere and everywhere. They were life. Beautiful, small, shining life and—.
I shook my head to clear it and pushed my hood back. It didn't have to be up now that I was in the forest.
"Get a hold on yourself, Jezzamyn," I muttered, following the path of wisps. "No mud pit this time."
The line of wisps seemed to go on forever and I was worried about whether or not I would make it back to the castle before dawn. Sneaking out and in and night was ten times easier than doing it during the day. And the forest itself was making me nervous. I should have taken a knife or any type of weapon with me. I could hear things rooting around among the bushes and I had my doubts about all of them being animals. Ghouls, trolls, and other Fae would be out, looking for something to eat. That something would be me.
Thankfully, before I was eaten, the path of wisps stopped right in front of a tiny hut. Light was streaming out from the two front windows and, when I neared the cabin and approached the front door, I smelt something spicy and sweet. I raised my fist to knock but the door swung open before I could and there, standing in the doorway, was a small elderly woman with a hunched back, gray hair, and floppy, pointed ears. Her nose was tapered at the end and hooked, her skin was pockmarked. But her eyes...her eyes were brilliantly gold and sharp. They reminded me of how Michael's eyes had looked before they turned silver. A pang went through my heart and it was all I could do to not cry.
"About time you got here," she grumbled, stepping back to let me in. "If the King comes knocking at my door, I won't hesitate to turn you over, you hear? I won't be risking my neck for some silly little human who thinks she can defeat a man who managed to turn two separate Fae courts into nothing."
"Then why'd you agree to let me come here?" I shot back as I stepped into her hut. She grimaced and shuffled over to where a fire was blazing in a hearth.
"A higher authority."
I crossed my arms over her chest, stepped towards her, and narrowly missed banging my head against one of the many pots she had hanging from her ceiling. "A higher authority?"
The voice that answered my question did not belong to the witch.
"Yes, a higher authority. Just because the Unseelie court no longer remains in the Never doesn't mean that the prince has any less power over weaker Fae."
If I'd been holding anything in my arms, they would have clattered to the floor as I spun around in utter disbelief for there, in a dimly lit corner, sat a boy with dark shaggy hair that was longer than it had been the last time I'd seen him, and wide, gray eyes.
The first time I'd ever met William Andrews, he'd knocked me over, sneered at me, and broken a small, porcelain faerie that I'd just bought from the local art store. The second time I'd talked to him he'd threatened my brother, pushed me up against a locker, and had smelt me. The third time we'd interacted, I'd gotten a condom thrown at me and a failed test. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention the time he morphed into a wolf and nearly ripped my leg off, or the time his little "pack" of friends/wolves had tried to rape me. Then there were all of his frequent insults, his snarky comments, and his overall general rudeness. So you would assume that I would hate Will and not only hate him, but not be happy at all to see him.
Really, I didn't understand myself either.
"Will," whispered, unable to speak louder. I wasn't really sure why but my knees started to buckle and I probably would have toppled over if he hadn't risen to his feet and held me upright.
"Please, feel free to faint every time you see me," he said, grasping my upper arms. "It does wonders for my ego."
"Your ego's large enough as it is," I croaked out. Then I launched myself at him and wrapped my arms around his torso. He didn't return the embrace immediately but, after a few seconds, awkwardly patted my back. I pulled back to look at him without releasing my hold on him and had to blink away a few tears. How was it possible that, after all the time I'd known him and all the things we'd been through together, his face made me want to step back and admire him the way I would a sculpture of some Greek God? Even when he was being intolerable, which was more often than not, I still found myself stunned by his good looks. It was irritating.
Even now, he left me speechless for a few seconds. His hair was falling into his eyes, which were wide and almost innocent looking, not that there was anything innocent about Will himself. The freckles that dotted his nose and cheeks only added to that whole "naïve" façade, and his skin seemed to glow, as if he were lit up from the inside.
"What are you doing here?" I breathed out. "How are you here?"
He pulled away then and returned to his seat in the dark corner. "Sit."
I sat. If I weren't still so stunned, I would have narrowed my eyes at his bossiness. At that moment, I would have gladly taken his bossiness if it meant he would stay. I'd missed him. What it was about him that I'd missed left me confused but, nonetheless, I'd missed him.
He leaned forwards and rested his elbows on the table so that he could place his head on his palms. He just stared at me, his eyes drinking in my face in a way that made me blush. After a few seconds he spoke to the witch without looking away from me.
"Bring over a candle."
"Will," I objected softly when the little woman hobbled over to a drawer and extracted a skinny, black candle. "You don't have to be so demanding. I could have gotten it."
"When you become a faerie princess, you can act how you want," he snapped. "This is how I act. If you don't like it, tough luck."
I leaned back on the chair and waited until the witch had lit the candle, placed it in between us, and left before speaking. "Good to see that some things never change. You disgust me."
He sighed. "And here I was, thinking that you couldn't get enough of me. You certainly couldn't the last time we saw each other."
My cheeks flared up at the memory of the passionate embrace we'd shared when he'd been under the influence of iron. Iron was poisonous to all Fae and, after he'd been stabbed with an iron dagger that had been meant for me, he'd gotten a little delirious. That delirium had led to him thinking that I was his long-dead lover, and...well, you can assume how that went.
I pushed away from the table and stood up. Before I could walk away, his hand snaked out and grabbed mine. I looked back at him with a scowl on my face and tried to jerk my hand free. He didn't release his hold.
"Sit," he said softly, blinking at me. "We need to cooperate."
"You mean you need to cooperate," I objected, sitting. "I can do it just fine. It's you who can't—,"
"Jezzamyn," he interrupted. "I don't have much time. We need to talk."
"What do you mean?" I squeaked. It hadn't occurred to me that he wouldn't be able to stay. That he would leave me all alone.
He rubbed circles onto the back of my hand soothingly. "I'm not really here. I mean, I am, but it's a spell." He eyed the witch, who was doing a bad job at pretending to not be eavesdropping. "A temporary one. I don't have long before I'll return back."
"Back to Maine," I clarified. Back to my home. Without me.
"Yes, but no. I'm not staying in Maine. I'm staying with Oberon and Mab. You know, in that little underground cave system they have going on."
I nodded and looked at the wooden table top. I would not cry...I wouldn't.
"What do we have to talk about?" I asked quietly. Will reached out with his free hand, gently took hold of my chin, and pulled my face up until I had nowhere to look but at him.
"I'm not going to abandon you," he said forcefully. "That's why I'm here. I'm going to get you out. But not right now," he added when I began to look hopeful. "I have a plan but it will need more time. When you come back in two days—,"
"What do you mean, when I come back? I can't just walk out, Will."
He raised an inky eyebrow. "No but...did my brother," he spat the word out like it was toxic. "Not tell you about the ball?"
I blinked. Damien had said that we would be leaving soon but I didn't know where, or why. I hadn't thought about it that much either, to be honest. "Ball?"
He smirked. He was good at smirking. "Fae politics is interesting, Jezzamyn. Behind each other's back, the courts make plans to bring them down but, to their faces, they're best friends for life. Every five years, around this time, Damien travels to the human world and Oberon or Mab host this huge ball. It's ridiculous. I don't usually attend but, since you're going to be there, we can talk more freely."
"If your brother lets me out of his sight," I muttered. "Why are you telling me this now? Why not just wait until I see you at the ball?"
His eyes held mine steadily. "I wanted to see you. I was worried."
He raised his hand and drug his fingers down my bruise. "He hurts you."
I smiled ruefully. "Nothing I can't handle."
"You shouldn't have to handle it," he fumed. "When I get the chance, I will cut off every one of his fingers and make him eat them."
I wrinkled my nose. Will abruptly stood, pulling me up along with him. He held my hands to his chest. I could feel his heart beating. "I don't have much time left. Be careful, Jezzamyn."
Nodding, I refastened the broach on my cloak and, understanding that it was time to leave, stepped back. Will cocked his head to the side, watching me.
"I can't smell you."
I almost snickered at the oddity of that sentence. "My scent is masked."
He nodded and offered his arm, like the gentleman he truly was not. "I'll walk you back to the edge of the forest. I have enough time for that."
I slid my hand into the crook of his elbow, thanked the witch, and let him lead me out of the house. I could have argued that I was more than capable of walking myself back but, in all honesty, I felt safer with him by my side. I knew that he would protect me. That, despite his obvious resemblance to his brother, he would never hurt me the same way Damien had. Or the way Michael had. We both walked in silence, him a great deal quieter than me, until we reached the edge of the forest. I sighed quietly, looked up at Will, and was startled to notice that he was nearly...transparent.
"You're disappearing," I whispered, sudden anxiety running through me at the thought of him leaving. Of him leaving me. When had I become so dependant? On William Andrews, of all people.
He smiled wryly. "Spell's wearing off."
His hands went up to my shoulders. "I'll get you out of here, Jezzamyn. When I see you again, we'll figure something out. I won't leave you here."
He bent down until we saw eye to eye. "Do you trust me?"
I nodded and had to bite my lip against the tears I could feel prickling my eyelids. "Yes."
"Good," Will murmured. Then he bent down and quickly, almost uncertainly, brushed his lips over mine. It was a fast, chaste kiss that one might give to one's mother yet, at the same time, my heart kicked it up a notch. Purely physical reaction, I decided. Any female would have momentarily forgotten how to breathe when a boy who looked like William Andrews kissed them.
"Goodbye, Jezzamyn," he whispered. I closed my eyes and, when I reopened them, he was gone. I stood rooted to the spot for a few moments before reminding myself that I had to get inside before anyone noticed my absence.
Sneaking in was easier than sneaking out and I was in my room in record time. I opened the door fractionally, slid in, and closed it behind me. I turned slowly to face my bed and there, sitting atop the sheets, was Michael.
"Where were you, Jezzamyn?"
WILL HAS RETURNED O.O. What thinkest thou of their encounter? Is it epci enough or should I re-write it? Review, please! They all make me so happy that I barf sunshine :D