“As you wish, my king.”
I bow my head lower than usual so that my eyes won’t meet his. It’ll give me away; though it’s always been difficult meeting his eyes directly. I often find myself looking away or focusing on anything but him because he looks exactly like the only one I ever allowed myself to love. In all my existence, I felt something, and loved only once, five annum ago.
But this time, I have a different motive for not meeting his gaze head-on. I don’t want him to see the obvious lie in my eyes. I’m going to eavesdrop on his conversation against his orders though I assented when he asked me to wait at the bottom of the long winding temple stairs. I have a right to know what’s going on.
I pretend to descend the stairs until I know he’s entered the temple. Calling forth my invisibility as soon as he’s out of sight, I turn around and follow him inside. I brace my back against the temple walls and watch as he freezes when he gets a good look at the ethereal female who lives here.
It’s always hard to look at her. The Elder. She’s so stunning. So similar to the beauty of the bitch queen who ruined my life five annum ago. It’s been quite arduous dealing with the loss. Back then, it had taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that she was my superior in every way. It had been a startling realization when I’d finally gotten to see the great Queen Luna with my own eyes. She was everything they’d said she would be and more. Even I had to admit that.
I hated her. Still hate her to this period. Because she’d taken him away from me. In more ways than one. He was supposed to be mine. I had been so close to finally getting him to realize that. But down to his last breath, he pined for her. Just when I thought he’d finally chosen me, he’d proven me wrong and lost his life for it.
“Arlyn dear, please give us some privacy. I’d like to speak to my grandson alone. You may come back when we are done here.” Comes a voice spoken directly into my mind.
I startle at the Elder’s words. The last time I had another’s words in my head, it was the inner voice of the male I’d come to love. Dammit. The memories are too much. Though some seem so hazy, I still hold onto what little I have. They bring forth unwanted images of his crooked smile and the way his strange blue eyes used to twinkle with mischief whenever we’d take to the skies and race. His bruising kisses, desperate and demanding all at once. There were so many times I thought I’d give in to his endless, torturous flirtation.
I should have.
I blink my eyes slowly to let go of the unwanted memories. I find the Elder staring at me with a guarded expression, while the king still gapes at her in shock. I thought no one could see me. I look down at my hands. I’m still invisible. How the hell did she know I was here? I peer up at her as she waits patiently for me to leave. I nod and slink back through the temple’s entrance, glad to know the king hadn’t noticed me.
Defeated, I take to the skies and circle around and around the temple’s grounds as I wait for this secret conversation to be over. I get it. The Elder is the king’s grandmother, and it’s her first time meeting him. They want their privacy. But I want to know what the big fucking deal is. I want to know whatever this news is; that may concern the king’s brother. He’s my business, too. He was my business.
I cringe at the sight of the land in my territory. The usual bright green leaves on the redwoods are changing colors. Again. Even more reason to hate the Summer Queen. She is the reason for nature’s continued downfall. She is the reason for my pain. Every time I close my eyes, I see the death of Prince Cassien all over again. I hear the Summer Queen’s screams and smell the blood. I feel the thickness of Cassien’s coagulated blood against my fingers in my attempt to hold him one last time before lowering him into the damp ground of his grave.
An arc passes when I decide to land on the winding concrete stairs of the temple. As I land, I come face to face with Cadis Alaris. His handsome face is ashen, and he says nothing as he brushes by me. I watch him for a moment. At the way the setting sun glints off his short cropped wavy brown hair. The way his dark hematite crown gleams like a thousand crystals are embedded into its surface. He’s beautiful, just like his brother was.
I follow him silently, deciding to bide my time before I rudely demand to know what had happened. Though I was formerly Courtless, I have chosen to follow the king and to be in his employ. My respect is expected.
What happened to make him react this way?
Why aren’t we flying back home right now?
Just when I think I can’t take it anymore, he speaks.
“Show me where Gio is.”
“My king, I haven’t—”
“Show me where he was last, then!” King Cadis bellows.
I stop in my tracks at his tone. He turns around and glares at me with tear-filled eyes. When he looks at me the way he’s looking at me right now, I have little control on my conduct because he is so identical to the one who’d once owned my heart. My breaths come faster when I approach him.
My hands involuntarily find his face, and I pull him to me as I cradle him to my chest. I hold him there and slowly run my lips over his forehead. My lips have a mind of their own as they trail along his cheeks and find his lips. He returns my kiss softly, then fervently. Next thing I know, my back is being pressed up against a nearby redwood tree. His hands are all over me, just like that one steamy night we’d shared a while back. He’d fucked me like I was his. I think of that moment more often than I’d like to admit.
As if waking up, he comes up for air and abruptly steps away from me.
Breathing heavily, he says, “We promised this wouldn’t happen again. I love my wife. Shit, Arlyn. Shit! This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
He starts pacing back and forth, mumbling to himself. I laugh at his disorientation.
Must I remind him yet again?
“My king, I understand your hesitation. But we are Nymphs. It’s not in our blood to be monogamous.” Never mind, that I was willing to have that with his twin once upon a time. Ros had made fun of me for it. “I know we said never again, but you needed me. Whatever you’re going through, you know I am here to help.”
Help him right back into my bed, that is.
He points an accusing finger at me.
“Not like this! Jesus Arlyn, it was one time. One momentary lapse in judgement. We were in a dark period in our lives and sought comfort in the only other being we thought understood what we were going through.” He runs a hand through his short hair. “I can’t do this to my mate. I made her a promise when I married her, no more bullshit. We have a youngling and another on the way.”
Now I feel guilty when he puts it that way.
“Alright fine.” I give up as I tie my messy pink hair into a ponytail. “Fine! I apologize for pushing it, though I’m not the only one to blame. It’s been hard for me, too. Certainly not very easy being around Ros and Laise and their epic love and now Calla and Andras are following in their footsteps. As your advisor, I’m around you so often. Surely you can’t blame me; you look exactly like him!” I shout.
He pauses and peers at me, his green eyes glistening in the dark that has now fallen over Nymph territory. There’s a dazed expression on his face.
“He’s not dead, Arlyn.” He says, and I think my heart skips a beat. “He’s in the human realm. And I need your help to bring him back.”