Home > Fae's Captive (Fae's Captive #1)(9)

Fae's Captive (Fae's Captive #1)(9)
Author: Lily Archer

“What is it you wish?” Gareth asks.

“There’s a woman in the dungeon. She tried to help me. I can’t just leave her there.”

“A prisoner?”

“Yes. Her name was Lenetia of something-or-other. I can’t remember her master’s name. Is there any way you can free her before we go? She said her master was particularly cruel and she had these—” I gesture toward my arm. “Fang marks all over her. Anyway, she needs help. And she’s a changeling like me.” Changelings stick together, she had said.

He relays my words to Leander, who seems to weigh my request before giving Gareth a curt nod.

Gareth bows his head toward me for a moment. “I will free her.”

“Be careful. There’s a snake monster thing guarding her,” I offer.

Leander stands and motions Gareth toward the door where they converse in low tones for a moment.

After that Gareth leaves in a rush.

“My queen.” Leander takes my hands in his and kisses each of my palms.

“Did Gareth teach you that word?”

He smirks but doesn’t answer.

“Okay, but I’m not really a queen.” It finally occurs to me that when I first saw him, he was wearing a crown. Am I supposed to be his queen? “Whoa.” I pull my hands back. “You and I aren’t a thing. I don’t know you. I don’t even speak your language.” I stand, almost walk toward where the dead fae’s body was, then change course toward the back of the room.

Strong hands on my shoulders stop me, and Leander turns me to face him. I have to crane my neck back just to meet his midnight eyes. He pats his chest again. “Home.” Then he takes my hand and rests it over his heart. “Home, Taylor.”

He’s so gentle with me. But I need him to understand that I don’t belong.

“My home is far away from here. I have to get back. I have finals coming up soon. And my roommate will miss me and …” My words fade as I remember Cecile and the woman who looked just like me. Cecile—she did this, she’s the reason I’m here. “My roommate. She sent me to this world somehow. Her magic. And there’s another me. How is there another me?”

Leander smooths his rough fingers along my wrinkled brow and speaks to me low and soft, his voice like a warm blanket. I have no idea what he’s saying, but it’s clear he wants to comfort me.

“I think my brain is broken.” I sigh.

He wraps his arm around me and pulls me tight.

This is the most contact I’ve had with another person in my life. My mother certainly isn’t a hugger, and I never let anyone else get close to me. I’m too damaged for it. But this man with the pointy ears and muscles of steel doesn’t know that. Doesn’t know me.

“Hey.” I grip his sides. “I don’t know what you think this is, but I’m not your queen. I’m not even sure if this is real.”

He tips my chin up. “Mine.”

“Gareth teach you that one, too?”

The smirk reappears and sends warmth shooting to my every extremity.

“I’m not whatever you think I am, okay?”

“Mine.” He repeats, his low voice vibrating through me.

“I’m not—”

The door opens, and Leander has me pushed behind him and his sword brandished before I can even look to see who it is.

Gareth hurries in, a large bag slung over his shoulder and another in one hand. He tosses the one from his shoulder onto the bed. It squeaks and moves until Lenetia’s thin face appears.

“This female is descended from the spirits that shriek in the burning woods of Galendoon!”

“If that were true, I’d have burned you to ash already.” She struggles out of the sack.

“She tried to take one of my eyes with her filthy fingernails.” Gareth grumbles and pulls a dress and some other clothing from his bag.

Leander positions himself between Lenetia and me.

“It’s okay.” I pat his back, my hand comically small against his broad expanse. “She’s a friend.”

“Am I?” She looks around. “This oaf pulled me from the dungeon, but they’ll send the Catcher for me, I’ll be recaptured, then fed to my master’s vampire hounds. Thanks for nothing.”

I try to sidestep Leander, but he isn’t having it. I have to talk around him. “We’re leaving this place. You can come with us.”

“No.” Gareth frowns and shakes his head. “No way this guttersnipe is coming with us. She’d knife us in the back as soon as she could.”

“Just you,” she simpers sweetly.

Gareth growls and points to a dress he’s laid on the bed. “For you, Taylor.” He says my name as if it tangles on his tongue.

I try to peek around Leander to catch Lenetia’s eye. “You can come with us.”

Gareth sours. “We shouldn’t—”

“Didn’t you just swear an oath to me?” I don’t recognize the sharpness in my voice, but it pulls Gareth up short, so I go with it. “Well?”

“Yes.” His long sigh is paired with a cutting look at Lenetia, then he has a quick discussion with Leander. When Leander laughs, the low notes rumbling through the room, I lean a little closer.

Gareth says something I can only imagine is a curse in fae and turns to Lenetia. “Behave, female. One wrong step, and it will be your last.”

She sticks her tongue out at him.

“You should change. This will help you fit in enough for us to get off the palace grounds once night falls.” Gareth points at the dress he’s laid out. It’s a pale gray, simple yet nice.

“Thank you.” I grab the dress and peer around the room. “Where can I change?”

“There’s a bathing chamber at the back.” Gareth jerks his head in the direction of a doorway.

I head towards it, then stop. Turning around, I address the hulking man at my heels. “I have to change.”

He gestures to the bathing room and grabs my hand, leading me to it and stepping across the threshold.

“Alone,” I say pointedly.

He cocks his head to the side as if he doesn’t understand, but this time I’m almost certain he knows what I’m saying.

“Alone.” I point to myself and then the bathing room, then hold one finger up. “Just me. Not you.”

He crosses his arms over his chest, his thick biceps straining against his shirt, and says something in fae.

“I’m not changing in front of you.” I mimic his stance, arms crossed. “I can wait all day. But I was under the impression we were in a hurry.”

Lenetia snorts and speaks to him in fae.

He responds with a glower and a few words.

She shrugs and gives me a half smile. “He won’t leave you alone.”

“I’ve noticed. Tell him I’m just going to change and then I’ll be right back out. Between you and me, I need to pee, too.” I glance at him, the glower still pulling at his lips. “Tell him I need privacy.”

“Alpha fae like him don’t understand privacy. Especially not when it comes to their mate.”

“How do you know they’re mates?” Gareth rests his hand on the sword at his waist.

“Calm down.” She leans over on her elbow, the picture of relaxation. “Anyone can see it. Just look at him. He’s like a vampire hound on a scent. Can’t take his eyes from her.”

“That information is not to be tossed about, especially not while we’re in enemy territory. If anyone learns that the king of the winter realm has found his mate—”

“Mate?” I nibble my lip. “Why do you keep calling me that?”

“You two are bonded.” She puts a grubby fingernail between her teeth. “Or, you will be. You obviously don’t feel the bond yet.”

“What?” I can’t even begin to put all my questions into words.

Gareth gives an exasperated huff and speaks to Leander.

“Grumpy Fae here is explaining that you want privacy.” She cocks her shoulder toward Gareth.

After a litany of words, Leander steps away from the door, but not far. He leaves just enough room for me to shimmy past and gives me a look that seems both angry and concerned at the same time.

“This may be the last time you get to do anything without King Muscles over here,” Lenetia calls. “So enjoy it.”

I press the door closed and lean against it. Mate? As in the way animals pick a mate? Does that mean he expects to … have sex with me? I bounce my head against the door. Surely not. We aren’t even the same species. We don’t know each other. That’s ridiculous. But when I remember the way he holds me, the heat in some of his looks—I press my thighs together and try to banish those thoughts.

A low growl pulses through the door.

“Whatever you’re thinking about in there, stop.” Lenetia’s laugh floats through the wood. “He can smell your—” She clears her throat. “He can smell if you’re thinking about him, let’s put it that way.”

He can smell my—I glance down and then turn every shade of red.

“Quickly, Taylor. Night will be here soon,” Gareth calls.

“Okay.” I push away any thoughts of mates or what Leander can smell. “Jeez,” I whisper to myself. With a tug, I pull the shirt off and lay it on the edge of a deep copper tub. The dress slides down my arms and into place. It falls to my ankles and hugs my breasts and hips. But it’s made of a thicker material, so I don’t feel too exposed. Bright daylight pours through an open window over the tub. The scent of flowers, so thick it’s almost cloying, floats on a warm breeze.

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