A plastic orange tree with fuzzy leaves brush against my shoulder as I wait beside Kill in the lawyer’s lobby. My legs are crossed at the knee and I can’t stop tapping my foot in the air.
“If you keep that up, Bethy, you’ll shake your shoe off,” Kill murmurs.
I freeze. Then slowly plant both high-heels on the carpet. It’s freezing in here, despite the summer humidity outside. I wish I’d brought a sweater; my sleeveless sheath dress is not cutting it and goose-bumps raise on my arms. I tell myself it’s only the AC. Not anything to do with the creature beside me or our need for a lawyer.
He strokes my inner wrist and I shiver. God, he’s hot. I don’t have to glance his way to know he’s staring at me with those wildflower eyes, his long black lashes batting gently as he tries to appear more human. As if. When you have to remember to blink or breathe, it’s pretty damn clear what you aren’t.
And yet here I am, sitting next to him on the stiff butterscotch sofa. Not because he’s so freaking beautiful or because his kisses are like firecrackers. It’s because he knows exactly how much milk to put in my coffee, and not to talk to me until I’ve finished it.
“If you’re nervous, we don’t have to be here.” His voice is thin for once.
I snap a smile at him. He’s the nervous one. He knows I have all the negotiating power here. “We’re staying.”
A melancholy sigh brushes my hair off my ear. “If you insist, my love.”
He slides his hand into mine, winding our fingers together. My skin is so dark next to his. He’s spun of crystals and spiderwebs, and I’m made of that river dirt God used in the Bible.
When I met him I screamed. I’d come out of a porta-potty and there he was, standing in front of me like a ghost. Dusk cast violet shadows over him and I assumed he was another crazy pagan at that damned festival my girlfriend had dragged me to. He’d stolen the Smashing Pumpkins tee shirt out of somebody’s tent and conjured soft pants that almost looked like jeans in the low light. Normal, but beautiful, he drew me to the bonfire and I kicked off my shoes to dance. I never found those flats, and they’d been some of my favorites.
In the morning he’d still been there, and spent an hour telling me a brief sketch of his long life on the Isle of Youth, beyond the veil of winter and over the bloodless sea. I felt my heart breaking because he was clearly a nutter, and even when he kissed me with his tingling lips and I saw fields of flowers and golden castle turrets behind my eyelids, I did not believe.
Not until he walked me through the solid trunk of a giant oak tree and out again into my own backyard three hundred miles away.
My own faerie prince. Who told me he loved me every damn day.
“Is it truly necessary?” he asks again, squeezing my hand. On the posh lobby coffee table is a small clock ticking away the seconds. Our appointment is in four minutes.
I still don’t look at him. “Yes. I need a contract for this, Killian.”
“Signed in blood.”
“I’m not stupid. I know what you are: you told me yourself.”
Wearily, he nods. It takes all my willpower not to say, I trust you. Because it is the only thing I cannot rely on. I’ve read enough of the old stories to know that much.
When I told him I was pregnant, his face changed. He was more human for the silly grin, and less for the ageless wonder as he knelt before me and put his hands on my stomach. I had to take his wrists and lower them. “My food is digested up there. Babies, down here.”
He wrapped himself around me then, arms gentle and cheek pressed in. I buried my hands in his soft hair, staring at the swirl that would be a cowlick if he ever let me cut it short. “I need something,” I whispered.
“Anything,” he swore.
It hurts him, that we’re here. Waiting for our appointment with Peter Whittaker, Esquire, to draw up a contract.
The lawyer’s door opens, and the jovial Mr. Whittaker is there. All I can do is stare at his salmon-colored tie as I stand. “Ms. June, Mr. Avery, please come in!” His shirtsleeves are rolled up as if he’s ready for business.
“Thank you,” I manage. Kill rises behind me and puts his hand on the small of my back.
“Last chance,” he whispers.
I turn to him and kiss him, tasting the sugar of his tongue. “I know,” I whisper back.
Together, we enter.