Interview With Two Dark Princes.
I sat down, taking in the sight in front of me in awe and tried hard not to blush. Two of the most extraordinary men I had ever seen were sitting waiting for me to ask them about their lives and I was feeling utterly tongue tied. Of course one of them I had met and interviewed before...and...and...
The blush became even harder to contain under his watchful golden gaze and I just knew he knew I was remembering the night we’d shared...and wishing hopelessly that it would happen again. Corin Albrecht. The most powerful fae man that had ever lived since the days of the Old Ones that had walked their realms in the time of Dragons. Well the dragons had been dead for thousands of years but his golden eyes spoke of ancient power and the rumours about what he was capable of became ever wilder as time passed.
They were both Royalty, had both grown up as Prince’s of their lands. Corin in the Elven land of Alfheim and the man beside him was his closest and oldest friend. Laen Braed, Prince of the dark fae.
They were very different in their beauty, but none the less impressive for it. Each of them a foil for the other. Corin’s golden skin glowed against Laen’s opalescent pallor, his hair a rich chestnut brown to his Laen’s white blond. Corin’s eyes were warm, the rich gold inviting in the dim evening light of the room. Laen’s eyes were black, wary, his arms crossed, one leg slung over the other. His body language was defensive and I knew Corin had taken some time to persuade him to come and speak with me. It amused me a little that the hulking figure in front of me should be wary of speaking with little old me but there it was.
I watched the words flicker under his skin with intrigue. Corin had explained to me that I might find it distracting to speak with him as the emotions I was feeling would be reflected in words on his face. Both he and his sister had been cursed by his father and step mother for speaking out against them. They had been banished to Laen’s own lands and forbidden to return to the city or the palace. I saw the words, curiosity, sympathy and intrigue pass across his face and tried hard not to stare but it was bloody hard. He was a big hunk of man. He must have stood way over six foot, he towered over me and even Corin who was no less impressive. Oh, yes, Corin was very impressive. I had a flashback of broad shoulders and hard abs slick with sweat in the firelight and had to focus hard to try and get my brain back on track.
I ventured a look at Laen just in time to see the words desire, lust and longing make an appearance. Of course Corin had to look too. He grinned and winked at me as I sighed. Well it wasn’t as if he didn’t already know.
“Ummm, it’s good to see you again, Corin.” I ventured.
He gave me a warm smile. “You too, darling, have you been well?”
“Quite well.” I smiled at him, trying to look cheerful and not as though my every waking moment had been consumed with thoughts of him from the moment he’d left. Emma had told me the news of course. He had finally fallen for a woman. A human woman at that. I stifled a surge of jealousy that the man who had sworn he would never fall in love had been caught so completely. He must have met her soon after we had been together. I wished I had managed to hold his attention as she so clearly had. I wished I knew her secret. How the hell had she caught a man like him?
“Well then, Emma’s readers have set the questions,” I said briskly, trying hard to be professional; always a challenge when Corin was in the room.
“How delightful.” He gave me a knowing smile. “I do hope they are as interesting as last time.”
“I think they behaved themselves a little this time...knowing how you are spoken for now.” I didn’t look at him but could hear the edge in my voice myself. I felt ashamed of my jealousy. He was a good man, he deserved to be happy...but still. I couldn’t help it.
I looked up to see affection in his eyes and turned quickly back to my question sheet before I could embarrass myself.
“First question, and of course one everyone wants to hear an answer to.”
Did you ever fight over the same girl?
I just had time to see Corin wince at the question before a look of resignation settled on his face. Intrigued, I looked to Laen who was glaring at him.
"Marcie," he growled.
Corin pinched the bridge of his nose, muttering, "oh, gods, not this again."
Laen turned in his chair to give Corin his undivided attention. "No, come on, you said it would be good for us to be open and we never did get to the bottom of this one." He crossed his arms and I watched in awe as his shirt sleeves stretched tight over his biceps.
"Laen, it was well over a hundred years ago, can't you let it go?" Corin demanded. "I'm quite sure Evie has no wish to listen to us bickering over ancient history."
"Oh, no, I'm good," I said, blinking innocent eyes at him. "Please do carry on."
He narrowed his eyes at me. "Why thank you, darling, you are too kind."
I sniggered at the sarcasm in his voice but Laen was like a dog with a bone, no matter what I said he wanted an answer.
“Well?” he demanded.
Corin crossed his arms looking defensive. "You never said you were interested in her."
"I bloody well did!" Laen exclaimed.
"No. You didn't."
"You know that I did, dammit!"
"Laen! You may have told me you thought her beautiful when we were both far too drunk to make any move in that direction but if you remember I agreed with you. You never said it was your intention to have her nor did you ask me to back off!"
Laen banged the arm of the chair and I jumped in alarm. "What the hell? You knew damn well I was interested!"
"Well so was I!" Corin yelled back.
I gave a polite cough and suddenly both sets of eyes were trained on me. They were both simmering still and the intensity of their gaze gave me goosebumps. "Ummm," I said, feeling a little nervous. "Did this kind of thing happen a lot?"
Corin sighed and shook his head. "Not too often happily." He gave Laen a dark look. "We have..." he paused and corrected himself. "We had... a system. Basically we would, I believe you say 'call dibs' is that right?" I snorted in amusement and nodded so he carried on. "For the most part this worked admirably but on occasion things got a little muddled. On the night Laen is getting himself all lathered up over, we both saw the girl on the same night. We had both been on something of a bender over the previous days and our memories of who said what to whom are a tad hazy." Laen snorted at this point but Corin ignored him and carried on. "It just so happened that I bumped into the girl, quite by accident the following afternoon."
"Accident my arse," Laen grumbled beside him.
Corin huffed in annoyance and sat forward in his chair. "Are you calling me a liar?"
Laen pursed his lips and looked at the ceiling. "No. No. No," he said. "I just think you have a selective memory."
"Well of all the..." Corin stopped and took a breath. "Very well, Laen, and what of Lizbet?"
There was a stony silence and Laen shifted in his chair before waving his hand at me. "Next question," he said gruffly.
"Thought as much," Corin muttered, picking up his drink and taking a large swallow.
Who gets the most girls?
"Obviously we are talking about before you both settled down," I clarified with a brittle smile. "But who would you say?
Corin swirled the drink in his glass and sat quietly, looking smug as Laen rolled his eyes. "He does, obviously." He laughed as Corin grinned at him. "What? You thought I'd deny it? What would be the bloody point? I occasionally like to do other things with my day you know!"
"Oh?" Corin enquired with one eyebrow raised. "Like...for example?"
"Like...oh, I don't know, breathe for instance." Laen smirked at him and Corin shook his head and gave a heavy sigh.
"Well, if you are going to waste your time, it is hardly my affair."
Corin, did flirting come naturally to you or did you have a mentor? Did you watch and learn from older boys?
“I’m afraid it was as natural as breathing, darling.” A slow smile curved over that gorgeous mouth and I willed my heart not to beat itself to death before the end of the interview. “I believe I was very young when I discovered that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Not a pretty analogy perhaps but nonetheless accurate. I was never one to stamp my feet and have a tantrum even when I was very small indeed. Pretty words and and a wistful expression will get you much further than shouting and making a scene. It is a lesson that I took to heart and I find it has served me well.”
Laen snorted in amusement. “He’s impossible to say no to,” he grumbled. “And for my part, that is a lesson I’m still learning as my wife Océane would no doubt agree.”
“Oh, no doubt at all.” Corin laughed.
How did you meet?
"When we were both around six years old," Laen explained. "I ran away from home and strayed into Alfheim."
"Why did you run away and what happened?" I asked knowing Laen would never give up any details unless I pressed.
He shrugged. "My mother had not long died and, my father...my father..." He stopped, his expression bland and Corin spoke in his place.
"And his father was a heartless bastard who had no time for a little boy grieving for his mother."
I could hear the anger in Corin's voice even though it was so many years ago and looked to Laen but his face remained impassive.
"So you ran away and found yourself in Alfheim, what then?"
Corin glanced at him but Laen made no move to reply so he continued. "He was starving as he'd been from home for some time so he stole some bread from a farm kitchen. He was caught by the farmer who was none too pleased."
Corin opened his mouth to carry on but this time Laen spoke. "He saved me." Laen glanced over at his friend of so many years and a look passed between them. "Not for the last time I might add."
"Oh I think we're even," Corin said with a smile.
What do you dislike the most about each other?
Corin laughed and reclined in his chair, waving his hand at Laen. "Well go on then, I imagine you'll enjoy this one."
"Oh do I have to choose just one thing?" Laen said with an expression of deep disappointment. "Hmmm, decisions, decisions." He tapped his chin thoughtfully and Corin rolled his eyes.
"Oh do get on with it."
"He's a miserable bastard first thing in the morning and he takes far too long to get ready."
"Is that all?" Corin said in surprise. "I'm astonished. Though for the record, I am never miserable."
Laen spluttered in disbelief. "Have you heard yourself when you've got a hangover?"
"Well if you will go out of your way to irritate the hell out of me when I am obviously hagged to death, I'd say you get everything you ask for." Corin replied as he reached over and topped up his glass from the decanter.
Laen scowled and got up, taking the decanter and putting it on the far side of the room before sitting down again and ignoring Corin's look of irritation.
"Don't baby me, for the god's sake, Laen."
"Someone's got to and Claudette isn't here."
They were silent for a moment as Corin downed his drink in one, looking at Laen defiantly. "And I don't take that long to get ready!"
I watched, amused, as Laen gave him and oh really? expression. "Well you've been a damn sight quicker since that girl who did your hair left. At least she was supposed to be doing your hair, somehow I doubt it. What was her name? Felice?"
Corin smirked. "Ah, yes. A talented girl, such clever little fingers."
"Hmmm, yes," Laen said with a thoughtful expression. "I've heard she has settled in well to her new home. Apparently Lord Grell is delighted by her."
"I'll just bet he is," Corin muttered. "But wait, now it's my turn. What do I dislike the most about you?" He turned an ran a critical eye over his friend before reaching forward and adjusting Laen's collar with a despairing sigh. "Well, if we ignore the fact that you find it quite impossible to put on any item of clothing straight..."
Laen huffed and smacked his hand away.
"Then I would have to say the thing I dislike most is also one of the best things about him."
"Oh?" I asked in surprise. "How is that possible?"
Corin returned a wicked grin that made me remember just how devilish he could be and I felt my stomach give a little flip. "He is far too reserved and ridiculously easy to embarrass but as making him blush to his toes is one of my chief sources of amusement I would hate to see him change too drastically."
Laen scratched his chin looking uncomfortable. "Don't start," he grumbled.
What would you say is each other's best quality?
I smiled as they both gave the same answer simultaneously. "Loyalty."
Is that all? I asked, wanting to hear more.
Corin grinned at Laen, eyes twinkling mischievously. "Well then, Laen, come on. Say something nice to me."
"Oh, gods, I said, don't start!" He crossed his arms again and Corin chuckled.
Laen glowered at him. “No.”
“You have to answer the question.” Corin insisted.
I nodded in agreement.. “Yes, you really do.”
Laen raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Oh bloody hell.” He uncrossed his legs and crossed them again, shifting uncomfortably in his chair and looking like he wanted to be anywhere else but here. “He's...he’s"
Corin sat forward expectantly. "Yes?"
"Pack it in or I'll say nothing," Laen warned him and Corin made a buttoning motion over his mouth. "Gods but you're a child." He complained as Corin tried hard not to laugh. He sighed and turned to look at me so that Corin couldn't distract him any further. "He is the kindest most generous person I have ever known and he has always been my friend...even when I wasn't his."
I felt a lump in my throat and looked at Corin who was looking equally touched.
"And now shut the hell up!" Laen snapped at him, looking grumpy as hell.
"Corin?" I asked.
"Oh, right...yes." Corin blinked hard and cleared his throat as Laen smirked at him.
"Such a girl," he said under his breath.
Corin pursed his lips and I just knew Laen was going to pay for that comment.
"He can hold his liquor."
"What?" Laen gave him an incredulous look. "That's it? I say that and all you can say is, 'he can hold his booze?´"
"Well you can." Corin said with a perfectly straight face. He regarded Laen's look of outrage for a moment before laughing out loud. "You are such a tangle of emotions, Laen. You know damn well you want me to say something nice and when I do you'll feel embarrassed and wish I'd kept my mouth shut." There was a grunt from Laen which I wasn't sure was acceptance of the truth or just irritation. Corin smiled at me. "The best thing about Laen is that he puts up with all of my teasing and terrible behaviour. He is always willing to stand by my side even when he knows full well I will lead him into trouble. He is loyal and brave and the brother than I never had. In short he is my dearest friend and I would be utterly lost without him...as well he knows."
Corin looked at Laen who was steadfastly ignoring him. There was another, "hmph," this time a little softer and accompanied by a slight nod which apparently denoted his approval.
Corin shook his head with a chuckle before reaching over and patting Laen's shoulder. "There, there, it's over now." Laen muttered something that didn't sound complimentary under his breath which Corin ignored. "Next question?" he suggested.
Corin, do you think if you'd had a sister your relationships with women may have been different?
"Oh, that is an interesting thought. Honestly I have no idea." He paused and looked to Laen before shaking his head. "No. I don't think so. After all I have the greatest respect for women. I am of the opinion that a woman can do pretty much anything a man can, a point which my mother has spent a great deal of energy proving to me through out my life. If I had a sister I am sure I would be just as protective of her as Laen is with his sister Aleish but I do not see that it would change the way I interact with them. If I find a woman beautiful I will always admire her but in truth beauty is a shallow thing if there is no wit or life behind the pretty eyes." He gave me a warm look and I knew he was remembering the last time I had seen him. So was I. I felt heat coil in my belly and liquefy, sending warmth surging through my veins. He's taken! I reminded myself severely but I couldn't help the longing look I felt sure was in my eyes. I watched that sensuous mouth curve into a slow smile and it was all I could do not to fall at his feet and beg him not to marry her, as ridiculous as it was. It seemed like a terrible blow for womankind. Damn he was good
I cleared my throat and made the mistake of glancing at Laen, he was looking at me with real sympathy in his eyes which made me blush so I hurried to the next question.
How old were you when you had your first trip into the human realm?
Corin got to his feet and crossed the room to retrieve the decanter that Laen had moved. As he passed the fireplace I saw a slight flick of his fingers and a blaze erupted
in the hearth. "You're like a damn vampire," Laen complained. "Always bloody cold."
"Don't be so rude! Besides, I'm not cold it is just cosier with the fire lit. Don't you agree, Evie?" He turned those golden eyes on me and I shivered as my own eyes drifted to the rug in front of the fire.
"Yes...yes, I do," I said with a dreamy smile and then tore myself out of my memories and back to the present. “Err, so, the human realm?” I reminded him as he picked up the decanter.
“Well Laen has only been once,” he answered with a smile. “Though I think you could say that was a life changing experience. Wouldn’t you, Laen?”
Laen’s rather stern features softened at the question and I realised he was remembering how he had met his wife. From the stories I had heard about him I could only think that she must be one hell of a woman. He was a powerful fae Prince who had despised the human race with a passion. Now he was completely and utterly besotted by one petite brunette human who could apparently bring him to his knees with little more than a glance.
“And what about you?” I asked Corin.
He sat down with the decanter and began to pour a measure into his glass. He tutted in annoyance as Laen once more snatched it from his grasp and spilled some on his knee en-route. “Oh, you great oaf!” he complained.
“I’ll pour the rest of it over your head if you take any more,” Laen said mildly.
I got to my feet to fetch a cloth and then knelt in front of him, gently dabbing at the whisky on his trousers.
“Thank you, darling.”
I looked up at him, just intending to smile and say you’re welcome and got lost in those beautiful eyes all over again. I jumped as a polite cough pierced my conciousness and leapt to my feet. I gave Laen a grateful smile for saving me before I made a fool of myself and returned the cloth to the kitchen. While I was out of sight I heard Laen scolding him.
“Pack it in will you!”
“What?” Corin answered, sounding indignant. “I’m not doing anything.”
Laen sighed heavily. “No. I know...just...try not to.”
“How can I try to do something I’m not doing?” he demanded.
“I’ve no idea but for the god’s sake try, the poor girl is clearly half in love with you.”
“Oh, more than half,” Corin replied and I couldn’t help but laugh. I could just see the innocent look in his eyes as he spoke even though he was hidden from view. I knew I should be cross with him for his arrogance but in truth it wasn’t that at all. It was simply impossible not to love him and he knew and accepted it. As did I.
“So,” I said as I returned to my seat. “The human world.” I reminded him as I tried to get the conversation back on track.
“I think I was seven.” He looked over at Laen who nodded.
“It was after the incident...in Dark Wood.”
Corin nodded, looking grim. “There was an accident. A man died and it was my fault.”
“It wasn’t your fault.” Laen said, his voice stern.
I saw Corin give him a grateful smile but he shook his head. “Laen, it was. It was an accident and my intentions were well meant but I was too young to understand the dangers of what I was doing. I killed that man as surely as if I had put a gun to his head and I will never forgive myself for it.”
“What happened?” I asked gently but he shook his head once more. “That is another story, my dear, but it was because I was so overwhelmed by what I had done that I ran away for a while. Laen wasn’t able to stay for long and once he had gone I was lonely and deeply unsettled by what had happened. Happily I found a friend while I was there and began my love affair with your realm and France in particular.”
“Was your new friend a girl by any chance?” I asked.
“Well, of course.” He grinned at me, quite unrepentant and I rolled my eyes. “Good grief.”
When did you first discover your magic?
To my surprise Laen answered first. “In our world, most children do not come into their powers until puberty hits. The strongest among us can show traits very early, sometimes even as toddlers. For myself I became aware of it when I was around five years old though I didn’t understand what it was. As dark fae my powers are not so...” he hesitated and Corin butted in.
“Flashy?” he said with a wry smile.
Laen chuckled and nodded. “Quite. It was my mother who pointed out that all the children around me would follow me and do anything I told them to. My powers are to do with battle, with making men courageous and want to follow me though at that time it only worked on those younger than myself. Eventually though, I found I could command my father’s men, quite against his will or his orders. Of course my father had the same skills but nonetheless there were few who could resist the urge to do as I bid.”
“But everyone says you have always followed Corin where he leads?” I queried, puzzled by this revelation.
He nodded. “That is true enough and I would not follow any who was not worthy of the privilege.”
I glanced at Corin. “Just how powerful are you?”
He just shrugged in response and Laen laughed. “He won’t answer you.”
I pursed my lips, the journalist in me desperate to know the answer but my admiration for the man in front of me, made me stop. I tried another tack and returned to the question.
“OK, so when did it happen for you?”
Corin gave me a considering look and I knew he was deciding whether or not to tell me the truth. He took a sip of his drink and stared into the amber liquid as he spoke. “My mother said it began almost the moment she fell pregnant.”
I whistled under my breath. That was answer enough I guess.
Laen, a lot of people want to know how you survived your father’s harsh treatment? He obviously had a big impact on you?
I watched Laen’s face shut down as he crossed his arms and wondered if I was going to get any kind of answer from him. “I know it’s a difficult thing for you to talk about,” I added.
Corin looked at him in concern. “Perhaps another question, Evie,” he said but to my surprise Laen shook his head.
“No, I’ll answer.” He was quiet for a moment. “My wife is pregnant.”
I nodded. “Yes, I know. Congratulations.”
He smiled at me and it was a proper smile, pride shining in his eyes and then his expression darkened. “When I think of treating a child of mine in the way that he treated me...” He shook his head. “It makes me sick to my stomach. For so many years, I believed it was my fault. I thought I wasn’t strong enough, brave enough, clever enough for him to be proud of me. I won’t ever let a child of mine feel that way. No matter if they are poor swordsmen, homely girls or they never win a contest in all their lives, they will know that I love them and I am proud of them.”
I felt my eyes prickle with tears at his words and saw words of sympathy and approval flicker across his face. I looked to Corin who seemed to be wearing the expression of a proud father himself.
“As to how I survived...that was because of Corin and his parents. They welcomed me with open arms. I was allowed to visit whenever I wanted, for as long as I needed, just knowing that helped me bear a lot that might otherwise have broken me.”
“I hated it when you left,” Corin said with a smile.
Laen laughed. “Corin taught me that my father’s ideas on what it means to be a man were wrong. It’s all right to speak of your feelings, it doesn’t mean you are less of a man if you need another person, if their friendship is important to you. I’m not exactly comfortable with speaking of things like this but...but I am trying, for the sake of my family and the people I love.” He looked at Corin and shook his head. “You’d best ask me the next question too, he looks like he’s going to bawl.”
“I’m not!” Corin said, looking indignant but it was true his eyes were very bright. “And forgive me if I find the spectacle of the strong silent type actually speaking of his feelings rather touching.”
“Such a girl,” Laen sniggered.
Corin huffed with annoyance. “You do realise you’ve totally contradicted what you just said.”
“Yes but you are a special case and besides, you know it’s true.” Laen patted his head affectionately while Corin narrowed his eyes at him.
I laughed at the pair of them and figured I’d best ask the next question.
You are obviously very good friends, where do you think you would be if you hadn’t met?
Corin shrugged. “I’d be dead.”
Laen looked at him and nodded. “Yes, probably both of us would be. Strange, I’d never really considered but it’s true.”
I saw a dark look cross Corin’s face and he shook his head. “You might have been King by now.”
“I’d rather be dead than King in those circumstances.” Laen said fiercely.
Corin gave him a grateful smile and I saw the words love and friendship appear on Laen’s face. “Thank you,” he said.
I figured maybe it was time to lighten the mood now and picked a question I thought would do the trick.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
Corin sat up straight and glared at Laen. “Don’t! Don’t you dare.”
Laen began to chuckle and I grinned at him.
“Oh, go on. You know you want to...” I fluttered my eyelashes at him and Corin tutted.
“Laen I swear I will hang you by your balls at the gates of Aos Si if you tell that story.”
By this time Laen was laughing fit to split his sides while Corin continued to glare at him.
“May I remind you, you swore...” Corin snapped. “On your honour!”
“All right, all right!” Laen spluttered, wiping tears from his face. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist. I won’t tell that one.” He cleared his throat and I saw a wicked smile at his lips. “How about the one where your father smacked your bare arse in front of the whole household for stealing from the kitchens...again, or shall I tell them about kitchen maid and the broom cupboard?”
Corin pursed his lips. “I see, like that is it? Well then...how about the one where my Mother caught you in a compromising situation?”
I watched Laen’s face turn a deeper shade of pale, which was quite extraordinary as he was pale to begin with and then glow a deep red.
“Next question,” he said.
I sighed, I would have liked to have heard more but they had both clearly blackmailed each other into silence.
“OK, last one.” I felt sorrowful knowing it was almost over. I wondered if I would ever get to see them again. I certainly hoped so, though seeing Corin made my heart hurt badly, it was still worth it.
What advice would you give your young selves?
Corin sipped the remains of his drink looking thoughtful. “I think, listen to your heart and...always trust the people who love you.”
Laen nodded as he took the glass from Corin’s hand and downed the contents. “Yes, I’d agree,” he said. “Good advice.”
“Yes.” Corin sighed. “Even if they do drive you insane.”