As she didn’t answer he reached forward and pulled her towards him and her breath caught as his lips touched hers. Fear stirred in her stomach as he moved closer, one hand buried in her hair, urging her closer. Desire flamed but the fear grew stronger, he was too much temptation.
“No... I... I can’t.” She clambered to her feet and ran away from him.
“Chloe!” She heard him calling behind her but didn’t stop. Her heart was beating too fast and it wasn’t the running away that was doing it. She ran over the bridge as fast as she could and then darted left, into the big old church that dominated the square. The dusty peace seemed to shatter as she burst through the heavy wooden doors, breathing heavily. An old lady looked up and scowled at her before returning to her prayers.
She ran between the pews, through the rainbow of light cast by the stained glass, making her think of him, of the magic and colour he brought with him. What would it be like to need that, to long for that... and never see it again?
She remembered Tante Marie, warning her when she was a little girl. “Don’t trust the pretty eyes my dear, they hide the pretty lies.” Her mother had laughed and pulled her away, telling her to take no notice, Tante Marie was, un peu spécial.
She found the smaller door on the far side of the church that led out into a little alley way and wrenched it open, running out into the blazing sun once more and stopping dead in her tracks as she found him there already, waiting for her.
She shook her head as he stepped towards her and went to run once more but he caught hold of her arm. “Please, Chloe... what did I do?” His expression was one of such bewilderment that she hesitated, perhaps he really didn’t know; it wasn’t his fault that he drew her like a wasp to a honey trap.
“You’ll leave tonight,” she said, willing him to understand. “I can’t bear it. I don’t want to miss you and if I spend any more time with you...” she opened her mouth to explain and found she didn’t know what else to say.
“I will miss you too.” He let go of her arm and put his hand on her waist. “Whether you run away or not... I will still miss you. Please don’t go.”
She felt the heat of his hand through the thin material of her T-shirt and wished he hadn’t come, wished he hadn’t stayed behind with her. She wondered if she really had the will to run from him again as he drew her closer. She didn’t want to run; she wanted to know what it would be like to feel his body against hers. The idea made heat prickle against her skin and she was glad she was flushed already from running so that he couldn’t tell. “I’ll stay... on one condition.”
“Anything.” He pulled her a little closer and she looked up, meeting those pretty eyes and steeling herself.
“Promise me you won’t come back.”
“What?” She was surprised by the hurt in his eyes at her demand but swallowed down the guilt, it was for the best.
“I need to know you won’t come back or I’ll keep hoping I’m going to see you again. I don’t want that. Promise me.”
“No!” He let her go and walked away. “I want to come back; I want to see you again.”
She felt sweat trickle down her back under the glare of the sun. "Then I can't do it.” She paused and took a deep breath. “I'll bargain with you, isn't that what you like? The fae like to make a deal, Tante Marie told me that."
He frowned and kicked at the ground angrily. "And what else did Tante Marie say?"
Chloe edged back into the shade of the church, feeling the ancient stone, cool under her hands. "She told me... If I ever met one of you I should run as far and as fast as I could, and not look back."
He snorted. "How's that going?"
"Not so well," she said ruefully.
He sighed and joined her in the shade, looking down at her, his eyes wary. "What bargain?"
She took his hands in hers and leaned into him. “I’ll give you today but it will only be today. Tonight you will go back to your land and never come back; you have to promise me that I won’t ever see you again.”
His mouth set in a hard line and she sighed.
“If you don’t promise I’m going home right now. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days sitting in the garden hoping you’ll come back through that gate, Brokk. If I know we just have today I can take it for what it is and know it won’t happen again. I’ll be sad... more than sad but I will get over it.” She pressed her body harder against his and kissed his jaw. “Promise.”
He closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “I promise.”
“What do you promise?”
There was a flash of irritation in those brown eyes. “Are you sure you’ve not dealt with the fae before?” he demanded but she just smiled at him and he shrugged. “Very well, I promise not to come back.”
“Bon.” She reached up and pressed her mouth against his, feeling his arms tighten around her, pulling her close. Her hands sank into the silky hair, tangling in the tiny plaits as she pulled his head down harder, urging him on. When she finally drew away she was pleased to see the surprise in his eyes, to find he was breathing just as hard and fast as she was.
“Is there somewhere we can go?” he asked, his voice rough.
She grinned and slipped out of his grasp, wagging her finger at him. “I’m hungry and you owe me a picnic.”
He laughed and reached forward, grasping her arm and pulling her back for a kiss. “I am hungry too.” His tone left her in doubt that he wasn’t speaking about food and her heart beat fiercely in her chest. None the less she pushed him away, looking up at him through her lashes.
“Picnic first then... we’ll see.”
He frowned and gave a theatrical sigh. “Oh very well but you are very cruel to me.”
She nodded and pursed her lips. “Well,” she said with a mocking tone, “that... is what you get for dealing with humans.” She laughed as his eyebrows rose and ran away from him back into the village square. He caught up with her, slipping his arm around her waist.
“So where are we going?” he asked
“There is somewhere I want to show you.”
She led him back to the car and they drove back along winding roads, past fields studded with bales of hay and through gloomy tunnels of woodland. She put a Cd on and he watched, entranced, as she drove and sang along to the music while her blonde hair fluttered behind her. She drove them through a narrow lane, past a scruffy little farm where chickens squawked and flapped indignantly as the car ushered them off the road, and further along the lane until she turned off and parked under a canopy of chestnut trees.
Once out of the car, she took his hand and led him through the trees out into a big field. It had been planted with sunflowers and must have been a glorious sight a few weeks earlier. Now they were past their best, their heavy heads hanging forlornly, like small children in disgrace. In the middle of the field was a ruined abbey. It stood alone, past its best also but unlike the sunflowers the building stood proud still, an air of quiet dignity in its faded glory.
Brokk smiled as they entered the ruins, running his hands over the old stone. “There is magic here,” he observed.
“Really?” Chloe looked so surprised that he laughed at her.
“Isn’t faith a kind of magic?”
She opened her mouth and closed it again, considering. “I don’t know.” She shrugged, following him as he made his way past the long line of arches that highlighted the view over the sunflowers and trees beyond. “I’m not very religious.”
“But you like it here or else you wouldn’t have brought me. Why? Why do you like it?”
She frowned, not knowing how to put it into words. “I... I think because it’s peaceful.”
“No quieter than your back garden.”
“No, not quieter but... peaceful.” She laughed. “Oh, I don’t know how to explain it.”
He took her hand leading her around the broken walls. “You just did.”
He stood under one of the arches, framed against the sunflowers and the ancient building. He was an impossible thing, a fairy story come to life, a fantasy. The thought of the minutes ticking past and getting ever closer to midnight seemed to make her chest tight.
Just one day, she repeated to herself, just one day.
They sat under the broken, domed ceiling, the jagged edges of the stone, sharp against the vivid blue sky. Brokk magicked up a picnic blanket and delicious looking plates of food, none of which Chloe could identify. She refused any wine and so he produced a jug of juice. It was like nothing she had ever tasted before, sweet and sharp and refreshing in the sultry heat of the afternoon. He fed her tiny pastries and cut slices from bizarre looking fruits, offering names and explanations of everything she tasted and telling her stories of his world. She listened, fascinated, by tales of a land where magic was everywhere, where those with the greatest powers ruled. He spoke in hushed tones of the rumours that surrounded the Prince, the legends about those golden eyes, whispered stories that he was touched by the gods. He would be the greatest King the fae lands had ever seen. His words stirred a longing in her heart, to see his world, to see the vast palace where the present King and Queen presided. To see the busy market place that stood beneath the walls of the palace and where fae from all races came to trade.
She lay back with a sigh, one arm behind her head. “I wish I could see it all.” Brokk opened his mouth and she reached up, stopping his words with a finger to his lips. “No. You promised.” He scowled and lay back beside her with his arms crossed defensively and she laughed at him. “Don’t sulk.”
He snorted, sounding crosser than ever. “I am not sulking.” She rolled onto her side, leaning against him and running her hand over his stomach, easing it under the weight of his crossed arms and he sighed, turning to her. “I wish I could show it to you.”
“I know.” She leaned closer and touched her lips to his and his arms wrapped around her, pulling her close. She kissed him, her hands in his hair, sliding down his back, feeling the heat of his body through the fine material of his shirt. He rolled her onto her back and she broke the kiss. “Not here,” she said, breathless. “Someone is bound to come, tourists, walkers, they often pass through here.”
He shook his head and turned, casting his arm wide and speaking words she didn’t understand. There was a shower of sparks and she felt magic prickle over her skin. “No one will pass this way,” he said with a smile.
She looked up him, fingers tracing the strong line of his jaw, imprinting the exact colour of his eyes on her memory, the precise shade of hazel brown, with deep bronze flecks around the iris. She would remember every detail, the coloured threads twisting in the thin plaits, the fresh scent of his skin... the way he spoke her name with such desire. She wished his magic could extend to stopping time in its tracks though they wasted not a second, every moment brimming full, of taste, of touch... of each other.
As the sun began to fall in the sky, the first streaks of gold and scarlet tinting the scant clouds that dared the heat of the evening, Brokk held her against him. He could feel her heart beating against his chest and felt like it was marking their time together. He knew that he had been cruel, he should never have stayed, he should certainly never have let her give herself with such an open heart... he should not have promised. He felt the weight of that promise now, pulling at his own heart like she was an anchor, keeping him here whether he wanted to or not. Guilt settled in his bones, heavy and cold and the chill threaded through his blood as he considered what was still to come.
He would be crueller yet, before the day was done.
As the sky grew dark, they dressed and Chloe drove them home. She could feel Brokk’s eyes on her in the darkness though she didn’t return his gaze. She was afraid of what she would see in his eyes, afraid of what he would see in her own. They didn’t speak, they’d said everything they could already and she didn’t want to spoil the day with regrets. She refused to regret it. She would never forget a single detail and she would hold the memory of him to the end of her days; safe in the knowledge that she would never see him again.
When they reached the garden the Prince was waiting for them, he opened the gate between the worlds and stood in the shimmering light, looking like an ancient god, backlit against the dark sky beyond.
“Goodbye,” she whispered, kissing Brokk softly. His eyes were closed, an expression of such sadness on his face her heart turned. Suddenly his eyes flicked open and looked at her; fierce, determined. He took her hands and she gasped as she felt magic curling around her arm. She looked down to find a gold bracelet at her wrist, the pale light of magic still flickering over her skin, soft as feather down as it disappeared.
“What is it?” she asked in alarm. “What did you do?”
“I have made you a promise, the bracelet binds us together, Chloe.”
“No,” she shook her head, tears in her eyes, pulling her hands free and tugging at the bracelet, though she already knew it was useless. “No, Brokk, please!”
“I will come back.” He held her face in his hands, those brown eyes too full of emotion. “I will come back.”
He turned and walked away, stepping through the gate and out of sight as she fell to the floor, weeping. She looked up at the gate to see the Prince regarding her with sorrow.
“He promised he wouldn’t come back!” she shouted. “He promised.”
“Never trust the fae, Chloe,” he said softly, as the gates closed and took them away, back to their world.