He brushed her open mouth with his, his tongue tracing her bottom lip and the decision was made. She shut her mind to the warning voice, repeating in her ears; too late, she whispered in return, too late.
She felt the prickle of magic on her skin and glanced down to see a thick rug had appeared beneath her and Brokk held out his hand, offering a plateful of tiny pastries. They smelled delicious and her stomach rumbled. He grinned and took one, holding it to her mouth. “You said you were hungry.”
“Is it safe for me to eat your food?” She remembered stories of people getting trapped in fairy tales by eating in the fae lands, had Tante Marie told her that or was it just something she had read?
He looked her in the eye, guileless. “I won’t hurt you.” She hesitated and opened her mouth and he smiled popping the tiny pasty in.
She chewed, smiling and closing her eyes. “Délicieux,” she sighed and opened her mouth again so he could feed her another. Before long the plate was empty and she sighed, contended.
She nodded him. “Oui, merci, much better." They sat together on the rug, watching the river rush past them and a Damsel fly flitted around her toes.
“Pretty,” he observed with a smile and she nodded.
“Yes but sad too.”
She watched the vivid blue flickering as it darted around the edge of the river, and back again to investigate her red toe nails. “They live for months, years even, as larvae under the water and then they turn into damsel flies but their beauty only lasts a few weeks and then they die.”
He frowned, seeming disturbed by the thought and then snatched his hand out and the damsel fly was gone.
“What did you do?” she cried and he smiled, holding out a little golden damsel fly in his hand.
“Non!” she exclaimed, shocked that he would do it but he shook his head, handing it to her.
“Breath on it.”
She looked at him curiously and took it from him, blowing gently upon the gold, whereupon it flickered to life and flew around her once more. He snapped his fingers and it dropped to the ground, cold and lifeless once more. “Now it will live whenever you want it to,” he smiled.
She looked at the little gold trinket and back to him, at once enchanted and terrified. “Isn’t it cruel? Does it long to be set free?”
“I shouldn’t think so,” he said softly, “it sleeps until you wake it again.”
She slid it into her pocket carefully, unsure what she felt and then picked up a stone, flinging it into the water with a gentle splash. Brokk did the same but when his stone hit the water there was a huge splash, far bigger than the stone should have made and Chloe squealed as she was doused with cold water. Brokk had held out his hand, magic protecting him from getting wet and Chloe smacked his arm, shaking water from her hair over him as he laughed and protested.
“Ugh, you’re soaking,” he said, holding her at arm’s length.
“Well I wonder how that happened?” she yelled, trying to sound cross and not giggle.
He pulled at her T-shirt. “This is all wet, you had best take it off... you’ll get cold.”
“It must be forty degrees!” She smirked at him and he shrugged.
“Take it off anyway,” he said softly.
She knelt beside him, looking at him intently. “You’ll go home tonight?”
He turned his head away, watching the water again. “Yes.”
“Will I ever see you again?”
He didn’t answer her at first and she began to think he wouldn’t, when he turned back to her. “I don’t know.” He reached out and grasped her hand. “But I want to, I want to very much.” He hesitated and she couldn’t read his expression. “I want to take you with me.”
Her eyes widened. “To your world? Really?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “But it is forbidden. I’m not powerful enough to open the gate by myself and...” He broke off and she squeezed his hand, hoping he would continue. “My family are minor nobility, we have little wealth or power and I’m the youngest son, I have five brothers.” He shrugged. “I have nothing to offer you.”
She frowned at him. “Whatever do you mean? I don’t care what you’ve got or haven’t got, it doesn’t matter.”
He smiled at her and reached out to stroke her cheek. “It does in my world. I have no right to take a wife if I have no worth.”
“Wife!” she spluttered. “We’ve just met! I was thinking your girlfriend... maybe, OK?”
He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter either way. The laws are very strict, you cannot enter our land.”
She was surprised to see how sad this made him and felt relieved that she wasn’t the only one being swept along by this strange encounter. “But you could stay here... with me.”
“And do what?”
She pursed her lips, thinking. “You’d be an amazing magician,” she suggested and he laughed and shook his head.
“My family do not approve of me being here, if I stayed it would cause trouble for the Prince and... and I have responsibilities. I have to go back.” He looked gloomy at the prospect and she experienced a strange feeling in her heart. Madness, she scolded herself, she had only met him this morning, she had no business getting so wrapped up with him when he would be leaving in a few hours. None the less, when he turned to look at her, she smiled, and slowly drew the T-shirt over her head.
He watched her, those wide brown eyes speaking far more eloquently than any words, and she lay down, accepting her fate, at least she could see it coming, she could have run if she had wanted to... couldn’t she?
She held her arms out to him and he followed, his lips soft, his mouth warm. Her hands pulled at his shirt, she had made her choice, no point in pretending any more, and he sat up, pulling the fine materials over his head and discarding it. Reaching forward, she ran her hands over the smooth chest, over that pale gold skin, over a body that she would only have thought possible in fantasies. She watched the muscles in his arms flex as they took his weight, lowering him down and she wriggled beneath him as he settled his weight upon her. Kicking off her sandals, she wrapped her legs around him, pulling him closer and he sighed, his breath warm on her skin before his mouth found hers again.
Desire coiled in her belly, hot and heavy, her skin seemingly stretched too tight, aching for more and he was only too willing to oblige. He removed the bikini top with deft fingers and she arched against him as the heat of his mouth consumed her, his tongue teasing and caressing as her breathing hitched. A warm hand skated over her stomach, magic flickering under his fingertips, the patterns dancing over her skin; as fine as lace. He undid the button on her shorts, his hand sliding under the material as she moaned under his touch.
“Beautiful,” he murmured in her ear, as her blood fizzed in her veins, with desire, with magic, she could neither tell nor care which. She lost the world around them, retreating into herself, existing only in the places where his skin met hers until his kiss muffled her cries as she clung to him. When she had returned to her senses he had spoken one word. “Mine.” Before kissing her again and she knew he spoke the truth.
There was no going back, and they shed the last of their clothing along with any pretense that this didn’t matter, that nothing would change... that they could go back to their own lives and be as they had before.
Much later, when the sky had turned black they lay together and looked up at the stars. “I feel like they’re mocking us,” she said, her voice heavy with sadness.
He looked down at her, propped up on one elbow, his hand stroking her skin. “Whatever do you mean?”
“They’re so very old and we get one day, it’s not fair!”
He leaned down and kissed her. “But they are dead and we live,” he whispered.
“And what is the point of that... if I will never see you again?”
He moved suddenly, taking hold of her wrists and pinning her down, his expression fierce. “Do you trust me?”
She opened her mouth to answer and hesitated as that phrase echoed through her mind, never trust the fae.
He shook his head, somehow knowing what made her pause. “I don’t mean should you, I’m asking... do you? Do you trust me?”
She felt her eyes fill and blinked away tears but nodded. “Oui, I do, I shouldn’t but I do.”
He sat up and put his hands together and when he opened them again he was holding a bracelet. It was gold, delicate, and hung with charms; butterflies and hummingbirds. She gasped as he held it out to her.
“Oh, Brokk... it’s so beautiful.” She looked up at him and there was something in his eyes that made her hesitate. “What?”
“Will you put it on?” he asked.
“You want me to?”
He reached out a hand and swept a lock of hair from her face, twining between his fingers. “Yes,” he replied, “yes I do.”
She undid the clasp and placed the bracelet on her wrist, closing it with a snap and as she did so magic twisted around her arm. A delicate, golden light as fine as a spider web, curling around her fingers, climbing up her arm like bindweed, and fading, settling beneath her skin with a cool caress. She looked up at him fearfully. “What does it mean?”
“It means you are mine now,” he said softly, and there was a mixture of pride and regret in his voice.
“What does that mean?” she demanded, as her Tante Marie’s words came back to haunt her.
He took her face within his hands, holding her firm, looking her in the eyes. “It means we will be together, somehow... I will find a way, I swear it. I will find a way and I will come for you and you will wait. You will wait for me.”
Somehow she drove them back home. Though her hands trembled and the road blurred in front of her eyes.
They sat under the apple tree, her head against his chest, feeling his heart beat beneath her hand, and wondering if he felt the pain of what was to come as keenly as she did. She knew when the Prince returned before she could see the soft glow that surrounded him. Her senses prickled under his power and when he came upon them the golden eyes seemed to know without them having to say.
Brokk drew her to her feet and she felt the weight of the Prince’s gaze on the bracelet at her wrist. He looked at Brokk who stared back defiantly. “I will come back for her.”
“When?” the Prince asked softly.
“You said you would change the laws, when you are King, you said it would all change!” Brokk shouted and the Prince shook his head.
“And so I will, when I am King.” He stepped closer and whispered in Brokk’s ear, so that only he could hear. “Cruel, too cruel.”
Brokk shook his head, his eyes full of the misery in his heart. “I have one just the same,” he said, holding out his own wrist. “Only mine you cannot see.”
The Prince nodded, smiling sadly and placing his hand on Brokk’s shoulder. “I see it.” He turned to Chloe. “I am so sorry but we must go now, my dear.”
She shook her head and began to cry. “Non, non... s’il te plâit !”
Brokk held her to him, his arms holding her tightly. “I will find a way, I will, say you trust me,” he demanded.
“I do, I do but when... Brokk, when?”
He looked up as the Prince opened the gateway and sweet smell of magic drifted on the warm, night air, curling around them, tantalising and wistful.
“I don’t know,” he replied and the words settled in her stomach, cold and black, like the coals of a fire, long since dead.
He kissed her, hard and with longing and then he turned and stepped through the gate way and disappeared from sight.
She sat under the apple tree all night, crying bitterly until the morning sky blazed its flawless blue. The sun burnished everything it touched, taunting her misery with the perfection of the day. It should be raining, she thought bitterly, there should be thunder and lightning, and hail and snow... until he came back again.
She walked out to her car, numb with misery, and drove to the little nursing home, welcomed by smiling nurses who took her to shady balcony overlooking the river.
The old lady looked up, surprised and delighted... until she saw the look in her eyes.
“Oh, non, Chérie, non, non.”
She held out her wrist and showed her the bracelet and the old lady held her hand, her eyes filling with tears. “I tried to warn you, I tried.”
Chloe shook her head stubbornly. “He’s coming back for me, he promised, he promised me.”
The soft old hands let go of her wrist and Tante Marie carefully eased up the arm of her pale blue cardigan... to show a bracelet of delicate gold, and as she did... the faintest trail of magic curled around her skin.