She nodded, making her cheap bead earrings dance at her ears; she was too breathless to actually answer him. The wine sang in her blood and she felt free and reckless, and capable of simply anything. He moved towards her slowly and lowered his head to hers. Standing, frozen, one hand still clutching the apple tree, her heart seemed to be the only part of her that moved; frantic and erratic as his lips brushed hers.
He didn’t touch her at all, apart from where their lips met; soft and very gentle. To her intense disappointment he moved away again, the wide brown eyes taking in her flushed skin and noticing the way she followed him, stepping closer, with amusement.
“Want to see some more magic?” The sly smile was back and she wondered just how much her Tante Marie had known.
“I thought you weren’t allowed to show me?” she said, picking at the bark of the apple tree with nervous fingers.
“Hasn’t stopped me so far,” he pointed out and laid his hand over hers. “Don’t do that, you’re hurting it.”
She looked at the tree in alarm. “I am?”
He turned her hand over in his, and traced the lines on her palm with the other. “Your kind are so like us... and yet so very different. How can you be so cut off from your own world?”
She snatched her hand away feeling irritated suddenly. “It’s not my fault I can’t do magic! I don't see that painting butterflies is so very useful anyhow.” She didn't know why she felt so annoyed but it seemed to cut through the wine, clearing her head and she took the chance to walk away from him, out into the sunshine.
“Where are you going?” he demanded.
She turned, and the sun glinted on her yellow hair. He thought she looked like a butterfly herself, with her colourful beads and the brightly patterned bikini top. She had been quite right of course, the women in his world did not dress or rather undress, to such an extent and he was captivated and more than a little intrigued by the strange human girl. She put her hands on her hips as she answered him. “I’m going to get a drink, I’m thirsty.”
He gestured to the blanket and the jug of wine. “But we have plenty to drink.”
She stepped back again, her bare feet crunching on the sun browned grass and looked at him through narrowed eyes. “Eh bien, you’d like me to drink more of that wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Then you won’t be cross with me.”
She stilled, and he thought he saw fear in her eyes. “Why would I be cross with you, what are you going to do?”
“No, I meant, you’re already cross with me,” he chuckled. “Why?”
She sighed and pouted. “Because... oh, I can’t remember." She rubbed her head, she felt fuzzy and not quite herself. "I'm going inside now," she said with a touch of defiance and was gratified to see that he looked disappointed. They stood looking at each other a little awkwardly and she felt the sun burning her shoulders. "Do you want to come?"
He walked out into the sunshine and she wished he hadn't, he was just too perfect, too beautiful... dangerous; she shivered as Tante Marie's voice seemed to whisper in her ear. He followed her, silently, into the cool gloom of the house, looking around with interest. She tried to act normally, as if his presence didn’t have every nerve ending shrieking at her to do something... though what was being suggested, she couldn’t decide.
She opened the fridge and got out the big jug of ice tea. “Want some?”
He nodded and she poured out two glasses and put the jug back, while he watched her every move. To her amusement he walked over to the fridge and spent a few moments opening and shutting the door.
“It goes off when the door’s shut,” she giggled and he looked at her, curiosity in his eyes.
“What is it for?”
“It’s a fridge, it keeps things cold.”
“Like this?” He grinned and touched the glass in her hand with a fingertip and the drink inside froze solid.
“No,” she said, irritated. “That would be a freezer, and I wanted to drink that!” He touched the glass again and the drink returned to normal, she sighed and rolled her eyes. “Merci.” Not looking at him, she moved away as he walked around the kitchen, touching things and picking them up.
“Does metal bother you?” she asked him and he raised his eyebrows. “Well in all the fairy stories metal makes you guys sick.”
He scowled at her and shook his head. “I’m not a fairy!”
She sipped at her drink and watched as he went over to inspect the stereo.
“Well, what are you then?”
He was leaning towards the stereo, it was an old thing, bulky with lots of knobs and buttons and he ran his fingers over them curiously. “An elf,” he said, staring at all the dials with interest.
Chloe choked on her drink and smothered a grin as he looked sharply at her. “Oh, well that’s alright then,” she muttered to herself. “So are elves bothered by metal then, I mean... when you’re finished working for Santa?”
He turned suddenly and she found herself backed up against the kitchen wall, with his furious eyes regarding her. “You think to make fun of me?”
She gasped, spilling the drink in her shaking hand. “I...I...” she stammered. He was too close, and she felt afraid. “Only a little bit... I was only teasing but... but here, that’s what it means, what you are. You’re not real; you’re in Christmas films and bedtime stories.” Her voice trailed off, barely more than a whisper. “You’re not real.”
His expression softened and he reached out a hand, trailing his fingertips down her jawline; making her shiver. “But I am real.” She nodded, looking up at him fearfully and he regretted being so sharp with her. Corin had warned him of the human perception of their kind but it was just so... humiliating. “I’m sorry I frightened you.”
She nodded again but didn’t speak and he backed away to try and reassure her that he was harmless, though whether that was true or not he wasn’t really sure. “Faeries are a different breed, not like your silly winged fairy tales, meet one of the unseelie court and you would find yourself a great deal more afraid than you are now.” He smiled at her and she wished she could stop wanting to touch him whenever he gave her a glimpse of that curving mouth. “Though you are not nearly as afraid of me as you should be you know.”
He returned his attention to the stereo and she put her glass down and walked over turning the volume knob up to maximum and flicking the switch, music blasted from the speakers and he leaped backwards with an exclamation, staring at her wide eyed.
She turned the volume knob down so the music was playing softly and looked up at him through her lashes. “But then, maybe you’re not as afraid of me as you should be either?”
For a moment she couldn’t decipher the look on his face and she wondered if she had gone too far but then, that sensual mouth curved into a smile and he began to laugh. He laughed and laughed and she bit her lip, grinning at him stupidly.
“I suppose I asked for that,” he said and she nodded, pleased that he wasn’t angry.
“You really did.”
He pursed his lips, looking at her thoughtfully. “No it doesn’t bother us.”
“What?” She asked, confused at the sudden change in the conversation. He had turned back to look at the stereo again, fiddling with the volume switch to make it louder and then quieter again.
“Metal; no, it doesn’t really bother us it just feels... dirty, we’d rather not be around it but it does us no harm. Neither does lemon juice, if you were wondering.”
“What does then?”
He looked up from the stereo and turned his attention back to her. “Why? Do you want to hurt me?”
She huffed and crossed her arms. “Of course not, I was just curious; I want to know about you.”
“You do?” His eyes were intense suddenly and he closed the gap between them. Standing very close he reached out and put his hand on the bare skin of her waist and her breath hitched at the contact. He pulled her a little closer and she stood there, with her hands on the fine white linen shirt covering his chest. “I have something for you.” He opened his free hand and showed her a tiny acorn, not a real one but carved of some kind of wood but just as tiny and perfect. “Take it.”
She hesitated, she remembered, Tante Marie had said something about gifts... but what?
“Take it,” he whispered, his mouth close to her ear, his lips brushing her jaw. She reached out her hand and took the acorn from his open palm. “Open it.”
She looked closer to see that the little cup unscrewed from the nut and turned it carefully in her fingers. Taking the lid carefully away she squealed with surprise and delight as a tiny bird flew from inside. Its wings were a deep magenta and it sang as it flitted around her. She watched, entranced, until he took the acorn cup from her hand and the bird returned to it and he replaced the lid. “Oh!” she breathed. “That’s so lovely but... isn’t it cruel, leaving the poor thing in that tiny cup?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. In our world they only live for a day but like this, for many months, years even. Is that cruel?”
She looked at the tiny acorn, confused. “I don’t know.” He took it from her and popped it into the pocket of her shorts and she looked up at him. His hand was still on her waist and it smoothed over her skin, his fingers slipping a little under the edge of her shorts as his other hand cupped her face. “Do I get a reward for such a gift?”
Her skin seemed alive with anticipation, her lungs to tight to draw a breath. “What do you want?”
He didn’t answer but lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her and this time she had no intention of letting him move away. She slid her hands over broad shoulders and as he pulled her closer she went willingly, pressing against him. She slid one hand into his hair, tangling her fingers in the delicate plaits and tugging his head down towards her, urging him on. He pressed back against her and she felt the edge of the kitchen table behind her thighs and wriggled onto it, clasping her legs around his hips. He broke off the kiss, his hands falling lower and pulling her tight against him, breathing heavily, those wide brown eyes glittering with desire.
“I’ve never met anyone like you before.” His expression was part curiosity, part need and she smiled, reaching up to touch his mouth with her fingertips.
“Well, that makes two of us.” With deft fingers she undid the fastenings of his shirt and he watched, fascinated, as her red painted nails trailed a pattern down his chest. She brushed her lips over his skin, breathing in his scent; fresh and crisp, she thought of green apples. “Oh, Dieu, you smell good,” she sighed. Leaning forward she planted a kiss that made lust darken his eyes further still, and chuckled wickedly against his skin before moving her mouth to his nipple and tugging gently with her teeth. She was gratified to hear him moan and then his hands were in her hair, pulling her head back so that he could kiss her again.
A knock at the door made them both jump and they stilled, lips still touching, breathing fast.