There are an infinite number of ways to cause harm to someone. Throughout our lives, Kegan and I have perpetrated an above average number of these against each other. But, we have never been truly cruel to each other. Not until now.
“Just kidding?!” Xandra grinds out. “You put us through hell and you’re only response is ‘just kidding’?!” I am personally beyond speech at the moment. I cannot believe my cousin did this to us. Or that he had help.
Kegan is sitting at the kitchen counter looking smug, not at all remorseful. Is he truly ignorant of the pain he caused with this idiotic scheme of his? I have spent days believing I was married to someone other than Xandra. He could have ended my pain yesterday yet he chose to extend it instead.
“It was my idea to surprise you and Dagda agreed to it,” he says in his most self-satisfied voice.
My brain cannot begin to comprehend why my uncle would go along with it. It is best I keep my mouth shut at the moment. I prefer not to say the words that are going through my mind in response to his asinine actions in front of Xandra. I will find time alone with my cousin so I can share these thoughts in private. There will also be some physical violence. So, instead, I growl, “Now I know who to kill first.”
I am standing behind Xandra with my hands on her shoulders. For once, I am not doing this in an attempt to calm her down. I am afraid if I move my hands, they will find their way to my cousin’s neck.
Her voice filled with disgust and ire, Xandra lashes out at my cousin again. “Last night, I fought Dragons who were threatening my family and I wasn’t nearly as mad as I am now. How could you let us believe Kallen was married to Raziel for one minute longer than necessary?”
Kegan’s reply is flippant at best. “Well, it would hardly be a surprise party if there was no surprise.” Now my hands are keeping Xandra in place so she does not lash out with more than words. She is already pulling magic.
Tabitha walks into the kitchen and smacks Kegan in the back of the head hard enough to cause whiplash. “Ow!” he exclaims, rubbing the dent that must now be in his skull.
“That is what you get for lying to your grandmother and these two,” she says, pouring herself a cup of tea from the pot on the stove. There is still an unpleasant aroma of Goblin surrounding her from her time spent among them even though I know she has showered multiple times. Once it gets in your pores it takes forever to get it out.
“Yes, Kegan,” Grandmother drawls, her focus on another subject entirely. “Please listen to the Fairy who has just set such a fine example of honesty and trust.”
Tabitha does not respond well to the rebuff. Slamming the spoon she was using to stir her tea on the counter, she growls, “If you would have done something sooner, I would not have needed to go to such extremes.”
Extremes? She almost got us all killed, not to mention bringing this realm to the brink of war with the Dragons. I find myself firmly on Grandmother’s side of this argument.
Refusing to respond to Tabitha’s accusation, Grandmother turns her back on the older Fairy. Her voice is even as she says, “Kallen, Xandra, we need to make the best of this unwelcome situation.” Without expounding on this declaration, she leaves the room. I guess we are to be as stoic as she is.
“Stubborn old goat,” Tabitha mumbles under her breath.
Xandra is not letting her off the hook. Pouring a glass of orange juice, she reminds Tabitha how close she brought us to war and death. The guilt in her voice over what she had to do makes me want to take her in my arms and kiss her until she has forgotten the whole ordeal. I will always love Tabitha as a second grandmother, but it is going to take time to forgive her for putting Xandra in such a situation.
On the defense now, Tabitha picks her spoon back up and points it at Xandra. If she was anyone else, I would snatch the spoon out of her hand and fling it through the nearest window. From the expression on her face, Xandra would, as well. “It was a fight worth taking on and it all worked out for the best. I will not apologize for that.”
Xandra laughs but there is little humor in it. “You’re starting to sound like me,” she says.
Asking the question we all have had on our minds since learning of Tabitha’s deception, Xandra says, “Why didn’t you just tell me what was going on? You know I’m a sucker for helping the underdogs.”
“What is an underdog?” Kegan asks. I admit, I am often at a loss when Xandra says things like this, as well.
“The little guy,” she explains. “The one being taken advantage of. What do you guys call them? Anyway, in this case, the Goblins were the underdogs.”
Tabitha sighs. “I was forbidden to discuss it with you.”
Great, now Xandra is even more pissed. “Forbidden? By whom?” My guess is Grandmother. Who else could wield so much influence over Tabitha? If Dagda had forbidden her, she would have brought it up at the first opportunity.
Realizing she may have started another war, Tabitha sets her cup down on the counter. “There is a party out there in your honor. You should not be holed up in the kitchen. Go on now. Scoot.”
Yes, a party. The key reason given for the extended torture Xandra and I endured over our hand-fasting. Kegan wanted to throw a party. Now, Xandra and I must put on bright smiles and play out our roles of Prince and Princess participating in political games all night. If we refuse to attend, we will be offending a good deal of Fairy society. Not a wise thing to do regardless of how unhappy we are about the party.
Xandra’s focus is elsewhere at the moment. “Is he here?” she demands to know.
Since I am only ninety percent certain it was Grandmother who proclaimed Xandra must not be told, I cannot assure her that Dagda is innocent. But, I can make a case for shelving the matter for at least this evening. “Xandra, this is not the time. There is a room full of people out there who are going to be watching your every move for some sign that you cannot control your magic. Please do not give them an excuse to push the issue.” I cannot stress this enough. She still has enemies amongst the Fae who are waiting to pounce on any impropriety on her part as proof she is not Princess material.
Trying to calm herself, Xandra takes several deep breaths. “Fine, I’ll talk to him after the party. I’ll play nice until then.”
The tension eases from my shoulders and I smile. “Thank you.”
Being practical now, Xandra assesses her clothing. “I’m not really dressed for a party.”
This is easily remedied. My imagination revs up and I create a dress that will make even her enemies drool. It is long, black and skin-tight. A slit runs up one leg showcasing her shapely calf and thigh, and the neckline plunges almost as far down as the back, which is pretty far. Not stopping there, I create four inch, silver sandals and pull her hair back into a sleek bun. I am not talented enough to create braids or the like. Taking a step back to admire her, I will never know how I manage not to scoop her up and beg her to teleport us back to our bedroom. In a voice gruff with lust, I breathe, “Absolutely beautiful.” And all mine. Forever. If she does not like the dress, I will create another but I pray she likes it. Her pleased smile assures me I will not need to make adjustments.
Quite stupidly, my cousin lets out a low whistle. In a heartbeat, his stool is no longer beneath him and he is tumbling to the floor. “You are a jackass,” he grumbles from the tiled floor. He stands up and puts his stool to rights.
Now, for me. A black suit is what is called for in this situation. I create a white shirt and black tie to match.
“Are you sure this dress is appropriate?” Xandra asks, spinning slowly so I can examine every inch of her.
“You will be the envy of every female in the room,” Alita says from the doorway. She is dressed a bit more conservatively in a little black dress that doesn’t show too much of her long legs and has very little cleavage. She walks to Kegan and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “I am surprised to find you conscious and breathing after what you did,” she teases.
Xandra narrows her eyes in their direction. “Thank you for the compliment and he’s still on borrowed time.”
Alita laughs. “Please go easy on him; we are planning our hand-fasting.” Ideas begin filling my mind as to how I can make his as special as mine. Unfortunately, I could not do anything to spoil Alita’s hand-fasting.
“For you, I won’t kill him. But, I will get even,” Xandra warns and Kegan loses the smug air about him.
“I have already started a list,” I add with a menacing grin. Now Kegan really looks worried.
“It is difficult to greet your guests from in here,” Dagda says dryly from the doorway. His eyes finding his daughter, he says, “You are stunning.”
“Thank you,” Xandra says through gritted teeth. “After the party, you and I need to have a talk about you forbidding people from telling me things.” I love her, but I have no illusions. Keeping her anger in check for several hours was not really a possibility.
Nonplussed, Dagda is going through a mental checklist trying to figure out what she means. Yes, Grandmother is the guilty one in this situation, not him. “About the Dragons,” Xandra says, trying to jog his memory.
“You spend a great deal of time angry with me, mostly with good reason,” he admits. “I am afraid in this case, I am at a complete loss. I have not forbidden anyone to speak to you regarding any subject.”
Even though I was fairly certain it was not him, hearing his denial still makes me take a mental back step. My Grandmother is withholding information from Xandra. What else might she be keeping secret?
After studying her biological father for a moment, Xandra says, “Okay, sorry.” I let out a breath I did not know I was holding.
Dagda is in shock. He did not expect her to believe him and I can see now his body is tense as if waiting for a physical blow. It does not come. Finally, relief rolls over his face and he turns to head back to the party with a satisfied smile.
Holding my arm out to my beautiful bride, I escort her to our first event as a married couple. I will be counting down the minutes until we can make our escape. Her dress is making me think of the other, more pleasurable, things we could be doing tonight.