Home > Fae's Captive (Fae's Captive #1)(10)

Fae's Captive (Fae's Captive #1)(10)
Author: Lily Archer

I glance at myself in a floor-length mirror. Everything looks fine, I suppose, though my forehead still has an ugly bruise and my lip is puffy. I’m about to step back toward the door when a movement in the mirror catches my eye.

Before I can scream, Tyrios’s hand claps over my mouth.



I can feel her distress before I hear the sounds of a scuffle. With a roar, I burst through the bathing room door.

Tyrios has my mate by the throat, a dagger in his other hand. The terrified look in her eyes will haunt me until I take my last breath.

“Release her.”

“She belongs to my family, to me!”

Gareth is at my back, sword drawn. But I don’t need him. I already know how this is going to go.

“I won’t tell you again.” I step closer, but when Tyrios raises his dagger to her side, I stop.

“I can kill her here and now. It is my right,” he snarls. “This changeling is garbage, but she is my garbage.”

“She is my mate. The queen of the winter realm.”

He sputters, his silver eyes widening. “A changeling mate?” His surprise changes to amusement. “Typical that winter realm filth like you would find his mate in a human, baser even than the lowest fae.”

“Release her now, and I will make your death quick.” I palm my silver blade, the metal smooth against my skin.

“Your mate is my slave.” He grins. “You can’t have her. I won’t allow her to be taken by some Unseelie pretender who plays at being king when—” The surprised look in his eyes is almost as sudden as the gargling noise in his throat.

I pull Taylor from him and push her behind me. Gareth whisks her away as I approach Tyrios and slide my throwing blade from his neck.

“I was going to leave you here, unmolested.” I knock the knife from his palm as he sinks to the floor. I follow him down, not letting him escape my gaze. “You would’ve had more time, months, maybe even years, before I traveled back to Byrn Varyndr to end you for touching her.”

He presses a hand to the wound, but the blood is pouring too swiftly.

I pry his fingers away, crimson coating my skin, and lean even closer as the silver begins to darken in his eyes. “I’m glad you came.” I laugh, the sound echoing through the bathing chamber and carrying with it the bite of the winter wind. “Your corpse will be a warning to any who seek to harm my mate.”

His mouth moves, trying to form words, but only a wet whisper escapes.

“This will not bode well for our alliance.” Gareth lurks in the doorway.

“No, it won’t.”

“Shall I finish him, my lord?” Gareth asks.

“No.” I sit back on my haunches. “I offered him a quick death. He refused.” I want to sit here and watch his eyes turn a dead gray, but my need to comfort Taylor transcends my ire.

“Watch him. When he’s dead, we leave.” I stand and brush past Gareth.

Taylor is huddled on the bed, the other female petting her hair and speaking to her in the changeling language. When I see tears in her eyes, it spurs me onward. I rush to her and elbow the tiny changeling away.

“I am sorry.” I pull her to my chest, and she lets out a sob. “I swore to keep you safe. I will forever live with the stain of failing you like this.” I kiss her forehead and rock her. “Tell her,” I urge the other changeling.

She wrinkles her nose but translates my words.

Taylor mumbles something back to her.

“She says it’s not your fault.”

She’s wrong, but I don’t argue, just hold her tight as she shivers. When I think of Tyrios putting his hands on her, I want to kill him all over again.

Gareth strides from the bathing room. “He’s gone to the ancestors, or more likely, straight to the Spires.”

“Good.” I rub Taylor’s back as her crying lessens.

“Killing Tyrios.” The changeling woman winces. “That’s not going to go over well with the queen.”

“We don’t intend to address it.” Gareth grabs the few things in the room that belong to us and stuffs them in his pack.

Taylor wipes her eyes and leans back. “Thank you.”

I know what those words mean, at least. “Welcome,” I say as best I can.

She nods and takes a deep breath.

“Are you ready to go, my little one?” I tip her chin up and meet those startling blue eyes.

The changeling translates.

Taylor nods again. “Ready.”

My need to claim her thrums in my veins. When I caught her scent earlier, I was only a hairsbreadth away from breaking down the bathing room door and answering the mating call. Perhaps her mind hasn’t awoken to the fact of our bond yet, but her body has. Even now, I can scent what remains of her arousal, and it makes my mouth water. One little taste couldn’t hurt. Take her. She belongs to you. She will thank you after you sink inside her and seal the bond. Take her now. I shake my head. Those are the thoughts of a feral fae, of the beast that hides deep inside the heart of every timeless creature. But I would not listen to it. Not give in. No matter how I ache to feel every inch of her.

I set her on her feet. “Changeling—” I point at the waifish one. “Lenetia, is it? You will serve my lady. See to her needs, and teach her our language. Do this, and you will be welcomed in the winter realm.”

“As a free changeling?” she counters.

“All are free in the winter realm.” Gareth shoulders his pack. “Even changelings.”

“We’ll see what being free is worth when the summer realm finds out about Tyrios.” She casts a glance to Taylor. “But lucky for you all, I rather like your naïve mate.”

“So you accept?” I don’t mention that if she doesn’t, we’ll have to take her with us anyway. She already knows too much about Taylor.

“I do. As long as you speak true about my freedom in the frozen wastes of the winter realm.”

Gareth snorts. “’Frozen wastes,’ eh? Good to see the summer realm propaganda machine is still going strong.”

I strap my sword around my waist and pull one dagger from its hiding place along my side. Pressing it into Taylor’s hand, I say, “Keep this hidden, but don’t be afraid to use it.”

Her eyes widen, but she tucks it into the pocket of her dress.

I hold out my hand for Taylor. She takes it with no hesitation, and the mating bond inside me snaps even tighter. I keep my other hand on the haft of my sword.

Gareth waits at the door, his stance like a drawn bow string, and glances at my stance. “You expecting trouble?”

I grin and squeeze Taylor’s small hand. “Always.”



We leave the large bedroom and enter a bright hall alight with blazing rays of sun. The heat verges on oppressive, and it doesn’t help that I’m anxious and still disoriented. Leander doesn’t seem to mind my sweaty palm as he leads me along with Gareth and Lenetia at our backs.

A pair of guards, their armor gleaming, peer at us as we pass, but say nothing.

Leander somehow manages a casual swagger, his head high. We get more than a few stares from passersby, but no one speaks to us.

“Keep cool,” Lenetia whispers. “We’re supposedly going to walk right out the front door.” The skepticism in her tone isn’t lost on me.

We make it to a cavernous hall with light pouring in from all angles. Fae in decorative dress stand around talking or walk with haughty importance. One in particular makes a beeline for us.

I tense, but Leander squeezes my hand. His touch manages to calm me a little—perhaps because I know he’s armed to the teeth and has already demonstrated he has no qualms killing to protect me. My stomach churns at the memory of Tyrios’s hands on me, the surprise in his eyes, and the blood at his throat.

The fae stops in front of us and wrings his hands, his voice tipped with anxiety as he speaks to Leander.

I can’t follow what’s being said, but it definitely seems like this fae doesn’t want us to leave. Eventually, Leander brushes past him and continues toward a huge set of wooden double doors that lead into a wide courtyard.

The nervous fae hurries away.

“He’s going to rat us out.” Lenetia quickens her pace along with the rest of us.

“Easy now. Just keep calm, and everything will be fine.” Gareth’s low voice doesn’t hold any hints of worry, but I’d be willing to bet his hand is resting on some sort of weapon.

The whispers of the glittering fae around us intensify as we stride past. But we enter the courtyard without incident. Bushes and flowers bloom all around, and tiny white puffs swirl through the warm air. It’s a fairyland all the way down to the moss between the walkway stones. Even so, I’m happy to leave it behind.

Worry eats away at me, and I hope I’m making the right choice. Leaving here could be a mistake—one I won’t recover from. If this place is the only spot that will allow me to return home, then I’m foolish to go with the warrior king at my side. But if Gareth is telling the truth, then the only way for me to get back is to go with them to the winter realm. Like Dorothy, I can’t go back the way I came, I can only follow the yellow brick road until I get to Oz. I touch the pendant at my throat, the stone cool against my warm fingers.

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