Home > Fae's Captive (Fae's Captive #1)(7)

Fae's Captive (Fae's Captive #1)(7)
Author: Lily Archer

I sit on the edge of the bed and rock her in my arms. Her sobs wrack her body, and she says something in the changeling language I can’t understand.

“I will protect you with my life.” I kiss the crown of her head, her light brown hair beautiful in the too-bright sun. “Nothing will harm you as long as I walk this world, and I will take my love for you to the glowing lands of the ancestors if my time is cut short. I will wait for you there. Just as I have waited for you here.”

She sniffles, her tears wetting my tunic and says something. I can only figure out a few words: “language” and “beautiful.”

I have so many questions for her. Chief among them is why she doesn’t speak the fae language. As a changeling slave—my ire rises at the thought of my mate being enslaved, but I push it down—she should speak perfect fae. It’s required in the summer realm.

These summer realm fae with all their finery and manners can’t hide the brutality with which they treat their servants. The bruises on Taylor’s forehead and the cut on her lip are my next questions. I want to flay the one who harmed her, no matter if it means war with the summer court.

She pulls back and looks me in the eye—her strange blue ones just as fascinating as when I first saw her. Changelings are rare in the winter realm. They often can’t survive the brutal landscape. But even though I’ve seen plenty of changelings over my centuries, I’ve never seen one with such sparkling blue eyes.

When she wriggles in my lap a bit more, her ass grazes my erection, and she makes a small squeak noise and tries to scramble off me.

“No, my mate.” I hold her in place. “I will not take you until you are ready, but you must know what you do to me.” I graze her little rounded ear. “And I can scent that it isn’t entirely unwelcome.” I’ve wanted to bury my face between her thighs for every second I’ve had her alone—and some when I haven’t. Her scent heightens like the color in her cheeks, and I know if I reached between her creamy thighs, I’d find her wet for me. My cock pulses at the thought.

She wriggles again. If I don’t let her go, she’ll push me over the edge. The need to claim her as mine builds with each moment I spend in her presence. She is a gift. The first mate the ancestors have granted since the defeat of the old king. And she’s mine.

I nuzzle against her ear a bit more and enjoy the slight shiver that runs through her body. Not fear. Her scent tells me that little tremor came from desire. But she’s also unsure about me. She doesn’t feel the bond. Not yet. Perhaps because she is a changeling.

She leans away and shakes her head. “Leander.”

My name on her lips is an answered prayer. “Say it again.”

She cocks her head to the side, one eyebrow slightly arched.

“Leander. Say it again.” I gesture toward her.


“Yes.” I stroke her hair.

She swats my hand away, and I let her stand. I’ve placed a cloaking spell over the assassin’s body, but she seems to have forgotten about him. Instead, she keeps glancing at me and twisting her tiny hands together. My mate is small, fragile. I will feed her the richest meats and fruits until she is hardy enough for the winter realm. Not that I will ever let her feel the bite of the snow on her fair skin or the cut of the mountain wind against her. She is far too precious.

Noise in the hallway has me standing and pulling her behind my back.

“You will let me pass!” The haughty voice belongs to Lord Tyrios.

“Not happening.” Gareth’s tone is lethal. He’s had enough of the summer realm. I don’t blame him. In all of Arin, it’s my least favorite.

Small hands grip the back of my shirt. I turn to look at Taylor, and she’s pale, her body quaking. I hate the scent of her fear. Her gaze is fixed on the door as Lord Tyrios demands entry and is again denied.

She starts shaking her head, hurried words falling from her lips. Her eyes are turned up to mine, beseeching me as her tears well.

“Taylor is my servant. You can’t keep her from me!” Tyrios complains.

I stroke my thumb across her soft cheek, wiping away a tear. “He will never touch you again, little one. You are mine. You are safe.” I wrack my brain until I find the changeling word. “Safe,” I take her hand and press it to my chest. “Safe.”

Tears still sparkle in her beautiful eyes, but she gives me the slightest nod. It’s all I need.

I pull her behind me and open the door. “She is mine.”

Tyrios holds up an aged piece of parchment. “This document shows my ownership. She is mine. I inherited her from my former wife.” He shakes the paper, as if it will matter. “Use her for your needs. But return her to me when you’re finished with her.”

His implication sends shards of ice floating through my veins. Is this how they “use” their changelings in the summer realm?

Gareth’s hand rests on the hilt of his sword. He’d like nothing better than to hew this fool in half. I’m inclined to agree with him, but killing this idiot would destroy any chance we have at enlisting the queen’s help to solve the disappearances. Sometimes, like now, I wish I could go back to the simplicity of open warfare with the summer realm. No diplomatic niceties, just simple bloodshed. But those are the thoughts of a soldier, not a king.

“She is no longer yours.” I cross my arms over my chest and glare down at him. “She belongs to me. Leave here now or your blood will paint these stones.” I gesture to the pale floor.

He sputters and backs up a step. “You can’t threaten me! I’m a noble of the summer realm. Your kind doesn’t belong here. The queen should have never granted you entry into these lands. Unseelie fae are cursed—”

Gareth’s movement is faster than a Red Plains adder. He has the screeching Tyrios by the throat. “You dare speak that word? And in the presence of my king?”

“I speak only the truth.” He pushes the words past Gareth’s palm. “Filthy dark fae. Unseelie.” He spits the forbidden word, the one that used to brand winter realm fae with a black mark that went soul-deep. The distinction of Seelie and Unseelie has long since been abandoned. Good and bad reside in both the fairer fae of the summer rains and the darker fae of the winter winds. Even so, Unseelie eventually became an insult that still stings those from the winter realm.

“Know this, Tyrios.” I step toward him until I can see the beads of sweat on his pale brow. “Taylor is under my protection. You will never lay claim to her again.”

Taylor’s small hands clutch the back of my shirt again, her tremble telegraphing through me. She has nothing to fear, and certainly not from the imbecile before me.

“The queen will hear about this. You have no right to that changeling. I will take this to the high court and have her returned to me before the day is out. And when the queen hears you’ve threatened me, she’ll—”

“Please escort Lord Tyrios to the main hall.” I give him a smile that’s colder than the tip of Sun’s Bane Peak. “If I find you in this wing of the castle again, you will regret it.”

Gareth drags the squawking noble away as I turn to Taylor and hoist her into my arms. Her gaze sticks to the retreating back of Tyrios, worry in her eyes.

“You have nothing to fear from him.” I sit on the bed and keep her in my lap. “He’s nothing. Just the ash from a long-dead fire, gray and cold.”

Her chin trembles as she looks at me, and she says something I can’t understand. But she seems relieved.

She calms slowly, the pinched look on her face almost gone until Gareth storms back through the door.

When she tenses, I press her close to me. I can’t seem to stop touching her.

“Tyrios intends to get her back.” Gareth walks to the dead assassin, though I’d forgotten all about him. “Another?”

“He will be sorely disappointed.” I growl and stroke my hand down Taylor’s back. “And yes, another.”

“Get any information from him?” Gareth hunches to his knees and inspects the brand on the fae’s neck.

“He threatened to harm my mate.” I shrug.

“So that’s a no.” Gareth nods and rises again. “It’s not safe here. The summer realm allows all manner of interlopers to infiltrate their stronghold.” He scratches his chin. “I’m beginning to suspect they want the assassins to get to you.”

“Why would the queen want me dead? I’m the only thing preventing another war between the realms.”

“Who knows.” He shakes his head. “But one thing is certain, we have to leave. Now. Lord Tyrios isn’t letting her go. I have enough understanding of their laws to know that his claim on her—if confirmed by that document he held—is absolute. He can—”

“I will never give her up.” The mating bond wraps around my heart like an iron thread, each heartbeat drawing it tighter.

“Of course not.” Gareth glances at her.

Even though I trust him with my life, I have the impulse to hide her, to keep her all to myself and away from any other males.

“I would sooner swear fealty to the summer realm than let the first winter realm mate in a century slip through our fingers. And your mate, at that.” His lips quirk into a smile. “You’ve always been a lucky bastard.”

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