In the Temple of Joy and Wonder
(From Bride of Fae – Tethers 2 )
Donall lost Charles and the ladies in the rhododendrons. A few minutes later he heard Lydia’s far off laughter muffled by the hedge maze. “Lydia!” Charles called out. He was in there with her. “Gwen! Have you found one?”
Bugger . They’d all gone into the maze. Gwen and Charles would panic, but not Lydia. Lydia would relish the challenge though it would likely take an hour to find the way out, even for her.
Lovely, clever, sensible Lydia. Exactly what a man hopes for in his wife. That is, if Donall could win her before Charles Sarumen got there. At this very moment Charles was most likely evading poor Gwen in a scheme to become “lost” with Lydia in the maze.
Bugger it all, but Donall wasn’t going to chase after her like a pathetic puppy.
Ahead, a twig snapped and he froze. Something skittered by through the brush. Following the sound, he returned to the abandoned picnic spread on the grass beside the lake. The unhitched horses grazed in the distance, and the carriage driver and footman ate their meal on a stone bench beyond the maze.
Donall went down to the lake to search for a good skipping rock to pass the time. While searching through the reeds, a fish leapt out of the water after a bug. He jumped then laughed at himself. He’d forgotten how much he loved this little lake. He hadn’t been here in years.
Damned shame too. The park was his great grandmama’s grand achievement, and the family never used it. Dashed insult to the old girl’s memory, if one thought about it. When his guests had gone, he’d bring the mater and Sophia and Caroline out for a look-see. The governor too, if he was home from London and fancied an outing.
Donall skipped a nice flat piece of gray and white elvan across the lake surface. As he counted the bounces, a woman’s laugh echoed back to him.
His heart was in his throat. He knew that laugh, and it wasn’t Lydia’s or Gwen’s. He suddenly felt as light as the elvan stone skipping over the water. “Morning Glory,” he half called, half whispered. He didn’t want the others to know about his special fairy.
For that’s how he thought of her.
It all came back to him. He could see her spinning in the night sky, the flat full moon above her head, her long pale hair flying wild. He remembered the womanly shape she’d purposely flaunted and celebrated with her sheer, skin-tight costume, more daring than anything a circus acrobat ever did wear.
Morning Glory was the convincing argument—outside the fairy cup—that it was all real. His paltry imagination could never invent someone as wonderful, as marvelous, as fantastical as the sensually delightful Morning Glory.
Fly away! Her last words played in his mind at least once a day.
There, he saw it. A bubble of light bounced through the reeds on the far shore. The light danced toward the Sacred Temple of Joy and Wonder—his sister Sophia’s name for the Greek-style rotunda. The temple’s marble was now covered in winter roses. The climbing red and white evoked lethal Lamia more than heroic Antigone.
Another glittering movement. Could he hope…fairy wings? He followed the shore to the other side of the lake and dashed up the hard marble steps.
She was standing at the most interior pillar with her back to him. Her wings—wings!—were stunning. Like giant dragonfly wings, pale, shimmering. A pastel rainbow, the colors of a soap bubble. They folded and retracted into openings just below her shoulder blades. It made him queasy to watch such a mechanical process in a living being.
She wore a sleeveless belted tunic that covered only the top of her thighs. Her bare legs and feet stirred his most ungentlemanly thoughts.
“Were you hurt on mischief night?” he asked. “When that angry fairy knocked against you, you cried out in such pain.”
He gave her no greeting, no words of welcome or delight. Seeing her drove all courtesy from his consciousness. She didn’t seem to mind. She smiled as if he was the one person she’d waited a lifetime for. It knocked him back a step.
Her green eyes flashed like emeralds under candlelight. “You noticed.” She was suddenly close enough to touch him. “I knew you were a considerate man.”
“Of course I did,” he said. The way she said man made him feel…manly. “I wanted to punch the bounder.”
“I’m fine.” She laughed again and spun on one toe. So delightful. “It wasn’t Dandelion’s fault.”
“No, I didn’t think so,” Donall said. “It was that fellow with the fancy choker was up to no good. Plots and schemes afoot with that one.”
“That’s Aubrey,” Morning Glory said. “He’s King Idris’s right-hand man.”
“He was different,” Donall said. “There was something…unfairylike about him.”
“Aubrey fell in love,” she said, as if that explained everything. “With a human. Worse, with Frona.”
She tilted her head and frowned. “The most famous wyrder ever? The Great Wyrding?”
Donall had no idea what she was talking about.
“Frona changed Dumnos iron, made it harmless to the fae,” she said.
“That sounds…good,” Donall said. “Why must Aubrey not love her?”
“Because she’s a wyrding woman. The wyrding woman.” Morning Glory bounced on the marble floor in agitation. Her toenails sparkled. Extraordinary. “Frona and Aubrey’s daughter Elyse is the wyrding woman of Glimmer Cottage.”
“Ah, Glimmer Cottage.” This he knew about. The governor often spoke of razing the old place and building a modern cottage there, but he never did anything about it. “It’s been abandoned as long as anyone can remember.”
“That’s what she wants you to think,” Morning Glory said. “Elyse is the worst. She’s more powerful than Frona ever was.” She touched his face indulgently, as if he couldn’t be expected to understand such things. “It doesn’t matter.”
She was as perfect as porcelain. He pressed her hand to his cheek, expecting it to feel cold to the touch, her fingers hard like fine china. But she was warm. Soft. He kissed her palm. “I’ve thought of you every day since mischief night. Why haven’t you come to see me at Faeview?”
“King Idris has forbidden it,” she said.
“A fairy king,” he said. “Imagine that.” That Dandelion fairy had chanted something about becoming king. “Fairy politics and intrigue too.”
“Do not mock us, Lord Tintagos.” She withdrew her hand, and the green of her eyes darkened. A thrill of fear stabbed his heart. She was so darling he wanted to kiss her pouty lips, but he had sense enough to tread carefully.
“Morning Glory,” he changed the subject. “Can you tell me what this means?” He repeated Dandelion’s last words:
“If this cup does shatter or crack,
Bausiney’s line will meet its lack.”
“Prince Dandelion was angry when he laid that curse,” Morning Glory said.
“Curse.” Uh-oh. That couldn’t be good.
“The cup is sacred to the Dumnos fae. You never should have gained its possession, but you did. Dandelion cursed your line, the house of Bausiney, should the cup ever come to harm while in your care.”
“ Bausiney’s line will meet its lack . You mean there will be no sons, no heirs?”
“What if someone else, not a Bausiney, shatters or cracks it?”
“I’m sure you’re safe.”
“That’s not exactly reassuring.”
“As long as you keep it safe, you will be safe,” she said. “Or you could give it back, but I doubt you have the strength.”
Give it back! The very thought was repellant. Impossible. She might as well ask him to stop breathing. She laughed at his consternation. He was embarrassed. He felt like a bounder. But he knew he couldn’t let the beautiful object go.
“Don’t trouble yourself. Prince Dandelion will retrieve the cup, no matter how long it takes. You’ll be safe,” she said. “I heard you tell the others it’s locked up in a glass case. Keep it there. Don’t let anyone handle it.”
“But won’t the fae break in and take it?”
“Faeview is a fortress against us.”
“But you danced on the roof.”
“On the roof, yes. But all the mansion’s openings are lined with cold iron. No fairy can enter.”
“ Cold iron?”
“Steel made with iron from outside Dumnos. We call it cold iron.”
Donall thought of how puffed up Nanny would be to learn her remedies against fairies were effective.
“Cold iron is the only thing that can kill a fairy, if you know how to use it.” Her hand flew to her heart protectively. So beautiful, even when she pouted. Especially when she pouted.
He said, “I’d rather not talk about fairy politics.”
“Good.” She brightened and kissed him, and the world slipped away. He tingled at every place she touched. He couldn’t stop smiling, even as his urgency for her kept building. He had to have her—and oh, wonder and joy, she wanted him. She loosened his cravat and tossed it aside, kissing his neck and throat and ears. Somehow she removed his waistcoat, his shirt—everything.
She was everywhere with her fingers, her lips, her tongue. His legs, his belly, the back of his neck. Everything. This was what it was like to be wanted by a woman. Worshipped. Adored. Desired. She gave him everything, and she took from him until he had nothing left.
“I have a present for you, Donall.”
He was sitting on the marble floor, leaning against the pillar, fully dressed. His cravat was neatly arranged in a fantastic configuration.
Morning Glory drew something from one of the leather pouches on her belt, a clear bottle with a crystal stopper. She placed it on Donall’s open palm. “Give this potion to your lady love.”
He held it up to the light. The liquid inside was pomegranate seed red.
“After she drinks it and gazes upon your face,” Morning Glory said, “she’ll love you utterly and beyond anything.”
Donall considered the prospect. He tried to imagine Lydia showing the kind of desire for him Morning Glory had. “I…I don’t think I could bear that.” He hated to be ungracious about the gift, but he couldn’t lie, not to Morning Glory.
Her face fell. “I don’t understand. You liked being with me just now. You can have that passion every day with the woman you marry.”
“I don’t think I could take it,” he said. The very idea was—not appalling. That wasn’t the right word. Overwhelming. “I wouldn’t be able to do anything but adore her. Like opium, I suppose. Once I had that kind of passion, I’d spend every moment worrying for more. That kind of love would ruin me.”
The fairy shook her head slowly, and her brows crunched together. “You want to marry Lydia though you know she doesn’t love you?”
“She respects me. She likes me well enough. She’ll never bring shame on the Bausiney name. And she’ll never break my heart.”
“She’ll never make your heart soar either!”
“But that’s quite all right, Morning Glory. Don’t you see?”
Donall’s eye caught the fresco painted on the ceiling of the Sacred Temple of Joy and Wonder. It depicted a satyr ravishing a nymph from behind. His hands groped her breasts and his mouth clamped on her neck. It should be repulsive, but it made Donall ironically philosophical.
“ You have made my heart soar. I will carry that feeling in my heart to my grave. This day will live in me all the days of my life. The memory will be a talisman against all sorrow, all pain. Nothing will violate that memory. It is and ever will be perfect. Nothing can tarnish it.”
She touched his cheek and smiled. “And I was worried you might not be the romantic I took you for.” She closed his fingers around the vial. “Keep it anyway. My gift to you. You might find another purpose for it.”
“Will I see you again?” He knew he wouldn’t.
“I don’t know.” She extended her wings and lifted off the floor. She was indeed the most exquisite creature he had ever seen.
He said, “My heart is breaking right now, Morning Glory. I want you to love me forever, and I know it’s impossible.” He stared at the marble floor. “This is why I will be safe with Lydia. I could never break my heart over a woman who doesn’t love me. She presents no danger.”
When he looked up again Morning Glory was gone, and Lydia Pengrith was ascending the temple steps. Charles and Gwen followed behind her, but it was as if they didn’t exist.
Lydia had changed. The shift was invisible but powerful. Before, she’d fixed on Charles as her object. Now, Donall held the favored position. Or rather the cup did. The fairy cup had turned her. As Morning Glory might say, it didn’t matter. Donall let Lydia’s smile wash over him, and he returned one equally sincere. He extended his arm to her, and she took it.
“You’ve redone your cravat, my lord,” she said. “How very clever of you.”
Copyright 2012 L..K. Rigel Bride of Fae