Authors: Karen Nichols
Jase groaned, mouthing the words. I warned you!
He jerked his head to the handset and waited.
“Mom, I need help with a little problem,” Jase began as Nick lifted the handset 74
and held it to his ear.
“Good evening, Miss Annie. How goes the pottery?”
“Beautifully. I love painting and pouring porcelain and ceramics,” she nodded at her choice and kept painting. “So what do you need? Because if Jase is calling, it’s because you both want something.”
“You’re too clever for us,” Nick chuckled.
“I have a picture I’m going to send you but I have to…..I need information from years ago and you might have some friends who can help,” Jase chose his words carefully. “The only thing is….if you honestly and absolutely do not have faith in this person, don’t bring this up to whoever you might talk to.”
“Jason, you’re making me uncomfortable,” Annie Bishop said slowly, laying the brush aside and straightening on the stool she used in front of the large wooden table.
“This is where the mother in me starts to ask if you’re in some kind of trouble I should be aware of.”
“What do you know about the Fae?”
“You mean as in history or….specifically? I have several friends who would know much more because it’s who they are,” she answered thoughtfully. “What specifically do you need to know?”
“I’m working on shooting you a photo, mom. Her name is Breanna Cooper,” he lifted his phone and tapped some buttons. “Only the Cooper isn’t her birth name. I traced it back to North Carolina just before she was born and the name of her parents were listed as…..”
“Hannah and Jeffrey O’Connor,” Annie Bishop whispered the names, her head shaking as she peered at the beautiful woman in the photo. She didn’t see the stark concern on the faces of the boys she’d raised so closely together.
“How do you know that?”
“Because it was a very, very…horrible….thing that happened. There was a mass….oh, god and I mean mass….murder is too clean a word for it,” she said viciously, a tone Jase had never heard from his mother. “Extermination.”
“How do you know this from a photo?” Nick demanded, barely remembering who he was speaking to. “I’m sorry. Really…..” Annie Bishop heard far more in the men she had called her sons, even when only one was hers. And this woman, this Fae had touched something in them both.
“I know from the photo because I remember the pictures. I remember the story.
This photo is the identical image of the…..their queen. It became a….a haunting, sad story that was impossible to forget and it has become a focal point in their history.
Demons were responsible, but no one ever had a clear answer to why. Rumor had it that a seer had been consulted and a princess would be born that would stop the animosity between the Fae and demons. Of course, knowing seers, the answers were vague and demons do not like to be told to behave themselves. When the other members of their clan heard what happened, they arrived from Ireland and hunted the demons who’d destroyed the small town. The mourning went on for months,” she swallowed. “What are you involved in, Jase? Is this something to do with business?”
“Did you see the news about the fire in Newburg?” 76
“They said it was arson. A nice café….”
“Breanna owned the building. The café was her business. Someone’s trying to kill her and we need information,” Jase told her firmly. “How do you know this stuff?” Annie shrugged and remembered she was on the phone. “History. Friends.
People who mourn given days for given reasons,” she sighed. “Humans, no matter the form or DNA, aren’t always nice. Is she alright? Your…..friend.”
“Angry. Sad. Her parents were supposedly killed in another arson about six weeks back,” Nick answered for him.
“Should I ask which one of you is sweet on this girl?”
“So because some seer made a prediction, demons descended and murdered most of a town?” Jase asked, both of them ignoring her question for the moment.
“I see,” Annie sighed. She shouldn’t be surprised. She knew them both as well as a mother could and knew their hearts had always seemed joined even if in separate bodies. “If I ask, will you tell me about her?
“I’m sure you could come over some time and meet her, Miss Annie.” Nick weathered the glare from Jase with a half shrug.
“I’ll ask some questions and call you back.”
“Mom, we’re serious about this. If you don’t have absolute, unshakable faith in the person you want to speak with, please, don’t.”
“Don’t worry, darling boys…..I’ll let your father in on the secret and he’ll watch my back,” she chuckled. And her front and probably everything in between. But her son didn’t need to know that part. “I’m very good at wheedling information and making it 77
seem harmless,” she told them with a chuckle.
“I’ll be in touch, Jase, Nick…..bye.”
“I didn’t want another person to worry about,” Jase threw the headset to the desk and thrust against the chair, long jean covered legs pacing the wide hardwood floor area of the living room. “And worse, if….no, fucking when….Brea finds out, she’ll be furious that we involved someone else and I really do not want to orbit the moon because she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
“I seriously doubt your father will let anything happen to her, but I understand. I also doubt the garden club or local charities would be of any help, so asking my mom wouldn’t have done any good,” Nick said with a sigh. “Your mother is more….in touch with all that stuff. Mine pretends it’s not there for the most part.”
“And yet she suffers us both with smiles,” Jase matched his sigh. “I know she’ll be careful. I could hear it in her voice. Whatever is in Brea’s past wasn’t something fun, that’s for sure,” he lifted the stack of applicants and tossed them over the desk. “Your turn. You done yet?”
“Almost….a few more….I sent notes out to a few of the guys we knew in the Army. So it’ll add a little over half a dozen more by the time they finish the paperwork,” Nick went back to the stack in front of him while Jase wandered to the kitchen, returning with a plate and several slices of something sweet. Nick looked from the slice he watched disappear into Jase’s mouth to the rest. “She baked?”
“She’s no end of talent,” he answered, offering the plate and setting it between them on the large U shape they’d created of their desks. “Some kind of spice bread. It’s 79
got a kind of chocolate spice thing in it….” He tried explaining as he reached for another piece.
“It’s zucchini bread,” the soft voice said from the hall, watching both men swallow and reach for their drinks, her head shaking and eyes rolling. “Yes, you’re eating a vegetable,” she informed them dourly, her head shaking as she turned and left them gaping at her, the bedroom door closing loudly.
She’d stood and stared at the collection of new liquid soaps, shampoo and rinses; a couple bottles of really sweet smelling lotion, a couple tooth brushes, paste and a nice girly razor that had the bar of soap built around the blades.
She sighed and sunk to sit on the bench of the vanity.
How did she combat the whole thing when they were so sweet and considerate?
Why did she want to combat them? Was she willing to be alone so much that she’d built a wall around herself? That’s not how your parents raised you, she told the girl in the mirror.
They didn’t raise you to fall in love with two men, either, she added with a sigh.
She stared into the mirror, pulled the band from her hair and massaged her scalp before stripping off the running clothes and stepping through the thick glass doors to the shower.
Brea poured a healthy dollop of the black orchid scented soap onto the sponge and scrubbed, enjoying the steam and the smells around her. She felt the silky soap sliding down her body, too aware of her traitorous mind drifting to the two men in other parts of the house. Brea stood beneath the hot stinging spray of the shower, bubbles 80
rolling over her from the shampoo she found on the counter.
Probably still working. Or trying to un-wolf down the cake they’d eaten.
She wrapped up in a thick, oversized towel and used a smaller one on her hair, letting it hang free as she draped the towel over the edge of the cabinet and brushed her teeth. Slim fingers touched the silky fabric of the tap set in the drawer, choosing the black one and letting it slide over her naked body before going to the bed.
Brea sat in the middle of the large bed and dumped her pack out. She tossed dirty clothing toward the corner for washing in the morning and found the wide toothed comb before stuffing the books back into the pack.
She had the tangles out of her hair, leaving it free and picking up her wallet.
Brea didn’t know how long she stared at the photo of her parents.
Is this what parents do for you when they die, leaving you early?
They send you someplace where someone will help you and keep you safe.
Someone willing to care for you….and about you.
She laid down, her toes beneath the blankets and head on one pillow. She laid the photo on the other and let her eyes close.
Did the world take something important from you and give you something to replace it? It would be a hard choice, she thought, feeling the hot tear sliding over her nose.
They made her laugh and feel important to them, she thought drowsily, sighing and drifting to sleep.
Jase stood at the door while Nick went inside the bedroom and pulled the thick 81
blankets over her. He sighed when he saw the photo, lifting it and putting it on the nightstand before striding out and going to their own rooms, the silence of night settling around the house.
She had left the bedroom window open a crack, the fragrant and distinctive scent of the low tides and crashing waves filling her room.
But her subconscious took her to a place far from the ocean.
Brea walked through the forest. She didn’t know how she got there. She wasn’t sure why it was a forest instead of just the woods. Or why wasn’t it the beach? She loved the beach.
She’d always been afraid of the woods.
But somehow being in a forest seemed peaceful. Right. She knew it was why she loved running in the parks surrounding the little coastal town. The huge thick ferns and billowing tall trees always felt like home to her.
She chewed on her lip as she walked and looked down. Her feet were bare but she was wearing the tap set Jase had bought for her.
Dreams were so strange. Were they supposed to make sense? She sighed and kept walking.
But the forest was familiar. Lights fluttered around her.
It felt warm and safe. It felt like a place she belonged.
And there was that faint noise constantly humming in her ears.
She squinted and leaned the tiniest bit forward.
The noise had little tiny wings.
She lifted her hand from her side, palm up and watched several tiny people land on her hand. Brea swallowed and raised her palm. They smiled at her, bowing low before letting the wings lift them and they were gone.
She figured it was best to smile back, her head dipping forward just a little.
She stared from her palm to the lights and back, her head shaking slightly.
Her own version of Wonderland, she mused, taking a few steps along the flat, clear path laid out before her. Large red-gold flowers edged the path, its leaves twice the size of her palms and thick, spreading out in a deep, deep green. It was a very different kind of forest than the ones by her town.
Flowers of all colors seemed to bloom on most every type plant there but she didn’t recognize any of the things growing around her.
She continued walking along the path, a canopy of thick branches heavy with multi colored leaves spreading above her, shielding her.
As if they’re protecting her. She knew that. Even in her dream, she knew they were trying to keep something from her. She frowned, chewed on the corner of her lip and wondered where this dream wanted her to go.
Her frown deepened. Jase and Nick, she thought, curiously. Would she remember them in the middle of a dream? She’d dreamt of fairies since she was old enough to look in the picture books her mother bought her. But never had Jase or Nick been in her thoughts.
She sighed. How could she possibly forget them? It was a dream, after all, she could picture herself lying in the thick grass beneath a tree, cuddled against them both.
She giggled. Definitely decadent. Light and dark, she mused, that was her men.
Then her eyes caught on the bright flickering lights ahead of her, the soft voices in a language that found a place deep inside her.
She heard her name. Heard herself being discussed like a piece of brick.
“I’m right here. Do you mind?” She said out loud, slightly indignant. “Kindly don’t speak about me as if I’m invisible,” she ordered firmly. Her palms flew to her lips, covering them.
Surely she hadn’t said that. Not out loud. Those words should have stayed in her head.
Brea straightened her shoulders, brows knit. She could see a string of ancient symbols and knew the words they meant.
“Look at her!” Bellowed a deep male voice from ahead of her. “She’s not ready!
She doesn’t know! They were right to hide her, to keep her from the rest!”
“Her who? Me?”
“Stupid little girl,” grumbled another one.
“Alister!” Hissed another female who would have resembled someone’s grandmother, if she were taller. A lot taller, Brea mused. “That is disrespectful!”
“Hey!” Brea moved forward quickly, eyes widened as she stared down at the cluster of small winged….people?
Her mind offered a teeny whimper. Never been a dream like this one, she thought.
“Umm….are you talking about me? That’s rude, you know. To speak of someone while they can hear you being…..well, rude.”
“She doesn’t even know!” Another voice hissed, a small zipping figure shooting up and flitting just in front of her eyes.
Brea felt her eyes cross trying to keep her vision on….whatever it was.
She kept perfectly still. In case it was a bee or something and might sting her.
“A bee? She thinks I’m a bee!” Laughed the small female.
Brea put out her palm, one finger raised and threatening.
“Do not go in my head,” she ordered. “Who are you? What is this place?” She closed her eyes and thought of the bedroom she was in. Thought of the two men in the house. “And what don’t I know? You could tell me,” she suggested with a smile.
“She belongs to them,” remarked another voice, round and peering up at her before a pair of fluttering wings lifted him from the ground. He moved around in the air without striking the other one still studying her.
“What’re you both looking at?” Brea swiped a palm up at them. “Stop that. It’s rude and I don’t like it.”
“You can smell them on her,” the female said with a little nod.
“It might be the strength she needs,” was the thoughtful remark from another one.
“Them who? Are you talking about Nick and Jase?”
“They belong to you. Care for them. Together. You need their strength.”
“What strength? For what? Tell me why,” she demanded petulantly.
“You belong to them, too. Take them both into your heart.”
“This is getting too weird. Why can’t I wake up?” Brea closed her eyes again and reached for her own shoulder, pinching it hard. “Oww!”
“Not a bright one, though,” was a rather sad comment from the ground. “She should have been training. Should have been guarded and taught the ways of survival.” 86
Brea dropped to her knees and let her hands go to the ground, peering at the four other…..she didn’t want to call them something wrong….
“Fae. That’s the word you’re searching for, little girl,” the older female who had been flitting around her head came lower and floated before her eyes.
“Stay out of my head!” Brea hissed again. “Fae? Is that….I know that word……” She sat back on her heels and looked from one to the other. She reached out a palm and tried to touch the fluttering wings.
“No touching, child.”
Brea jerked her hand back. “Sorry. They’re wings. Real wings.”
“She’s not very bright,” murmured a little voice from the ground.
“Hey!” Brea scowled down at them. “People in a dream should not insult you.
Fairies! That’s it….oh, god, I haven’t dreamed of fairies in ages and ages. Since I was really, really little.”
“She isn’t stupid,” another voice commented, sounding like a scientist.
Brea watched a young male flit up and stop in front of her eyes, staring at her.
“Hey! Seriously!” Brea glared indignantly.
“Ignorant as in unaware, little girl,” the young man corrected with a laugh, his head shaking. “And that isn’t her fault.”
“Are you sure, Wade?”
“Positive. We’ve searched for her since she was taken from us. Since before she was born,” he said, flitting around her and moving close to her face. “Don’t move, 87
“I am not a child.”
“You’re a mere child be comparison,” he corrected. “Hold still, please.” Brea wasn’t sure why she listened, but she did and felt the softest stroke along her ear. Her eyes widened at the tingle that raced through her.
“What’re you doing?” She whispered.
“She doesn’t remember. No, that’s incorrect. She never knew. She doesn’t know, because she was never told. Never shown,” he announced to the others, zipping back and down to the ground. “The shield around her is old, as old as she is.”
“Shield? What shield? Could you please be more clear?” She begged in mounting frustration.
She looked down and watched him pace.
Then the crashing began. Branches were breaking, leaves being shoved aside.
Orders were given, the wings all taking to the air with the faintest rush of air upward.
Brea jumped to her feet, looking around anxiously. She couldn’t see anything but she felt a current in the air around her.
Hot, angry and hunting.
She stared around frantically. She could feel tiny hands tugging on her, trying to pull her back. They were shouting at her, telling her to run. Telling her to flee quickly.
“No!” She moved toward the noise, her hands up as she moved through the 88
underbrush, shoving leaves aside until she came to the clearing where it stood.
“He’ll kill her!”
“She’s not ready!”
Brea stood staring, her eyes taking in the leather-like covering over the large being standing before her. Then she realized it was his flesh the color of a dark, dark horse. The face and most of the figure was human….like….she thought with a little grimace. Human-ish? She wasn’t sure of the right word, but let it go.
“They brought you to me….how very convenient.” His expression was one of arrogance, his sneer confident. “Although, I must admit, your parents were doing a reasonable job keeping you hidden.”
Brea raised a brow and stared into eyes that didn’t have a center. Dark and empty, she thought with a frown. And almost seven feet tall!
“Do I know you?” She figured it sounded innocent enough and hoped he couldn’t hear her kneeing knocking together.
“Should I allow you to know me, half-breed?” Dark eyes gave her a very slow once over, from feet to her head.
“This is one very odd dream and no one brings me anywhere. And I choose not to be here any longer,” she announced and opened her mouth.
It always worked when she was a child. You want out of a dream, scream bloody murder and don’t stop. She threw both hands up, palms aimed at the thing with horns and let loose with the scream at the same time.
She didn’t see the stark surprise on the faces of her new friends with the wings.
Or the crooked grin from the little scientist one who just nodded as if proving his own theory.
And she didn’t see the absolute astonishment on the face of the being with horns as he was not only flung back several hundred feet, but seared by the power that accomplished the task. He blinked out of their realm quickly, swearing and cursing as he went.