Claimed by the Elven Brothers: Decision (An Elven King Novella Book 1)

BOOK: Claimed by the Elven Brothers: Decision (An Elven King Novella Book 1)
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CLAIMED BY THE ELVEN BROTHERS: DECISION

An Elven King Novella

 

 

CRISTINA RAYNE

 

 

The characters and
events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons,
living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

Copyright © 2014
Cristina Rayne

All Rights Reserved

 

No part of this book
may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without express written permission of the author.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The more I looked at them, the more I wanted to just turn around and head
back to the jogging path and my car and forget I had even come here on this
crazy wild goose chase. Yet they were there, two tall pine trees about a meter
apart with a single fallen branch devoid of all its leaves lying horizontally
between them from trunk to trunk, and I couldn’t deny that I had seen them.

I had come out here expecting to find nothing—well, that wasn’t exactly
true. I was expecting to find
peace of mind
again after two days of this
very image consuming my every waking thought, an image from a reoccurring dream
from the past two nights. That I was now seeing it in reality was mindboggling.

I stood frozen before it, unsure what to do. In the dream, I had
accidentally sent the cell phone I had been clutching in one hand flying
between the two pines after rounding a corner on the jogging path and promptly
tripping on a root. It was only after I had stepped over the fallen branch to
retrieve the phone that the dream had taken a turn to the bizarre.

From one moment to the next, the surrounding trees had disappeared only
to be replaced with an open field of ankle-high grass dotted with white,
yellow, and purple wildflowers. The sky had been gray, hazy, as though the
entire area was engulfed in a thin fog.

After that initial scene, I could only remember bits and pieces of the
rest of the dream—walking across the field, then sitting on a pearl-colored,
silk blanket sipping a cool liquid from a small china teacup that I distinctly
remembered being sweet like honey with a slightly bitter aftertaste. I also remembered
that I had been sitting with two really good-looking blond men, that we had
been talking even though I couldn’t for the life of me remember what exactly we
had been talking about, just that it was something important.

I closed my eyes and made a face. Yes, I even remembered that the tips
of their ears had been pointed and sticking up through their hair like they
were some kind of Zelda cosplayers. The only thing more odd than me dreaming
something as convoluted as that was that I had dreamt the exact same thing two
nights in a row—at least the parts I could still remember.

How many times had I jogged past this very clump of trees over the past
three years? Wasn’t it possible that I had seen this setup dozens of times
without it really registering consciously? I was probably just freaking myself
out over nothing and was suddenly glad that I hadn’t asked any of my friends to
come out here with me. They would have wanted to know why, and I never would
have heard the end of it if I had actually told them about the dreams, about
how I had been obsessing over them.

“This is so stupid,” I grumbled to myself. “Just walk across and be done
with it!”

Another hour or so and the sun would set. It would take me at least
thirty minutes to make it back to my car. I definitely didn’t still want to be
mucking around the woods in the dark.

With a burst of irritation, I stepped over the fallen branch, trying to
ignore the sudden pounding of my heart. The effect was immediate. From one
breath to the next, the air was heavier, moist, as though I was standing in the
middle of a lake with my head barely above the waterline.

No—not a lake
, I thought as I frantically looked from
side-to-side, refusing to accept what my eyes had initially seen. However, the
view was the same no matter which direction I turned my head or how hard I
blinked my eyes. All the trees were just gone as if they had never been there
in the first place, and in their place was a field of grass and colorful
wildflowers as far as the eye could see under a darkened, overcast sky.

I stared at the familiar, yet impossible, landscape for the space of a
breath before I promptly turned on my heel in order to march back over the branch
and between the twin pines. I had seen this horror movie, thank you very much,
and had no intention of starring in its sequel.

“Where are you going, Megan?”

I froze instantly, but not because the person who had spoken knew my
name.
That
should have sent me sprinting between the trees at full speed
without a backwards glance. No, I
knew
that soft, deep voice, and now
that I had heard it, there was no way I could leave without driving myself
crazy with questions for the rest of my life.

I slowly turned around, and there he stood, so close that I could have
reached out and easily touched his chest. It was one of the blond, pointy-eared
men from
that
dream. He was dressed in a black, long-sleeved tunic and equally
black breeches, looking like he had just wandered out of a Renaissance fair or
fantasy convention.

“Home,” I answered, surprised that my voice came out so steady. “I’m
gonna have a couple of shots of tequila, then I’m going to bed and just pretend
that none of this craziness ever happened.”

His mildly curious expression instantly melted into something like
panic, and before I could even move a muscle, his hand shot out and grabbed one
of my upper arms. “Wait! Can we not at least talk about this a bit more?” he
pleaded. “As we said yesterday, there is no need to make your decision right
now.”

“Decision?
What
decision?” I demanded with a sinking feeling.
“No, scratch that. Who the hell
are
you?”

Why was I even still talking to this figment of my imagination? I
should be getting the hell out of there, not digging myself in deeper! I jerked
my arm back and was shocked when I easily broke his hold. In the back of my
mind, I had prepared myself for a fight.

He held up his hands, looking contrite. “I am sorry. I should not have
grabbed you, I know.”

“Who are you?” I repeated against my better judgment.

“Who—you really do not remember, do you?” he said slowly. “It’s no
wonder you look so scared now.”

I frowned. Did I really? My heart was certainly pounding a
mile-a-minute, but I thought I had a better poker face than that.

“I am Seren of the House Elerren. You have been coming here to meet
with my older brother, Locien, and me for the past few days. We talked about
several things—important things.”

I shook my head. “I thought I was dreaming. For the past two nights, I
had a dream of sitting with you and another blond man and talking, but I can’t
remember what we talked about.” I paused. “That’s it, isn’t it? I’m still
dreaming.”

There was no way this was actually happening, that someone as beautiful
as the man before me could possibly exist in reality. There had only been a
couple of times in the past that I had realized that I was dreaming while still
in the dream, so that’s probably what was happening right now. I felt the
tension in my shoulders begin to ease.

Seren took a step closer, carefully, as though trying not to startle a
wild animal. “I assure you, although the Inbetween has very dreamlike
qualities, this is very real.
I
am very real.” He held out his hand to
me. “Come. Let us go meet with Locien and figure out what has gone wrong here,
why you cannot remember our time together.”

I eyed his hand as if it were a cobra, suddenly unsure of what was real
again. “Maybe it would be better if I just went back home,” I said as I took a
step back.

A look of dismay flashed across his eyes briefly before his expression
softened to something completely benign and friendly. I took another step back
towards the twin trees, now thoroughly alarmed. Why did he want me to go with
him so badly?

“Did you talk with another
Sidhe
after you left us yesterday?”
he asked. “Did he tell you something that scared you?”

“What?” I blurted before I could stop myself.

What the hell did he mean “she”? Come to think of it, he did have a
slight accent, so maybe English wasn’t his native language. Was he just mixing
up his pronouns?


Something
must have happened within the last day because even
at our initial meeting, you did not show so much fear and suspicion,” he
insisted, letting his hand fall back to his side. “It’s all right. You do not
have to pretend to memory loss. We meant it when we told you that first day
that we would never keep you here against your will, that the final decision
would be yours.”

Pretend? Final decision? The more he talked, the more confused I
became. I absolutely had no idea what he was talking about, but at the same
time, it was becoming more apparent that we
had
spent at least a little
bit of time together. Dreams usually didn’t continue on where they had left off
from night to night, so how could I explain this? Did I dare believe that all
of this was real? Was I really standing in some weird place talking to a “man” with
pointed ears? Was he really an alien and I had inadvertently stumbled through a
portal to his ship?

Despite the fact that any sane person would have been well on their way
back through the trees and heading for the parking lot by now, I couldn’t help but
be curious. What if this was actually “first contact” and I turned my back on
such a monumental point in history just because I was a little scared?

Yeah, and what if he’s here to abduct humans for some kind of freaky
experiment?
my mind supplied helpfully. I really needed to stop watching so
many horror movies.

“Are you an alien?” I asked abruptly, deciding to just lay it all out
there. “Is that what’s going on?”

For some inexplicable reason, he suddenly grinned at me as if I had
just told him a particularly lame joke. It made me want to punch him in the
face.

“So we are back to
that
again,” Seren said. He bowed his head. “Here.
Perhaps you would like to touch my ears again, to assure yourself of their
authenticity?” The last was said with a note of challenge.

The moment he suggested it, my fingers almost began to itch with the
desire to do just that. I scowled at him and clasped my hands tightly behind my
back.

“No thanks,” I said dryly. “You keep saying ‘again,’ ‘again,’ but all I
remember is having a cup of some weird-tasting drink and talking with you and
another pointy-eared guy. So either this is the most convoluted dream I have
ever had, or someone screwed with my head and made me forget a hell of a lot of
stuff.” I narrowed my eyes suspiciously at him. “You’re the only one standing
here,
not
answering any of my questions and talking cryptically. How do
I know it wasn’t
you
that did something to me—I don’t know, like make me
so obsessed with the dream I’ve been having for the past two nights that I
had
to come back or go crazy?”

He lifted his head, the grin gone, and regarded me for a long moment
without any kind of discernable expression. After all the emotion he had freely
shown me since the beginning, it was more than a little unnerving.

“I am not an alien,” Seren said finally. His entire demeanor had
changed. His body was now probably as tense as mine.

“But you’re obviously not human, either,” I added pointedly.

He nodded. “I am an elf.”

I found myself nodding, accepting him at his word. Something about this
conversation felt very familiar, which lent more credence to his claims of
several meetings between us. There was no way I could leave now, not when I was
finally getting some answers, crazy as they were.

“Did I come here last night?”

His shoulders relaxed a bit. “Not during the night. Although it was
well past midday within the human realm, the sun had not yet even begun to set
when you arrived.”

I must have come right after work. Come to think of it, I couldn’t even
remember going home yesterday at all! Everything from the moment I had clocked
out to waking up this morning was a blank except for the snippets of last
night’s “dream.”

“How long have I been coming here?”

“Today is the eighth time.”

His answer hit me like a sledgehammer. “You’re telling me that I’ve
been coming here to meet with you and your brother for a
week
now?” I
said a bit shrilly. “Then—why the hell can’t I remember driving here? I can’t
even remember what we talked about, for God’s sake!”

“That is what I wish to find out,” Seren said firmly. He held out his
hand again. “Will you come with me? Let us go meet Locien and see if we can
make some sense of what has happened here.”

“Come with you
where
?” I couldn’t help but ask suspiciously.

Weren’t there stories about elves stealing people to somewhere beneath
a hill or something? Or was that a fairy ring…something about not crossing…?

He smiled gently at me. Damn, but I wished he would quit doing that. I
had been trying not to think about how hot he was the entire time, but it was hard
not to get distracted when his face lit up like that.

“You need not worry. A human cannot enter the elven realm unless
certain steps are taken, steps that neither I nor my brother can perform. Where
we now stand is a dimension in between the human and elven realms, the only
place where our two races can meet in our natural forms. Should you choose to
go back through the door, we cannot follow—at least not without the help of a
mage.”

“Yeah, but I bet I could still lose sight of the ‘door’ if I follow you
farther into the fog,” I said uneasily. “Can’t you bring your brother here?”

“I could…” he said reluctantly. His eyes flickered briefly towards the
two pines and the fallen branch.

“I still have a lot of questions,” I said. “I promise not to leave, if
that’s what you’re worried about, but for now, I would feel more comfortable
talking right here.”

“All right,” he said after another brief pause. “I shall be back
shortly.”

I stood watching his back until it disappeared in the distant haze
before I allowed myself to collapse to the ground. To his credit, the
self-proclaimed elf never looked back once. At this point, I didn’t know who
was dumber, him for trusting me to keep my word when he knew how uneasy and
suspicious I was, or me for deciding to keep it.

BOOK: Claimed by the Elven Brothers: Decision (An Elven King Novella Book 1)
12.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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