Madoc sat in his office, hunched over his desk, trying to find the source of the pollution in the giants’ water supply. He’d gone out himself to track the cause, but had found nothing. If it had only been poisoned once, the giants probably would have ignored it, but it had happened three times. They blamed the dwarves who lived and mined in the mountains upstream. Thankfully, neither the giants nor Madoc proved the dwarves had anything to do with it. The last thing they needed was a war.
A slow, hesitant tap at the door brought Madoc out of his thoughts. “What is it?” he asked, welcoming the distraction.
Bren stepped into Madoc’s office. “Sir, I’m checking in from the forest.”
Madoc leaned forward in his chair. “I’m listening,”
“They were there,” Bren began. “I was hiding as you recommended, but when I saw them in a … questionable position, I had to interrupt and make sure the princess was not being harmed.”
“What do you mean questionable position?”
Bren cleared his throat. “They were … they appeared to be kissing.”
“It’s either they were or they weren’t.” Madoc suppressed a smile, amused by Bren’s obvious discomfort. Bren paused and lifted his head.
“They were kissing, sir.”
A grin crept across Madoc’s face. Well, they finally crossed the line. “What did the princess say when you interrupted them?”
“She was surprised and asked where I had come from.”
“Did you tell her I sent you?”
“I told her you had told me to patrol the forest.”
“And she believed you?” Madoc asked.
“Good.” Few of his guards were so good at lying. “Did you tell anyone else about this?”
“No, sir,” Bren said, recoiling as if he’d been insulted. “Of course not.”
“Well.” Madoc sat back in his chair. “Don’t feel like you have to keep it a secret.”
Bren grimaced and narrowed his eyes in confusion. Madoc crossed his arms across his chest.
“I want you to spread this rumor of them kissing. It may be a helpful catalyst to get the human out of this realm.”
Bren nodded. “Yes, sir. I understand.”
“Good. You’re dismissed.”
After Bren left, Madoc closed his eyes. He tried to predict where this relationship with Chalcedony and Coal would lead. It could only end one way: nowhere. He wanted to kill the boy to ensure that, but he trusted his prophets. They rarely foresaw anything, so when they did, he listened and obeyed. He felt the change in the air. He had no idea what was coming, but he was looking forward to watching it play out.
Chalcedony couldn’t stop staring at Elizabeth. The girl reminded her so much of Coal at that age.
“Chalcedony,” Coal said.
She turned towards Coal. For a moment, she’d forgotten he’d come with her.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I’m fine.” Coal was trying to look comfortable. But she’d known him for too long to be fooled. His shoulders were squared as if he was waiting for someone to start a fight with him. He gripped his mug as if it was the only thing between him and death.
“You don’t like it here, do you?” Chalcedony asked.
“No,” he answered without hesitation.
“I’m not sure. I was homeless before you found me. Maybe that has something to do with it. When we first arrived, I remembered a woman. I think she was my mother, but then she left me.” Coal changed the subject. “What are we going to do about the kiss?”
She rubbed the back of her neck. She could dodge the question again, but he would just keep bringing it up. Besides, he was right. It needed to be addressed. “There is nothing we can do about it. Madoc will kill you if …” she trailed off. “We have to forget about it.” She glanced at the ground, willing the memory of their kiss away. “We’re best friends. That’s all we can ever be.”
“Queen Isis, in the south, has a human mate and no children.” He stared at his cup.
“She’s a hundred years older than me. No one doubts she’s strong enough to fight for her lands. I don’t have that luxury.”
“Why don’t you fight for what you want?” Coal pressed.
She couldn’t let herself even think about being with him. The thought felt like a betrayal to her mother and all she’d worked for since birth. “Why did we have to grow up? It was so much simpler when we ran around Legacy all day without—”
“Without wanting to kiss each other in the middle of it,” he said with a crooked smile.
“No.” She laughed despite herself. “When we were younger, we spent all day together without everyone gossiping.”
He sobered suddenly. “Are you going to leave me here?”
“I told you already. I would never do that. Do you want to stay?”
“No, I hate it here,” he responded as if she’d accused him of stealing something.
“Don’t worry about it.” Yes, it would solve everything, but the thought of being without him scared her. Out of the corner of her eye, Chalcedony saw Elizabeth waving goodbye as her mother hustled her out of the door.
“Are you finished?” Chalcedony asked, standing. Coal placed his cup on the table and stood.
“Let’s go.” Chalcedony hurried out of the shop. Just as they bounded onto the street, Elizabeth and her family turned the corner. Chalcedony walked faster.
“Are we leaving now?” Coal matched Chalcedony’s pace.
“Then, where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” she answered, but she didn’t really know herself. She wanted to talk to the girl again.
As Chalcedony expected, Elizabeth and her family didn’t live far from the coffee shop. Humans drove most places, but not if they lived on a college campus. Elizabeth’s mother unlocked the door to their apartment and stepped in. Chalcedony followed, waited a few moments, and knocked.
“Why are we here?” Coal asked, with an impatient, accusatory tone.
“No. Why are we here?”
She knocked again, ignoring his burning gaze.
“Oh, hi? Did I forget something at the restaurant?” Elizabeth’s mother asked, recognition showing in her eyes.
“Yes,” Chalcedony said. “Can we come in?”
“Um.” She eyed Chalcedony and Coal. “What do you want?”
Before she lost her nerve, Chalcedony brought the pouch of glamour from under her shirt and blew the powder into the woman’s face.
This is the last scene I’ll be posting on my blog, but I am looking for reviewers. If you are enjoying what you’ve read so far and would like to join my review team, leave me a comment and I’ll send you an e-copy before.