Chapter 1 –
When I woke up the next morning, light was pouring through the window. Birds were singing, and chirping and fluttering about as if it weren’t early. I grumpily turned on my side, and glanced over at the closet.
It didn’t look as if it had been used in many years.
Then I thought about what Seamus had said. It had once been his parents’ house so perhaps this room belonged to one of his siblings or his parents who hadn’t lived her in a long time. I felt bad for Camilla having to spend all those long years alone.
Yet despite her aching for Seamus to visit more, she still remained kind and giving. She was certainly a strong person, and I admired her for that. Not everyone could easily forgive and allow their brothers back into their lives after they had been gone for so many years. Not to mention Seamus came here without warning, and he could’ve brought trouble with him, and yet she had agreed.
I appreciated that.
There was an anxiety washing over me, though. What if I was never able to contact Gramps and the others again? What if something terrible had already happened to them? I knew that worrying wouldn’t change or help anything, but I couldn’t help but worry about what was going to happen.
Life was unpredictable and always twisting and turning in directions we could never predict, but sometimes the unpredictable nature of it all made it terrifying rather than exciting.
Because one never knew what the next morrow would bring.
Good and bad happened to both good and bad people. Sometimes the only thing that kept us alive was the hope for a better tomorrow.
Sucking in a deep breath, I breathed in and out heavily. I would have to believe that Gramps, Miyu, and Ichiko were capable of defending themselves until proven otherwise.
But having to face The Malevolent Queen and Beom-seok both? How could they have ever considered doing all of that alone? Now I was angry again thinking of how foolish Gramps had been to leave me behind with those faeries.
Especially at how willing the faerie king and queen were willing to betray me despite their magical oath.
I couldn’t help but feel guilty about Wynne, though. I can only imagine how confused he was seeing me holding the dagger that I had shoved through his mother’s heart. There had been no time to explain to him that she had attacked me first, and would he even believe me? That I didn’t know.
I could only imagine how the faeries were all slandering my name now that I had killed their queen.
It wasn’t as if they had ever bothered trying to make me feel welcome.
“Anwen? Are you awake?” Seamus asked, knocking on the door.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes,” I answered.
Seamus blinked, looking at my face. “What’s wrong?”
“Just getting lost in my darkest thoughts,” I answered.
“I don’t like that,” Seamus frowned.
“Nor do I,” I admitted, with a hollow laugh.
“I know you’re worried about how things will turn out, and how to contact those that you love, but we will figure it all out together, okay? It’s not something you need to face alone,” Seamus informed me.
I smiled softly. His words truly were a balm to my soul. “Okay,” I replied. It was the only thing I could think to say. “Thank you.”
“Of course, that’s what we’re meant to do, right? Help each other?”
I smiled. “Yes, a pity that not everyone understands that, though.” Looking outside, I glanced as some dark purple butterflies with sky blue and hot pink markings danced around the window before moving on. “I didn’t know there would be butterflies here, you guys seem keen on murdering them all,” I joked, remembering Seamus’ antics at the faerie castle.
Seamus snorted. “In some ways werecats can be like domestic cats, but don’t expect me to admit that or say it again.”
I laughed. “Fair enough.”
“Oi, love birds, it’s time for breakfast!” Camilla shouted up the stairs.
“We’re not birds. Well, maybe she is,” Seamus yelled back in reply.
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not a bird, either,” I insisted. “I’ve been called a fox before, though.”
“I really hope that it wasn’t because of your hair,” Seamus snorted. “Because how boring, if so,” he remarked.
“I honestly don’t know,” I shrugged. “Gramps has always called me witchling.”
“Hmm, that does suit you,” Seamus nodded.
“Hurry up!” Camilla shouted.
“All right, we’re coming,” Seamus yelled. “She’s so impatient,” he muttered to me.
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, maybe we shouldn’t keep her waiting then.”
We descended the stairs, and Camilla already had everything set out that we would need for breakfast. I noticed that she had made blueberry pancakes, sausage, and eggs.
I never would have imagined that cats liked pancakes, but they were werecats so there was a difference.
Camilla smiled when we came down. “I was beginning to think you expected me to eat all of this myself, and I didn’t really want to do that,” she teased.
Seamus snorted. “You wouldn’t be able to,” he protested.
“Maybe not,” Camilla laughed. “But mother once told us that we could do anything we put our minds to. My body might not like me so much afterward, though.”
“I imagine not,” Seamus agreed, shaking his head.
I glanced out the window to see more butterflies were dancing outside the window.
“Butterflies seem to like you,” Seamus remarked.
“Maybe because she’s sweet,” Camilla said. “Which is good, because you can be sour, sometimes,” she insisted.
Seamus pulled a face before sticking his tongue out at his sister.
“Very mature,” Camilla scoffed.
“I never said I was,” Seamus retorted, winking.
“Are you okay?” Camilla asked me. “You look rather down.”
“I’m just worried about everyone I left behind. I’m sure Wynne doesn’t understand what was going on, there was no time to explain to him before we left. Not to mention, I’m not sure if and when I will see any of the people I love again. I guess I’m just a little stressed out about what the future may hold,” I admitted.
Camilla nodded, gently taking my hand in her own. “Worrying doesn’t take away the things we’re worrying about, it only steals your joy. I know it may be hard to focus on anything else right now, but…you stressing yourself out is only going to make you sick. I don’t think your loved ones want that for you. I know this one is hard, too, but who cares what Wynne thinks of you? He may judge you for what he doesn’t know, but that’s on him. You cannot help that you did what you needed to do to defend yourself,” she shrugged. “Now that you’ve found your mate, you don’t need to worry about Wynne.”
I knew she was right about the worrying. “I know you’re right about my worries, but that doesn’t automatically chase them away. I wish it were that easy. As for Wynne, perhaps, you’re right. I know we’re not meant to be, but that doesn’t mean that I wish him any harm. I don’t know if he knew what his mother was doing. I think he would be just as upset by it as me.”
Camilla nodded. “Well, what’s happened has happened. There’s no changing it now, and I know you believe him to be innocent; but that doesn’t mean that he is. Some people are good at hiding their evil so don’t underestimate him.”
Seamus nodded. “We both thought Wynne was innocent, but I would still be wary of him should we meet again.”
I nodded. “I understand,” I breathed. “It’s just hard for me to believe that he was in on it. He ended up taking me to some faerie festival or fair. I got to meet faeries that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and they didn’t seem quite as bad as the royal fae. In fact one of them laughed when I kept beating Wynne at axe throwing.”
“Good, those faeries all need to be humbled,” Camilla snorted. “Their egos bigger than any moon or sun I’ve ever seen hung in the sky.”
I couldn’t say I disagreed. I sighed. “I’m also worried that Gramps has bitten off more than he can chew. Sure it’s one thing to go after The Malevolent Queen, but having to deal with Beom-seok, too?”
“Who is Beom-seok?” Seamus asked, arching a brow.
“A vampire king who is obsessed with me, apparently. He tried to marry me, and clearly wasn’t happy when I got away. He’s the one that sent his legions of vampires after us in the wood when the centaurs betrayed us.”
“Ah,” Seamus nodded. “Sounds real charming,” he snarked.
“Oh, very,” I stated, rolling my eyes. “He was cornered and nearly defeated by me and Gramps, but he ended up running away like the coward he was. He was a prince then, but apparently he’s a king now.”
“Why would the vampires make a coward a king?” Seamus frowned.
“Maybe he’s stronger now than he was then,” I shrugged. “I have no idea. But I don’t like the idea of three people being targeted by both The Malevolent Queen and the vampires, both,” I sighed.
“Yes, that does seem a bit much,” Camilla agreed. “Maybe we can convince some of the werecats to come with us to that castle and take on the faeries. I imagine if the sister-in-law wanted you dead that she would stay in that castle until she got a new lead. The faeries would never suspect us of attacking them.”
Seamus frowned. “Do you think anyone would want to help us?”
“You may no longer have many ties here, brother, but I have never had any problem making friends,” Camilla winked. “I’ll see what I can do later, but for now, can you two please eat the breakfast I spent so long making? I don’t think it’s wise to fight or try to persuade others to the cause on an empty stomach.”
Maybe she had a point there. All of a sudden my stomach growled, as if to prove her point. I snorted, picking up a fork. “Seems my body would agree with you. I’m sorry for telling you all my concerns when you have worries of your own.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m just glad you can trust me,” Camilla smiled. “Seamus told me you had a hard time trusting those fae. I don’t blame you, though, after everything you’ve been through. I’m glad that you were quick enough to stop the queen from harming you, though. Who knows what that terrible woman that calls herself The Malevolent Queen would have done.”
I nodded, not sure what to say.
Seamus glanced at me. “I hope that it was okay to tell my sister all of this?”
“Of course, I just…don’t really know how to respond.” I awkwardly shifted in my seat. “Sorry, but thank you for your kindness.”
“You don’t need to thank me for kindness that should be a standard. I know it isn’t, but it really should be,” Camilla smiled. “And you don’t have to worry about me.”
“Well, the thing about being socially awkward is, you’re always socially awkward even when around people you may feel a bit more comfortable with…awkward can happen,” I shrugged. “Didn’t mean to cause any offense, though.”
“You didn’t,” Camilla smiled.
Seamus snorted. “She prefers to watch people rather than interact with them.”
“Oh, dear, so she’s like you,” Camilla tutted. “Well, I will have to make sure that you two get out and socialize sometimes. Can’t be homebodies every day of your lives,” she teased, winking.
I laughed, in spite of myself. “I like adventures. I don’t always like people.”
“That’s fair,” Camilla considered, nodding.
“Aye,” Seamus said, also nodding. “People can be annoying.”
“Dangerous, too,” I added.
“Or just plain boring,” Camilla mused.
“That, too,” Seamus agreed.
I laughed. “Yes, that, too,” I responded.