The Masked Fae (Royal Fae of Rose Briar Woods 1) - Page 18

I shake my head. “He’s still obsessed with roses. If he regretted his decision, he would have purged the girl from his memory.”

“I took Alice to the conservatory yesterday,” Regina admits, looking slightly haunted as she gives me an apologetic look. “I was curious.”

I lean forward. “And?”

“She lit up,” Regina says.

We fall into silence, wondering.

“It doesn’t matter,” I finally say, rising. “Either way, my mother must not discover her. She’d punish Alice for even resembling the girl we knew—and if not that, certainly the kindness I was foolish enough to show her.”

“Your mother is cruel,” Regina says bitterly, murmuring words that no one else would dare voice, even in privacy. Her hands clasp over the black satin of her skirt, and her eyes become distant.

Regina’s bouts of melancholy are common—they have been since she married her childhood love young and then lost her husband to court politics not even a year later. He made the mistake of disagreeing with my mother, and he was executed for treason.

It was the final straw—I couldn’t bear to even look at my mother, much less remain at court. I left for my paternal family’s estate, donning Father’s title and attempting to abandon the royal one I was born with. I rescued my broken cousin from Mother’s wicked clutches. She and I have remained here ever since, living as peacefully as people can when ruled by an evil, malicious queen.

It’s been five years, but Regina still mourns. I somewhat doubt she will ever shed her black clothing.

“What will we do about Ian?” Regina asks.

I clutch my head in my hands. “I don’t know.”

“If you don’t claim Alice as your illanté, he can take her despite your command to stay away—you know the rules.”

Any human who wanders into Faerie is free game. They are protected for one day only, while they conduct business, but if they remain overnight…

“If I make her my illanté, she can never return home.”

“If you don’t, she is untethered property.”

“She’s not property,” I snarl under my breath.

“I believe that, but you know I’m right. Too long, our people have amused themselves at the humans’ expense. She will be enslaved, caged, tortured…perhaps worse. If you keep her, you must bind her to your side.”

“I don’t want to keep her.” I stand abruptly, sending my chair backward, the legs scratching against the wooden floor. “I want her to go home.”

“Where are you going?” Regina asks, rising with me.

“To speak with Alice.”

“As whom?”

I glance out the window, knowing I only have one option. The evening sunlight filters into the forest, too light for me to bend the shadows to my will.

I’ll have to visit her as Lord Ambrose and hope she doesn’t recognize me.

Tags: Shari L. Tapscott Royal Fae of Rose Briar Woods Fantasy
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