The Masked Fae (Royal Fae of Rose Briar Woods 1) - Page 85

“What happened?” Regina asks Brahm quietly, frowning at me. “Why have you brought Alice back, and why is she—”

“Later,” Brahm says, gesturing for me to lead the way up the stairs. “Prepare Alice’s room. She will be living with us now. Tomorrow, would you go into Corrinmead and bring back a selection of linens? She may choose whatever she likes.”

“Of course,” Regina says.

“And order several more gowns while you’re there. I doubt she wishes to continue dressing like a garden maid.”

Regina nods, glancing at me with something that seems a little too much like pity for my liking.

Brahm turns to me, looking terribly solemn. “What else would you like, Alice? Perhaps a private sitting room? A garden?”

I stare at him, dumbfounded.

“A studio,” he says, acting quite strange. He turns to Regina once more. “Find somewhere appropriate, with plenty of natural light, and stock it well.”

Even Regina looks bewildered. “All right.”

“I have business to attend to,” he says. “I assume you can make sure Alice is settled?”

Slowly, Regina nods.

“Whatever Alice wants—anything at all—make sure she gets it.” Bowing his head toward me in a respectful goodbye, Brahm excuses himself and walks into the manor.

“Did you quarrel on your way here?” Regina asks quietly.

With a sigh, I say, “We barely spoke at all.”

* * *

My second monthat Brahm’s estate passes far more quickly than the first. The illanté tether has given me a new sense of freedom. The staff now ignores me as I explore the estate and grounds, and I feel less vulnerable without their constant attention. More importantly, the housemaids no longer see me as a threat—they barely look at me at all.

Though I never leave the safety of the iron fence, the woods inside the property are lovely and strange. I never know what I’m going to find, from pint-sized pixies that sleep in folded leaves to little birds with thick, icing-pink plumage.

On my daily walks, I find bundles of gifts. They always contain the same things—pretty rocks that sparkle in the sun, glittering pinecones, and intricate flower chains. I have no idea what creature leaves them for me.

Regina ordered four new gowns, each lovelier than the last, and my studio is big and bright. Even though I grew up as the daughter of a lord, I’ve never been so spoiled in my life.

But it’s hard to enjoy it all when no masked bandit visits me in the evenings, and I only see Brahm at meals. He’s distanced himself, speaking to me in a careful manner, asking questions about my day and acting as disinterested as a distant male relative might.

So this evening when there’s a knock at my door, I expect it to be Regina and not Brahm. When I find him standing in the hall, I let out a surprised noise that makes his lips twitch so briefly, I think I might have imagined it.

Crossing my arms, I narrow my eyes at him. “Are we speaking now?”

Looking as if he’s suppressing a long-suffering sigh, Brahm says, “When did we stop speaking? I believe we had a conversation about water sprites at dinner only an hour ago.”

I found the creatures in the pond, peering up at me from under a lily pad. Apparently, in typical situations, they will call a human to their death. I, however, am safe because of the protection the tether lends.

“What would happen if they tried to hurt me?” I asked Brahm, sorting a pile of spring peas with a tine of my fork.

“It would go badly for them,” he answered cryptically.

I’ve tucked the information away, adding it to my growing book of mental Faerie knowledge.

Returning to the present conversation, I ask, “What do you need, Lord Ambrose?”

Irritation flashes over Brahm’s face for just a moment. Even now, he hates it when I use his formal name. It gives me assurance that he might be as torn up about our relationship—or lack thereof—as I am.

“Tomorrow is Mother’s monthly masquerade. We will leave in the morning. I’ve already informed Regina, and she said she has ordered something suitable for you to wear.”

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