The Masked Fae (Royal Fae of Rose Briar Woods 1) - Page 92


I’ve never seen so many beautiful people in my life.

I touch my hand to my stomach, trying to soothe my nerves. Faeries look at Brahm and me as we enter the dining room. They bend their lovely heads together, whispering speculations, their eyes sliding over the fine sapphire gown Regina commissioned for me.

It’s now that Brahm’s people will decide what kind of illanté I am. I’m obviously not a servant or a drudge in such a gown, so I must be Brahm’s mistress or one of those pampered pets Regina mentioned.

Either way, we are the subject of gossip, and I have no doubt Brahm’s name will pass nearly every pair of lips before the night is over.

The dining room is a massive space, though its name makes it sound deceptively small. There are dozens of round, cloth-covered tables, each with ten chairs. As Brahm leads me toward the front of the room, I peek at the place settings. The plates and utensils are silver, and the drinkware is cut crystal. A teacup sits atop each plate, with a large, multi-petaled red flower resting in the bottom.

The tables have several steaming porcelain teapots at their centers, all nestled amongst boxwood and rosemary garlands. Place cards with scrolling names written upon them inform guests where they are to sit.

With growing dread, I realize that most names have titles attached. Not only is this the largest gathering of Faeries I’ve ever been amongst, but they are the most powerful citizens of West Faerie.

I return my attention to the front of the room, where Brahm’s family is already seated.

Queen Marison watches us with narrowed eyes, and a small, twisted smile graces her lovely face. She is truly a beautiful woman, looking somehow timeless. She and Brahm share the same hair color, but her eyes are green.

Ian stands behind her, resting one hand on the back of her chair. He speaks with a man who came to give his greetings to his monarch, smiling like he’s already the queen’s new consort.

To the queen’s right sits a woman so beautiful, she looks as if the sun lent her its light to wear as a cloak. Her hair is golden and long. Her lips are the color of the roses her mother now despises, and her lashes are dark. She’s dreadfully intimidating, especially when she watches me with an expression that says she resents my presence next to Brahm.

I lean close to him as we walk. “Is the blonde woman, perhaps, one of the women whose hearts you mentioned stealing?”

“Worse,” he says. “She’s my sister.”

Softly, I ask, “And why does your sister look as if she’d like to behead me?”

“She always looks like that when she sits next to our mother. Try not to take it personally.”

My eyes shift to a man dressed in full black who stands just behind the table. He’s leaner than Brahm, but just about the same height, and they share similar hair and eyes. He’s startlingly handsome, with a dark, haunted expression.

And he watches me intently.

I feel as if I’ve become the ghost of my younger sister—a girl this family knew far better than I ever did.

“Is that your brother?” I whisper. “The one who grows the roses?”

“That’s right. I won’t be able to introduce you, but his name is Drake.”

“Why can’t you introduce me?”

Before Brahm can answer, Ian interrupts.

“Wasn’t Brahm the one who said he’d never take a pet?” the count asks the queen offhandedly. His nasty smirk makes my skin crawl.

“Yes,” Queen Marison responds, pulling her eyes away from me as if bored. “He said it was an ‘appalling tradition’ that he wanted no part in.”

“Have you changed your mind now that you’ve found one who appeals to you, Brahm?” Ian asks snidely. He then slides his eyes over me, making me want to hide behind Brahm’s back. “You’ve certainly decorated her, haven’t you? Is she a pet or a doll?”

“Enough,” Drake says through gritted teeth, making everyone at the table jump, including his mother.

No one responds to him, but Ian shoots him a guarded look before returning his attention to us.

“Sit down, Brahm,” Queen Marison commands, gesturing to the empty spot next to Brahm’s sister.

One empty spot.

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