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Dorian wasn’t nearly as impressed as he should have been by the storm.
“You couldn’t control it,” he told me. “It did you no good. Until you master the small things, you’ll never control the large ones. They’ll control you.”
He didn’t seem upset; he simply showed that infinite patience and good-natured attitude he always had. Still enchanted by human stuff, he wanted us to take him into the city and show him entertaining things – particularly the aforementioned women with low inhibitions. Considering the car ride would have literally killed him, we ordered pizza instead.
You could tell it was sort of a letdown for him, but he still enjoyed it. He found delight in everything, I realized. Well – except for those extreme moments of boredom that seemed to plague him, although even in those he still managed to find some sort of joke. I didn’t know many people like that.
I saw him once more that week, this time at his place. He made me repeat the boring water experiment five times, but it only yielded the exact same results. At least this time I didn’t conjure any storms. When I asked if we could do something else next time, he laughed and sent me home.
The day before Dorian’s ball, I mustered up the courage to do something I’d been thinking about for a long time now: visit Wil Delaney.
He still left messages with Lara almost every other day, but that wasn’t what finally made me go see him again. Ever since my mom’s visit, I hadn’t been able to shake the idea of her locked away, miserable and alone, in Storm King’s castle. The pain of that image transferred to my impressions of Jasmine, and no matter how reluctant the girl had been to leave, I knew she was still a victim. I wanted to do something – anything – to help her but had no idea where to start or even how to do it, considering last time’s disaster. Talking to Wil again seemed like a semireasonable beginning.
Kiyo went with me, driving us in his rental car since his poor Spider was out of commission. This car was a brand-new Toyota Camry that seemed pretty nice to me, though it obviously caused him considerable distress.
When we knocked on the door, Wil didn’t answer right away.
“You sure he’s here?” Kiyo asked.
“Yeah. I don’t think he ever leaves. We’re probably being thermal-scanned or something.”
Kiyo gave me a puzzled look.
“Just wait,” I warned.
A minute later, I heard the legion of locks and bolts being undone, and Wil’s face appeared.
“Oh, my God,” he gasped, face lighting up. “You’re back. Wait. Who’s that?”
“A friend. Now let us in.”
Wil gave Kiyo a hesitant look and finally opened the door wider. As we walked in, I could tell from Kiyo’s expression that he was having exactly the same reaction I’d had to the weirdness of Wil’s lair. In particular he paused in front of a magazine lying open on a coffee table. An article’s large headline read: THEY’RE USING YOUR DNA TO TRACK YOU! WEAR A HAIRNET WHEN LEAVING THE HOUSE!
“I knew you’d come around,” Wil burbled out, leading us into the kitchen. “When are we going back?”
“I don’t know that we are, Wil.”
“Then why – “
I held up a hand to silence him. “I just want to talk right now, that’s all.”
His face fell, but he nodded and walked to the refrigerator. “You want something to drink?”
“Sure. What do you have?”
He opened the refrigerator. Inside were about ten jugs of water whose labels guaranteed ultra-ultra-ultra purification and refinement against impurities.
“Water,” he said. “Most soft drinks are laden with – “
He poured three glasses and sat down with us, watching me expectantly.
“I want to know more about Jasmine,” I explained. “If we’re ever able to go back…” Again, that pale face loomed in my mind. I swallowed. “It might not do us any good if she doesn’t want to go. Is there anything about her…anything you can tell us that might sort of explain that?”
The fanatical gleam left his eyes, replaced by something sober and sad. “I don’t know. I mean, I guess half of it’s being fourteen, you know? Not that she ever seemed all that impressionable. I guess she could have been brainwashed. There’s lots of documentation on that; the government does it all the time. I imagine even fairies have conditioning techniques…”
He started going off on that, and I felt Kiyo’s hand rest on my thigh under the table and give a slight squeeze. It was less of a sexual thing and more of a What the hell have you gotten us into?
Keeping my expression blank, I finally interrupted Wil’s lecture. “Can you give us any information about her? Like…what she was into? Likes? Dislikes? If we could just get some idea about that, it might help us understand her better.”
“Well,” he said doubtfully, “I could show you her room.”
He took us farther into the house, which was just as dark as the kitchen, and into a small room that smelled of dust and disuse. Probably making a great sacrifice to his values, he flipped on the lights. For half a second, I was relieved that Jasmine’s room did not mirror the rest of Wil’s crazed existence. It looked like a normal teenage girl’s room.
Then I saw the fairy posters.
They were interspersed with other airbrushed fantasy pictures – unicorns and dreamscapes – but fairies definitely made up the dominant theme splashed against the room’s rose-pink walls. These images weren’t accurate representations of the very humanlike gentry but depicted more of what pop culture perceived fairies to be like: small and winged, playing with flowers and fireflies. Those sorts of beings did exist in the Otherworld, though technically they were pixies.
“You didn’t think this was relevant?” I breathed, gazing around.
“This is fluff,” said Wil dismissively. “Stuff girls are into. She’s liked this stuff since she was little.”
I walked farther into the room and knelt in front of a small bookcase. J. R. R. Tolkien. C. S. Lewis. J. K. Rowling. More and more fantasy titles. A shrine to escapism.
Glancing around, Kiyo seemed to be thinking along the same lines I was. “Are there any photos? Any friends of hers?”
Wil shook his head. “She didn’t have a lot of friends.” He sat down on the ruffled pink bed and found a small album on the floor. “Here are a few pictures.”
Kiyo and I sat next to him. The album was sort of a record of Jasmine’s childhood. There were some baby pictures and some shots of her as a little girl. Wil figured into a lot of the pictures, but we saw little of their parents. I recalled his bitter comments about their chronic absence. We did find a few pictures of her with other children, but as she grew older, those became more rare. Mostly these seemed to be candid shots that someone – Wil, most likely – had snapped while she was busy with something. One showed her curled up with a book, another found her lying in a backyard hammock while bright sunshine lit up her strawberry-blond hair. She had noticed the photographer in that latter one and regarded the camera with a sad, sweet smile.
“What did she do for fun?” I asked when Wil closed the album. “Hobbies? Sports?”
He gestured to the shelves. “She liked to read, obviously. And she liked being outside. She went for walks, sometimes planted flowers. Wasn’t really into sports or anything like that.”
“She must have hung out with some people,” I pointed out. “Didn’t you say she was at a party when she was taken?”
“Yeah…kind of surprising, actually. But she went to things like that once in awhile. Not often. But sometimes. I mean, she did things with me sometimes too. We went to Disneyland once. Saw movies. But mostly she was alone.”
“Do you know why?”
“No. I think…I think she just had trouble relating to kids her age. She was smart, always sort of ahead of her time.”
His voice was wistful, and I realized no matter how unstable he might be in some ways, he did truly love and miss his sister.
“Was she this reclusive before your parents died?” asked Kiyo gently.
“Yeah. She was always kind of this way.”
After a bit more investigating around the room, we finally left. Wil pushed me hard on what I was going to do about Jasmine, but I had no answers to give him.
“Well,” Kiyo said after a few quiet minutes on the road, “that was depressing.”
I didn’t answer right away as I stared off at the road ahead of us.
“Eugenie? You all right?”
“No. Not really.” I sighed. “That poor girl.”
“Starts to make more sense, though, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. Isolated from the real world, she starts living in a fantasy one. Then suddenly Aeson gives her the chance to actually live in that one.”
He nodded his agreement. “Of course, abduction and rape probably weren’t the ways she envisioned escaping off to fairyland.”
I stared off again for a while. “She reminds me of me.”
The glance he gave me was wry. “You dissociated into a make-believe world that you hoped would become real?”
“No. But I was kind of a loner too. I think I had more friends than her, admittedly, but I always had trouble relating to others. It got worse once Roland made me his apprentice. Hard to get excited about boy bands when you’re learning to exorcise ghosts.”
“I don’t think you missed anything there.”
I rewarded him with a smile as I continued thinking. “Even though I didn’t have many friends, I always wanted them, wanted to be noticed. If Jasmine’s the same, then she probably likes being Aeson’s mistress, as sickening as it is. He probably showers her with attention.”
“You’re right…though I wonder if there’s more to it.”
“I think a lot of teens feel disconnected sometimes, like no one understands them. I mean, I felt that way lots of times. Not sure I would have welcomed what happened to her as some sort of salvation.”
“Me either. But I suppose everyone copes in different ways. I took up solitary things. Running. Swimming.”
“Hey,” I said. “How’d you know about that?”
“Because you have about a hundred of them in your closet.”
I laughed, then reconsidered something he’d just said. “What was it like for you, growing up? You knew from the beginning what you were, right?”
“Yeah. My parents never made that a secret. They accepted that they were from different worlds – literally – and didn’t fight that. Growing up with that duality sort of became second nature. Like I said before, I like both worlds, which is why I certainly don’t want to see some conquest of this one. Of course, I had plenty of times in my life, particularly when I was young and moody, when I’d get mad at one of my parents. Then I’d swear I’d be all kitsune or all human, depending on who’d pissed me off.”
“Your teenage angst must have been a terrible thing,” I teased.
“You have no idea.”
“Are your parents still together?”
“No. Still amicable. My mom finally stayed in the Otherworld for good once I got older. I see her from time to time. It broke my dad’s heart – he was crazy about her – but he remarried and seems to be better off.”
I leaned back against the seat. “Now that I know what I am…I kind of wish I’d known sooner. I would have liked to get a head start on my magic and go blow Aeson’s castle apart and get Jasmine back.”
“You don’t know that you can actually do that,” he warned. “You’re half-human. You may not have gotten all his power.”
“Did you get everything your mom has?”
He hesitated. “Yes.”
“I can’t leave Jasmine there. Not knowing what I know. But I don’t know how to get her back.”
Kiyo reached over and squeezed my hand. “We’ll think of something. Don’t worry.”
It was a little comforting, but I think we both knew it was the sort of empty, kind statement you say to make someone feel better. I doubted he had any better ideas than I had on how to get Jasmine back.
Kiyo didn’t have to work until the next morning, so we decided to go hiking at Sabino Canyon. Physical exertion seemed like a good way to forget about abducted girls, and it was. The temperature pushed into triple digits, and we were exhausted and sweaty as we finally made the return trip down, both of us greedily drinking from water bottles.
I saw him watching me at one point while we stopped to take a break. There was a content and admiring expression on his face, not purely sexual, for a change.
“What?” I asked.
“Your hair. I never realized how red it is. The sun lights it up like a flame.”
“Is that a good thing?”
The comfortable look on his face shifted, and I saw the familiar glint of need surface. We didn’t say much after that. The rest of our hike and subsequent ride home proceeded in silence, but the air burned between us, hotter than anything we’d felt outside.
Tim was nowhere to be found when we arrived home. Just as well. I turned on the shower, eager to remove the sweat and grime, and Kiyo hopped in with me.
“We’re here to get clean,” I warned.
“Sure,” he said, pushing me up against the wall.
Water poured down on us as we kissed and touched and attempted some semblance of washing ourselves. I don’t know how good a job we did. I think some parts got significantly soaped down more than others.
I wouldn’t have minded sex in the shower, but we had no condoms in there. Sometimes I thought the double birth control was overkill; in eight years, I’d never had problems with the pill. But we both knew how high the stakes were. A condom was a small thing to ask.
We fell onto my bed, still kind of slick and soapy. He slipped the condom on in like two seconds, and I moved on top of him. Foreplay apparently wasn’t going to play a big role in our relationship. His hands grasped my hips, halting me for a moment.
“You took your pill today?”
“Yes, yes,” I assured him.
He relaxed and released me, letting me move down and take him into me. A soft sound, half-groan and half-sigh, escaped his lips. He opened his eyes and smiled at me.
“You are…the most right thing in my world.”
I smiled back, knowing exactly what he meant. We felt good and right together, like the last month’s tension hadn’t existed. We were where we should be, picking right up after our first night together.
His hands clenched my sides, his nails touching my back as my body shifted up and down. A tingle of apprehension ran through me whenever those fingers came near my back, but he continued to show restraint. The scratches were finally healing, albeit slowly.
He let me stay on top only about a minute or so before he flipped me onto my stomach and took me from that position, all aggression and furious passion. I slyly tried shifting us once, and he playfully returned me back. Maybe it was the fox thing, or maybe it was just his own human nature, but something in him liked being the dominant one. I decided not to fight it, far too busy swimming in the bliss and fire of him moving inside of me.
When he finished, he rolled off and pulled me to him. Happy, I buried my face against his body, drinking in his scent and feel like an intoxicant. Clinging to each other, we listened to our ragged breathing calm down. For the first time in awhile, I felt safe and at peace. Things were exactly as they were supposed to be.
He stayed with me that night, and our bodies wrapped around each other in the darkness. My body fell into its old bad habits, and I found myself lying awake long after he’d fallen asleep. I twisted and turned, counting stars on my ceiling and attempting to force my mind into calmness.
I tried too hard, apparently, because my mind slipped into trance, one off from wakeful consciousness but not really asleep either. Recognizing this, I started to shift out of it until an image appeared in my mind, a familiar one of a barren area I didn’t recognize and a dark, crowned figure standing over me.
The memory I’d half-started in the sauna returned, flooding my mind’s eye. I suddenly found myself looking up at Storm King. The fear was there, the fear that I couldn’t escape him and that he would take me away.
Then, just as before, I reached for something both within and without. Power surged through me, and the air grew thick. Dark clouds formed out of nothing, covering the sky. Soft thunder echoed around us. I still couldn’t see his face in this memory, but I could sense his amusement.
“Are you going to try to fight me, little one?” A different power built up around us as he gathered his own magic. “I like your attitude – though you’re fighting a losing battle. For now, at least. Come with me, and I’ll show you how to really use your gifts.”
He gently nudged his power toward me, attempting to quell mine. I sucked in more of my magic, letting it course through me. It burned, but it was wonderful. Amazing. Like nothing I had ever felt before or could have conceived of. I was more than a human in that moment, more than Eugenie Markham, more than a god. It filled me, but even then, I could not control it. Not yet. Lightning flared above us, followed immediately by thunder.
Storm King was still pushing against me. I don’t think I was really more than a match for him, but he hadn’t quite expected this much of a fight. I tried to focus my power, to get ahold of it and use it against him. It was slippery, though; I couldn’t keep a hold. Lightning blazed again, and I reached out with my mind to seize it, willing it to strike him down.
Only my aim was off. It hit me instead.
I screamed, pain ripping through me as I became the lightning’s conduit, its means of grounding itself. It couldn’t kill me, however; it couldn’t even really hurt me – that much. I was one with the storm, and the magic I’d summoned was my own. It shot into my body, terrible and magnificent, a burning pain laced with pleasure, an ecstasy I didn’t ever want to let go of….
I jerked upright in bed, gasping for air. Immediately, Kiyo was beside me, asking what was wrong. I couldn’t answer right away. That fiery, exultant power was emblazoned in my memory. Yet, even as I sat there, I could feel the memory fading, the remembered sensation going with it. Some part of me cried out for it, willing it to stay. But it was going.
“Eugenie?” I think it was the hundredth time he’d spoken my name. “What’s wrong?”
“A dream,” I murmured, closing my eyes. Even with that magic gone – gone for years, really – my body shivered with delight. I felt alive, my flesh tingling with an awareness of both itself and the world around me. I opened my eyes and turned to Kiyo, resting my hands on his arms, curling my fingers into his skin.
“What’s the – mmm.”
His words were swallowed by my kiss. My mouth fed so ferociously at his that I tasted blood from where I’d bitten his lip. In an instant, I felt his animal lust answer my own as his hands gripped my hips and tried to pull me down. But I was already pushing him down, moving myself on top of him.
“Don’t fight me on this,” I growled, digging my nails against him.
He smiled. I think he thought I was joking, little knowing the power and aggression suddenly churning through me. His hands slid over to my wrists. Gripping them tightly, he rolled me over, pressing his full weight down on my body. “A little fighting’s not bad,” he teased.
“No.” My words were fierce. Unchallengeable. Still wrapped up in the dream’s fleeting power, I surprised both of us and flipped him over. It was a lot like when we’d had sex earlier today, only now the roles were reversed. My own strength astonished me.
“Don’t fight me,” I repeated, voice low and dangerous.
His eyes widened in the near-darkness. There was only a heartbeat’s pause. “Anything you want.” Ostensibly, he sounded excited and amused, but there was an undercurrent of nervousness there too.
Burning and exultant, I moved my mouth and hips down. We both gasped as I took him inside me. No condom, nothing between us. I shuddered at the contact, growing aroused at the thought of him directly feeling me and all my wetness. Skin to skin. Maybe I should have moved slowly, letting him savor the new sensations, but my body was too impatient. I rode him as fiercely as he had me earlier, something within me needing to assert my dominance and claim him as mine. My nails drew blood, and he cried out each time our hips slammed together.
I felt powerful, in control. Like I could do anything and conquer anyone. The warmth and bliss of orgasm started building up inside of me, and some very small part of me wondered if I was getting off on thrusting him inside of me or simply on the thrill of domination. And if it was the latter, whom was I exerting my control over? Kiyo? Storm King?
The ecstasy in my lower body grew more intense, more urgent. I pushed aside the nagging speculation and gave myself up to my own selfish wants. I stared down at Kiyo; he looked back as though he scarcely recognized me.
“Mine,” I gasped, holding back my release. “Right now, right in this moment, you’re mine.”
Kiyo made a strangled noise of pleasure, head tipped back.
I was on the edge; I couldn’t hold my body back much longer. I didn’t want to hold back much longer. I was the powerful one here. I was taking what I wanted. But first, I needed to make sure he knew that.
“Say it,” I told him between heavy breaths. “Tell me you’re mine. Tell me, and I’ll let you come. I’ll let you come in me. I’ll let you explode in me.”
“Eugenie…” he moaned when I started to slow my pace.
“You’re mine,” I told him again. The lovely agony between my thighs was almost too much to bear. I was going to lose it.
But Kiyo lost control first. “Yes…yes. Oh, God, Eugenie. I’m yours.”
The power of that admission set me off, both physically and mentally. Crying out, I threw back my own head as I came. I didn’t need to see his face to know he was coming too. I could feel it, feel it in the way his body spasmed inside of mine. Squeezing him tighter, I earned another moan of pleasure from him and another orgasm for me. It was glorious. We both shook from the force of our own reactions.
When we finally collapsed apart, sweating and panting, neither of us could say a word. Finally Kiyo rested his head on my chest as though seeking comfort or protection.
“Yours,” he murmured at last, just before falling asleep.
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