Saturday came before Nayome could blink. She had spent most of her time at the safe house in the library. Bal had been invaluable, pointing her in the right direction through the seemingly thousands of books filled with history and magic. She had even taken to spending her evenings doing something close to meditation on the roof, the late summer evening breeze an ideal companion. She may have even figured out calling theteinas Bal called them. One of the books with details onearth singershad outlined a ritual that was quite like modern day meditation practices, so Nayome had been practicing and making small headway.
Each time she managed to call them, she felt something connect in the center of her chest. She found her necklace, if she focused on it and the firefly encased within, could be used as a tool to aid her focus. Giddy with success and buzzing with energy, Nayome had to catch herself as her instinct had been to rush downstairs to share the news with Bal. He had been so helpful this week, but hadn’t made another romantic move on her since the rooftop. Nayome was glad for it.Really, I’m relieved,she told herself, every time she had to push away that odd, recurring ache she felt when she looked at him. It made her job of keeping her walls up much easier, now that he wasn’t doing anything to test her willpower. She couldn’t deny that a small part of her had hoped he would make it more difficult, though.
This just proved that she had been right to be cautious. His interest in her was already fading. Maybe they could even be friends. Even though they had only known each other a short time, Nayome was beginning to respect Bal. The way he treated Flay was charming. And she had overheard him on the phone with who she thought must be his sister on a number of occasions, his affection clear through his tone. He was smart too, always there to help her with any research or questions she came up with. He had an endless amount of patience for her while she explored his world.
As she had read through a number of histories, the wars and conflict that had devastated the factions of fae over the centuries, she had even started to soften to the idea that he might not have had much of a choice, when he brought Gabe to her apartment. Once the government had sunk their teeth into her case, Bal would have had to act in the best interest of his people. But the betrayal, the potential that she could have suffered as a byproduct, still stung.
Not sure what the dress code at something like this would be, she opted for a pair of dark jeans and a summery top, the floral print and flowing sheer layers adding a femininity to her frame where her curves were lacking. A large selection of her own clothing had appeared during her second day at the safe house, organized neatly in the wardrobe. Nayome hadn’t bothered to ask questions—there were bigger mysteries nagging at her that needed solving.
“You look beautiful.”
Nayome turned, brushing her hair back into a loose ponytail behind her, smiling awkwardly. He was standing in the door frame, looking extra handsome in a button-down black top, hair still a bit wild, but had been combed into submission for now.
“Thanks, you clean up nice too,” Nayome said. God, she felt like she was about to go on a date or something, she was fidgeting with her mass of hair, not satisfied with the result of her efforts. She pulled the hair elastic free, feeling her hair tumble around her shoulders in a thick unruly wave.
“You should leave it down,” Bal said. Nayome’s glance shot quickly over to him, as her cheeks heated. He hadn’t made any moves on her over the last couple days, but that tone had her memory shooting back to him gripping her hair in his fingers on the roof. Deciding it was a losing battle, she left her hair loose. It wasn’t because he liked it down, Nayome thought stubbornly, putting it up hadn’t been working. As she moved to leave, Bal didn’t budge from his place leaning against the door frame. She was close enough that she caught the scent of fresh, clean skin. Glancing up at him through her lashes, she thought she heard a quick intake of breath from him.
“Are we going?” Nayome asked, looking pointedly at the door he was blocking.
Bal gave her a slow smile that had a pool of heat settling deep in her body, her toes curling in her shoes.
“After you.” He said, voice seeming to have dropped a few octaves. Bal stepped back just enough for her to squeeze by him, her chest brushed up against the hard ridges of his abdomen as she passed. Nayome headed downstairs, forcing herself not to look back. She could feel the warm presence of him following behind her.God damn.
As they made their way outside the safe house, Bal started relaying a laundry list of ground rules. She was not to leave his sight, Gabe hadn’t given them the all clear yet, so there was still a chance an active search was underway to bring Nayome in for questioning. They would go meet baby Abigail, then come straight back. No detours. There was no reason to believe anyone would be looking for Nayome there, but the same could not be said for any of her usual haunts.
On the cab ride over to Nick’s, Nayome wondered how she was going to explain her giant Scottish shadow. He looked presentable in his modern clothes, but there was no hiding the power that lurked beneath the surface. Nayome knew first hand that it was more than just physical strength that gave him that aura of strength and mystery.
Why had she insisted on coming to this? With Bal of all people? But she wasn’t going to back down now. This had been the one thread of normalcy she had insisted she get to keep, given the otherwise chaotic state of her life, and she was damn well going to go through with it.
Ringing the doorbell of an old brownstone, Nayome tapped her foot to a quick anxious rhythm as she waited for Nick to answer. Glancing around at the perfectly manicured front entry way on a street that screamedold money, she couldn’t help but wonder if this would have been what her life looked like had she stayed with Nick. Perfect on the outside.
Bal watched her without saying a word, arms crossed over his wide chest, a very real reminder that her life had taken a different route. For some reason his silence only added to her agitation.
“Nayome, you came!” Nick swung the door open wide to greet them. “I wasn’t sure you were going to make it.”
“Hey Nick, ah, yeah sorry I forgot to send in the RSVP, I hope that’s alright.”
“Of course, of course. Come on in. You’re the first to arrive. And you must be?…” Nick blinked in surprise a few times as he took in the sight of Bal, stepping inside on Nayome’s heels.
“Nick, this is Bal. He is a…friend, visiting from Scotland.”
“Nice to meet you Bal, welcome.”
Nayome watched as Nick and Bal exchanged some pleasantries and a firm handshake. It felt strange, seeing them together. Her past with Nick almost felt like another version of herself had experienced it, and now with Bal…Nayome felt as though the two versions of herself, past and present, were colliding, and it wasn’t happening gracefully. This was going to be a long day, she thought, as she watched the two men size each other up.
Bal and Nayome were led through a stylish front foyer, past a staged sitting room, into a large open concept kitchen, which opened up to a family room. The family room was clearly where all the living happened; toys, baby gear were scattered through the space.
“Sorry for the mess.” Nick sounded sheepish, and Nayome was surprised he didn’t sound tense about it. He had always had a huge issue with mess.
“Nayome!” Cindy looked up from a playpen she was leaning over, holding a fluffy brown bear double the size of the baby reaching for it. She looked just like Nayome remembered. Her gleaming blond hair was pulled back in a simple bun, and she looked the picture of wholesome American apple pie in a floral sundress.
“Hey, Cindy…” Nayome said, hesitant. She wasn’t sure what to say. This was the woman who her ex had left her for. She hadn’t expected they would ever have to interact in any social capacity before this, and found herself at a loss for words. But Cindy took care of the awkward pause by rushing over and giving Nayome a big hug.
“I’m so glad you made it. Come on over and meet Abigail, she just woke up from her nap. You came at the best time!”
Nayome let herself be guided across the room; arm linked in Cindy’s surprisingly firm grip. She shot an uncomfortable look back at Nick and Bal, who were leaning against the kitchen island, offering her no help at all. Some of the tension left her though, as soon as she caught a glimpse of Abigail’s chubby face. It was impossible not to let Abigail charm her out of her awkward train of thought. A tuft of blonde hair was held together by a little green bow, which perfectly matched the sparkling green eyes peeking out below sleepy, heavy lids. Abigail was decked out in her Sunday finest, a silky green dress billowing over her chubby diapered bottom. She was kicking her little legs out, reaching up towards her mom, small almost-cries signaling the effort she was putting into the endeavor.