“I think you’re making a mistake,” he whispered, emotion flashing through his eyes before they turned cold once more.
“I’m sorry,” Nayome choked. She knew she was right about this, but she hadn’t expected to feel so horrible. She hadn’t expected to have to battle her instincts, which screamed at her to get up and throw herself in Bal’s arms. Kiss those hard, pursed lips until they softened back into a warm smile. “You will thank me, eventually. I was never a proper match for you.” Nayome felt sick as his stony stare swung around, cutting through her.
“Don’t tell me what I want in this. I’ve made myself clear,” Bal said, tone laced with anger.
Nodding sadly, Nayome wished she could believe him. Knowing he was promised to Wynn…she admitted to herself, she didn’t know how seriously their people took those arrangements, but it was all just too much stacked against them. She didn’t believe Bal would have pursued her if there was truly no way out of it. But, he was loyal to his people. It was one of the things she had grown to admire about him. Just because she had discovered magic didn’t change that they were from different worlds. Wynn was beautiful, dangerous, and immersed in his world. He would have to compare them eventually, and there was no way Nayome wouldn’t come up short. This was best. For both of them. She was doing the right thing.
It’s the only option.
* * *
Nayome stared down at the ornate brass key resting in her palm. Hours had passed since her confrontation with Bal, and it was approaching nightfall in New York now. The streetlights had flickered on, adding an ambient glow to the atmosphere, which was still illuminated by the setting sun, casting a red and gold hue over the city.
Holding the key up in front of her, Nayome slid the delicate arm into the keyhole. The door in front of her was beautiful. She hadn’t taken the time to appreciate it the last time she had been here. Painted a dark forest green, the border was carved to depict a trailing vine. The vines surrounded a sparkling stained glass window, half-moon shaped resting at eye level in the center of the door.
Before Bal had stormed out on her, he had slammed this key down on the table in front of her.You are free to use our safe house as you will. The library is at your disposal. You can even move into a room, if you wish. Flay will appreciate the company, no doubt.
As she fiddled with the door, she almost stumbled forward as it suddenly swung open on its own. Flay stood in the soft light of the hallway, a warm and inviting smile on her small shriveled face.
“Welcome back, Miss!”
“Flay, it’s lovely to see you again,” Nayome said, following the slight woman as she bustled down the hall, motioning Nayome forward.
“You will o’course be spending the night tonight. You’ve had such a long journey and I’ve set up the guest room for you.”
“Actually, I—” Nayome opened her mouth to protest, but it died on her lips as she rounded the corner into her guest room. Flay had placed her purse on the bedside table. A platter of bread and cheese and a chilled glass of white wine rested on the little coffee table in front of a fire. Flay must have been pre-warned about her arrival, because she had tended the fire to a comfortable blaze, warming the small room and cackling merrily in the stone mantle. The atmosphere in the room screamed relaxation, and Nayome suddenly realized how tired she felt. The hours she had spent waiting to take-off, after the confrontation with Bal, had dragged on painfully slowly. Not to mention the plane ride itself, which had been a long one. She felt physically and emotionally drained. That comfortable looking chair in front of the fire was irresistible.
Giving in, Nayome smiled warmly at the small, ancient fae as she took her leave. Groaning, she pulled off her leather shoes—the same ones she had put on for work the day before. They were nice, but not what she would have chosen for a multi-day journey. Her toes ached where small blisters had formed. Nayome had the fleeting thought that if Bal were here, he could have healed them.
Stop it, she thought, attempting to shut down that line of thinking quickly, as she felt a well of emotion stir deep in her chest. She had made the right decision to leave. Now she needed to focus on putting her life back together, rather than getting sucked back into the rollercoaster that had been her life with Bal in it.
Nayome realized she didn’t even know his last name. They had been through so much together, gotten closer than she had been with a man in years, and she didn’t even know his full name. Taking a healthy sip of wine, she let the feelings of frustration wash over her. There was a lingering hollowness that had settled in the vicinity of her heart that hadn’t left since she watched Bal walk out of her life for good.
Damn, the wine was excellent, though. Crisp, cold, with a delicate after taste that lit up her taste buds like a symphony. Just what she needed to numb her turbulent emotions and try to forget. Try to move on.