The wind nips at my cheeks. My feet are wet in these bedroom slippers, and I have no winter coat on, only these thin pajamas. There has to be a ski town or a proper lodge around here somewhere. Right?
He did say this was the North Pole, but surely that’s not true. And besides, there aren’t any mountains on the top of the world, are there? What do I know? I sucked at geography in school.
I must be so cold I’m delirious. I’m out here entertaining the fact that elves are real and that I’m at the North Pole.
I tuck my cold hands into either armpit to take advantage of body heat. If I keep moving, I’ll make it to the ski village and report this very hot weirdo to the authorities. Assuming the cult doesn’t own the town.
My feet go numb as I trudge down a trail that is dangerously close to the edge of a sheer drop. I don’t dare peek over the edge. I hold out hope that if the wind blows me off the trail, a snow drift below will break my fall.
I don’t get too much time to wonder about this scenario. The packed snow hides some loose rocks, and my feet slip.
The next thing I know, I’m falling to my death.
I let out a howling scream as I slide down the wall of snow, ice, and rock, my hands scrambling to hold on to anything. I manage to grab on to a frozen rock jutting out of the rock face. It’s barely a handhold, but it at least stops my downward tumble.
Above me, through the blowing snow, someone appears.
Cyran calls out to me, his voice rising over the sound of the wind.
Do I want my kidnapper to be the one to rescue me? Do I have a choice?
But what can he do? Unless he has some rope.
My astonished eyes watch Cyran clamber down the slope toward me, his legs agile at this dangerous angle. He might be magic after all, or else he’s part mountain goat. He reaches me just as the brittle rock begins to crumble under my icy fingers.
My hazy brain forms one thought—there’s definitely something magical about this man …
Is he magic? For real?
Are elves real?
My vision goes dark around the edges of Cyran’s outstretched hand. The numbness has spread through my arms and legs. I’m feeling a little sleepy and very much sapped of energy. I’m just going to let go and close my eyes for a minute and try to summon the energy to accept his help.
In the moment before everything goes dark, I see something that will change my life forever: Cyran’s unnaturally warm hand clasps around mine, and it glows blue.
* * *
The taste of something warm and delicious against my lips wakes me.
The surprise causes me to inhale sharply and cough on the liquid. Cyran is here, he’s close, and his strange eyes stare straight into mine.
When I’m done spluttering, he looks at me impatiently, gesturing toward me with a spoon. “Stop choking and take it,” he says firmly.
Once again, I’m sitting in this luxurious bed, my back propped against the ornate headboard. My body shivers violently.
I open my mouth on instinct like a baby bird and accept the odd-smelling broth. It’s different from anything I’ve tasted, but so good. Instantly, I am warmed down to my toes.
It’s far superior to the wretched elf tea, I think.
So wait. Am I accepting that this is true now? Elves are real?
“More,” he insists.
“Give me a minute,” I say peevishly. Gosh, he’s so bossy for a Christmas elf. If that’s even what he is.