Copyright © 2011 Cutter Phoenix
All rights reserved, Freya's Bower.
By reading this excerpt, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are younger than 18 years old, you must exit this site at once.
Justin didn’t like the macabre nuance in Rowan’s voice. Unease played his spine like a xylophone. Although he couldn’t quite wrap his mind around everything that had happened over the past few hours, something deep within him whispered that regardless, it was all very real.
“H-how am I in danger?” He suddenly recalled the creepy vagrant who had followed him as he’d walked home from work.
“No, you’re not in danger from the Vodianoi,” began Rowan, “although he is very dangerous and the Unseelie Court probably did send him after you. However, he wasn’t, and isn’t, the real threat.”
Justin blinked. “A what?”
A smile stretched his host’s red lips.
Red as a stop sign, red sprinkles on white ice cream….
“The Vodianoi are a race of water faeries,” answered Rowan.
How had Rowan known what he had been thinking? The same thing had happened in the taxi that afternoon, but Justin had passed it off as coincidence. Now he wasn’t so sure.
“Can you read my mind?”
“I don’t read minds per se,” Rowan popped a cherry into his mouth, “but I can hear your emotions and even smell the more deeply rooted ones.” His grin widened until Justin caught a glimpse of his pink gums and pieces of bloody cherry. “And you smell wonderful right now.”
A mixture of horror and shame flowed through Justin. He busied himself with his wineglass, reaching for it and making a show of sipping from it.
“Shame is a delightful odor, as well,” said Rowan.
Everyone at the table tittered with laughter. Shaiminosh sputtered. Wine sprayed Justin in the face. The elven leader swiped the redness from his beard and mustache with one long-fingered hand, his eyes full of triumph and arrogance as
he stared across the table at Justin.
Red, red, red….
As Justin dried his face with his linen napkin, something flared in his gut, something that began as a pink ember, grew warmer, and burst into a bright flame. He didn’t understand why he was in trouble or danger, and for that matter, he couldn’t think of a single thing he might have done or said to anyone to have caused it either. Where did these jackasses get off toying with him, laughing at him?
And if he didn’t leave now, he knew he’d end up lunging across the table to smash that pointed-eared jerk’s face into his plate full of cheese and strawberries.
“That’s it.” He crumpled the napkin in his fist and flung it on the tabletop; it knocked over a glass, and wine spilled across the white tablecloth. The delicate, fair woman who sat to his right issued a hiss akin to a cat’s. Justin barely glanced at her. “I’m out of here. I’m not going to sit here and play your stupid, noir games any longer.” Justin stood, and his chair screeched on the marble floor, a wail like that of any terrifying banshee.
“My dear Mr. Salitoh,” Rowan said calmly. “Please sit.”
“What the hell for?” The little flame burning within Justin’s gut spread its heat further. “It’s obvious everyone, yourself included, enjoys pissing with me. I’m not one of your doting cronies, nor am I one of your servants to torment.” Justin shook his head, anger throbbing in his veins. “My narrow mort ass is finished being the object of your amusement.”
“I assure you, Mr. Salitoh.” Shaiminosh spoke serenely. “Although your narrow mort ass might be of some interest, it’s the least of your concerns right now.”
Justin stepped away from the table, but paused just long enough to throw a look of contempt at the elven leader. “Take a tip from me, buddy. The Viking look went out of style about eight hundred years ago.” He dismissed the elf, bowed slightly to Rowan, and spun on his heel. “Thank you for the lovely food and wine,” he called over his shoulder.
The silence in the great banquet hall reminded Justin of a tomb. Quiet reigned, its vacuum of dust, age, and despair sucking at everything and everyone.
Justin strode around tables, between servants, hopped over the long trains of silken dresses, and all the while, every oddly colored gaze followed his movements. If he didn’t get out of there—and get out of there now—he’d go crazy. He sensed it. The sensation massaged his skin and tickled his senses, a macabre lover of death and chaos poised to rip his throat out when he least expected it.
Finally, he found the door he believed led to freedom— and the return of his sanity. With an outstretched hand, Justin reached for the large, ornate door handle—
His body rose about three feet into the air, and his clothing jerked taut across his chest and the fronts of his shoulders until he felt certain the fabric would rip. He stared down at the floor in an attempt to comprehend what had just occurred. Slowly, Justin turned his head to the left and stared into Tomalonis’s huge, fuzzy face.
“T-Tomalonis?” he croaked in surprise. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“YOU WILL STAY UNTIL THE MASTER RELEASES YOU!”
Every ounce of blood felt as though it rushed downward to pool in Justin’s feet. He gaped at the giant, the breath from the man’s bellow hot as if a blast furnace had just singed him with its fury. The hair around Justin’s face settled back in place once more, and he blinked in unadulterated fear.