“Wasn’t painful exactly. More like the new bracelet was establishing dominance.”
He moved his arm to see the new cuff and the sensation of her hand on him stayed although her hand was nowhere near him. “That’s curious.”
“Feels like you’re still touching me.” He grinned. “I’m okay with that.”
“Must be because of using my old ring as part of the metal.” He could hear her rubbing her palms together. “Okay, let’s get the old one off. Wrist.”
Her command left him no choice, the need to obey was too strong in his blood. He put his arm through the bars again. “I like this new side of you.” Even if she was controlling him. Better the woman he loved than one who might kill him.
“What side is that?”
“Commandeering. It’s hot. You should do some of that at home.”
She snorted. “We’re in a life and death situation and you’re thinking about…bedroom things.”
He shrugged one shoulder. “I’m a man. I think about bedroom things all the time when you’re around.”
“Hush now, you’re making it hard for me to concentrate.”
“Speaking of making it hard—”
“Nicholas!” She laughed. “Behave over there.”
He smiled as the next retort died on his tongue. “I have no choice now, do I?”
Her fingers worked under the old cuff. “Because I’m wearing your bracelet now. I have to obey you.”
“No, you don’t.” She grunted softly as she pried at the bracelet. “I designed it to give you complete free will. You don’t have to obey the commands of anyone, fae or otherwise, ever. Unless they’re touching you. I can’t do anything about that. Like right now, I’m sure it’s just the influence of my touch and—” The old bracelet came flying off and landed halfway across the dungeon across from their cells, clattering against the stone floor. “Crap.”
“I take it that wasn’t part of the plan.”
“Can you…I don’t know, use the fae force and get it back?”
“Maybe. But that’s probably going to drain more energy than I wanted to.”
Drained? He didn’t like that all this effort on his behalf was weakening her. That left her too vulnerable. “Shay will probably come back. She can get it.”
“Maybe,” Willa started. Then voices sounded from outside the dungeon door. Loud voices. “That’s not Shay.”
The door opened, and two tall, regal fae walked in. Nick was about to ask Willa if she knew them, but her quiet curse answered him before he’d said a word.
“Hello, Willa,” the woman said.
Willa cleared her throat. “Mother.”
The current of emotions raging through Willa made it almost impossible for her to speak. Anger, longing, love, pity and sadness rose and fell within her like storm waves. She hadn’t seen her parents in eighteen years, and now here they were in front of her.
Jarrel and Melinna Iscovian. The pride of the fae kingdom when she’d left. Now, she wasn’t sure they still held that status.
They didn’t look much different. A little older maybe, but fae didn’t age the way humans did. Tired was a better word for it. Worn. Like they were laboring under the weight of a burden too heavy to carry much longer.
Kyanna’s dominance. And Shay’s secret. Willa knew without asking. “I’m surprised Kyanna let you in here.”
“We are still her parents,” her father answered.
Anger won out. “You’re still mine, too. Doesn’t mean anything.”
Willa’s mother stared at the dungeon floor for a moment before making eye contact again. “We owe you a larger apology than we can ever give you, Willa. We know what we did to you, what we allowed to happen to you, was wrong.”
That was something, Willa supposed. But a few words weren’t going to erase the past. “Which is why you’re trying to protect Shay.”
Her mother’s eyes rounded for a second, then she shook her head and looked away. “There’s nothing to protect Shay from.”
“Really? So you’re not worried Kyanna will discover how powerful she is and think her little sister is just as much of a threat as I am?”
Both her parents stayed quiet.
She sighed. “Haven’t we had enough secrets and lies?”
“How did you know?” Willa’s father’s voice was quiet but firm.
“She touched Nick and he felt it.”
“Nick?” Her father’s brows lifted. “The gargoyle? They can feel our power?”
The anger came back. “Yes, they can, and don’t talk about him like he’s not in the cell next to me.”
Jarrel nodded. “Yes, you’re right.” He looked over at Nick. “My apologies.”
Nick made a soft noise, nothing more.
Melinna moved closer, her delicate fingers reaching out to grasp the dowels keeping her from touching her long-lost child. “Please, Willa. We’re here to help. Tell us what we can do.”
Willa hadn’t expected that. “You mean that?”
“We do,” Jarrel confirmed. “Kyanna wants too much.” He glanced toward the dungeon entrance and lowered his voice. “Her ambition will ruin us all.”