To ring in the new year, I’m going to try something new for the site. Since my rabid squirrel brain can’t seem to stay on task when it comes to my flash fiction, I’m aiming at a monthly entry relating to the current month: birthstones, holidays, solstices, the month itself, whatever I can think of. Here’s hoping it lasts longer than a month or two before it wanders off to play in the woods.
This piece is a fantasy short set in the faerie courts but only loosely based on existing mythology. The PoV character is a half-fae princess of the Winter Court named January who’s grown rather tired of the ballroom and wanders out to gardens. Who she meets there and the events which follow may not be suitable for a professional environment. You have been warned.
January Aerintrath slipped out of the ballroom and into a stunning garden in riotous bloom. She drew in a deep breath of the fragrant air, released it on a sigh. Only three hours to go. Her father had promised she could leave after dinner though she knew he wanted her to stay longer. He didn’t understand, couldn’t understand her abhorrence for these court functions.
The nobles of the court said all the proper things when her father was present. When he wasn’t? They reminded her of all the ways she wasn’t truly one of them. She wasn’t as elegant, wasn’t as pure, her magic was too weak to be a true heir to the Winter Court. Her father did his best, but there were so many demands on his time, and her mother fared no better than she did.
Prolonging her return for just a few more minutes, January stopped to admire a vine of stunning crimson roses. She clasped her hands together to resist the urge to stroke a velvety petal. Unlike her host, she wasn’t of the Summer Court. Her touch would only destroy the beauty of the plant.
“Even in moonlight, its beauty pales to that of its admirer,” said a quiet voice behind her.
It was supernally beautiful, like a siren’s song luring her closer until she forgot reality, forgot herself. When she turned to greet him, her words dried up. The male who’d spoken was more vibrantly stunning than the garden in bloom. His eyes were the fathomless blue of a flawless lapis lazuli, his hair a dark garnet. Even his skin reminded her of a gemstone, warm bronze shimmering with a faint pearlescent sheen.
His regalia declared him a member of the Summer Court, the vivid reds and greens swirled with gold like a warm sunset bathing a wheat field in glorious color. Ah. A member of her host’s entourage. That explained the flattery.
“Did I miss the call to dinner?” She flashed him a smile as insincere as his compliment.
“Not at all.” He turned when she did and walked beside her toward the garden’s entry gate. “I saw you slip away and wanted a chance to speak with the most compelling woman in the room.”
January resisted the urge to roll her eyes like a teenager. He really was laying it on thick. She had her father’s silver hair, and her mother’s soft brown eyes, but she was only half fae. A human or half-human could never compare to the perfection of her father’s people. He must be a minor noble seeking to improve his position and power in the fae courts.
“You’re too kind.”
He laughed. “Sarcasm ill suits you, princess. Have you seen the bougainvillea arbor? I think you’ll enjoy the colors.”
When she shook her head, he placed his hand on the small of her back to guide her down a side passage. Perhaps she was unwise to follow this unknown fae into the depths of a midnight garden, she was the princess he’d called her, but she detected no hint of malice in his company. He played his role well.
Before they rounded a bend in the passageway, he stepped in front of her and took her hands. “Close your eyes.” At her arched brow, he trailed his fingers along her cheek and said, “Please.”
Intrigued and charmed by this handsome fae male, she did as he requested. And when he took her hands, she suppressed a shiver of awareness. This wasn’t a minor noble of a lesser house. His magic thrummed through his body like another heartbeat, the summer heat of him dancing with the winter’s frost of her. She hadn’t expected it to feel like that. The powers of opposing courts rarely played well with each other, but instead of a conflict, their magic complemented each other. His heat warmed all the cold places inside her.
He drew her to a stop, and light glowed beyond her closed eyelids. His hands dropped hers but didn’t disappear. The warmth of him trailed up her arm until he was an inferno behind her, his chest far too close to her exposed back than was proper at an official function. When he next spoke, his lips brushed against her ear, his breath hot on her sensitized skin.
“Open your eyes, princess.”
“Oh!” January raised a hand to her mouth and stared at the glory of color before her. Magenta and purple and every shade in between, the blossoms dripped down the sides of the arbor. More flowers hung from the arches. “May I?” She gestured to the arbor. “I promise I won’t touch.”
“You can do them no harm,” he assured her. He nudged her forward with a gentle push. “Go. Show them the meaning of true beauty.”
She stepped to the center of the arbor and was surrounded by the heady perfume of the blossoms. A deep inhale, and all her worries seemed to melt away. She loved her father, delighted in her mother’s joy with the man she adored, but she longed for the colors and scents and warmth of summer. Spinning in a circle, she laughed, and when she stopped, he was right there. This fae stranger who’d given her a gift of serene beauty on this night.
“Thank you.” She smiled up at him when he stepped close, rested her hands against his chest when he moved closer still. “It’s beautiful.”
He cupped her cheek with his hand, the other slipping around her waist to pull her close. “Not as beautiful as you, princess. Your joy puts the stars to shame you shine so bright. I want to kiss you.” His thumb brushed across her bottom lip in a fleeting caress. “Let me?”
The word had barely left her lips when he took her mouth in a gentle but deep kiss. He explored her with dedicated thoroughness. Gentle nips to her lower lip, coaxing licks which encouraged her to play. He left her mouth only once to trail a line of fiery warmth along her jaw to her neck where he found a spot which made her knees buckle.
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she tugged him back to her lips with her hands in his hair. This kiss was deeper, hotter, more demanding. No gentle lover, but a conquering hero determined to make her his. She was more than okay with that because she was equally determined to have him for her own.
His hand splayed on her bare back, stroked along her spine in a petting caress before moving outward. She held her breath wondering if he dared. He did. She shuddered when he slipped his hand beneath the edge of her dress to brush the side of her breast, gasped when he unfastened the tie at her nape and bared her to the warm summer air, moaned when he cupped the small mound.
He broke their kiss to watch her through hooded eyes as he shaped her sensitive flesh. “I think,” he said in a voice rough with passion, “we should meet like this more often, princess.” He pinched her nipple.
By the ash and the thorn, he was driving her to madness. How was she supposed to return to the ballroom like this? Anyone with an ounce of magic sensitivity would know she’d found her match, the perfect complement to her magic. If someone in the opposing Courts had wanted to sabotage the potential alliance through her marriage to King Axion, they’d sent the perfect man to ruin everything. This complete stranger was the only one her power would accept, and he was the only one she couldn’t have.
January claimed another kiss, this one tinged with a hint of desperation and sorrow. “Your name.” She groaned when he cupped her butt and pressed her against his hardness. “At least,” another kiss, her hand dipping between them to stroke him through his pants, “tell me your name.”
He brushed his thumb over her nipple, the sensation shooting through her veins like molten lava, and dipped his head until his lips just brushed hers. “Axion.” Then he closed the distance and swallowed her gasp of surprise.
They barely made it back to the ballroom before dinner. He’d taken her in the garden beneath the bougainvillea arbor, the flowers raining perfumed petals on their bare skin, then brought her to his chambers to freshen up before they had to rejoin the other guests. And they talked. He’d wanted to meet her without the formalities of the court, to talk and get to know her—the person and not the princess. Then his magic had touched hers, and he’d just wanted her.
“Story and song speak of the strength of finding one’s complement, but I dismissed them as tales told to the young to convince them to do their duty to their Court and King.” He brushed his fingers along her jaw and lingered on her lips. His eyes were twin pools of passionate fire, his warmth a fire against her skin. “Both of us were wrong. No story could have prepared me for finding you.”
“Are you sure, Axion?” January laid her hand on his, held him to her cheek and soaked in his heat. “We have chemistry, yes, but what about compatibility? What about love and friendship and the petty bickering that always occurs during a marriage?”
“To hold on to this, to hold on to you, I am willing to bend where I am able. Are you?”
She inched closer, the pleasure and the need still humming inside her. Winter’s chill warmed by Summer’s fire. “Yes. You know I’m not fully fae, yes?”
“You are fully mine, and that is what matters. Your mother is an asset to faerie as are you. Any who refuse to acknowledge these truths will not be welcomed in my Court.”
January claimed a kiss, her heart cracking open a bit more at his utter acceptance of not only her but her human mother. Maybe this would work. If they tried hard enough and wanted it enough. It could work. “Thank you.”
“Thank me again after the party, princess.” His voice stroked over her in a silken whisper, his eyes pools of crimson fire. “I have made my choice, and you have made yours. The pact is sealed betwixt us never to be torn asunder. So say I, Axion Selanahr, King of the Summer Court.”
“So say I, January Aerintrath, Princess of the Winter Court,” she replied.
The air swirled with magic as they spoke the binding vow. When it settled, a spark of winter cooled the heat of summer, and a steady fire warmed winter’s chill. Hand in hand, they took the steps down to the ballroom to announce the alliance between the disparate courts. Her lips curved. Her father got his way after all.
copyright 2022, Elaina Roberts