Part 3: How To Make A Deal With An Ice Queen

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"What's so complicated, Riel?" I demanded. "The way I see it, we just have to find out what's up with the girls coming here to dance, and then get out of here."

"Oh, well, the first part's easy. I already know that."

That shouldn't set my teeth on edge, and yet here we were. Of course he did. "Do tell."

Riel settled back in the ice throne as he explained what he'd learned. "They love dancing but they're tired of the pressure of dancing on the stage. Their adoptive father never would take a hint, and they stumbled through to here one day, where they rediscovered the fun of dancing. They vowed to continue to dance here for fun every night, a going-on-strike sort of thing, as long as their father continued not to understand." He picked up a glass from a small ice table beside him and swirled the ice cubes in the drink with thoughtful clinks. "That turned into a sort of fae bargain—you know how the fae are—and, of course, they can't tell their father, to get him to understand, because that would be telling about this fae court, which the queen made them promise not to do before they realized what that would mean. So they dance here each night, and while I haven't actually verified if they'd stop if they could, they do seem to like it."

I shifted where I stood, folding my arms, even though he couldn't see me at the moment because of the invisibility cloak I wore over my battered leather jacket. "And the second part?"

"Second part is going to be a lot harder," Riel confessed.

"Why haven't you just gone back?"

"That's the second part." Riel sipped from the glass and eyed the queen, visible across the dance floor at a refreshment table. "Turns out, the fae queen took offense at my trying to get the girls out of here. Something about thieves in the fae court and meddling and trying to break magical agreements." He gave a dismissive shrug. "Anyway, to avoid execution or something nastier, I foolishly agreed to a bargain with her."

I shut my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. "Riel . . ."

He gave a tense smile. "I know. I knew better. Long story short, I haven't actually cashed in on that bargain yet, but when I do I'll either be dead or belong to her forever. You know the drill."

I sighed another foggy breath. "What about the other would-be rescuers?"

Riel waved a hand around the icy ballroom filled with dancers. "Enchanted, ensnared, or various other fates; none as horrible as mine, though."

"Mm-hmm. Enthroned and sipping drinks and engaged to a beautiful queen is such a terrible fate."

"Hey, come on, now, Sean," Riel protested.

"Complain about it later, once I get you out of it," I said, starting to move down the steps of the ice dais.

He sat up straighter. "Wait, what are you doing?"

"You're not the only spy in the guild, Riel, even if you are the flashiest one."

He grinned and saluted in my general direction.

I paced through the dancers and paused in the shadow of an ice pillar. After pulling off my invisibility cloak, I left it tucked at the base of a northern lights tapestry—which was actually glowing. Because fae magic. I paused a moment, the magic reminding me of the wards around the room of the girls in question. I glanced down at the cloak. I wouldn't need it again if everything went as planned, and it might get in the way, but it was going to reappear back in Mr. King's office come morning, anyway.

That gave me an idea.

I pulled my cell phone from my back pocket—no human cell service here, just fae—and typed something. I slipped the phone into the cloak's pocket.

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