The Other Shoe | iv

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Nerina woke with the feel of warmth caressing her skin. It was not a familiar kind of warmth as it spread from her feet crawling up get legs, spreading across her back. She snuggled closer into the soft quilt Fionn had fashioned for her. Rolling over Nerina smiled thinking the sensation was his doing. The second her eyes opened, she realized it had not.

The sun.

Nerina blurred into the shade of a tree. Just then, a slight wind blew and the leaves shifted to allow the sun to touch her again. She dropped bracing for the burning of her flesh as her eyes burned to adjust to the light. There was nothing. A shadow fell over her as a Fionn placed a quilt over her shoulders. She looked up to see Fionn stepping back from her into the golden pool of the sunlight. Nerina remained where she was for a long time looking at the hand he held out welcoming her. Tentatively, like a newborn foal she stood.

"You did it."

"We are in a fight for our lives, my love. We need all the advantage we can get. We need to be able to move night—or day."

What he said made sense but in the back of her mind, she still worried. She was not an optimist. Every good moment in her life came with grief. Each laugh with pain. Forcing all those thoughts from her mind, she stepped out into the golden rays of the sun for the first time in more than a century. Nerina could not help but be fascinated by the sunlight, basking in the golden glow that had not warmed her skin in so long. It was spectacular. There was the vampire and there was the woman. The woman accepted the small gift with gratitude while the vampire saw it as another illusion.

Nerina pushed that small nagging voice to the back of her mind, living in the moment for what the moment offered.

Fionn watched her with a new appreciation. He had never marveled at the sunlight. Such a small, inconsequential thing that went down every night and came up every morning. It never changed. It was a constant. But for Nerina, it was a special experience to be marveled by. He watched her wanting to give her more marvels like this. More wonder to chase away the shadows that still haunted her.

Preoccupied with the rays playing over her skin Nerina did not feel the soft tingle that came with magic. Fionn did. He looked up at the invisible shield that surrounded them.

"Nerina."

She did not move.

"Nerina."

She turned to him smiling, the feeling no longer so foreign that she was conscious about it. The rare smile faltered and disappeared when she saw the alertness in the stance of his body as he looked up towards the sky. It was then with the wonder pushed aside that she felt the tingle. Nerina stiffened as another force took hold of her. Fionn was looking away and could not see the muted movements of her mouth as she screamed for him.

Nerina fought kicking out her feet as the invisible force lifted her up from the ground. As she fought, she screamed the sound trapped in her mind never reaching him. When he looked around, he held out a hand towards her. Nerina felt her body tugging in two different directions. Still she screamed and no sound came.

Fionn shifted his focus from her towards a spot in the shield behind her. The earth bucked and roiled the pressure building inside the shield to the point where Nerina felt as if it would crush her. Nerina fell hard as the force that held vanished. He rushed to her checking her for injuries with frantic fingers. Other than a slash in the palm of her hand that she used to break some of her fall she had no other physical wounds, but Nerina was in shock. The wound knitted neatly together leaving no signs that the skin had been broken. Fionn dressed her with a wave of his hand.

"They got through."

"She got through."

"Who?"

"Latvia." He looked her in the eyes. "My wife."

The last thing he saw was the loosening of her jaw as he stood. Nerina remained where she was staring at him as if she had never seen him before. Suddenly faint she could not find the energy to stand. To think. To feel. To do anything. Completely numb she zoned out.

"Latvia."

"Husband." The woman materialized her form in a mist on the opposite side of Nerina.

Trapped between them both she did not care enough to move. The thought never occurred to her. Her mind was trying to process...what? That he was married? That he had lied to her? That she had been a fool? That she was naïve? That she was a glutton for punishment?

Nerina crumpled on the ground rolling into a ball as she wept shaking with the sobs and betrayal. Fionn had seen each emotion play over her face, each stabbing him in his heart. He wanted to console her, take her into his arms and explain. Latvia watched with a mock pout of sympathy.

"Poor little thing, she is absolutely devastated. I suppose she never knew before that she was your mistress."

"Leave her alone."

"My dear husband you brought the child into this the moment you couldn't stay away." Latvia looked down at Nerina smirking. "A vampire at that. An interesting choice."

Fionn moved to put himself between Latvia and Nerina. He knew the woman well enough to know she would kill Nerina where she lay curled in a ball weeping, defenseless. She would have no second thoughts, no remorse.

"Aren't you going to ask how I broke through your little shield?"

"I fail to see how that matters."

"True," Latvia said hiding her disappointment. She had been looking forward to her moment to gloat. For her moment to show him that, she had become better. The others needed a King when she was the Queen they deserved. While the others wanted him back, she would prefer him dead. Out of the picture, they would have no choice but to accept her. Latvia held back a sneer that she was yet to master the kind of magic it would take to kill an immortal. That left him as her only chance for power. She grounded her teeth before she spoke keeping her voice sweet as tart and even.

"Husband"

"Stop calling me that."

"You told the child I was your wife." In the mist, there was no way to define her form, as there was none. She was but a shape, an illusion of something that did not really exist.

"Did you come here to bore me Latvia? Where are the others?"

"On the other side of the shield. They sent me as the messenger with a - proposal."

When Fionn did not ask what it was, she went on.

"Leave with me and we won't harm the girl."

Fionn laughed. With a swipe of his hand, the mist dissolved into drops of dew. A silent whisper of a curse was the last thing he heard. He had cast her out but she would be back. He had known that if anyone could get through the shield it was Latvia. Though her magic did not match with Fionn's she was smart and clever despite the spiteful viper she was. Latvia left and it was just Fionn and Nerina curled up in a ball on the ground. Her weeping had stopped but she remained motionless.

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