Chapter Ten

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Chapter Ten

Ornate hangings decorate the chamber walls, and the floor is a mosaic of giant stone tiles. Colors and shapes swirl lazily within the tiles, some looking disturbingly like faces. Plants that must be kept alive by magic line the walls, and a cage of twittering birds hangs in one corner. In the center of the chamber, behind the desk the woman is sitting at, a stairway spirals from floor to ceiling.

The woman doesn't notice us standing motionless in her doorway. Instead, she stares at a book spread open on her desk. She's dressed in white, with long sleeves that reach almost to the tips of her fingers. Elaborate silver jewelry curls around her neck. Her black hair is tainted with strands of grey, which seems strange to me because, from where I stand, I can't see a single wrinkle on her flawless face.

I let go of my knife. Its fiery disappearance into the air catches her attention. Her head snaps up, and the moment I see her eyes, I know something isn't right.

"Nathaniel," she breathes as she rises from the desk in one fluid movement. "I so hoped you would find me one day."

Her eyes are bright silver, and I realize then that her hair isn't grey. It is, of course, also silver. And that can only mean one thing. "Nate." I grab his hand to pull him back. "This isn't your mother."

Her gaze flicks immediately to me. "And why do you say that? Because I am a faerie?"

"Uh, yes." Clearly not a very intelligent one. "In case you haven't noticed, the boy standing beside me is human."

"Right. A human who can see past glamours and travel safely through faerie paths. In case you haven't noticed, little faerie girl, the boy standing beside you is a halfling."

A halfling.

No, that's crazy. Crazy. But then . . . it actually makes a lot of sense. Crap. I hate being wrong. I look at Nate. His mouth is hanging open, but he seems unable to make any sound come out.

"A halfling without magic, of course," adds Angelica. "I would have felt it when he was young if he had any power."

"Would you?" I counter. "From what I hear, you only stuck around for a few months."

"Have you seen him display any power?" she asks immediately. "If you have, I'd love to hear about it."

And, once again, it seems she's right. Damn. I don't like this woman, and it's not just because she proved me wrong and called me 'little faerie girl'. It's something about the power I can feel radiating from her. It's cold, like a breath of glacial air.

"Wait," says Nate, finally finding his voice. "I'm . . . I'm a . . ."

"A half-faerie, half-human," says Angelica, her expression softening as she looks at her son. She flicks her hand and the desk dissolves into a puff of smoke, revealing bare feet at the ends of her loose white trousers. She takes a step toward us, then stops when Nate holds his hand up.

"Why did you leave?" he asks.

"I didn't. Not by choice, anyway. I was taken. I've been trapped down here ever since."

Liar. "I saw you on the other side of the cliff," I tell her. "When Drake and Zell were pulling their crazy hangman stunt."

"Yes, that was me," she admits. "But it was only a projection of me. I can't physically leave this chamber."

"Then why have you never projected yourself into my home?" asks Nate.

"I can only project myself within the fae realm."

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