I’m going to be trying out the Tuesday Tales prompts as I can. I think it’s a good way to keep my mind fresh and to not get stuck in the same idea patterns. Anyway, this week’s prompt was love and this is what I came up with – sorry, no title yet, and I’m still debating whether to keep this continuing from week to week or start with something new next time.
And if you’re looking for more Tuesday Tales fun, check out the main blog here
And just when I think I’m addicted to the dark and mysterious, I come up with this.
The patter of footsteps on the pavement between buildings was nice. It reminded Alyssa that she was alive, that there were others hurrying across the quad to their next class besides her. All too often it seemed she got trapped in her own little world of studying and worrying about what would be left for her after graduation.
Of course it would help if you actually picked a major, she sighed to herself. The familiar swirl of indecision and fear threatened to bubble up and skew her view of the dull tan silhouette of the liberal arts building that jutted up next to the sprawling, comparatively flat shape of the library. “You still have time.” It helped to say it out loud. It made her feel a little less pathetic, a little less apathetic. All her friends, the classmates she barely paid attention to, even the random frat boys she could care less about had something driving them as they pushed between each other and rushed off to whatever thing it was that they cared about. They had some sort of passion. Sure, sometimes it wasn’t much, but it was there. Alyssa could see it when the art majors doted on their projects, when the grad students complained about their thesis work, even when the partiers joked about how trashed they’d gotten over the weekend. She was empty, a slave to expectations and routine. No passion, no enjoyment, no nothing.
“At least you have a schedule.” How pathetic did that sound? She bit her lip and contemplated skipping off to the student union, but stuffing her face would only prevent the inevitable fact that she had five exams and two papers to get cracking on. And none of that changed the fact that she still had to cross the quad.
The large expanse in the middle of campus was typically bare save for grass and a small, placid hill that looked down onto a man-made lake that her school shared with the retirement facility across the way. The way the afternoon sun sparkled on the water or the group of sorority girls in short shorts sprawled across the grass had very little effect on her.
But the little cluster of trees that jutted randomly on the far side of the hill…well those terrified her.
She increased her pace and smiled at the clomp of her boots on the sidewalk. The clomp clompity clompity clomp clomp was rhythmic, its own forward-moving pattern. It meant that she’d soon be passing the quad and be free to bury herself away from—
“Is my lady trying to avoid me?”
The smooth voice came out of nowhere, and to Alyssa’s horror her books spilled to the ground as she fell right on her butt, her shock knocking off the momentum she’d had on her platforms. Maybe if I ignore him he’ll leave. It was a beautiful thought, but not likely.
Pike stood there bold as anything, hands on narrow hips as he grinned down at her. “I’d offer you my hand but you haven’t accepted anything from me yet.” He bent to retrieve her textbooks and she glared at him, quickly swiping up all she could into her arms before teetering to her feet.
“Because you’re delusional,” she shot back, determined to ignore the burn creeping up her backside and the humiliation as every passerby stopped and applauded her utter lack of grace. People could say all they wanted about college being a major improvement over high school – some things still never changed. And to add insult to injury all anyone would see was her spill and not the idiot that caused it.
“Nay, I am many things, but delusional I’m not,” Pike went on, following right on her heels like a puppy. An obnoxious, gorgeous, immortal puppy. “I know better than to desert the flower of my heart.”
Alyssa grit her teeth. If she bawled him out now she’d look like she was completely insane. Without a word she stomped off towards a secluded spot on the hill, although she dreaded it. He’d be able to keep up no matter how fast she ran, so she didn’t bother trying anymore.
“You look delicious today,” Pike went on, eyeing her up and down with his smoldering green gaze that made her more than a little uncomfortable. She was used to people rolling their eyes at her, she’d even gotten used to people whispering about her unique clothing choices, but she’d never had anyone look her over quite so close as the faerie.
Besides, her shredded jeans, bleached-out tank top, and layered necklaces had been her choice of the day because she’d been watching too many tributes to eighties hair-bands lately. Her hair was a nest just because she’d woken up late and felt particularly spiteful. “Correction; you’re delusional and stupid,” she muttered until they were sufficiently away from the bustling crowd, if such a thing existed on a small-town college campus.
“Nay, you look absolutely sumptuous. I like your…jeans,” he finished slowly, sounding out the word he was still learning. “They look easy to remove since there’s so little of them.” To her horror Pike didn’t sit; he sprawled, long legs kicked out to showcase how tight his leather breeches were. Somehow rolling to his side didn’t improve matters but pulled his tunic tight across his chest. He didn’t reply to her taunt, but kept staring at her, a mysterious and playful smile on his full lips. Alyssa found she had to work extra hard to keep her gaze from travelling right to his mouth whenever she showed up. Damn faerie glamour. Still, he doesn’t know how strong-willed you are, she reminded herself. He’ll give up when he realizes you won’t fall for his trash.
“Beautiful day with beautiful company,” he murmured, dancing his long fingers over the blades of grass, deftly plucking out a wayward piece of clover. As normal as the little section of campus looked, there were odd weeds and flowers jutting up everywhere if a person looked close enough. It was another thing Alyssa had learned the hard way.
“Don’t be an idiot. What’s this about?” As if I didn’t know she thought, her gaze inevitably flicking to the damn trees.
All she’d wanted was a quiet place to study and relax, some place where she could pretend all of her anxieties and insecurities didn’t exist. Some place away from classes, away from her apartment and ditzy roommates, away from the drudge of a job at the local box store that was quickly looking to be the entire rest of her life if she didn’t focus on something and play her cards right. The trees had promised shelter and seclusion, peace and relaxation. Unfortunately as she had gotten closer she had also seen that they’d dropped a lot of their branches after a wind storm, and among the larger ones had been what she’d assumed to be a stray cat.
“I was just being nice!” she repeated for the thousandth time. “I would’ve done what any other person would’ve done if they’d gotten close enough.” What kind of person didn’t free a stray animal in trouble? She’d anticipated being scratched or having to take the thing to a shelter, but she sure as hell hadn’t anticipated it morphing into the man beside her.
“Aye, but it was you that saved me,” he pointed out.
She rolled her eyes before closing them. “I didn’t save you. You could’ve gotten out on your own and you know it.”
“I will stick to my story until the end of time! I went adventuring and became disoriented in the storm, and you, my kind-hearted fair one rescued me…and now you deserve your reward.”
His gentle fingers travelling up the back of her arm made her jump to her feet with a squawk. “Stop that! I’m not your anything!” she insisted. “Get out of here!”
Pike raised an eyebrow that was as copper as the long braid that trailed down his back to his shoulder blades. “It is faerie law that I repay a good deed tenfold,” he reminded her.
She wasn’t stupid. She’d been raised on fairy tales and old stories and knew that the moment she accepted a gift from one of his kind she’d be in more trouble than she was already. Besides, didn’t faerie men seduce mortal women just because they were bored or something? She vaguely remembered reading stories about that, but she’d put them away when she’d put away everything else that was childish and ridiculous. It’s what happened when a person had to grow up fast. And yet, who would have thought she could benefit from remembering those tales now?
Why, oh, why couldn’t one of the party girls have gone out there to the hill instead of her? “I’ve said it before, there’s no way in hell I can trust you not to play tricks.” He didn’t deny the accusation but just flashed his damnable grin. “I need to study. Please..just leave me alone,” she added and turned back towards the library.
Pike was immediately on her feet and using his height to his advantage. He towered over her by a good foot, and when he was so close she couldn’t think straight. “You blow me off, as you would say, yet you could get rid of me by naming your price. I think you like me,” he teased.
Alyssa’s eyes rolled back into her head in disgust. “Uh-huh. Keep telling yourself that while you go away.”
She had to admit his grin was sunshine, and when it disappeared so fast she shivered, as if she’d just suffered a loss of heat. “I shan’t. We’ve had the same discussion for a month now. How many times must I profess my heart—”
It was the same sort of crap she’d heard guys on campus say to other girls. They’d never be brave enough to say something like that to her. She wouldn’t believe it, anyway. Her eyes narrowed and she took a step away from him, down the hill. “Let’s get one thing straight. You don’t love me. You may want me, for some stupid reason, but you don’t even know me.”
His sharp, masculine features were still very serious, though the faintest traces of a smile haunted that tempting mouth. “I know you more than you might think. And I may be a trickster as you say, but the Folk cannot lie. I think I’m more than right to speak of my love.”
She turned before he could see her flush and quickly moved further down the hill. As much as she’d grown to hate those trees, maybe she could climb one and knock him out by throwing a book on his head when he gave chase. “But I wonder what has frozen your pretty heart,” he murmured, right in her ear.
His breath nearly made her jump out of her skin and she turned so fast she nearly fell over again. “Nothing! I just don’t work that way, okay?” she snapped.
“The last I knew even mortals knew how to love,” he shot back. “Mayhaps our encounter was fate. Mayhaps you need me as much as I need to repay you,” he urged, and the intense expression on his face terrified her. It made her feel…well, it made her feel. And feeling was dangerous.
She liked control. Control was good. If one kept themselves in control then they wouldn’t do anything stupid, they couldn’t be hurt. Unfortunately she couldn’t bring herself to say so, and any witty retort she could think of was frozen right on the tip of her tongue. Pike was so damn vibrant, so passionate about everything, even when he was walking right beside her. The first time he’d tracked her down after she’d freaked out and ran when he’d transformed and professed his feelings she’d almost fallen for his tricks. He’d waxed poetic about the vibrant green grass, the twilight colors in the sky, the way the entire campus passed on unknowing while so many incredible little things happened right under everyone’s noses. Even the stray dandelion wisps that sprouted up from the cracks in the pavement seemed magical and glorious when he talked about them.
“We both know this is just going to keep going on unless one of us does something,” he murmured, drawing her attention back to him, as if it had anywhere else to go. He was barely two inches from her but he actually dared to take a step in, forcing her to back up three steps so she could get some room to think clearly. The broad grin that lit his face was beautiful and obnoxious.
“Fine. You can repay me by, I dunno, giving me everything to keep me secure all my life, how’s that?” she spit out. A wave of guilt fluttered in her chest. She hadn’t wanted to ask for anything because there was no reason to, especially something so completely typical and crass, but if it meant he would leave her alone and get her out of her funk, then bring it on.
He was still grinning, and like everything else about him it was just enough to be like a human trait, but there was an undercurrent of something else, something wild that made her distinctly uncomfortable. “Well?” she demanded.
“I’m afraid, pretty one, that circumstances have changed considerably,” he sighed, though he didn’t look at all ashamed about it.
Cold suspicion made her shudder. “What are you talking about?” she asked carefully. “Pike, what are you talking about?!” A frustrated growl erupted out of her throat and it was enough to cause a group playing Frisbee to look over at her. “You said to choose a reward, so I did. You’re obligated to give it to me!” And to go away, she added to herself.
Pike shrugged and circled her, never taking his keen gaze off of her. For the first time after their chance encounter she realized that an intricate series of Celtic knots were inked into his upper arms and a pendant made from twisted wire and some sort of polished stone bounced against his broad chest. Why, oh, why couldn’t he have been some sort of pixie like Tinkerbell? She could’ve handled that! “I was obligated, to be true,” he purred and crossed his arms over his chest, head tilted as he took his time looking her up and down. Alyssa rolled her eyes at how typical his reaction was and moved to back up again…and couldn’t.
“What the hell?” she blurted, and tried to run. It was as if the air around her push her back into place. She looked up at the faerie in horror. “What did you do!?”
“I did nothing, my little lovely one,” he chuckled and nodded to her feet. “All I did was follow you and you backed yourself up into a fairy ring.”
Alyssa immediately dropped her gaze to her feet. Sure enough, in a circle that barely contained her denim-colored platforms was a faded section of grass. On the outer perimeter grew an intricate pattern of tiny mushrooms and blue and yellow-topped clover that she’d never seen before. “My people’s land was here long before yours, and though we’ve moved to someplace less conspicuous, our magic still bleeds over,” Pike explained softly. “You did this to yourself.”
“You tricked me!” she snarled and stomped a foot. She would have loved to have kicked him where it counted, but the moment she raised her leg it was knocked right back onto the ground. As her frustration simmered a slow, knowing dread crept up her ankles and grabbed her by the throat. He was way too happy for his own good. “Wait…what does this mean?”
In one swift motion Pike stepped through the ring and took her by the waist, silencing her gasp by placing one long finger over her mouth. “It means, my sweet Alyssa, that you have now tread onto my world, and now belong to me to do with as I will.” His dancing eyes were full of a promise she didn’t want to think about. “I suppose now we’ll have time to discuss whether this love of mine you deny is real after all, and unfreeze the heart you’ve somehow buried away. I’ll have plenty of time to repay you, at any rate,” he chuckled.
“You’ll do no such thing! You jerk, you—” She didn’t even get to the good curses before his arms snapped around her, the ground suddenly grew soft, and they dropped swiftly down into the faerie hill.