“Take this child to a healer, that we might be certain her wounds have been properly tended,” Titania said. “And have Henry’s suite emptied and redecorated for her.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. Titania smiled at her, that smile thawing the ice in her eyes. There might even have been a hint of kindness in her face, though kindness and Faerie Queens didn’t seem to go together.
“You are my granddaughter, and both of your parents are dead. I will care for you as your father ought to have cared for you from the day you were born.”
“C-can I go back to Avalon?” Elizabeth asked wistfully.
Titania stroked her hair, the touch both gentle and possessive. “Someday, perhaps.”
Someday when Elizabeth had been thoroughly trained to be Titania’s lapdog, she meant. It appeared her philosophy about Faeriewalkers was that they should be allowed the privilege of living as long as they made themselves useful. It remained to be seen whether killing Henry had made me useful or condemned me.
The servant led Elizabeth away.
“You come with me,” Titania said to me with a wave of her hand, then headed toward her room.
I followed reluctantly, wishing she’d just make up her mind about me one way or the other. I wanted out of here, out of the Sunne Palace and out of Faerie. Arawn took a step to follow, but Titania turned to him and shook her head.
“You, I did not invite,” she said. “Not this time.”
Arawn grinned at her. “And you think that will stop me? I have a vested interest in Dana’s well-being.”
The reminder brought heat to my cheeks, especially when Titania’s sharp glance my way told me she knew exactly what the Erlking was talking about. I reminded myself that I hadn’t done anything wrong when I’d agreed to give the Erlking my virginity. It was the only way I could save Ethan, and I never planned to make good on my part of the deal, even though the cost to me was going to get heavier and heavier as time went by.
Titania looked at me. “Arawn is a most dangerous ally,” she said.
“Don’t worry,” I told her. “I won’t do anything stupid with him.”
Arawn laughed softly. “She is a stubborn little thing, our Faeriewalker.”
I glared up at him, but that didn’t do much to dispel his amusement. I wondered if he still believed there was a chance in hell I was going to sleep with him someday. He’d claimed once that he thought time would whittle away my resistance, but that was before I knew what all the consequences would be.
That led me to thinking about Elizabeth again. Here was another female Faeriewalker—one who was apparently a virgin, or Henry wouldn’t have offered her to the Green Lady—who would be more vulnerable to him. And neither Titania, nor any other member of her Court, could warn Elizabeth about Arawn’s ulterior motives. No, I was the only one who could, and it made me wonder if I’d outlived my usefulness to him.
Of course, he had argued with Titania to save my life. But his scheming and machinations were so complex I rarely figured out exactly what he was up to until it was way too late.
Titania made a face of polite skepticism, but didn’t say anything. This time when Arawn made to follow us back into her room, she didn’t protest.
I blinked in surprise when I walked through the doorway into a completely different room from the one we’d been in before. The bed was gone, as was the carpet of rose petals. The floor was now covered in apple-green grass, trimmed short like on a golf course, and the furniture consisted of three chairs, unlike any I’d ever seen before. They sprouted from the ground, complete with gnarled roots, their glossy-smooth trunks forming scooped-out seats adorned with fluffy cushions that looked suspiciously like moss. There were three of them, arranged in a triangle and facing one another, but one of them was adorned with white climbing roses that filled the room with their scent.
Titania took a seat on the rose-covered chair, gesturing me and Arawn into the other two. Both chairs were large enough for Arawn to sit comfortably, which meant that my chair made me feel small and vulnerable. Which, come to think of it, I was, considering I was in the presence of two of the most powerful people in Faerie.
Titania sat rigidly straight in her chair, looking very queenly in her fancy embroidered gown and with her steely eyes. Arawn was considerably more relaxed, almost sprawled in his chair, and there was a twinkle in his eye that said he expected to enjoy whatever was coming next.
“I have heard that the people of Avalon are used to being more frank and straightforward than we of the Courts,” Titania began.
“An understatement,” Arawn interrupted with a chuckle.
Titania flashed him a look of annoyance that didn’t bother him in the least, but she didn’t allow him to distract her for long. “I will therefore attempt to be frank and straightforward.”
“My inclination is to order your execution,” she said, and the pit of my stomach dropped out. I could have done without the whole frank-and-straightforward thing if this was what she meant. “You have killed my son. Not without reason, I know, but it is still a crime punishable by death.”
My heart hammered somewhere up around my throat, and my skin was all clammy. I hadn’t exactly thought I was home free, but I had thought the scales were tipping in my favor. Apparently, I’d been wrong.
“But that would be the excuse for putting you to death,” Arawn said, “not the reason for it.”