I am in the clouds. No. Not in them, I feel as though I could reach out and touch them, but I realize I am on a cliff that overlooks a great valley below.
A low hiss rings out behind me. I whirl around. The golden man stands directly behind me.
He clamps his fingers around my arms and pulls me against him. “Where did you come from?” he asks in a whisper.
I stare into his eyes. Today they are the color of a cloudless sky, but a darkness looms in them. My voice is barely audible when I answer him. “I followed you.”
He narrows his eyes. “Who are you?”
His eyes dart to my mouth and a feeling so warm it takes away the edge of cold around me spreads through my body. Will he kiss me?
He inhales slowly and his eyes close for only a moment. I do not like the look he holds when he opens them again.
“You must go back,” He says. He looks around with worry on his face. “You cannot be here.”
I shake my head. “There is nothing for me there.”
He cocks his head to the side. “What do you imagine awaits you here?”
I shrug. It doesn’t matter as long as I am near him.
The light in this place is different. Everything seems to glow from within…even him. I search for courage and find a little. “What is your name?”
His left eyebrow reaches for his hairline. I want to run my fingers through his golden mane. I want to feel his lips on mine. I don’t ever want to leave him. It would be unthinkable.
He doesn’t answer me right away, but eventually he says, “Luthais.”
His name feels like a sigh when I breathe the word. The air is charged with a feeling I don’t know. It reminds me of the volatility of a thunderstorm. I try to step away from him, but he holds me steady.
He brings his face close to mine, hunching considerably to do so. He searches my eyes for a long moment. His voice sounds staggered. “What are you, Emma?”
I am confused so I say the first thing that comes to me, “Only a girl.”
A wary smile spreads his lips. “I think not.”
He pulls me into motion and suddenly fear creeps up my spine. “Where are you taking me?”
He won’t answer. Tension builds a wall between us and my skin tingles where his fingers rest on my skin. We are high in the sky on the edge of a mountain. I have only seen them from a distance and am amazed how the world looks up here. Somehow I wonder if this is a different world entirely, but that is impossible.
I cover my eyes from the glare of everything around me. I hadn’t noticed how much I was squinting under the shelter of his nearness, but now tears blur my vision. I want to think they are because of the light, but I know better. What have I done to upset him? I can feel his conflict as if it were my own.
He stops suddenly and asks, “What is the matter?”
I try to be confident, but I can’t quite meet his gaze. “The light is hurting my eyes.” I don’t finish what is in my thoughts…and you are hurting my heart. “What is this place?”
“I cannot tell you that. I am supposed to take you home, but I…” He comes closer. His breath tickles my skin. “Why did you follow me?”
“I wanted to talk to you. I have seen you in the market.”
He looks confused. “How is that possible?”
The answer seems obvious to me. I shrug.
He wipes moisture from my cheeks. “This is no place for you.”
His eyes widen and he shakes his head. “I should not even consider it, but there is something different about you.”
I look at him shyly. “Really?”
He doesn’t answer and we are walking again. His fingers have loosened their grip on my arm but not by much. Why does he hold on to me so tightly? Why do I see fear in his eyes when he looks at me?
We are deep in the forest, once again. The trees here touch the clouds. Some of the trunks are bigger than my hut. I suddenly wonder what my mother is doing. Is she searching for me? Will she send Abram to the forest to find me? This isn’t the first time I have gone exploring, but he will not find me now. I think maybe my mother will be happier without me. I have been a burden since my father fell ill and died. She has not been the same since then. She has had men interested in her, but they will not court her because of me.
Luthais brings me to the edge of a stream. He takes a flask from his jacket and dips it into the water. He hands it to me before he takes a drink. I am thirsty, but I save some for him. His eyes are bright again and hope fills my lungs.
“I have made a decision. I will take you to the council.”
I frown. “What is that?”
He touches my cheek and I flinch even though I welcome the contact. His fingers are charged with a sort of energy I can’t explain. His voice is soft when he speaks. “Don’t worry. You will not be harmed.”
I honestly hadn’t considered that to be an option but now I worry about what will be done with me. I had not thought beyond what I would do after I met this man.
“Where are we?” I ask.
He gazes down on me, a slight smile on his lips. “Have you heard of the fae?”