Updated: Apr 20
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Chapter 14: Sabrina woke up to sunshine infiltrating the room through the closed curtains, Deanda snoring, and a distinctively male presence breathing next to her.
That last detail was something of a shock.
Afraid to turn toward her unidentified sleeping mate, she shot a panicky glance over at the other bed, like her passed-out friend could offer some kind of guidance. When Deanda gave no such supportive sign, Sabrina carefully turned over, only to come face to Dallas’ curled wing.
Her first reaction was relief that she hadn’t found the Frenchman, but that feeling lasted less than a second, to be replaced by sheer panic and a single burning desire to know what in the world had happened.
She lifted up the covers to find somewhat comforting proof that she hadn’t done anything over-the-top stupid. At least she was still dressed in the same outfit she’d worn going out, including her underthings. That was some consolation, yet it didn’t explain her bedmate. She thought she could remember everything else: going out dancing, their uninvited suitors, Deanda throwing up all over Dallas.
Her breath caught when the next realization hit: how she had told him he could sleep with her. She thought she recalled him saying “no,” but clearly that answer had changed at some point.
Sabrina clapped both hands to her mouth in utter mortification, forgetting about the wing curled next to her. Her arm smacked into it, and Dallas stirred.
“What was that for?” He mumbled.
“Sorry! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to do that!” All of a sudden, she was very, very awake.
He sat up, his magnificent wings furling and unfurling awkwardly a few times while he tried to not hit her or the wall he was next to. Hands stretching upward, he yawned and threw his chest out to stretch, the white wife beater he’d somehow acquired clinging to his form.
Normally, Sabrina would have enjoyed the sight. But she barely gave his body a second glance, too intent on reading his face.
Sensing her gaze, he opened his eyes and regarded her with a whole lot of wary concern. “Are you okay? You look like you’re going to cry.”
That would mainly be because she felt like crying. She didn’t tell him that, stalling a little while she searched for the right words to say.
“I’m scared to ask this, but did anything happen last night?”
“Between us?” He asked.
She nodded and braced herself for the reply. For all she knew, they had done something she was going to regret, and she’d gotten dressed afterward. It wasn’t logical, but neither was getting smashed and having a one-night stand with someone she wouldn’t be able to avoid for the rest of her life.
Sabrina let out all her pent up fears in one long, loud sigh, then caught the hurt expression that crossed his face and hastened to assure him. “Not that you aren’t amazingly hot and all, but I just don’t do stuff like that.”
She hoped he would think she meant one-night stands and not sex entirely. Or maybe she hoped he didn’t read into her statement at all.
Looking slightly mollified, he shrugged. “No worries.”
“So what did happen?”
“Nothing really,” he assured. “Your blokes downstairs lent me trousers and this shirt, but can’t say I’m all that comfortable wearing another man’s clothes.” He paused to grin, a look that conveyed more sheepishness than bravado. “So I was checking how mine were drying in your loo and all, and I guess I woke you up. The next thing I know, there you are in front of me calling me a lot of nasty names until I agreed to stay the night.”
“Oh.” Her cheeks flushed. “Sorry about that.”
He shrugged again, drawing further attention to his exposed shoulders. This time, she did stare just a bit.
“No, thanks for the thought.”
“I mean for the nasty names. What did I call you?”
He laughed and shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. At least you didn’t throw up on me.” That was said with a pointed look at the slumbering Deanda. “Though I’d be impressed with myself if I were you; you seem to have gained a great grasp of the local vernacular.”
“So I insulted you in Scottish?” She brushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear self-consciously. “That is rather impressive, I suppose.”
Over in her bed, Deanda stirred with a stretch and a cranky moan. It made Dallas’ expression turn wary, like he was concerned she might need to make a dash for the toilet.
“I’m going to get some coffee from the guys. You want anything?”
Sabrina shook her head, declaring that she’d be down in a minute. It didn’t take her long to comb through her hair, throw it into a simple ponytail and brush her teeth. She slipped into a pair of running pants and a simple, grey t-shirt with barely any thought to the choices. She was too busy thinking and rethinking about last night’s details, trying her best to determine exactly how much of an idiot she’d made out of herself.
It was all a little difficult to assess when there were still so many fuzzy patches.
One thing did seem crystal clear when she walked downstairs into the living room: Her new set of guards thought they knew exactly what had happened the night before. Whether Jack and James had filled the new four in when they switched over; or whether Simon, Gerard, Reggie and Martin had formed the logical conclusion when Dallas appeared, she didn’t know. Either way, it didn’t seem to matter, since the outcome was the same.
Sabrina could feel her cheeks radiating warmth when she said “hello” to the two men lounging in the living room, and then again to their coworkers sipping coffee in the kitchen with the source of her problems.
If she hadn’t already felt like an absolute idiot, she would have asked them for their names again, since she couldn’t remember exactly who was who to save her life. Instead, she accepted the redhead’s offer for tea. While he went rooting through one of the cupboards for another mug, she glanced around the room, feigning interest in the hardwood floor and granite countertops.
If her bodyguards weren’t so darn helpful, she would have been able to at least distract herself by finding the painkillers and getting Deanda coffee. But the darker-haired one took care of those tasks for her instead. By the time he handed her the mug, she was ready to make a hasty retreat.
Thanking them, she turned away. To her dismay, she could hear Dallas cheerfully taking his leave too.
Like that was going to help her image at all.
Carrying both mugs, plus the little medicine container, meant she had to be careful going up the stairs. Which gave Dallas plenty of time to catch up.
“Here, let me take those.” He didn’t pause for an answer, snatching the coffee and pills out of her grasp, causing some of the liquid to slosh over the side.
Somewhere in her consciousness, Sabrina noticed a dark drop hit the silver carpet below. “They think we, we…” She stuttered to a halt, but her glare conveyed the proper words just as well.
“Shagged?” He finished with both brows raised.
She might have had little reason to be annoyed with him before, but his superior attitude fueled her ire. “Yes!”
He started moving his hand like he wanted to wave the problem away, but remembered the coffee in time. “Don’t worry. I cleared that up.”
Her anger clashed with his factual tone so that she sputtered into silence, which worked just fine anyway considering how they had reached her room. Since she was the one with a free hand, she opened up the door and stormed in, unwittingly letting Dallas look like the thoughtful one carrying hangover aids.
“Bless you.” Deanda sat up with cautious movements. “How many drinks did I have last night?”
“My guess is too many,” Dallas speculated while he handed over the beverage.
Except for one glare, Deanda ignored him, her main focus being the coffee. While she lost herself in the steamy goodness, Sabrina turned to Dallas, more for something to interrupt the silence than from actual curiosity’s sake.
“What were you doing out all by yourself last night anyway?”
“Who said I was all by myself? I could have come with a bunch of mates and just told them I’d meet up later.”
“If it didn’t clue me in how you materialized the way you did right next to us at such a convenient time,” she pointed out with a bit of a snotty air, “than you saying something so incredibly incriminating like ‘I could have’ did. Admit it Nurse Dallas: You were following us.”
“What’s with the title?”
“Aileen said you were her nurse the other day,” she reminded him.
“Good night, nurse,” Deanda muttered from her bed.
“She was kidding,” Dallas explained. “And I followed you because I was supposed to. Deanda called us up last night before you went out. It was me and four other guys acting as backup.”
Realization dawned quickly, shaping Sabrina’s mouth into a little circle of understanding.
For her part, Deanda had the grace to look guilty while developing a singular fascination with her coffee mug. She took two big gulps even though the liquid still had to be hot.
Dallas chose that moment to throw out his own two cents, radiating male authority from his disapproving tone to the way his wings twitched with agitation. “You two really did put yourselves in danger. Even if the HPAC wasn’t after you, did you even pay attention to whether those frogs were spiking your drinks or not?”
“Frogs?” Sabrina didn’t remember them being all that unattractive.
“Frenchies,” Dallas explained, still sounding haughty and still looking down at them from his decidedly high horse.
Sabrina exchanged a guilty look with Deanda. In their defense, they had known that there were capable men nearby ready to step in at any moment. It had seemed so simple before, but now she felt like a little kid being scolded for taking candy from a stranger. Not wanting to focus on her questionable decision-making skills, and just as intent on distracting Dallas out of his obnoxious attitude, she shifted the focus back to him.
“So you’re my bodyguard?”
“Yup, I’m the muscle.”
Sabrina bit back an automatic agreement, hoping Deanda had consumed enough coffee to behave more appropriately as well. Yet she could only be distracted by Dallas’ face and form for so long. It took a few seconds, but it dawned on her that two and two were adding up to five.
And that wasn’t right.
“Wait a minute.” Her eyes narrowed. “From what I’ve seen so far, the security teams come in even-numbered groups. I’m pretty sure that makes you the odd man out.”
He looked slightly uncomfortable, and his defense was ridiculously lame. “I just thought they might need a little backup.”
She didn’t believe him in the slightest, but she also didn’t have time to question him further since somebody chose that moment to knock on the bedroom door.
Dallas was the one who got up to answer the sharp raps. And when he backed away into her line of vision, the first thing Sabrina saw was that his face was devoid of arrogance. In its place was a noteworthy amount of respect and an almost equal dose of guilt.
Then she saw the reason why.
Her long-lost big brother was paying her a visit.
Sabrina had already seen the faerie king mad before, though that anger had lasted a mere moment before his brotherly pride and relief toned it down some. Staring at him now, she was pretty certain she couldn’t rely on those emotions this time.
His first words confirmed her fears.
“What do you think you were doing last night?” His voice was deep with righteous indignation. “Do you realize the danger you put yourself in?”
Sabrina started to turn toward Deanda for help, then bucked up as best as she could. This was her brother, and as such, it was her responsibility to handle the situation.
“I’m sorry,” she offered tentatively, hoping her voice wasn’t shaking as much as her insides were. “We didn’t think it would be that big of a deal.”
“’That big of a deal?’” Kenneth asked in almost the same tone as he’d started. Judging by the emotions flickering across his face and the way he ran a hand through his hair, he was at least trying to get a rein on his anger. “You could have been kidnapped or killed. I know what those club scenes are like. They’re packed and hectic, and anything can happen without anyone noticing.”
Sabrina wanted to know exactly how he knew what clubs were like. But she didn’t express that curiosity any more than she asked how he had found out about their escapades to begin with. That second question was probably stupid anyway. He was the king, so of course he’d have his sources.
“What do you have to say for yourself, Sabrina?”
“It was my fault,” Deanda spoke up bravely. “I was the one who suggested it.”
He turned to give her a disappointed look. “Yes, I’m aware of that too. I know you were incognito in the States, but you should know the danger now. They’ve identified you both; they know you’re faeries. Sabrina is still getting used to all of this, but you’ve grown up aware of the threats.”
Her friend looked so upset with herself that Sabrina jumped in to bring the negative attention back her way. “I was bored, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was my fault.”
But Deanda shook her head, still looking completely downcast. “No, I was the one who brought it up and then pushed it. And I’m really sorry, Kenneth. I thought it would be okay because we had the bodyguards with us.”
He sighed and his wings drooped somewhat, his ire running out in the face of her blatant remorse and trembling lower lip.
Sabrina was certain Deanda did, in fact, feel bad; but she was equally positive her friend was playing it up. Or at least not playing it down. She, on the other hand, felt too guilty and uncomfortable with this brother she’d just met to play any such games.
“It won’t happen again,” she promised, doing her best to meet his gaze and give him the impression that she meant what she was saying. Because she did.
He shook his head again. “You’re right; it won’t. I understand you wanting to have fun. But I don’t want to hear about you going off again to dark crowded places. In fact, I don’t want you going off at night at all. It’s a lot easier for people to feel emboldened after the sun goes down, and we already know the HPAC will make a move if they see the opportunity, regardless of the hour. So let’s not make it easier for them, alright?”
Dallas had stayed silent throughout the exchange. So even while Sabrina was busy agreeing with her brother, swallowing all her natural inclinations to protest and explain, and accepting blame for her own actions, she found herself growing suspicious of who had tattled to the king.
She knew it wasn’t her, and she was pretty darn sure it wasn’t Deanda. Logically then, unless there was some other party she was unaware of, it had to be either Dallas or her bodyguards. And considering the former’s willingness to lecture on proper behavior, she was more than ready to jump to conclusions.
Kenneth dispelled that judgment with his very next sentence, shifting his disapproval to the younger man. “Have you been here all night, Dallas?”
The younger man turned a bright shade of guilty red and cleared his throat like he meant to speak. He didn’t actually manage to get anything out, however. Sabrina found herself nastily delighted with the sudden switch of attention, and watched the interaction without a trace of shame.
“That’s what I thought,” the king noted. “I don’t want to hear of that happening again either.”
Dallas’s jaw tightened, but he nodded his head. “Yes, sir.”
That ruled Dallas out of potential spies, but Sabrina figured she could still be mad at him for letting them take full blame the way he had. Not that it had been his idea to go out, she acknowledged grudgingly to herself. Still, he could have done the gentlemanly thing and at least diverted some of the negativity away from them. Instead, he’d stood there like a rotten coward.
Kenneth let an awkward moment lapse before he went on. “Believe it or not, I do realize that all of you are adults, and I do trust you to act like it. Most of the time, at least. And I understand you’re young and that two of you –” There, he shot a still disapproving but slightly less severe look at Dallas. “– are in a new country and want to explore it. But until Sabrina and Deanda can size-change and come down to Faeriedom, you’re going to have to accept some restrictions for preventative measures. Are we all in agreement?”
As if in unison, all three of them nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“And nothing happened last night that I should be aware of?” He continued, eyebrows raised and looking mostly at Dallas again.
It appeared he was in a better mood than he had been just a few minutes before. Sabrina would even say that his expression was fond, like he was certain nothing had taken place and was just emphasizing that nothing had better in the future.
It was nice to know he trusted her enough already to believe her and Deanda above acting untowardly. But the way he regarded Dallas spoke of easy familiarity, as if he’d had ample reason to come to the same conclusion about him as well.
Dallas shook his head solemnly, coming across very much like a serious little boy. It might have been cute if Sabrina hadn’t already decided to be ticked off with him.
Kenneth nodded back, still looking rather thoughtful. “Alright then. Deanda, Dallas, could I have a minute with Sabrina?”
She felt her stomach drop all over again.
“Alistair is downstairs. I’m sure he’d be happy to see you.” It was a politely couched order.
Deanda gave her an apologetic and sympathetic look before filing out of the room.
Dallas didn’t look at her at all.
The door shut, and she turned to her brother with a level chin, trying to at least look grown up while she braced herself to be chided like a child.
“So nothing happened last night that I should know about?”
Sabrina wasn’t really sure what he was pressing her for. “How detailed was the report you got?”
She was working off assumptions, of course. But her guesses must have been right since he didn’t contradict her.
“I know you went out, and I know there was some small altercation with two Frenchmen who I’m told probably weren’t HPAC members.”
Sabrina winced at his tone and pointed stare, but Kenneth didn’t push that particular issue any further.
“As far as I know, I’m aware of all the pertinent details until you got back here.” He paused, but not from hesitation. “Dallas did spend the night, correct?”
She nodded but came to the arrogant jerk’s defense for reasons she couldn’t really define. It might have had something to do with her being a martyr. Or maybe because she wanted something to hang over his head for later use.
“He didn’t do anything at all. Really, neither of us did, Kenneth.”
His name felt weird on her tongue. She felt as if she should be addressing him as “your majesty” now that she had gotten herself in trouble.
He nodded in response. “That’s what I thought, but I wanted to make sure.”
“So you know him then?” She inquired cautiously.
A genuine smile cleared the last traces of disapproval from his face. “He’s Alistair’s old schoolmate. Dallas is a good man overall, and I trust him. But considering his age and gender, I wanted to make sure.”
It was obvious how her brother cared about Dallas. So it made her feel pretty decent that he would put his previously distant younger sister above someone he’d known since an early age. It was nice to have a big brother, Sabrina decided, even if he had made her feel like an idiot for going out on the town.
“Is he really one of my bodyguards,” she pressed for details.
Kenneth snorted in amusement. “That what he told you, is it?”
She arched her eyebrows in silent request for more information. Studying his expression, she realized that it bore an uncanny resemblance to the one he’d worn when contemplating a relationship between Deanda and Alistair.
“Like I said, Sabrina, he’s a decent young man.”
She didn’t bother to keep the speculative sparkle out of her eyes. “Match-make much?”
He laughed, though his tone held a hint of seriousness when he spoke. “I do have a very high opinion of him. He’s like a second son to me. But you’re more than welcome to make your own decisions. Besides, my wife would kill me if she thought I was meddling.”
Sabrina found herself laughing too. It was a pleasant change from contemplating the possibilities of being excommunicated. “Duly noted.”
Her breath caught as she heard yet another change in his voice. Perhaps she’d assumed she was off the hook too quickly.
“I don’t know exactly how it was in America, but the U.K. is the HPAC’s breeding ground. They’re especially interested in this area since they seem to have narrowed down their searches for our entranceways to a seventy-mile radius. I know you didn’t mean any harm, and I’m going to speak with Deanda and Dallas as well. But from now on, you need to be careful.”
She nodded solemnly. “I promise. And I’m sorry.”
He gave her an understanding smile. “I know all this is different for you. Just give it time. It’ll start to feel like second nature before you know it. Until it does though, please give a lot of consideration to any public action before you go through with it.”
Sabrina nodded again.
He glanced at his watch. “I hate to do this, but I have a pressing meeting in half an hour. I hope I haven’t ruined your day.”
“No.” She shook her head this time. “I hope I haven’t botched up yours.”
“Not at all,” he assured with what at least came across as honesty. “I’ll call later to set up another time to get together. And soon enough, you’ll actually be in the palace and will be able to have a bit more freedom. There are still your normal mix of good and bad down there, just without the HPAC lunatics.”
He left after giving her a hug and assuring her she would get the hang of it. Which she supposed was true. It was just a matter of when.
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