One week to go! In honor of the upcoming ebook release I’m now sharing Chapter 2 with you. In Chapter 1 (which you can read here) you met Kayla, the human girl who is desperate to find her father. Read below to meet the Seelie Princess!
MORE THAN CHANCE ENCOUNTER
It had been some time since Fay last visited Chicago—or since she’d been to this world. Cool fall wind tugged at her hair and clothes as she hurried across the Millennium Park and toward the nearest subway station. No matter how long she stayed away, she would always remember the L train and the sharp wind off Lake Michigan. They were old friends greeting her and for a moment, as she stood at the crossroads, a feeling of warmth spread through her.
The light at the crosswalk switched to green and the flow of people carried her to the other side. She walked in a daze and suddenly the city felt less like an old friend and more like a recurring nightmare.
A car to her right honked. Fay flinched, startled by the unusual noise. She’d forgotten how loud Chicago was, and the air was stale and smelled of exhaust.
Another gust of wind swept across Chicago, carrying along a drizzle of rain. Fay drew her jacket closer around her. She’d put on a floaty black dress and a denim jacket, something she thought humans would wear in the summer, but she’d misjudged the weather. It was never easy to tell what season you were heading into when coming to this realm. Luckily, Fay didn’t get cold as fast as humans did.
She reached the subway stop and rifled in her jacket pocket for her ticket. Or at least what she would use as a ticket. She pulled out a large leaf she’d plucked from a tree, cast a quick Glamor, and pressed it against the scanner. With a peep, she was admitted.
She filed onto the platform with the other commuters. No one was paying much attention to her, which was a nice change for once. Back at the court, Fay was often the center of attention. And if she bowed to the queen’s wishes, she’d be of even more interest.
Not if she could find the girl first.
Fay took out the stone the queen had given her. It was opaque, about the size of an egg, and it fit smoothly into her hand. Deep pulses emanated from it in a slow, rhythmic pattern. She turned south and the pulsing faded, but when she faced north, it gave off powerful beats. She was on the right track then. The train rolled into the station and Fay got on. As it rushed north, the beating of the stone grew more intense. At one stop, the beating got so fast that Fay pushed through the crowd and out of the train seconds before the door shut again.
Using the same technique as before, she walked up to each crossroad, turned each direction, and followed the one that the stone indicated. Even after all the time she’d spent at the court, she didn’t fully grasp what made the stone work. It was a kind of magic she hadn’t seen before. One that only the queen had access to.
On and on Fay went, houses and unknown faces flashing past her, but even without looking, she knew where she was heading. The area around Lincoln Park Zoo had always been one of her favorites. Years ago, when she was little.
The stone was now beating fast and hard; it was hot to the touch. Fay turned a corner and hurried down a one-way street with brick houses. One last beat and the stone fell quiet.
She had found it.
Fay faced the two nearly identical houses. Both were two-story red brick houses with eight white windows and a white front door. One of them had a bare yard, the other white gardenias and wild ivy.
The stone in her hand responded to the house with the flowers.
As Fay stood there gazing at the front door, she realized how flawed her plan was. When the queen had pressed the stone into her hand, Fay had been so relieved to have been offered a chance to escape her looming responsibilities. The queen had explained how to use the stone and Fay nodded along, eager to get going.
Now she’d reached her destination and had no idea what the next step was. But she knew her mission: locate the girl, bring her to the court. It couldn’t be that hard. After all, Fay had a few useful skills at her disposal.
She drew closer, glancing at each window. All of them were draped with curtains, making it impossible to see inside. There was a doorbell right next to the door. Four buttons with four different names.
Fay took the last step up to the front door and ran a finger along the names. She could just press one of those buttons and ask whoever picked up. But that would require her to know the name of the person she was after.
The stone was the only clue she had.
With a sigh, Fay leaned against the wall. She shouldn’t have come alone. Her friends would find a way, probably by breaking and entering. But they would have also stopped her from coming here at all. Maeve would have thought the whole thing was stupid, and Nooa would have nodded in quiet agreement with Maeve, as usual.
Fay straightened, shaking her head. No, it was a good idea she’d come alone. She could do this. She would just ring one name and—
The door flew inward with such force that Fay staggered back a step. A person shot out of the house and crashed right into her.
They both collapsed to the ground, Fay onto her back and the other person on top of her. She caught a whiff of rosemary and lavender, then the weight on her was gone.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
“Don’t worry.” Fay scrambled to her feet, dusting debris off her dress. Her left elbow felt a bit sore, but that would be fine once she returned to the court.
Her assailant was kneeling on the ground. It was a girl about Fay’s age, her face hidden by long black hair. She was holding her backpack, surrounded by an array of things that had fallen from it. Fay glimpsed a notepad, some pens, a wallet, a charger for a phone, an acorn—
The girl grabbed it and stuffed it into her backpack.
“I’m very sorry,” she said. Once she’d returned all the things to her bag, she stood and glanced at Fay. “Are you okay?”
Fay noticed the girl’s gorgeous blue eyes. They were deep blue, like the depth of the sea.
“I’m fine,” Fay said, her mind grappling for a plan. She’d dropped the stone when the girl crashed into her and there was no time to search for it now. But that girl was carrying an acorn with her, so chances were good she was the one. “You live here?”
The girl wasn’t even listening. “Again, I’m sorry,” she said, turned on her heels and bolted.
Fay itched to race after her. This was her one shot! It had to be the girl. Cursing, Fay dropped to her knees. “Where did that stupid stone go?” Her hands searched the grass, finding stones that weren’t hers, until they closed around one that pulsed. Before the girl could vanish out of sight, Fay set into motion.