Krystal pictured the heavy book in her mind and willed it to rise from the large mahogany table. Jareth’s deep voice threatened to distract her, though he spoke softly.
“I know you can do it.”
“Hush, my love.” She dared a peek through her lashes. Had her eyes deceived her, or did the book wobble slightly? Or had the edges of the pages begun to curl with heat?
The door joining their bedchamber with the nursery banged open. “Mama!”
Krystal’s eyes shot open and she watched in horror as the book on the table erupted in flame. She automatically moved to shield her son from the blaze.
Jareth stepped forward and waved one hand toward the book. The wind he called up with his magic blew out the flames. Krystal took a deep breath to calm her racing heart and knelt to be at eye level with her son. She took his small shoulders in her hands and called his attention to her.
“Darling, how many times have we told you that you must knock before entering our room?”
Landry’s lower lip quivered. “I’m sorry, Mama. I just wanted to show you.”
“Show me what?”
He held out a tiny hand. “Damen caught a mouse. See?”
Krystal suppressed a shiver as he brought the dead rodent up to her face.
Lysabith appeared in the doorway. “I’m so sorry, Your Majesties.” She crossed the room and took the mouse from Landry with a handkerchief.
Damen padded into the room behind her. Krystal glanced at her pet. Her great black dog had transferred his affections to Landry soon after the boy’s birth. Damen almost never left his side.
Krystal stood and looked down at her son. “Now, have you a proper greeting for me?”
Landry wiped his hands on his pants and bowed low to her, his tousled blond head almost touching the scuffed toes of his riding boots. “Good afternoon, Mother.”
“How about for your father?” Jareth asked.
Krystal watched her son whirl on the spot to face Jareth. Though his body language screamed with the desire to hurl himself into his father’s arms, Landry bowed again. “Good afternoon, Father.”
Jareth broke into a grin and held out his arms. Landry needed no further coaxing and flung himself forward. Krystal did smile then. Seeing them together always tickled a special place in her heart.
“Are we going for our ride today, Papa?” Landry asked.
“I wouldn’t miss it.” Jareth squeezed him before setting him on his feet again. “But you must mind Lysabith and eat all of your lunch. We won’t be stopping in the apple orchard today.”
“Now, kiss your mother and run along with Lysabith.”
Krystal knelt so he could reach, and Landry kissed her soundly on the cheek. For a second she breathed in that wonderful scent of outdoors, dog, and boy. He dutifully took Lysabith’s hand. Damen followed them out of the room and Lysabith turned to close the door.
“Do you think we should get Lysa an assistant?” she asked Jareth as straightened. “That’s the third time this week Landry has gotten away from her.”
“She does fine,” Jareth said. “He’s just an active little boy.”
He drew her attention back to the book and the table when he nudged the smoldering tome with his hand. Krystal growled with frustration and regret. A hundred years of Fayterra’s history had just gone up in flames. She shouldn’t have let Jareth talk her into using the book for her levitation practice, but she’d done well enough with smaller items that it had seemed logical to try something larger.
“Can any of it be salvaged?” she asked.
He gingerly lifted the cover. “There may be a few pages in the middle that weren’t burned. I’ll see what Bettencourt can do with it.”
“I’m hopeless,” she said as she ran her fingers across the scorch marks left on the table. “I don’t seem to be able to do this.”
“Don’t give up.” Jareth wiped ash from his hand and faced her. “It just takes more practice.”
“I’ve been practicing. Maybe I’ve learned all the magic I can.”
Jareth pushed a lock of blond hair off his face. “It’s only been four years. Give yourself more time.”
“Says the man who can move mountains.” Krystal looked up into his clear blue eyes. “Every time I try to master another skill, my talent with fire takes over.”
“Throwing fireballs is a useful talent,” he argued. “And I wouldn’t move mountains. That kind of magic has dire consequences.” He took her gently by the shoulders and she leaned into him. “Not every kingdom can boast of a queen with such ability. You’ve developed amazing control.”
She put a hand on his arm, playing with the white silk of his shirtsleeve between her fingers. “Yes, at least I’m no longer setting fire to the draperies while trying to light candles. How many times did we have to replace the drapes in the king’s study?”
He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Just think what we did for the draper’s business. He’s thriving now.”
“Horrid man.” Krystal shuddered. “Every time he saw me, his eyes turned to gold coins.”
“Now you’re exaggerating.” Jareth kissed her forehead.
“Maybe a little. Still, I wish I had more useful magic. You can help a farm plagued by drought, or relieve a farmer who’s had nothing but floods. I can light a room. Anyone with a candle can do that.”
“My magic and the bond I share with the land have been cultivated since my childhood, and cemented when I became king,” he said. “Your magical abilities are unknown, untested. Be patient. My father once said he could never be certain if my mother’s talent with plants came from nature or from her bond with him.”
“Maybe my lack of progress is because I’m not of royal blood.”
His grip on her shoulders tightened. “Your magic comes from your connection to me, from our love. The fact that you were born on a farm is immaterial.”
A knock startled Krystal, and Jareth turned. “Enter.”
The solid oak door opened. Calum stepped in and bowed to them both. “Majesties, you have a visitor.”
“The castle is full of visitors,” Jareth said, his eyes twinkling. “My sister is getting married in two days.”
Krystal noticed that Calum did not reciprocate the grin. “This one is different. He has requested to see you at once.” He ran a hand through his dark hair in a nervous gesture.
“Who is it?” Jareth asked.
“He asked for the pleasure of introducing himself personally,” Calum said, though his tone left no doubt in Krystal’s mind how he felt about it. “Also, my queen, there is a message from Brynne.” He extended his hand to reveal a folded parchment bearing her family’s seal.
Jareth looked down at her.
“You go,” Krystal said.
Calum coughed. “The newcomer has asked to see you both.”
“I’ll be down in a few minutes. I want to see what my brother has to say first.” Krystal playfully tugged on Jareth’s tunic. “Remember, you have an appointment with Landry in half an hour.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” he said. “I look forward to our time together as much as he does.”
Krystal took the letter from Calum and as watched as he and Jareth took their leave. Her stomach became a mess of butterflies as she looked down at Andrew’s handwriting. She had to wonder why he’d written her a letter, since she and Jareth had only left the farm a matter of weeks before.
She slid her finger under the seal and unfolded the parchment, noting how her hands shook as she did so. Something didn’t feel right. It was almost as if she’d gone back to that day when she’d opened another letter to learn her mother had died.
But it couldn’t be bad news again—at least, not like that.
It pains me to relay this news to you, but yesterday Kayne was killed in a hunting accident. I know this message will take weeks to reach you, and you will likely be in the middle of Jareth’s sister’s wedding, so I don’t expect you to travel for the funeral. We will hold a quiet service for him, much like we did for Mother.
Please know that the rest of the family is well.
Krystal read the words over and over until her eyes became too blurred with tears to make them out. Kayne, the youngest of her four brothers and only two years older than Krystal. He couldn’t be dead.
All through her childhood Krystal and Kayne had clashed wills. Before her abduction from the family farm she’d been certain he didn’t even care about her—only to learn from Andrew that Kayne had also wanted to search for her.
Now she’d never have the opportunity to repair their relationship.
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Jareth. She had to tell him. Needed to feel his comforting arms around her.
Where had he gone? The throne room, she remembered. Calum said they had a new visitor. Still clutching the letter in her hand, she left the bedchamber.
Krystal passed several people in the halls, people who had come for Alana’s wedding, but she did not have it in her to greet any of them. A tiny voice in her head told her she was being rude, but she couldn’t make it matter.
The doors of the throne room stood open. Krystal beamed in relief as she recognized Jareth’s broad shoulders. Calum stood next to Jareth, what she could see of his face an impenetrable mask. She entered the room and moved toward her husband.
Then Krystal saw the person speaking to Jareth and she froze. Andrew’s letter slid from her hand onto the floor.