by Ruth Davis Hays 2011
The prequel to THE DAWNSTONE TALE continues. Lauralei returned home from school to a surprisingly affectionate welcome from her stepbrother, ‘Khiall. But, their reunion was short-lived as her father accused ‘Khiall of being ungrateful for the generosity shown the fae boy and his mother. After an awkward first meal together again, the family has fallen into a mundane routine for the remainder of the summer. But, youth will find ways to entertain itself…
PART THREE – The Labor of Curiosity –
The library on the third floor of the Khnyghtsyde mansion was small and cramped with moldy, uninteresting books, but it had one advantage that Lauralei discovered. It had a window that provided her a perfect view into the back courtyard where the house’s two wings thrust back and made a three-sided workspace around the stone well. Her father’s recent command that her stepbrother chop wood for the household had given her a reason to stay in this room, despite the unpleasant atmosphere.
She had spent every afternoon, as the sun crested the house and filled the little courtyard, watching ‘Khiall going about his tasks silently. His complexion had darkened over the past week. It gave him a new tone, not quite as pale and inhuman as before.
As she leaned out the small window, her eyes riveted to his movements, her heart raced as the heat of the early afternoon forced him to remove his shirt. It was the moment she waited for each day. Leaning her chin on her arms, she sighed gratefully. Her dress lacing felt tight and constricting as she admired his physique.
She had only two boys to which to compare him. The stable boy she had known at school, and a smooth-faced, intellectual fellow in town that had caught her eye once or twice as she had accompanied the servants to market. He had been one of the reasons that she asked to go to town so often, but she now realized that she had not even thought on the boy for over a week. She blushed at the thought.
Not just admiring the manly form that ‘Khiall was growing into, she was becoming slightly obsessed with him. Somewhere deep in her subconscious, she felt guilt for it. She had been raised thinking of him as her brother. As a child it did not matter to her that they were of two different races; she loved and accepted her big brother ‘Khiall as her own. When she had left for school, she realized just how little she or most humans knew about the fae breeds. All her friends had been human there, all her teachers and the topics they taught were concerned only with human society. Now, she stood in a library full of knowledge and none of it could answer the questions burning in her mind.
Glowering at the book lined room, she sighed again. She could spend hours pouring through them, looking for information about the faerlins, but she knew that she would much rather find out by getting ‘Khiall alone somewhere. And that was what she determined to do.
‘Khiall felt the sweat tickling down his face and neck as he paused in his work and drank from the cool, fresh well water. The afternoon was hot and his work only half done.
He was not certain what he had done to warrant this punishment of additional chores, but he was heartened by one aspect of it: He was able to see Lauralei, as she took a break from her forced studies each afternoon and leaned out of the third-story window. No one would have guessed that he was watching her while he worked. He was careful to look only from the corner of his eye and keep his head down.
With a brazen glance over to the library window, he saw it empty and his heart sank a little. The labor would seem slower now that he had nothing to distract him. He slumped down into the shadow of the well for a moment of rest. The treetops beyond the low wall of the estate seemed to dance and beckon to him. There was little here to stop him from answering their call.
His mind stretched across that distance and found the freedom he desired. A place with no one to obey, a glade full of the music of wind and the majiks of the fae. He could run there, leave everything behind, and miss nothing of this wretched life.
Into his mind’s eye skipped the small, voluptuous figure of his stepsister. Her long, dark waves bouncing about her shoulders, her fair skin glistening and her light eyes flashing playfully at him. If it were not for his fae heritage, they could be mistaken for blood siblings; their looks were so similar. Her brunette hair and blue eyes were gifts from her father that her younger brothers shared in most respects, except that their eyes were brown. But, ‘Khiall had no idea where his coloration came from, as his mother had fiery blonde hair and jade colored eyes.
The image of Lauralei brought with it a stirring in his blood and in his lower regions. Self-consciously, he glanced around the yard to see if anyone had noticed his distracted sloth. He resumed his chopping before his misplaced fascinations could raise his lusts higher. Sweat and exertion would cure him of these thoughts, though he could still feel her lips against his from days ago. As the axe struck hard on the block, splitting the short log with a loud crack, he found his eyes wandering up to the library window once again.