Charlotte contemplates her heritage and her reaction isn’t what Bran expects.
I sighed, head resting against Bran’s stomach and arms around him. ‘It’s amazing what you can do with five minutes alone.’
‘It was more than five minutes,’ he murmured.
I chuckled. ‘I wasn’t counting.’
He ran his fingers through my hair absent-mindedly.
‘Got the morbs, chuckaboo?’ I asked.
‘No, just still sticking on the why.’
‘After that you’re wondering why?’ I sat up to look at him. ‘Not a good reason?’ I gave him a soft kiss. ‘My Irish stallion.’
He gave me a look.
‘Fair point.’ I grinned. ‘You’d embarrass the stallion.’
He shook his head.
I kissed him again and straddled his lap. ‘I’ve told you before, Brandon, if I give you a compliment, take it.’ I nuzzled my nose to his. ‘I’m not just being nice. It’s not in my nature.’
He gave me another look. I gave him one right back and looped my arms around his neck.
‘Well, if you don’t want compliments maybe you can answer a question instead,’ I said. ‘Freyja called me a changeling, do you know what one is?’
His hands settled on my thighs. ‘What did Josef say?’
‘I never asked him.’
He went still, as if the idea that I wouldn’t ask Josef about changelings was strange.
I replied. ‘Most of the stories in the library about changelings are about human children stolen by the Fae.’ There was an entry in his supernatural encyclopaedia but it was brief.
‘They never did that, unless you count the children that got left in the woods to die.’ He frowned at the ceiling. ‘They say true changelings are the human descendants of the Fae or the Morag, an older form of Fae. They’re not like hybrids, it’s more like they’re…’
‘Humans who have a Fae a long way back in the family tree?’ I asked, playing my fingers over his shoulder.
‘Yes.’ He sighed heavily.
‘It could explain why you don’t get sick, stop a hard life aging you quickly, and make you more resilient. Maybe even cause a magical ability like your retrocognition.’ He rubbed his face with his hands. ‘It’s all there, why didn’t I think of it?’
I suspected Josef had and the possibility that I was a changeling was what he’d meant when he’d been astonished I wasn’t interested in my family tree. As to why he hadn’t said it I wasn’t sure, unless he’d only suspected.
‘Because I was distracting you?’ I nipped Bran’s jaw. ‘Or because people can’t think of everything. If they could I wouldn’t have a bruised back.’ I pressed my face to the curve of his neck and inhaled his whiskey and book scent.
‘You’re not angry.’
‘No.’ I murmured.
He slid his hands up under my nightdress but didn’t go any further.
I ran my fingers over his skin exposed by the open collar of his nightshirt. ‘It’s distracting when you leave your shirt open. Every time you move it’s like a peepshow.’
He frowned at me.
I kissed the hollow at the base of his neck. ‘I like it better when you don’t wear ties.’
‘You’ve discovered something important about your heritage and you’re more interested in whether or not I wear a tie?’ he asked.
I grinned and kissed his chin. ‘Much more interesting.’
‘Surely the possibility you’re a changeling is more important.’
I pretended to consider. ‘No.’
‘I am what I am and I decide what that is,’ I said.
‘If Freyja Deacon knows what you are and has an idea what you can do you might be very interesting to her,’ he replied.
‘This isn’t another “epic destiny” discussion, is it?’ I’d told Bran about Josef’s notion that Freyja had saved me because I was “changing” him, which had amused him.
‘Freyja might be the most powerful telepath alive and she can’t read you,’ he observed.
‘This hadn’t occurred to me because neither of you mentioned it. When I said she mentioned “sensing” I didn’t realise she meant mind-reading and she said she’d met people like me before.’
He looked away. ‘Sorry.’
‘I’m not angry, Bran.’ I rested my head against his chest. ‘Just frustrated at how much I don’t know.’
I raised my head again. ‘What have I told you about apologising all the time?’
He opened his mouth to apologise then closed it again.
I folded my arms over his chest. ‘I asked Josef if I should be jealous.’
He made a disbelieving sound. ‘She owed me a debt but she doesn’t like me. She liked me less for it.’
I touched my nose to his. ‘You didn’t suggest I wouldn’t be jealous. Bravo.’ I gave him a kiss then tucked my head under his chin and closed my eyes.
Bran was tense and caressing my thigh absent-mindedly. ‘Whatever you do, never ask a Freyja Deacon for help. She’s different from other Fae.’
‘You mean she’s a Morag,’ I said without opening my eyes.
‘How’d you know that?’
‘You and Josef going on about how old she is, mentioning there’s two different types of Fae… I could go on but I’m tired.’
‘There’s more than two.’
He kissed the top of my head. ‘Will you tell me you love me?’
‘I love you,’ I said. ‘You don’t need to ask.’
He tightened his grip on me, tension thrumming through him. I stroked my thumb along the scar beneath his ribs as I drifted. No doubt he was worrying about what Freyja was up to. He should really worry about what I was up to.
Part of Jesse’s Studio’s Fiction Frenzy there will be a new episode of Victorian Mistress everyday from 4th June until 17th June 2017.