28: An Illusion of Paradise
Ceres’s eyes almost popped out of her skull. With an excited yelp, she scuttled across the room on bare tiptoes and took Emily’s hands in hers. “’Nothing serious’ is more than what most people can say,” she said, looking up at Emily with a breathless wonder in her grey-green eyes. Mumblings and rumours suggested she was — or, at least, had been — some kind of Donaran highborn, the only daughter of a powerful chieftain. Her hair, dyed a bright shade of fuchsia framed a delicate face and high cheekbones, before falling over slender olive shoulders and a tangle of hand-me-down clothes she had stitched together. In a normal world, Ceres would have found herself the target of a dozen affections. But, in the real world, in the world where Maidens lived, that podium would always be a single step of infinite distance away. She would always be second best. “The only Sidhe I could call a friend is Princess Phantasia,” she added. “Prince Freyr, he’s—he’s one of the greatest Sidhe to have ever lived. Well, if you count them as living, that is.”
“I—I didn’t realise he was so important,” Emily lied. “He just—he just complimented me on my looks and, well…” She made her cheeks flush almost as bright as Ceres’s hair. “He told me that I’d be really popular in a place like this.”
“I bet he did. A girl like you could have anyone you wanted.”
“T—that’s not really my thing.” Emily Fomalhaut continued to blush. The Macha contemplated just how she could abuse such power. Aliza Adel curled up and started to sob.
“Shame.” Ceres fluttered her eyelids, shook the hair from her shoulder. “Let me know if you change your mind, yeah?”
No one could resist a Maiden.
The tension lingered in the air a moment more, then popped as Korrie Wedekind entered the room with a “Cerry, are you flirting behind my back?”
“Want to join in? More the merrier, right?”
If there was anyone who could rival her in looks, anyone who step up to the podium and divert attention away from her, if only for a moment, it was Korrie-Anne Wedekind. Her golden, thigh-length hair betrayed not the slightest split end and her clothes exaggerated her curves. Even Emily, whose body didn’t care for the attention, would have struggled to say no to her.
But she never would, because Korrie-Anne focused her attention squarely, absolutely and single-mindedly on Ceres. She bounced across the room, took her lover’s hand in her own, and pouted like a child deprived of a treat. “You could have told me first.”
“Sorry, dear. I got lost in the moment. Say, did you know Em here knows Prince Freyr?”
Korrie had that same, wide-eyed expression as Ceres when she first found out.
“Passing acquaintance,” Emily repeated.
Korrie turned to Ceres. “Then, do you think she might know Himeros?”
The tension snapped back, caught the breath in Emily’s throat. “Who’s Himeros?” she asked.
The girls shared a look, then Ceres said, “Well, that’s what we’re going find out.” Holding out her hand, she added, “You coming?”
Chapter 28 End
Hopefully I’ll be better in time to figure out if the next chapter works better as one or two parts!