Welcome to Me Me Monday, a day to promote, strut, and celebrate your Me-ness!
It’s also time for the final segment of Be My Valentine…Snack, the third prelude to Stealing Myself From Shadows, the first of a series of ambient fantasy novels I’m working on.
I plan to include all three preludes; Waiting for Rebirth, Unwilling to Be Yours, and Be My Valentine…Snack at the beginning of Stealing Myself From Shadows when I revise and release it.
Don’t think this is the end for Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest here at the Cauldron, though. You never know what may bubble up in the future…;)
Here is the rest of Be My Valentine…Snack…
“He’s just hungry, after using a lot of energy.” Duessa bowed her head, closing all but two eyes. “No need to point that rose at me, my dear.”
“Don’t I?” Never had ‘Brie sounded more menacing. She waved a crushed rose in her hand, like a knife or a wand. It looked very like the flower Duessa had held.
What could a flower do in the real world? I had no idea.
“What happened to accepting other people’s choices, even if they’re fatal?” I cocked my head in ‘Brie’s direction. “I thought you had no right to stop us.”
“Maybe I had no right.” Gabrielle looked ridiculous in her shells and smiley faces, brandishing a crushed flower. There was nothing silly about the dark power gathering around the hand holding it. “If so, it was time to do a little wrong.”
“No, it wasn’t. Not for you,” Duessa waved a finger in reproval at ‘Brie. “Your boys did very well escaping me on their own. In fact, they passed all three of my challenges, including that of true love.”
“What?” It was seldom one saw Gabrielle completely stunned. She blinked, as I looked from Peter to me.
Duessa grinned, looking very much like Damian. He would have enjoyed the look on ‘Brie’s face, too.
“Peter was willing to stay in my lair and be my Valentine, if I’d let Christopher go, without having to confess to feelings he didn’t have.” Duessa shook her head, raising an eyebrow. “Of course, Christopher had to pick up his stick and do his best to defend Peter. All in Damian’s name, of course.
“Of course,” Gabrielle echoed, but she frowned. “I’m surprised you were willing to let them go.”
“Darling, these boys may be delicious, but they’re not worth making you unhappy.” Duessa’s entire face softened, as she gazed at Gabrielle. “Whatever else I might be, I’m not your enemy.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Did this mean I’d never been in any danger? All the times Duessa had expressed an interest in me, showing her true face, had it just been a show?
No. Duessa Ashelocke was dangerous. I’d seen the cocoons containing her Valentines in her lair. Damian had seen it, too.
It hadn’t all been an illusion, or a trick.
Neither was the expression of genuine affection which softened Duessa Ashelocke’s face when she looked at my mother.
She truly cared about ‘Brie. I might be a potential delicacy. Peter, too. She meant every word about not being her enemy.
Just what was the story between these two?
“Angry as I am right now, I believe you.” Gabrielle sighed, looking away from Duessa’s face. “Why must you always be so morally ambiguous?”
“Precious, it’s what draws you to me and Damian, too.” Duessa shook her head. “Morally ambiguous is what you want to be.”
“Sometimes, but not today.” Gabrielle stretched out her arms to Peter and myself. “Come on, boys. Let’s go home.”
Peter hesitated, glancing from her hand to the road. Maybe he was unsure about taking it after everything that happened.
I reached to take his arm.
He looked down at my hand. A faint flush crept up his face and nose.
Pulling him with me, I walked into ‘Brie’s waiting embrace, allowing it to unfold both of us.
Let Duessa and anyone else watch. I didn’t care.