“Arianne! Help me!”
Ari placed the sachet she’d been filling with lavender on the old oak table and hurried to open the door. The cottage she shared with her twin Briella was small, just big enough for the two of them. The main room held a large hearth for cooking and preparing medicinal herbs. There were two other rooms for sleeping.
She watched Brie struggle to get through the open doorway with a large man leaning on her small frame. Another stray. Where had she found this one?
Rushing to help her sister, Ari wedged her shoulder under his other arm to take some of the weight off Brie. Dark, delicious power punched into her with the contact. Dizzy with lust for it, her magic began pulling on his of its own accord and scared the hell of her. She was always very carefully controlled--never had her power acted alone. Faerie. The demon did not stir. Fear of what he was, what he could make her, made her lash out with venom “Really, sister. You bring home the most interesting creatures. You do realize he is faerie.”
“Arianne! It matters not what he is, just help me get him into my room.”
She felt Brie’s urgency and terror as strongly as the faerie’s power. As a rule, she wasn’t empathic, but today proved different. The man’s body was torn; seawater made his wounds a vicious ache. His suffering became hers. Giving up, Ari knew it would do no good to argue with her sister. Nothing would change. “The villagers will lynch us before nightfall. What has happened with him anyway? His clothes are shredded.”
“As is much of his flesh. Mayhap you should direct your eyes elsewhere, sister.”
“I’ve seen naked men before.”
“You have no shame. Do you? I think he must have been tossed overboard in a storm or something of the like. I found him washed up on the sand and rocks below the dance. I thought he was dead at first. His heartbeat is faint, weak, but there. I suppose we will have to wait until he wakes to discover the nature of his injuries.”
She managed to avoid breaking most of the urns as they struggled to get their patient into Brie’s room. Turning sideways, they made it through the small doorway and crouched down to angle and shift his shoulders onto the straw mattress where Brie slept. “So you floated him up the cliff, but couldn’t use the air to carry and lift him inside.”
“Normally I would have.”
“Then why waste the energy to carry him? He will probably die anyway.”
Briella turned on her, eyes snapping open with barely contained anger. “Mayhap the next bones I find on the sand will be your own and I might consider your words before stirring the air.”
“Sure and I might be doomed to die on the rocks, sister, but only if you pushed me over the edge first.”
“My craft forbids the like, but oh how there are days I wished I were more like your wicked self.” She paused to lift his feet onto the mattress. “I am weak. I linked with him to save his life. It drains me.”
Wicked, am I? Ari shook her head. Not that she had the power to sacrifice herself, but she would have never done such a thing. “Little fool. Keep giving so much of yourself and one day there will be nothing left. Then what use will your almighty power be?”
“I could not let him die.”
“Why not? Others have died in your care. More may yet. We will be put to death when the elders learn he is here. You risk our lives for a dalliance with the devil?”
“Stop being a child. He will be important to me. I can feel it. Fetch some boiling water. I need to clean his wounds.”
Fetch me some water, Arianne. Do this. Do that. “I am not your bloody dog to fetch for you on a whim.”
“True. A dog would be obedient and more pleasant to be around. Water. Now!”
“Fine.” Five minute’s difference and Brie’s power would have been mine. The elders thought she was like our sainted mother, but that was not true. She was kind to others, but treated me like the dirt under her feet. Brie's craft rules her while her hatred destroys me.“Why do you hate me so, Briella?”
Her sister said nothing in return, only continued to murmur enchantments over the demon in her bed. Briella’s crusade to save him would doom them both. To bring his kind into the village was akin to a death wish. Briella might be spared by the elders, banished perhaps, but she the lesser twin with power so dark she dared not use it would be put to death for the crime.
Ari felt the pain of betrayal slick over her heart like ice. One day I will show you just how wicked I can be, sister.