Balien liked to throw parties. Grand lavish affairs that, after the tragedy that had befallen him, allowed him to keep busy, to keep sane, and to keep people around him. It also afforded him a chance to keep an eye on Jaidee’s twin sister Tienai.
The parties were decadent events. If even half the rumours about them were true, few had ever thrown more sinful and wicked revelries. This was what drew Tienai to them. She lived for the wild, the reckless and the dangerous. She needed the experiences that kept her feeling alive and let her forget reality.
Tonight, Balien’s party had a theme of black and silver. Tienai wore a figure hugging dress of shimmering silver. Black ribbons wound through her hair, strands falling around her face and tickling against her shoulders. A simple black lace mask covered her face.
The anonymity of the masks had also appealed to Tienai. Though few Fae could travel the worlds since the end of the age, enough could that she could cross paths with one and Tienai actively avoided the judgement that came with it. She was after all banished and branded and none could do anything but spurn her because of it.
The music was slow tonight, the air heavy with intimate intentions. Tienai had yet to find anyone who could draw her from her seat and her drink as she watched the dancers. Not that she had been short on offers. Even Balien had offered her a dance but she declined, it was the other Tia’Elnial sister he wished to have in his arms. Jaidee was not here and Tienai would not be his distraction.
The current song had a stronger beat to it, slow though it was. Tienai found herself swaying to the music, each beat the cue to change directions. Her eyes closed and she simply let herself go. Though she was no bard as her sister was, she let the music entice her from her seat to dance by herself. By the time the song ended she almost felt happy. She was so close to a feeling of contentment that she could not allow herself to open her eyes and bring the moment to an end.
A new song began to play and a hand slid into hers.
A charge ran through Tienai at the touch of the hand and she opened her eyes to find herself staring at a mask of a tree man, silver maple leaves beautifully sculptured to form the face. The mask showed only his lips which were barely visible beyond his facial hair. The man’s eyes were nothing but shadows. There was something familiar about him regardless and Tienai wondered if she had known him at a previous party.
“It would be my pleasure.”
“I do hope so.”
There was a familiar cheekiness in his tone and Tienai found herself blushing. Her happiness was almost giddiness and it was not simply from the alcohol she had been consuming. The Tree-man in the black suit led her onto the dance floor among the other guests. One hand started on her hip and slid around her back to hold her close to him. With the height of her shoes, they seemed a good match for each other and Tienai imagined it would be easy enough for him to kiss her.
He kept holding her other hand, changing the grip as they began to dance. The song was slow and romantic, it had an easy rhythm for their bodies to pick up.
“It feels wonderful to have you in my arms again, Tienai.”
“You have me at a disadvantage, for I do not recall a time where you might have held me. Your mask gives little hint as to who you might be.”
“I would be wounded but it has been some time.”
“Would you give me your name?”
“If you should guess it, then so be it. Otherwise, I am just your mystery suitor for the night, and I am sure the excitement will only grow for you for it.”
“Do you disadvantage yourself then for knowing me.”
“Trust me, Tienai. Nothing could excite me more than you this night.”
Tienai found she did not care who was behind the mask now, he was right that it was exciting. And what he had said in that husky tone had excited her too. It might have been a line but it certainly worked on her.
By the second song, their bodies were pressed against each other, Tienai’s arms were around his neck, and his were wrapped tightly around her. His palms were pressed to her back and the only time their bodies parted even a little bit was when he would dip her backwards. His beard would tickle her chest as he followed her down, she waited each time for the touch of his lips but he denied her each time.
“This feels so natural, as though you were meant to be in my arms,” he murmured.
“I find I agree,” Tienai replied. And she did agree. Whoever he was, she could only imagine the passion that they had shared before if the chemistry between them now was to be believed. Still, that did not make it easy to guess who he was. Not because there had been so many, but because she could think of very few who had given her such passion since her banishment. And she was certain he could not be them. Perhaps she had been far too intoxicated the last time, and she found herself regretting that now.
After a fourth song, they left the dance floor and the ballroom and made their way outside, walking until they found themselves in the courtyard to the east of the house. The courtyard was a classical style, large statues stood at each of the corners of the stone tiles. Beside each burned a large torch. From the lack of smoke, it seemed they burned by more magical means. It was just like Balien to cheat like that.
Tienai’s mystery man stood behind her, his arms looped around her with his hands resting on her stomach. He nuzzled her neck as he began to speak. “We stood like this once and we looked up at the stars. A star burned bright and soared across the sky and I wished on it.”
“What did you wish for?”
“To keep the woman in my arms.”
“For the night?”
“Or at least a few hours.”
His laughter was loud in her ear and Tienai had a feeling he was teasing. She did not know how much of this story was a fabrication to seduce her, and how much was truth. She did not really care.
“And if she wished to be kept for this night?”
“Then she would be worshipped and pleased until she could take no more.”
“I am sure she could not wish for more than that.”
“Perhaps tonight both our wishes can come true.”
“I do wish so.”
They stood in the courtyard for a while longer. His lips explored her throat and shoulder as she leant back against him, eyes on the skies. She did not look for a shooting star, for at that moment she had nothing she wished for more.
They retired to one of Balien’s guest bedrooms and locked the door behind them. The masks stayed on but nothing else did, and without any lights in the room, Tienai was no closer to being able to tell who her mystery lover was.
She did not spare much time on who he was. She was lost in the now, in sharing passion with him. He had not lied when he said he would show her pleasure. He took his time letting his hands and lips learn and taste her body. She was equally giving.
She slept in his arms afterwards, exhausted and pleased. When she woke, sunlight was pouring in the edges of the curtains and she rolled to face him. His mask had fallen off or been discarded in the night.
She could see him now and she knew him. It broke her heart.
Lying there with a smile on his face, even in his sleep, was the first man that Tienai had ever loved. The first man she had ever been with.
Which meant that Tienai had to leave. To be with her, to know her now, it was to put himself in danger. She was banished; it was forbidden to give aid or kindness to a banished Fae. It was why Tienai kept her own sister at arm’s length; to protect her. Lachlan had been foolish to approach her.
She had to leave, for his sake.
So, Tienai dressed and used her magic to flee from him, half way around the world where it was night again, an acceptable time to drink. And drink Tienai did. Seeing Lachlan, knowing what they shared and could not again, it broke Tienai all over again and she wanted to forget. She wanted to forget the pain, the banishment. The shame. She wanted to forget who she was. She wanted to feel nothing.
By the time it was morning again, Tienai was comatose and blissfully pain-free. And Lachlan was safe with her far from him with only a mask on a pillow to remember her by.