Again more questions. Mona rolled her eyes but tried to remain patient.
“We will be sending a private plane tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, I realize it is short notice,” Mona continued. “Oh, good, you have a manager you feel you can trust. Excellent, then we will see you in a couple of days. I will be sending one of my female pack members to pick you up. Don’t let her alarm you, she has a very unusual appearance. Okay. Goodbye.”
Mona pressed the end button on her phone and groaned loudly into the empty house.
“Ugh, I swear I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a spoon repeatedly than be nice to some idiot, which means pretty much anyone I come in contact with. Damn, I’d be stabbing my eye a lot.”
She paced in the small house as she waited to hear from the warlock King. She had been sure that he would contact her fairly quickly but it had been several days since she'd spoken with him and still he was silent. If I don’t hear from him soon… Before she could finish that thought she felt a ripple in the air.
She heard the voice and a wicked grin spread across her face. I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist the possibility of a mate, she thought. He may want the stones, but what the King really wants is a woman. Typical man.
Mona went out back and untied Octavian from the porch.
“Okay, old friend, let’s go swindle our good associate.”
Mona laughed. “Okay, you're right. He is neither good nor an associate, but we can always shorten associate and just call him an ass.”
This time when Octavian snorted it almost came out as a laugh. Mona patted his neck as she dug her heals into his flanks and he took off at a run, heading back into the thick forest.
Cypher paced back and forth, the deep green trees of his forest creating a protective wall around him. He had finally called upon Mona, and even as he paced he was questioning his decision. He had talked with the five men in his clan, the ones he considered to be the wisest of his people, the ones from whom he always sought advice. Like him, they were drawn to the idea of their King finally having a mate. Of course, Cypher had argued that the female might not be able to love him – she might very well find him repulsive. After discussing it into the ground, he finally gave into his curiosity and told his clan that he would assist Mona in exchange for a female. He didn’t mention the stones because he didn’t believe for a minute that Mona would be able to deliver on that matter. He still didn’t know exactly what she wanted him to do for her, but short of destroying the world as he knew it, he figured he could deal with his conscience. His head snapped up as he felt the air change around him. The forest grew darker, more ominous. The leaves on the trees stilled, and it seemed as if all life froze in anticipation, or perhaps to keep from being noticed by the evil moving through woods.
The tree limbs retracted as Mona and her steed moved through the forest. The plants on which Octavian’s’ hooves landed withered and died. Cypher watched as the darkness that Mona carried around her reached out for him. He pulled on his own power, wrapping it around him, not allowing the evil that entangled Mona to tempt him. She stopped several feet away and hopped off her horse.
“You called, great King?” Mona smiled. It was a smile that said she was ready to dig his heart out with an ice cream scoop and would enjoy every scream-filled minute of it.
“I did,” he answered stiffly.
“Is there somewhere we could discuss my proposition privately?” she asked.
“Follow me.” He turned and began briskly walking through the thick foliage. “Leave the steed,” he called back over his shoulder.
Mona narrowed her eyes, watching after the warlock. Reluctantly, she obeyed.
The pair approached the mountain and Cypher led Mona around to the opposite side. He reached forward, placing his palm against a stone and mumbled in a language Mona had never heard. This was especially disconcerting, as there were not many supernatural languages with which Mona was not familiar. She watched as the stone before her slowly disintegrated. Cypher stepped through the opening, not looking back to see if she would follow.
As Mona entered, she tried not to show her surprise at the large room before her.
The floor was stone but there were beautiful rugs scattered across it. The walls were made of an exotic wood and large beams reached across the ceiling. The center of the room held a large leather couch, two love seats, and an overstuffed chair also upholstered in the dark, rich leather. A large round coffee table sat in the middle of the group. The wall along the left side of the room boasted tall bookshelves that stretched across its entire length. From floor to ceiling, the shelves were filled with books, tomes, and an assortment of other parchments. It was clear to Mona that Cypher drew his power from ancient wisdom, rather than blood sacrifice like herself. Potted plants and small trees filled corners and hung from the beams in the ceiling. On various places along the wall were sconces lit by an unwavering magical flame.
Cypher waited until Mona had taken her fill of the room. He knew she would be surprised. Who could possibly guess that such a dwelling was carved deep into the mountain? The room in which they stood was only a small portion of the warlock stronghold. Cypher took a small measure of comfort in the concerned expression on her face. When she finally looked at him, he motioned for her to have a seat on the couch. He took the love seat across from her.
Mona regained her composure quickly. She crossed her legs and leaned back, looking for all the world as relaxed as if she were on a summer vacation herself. Nothing in her countenance betrayed the fact that she was ready to ask the King to help her destroy an entire race of beings.
“So, tell me, witch, what is your proposal?” Cypher asked with narrowed eyes.
Mona clucked her tongue at him. “Come now, King, let’s talk as old friends.”
“But we are not old friends, Desdemona. We aren’t any kind of friends, old or otherwise. You are here for a business transaction. Let us get to it and be done.”
Mona rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated breath. “Fine, all work and no play. You will age before your time.” She leaned forward, uncrossed her legs, and rested her elbows on her knees. “You know of the veil that the Fae cross between?”
“Yes, what of it?”