“Cypher, you are a good man. I can feel it. For whatever reason you think that the only way to help your people is to help Mona. I’m telling you right now that evil never wins.”
Cypher reached up and tenderly stroked her cheek. “I've been alive along enough to know the ebb and flow of things, Lilly. Desperation changes what once would have been easy decisions. Circumstances change.”
Lilly didn't look away. “She will betray you.”
“But you won’t,” he whispered softly.
She took his hand and kissed the center of his palm.
“I don’t understand what's between us, Cypher. I’m drawn to you. I feel something for you and I don’t want to see you hurt.”
Cypher thought, brooding. First of all, he didn’t want to lose Lilly. In the two days he’d known her she had stolen his cold, dark heart. If she asked him to walk through fire naked as the day he was born, he would have done it with a smile. No, he didn’t want to lose her. That meant handling things with Mona. He was going to have to tread carefully to beat the witch at her own game.
“What would you have of me, little one?” he asked her.
“Don’t help her. Whatever she has planned, it’s only for her own gain. I have a feeling it has something to do with the wolves and if it does, then it has something to do with Jacque.”
“Does this pack have a healer?” Cypher asked carefully, knowing that Lilly’s answer would tilt the scales.
“Yes,” Lilly told him. “Jacque’s best friend is a gypsy healer.”
Cypher closed his eyes and growled. Mona wanted this pack destroyed so she could have the healer. He knew of their importance to witches. She may not have spelled her plan out to him, but Cypher was old and his memory was long. If Lilly’s daughter was in the pack Mona wanted to destroy, then he would have to move mountains to make sure that didn’t happen.
“Talk to me, Cypher.” Lilly ran a finger lightly across his lips. “Show me what I’m worth to you.”
“A gypsy healer’s blood is very powerful,” he began in a tired voice. “They are pure – pure of heart and mind and there is power in that purity, power that a witch could never possess because witches lack that purity. Mona wants the healer’s blood. She wants to destroy the pack and take the healer.”
Lilly jumped from his lap and he let her, knowing she needed to get it off her chest.
“You were going to help her with this?” Lilly’s eyes widened.
“I led her to believe I would open the veil to the underworld, Lilly. I never intended to help her destroy anything.”
“How am I supposed to believe you? How am I supposed to trust you?” she asked him incredulously.
“You have to make a choice.” He held his hand out to her, waiting to see if she would take it. “Make a choice to see what this is between us. Either way I will not let any harm come to your daughter or her friends.”
Lilly looked into his eyes and then at his outstretched hand. She seemed to make a decision. And when she placed her smaller hand in his, she let him pull her back onto his lap. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her tenderly, then he smiled at the dazed look in her eyes.
“Wipe that smirk off your face, warlock King,” she growled playfully.
“My apologies. I didn’t realize my kisses were so potent.”
Lilly snorted. “Maybe they’re actually boring and making me sleepy.”
Cypher grabbed her chin gently but firmly and held her still as he kissed her again. When he was done he pulled back and looked at the passion dancing in her golden eyes.
“Definitely not boring,” he murmured.
She grinned and nipped his lips affectionately.
Deciding he couldn’t put it off any longer, he let out a deep breath.
“I’m meeting with Mona tomorrow.”
Lilly sat up straight and waited for him to continue.
“I’ve got to keep her thinking I’m going to help her, but I’m going to come up with a way to stall.”
“How?” Lilly asked brightly, obviously liking his plan.
“I’m the only being who knows how to open the Veil to the underworld.”
“Why only you?” Lilly interrupted.
“Can you imagine the danger of having a bunch of supernaturals running around with that knowledge?”
Lilly nodded, “I can see how that would be dangerous, but how did you end up being the one with that responsibility?”
“It’s always been the burden of the warlock King to keep the secret of the underworld. The King before me held it and when he passed I inherited it.”
“So it’s one of those 'this is just the way it is' things?” Lilly asked.
“I guess you could say that. My race is deeply magical and very old. But, as I mentioned, the Fae have left this realm, and our magic is waning as a result.”
“Wait, what? The Fae have left?” Lilly asked, confused. Apparently she hadn't been listening. She didn’t know anything about the Fae other than that they existed, but found it interesting and a little unnerving that they had chosen to leave this realm.
“After the Great Purge, the Fae faded out of view. They stuck to their side of the veil and since there have been no healers; they haven’t bothered checking in much. They are the very epitome of magic and since they have pulled back so has the magic.”
“So are you weaker because of it?”
“Yes,” he repeated. Cypher saw the worry in her face and quickly added, “But I am still very, very powerful.”
Lilly grinned. “Nice save.”
Cypher smiled back. “I like you,” he told her.
Lilly let out a bark of laughter. “Good to know. I like you too.”
In an instant Cypher’s face grew serious again, the romantic moment gone. “Mona doesn’t know what it takes to open the Veil. If I can convince her that there is something I need in order to open it, something I don’t have right now...”
Lilly made an “ah” movement with her mouth. “You can buy yourself time,” she finished his thought.
“Okay, so what is it that you are going to need?” She made little quotation marks around the word “need”.
“Usually in any sort of spell there is a sacrifice. There is in the case of opening the Veil – it requires blood, my blood. But, again, she doesn’t know this.”