Leah ran, tearing recklessly around the globe shaped bush before they saw her. As she rounded the hedge outside Faerie Castle, the garden path sloped. Her ridiculously high heel caught in the gravel and busted off. Damn that Louboutin! As her ankle buckled, she went down in a flounce of silk skirts and a shrill aria of obscenities the boys back at Old Tam’s pub would’ve been proud of.
Eyes shut tight, she waited for impact. Instead, a strong pair of hands wrapped around her, supporting her back and neck so that the imminent crack of her skull on packed dirt never came.
Blinking, she looked up. Blinding mid-day sun speared into her eyeballs from over the top of the hedge wall. Her hand shot up to shield her eyes, bringing a shadowy figure into view.
Deep, blue, starry eyes stared down at her. The one who held her tilted his head, blocking out the sun, and Leah’s breath stuck in her throat at the vision that came into focus. High cheekbones, a broad jaw and soft, pale lips all worked together to form the most striking male face she’d ever seen. In addition, the unmistakable simmer of magic stirred the air. It hovered above his shoulders like a cloak. Dread filled Leah—he was one of them, a fae.
Her eyes lowered, getting stuck on the smooth, tan bit of exposed skin above his black bow tie and crisp white shirt. Tiny brown freckles speckled his skin, spaced out enough to where all she could think about was using them to play connect the dots… with her tongue.
“Were you dashing through the maze in a fit of terror from some bridge troll then, little lark?”
The name being a nod to her ear-jarring stream of curses a moment ago, no doubt. Giving her head a shake, Leah looked up to find a faint smile on his full lips.
“Maybe,” she barked out defensively, fully aware of the vulnerable position she was in. “Maybe not. Maybe it’s a handsome prince I’m dashing to meet instead… lucky me.”
His cobalt eyes flashed, going dark, silver, then fathomless in the space of an instant. He dipped his head, scanning her from head to toe, those sea-deep eyes seeming to peel away the layers of her silly stolen gown as they went.
“Lucky prince.” He said.
Leah’s mouth popped open, but no words came out.
He ignored her, taking in a deep and audible breath.
“You didn’t drink the wine did you?” His voice rolled through her.
“No,” she answered, a bit too loudly for how close they were. He probably smelled the snifter of whiskey she’d gulped down for courage inside the castle before going through with this harebrained plan of Gill’s, “I’m not stupid enough to do a thing like that here.” She looked up at the arched bows of the garden maze overhead, then back at him. “Not with your kind ambling around.”
His expression managed to look surprised and admonishing all in one. Leah didn’t give in. She drew her brows together in the Irish death glare she was famed for under the masquerade mask she wore—another stolen item she’d taken for her disguise, along with the shoes and the dress.
Finally, the stranger pulled her upright in one easy, grace-filled movement. Leah stumbled back on her broken heel. He crossed his arms, leaning back against a little stone doorway in the center of the hedge, making a study of her as he placed one ankle over the other. He did make a delectable sight in his black tuxedo, crisp white shirt and dark red-brown hair that hung just long enough to brush the top of his shoulders. Formal attire was required for this debauched, fae romp of a treasure hunt—the only reason Leah would be caught dead in the confection of a dress she wore.
On him, though, black tie proved nothing short of devastating. She sucked in a breath. One of his dark copper brows lifted upward, somehow drawing Leah’s attention to his lips at the same time.
“Well, what are you?” Leah asked. Looking down, she brushed at her skirt, self-conscious as all get out. “Leprechaun or something? You’re clearly fae.”
That came out haughtier than she’d meant for it to, even accusing. Old resentments died hard. Fae had always been dangerous, but now that they were here, among humans, they were even more so.
“Leprechaun? Not me. If you’d met Kell then, aye. You happen to be right though, perceptive, little lark. I am fae.”
Leah’s brow crinkled as she frowned beneath the mask. Her open book facial expressions had always been her downfall.
Just then, pounding footfalls thundered down the rounded path toward them at a breakneck pace. Leah jerked, her spine going straight.
The two fae guards who’d been hot on her trail earlier skidded to a halt, dust flying as they did. Their eyes went straight to her companion.
“Sire!” they both said, in obvious shock.
The stranger nodded—barely—in their direction. His perceptive eyes glanced over at Leah, then back to the guards.
Uh, oh. Leah’s mind raced. Sire? Who exactly was this gorgeous fae male? In an instant he was right by her side, though she hadn’t seen him move. His palm gripped her elbow.
“Gentleman,” he said, his deep timber skittering through her body once again, “thank you for finding my special guest for me. We were separated in the maze.”
The guards cast wary eyes her way, muttered apologies, then ducked their heads and left.
As soon as they were gone, the male turned her to face him.
“Am I right to assume you don’t have a formal invitation to this gathering, miss?”
Leah pressed her lips together. His midnight eyes sparkled. He stared right through her even as those delicious lips of his picked up in a sexy, grim smile.
Damn. Looked like her luck had just run out.
Copyright © 2021 Amanda V. Shane, First published as Treasure in the Wild At Heart PNR Flash Fiction Writing Circle. All rights reserved.
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About the Author
Amanda V Shane is an author of paranormal and fantasy romance and is currently working on her Tides of Atlantis series about the super hot lost kings of Atlantis as well as her Enchanted Lands Romances.