Standing at the entrance, he’d hoped the room had been lighter so he could judge from her expression how she’d receive him. Without it, he needed to rely on her body language. Despite the many layers of soft taffeta and brocade she was wearing, he could see her foot furiously tapping, and instantly wished to be elsewhere.
It was just as he feared. She was upset, and he’d be lucky to leave with his head intact. With no other choice, he threw himself into a deep, respectful bow and held it until she gave him permission to straighten.
“Your Majesty, excuse the interruption but it is important that I speak with you.” He risked a brief peek through his cascading hair and saw her looking at him with vague annoyance. He dreaded the message he was instructed to deliver, but it was unavoidable. With the way things were unfolding, if he waited even a moment longer, it could spell certain disaster.
“I have very little patience this evening, Orville. Speak quickly, and then leave by the way you came.” Her tone held an undeniable coldness.
He waited to be released from his bow, but she remained silent. With no other option, Orville swallowed his pride and continued staring at the carpet.
“News has reached the Court about a disturbance, Your Highness. Someone has been secretly moving amongst the nobility to amass a group of supporters. Court gossip speculates plans are being made to cross over into the Human realm and if you don’t step in and crush this attempt, your subjects will rebel and overthrow you.” Orville closed his eyes, silently waiting as the Queen digested what he’d shared.
“And what do you think, Orville? What do you speculate?” There was a veiled threat loosely camouflaged in her soft whisper.
He needed to tread carefully, his life hanging fragilely in the balance. “I think . . .” He paused to fortify his nerves. “I think it would be wise to investigate. I already have men who can go into the city and learn all they can. I just wait on your approval.”
He had barely finished talking before he realized she’d moved, quietly crossing the distance between them. A wave of cold fear spiked inside his chest as she bent over and murmured low in his ear.
“I don’t care what you think. I don’t care what the Court thinks. I am the Queen and my word is law. Why should I be concerned about what one person does? Tell me, Orville, why should I care who crosses over?”
She wrapped her hand abruptly around the back of his neck, forcing him into a deeper bow. His nose threatened to touch his knees, and he worried about falling head first onto the floor. Orville clenched his fists, struggling to hold his tongue and keep his balance.
There was no point reasoning with her and even if he tried, it would result in his death. Clearly she wasn’t interested and believed the threat didn’t affect her—the walls of her palace giving her a false sense of security. “Annoy me with this gossip again and I will show you my temper and cruelty. If this reaches my ears once more, I will hold you personally responsible.” She tightened her grip, causing him to flinch. “Run if you choose, there’s nowhere you can hide in Faery to escape my displeasure . . . my fury. Do you understand?” The Queen swept her leg forward and kicked his feet from underneath him, sending him sprawling across the floor.
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