The corridor branched. They went right. Another ten yards, and the hall doubled in size and silver gilding showed up in the design work. More crystals, brighter light. The ambient sounds of others reached them. A few fae passed. They glanced at him and Willa, but quickly bent their heads in deference to Zane.
Whatever position he held, he had power.
A grand set of double doors appeared before them, flanked by fae guards in simple khaki uniforms. Zane waved his hand. They jumped to open the doors and Zane strode through, his own importance keeping his chin high.
Through a small foyer, they passed on into a large open room. Four long, padded leather benches formed a square in the middle. Tall peaked windows made up the outer wall and looked out onto the most amazing thing Nick had ever seen.
The fae kingdom.
A magnificent stone castle rose from the center of a ring of mountains. More buildings, all impressive, spiraled out from the castle, diminishing in size until they looked like simple outbuildings.
Nick knew what he was seeing was real, but he also knew it didn’t exist on any map he’d ever seen. He shook his head. “How is this possible?”
“Welcome to the kingdom of Rhoswynn.” Zane smiled. “We are an impressive people, aren’t we?”
In the distance, a lone gargoyle soared through the air. A rider on his back.
Nick’s lip curled. “Not when you still keep slaves.”
Zane backhanded Nick, his arm slashing through the air as his mouth contorted. “Watch your mouth, gargoyle.”
Willa jumped in front of Nick. “Keep your hands off him.” She was seething, but unable to do anything about it, which only made her angrier.
Zane’s eyes lit up. “Don’t tell me you care about him. Keeping a pet is one thing, falling for him is quite another. Oh, this does make things interesting.”
She narrowed her gaze. “I really hope we’re not related.”
He smirked and leaned in toward her. “Well, we are.” He straightened and pointed at Nick. “You stay put. And make sure Willa doesn’t go anywhere either.” He grinned like that little twist was his best play of the day.
Nick grimaced but already the magic was changing something inside him to fall in line with Zane’s order.
Zane tipped his head at the troll. “She leaves, it’s your head.”
Zane headed for the doors and pushed through backwards, giving them a little wave. “See you soon.”
As the doors closed, Willa glared at Martin. “Touch me and I’ll throw you out the windows, understand?”
He grunted again.
She turned to Nick and took his hand. “Are you okay?”
He nodded. There was some relief in that.
“Speak to me,” she said.
“I’m fine. Your brother’s not exactly a threat physically, but I wish there was a way to get this cuff off.”
“We will.” She reached up and kissed him. “Then we have to get out of here.”
“Agreed. Any ideas? You know this place better than I do.”
“Can you shift?” She waved her hand impatiently. “You have my permission if that’s necessary.”
His eyes went down to slits, then he nodded. “Pretty sure I can. Especially since you said I could. Will you be able to guide us out?”
She sighed and stared out toward the castle. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. I’m not sure I could.”
“Let’s get a better look.” He hooked his fingers around hers and tugged her away from Martin. When they were at the wall of windows, he spoke quietly. “When you touch me, your touch overrides the bracelet some. It’s also helped to break some of the bracelet’s hold on me. Not completely, but enough that I can think. Although I’m pretty sure if you tried to leave, I’d have to do something to stop you.”
She peered up at him. “That stinks. I wish I knew more about the bracelets. Anything else you’ve figured out?”
“You’re more powerful than Zane, but maybe only equally as powerful as the fae who created the bracelet.”
She picked his hand up and studied the metal cuff controlling him. She brushed her thumb over it. Tapped it once. Then she raised her face to his, eyes searching. “I want to try something. I might be able to get complete control of the bracelet using my powers. If I can do that, I should be able to get it off you. I just don’t know what the side effects will be.”
“I don’t care. Do it.” He held his wrist out.
Behind them, Martin stood staring blankly, his bracelet keeping him rooted to his spot and focused on his task, but not much else.
She stared at Nick, her heart filling with how good and brave he was. She nodded. “Here goes.”
She wrapped her hands around the metal as best she could with her wrists still taped. It wasn’t like any other metal she’d touched before. It was stubborn, streaked with bad intentions and coursing with negative energy. She pushed in deeper, gasping as the metal resisted her. Sweat beaded down her back. She closed her eyes and dug deeper. As if sensing what she was trying to do, the metal pushed back. She ground her teeth down, but nothing she did made any difference.
She let go and sucked in a breath. Her head spun a little as she shook it reluctantly. “Trying to force my will upon that bracelet was like trying to make a stream run uphill using only my hands. I’m sorry.”
He cupped her cheek. “You tried, Willa. That’s all that matters.”