Story Telling Time: Love Spell in London Chapter 1 Part III
Of course, she could not say any of this to her cousin or her mother. Perhaps she could broach this topic tangentially. “Merryn, may I ask a personal question?”
The Coven Protectress’s chuckles tumbled down to Grace. “Will you come out of the well if I promise to answer?”
Her cousin’s humor died. “What do you wish to know?”
“Did you love Dewer, even a little?”
A grim expression spread over Merryn’s normally cheerful face, stirring an uneasy shiver in Grace. The Coven Protectress straightened and turned around, her blond braid swinging wide before she vanished entirely from view. Booted footsteps ground into gravel marking Merryn’s progress around the well. Once. The hellhounds disturbed the gravel as they scrambled out of her way. Twice. Three times.
Finally, Merryn came back into view, hands planted on the ledge. “Yes.”
Ah ha! If Merryn had cared for him, he was loveable. “How much?”
“You are never to reveal this to Braden. Or Dewer. Promise?”
A secret to be kept from both Merryn’s husband and the man who once adored her? Her answer must be salacious indeed. Pulse pattering with excitement, Grace placed her hand over her heart. “I will never speak of this to anyone.”
There was still a hesitant pause and then her cousin’s whispered words shuddered within the well. “He swept me off my feet at my come-out ball. I would have run away with him, if my aunt had not removed his mind spell.”
This time, Grace chuckled. Her mother had taught Grace how to ward against warlock mind spells when she was a child. Also, mind spells merely enhanced what was already present.
“This is not funny!” Merryn crossed her arms.
Grace trailed a thoughtful finger on the water’s surface, secretly pleased to have put this composed witch on the defensive. “Was it only his spell that made him appealing?” I doubt it. She recalled a man with midnight hair, sculpted features and magnetism that eclipsed all others. He had swept Grace off her feet without uttering a single word.
Merryn’s fingernail rapidly tapped the well’s rim as if in agitation. “I knew him first as my brother’s friend, from when we were all children. He was handsome and as a fae/warlock different from any other boys. At my come-out ball, I did not recognize him, likely because of this spell, but that night he stole my sixteen-year-old heart. Until my aunt stripped me of his mind spell and showed me the true character of the deceiving fiend. He is no different than his mother.”
Merryn sighed, as if bored with dredging up old matters. Her tapping ceased. “Grace, why ask about this ancient history?”
Far from being like his dark fae parent, Dewer had seemed as much a victim of his mother’s machinations as the rest of Grace’s family. Grace clenched her hands, anger rising at what his mother had done to all of them, especially her son. She had made him an outcast among other warlocks and hated by witches. Most devastating of all, she had ensured the woman he loved would always despise him. Grace’s heart pained at Dewer’s utter isolation. Everyone needed someone on their side.
“Have you developed a romantic interest in Dewer?” Merryn asked in a gentler tone. “If so, pray dissuade yourself. His mother is a dark fae, and a vengeful one. She is over-protective and will kill you before she allows you to have her son, as she tried to do with me.”
At her continued silence, Merryn said, “Your mother misses her husband and your sisters. Only your refusal to accompany her to London, keeps her here.”
A sweep of guilt accompanied those words. Grace’s head pounded, and not just from the strike of the lamb’s hoof. With a defeated sigh, climbed out of the well.
“Oh, you’re hurt,” Merryn said, tenderly touching the bruise on Grace’s temple as she crested the well.
She eased away from her cousin’s gentle touch and drew on her healing energy until the magical force hummed and spread its warm caress over her forehead like a cool wet cloth. The sting eased, leaving her refreshed and tingly as she sat on the well’s rim. She then shook her favorite blue morning dress, magically drying and cleaning it. However, her guilt at causing her mother distress remained. “You are right, Merryn. It’s time my mother and I rejoined my family in London.”
“Finally, you speak sense.” Merryn clapped her hands.
“Dewer will never come for his hellhounds, will he?” Grace asked in a soft voice.
Merryn laid an arm around Grace’s waist and gave her a hug. “His mother likely has a hundred such demonic beasts at her beck and call. She would have given him any he requested.”
“More fool him then,” Grace replied with heat. “If he cannot understand how worthy Bartos and Farfur are, then he is unworthy of them and of any consideration from me.”
“So, you do have consideration for him?” Merryn said with concern. “Oh, Grace, I am sorry.”
Grace bit her lip, heart heavy at her decision to give up on Dewer, which meant giving up her hellhounds, too. It would be foolish to risk entering warlock-infested Wales to return the hounds to Dewer, which was why she had never attempted that ploy for a chance to meet him.
Merryn had once said his black tower was larger inside than outside. Grace would have dearly loved a tour inside his home. She shook off that tantalizing thought. Since she could not take the hounds with her to London or leave them here unguarded, that left only one option. Send the hounds back to the underworld. At least, this time they would return free to roam as they pleased instead of as slaves forced to kill on command.
“I cannot harm them,” Grace whispered. “Not after Bartos was just cured.”
“I understand a healer’s need to safeguard her patients, Grace, but…”
“I did not cure him, Merryn. The laceration from Lord Braden’s extraordinary sword proved tenaciously difficult to mend. Every time I sealed the slash, within days it would tear open. All my magic did was to keep Bartos alive, but did not appreciably lessen his pain.”
“He looks hale and hearty now.”
“He recovered this spring after I came to this wishing well to make a birthday request a couple of months ago. After I tossed in my offering, I discovered all I wanted was for the hellhound to be healed. So, that was my wish.”
Retelling the story brought the moment alive as if it were happening right now. There had been a sudden swirl in the water below. She had looked inside, hoping the sound meant her wish had been answered. Seeing no more movement, with a disappointed shrug, she turned to leave with her hellhounds when a splash sounded, as if someone had flung a rock into the well. Instantly, water sprayed high up and over, dousing all three of them.
The hellhounds yelped and scampered away.
She had flicked at her soaked morning dress with annoyance. The scrumptious cornflower-blue confection that her mother whipped out of Ackermann’s Repository of Fashion as Grace’s birthday gift had been streaked with filthy, muddy water. Rolling her eyes at the well’s rude reaction to her perfectly good offering of three heart-shaped sorrel leaves, Grace checked on the hounds.
“Bartos was no longer limping,” she continued her tale to her cousin. Her heart’s aching need to see the hellhound well had been granted. She had inched closer to examine him and found not a single sign of his wound remained. “No scar, no bloody trail, not even matted fur.”
With an overjoyed shout, Grace had ruffled the fur on Bartos’s forehead. He had stared at her with startled eyes. Affectionate gestures must be foreign to hellhounds, for both hounds then retreated a good three feet past her reach.
“How strange,” Merryn said, considering the implications of Grace’s tale. “Why did you not tell me of this when it happened?” she asked. “We should harvest this water and send it to all the covens across England.”
Grace shook her head and gave Merryn the bad news. She had used the well water on several of her other wounded patients. The water had no effect on any other injury or illness. “I even returned to make another wish, but the well refused to respond.”
“Too much to expect, I suppose,” Merryn said with a huff of disappointment. “This Laneast well is known for being miserly about granting boons. This does explain your peculiar fondness for these demonic hounds. Especially if the well splashing them means the Creator has blessed them.”
“Grace Elizabeth Adair, come home!” Even from five leagues away, her mother’s voice rang clear across the meadow, or at least it seemed that way.
“My aunt’s calling me, too,” Merryn said, suggesting the calls had been mental not auditory. “Likely coven business. Sounds urgent. We shall discuss returning the hellhounds to the underworld later. For now, forget Dewer. He is naught but trouble personified.”
With that warning, Merryn transformed into a raven and flew away.
The hellhounds sat up.
Grace transformed into a white cat, her favorite form for fast travel. “Meow,” she said. Come.
In one leap, she skimmed their heads and landed on the moist grass several feet away, and then raced across the meadow toward home.
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