Dried tears made my face feel itchy and tight. I rubbed at my eyes with one hand, rushing through the woods. Ahead there appeared a circle of mushrooms. I slowed.
I’d long since grown beyond the age of believing in magic, but I stepped into the circle anyway, intent on making a wish.
Everything became abruptly silent.
A man stepped out from between the trees. His pale skin held a strange luster. Long, snowy-white hair fell to his waist, held in place by a thin circle of silver.
Bluish-gray eyes assessed me, an amused smile curving his lips. He bowed elegantly. “Are you in need of protection, damsel?”
I shook my head.
“Then I am surprised you called me forth.”
Had I called him?
He took a step closer, his gaze immediately mesmerizing me. I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t breathe. I would drown staring into those eyes.
He withdrew and I took a deep, forceful breath. “What are you doing?” I managed.
“Am I doing something?”
His lashes lowered and the air around us shimmered. Drops of light caressed my skin, the sensation soft and delicate against my flesh. I swayed toward him.
“I would take you to Elphame,” he whispered, his cheek beside mine. “It will only take a bit of time, and such wonders there are, such beauty.”
The words stole through my mind like an echo.
“All you need is to take my hand.” He brought his forehead to mine. “Come with me.”
Warmth flooded the air. I inhaled the scent of lavender and honeysuckle.
A far off warning rang through my mind. Hesitantly, I placed my fingers against his cool palm. Victory flashed in his eyes and panic flared in my chest. I tried to withdraw, but even I knew it was too late.