Fable Page 23

There was a fire burning in the fireplace on the far wall, and the lounge chairs looked warm and inviting. One of them was currently occupied.

Mina watched as an arm reached out to take a teacup from a side table and disappeared behind the back of the chair. A few seconds later the cup was replaced, and the shuffle of a newspaper could be heard; the reader had not noticed their intrusion.

Something warned her to not say a word, mostly because Jared had been existentially quiet since they’d entered this room. He got Mina’s attention with a wave of his hand and gestured to the west side of the room with his head. She turned to Jared and poked him in the arm, hard.

He cringed and dropped his shoulders, refusing to look at her. She pinched him harder until he turned around and swatted at her hands.

“We’re breaking into someone’s house?” She mouthed the words dramatically, and then hit him on the top of the head.

He tried to shush her with his hands, and then made a sheepish grin and nodded.

Mina scrunched up her face and raised her hands as if to strangle him, but got herself in check. Why? she motioned with her hands.

“Because you asked for help,” he whispered, while never taking his eyes off the occupant in the chair.

“We are trespassing, and we’re going to get caught, or worse, thrown in jail,” she hissed quietly into his ear.

“Nah.” He moved over to the far end of the room by two double doors next to a table with a large vase.

“Hello, Jared. Nice to see you again. Remember what happened the last time you tried to sneak into here?” The eloquent voice belonged to a woman.

Jared froze and rolled his head back to look at the ceiling, like a teen who’d just been chastised. “Yes,” he grumbled.

Mina jumped at the voice and bumped the table. The vase on it teetered precariously and then toppled over before either one of them could catch it. Mina gasped as it crashed to the floor and shattered. Her head snapped to the occupant in the chair, and she heard a long, drawn-out sigh.

“Jared, Jared, Jared. Whatever am I to do with you? I fear that you will never learn.” The paper was tossed lightly to the side, and the woman stood up to address them both. She was familiar. It was her music teacher, Mrs. Colbert.

“Mrs. Colbert?”

Mrs. Colbert looked perturbed that Jared had brought her here, and she stepped quickly over to the Fae prince and placed her hands on her hips.

“What do you think this is, a public library? You can’t be coming and going here as you please. You do not have permission to be here, and you weren’t supposed to bring her here, either. You, Fae prince, are ruining everything. Just because you did us one good deed does not mean the past is easily forgotten.”

The door opened, and another woman peeked into the library. “Constance, there has been another development.”

Mina was confronted with a woman who looked extremely familiar but at the same time foreign. There were enough similarities to give her doubt. The height, the dark brown eyes, the tone of voice, but she was missing the wrinkles, the gray hair at her temples, and her thick and terrible accent. But it wasn’t until the woman recognized Mina, let out a squeak of fear, and slammed the door that she knew she was right.

A few seconds later the door reopened, and Mrs. Wong stood before her.

“Mrs. Wong?”

Mrs. Colbert rolled her eyes and motioned to the woman. “Drop it, Mei—the prince let the cat out of the bag.”

“Mrs. Wong, what’s going on here? Are you one of them?”

Mei Wong’s soft brown eyes closed as she took a deep breath and slowly let the glamour drop. There was only a faint shimmer of the air around her, and the old Chinese woman Mina knew and loved was replaced by a small woman with big beautiful eyes and skin the color of warm chocolate.

Hurt. Anger. Betrayal. All of those emotions ran through her, causing a disjointed symphony of pain. Mina unconsciously took a step back when the woman’s hand reached out to touch her shoulder.

“Don’t!” Mina whirled to confront Jared. “And you, you knew, didn’t you? You’ve known all along that they were Fae.”

Jared had crossed to stand by the window, letting the light filter through across his skin, giving him an otherworldly appearance. He tilted his head and studied her thoughtfully. “Are you saying you didn’t?”

“I…uh. I don’t know.”

“You can’t be that naïve. Didn’t you know you would have one? They’re the ones responsible for bringing the house to you. All Grimms have a babysitter.” He shrugged and pointed to the prim and proper Mrs. Colbert. “They’re not much good for anything else.”

Mrs. Colbert’s pink lips pinched together, and her eyes narrowed in anger. “Young prince, we are not babysitters. We are a collective Guild of Fae dedicated to the peaceful co-existence between Fae and non-Fae. We strive to keep the balance by protecting the Grimms.”

Jared flashed his white teeth at Mrs. Colbert in challenge and bowed. “Oh, pardon me,” he announced slowly, “your Orderliness.”

“Now, hear me—” she began.

“Stop!” Mina yelled, her world once again crumbling beneath her. “What do you mean, you protect the Grimms?” She turned on Mrs. Wong, her words like daggers. “You’ve never protected me. Not from Claire, not from the wolves or the Reaper. If you are my protector, then why didn’t you tell me about my father, about the curse, about the Story? You could have warned me.”

“We watch, we guide, but we never ever interfere. But we broke that promise when your brother was born, and we’ve been trying to fix it ever since.”

“Charlie! What does this have to do with Charlie? What did you do?” Mina began to pace frantically, keeping as much distance as she could between herself and the Fae. She should have known, should have seen the signs. They were there. Like the magic tea Mrs. Wong gave her that healed her injuries, everything pointed to the obvious, but she refused to believe it. Chose not to believe it.

“We will explain everything, but I think we need to have a seat. This could take a while. Come.” She opened the white double doors and motioned down the hallway. “Follow me.”

Mina hesitated at first, chewing on her bottom lip in indecision. She needed answers, and they had them. She dutifully walked after the female Fae, and Jared fell in line behind her. Mrs. Colbert…or as Mei called her, Constance…turned and in short, clipped words told him off.

“No, Jared. You may be our prince, but you do not rule over us. Where we go, you cannot follow.”

He glared at her. “Don’t you think I deserve some answers, too?”

She shook her head. “When you haven’t earned those answers? I think not.”

His mouth thinned into an irritated grimace, and he looked toward Mina before shrugging and walking over to the vacated chair. He made a big show of moving it loudly across the room and sitting in it while plopping his shoes on a white coffee table. He had a smug look on his face, and called out in a commanding tone. “Well, if you are to keep me waiting, at least fetch me something to drink.”

Constance closed the door with a firm click. Mina highly doubted that Jared would be receiving that drink anytime soon.

She followed the woman who was her teacher and wondered at all of the things that had led up to this moment. Mei Wong followed a few steps behind them as they traveled the plush carpeted hallway. Her head was lowered and her steps slow, as if the Fae woman was trying to keep out of sight.

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