“Draven,” Keiron gasped sharply. “Stay still.”
“What?” Draven glanced up, surprised and alarmed.
“There’s a snake. Just by your hand. Stay still and…. Draven, no.”
To his absolute horror, Draven held out his hand to the snake, which raised itself into the air, tasting him with its flicking tongue. Apparently satisfied, the snake slid over Draven’s hand, and began to curl itself around his arm.
“Draven, that’s—” Keiron gasped.
“It’s all right, Keiron. It won’t bite me.”
“But Draven, it’s—”
“Are you afraid?”
“I…. No, of course I…. Yes, Draven, I’m afraid. You’re so…sweet and all this is…. But fuck it, that’s a snake, and it’s not a garter snake or any of the non-poisonous ones. It’s—”
“I know,” Draven said quietly. He seemed suddenly sad. “It won’t hurt you unless you threaten it, Keiron. Snakes don’t like to bite things unless they’re really hungry or they’re threatened. Just like everything else, they like to just get on with their lives in peace.”
Draven bent his head close to the snake. Keiron was utterly horrified when he blew gently on the snake, and it reared in front of his face. The tongue flicked out over Draven’s lips, and Keiron held his breath. If it struck now…. If it bit Draven, he’d—
Draven raised his head and the snake uncurled itself. Bright scales flashing in the sun, it slid into the grass, heading away from them, back into the woods. Draven regarded Keiron thoughtfully.
“You were afraid of the snake,” he said after a while.
“Yes, I was afraid of it. It’s poisonous. It could have hurt you.”
“Yes, it could have but…. Lots of things could hurt me, Keiron. You could hurt me. Should I be afraid of you?”
“No, of course not. I’d never hurt you, Draven. You know that.”
Draven stared at him, then nodded slowly. “Yes, I know that…and I know the snake wouldn’t hurt me either, even though it could.”
Keiron smiled, totally believing him, totally believing that no one and nothing could hurt this beautiful, magical creature.
“I believe it. I believe it totally. No one could hurt you.”
“Bren did,” Draven said matter-of-factly, bringing a cloud across their sunshine.
“Yes,” he said grimly. “Bren did. I don’t know how to say how sorry I am for that.”
“Sorry? You? Why would you say sorry? It wasn’t you who hurt me. You helped me. You nursed me and took care of me. You didn’t make him do it, Keiron.”
“No, but I didn’t stop him either.”
Draven laughed. “You’re so funny.”
“Why do you want to control everything?”
“I don’t,” Keiron responded automatically and defensively.
“Yes, you do. You want to control everything, even other people, like Bren, and you take responsibility for the things they do.”
“I…I….” He floundered. Draven didn’t understand. How could he understand? He had no idea what it was like to live in his world. He had no idea how different it was to live in the city, among people. He had no concept of the games, the expectations, the…hypocrisy, the unreasonableness. “Maybe I do, but it’s the way you have to be to survive back there in the city.”
“Is it? Then why do you live there?”
“Because…because it’s where my home is. Where I feel…comfortable.”
“Are you scared of this world, Keiron? The sky and the sun and the trees and the grass and the water?”
“No…no, not scared, just….”
“Are you scared of the animals—the spiders and the snakes and the birds and beasts?”
“I…maybe a little.”
“There are dangerous things in the city too, much more dangerous things. And everything there is dark and fake and poisoned. It’s all poisoned, Keiron, and it poisons you, too. It makes you stiff and scared and…different.”
“It’s my world, Draven,” Keiron said defensively. “It’s what I know, where I feel comfortable.”
“I know,” Draven said sadly. “Do you want to go back now?”
Keiron found he was stiff and sore. The squirrel claws had scratched his back, and he was pretty sure the mouse had peed in his pocket. He squirmed uncomfortably. “Yes, I do. Do you mind?”
All Keiron wants is a quiet life. Fat chance with a boyfriend like Bren. But if he thought Bren complicated his life, that was nothing compared to the complications that begin when he opens the door to what he thinks is a naked boy claiming to be his slave.
Draven is a fairy with his sights set on the handsome human who keeps a wild place in the garden for fairies. When Draven slips through a fairy gate into the city, he sets in motion a series of events that binds him to Keiron forever, and just might be the end of him.
While Draven explores Keiron’s world with wide-eyed wonder, Keiron does everything he can to keep Draven’s at bay, until the only way to save Draven and bring him home is to step into a world that should exist only in children stories.
Meet the Author
Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play. Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere. In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem.
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