The Selkie's Pet
Fog weighed heavy upon him, warm and white as summer in Portsmouth. An unfamiliar scent of linen and soap whipped with wind and brine stung his sinuses with every breath. He acknowledged pain but couldn’t grasp its source. He inched toward consciousness.
Strange stillness, quite unsettling… there was no motion, no ship upon the sea. Had they run aground in the storm?
Female voices danced around him and he strove to focus on their words.
“Looks rather pasty, doesn’t it then?”
“That’s no surprise, seeing as it nearly drowned, and almost took me with it. I had to knock it ’cross the head, it fought me so. And wrapped in so much clothing—did naught but absorb water and weigh it down. Why do they wear all that?”
“Who knows? Humans are bizarre creatures. Still, once it’s cleaned up it might almost be attractive. An interesting shape to the nose, bit of a kink to the right, and a fascinating scar. Have you inspected the rest of it? Pity. That will be interesting. Here, you missed some seaweed.”
A light touch grazed his temple and he struggled to remember—the tremendous gale had hit them at midnight. He’d called all hands to reef sail. Suddenly he’d been falling, falling into biting cold that stole his breath and crushed his lungs.
Someone had pulled him from the sea.
But how? HMS Tenacity had been far west of Cornwall when the storm had struck, out of sight of land. And such a storm! He’d never seen one build so fast with such fury in all his years in His Majesty’s Navy.
White fog weighed too heavy… he sank into unconsciousness once more.
Sioned tasted the broth and stirred again. A hearty fish stew would help revive the human. It had drifted in and out of sleep for three days, vomiting seawater and kelp.
Her cottage had but three rooms: the main room, the bedroom, and the pantry. She wiped her hands on her apron and stepped to the opening of the bedroom to peer at the human. It was sitting, blankets pulled up to its chest. Long legs stretched nearly off the end of the bed. Verdant light filtered by trees beyond the window barely lit the room. Eyes the color of May grass met hers and her breath stopped. Could this be the one she had seen in her dreams?
“Bring me a drink.”
Her hands braced her hips. “What, just like that? You think to order me about like a barmaid?”
“Pardon, Miss.” He inclined his head slightly. “I’m used to issuing orders and being obeyed. May I have water?” He coughed and raised his brows.
Sioned went to the dresser and poured into a simple wooden tumbler. “Slowly,” she instructed. “You swallowed half the sea. Have you a name?”
He took the cup. She watched as he frowned. His forehead furrowed between his brows and his lower lip pouted like a tot about to pitch a tantrum. Hmm, signs of a formidable temper.
“Lieutenant Edward Putney of His Majesty’s frigate Tenacity,” he said. “Where am I?”
“In my cottage.” She refilled the tumbler, aware of those green eyes watching her every move. Definitely his best feature. He wasn’t exactly pretty, not the way elf males were pretty, not with that crooked nose and scar ruining his right cheek to his ear. But intelligence brightened his eyes, waves of sandy brown hair framed his face with softness, and no cruelty pulled at his mouth. An intriguing mixture of blonde and ginger stubble defined a strong jaw. She decided he might be attractive.
He interrupted her inspection. “You’re not English.”
She raised an eyebrow and took the tumbler from him. “Welsh.”
“Terribly off course, then,” he muttered. “At least you speak English. Worth something, I suppose.”
Sanctimonious prick, she thought. “I should throw you back into the sea to be rescued by a proper Englishman?”
The lines across his forehead deepened. “No, didn’t mean…” He slid down the bed as his eyelids drooped.
Sioned shook her head, pity overriding offense. Likely her fault he was addled. After all, she’d had to knock the poor bastard senseless to swim him to shore.
Edward stirred and opened his eyes to the strong light of mid-morning—and jumped with a yelp at the sight of a face staring directly into his.
“Aaah!” The creature opened its mouth and yelled, mimicking his voice perfectly as it hovered—
Hovered? “What the devil?” He swatted at it.
“Stop that, human!” The creature looked down upon him with all the disdain of royalty commanding a peasant.
Edward drew back. “I thought you were a cat—”
“What? Queen Mab of the Fae, a cat?” The creature drew herself up to her full height in mid-air. “Is this a cat’s silhouette?” She turned slowly, running her hands along her sides and accentuating her hourglass shape.
“Uh, no,” Edward admitted. Obviously female and very alluring, he thought. Her hair glimmered like polished silver in sunlight. That clinging material—was that a dress or a tunic?—certainly flattered her curves. Oh, he saw the wings now, nearly transparent. Incredibly beautiful…
“And does a cat”—she zoomed and hovered horizontally over him—“pet you?” She pressed the length of her body against the blanket, starting at his thighs and slowly moving upward. Her nipples protruded through filmy fabric to tease his nerve endings. Naturally, his body responded, especially when she circled her pelvis forward against his, staring all the while with eyes the color of ice.
He couldn’t think, couldn’t move—well, part of him twitched.
She grinned. Tiny hands rubbed his groin, taking his breath. “What do you like, human?” the faerie whispered. “Licking? Would you rather receive than give?” A pointy pink tongue flicked out to trace the scar on his cheek while her hands teased the blanket down his chest.
He couldn’t talk. His voice locked in his throat, his consciousness focused solely on the sensations between his thighs and the rainbow prisms in her eyes. Pressure built, tightened—
“Mab! Leave him be!”
The faerie laughed, fluttered her wings to rise then light upon the floor. “I was merely inspecting your human. It’s definitely male.”
“Shame on you, taking advantage of him! He’s still weak, he can barely rise—”
“He rises well enough where it matters,” Mab said with a lascivious grin.
Edward blinked and shook his head. His erection bobbed of its own accord, tenting the blanket, and he blushed. He couldn’t think straight. Sparkling fog filled his mind.
Mab tossed her head back and laughed. “Come look at this! He’s all bright red about the ears!”
“Auntie, stop. Let him recover from your mischief.”
Edward saw a dark-haired woman turn away and remove her cloak, pretending she hadn’t seen the state of his disarray. This was her cottage, he recalled faintly, but he didn’t know her name.
The faerie grinned and winked at him before walking out to the front room. She spoke loudly for him to hear. “Sioned, now that the storm has passed, you and the pod must summon the mists.”
“War comes close. Those who serve the Goddess ask that we move the island north.”
Edward shook his head. “You can’t move an island,” he said.
They both came to the doorway and looked at him. “Silly human,” the faerie said. “Your limits mean nothing to us.” She waved a hand at him in dismissal, turned, and was gone.
The other donned her cloak again.
“That couldn’t be what I thought I saw,” Edward said. “Have I damaged my head?”
She paused for a moment. “I’m sure you have many questions that I cannot answer. But for now, I’ll tell you that no, your head wasn’t damaged. Mab’s presence tends to have a confusing effect on your kind.”
He’d never seen grey eyes like hers. Almost too large for her face, but the effect was lovely. All the colors of the stormiest sea were in those irises—dark, heavy clouds, white-capped, green-slate waves, and unfathomable depth. Her hair looked thick and shiny, rich brown and mahogany tied loosely behind the nape of her neck to hang halfway down the back of her simple dress. Edward returned his attention to her words. “—you’ll get used to her by midsummer, at any rate.”
“Pardon me? Midsummer? No, I won’t be here that long. I must return and report for duty. As soon as I’ve regained my strength, I’ll walk to the nearest village—”
“No, you won’t.” She spoke as if to a child. “That’s what I was saying. You’re stranded, here within the mists.”
“I don’t believe you.” Edward pushed himself back until his spine was against the headboard. “This is all some sort of nightmare. Faeries and fog and moving islands… I’ll wake in my bunk at six bells and all will be well. I’m dreaming.”
She eyed him with pity. “We’ll talk when I return.”
“Nonsense,” he said when she had gone. “None of this is real.”
“That’s what you humans always say.” The faerie perched on the window sill. “You’d rather believe a fancy and call it a faerie story.”
“How did you get here?”
“Window’s open.” She leapt down and sat cross-legged on the end of the bed. “Now let’s give you a simple first lesson, shall we? My name is Mab. Queen of the Faeries. The person who saved your disbelieving hide is Sioned—say, ‘Shaw-ned.’ This is her cottage. She’s a selchie.”
He frowned. “She’s a what?”
She squinted at him. “You are more ignorant than the average seaman, aren’t you?”
“I beg your pardon! I’ve had an extensive education—”
“In all that counts for nothing!” She pointed a sharp finger at his nose. “Now be quiet and listen. A selchie is a human on land and a seal in the sea. Some say they can see the future. Females are especially good at reading hearts and intentions. The males may wreak havoc and summon storms.” Mab smoothed her tunic around her knees. “All sorts of magic folk live on this island to stay safe from humans. Your kind destroyed our homes in the woodlands and desecrated the stone circles, so this is the only place we have left. It is a world of its own hidden in fog. Twice in our year, the mists part and a door opens to the human world—on the equinox at spring and autumn. You arrived here on the spring equinox.”
He stared at her. She gestured with an open palm. “Come, come. Arrived on the spring equinox, so—?”
His heart flipped in his chest. “I can’t return to the human world until the autumn equinox?”
Mab clapped her hands and flew to the window sill. “Very good! You should get a treat for being so quick! I’ll have to remember to bring you one later.”
She flew away.