No…wait. I’m not the one humming. The sound is deeper, masculine. My eyes flutter, curious to learn the source of the sound. To my disappointment, I’m not swaying in the weeping willow anymore. The sunlight that I thought was peeping through the leaves, sprinkling me with a kaleidoscope effect of lights, is just the flame in the lantern flickering through the wavy glass walls of its prison.
I’m about to moan my opinion of the cruel disillusionment, when I realize my body is still swaying back and forth. But it’s not a willow branch wrapping itself around me, its Jack’s arms, securing me protectively against his body. My cheek is flush against his chest, and my body warm and snug as if cocooned. A heavenly sigh escapes my chest, but neither I nor Jack flinch, and he continues to rock us as he sings,
“When tears and darkness fall
And you can no longer hear my call
Ignore the evil one’s tempting plea
And scurry now to the willowy tree
Wait there you must, until the day
When Mother Nature illuminates your way
I’m afraid it’s the only key
To make the evil tendrils flee
Until then, just swing on the willowy tree”
As he sings, I lift my head to watch the notes vibrate the muscles in his throat. He senses me watching, and his smile is infectious.
“You know that song?” I ask. Duh, Rosalie. Maybe whacking myself in the head wasn’t such a good idea after all – but at least I can blame my stupidity on whatever head trauma I caused.
“Yeah. My mother used to sing it to me as a child. It took me a while to remember the words though. You’ve been singing parts of it in your sleep for awhile now, and it was driving me nuts that I couldn’t remember the words. It was always right on the tip of my tongue. They finally came to me yesterday when you were humming it in your sleep again.”
Lying against his firm chest is so perfect, I can’t help but reach my arms around his body and really snuggle in tight. He doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, his head bends to gently rest atop mine. I gasp quietly inside myself, little sparks of energy popping throughout my abdomen and chest. My heart feels like it’s trying to flip, fighting hard to break its tethers so it can join in the celebration.
We’d been so good to minimize contact since my moan sent him fleeing. But I don’t care anymore. If he’s not going to run from me right now, then I’m going to soak up as much physical contact as he’s willing to give.
I’m suddenly aware that my back is tingling with a numbing sensation. I groan, and elongate my neck to bury my eyes into his neck, too afraid to check the condition of my wings. Timidly, I whisper, “Did they hurt my wings again?”
I already know the answer.
His chest expands beyond normal lung capacity. Once it slowly releases the superfluous air, he quietly replies, “You were unconscious, so Finley didn’t stick around this time. Guess if he can’t watch you scream, he can’t get off on it.” His arms tighten, bringing our abdomens more flush. “Anyway, spriggans aren’t book smart. Most can’t even count. I did the count silently in my head and once I thought they did enough not to question, I told them to stop.” His upper hand sways back and forth, his fingers brushing the skin on my arm in soft, random patterns. “I’m sorry, Rosalie. I wish I could’ve stopped them completely.”
He knows exactly what I mean. “Thirty-two.”
I moan, and not in the pleasurable way that removed his hands in the past. If anything, his body is trying its best to cover as much of my body as possible, as if it could protect me or something. “How long was I out?”
Now it’s my turn to overfill my chest. Four days? “Seriously, how bad is it?” Jack extends the length of our sway. After several passes, I urge, “Jack?” He continues to ignore my request, and when my head fearfully rotates toward my back, he presses my head firmly into his chest.
“I’m getting you out of here, Rosalie. And soon. Finley’s not getting another chance at your wings. Okay?”
I try to nod, but his grip is immobilizing. And like a fool pixie crushing on an unattainable faerie, I allow myself to be smothered to sleep by his protective grip.