The Unseelie’s Wallflower
Courts in Conflict Book 1
by Elisa Rae
Genre: Light Fantasy Romance
Greyson hides many things from the Unseelie Court when they invade his estate each autumn for the Wild Hunt. During his required appearance as host, he is surprised to find a human among the glittering fae. She can see him even when he is using his stealth magic, which means only one thing—they are soul mates. Can he protect her amidst the swirl of fae politics and a plot against her life?
Lyra has grown up among the fae. She has been trained to be the perfect servant. Then her master brings her to the Unseelie Court event of the year and demands she demonstrate her skills to nobles. With the promise of freedom as a motivator, she willingly agrees. Then she realizes her master’s true plan thanks to the intimidating fae lord hosting the event. Though why he would be invested in her fate is a mystery.
The Unseelie’s Wallflower is a light, fantasy romance novella about a relationship between an Unseelie and a human woman. It features faes, fated mates, and a romance between a noble and a servant, all played out against a backdrop of the peril, politics, and maneuverings of the Unseelie Court.
The hot summer air had cooled into autumn in the Great Wild Woods. Spreading north from the edge of human-dominated lands and nestling up against the feet of the Arista peeks where the gargoyles lived in their eyries, this was the region of the fae, of which I was one. Aligned with the Unseelie king, I was bestowed with his favor, probably because my smuggling operations kept him in all the luxury goods he could consume and more. That favor came with a price, though, hosting the annual Wild Hunt at the end of summer.
The guests began arriving at noon, their carriages, horses, and portals filling my front drive with mayhem and chaos as servants, children, and pets crowded for space among the adult fae as they call greetings to each other. My servants directed the guests inside under the lofty roof of my open-sided foyer as even more guests filled the drive once again. I watched the barely organized confusion from the top of the grand stair into the main house. No one approached me, and I liked it that way. The coming week was one to be endured for the greater good. Until the last guest left, I would be on edge. I needed to accept that.
“The king’s attendants have arrived.” Bartle, my majordomo, stepped to my side. A blonde faun, he kept his appearance meticulous, and I appreciated his tactful efficiency. “They presented this list of demands as per usual.” He extended a gilded sheet of thick parchment, which I took.
Silk sheets, perfumed water, unicorn’s milk, solid gold utensils…
“All to be expected.” I handed the list back. “Anything new added since last year?”
“Pomegranate seeds, oranges, and pineapples.” Bartle’s nose wrinkled. “Apparently, he heard about your recent trades with the humans and elves.”
“Or he recalled that I acquired multiple saplings three years ago.”
The Haub family arrived, causing a mild uproar among the clustering fae. As a body, about half of the crowd surged elegantly in the direction of the sprite family as they stepped through their portal. Haub senior, a wizened old sprite, hated me on sight. From the moment he realized that he couldn’t provide what the king wanted and I could, he opposed me at every turn. However, that had recently changed. I hadn’t discovered why as yet, but that didn’t stop me from taking advantage.
“So, you approve the list?” Bartle asked, still standing at my elbow.
“If those are the only changes, then yes, it is approved.”
Bartle bowed and left.
I adjusted the leather gloves covering my hands and shook the edges of my sleeves down over their tops. Now a single inch of skin except my face showed. Gathering my stealth magic, I cloaked. Then, with weary reluctance, I descended the stairs and entered the fray.
Golden light filtered through the turning leaves outside the great expanses of smooth glass in the foyer walls. Arched recesses offered access to the gardens, but most of my guests lingered within the space bound by glass and columns. Designed to meld the gardens, groves, and front drive outside, the great gilt doors with the elegant interior. Marble tile floors, arched ceilings, and eggshell-surfaced columns created the illusion that the room lacked walls. Potted ferns and flowering bushes crowded every nook and clustered about the bases of each column in a vain attempt to decrease the clamor of a multitude of sounds bouncing off the hard surfaces.
And under all the cacophony, the splashing tinkle of the fountains flanking the grand staircase into the house relentlessly added to the pandemonium. I was of the mind to turn them off, but Bartle would be scandalized. Why not show off their engineering?
As I passed through the throng of Unseelie greeting each other, I mentally isolated out different conversations. They varied from gossip, flirting, and chatter to the planning of business negotiations as I passed among the partygoers. Noting who was attempting to speak with whom, I kept moving, relying on my inherent stealth magic to keep out of sight.
Without it, I would’ve been a very noticeable six-and-a-half-foot creature with curly black hair, dusky skin, and gray eyes dressed in all black. When I was uncloaked, most found me intimidating. An impression I tended to use to my advantage. The fact I kept myself aloof and unfailingly kept my appearance impeccable helped as well. Acting as the barely contained beast worked well when dealing with the Unseelie King and fulfilling his excessive tastes in wine, food, and frivolity. Whenever I decided enough was enough, I tapped my inherent intimidating magic and dropped a bit of my façade of culture and control, but this was not the time.
This year’s turn out for my annual gala promised to be the most impressive yet. The inns and rentable rooms for miles around had been sold out for months. Walking through the crowds, I noted almost every Unseelie noble from the king’s court had already arrived. Younglings of multiple species wove through clusters of elegant nymphs, sirens, sprites, goblins, ogres, pixies, and fairies of every size and rank. I began mentally ticking off the attendees from the list of those expected.
Then I noticed her, the singular human. A female, small even for her species, hid among the ferns at the foot of one the massive pillars supporting the soaring ceiling. Dressed simply but adequately, she watched the crowd with wary attention, burrowing deeper into the plants’ accommodating branches whenever a guest wandered near her hiding place.
Curious, I meandered that way. Slipping around the far side of the pillar, I settled in the deepest shadows of the leaves and set my back against the stone. She had chosen a good spot for spying. Most of the foot traffic flowed around this central point, but few of the passersby glanced in our direction. They ignored the greenery that I had ordered placed around the walls and bracketing the windows of my entryway.
“Bored with eavesdropping?” she asked.
I glanced over at her. Fronds framed her features as her bright eyes scanned the mingling crowd. She hadn’t turned my way, but somehow, I was certain she spoke to me. Assessing our surroundings, I noted that no one stood close enough to overhear or be the object of her query.
“Are you speaking to me?” I asked.
“Who else?” She flicked a glance over her shoulder. Blue eyes focusing on my face and the softening of her mouth hinting at a smile left no doubt.
“You see me?” Utter surprise brought a great rush of excitement. No one saw me when I wished to be hidden. Not even my own kind could detect my passing. Yet this slender human, magicless and helpless, could not only see me but didn’t hesitate to speak to me. It could only mean one thing. My breath caught in my chest. She was my soul mate.
“Of course, I see you.” Her mouth deepened into a suppressed smile while hidden laughter brightened her eyes. “You are a bit hard to miss.”
The realization that the day I had equal parts desired and dreaded since reaching my maturity had finally arrived hit me hard. I stiffened as the implications washed over me. She was human, how human I had yet to discover, but her lack of wings, sparkles, horns, or markings hinted strongly of ordinariness. But that couldn’t be. Just the fact she saw me through my shroud of camouflaging magic proved she was anything but ordinary. I took a slight measured step away from her and tucked my gloved hands behind my back. One touch and we would be bound. I couldn’t do that to her, to either of us. I needed time.
“I am sorry if I offended you, Master…” She let the title hang with a tentatively lifted eyebrow. Gone was the hidden laughter from her expression.
“Greyson,” I supplied my surname. I was fae. No fae offered their whole true name. Studying her solemn expression, I already missed her humor. Now she appeared worried. I opened my mouth to assure her that no offense had been taken, but the loud thump of iron boots announced the arrival of a Powrie with his red cap. He had manifested right outside her hiding place, stumbling as he did so in a flurry of loud tapping. The noise brought the nearby lingering guests’ attention around us—well to the Powrie and her.
“Lyra, who are you talking to?” He grabbed her arm. “Come and speak to those I instructed you to. I need more sylvian tears.” The Powrie dragged the woman away, making demands in her ear. The crowd parted to let them through without a word. Once they passed, my guests resumed their conversations as though the whole scene wasn’t worthy of note.
Every part of me protested her going. How dare he touch her so roughly? What was she to him? A wave of possessiveness urged me to pursue, subdue, and demand her attention. With great effort, I resisted the visceral desires that raced through my blood. I was more than my nature, and she was more than just a creature to be claimed. Closing my eyes, I drew my shoulders back. Now wasn’t the time. I had much to accomplish this night that had nothing to do with her, the woman, Lyra.
A reader of fairytales and folklore, Elisa Rae loves a happy ending. Noblebright characters, dastardly villains, and chemistry between characters delight her. When she isn’t writing, she loves to watch superhero movies and literary dramas.