She sat and stared long after they’d gone. Aside from clench the poultice bowl in her hands, there was nothing else for her to do.
Even though Cleo was working for Kendall, there was something almost comforting about her presence. Shay wished that she would come back so they could talk some more. Maybe Cleo would snap her neck if Shay asked her to. Shay was tired. She just wanted to get it over with. She just wanted to see Matt already
She felt weightless. There was nothing to hold her to that world anymore. She was like a balloon whose string had finally been cut free. She had no obligations or reasons to stay. No purpose. She could float, just her and Matt and Rowan. Up, up, up towards the clouds and big blue sky. Up into the light.
At least, she hoped she went up.
She’d never thought about the possibility of going to Hell—or wherever it was bad people went—but now it loomed over her like a dark cloud that had broken through the blue sky. She’d killed people, but it had been to defend herself and others. That didn’t count, did it? Oh, God. She hoped it didn’t count. She’d saved people, too, and positives cancelled out the negatives. She’d never been very good at math, but that sounded right to her.
All this thinking made her head hurt.
She laid down and spread her body out as if she were making a snow angel. The floor wasn’t very comfortable, but she didn’t mind. Her eyes remained on the blank gray ceiling for a while before her lashes fluttered and her eyelids drooped closed.
Her mind drifted to thoughts of Matt.
Shay was tired from all the dancing. They’d been going at it for hours.
“Would you like to sit down?”
She looked up at Matt. He was dressed in a ravishing suit and his tie was the exact emerald green of her silky A-line gown. They’d gone into the ballroom after dinner, and figures twirled around the dance floor.
Shay nodded, and her heels clacked along the marble that glinted and tossed a murky reflection back at her. Matt led her to a row of cushioned chairs along the wall.
She sat and began to fiddle with and pluck at the straps of her shoes. Red marks dotted her skin.
She moaned. “My feet are killing me.”
Matt knelt and—like Cinderella in reverse—pulled her heel off. He set if aside and, before Shay could protest, began to massage her feet. His thumbs dug pleasantly into the hollow of her foot, and she leaned against the chair back.
“Oh, my God,” Shay said. “You are a miracle worker.”
His gold-flecked eyes took a moment to sneak a glance at her. “That feels good?”
“It feels great.”
Matt nodded, his lips pressed together in concentration. Shay watched the serious expression beneath his honey blonde hair and she smiled.
He glanced up again. “What?”
“Why are you smiling like that?”
Shay shrugged. “You just look handsome, is all.”
His fingers paused, and Shay jiggled her foot so they’d start working their magic again. He looked back down, eyes on the milky glowing skin of her calf, before he responded.
“Thank you,” he told her. “You look beautiful, as always.”
“You’ve already said that about four times.”
“Well, now I’ve said it a fifth, which is only a fraction of how many times you deserve to hear it.”
A faint pink glow rose to Shay’s cheeks. “You can’t possibly mean that.”
“But I do,” Matt said earnestly. “You deserve to be told every second of every minute of every day.”
Shay was flattered. Jack never told her she was beautiful. Jack never said anything romantic like that.
A servant was passing by, and Matt signaled for them to come over.
The girl curtsied. “Yes, Master Matthew?”
“Bring us a slice of black magic cake.”
“Please,” Shay added.
“Please,” Matt repeated to humor her.
“Right away, Master Matthew. Miss Shay.” She curtsied once more before scurrying off.
Matt released Shay’s feet, and she crossed them at the ankles. He stood and clasped his hands together as Shay tilted her head back to look up at him.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” she asked quizzically.
“To wash my hands,” he said.
“Are you calling my feet dirty?”
“Your words, not mine.” He grinned.
Shay narrowed her eyes, but she couldn’t hold the cross expression for long. “Oh, alright. Go.”
He dashed off for the bathroom, and Shay was left to watch the couples on the dance floor. They moved so gracefully in time with the music. Shay didn’t think she looked like that when she danced. It was like comparing the perfect strides of a racehorse to the gangly awkwardness of a newborn giraffe.
She could see some of the lone male vampires in the room eyeing her up and though she wasn’t sure whether it was as a meal or a dance partner, she wished Matt would hurry up and come back.
She was afraid she was going to have make a few polite refusals when the servant girl appeared with a plate of delicious looking chocolate cake and napkin-wrapped utensils.
“There you are, Miss Shay,” she said as she handed them over.
“Thank you,” Shay said. It was all she could do not to drool. “What is this called again?”
“Black magic,” the girl replied. At Shay’s fleeting giggle, she added, “Master Matthew specifically asked for it to be made.”
“Oh, he did, did he?”
The girl nodded. “Yes. It looks quite appetizing, doesn’t it?”
Shay smiled. “It does. Would you like some?”
The girl’s dark eyes widened in shock. “Me? Oh no, Miss Shay, I’m not allowed.”
“But I’m sure—”
“If you’ll excuse me, Miss Shay,” the girl said hastily, “I must attend to the other guests. Enjoy your dessert.”
She gave a quick curtsey and hurried away.
Shay slumped down. Was it something she had said?
Shay jumped at Matt’s sudden appearance beside her. She clasped a hand to her chest. “Oh, my God! You scared me!”
“I’m sorry,” Matt said. He took the napkin from her and unrolled it to reveal two dessert spoons. Then something over Shay’s shoulder caught his eye, and he frowned. “What’s that?”
Shay turned her head to see what he was talking about. “What’s what? I don’t see anything.”
When she looked back at him, something cold and smooth was smeared across her nose, and she let out a startled shriek. Matt laughed, and she stared down the bridge of her nose at the dab of chocolate frosting.
A laugh bubbled from her own lips. “I hate you!”
“I couldn’t resist.”
“Come on,” Shay said. “Now it’s my turn.”
She swiped her finger across the top of the cake, and Matt leaned away as Shay moved towards him threateningly. His eyes said, “You wouldn’t dare,” and Shay raised an eyebrow as if to say, “Wouldn’t I?”
“No, no, no!” Shay nailed him right on his own nose. “D***.”
They both dissolved into a fit of laughter, and Shay’s eyes began to water. She wiped at them with the back of her hand. Everyone around them was turning to stare, and she realized how ridiculous they must look.
“Alright,” Matt said, trying to calm himself. He picked up the napkin. “Come here so I can clean you up.”
Shay scooted closer and turned sideways in her seat. She looked up at him from under dark lashes as he began to wipe at her nose. He scrutinized like a woman with a turkey in the oven, and then handed the napkin over to her.
“The cake was very clever,” Shay said with a smile as she cleaned the frosting off his own nose. “But black magic is supposed to be bad, remember?”
“Sometimes a little darkness is good,” Matt countered. “Did you know that dark chocolate has many health benefits? It can cut the risk of a heart attack by nearly ten percent.”
“A heart attack is the least of my worries,” Shay said.
Matt frowned. “You know that saying that goes ‘If you love someone, set them free?’ I never understood that before. If they love you back, why would they have left in the first place? But I guess that sometimes you have to realize what everything would be like without it before you can understand how much you need it. Like with your heart. It’s always there, keeping you alive, but you never think about how important it is until it’s put in jeopardy. It’s kind of the same with love.”
Shay was snapped out of her memory as if someone had thrown a cup of cold water in her face. She opened her eyes to see the door of the room opening once more.
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