Home > Toil and Trouble (Jolie Wilkins #2)

Toil and Trouble (Jolie Wilkins #2)
Author: H.P. Mallory

One

It was all I could do to open my eyes and take in my surroundings. I turned my neck and squinted against the bright light infiltrating the window in a garish display of brilliantly colored poppies. Blinking a few times, I tried to make sense of the scenery before me but my memory still wasn’t with the program. I attempted to sit up but found I couldn’t move. It didn’t feel as though I were strapped down—it was more like my body decided to go on strike.

“She’s awake!”

It was Christa’s, voice. Relief washed through me. Whatever bad situation I was in had just gotten more bearable.

“Chris?” I started, attempting to shield my eyes against the glare but I couldn’t lift my arm.

Something is very wrong, I thought, a lump forming in my throat.

“I…I’m paralyzed,” I stuttered. At least my voice still worked.

I blinked against an onslaught of tears and forced myself to focus on the bails of straw forming the ceiling of my abode. Where the hell was I? It was like I was playing hostage to Bilbo Baggins.

“Jolie, don’t try to move,” said a man and his voice was decidedly unhobbit like. It took me a second to realize it was Rand.

Rand… my warlock boss who I was massively and totally in love with.

It was Rand who first enlightened me to my powers as a witch and although my life had since taken several twists and turns, (some good and some really really bad), I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

Rand leaned down into my line of sight, his pitch black tee shirt contrasting against his tan complexion. I wanted to smile but I wasn’t sure if I could. None of that mattered anyway; what did matter was Rand’s stunning face smiling down at me—the aquiline features of a Roman nose, chiseled cheek bones, deep dimples and a strong and well-sculpted chin. Eyes the color of molten chocolate and hair a matching shade. Although his hair was mussed and dark circles decorated his eyes, he was male beauty personified.

I felt the heat of his fingers against my face and an electric current passed through me at his touch. It was the same feeling I always got whenever Rand touched me—I never had figured out what it was--maybe his energy. I closed my eyes against the feel of him, afraid I might start crying.

“Jolie, you’re going to be alright,” Christa said and grabbed my hand with an encouraging squeeze.

At least I could still feel my hands even if they weren’t working. I glanced up at Christa and immediately noticed her swollen eyes—she’d been crying. I could only assume it was concerning my predicament.

“What happened to me? Why can’t I move?” I whispered as panic began to stir in my stomach, sounding like a grumbling ogre in a cave.

“You defeated Dougal, Odran’s fairy,” Christa said in a tight voice. She quickly looked away and began dabbing her eyes. I closed my eyes again, trying to remember what had happened, what it meant that I’d defeated Dougal. Attempting to remember was like wading through tar—completely exhausting and more so, useless.

“And because of it, you’ve lost a lot of power, Jolie,” Rand added. “You absorbed Dougal’s negativity thereby neutralizing most of your strength and now you need to heal.”

And that was when the memories came pouring back as if someone had dumped a pitcher of realization juice over my head.

It was a freaking miracle to surpass all miracles that I was still alive.

Dougal just happened to be the strongest of the Fae King, Odran’s, fairies. And I, like a dumbass, had challenged him to a duel whereby I had to defend myself against his fairy magic. Doesn’t sound like a major deal? Yeah, that’s what I’d thought too, but that was before I was stuck in bed, as immobile as an engorged tick.

So, somehow I’d managed to prevail over Dougal’s magical ambush and now my victory would force Odran and his fairy league to uphold their end of the agreement by allying with us in an impending war. Ah, yes, now the pieces of the puzzle were falling nicely into place. If only I wasn’t paralyzed, I might have considered it a good day.

“What do you mean, I absorbed Dougal’s negativity?” I asked.

Rand heaved a sigh and sat down on my narrow cot-like bed. His weight caused mine to shift, the straw of the bed poking me like the bite of a thousand ants.

“While you were defending yourself, using your own magic, you expended your life force. In the process, you absorbed some of the hostile negativity Dougal used to attack you.”

“Oh my God!” Christa yelled and collapsed on top of me in a new deluge of tears. “Your life force!”

Rand chuckled, shaking his head. “Christa, Jolie just needs to sleep it off for a few days. It’s similar to a bad hangover.”

Christa sat up and wiped her tears away, looking a little bit embarrassed. If she was embarrassed, I was relieved. A hangover I could handle, paralysis was something entirely different…

“And speaking of a hangover,” Rand started, leaning over me with a mysterious smile. He grabbed hold of my shoulders and lifted me up, pushing me back into the soft down of my pillows. Now propped in a sitting position—well, more like a slumped-over position, at least my line of sight was more interesting. Rand reached to the wood table behind him and presented me with what appeared to be a tankard of something that smelled like…ale.

“Beer?” I asked.

Rand shook his head. “It’s a fairy potion meant to aid in your healing. One of the elders gave it to me this morning.”

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