So, this was supposed to be five thousand words.
Instead, there is backstory, drama, and now it's sixteen thousand words.
I don't know how it happened.
Oh my gods, someone send help.
This is my way of saying thank you to everyone who has read The Lightning-Struck Heart. I don't know how or why, but you guys have made it one of my biggest bestsellers. A book about that has dragons rimming unicorns. I don't know what that says about you, but I am sure it's something good.
But enough about all that. I know why you're here. This story covers before, during, and after the events of TLSH. Keep in mind that if you haven't read TLSH, certain events will be spoiled for you because of it.
Ladies and Gents, I give you the madness of Lady Tina DeSilva.
Tales from Verania
The Tragic Life Of
Lady Tina DeSilva
Lady Tina DeSilva was not a cruel girl. No, she most definitely wasn't cruel. After all, it wasn't her fault that Mervin made her want to stab him in the face just to see what his blood looked spilling out onto the ground while he screamed for her to stop.
Rystin was forever. Mervin, though.
Rystin was forever. Mervin, though.
Mervin was just a bump in the road.
She first became aware of the necessity for ruthlessness when she was nine years old. It was her first day of the new school year at St. Martin’s Academy for Resplendently Matriculated Youths (so named after Martin Goodfellow, the king who’d been canonized after his death and was most known for a preference for nudity, especially when meeting with foreign dignitaries, so they would see he wasn’t hiding a murder weapon. It wasn’t until after the school was named that the board realized the acronym spelled SMARMY, but by then, they’d already had the gold-plated sign engraved and printed the invitations printed on thick card stock, and it was deemed far too late to try and change it. Besides, they figured the type of child invited to the school would more than make up for any negative connotations given the wealth of their parents).
Lady Tina DeSilva arrived at SMARMY in her parents’ coach, her governess seated across from her. Her parents were far too busy to be able to take time off for something as negligible as their daughter’s first day at a new school, not that Lady Tina had expected anything more. In fact, the further away from her parents she could get, the better. They never really saw eye to eye on most things, especially in that Lady Tina would have preferred they didn’t exist at all. The fact that she wouldn’t exist then didn’t really cross her mind, but that was the sort of person Lady Tina was. She preferred the rush and pleasure of the now rather than the thoughts of consequences.
“We’re here, child,” her governess said.
Lady Tina rolled her eyes. “Really. I wouldn’t have guessed by the way the coach has stopped in front of the school. Thank you, though, for pointing out the obvious. I can’t even think of what I would do without you.”
“Your tongue gets sharper every day,” her governess said, narrowing her eyes. “You should check it before you find it covered in fish sauce.”
Lady Tina laughed. “Oh, governess. How you amuse me. I would be so desperately sad if something were to happen to you. Like if someone were to accuse you of physically abusing a precocious little girl and you were to find yourself out on the streets, unable to find work ever again, most likely dying of a rather vicious fungal infection. Why, that would just be a travesty.”
The governess wisely kept her fat trap shut at that point.
Lady Tina was pleased by this.
She moved out of the carriage, the coachman helping her down the rungs. She stood on the path leading to the school, brushing her hands over her dress, making sure any wrinkles from the trip over would be smoothed out. One could not enter a new situation with wrinkles, for heaven’s sake, she was not some peasant from the Slums. Once she was satisfied that she was presentable, she held out her hand for her purse. When it didn’t come right away, she snapped her fingers without looking back at the coach.
The governess sighed behind her and a moment later, her purse was in her hand. Lady Tina reminded herself to make the governess’s life a little bit more terrible when she got home from school.
“Do you need me to accompany you?” the governess asked.
“Absolutely not,” Lady Tina said. “I am nine years old. I don’t need you stuck on me like some wart. Off with you. I don’t want to see your face again until absolutely necessary. And maybe not even then.”
“Have a lovely day,” the governess said, though her tone sounded like she meant quite the opposite. Yes, Tina would need to make sure the governess got her just desserts.
She walked up the path to the school, other children milling around her. She grimaced when a boy bumped into her, and she wondered why her parents couldn’t have found a nice school just for girls so she wouldn’t have to be around boys. They were rude and sticky and smelled of old beef and hardly ever did what she told them to do, which, in Lady Tina DeSilva’s book, was a sin without equal comparison.
She didn’t know anyone here, but she could easily change that.
She scanned the courtyard, looking for the right group of girls to make her best friends and allow them to worship her. She found them standing near an old oak tree, giggling and gossiping with each other. The problem with them is that they already seemed to have someone to fawn over, a pretty girl with blonde curls and bright blue eyes, and a kind smile.
Tina hated her instantly.
Which is why she had no problem finding the nearest teacher, tearfully explaining that the pretty girl had accosted her, that she’d taken her down a dark alley just the day before and tried to make her do drugs and then threatened to stab Tina if she told anyone about it. It was just so scary, Tina tearfully explained, saying that she had thought this school would be a safe place for her, that her parents, Lord and Lady DeSilva—who had donated so much money to SMARMY—would be terribly disappointed that their beloved and only daughter was upset on her first day of school.
The teacher, of course, had run and fetched the Headmaster. By the time school started on that first day, the pretty girl with blonde curls and blue eyes had been escorted from the property, never to return, and at lunchtime, Lady Tina found the group of girls, now so adrift without someone to guide them. Their heads were bowed as she approached their table, only looking up warily at her when she stopped in front of them and cleared her throat.
“Hello,” she said, rather politely. “My name is Lady Tina DeSilva. And I believe we should all be the very best of friends.”
One of the girls said, “Why? We don’t even know you,” and Tina decided that she would probably be the first to go if the group needed to be culled down.
Tina smiled, showing many teeth. “Because I think we’d get along so well. And, of course, you would need someone like me. Now, what were we discussing?”
At first, no one answered. Then, another girl said, “Um. We were talking about Richie Nicholson and how good he looks in those pants? Because they’re tight?”
Lady Tina cringed internally, but she knew how to act. She’d done it most of her life. “Well, then,” she said. “Point out this Richie to me, and I will be the judge of that. And after I’ve made that decision, the rest of you should probably agree with me. It’ll make things easier.”
And that was how Lady Tina DeSilva discovered that sometimes, you had to do what it took to get what you wanted.
So, no, she was not cruel.
If anything, she was just ambitious.
And that ambition led to one of her greatest discoveries.
Knight Ryan Foxheart.
Which lead to a rabbit hole of a different sort.
The magical, dreamy, heart-palpitating burst of sunshine capable of making her thighs tingle known as Rystin.
She shipped them.
She shipped them so hard.
Because there was never a couple meant to be together more so than Prince Justin of Lockes and Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart. And no one, no one, would ever break them apart.
“Oh my goodness!” one of the girls at SMARMY said. Her voice was loud and grating and Lady Tina often contemplated what would have happened had she been born mute. She hadn’t bothered learning her name, though it’d been four years. She didn’t have time for that.
“What?” Tina asked, sounding annoyed and doing nothing to hide it.
“They’re in the paper,” the girl exclaimed. She let out a breathy sigh and fluttered her eyes down at the newspaper spread out in front of her.
“Again?” another girl asked, leaning over. Tina thought her name was Mildred or Mildew or something like that. (In fact, it was Rebecca, but Tina would never know that). “Show me. I have to see it!”
The two girls began squabbling over the paper like fetid pigs fighting over scraps. Tina eyed them with distaste until she couldn’t take it anymore. “Enough!” she said, and the cafeteria round them fell silent, waiting to see if she would make yet another girl cry by kicking her out of the group.
The girls stared at her in horror.
Tina said, “Give it to me.”
The first girl slid the paper over.
Tina snatched it from the table, planning on shredding the paper right in front of them, dipping it in the water glass next to her, and then throwing the wet pieces at their faces.
And she made to do just that.
Until she saw the picture they’d been referring to.
Now, it should also be said that Lady Tina DeSilva had never really experienced attraction before. She still mostly thought boys were disgusting (and really, why wouldn’t they be? They farted on each other and then laughed about it while picking their noses and wiping it on the walls), and didn’t have time to associate with them. Her schedule was very busy.
But this was different.
PRINCE JUSTIN STEPS OUT WITH KNIGHT BEAU! THINGS ARE HEATING UP!
Yes, things were certainly heating up.
“Oh my,” she breathed.
Because she had seen Prince Justin before. He was royalty, and her parents were part of the King’s Court. She’d thought him handsome, but it’d been fleeting, almost cursory. And she’d heard of this Knight before, a young up and comer pulled from the Army. She didn’t remember having actually seen him, but that didn’t really matter.
She was seeing him now.
And she was seeing them together.
“What is this?” she asked aloud, without even meaning to.
“Prince Justin and Knight Ryan Foxheart,” one of the girls said, trying to keep her voice steady. She winced as if anticipating a blow that never came.
Tina couldn’t even scoff. Because her heart was beating in her chest and for some reason, her goddamn nipples were hard.
She didn’t understand what was happening. Why was it that two people she really couldn’t care less about separately made her feel this way when they were together? What sorcery was this that made her want to swoon? Tina didn’t swoon. She never swooned.
She gave a very brief thought of casting out the two people who had brought this to her attention, but there were only four left in the group aside from her, and she needed people rule over in order to make her feel good about herself. That’s how these things worked.
So she did the most difficult thing she’d ever done in her life.
She folded the paper up slowly (carefully!). She slid it into her purse and then looked back at the rest of the table. They waited with wide eyes for her to lash out.
Instead, she said, “Now, we were talking about the spring carnival?”
Normally, after school, Tina let her group follow her around, twittering like the annoying little birds that they were. They would dote on her, they would feed her gossip of the most delicious variety. She feasted upon it until she was gorged and then she would send them away.
But today was different.
They waited for her after school, but she told them she wouldn’t be requiring their services today. They looked slightly shocked, but no one questioned it. They practically ran away from her, the poor dears. Tina was sure they would be confused and alone for the rest of the afternoon with nothing to do.
But she didn’t have time to care about that.
Because a lady of her station and disposition could never be publicly excited about anything, she gave no outward sign that her entire world was shifting when the coach arrived to pick her up. The coachman helped her up inside where her governess was waiting. She had given half a thought to hoping the old bat had had a heart attack or something during the day so she could be alone, but she’d somehow stayed alive.
“Good day?” she asked.
“It was fine,” Tina said, voice even, even though she thought perhaps her armpits were damp. She wondered if that was a sign of becoming a woman: seeing two attractive men in a homosexual relationship and getting sweaty armpits because of it. She contemplated posing this question to her governess, but decided against it, given that would sound like she was seeking advice and Lady Tina DeSilva did not ask the help for advice.
She arrived home, ignoring the governess calling after her, telling her that supper would be served right at seven o’clock, and that her parents would not be in attendance, due to a prior engagement.
She couldn’t care less.
She was a woman (because yes, she’d decided this did make her a woman now) on a mission.
She was in her room with the door closed and locked behind before she remembered to take a breath.
She listened to make sure that the governess hadn’t followed her up the stairs.
It was quiet.
Her hands were shaking when she set her purse on the bed.
She reached inside.
Her fingers touched the newspaper.
She pulled it out.
And faced her destiny.
The drawing of Prince Justin and Ryan Foxheart was grainy, the ink slightly smudged, the paper wrinkled. But it showed them smiling at each other as they walked near the castle, hand in hand. Ryan had his head tilted back slightly, like he was laughing at something the Prince had said, and the Prince himself looked rather pleased with himself. The artist had captured the moment perfectly.
“Oh my gods,” Tina muttered to no one in particular. “Things are happening to me. Things are really happening to me.”
Because yes, the Prince was handsome, even more so when he was smiling a smile of someone obviously deeply in love.
But it was Ryan Foxheart (and oh my gods, she thought, could that name sound any more like it should be licked) who commanded her attention.
In the drawing, he wore a simple tunic, the fabric straining slightly against the muscles in his biceps.
The artist had captured what was obviously the immense scope of his chest. The chest that undoubtedly held a heart that beat so true, it put other heartbeats to shame.
And his thighs.
(Lady Tina DeSilva couldn’t think past that thought without giggling, because what.)
They were…nice. Like. Just. Nice.
Both the Prince and Ryan were nice.
She wondered what they were like when they kissed.
Her face flamed at the thought.
The knock on the door startled her. She almost shrieked, but was able to swallow it down.
She put her hand to her heaving bosom, trying to calm herself.
“Who is it?” she asked, wincing as her voice came out breathy and light.
“My lady,” the governess said. “Open the door, please.”
Tina had never wished for a person’s death more.
She shoved the paper under her pillow and stalked to the door, unlocking it and throwing it open.
She knew she must look a-fright, flushed and panting, scowling deeply. But she couldn’t find herself to care.
“Am I…interrupting something?” her governess asked.
“Yes,” Tina snapped. “Make this quick so I can get back to it.”
“Oh my,” the governess said. “My Lady, that is highly inappropriate to being doing so soon after school! At least wait until nightfall before you…carnally take yourself.”
“What!” Tina shouted. “I wasn’t carnally taking anything. How dare you! I am a motherfucking lady!”
“I’m not saying it’s a bad thing,” the governess said. “Everyone does it. I do it. Your mother does it. Sometimes your mother does it with your father.”
“No,” Tina moaned. “No, no, no.” She tried to slam the door, but the governess stopped her. Tina wondered if she practiced witchcraft. That would explain her abnormal strength. She would have to request that her parents burn her at the stake.
“Yes,” the governess said. “To be honest, I was wondering when you would feel the first blush of womanhood. The need to just…take. This is a perfectly natural thing that happens. You see something that…piques your interest. Sometimes it’s a person. Other times, it might be a memory. Sometimes, it could even be a squirrel or a tree, the point is you feel this way because you’re becoming a woman. It’s okay to put your hand on your monkey and—”
“If you leave now,” Tina said, “I won’t tell my parents about the hash brownies you eat on the weekends. Or about how you are telling me to put my hand on my monkey. ”
“Leaving,” the governess said, and did just that.
Tina shut the door.
She didn’t want this. She didn’t want to be like the governess with her monkey.
She wouldn’t look at the picture again. She wouldn’t even think about Ryan Foxheart again.
“And that’s final,” she said.
To be fair to Lady Tina DeSilva, it was not a battle she could have won. Because Ryan Foxheart was the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed. She stood no chance in the face of his chiseled jaw, his farm boy smile, his teeth and nose and the hair on his arms and the way he looked like all he wanted to do was cradle Justin against his chest…
“It’ll be fine,” she said. “This won’t be a problem. It won’t.”
Because Lady Tina DeSilva did not do things halfway. When she committed to something, she committed. And when it came to Knight Ryan Foxheart, she committed.
Within the month, Tina was convinced that without a doubt, she was the leader in the field of study of Ryan Foxheartology.
She read every periodical devoted to Ryan Foxheart she could get her hands on.
Knight Tales? Read it. Dreamboats of Lockes? Read it three times. She even bought the yearly calendar the Castle Knights released for charity (and oh my gods, she just knew the whole thing had been Ryan’s idea because that’s just the type of person he was. Ryan was Mr. March. When it turned to April, she couldn’t bear to flip to the next month, and told herself she was fine with never actually knowing the date. It would always be March because it would always be Ryan.)
And she knew so many other things about him.
(There were times she wondered if she and Ryan were meant to be together, but quickly pushed that away because she understood what True Love was and Ryan and Prince Justin were obviously in True Love and she would rather fling herself off a cliff than come between that because they were made for each other..)
Favorite color? Blue.
Favorite time of year? Autumn.
Favorite animal? Unicorns.
Favorite food? Meatloaf.
The thing he’d do if he wasn’t a knight? He’d have a farm where he kept puppies and kittens that he’d rescued from abusive owners.
Favorite person in the world? Prince Justin, of course. As if there could be anyone else.
He also liked tea, long walks through the City of Lockes, and smiling like literal sunshine. He was selfless and kind and when she was alone and no one around to see her flush, Tina would whisper into her pillow that she thought he had a nice butt and that he probably gave the best hugs and smelled like her dreams.
So it was a problem, but like all problems Lady Tina DeSilva faced, it was not without a solution.
And that solution was to absolutely devote herself in Ryan Foxheart.
Why, nothing else even remotely made sense.
She saw it in the back of All Knight Long! She’d just read an interview where Ryan talked about how much being a knight meant to him, how he’d worked so hard for it, and that he was appreciative of everything that had come his way (so dreamy!!!! she would later write in her journal with a pink glitter pen. He is soooo perfect and I just want to touch his face with my face!!!! xoxoxox). The only thing that had thrown her off about the interview had been when Ryan had spent three quarters (maybe a little more) of it talking about how much he admired wizards and magic and wizarding things and how cool they were and how he wished he could be friends with wizards and hang out with them and talk with them and do stuff with them like magic and going for cake. She didn’t know where that had come from, but she was sure the reporter had misheard most of it and had incorrectly documented the conversation. Lady Tina was ready to pen a letter to the editor of All Knight Long! to reprimand them for their journalistic failings when she saw it.
Up until that point, Lady Tina DeSilva hadn’t believed in the gods.
It was like they were giving this gift just for her.
The ad read:
Are you a fan of Knight Ryan Foxheart?
Yes, she was. The biggest fan.
Do you love everything about him?
Yes, she did. Literally everything.
So do we! Come talk with other lovers of the dreamiest knight ever! The Ryan Foxheart Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter is currently accepting new members. We meet three times monthly to talk about the greatest knight in Veranian history Ryan Foxheart!!!!! All ages welcome. Please see Lady Karen Beckman for a membership application.
This was the greatest day of Lady Tina DeSilva’s life.
This was the worst day of Lady Tina DeSilva’s life.
She’d filled out the membership for the Ryan Foxheart Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter.
She’d worn her prettiest dress. Her makeup was applied with skill and precision.
She was armed with an arsenal of Ryan Foxheart facts. She knew everything about him.
The first meeting she attended was held at Madam Christie’s Tea Room.
She expected to be lauded.
She expected to be adored.
But everyone in the goddamned fan club had hearts in their eyes for Lady Karen Beckman.
“She knows everything about Ryan,” a woman named Nicole whispered to Tina.
Tina frowned. “But…I know everything about him.”
Nicole nodded. “Yeah, but she knows more.”
Tina hadn’t come to her first fan club meeting expecting to make an enemy. But the unfortunate reality was that sometimes, enemies could come when you least expected them. Tina knew this almost better than anyone else. For a moment, she felt a twinge of guilt, knowing that Lady Karen Beckman would have to be removed from her position as President of the fan club. It was really rather tragic, too. Tina had though they could have been friends.
Three meetings later, Lady Tina DeSilva graciously accepted the position of President to the Ryan Foxheart Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter. If asked, no one in the fan club could quite say how it happened. One day Lady Karen was there, and the next, she was apparently moving to Meridian City for health related reasons. Everyone in the fan club was certainly sympathetic and threw her a going away party. There was mint tea and little finger sandwiches. No one saw the way Lady Karen paled when Lady Tina smiled at her. And if they did, well. She was in ill health. It was to be expected.
Tina had everything she could have ever wanted.
She was approaching sixteen years of age.
She was rich.
She was beautiful.
She was powerful.
She commanded a group of women who held the same interests as her (well, interest, maybe, because they really had nothing else in common and when they weren’t talking about Ryan or Rystin, then they had nothing really to say to each other; it was a good thing that they could talk about Ryan and Rystin for hours).
Everything was perfect.
Everything was wonderful.
And then he came.
“Deidre,” Tina said from the head of the table in the tea shop. “Could you please read the minutes form the last meeting?”
It sounded like a question asked politely, but both Deidre and Tina both knew that if Deidre didn’t get her ass up from the seat in the next three seconds, they were going to have a problem.
Deidre squeaked and stood quickly. She looked down at her paper and started to mumble. Tina could barely restrain the urge to reach out and slap her face.
“Opening minutes. President Tina called the meeting to order and presented two topics for discussion. Ryan Foxheart’s jawline or Ryan Foxheart’s mouth. There was a debate that lasted forty-seven minutes where the virtues of each topic were discussed in detail and—”
“Sweet molasses,” a voice said. “I knew I was going to be late. Goddamn Gary and his stupid—”
The Ryan Foxheart Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter fell silent and slowly turned to look at the intruder.
The skin under Lady Tina’s left eye twitched.
Before them stood a young man with the most ridiculous beard she’d ever seen. It was long and looked unkempt and probably was festering with lice and diseases. His hair just flopped all over his head and Tina doubted it’d ever seen a comb. She couldn’t really tell his age under all the hair sprouting from his head, but something about him just irked the royal shit out of her.
“Hello,” the man said, voice deeper than it’d been before, like he was gargling with rocks. “I’m here to join your…club. I heard about it through…people. Who like…stuff.”
Tina couldn’t keep the scorn from her voice. “People. Who like stuff.”
“Yes,” the man said, adjusting his thick glasses. “Stuff. You know. And things.”
“Do you even know what we are?” she asked haughtily. “We are the premier chapter of the—”
“Ryan Foxheart Fan Club,” he said. “Yes, I know. And I’d like to join.”
“But—but,” she sputtered. “You’re a boy.”
“Not that we care about that kind of thing,” Mary said. She was the oldest out of the group and took the least amount of shit. Tina disliked her the most. “Everyone is welcome here.”
“Good,” the man said cheerfully.
“What if he’s a spy?” Tina hissed.
“For who?” Nicole asked, looking at the man in a new light. “Someone is spying on us? I don’t know anything about the prostitution ring me and my husband run—I mean, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I’m not a spy,” the man said.
“Prove it,” Tina said. “For all we know, you’re reporting back to another club, trying to steal all of our ideas! How do we even know you’re a real Ryan Foxheart fan?”
“Okay,” the man said, pulling out a chair and sitting down at the table next to Mary like he belonged here. “How should I prove it?”
Mary patted his hand. That cunt.
Tina glowered at him. “If you’re a true fan, you would know his birthday.”
“March 26th,” he said without hesitation.
Godsdammit. “What side of the bed does he sleep on?”
“Whatever side is closest to the door in case of an attack.”
“Oooh,” the rest of the group said.
“What is his greatest aspiration?”
“To become Knight Commander.”
“What is his waist size?”
“Oh my gods,” Nicole breathed. “This is so erotic.”
“Nicole,” Tina barked. “Keep your skank to yourself!” She turned her glare back to this…this interloper. She’d finish him and he would leave limping because no one knew as much as she did. “Ryan’s grade point average at the Knight Academy.”
“His favorite thing about Justin.”
The man made a face. “His sense of self.”
Tina almost sighed dreamily at that, but was able to hold it back. After all, this was war. “His middle name.”
“He doesn’t have one.”
“How long can he hold his breath underwater?”
“Four minutes and sixteen seconds.”
Wanda began fanning herself.
“A talent he has that he’s embarrassed about!”
“He can touch his tongue to his elbow!”
“He can touch his tongue to my elbow any day,” Courtney said, and the other girls tittered their agreement.
“His favorite book!”
“The Butler and the Manticore!”
It went on. And on.
For another ten minutes.
By the time they’d finished, everyone was panting while drowning in a deluge of everything Ryan Foxheart. Even the man appeared flushed.
“I need a cigarette,” Nicole said, leaning back running a napkin over her brow. “That was good.”
“I think he’s proven he’s a fan,” Mary said pointedly to Tina.
“Fine,” Tina growled. He wouldn’t last long. She’d make sure of it.
The man grinned at her.
“What’s your name?” Wanda asked.
“And how do you know so much about Ryan?” Crissy asked.
The man shrugged and cleared his throat. “Uh. Well. He’s. I just. He’s. I mean—”
“He’s very handsome,” Mary said.
“Yeah,” the man said, turning bright red. “That. And my name is Mervin.”
It had a name.
And a horrible one at that.
Tina would make sure she took care of Mervin just like she did everyone else who got in her way. By the time she was done with him, he’d never ever try and cross her again.
It happened two meetings later.
“So, this week’s Rystin sighting occurred in the Arcadia District,” Tina was saying. “It has been confirmed they were side by side, but for propriety’s sake, they weren’t holding hands. Witnesses say that Ryan looked the happiest he’d ever been in his entire life and his sole focus was on make sure Justin could have anything he ever wanted ever and that they were so in love that the rest of the world didn’t seem to matter to them at all.”
Tina ground her teeth together. “Something to add?”
“No, no,” Mervin said. “Everything you said seems completely realistic.”
“Good. So, Justin supposedly was wearing—”
“Rystin, though,” Mervin said.
Tina sighed and tried to find every ounce of patience she had left. “Yes, Mervin. Rystin. Good job. Everyone knows about Rystin.”
“But that doesn’t even sound cool. Not like HaveHeart.”
“Like what?” Deidre asked.
“HaveHeart,” Delores said. “What’s that?”
“Is that a new thing I wasn’t even aware of?” Nicole demanded. “Tell me what it means!”
“Ooo,” Mary said, eyes going wide. “Oh my Gods, how could I have never seen that before? That’s perfect.”
“What is it?” Wanda asked. “Who are we shipping now? Tell me who to ship!”
No, Tina thought. No. No. No.
“It’s Ryan Foxheart and Sam Haversford,” Mary said. “The apprentice to the King’s Wizard.”
“Oh my gods,” Crissy moaned. “My ovaries.”
“This,” Courtney breathed. “This could totally be a thing.”
“The wizard?” Tina spat. “Are you all out of your godsdamn minds? What the hell does a wizard have to do with Ryan Foxheart? And HaveHeart? I have never heard of anything more ridiculous in my life! You can’t just ship names however you want. That’s not how this works. Rystin is real because they’re actually together. You can’t come in here and mess that up. They are meant to be together forever and they will have perfect babies and live perfect lives and everything will be wonderful and perfect and nothing will hurt ever again.”
She was breathing heavily by the time she finished.
So unbecoming of a lady of her merit.
Everyone else was staring at her, looks of fear on their faces.
Except for Mervin. Beyond the horror show that was his facial hair, she thought maybe he looked hurt for a moment. But it passed and he winked at her. “I dunno,” he said. “HaveHeart might just give Rystin a run for its money.”
And oh my gods, she despised him.
That night, she screamed into her pillow to try and rid herself of some of the rage welling up inside her.
It almost worked.
She prepared herself for war before each meeting, knowing for the first time in her life that she had an enemy that wouldn’t back down by the sheer force of her will alone.
Every time they met on the battlefield that was the tea shop, the verbal sparring was deep and cutting and she knew she won every single time, though Mervin didn’t seem to be adversely affected by her.
He just kept coming back for more.
She didn’t understand.
She thought maybe he was a demon.
And she knew it was her duty to rid the world of this evil.
They talked about HaveHeart almost as much as they talked about Rystin at the meetings.
Her governess told her the news that Prince Justin had been kidnapped by a dragon and that Sam of Wilds had been hurt in the process.
She’d never experienced such overwhelming pain and rapturous joy all at the same time.
It was a really odd feeling, like she had lady gas.
She grieved over Justin.
She hoped Sam of Wilds was burned over 94% percent of his body.
Tina knew she was an emotionally complex person.
Feelings were hard.
He was right there.
Knight Commander Ryan Foxheart.
He was standing near them.
He was talking to them.
Tina was almost at a loss for words. She couldn’t believe that the object of every sexual desire she’d ever had was standing right in front of them. Of her.
“Knight Commander,” she purred. “How very kind of you to take time out of your busy schedule to come and mingle with the ladies.”
Mervin muttered something, but she ignored him. She didn’t have time for him.
“Are you some kind of special group?” Ryan asked, and gods, even his voice caused goosebumps on her skin. She wondered if it would be too forward of her to ask if she could have a lock of his hair and be able to sniff his neck.
“Not just any social group,” she said. “This is the Ryan Foxheart Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter. We are the largest Foxheart Fan Club in all of the city of Lockes. We’re the Foxy Ladies.”
“Well,” Mary said, and who had given her any right to speak. “The Foxy People. We don’t discriminate.”
Tina decided to change the charter to allow discrimination.
“Fan Club?” Ryan asked and he sounded so surprised that Tina wanted to buy him cookies and feed them to him by hand. “Oh wow. He wasn’t kidding when he said that.”
“Who?” Tina asked, wondering just how far their reach had spread. She was going to be famous—
“Sam,” Ryan said. “He’s a…friend of mine.”
Sam of Wilds knew about them?
Tina was relieved there was nothing sharp within her reach because she feared she would stab someone. And everything just began to devolve from there.
“HaveHeart is where pairings go to die,” she growled, trying to regain control of this mess that was all Mervin’s fault, even if he’d been strangely quiet this whole time. “Long live Rystin!”
And it was made worse when Ryan said the stupidest thing ever.
“Do I know you from somewhere?” he asked Mervin. “You seem familiar.”
“Nope,” Mervin said quickly. “I don’t know you. I’m just here to do business. For my business.”
And Tina knew.
Mervin was lying.
She had underestimated him.
She wouldn’t allow that to happen again. She would find out what he was hiding.
It wasn’t until she yelled at Mervin for chasing Ryan away later that she realized she would probably have to kill him.
It was her turn to bring muffins to the next meeting. She would put so many blueberries in his. He was allergic. He would choke. He would die. And Tina would finally be free of him.
But Mervin never showed for the next meeting.
Or the one after that.
Or the one after that.
In fact, no one seemed to know where he went.
And when asked, no one around Castle Lockes had ever heard of a business man named Mervin before.
It was like he hadn’t really existed at all.
Tina should have been happy.
She was. Mostly.
But there was a small part of her that thought maybe it wasn’t over.
The day Justin and Ryan rode into town alone was the greatest day in the history of Verania. She was certain most everyone agreed. She went to the castle gates along with everyone else and cheered and screamed and cried when Justin stood with the Good King and Ryan, waving at the crowd, a tight smile on his face.
Ryan just looked miserable.
She hoped he was all right. He was probably ill and just super overwhelmed with finally being at home with the love of his life.
She didn’t see Sam of Wilds.
She hoped he’d been eaten by the dragon.
“Mother?” Tina said.
“You know how Justin is getting married to Ryan Foxheart?”
Her mother sighed. “Yes, dear.”
“We need to be invited.”
“That might be very hard to come by,” her mother said slowly. “You know how limited the invitations are going to be.”
Tina cocked her head. “Oh,” she said. “I can see how that was confusing for you. You thought I was asking a question. Let me try and make it clearer to you. Mother.”
Her mother coughed a little. Quite possibly in fear. “Yes?”
“We need to be invited,” Tina said.
Her mother nodded quickly. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“See?” Tina said. “That wasn’t so hard.”
It was going to be the best day ever.
She sat in an aisle seat. She had the most wonderful view of Ryan Foxheart standing at the altar. He looked so dashing and immaculate. Her armpits were sweating because of it.
She tried not to allow her extreme distaste show on her face as Ryan allowed that godsdamned horse belonging to Sam of Wilds saunter down the aisle like he owned the place. He was supposed to be a unicorn, but Tina had very serious doubts about his heritage, given that he didn’t even have a horn. He was followed by the gigantic moron that made up the last part of Sam of Wilds’ cabal, and she barely restrained the eye roll when he ran to follow the fauxicorn.
Sam was announced and Tina planned on smiling sweetly at him while thinking murderous thoughts in his direction. But she blamed it on the heat of the room when all she could do was glare at him as he walked toward her.
It mattered not. Today was her victory day.
Long live Rystin!
He stopped in front of her.
She paused fanning herself.
He looked at her.
She looked back at him.
She thought he was going to speak, which she found odd because he didn’t even know her. Who was he to think he could address her in front everyone? He was an embarrassment who didn’t deserve to even be mentioned in the same breath as Ryan Foxheart, much less stand next to him on the happiest day of Ryan’s life. Maybe he would—
“My muffins were never dry, you abhorrent wench,” Sam of Wilds said.
And then he winked.
Tina’s breath caught in her throat.
Her heart just about stopped.
She hissed, “You.”
“You’ll never prove it,” Sam of Wilds said before turning back down the aisle.
Now, it should be said that Lady Tina DeSilva had experienced anger most of her life. If asked, she would admit to having anger…issues, but nothing that she couldn’t control. Sure, there may have been times when her anger had gotten the better of her and she’d maybe punched someone in the throat or attempted to burn down their house, but that was perfectly normal for a sixteen year old girl thrust into womanhood. Hormones could get the better of you on a good day, so she couldn’t be held completely responsible for her actions when angered.
This was different.
Because this was a white-hot rage that she could barely even breathe around, much less focus her ire.
She was mortified.
She was furious.
She wanted to murder something cute.
She almost followed Sam down the aisle just to wrap her fingers around his throat and throttle him until his eyes rolled back into his head and his heart stopped.
And it wasn’t because he was Mervin.
It wasn’t because of HaveHeart.
It wasn’t because of anything having to do with Ryan or Justin.
No, it was because Sam of Wilds had gotten the upper hand over Tina.
And had done so for months.
It was almost like…like he…
Like he was smarter than her.
The boy from the slums.
Who hadn’t deserved anything, but had been given everything.
She thought it a very real possibility that she was about to scream, but she didn’t have her pillow to put her face into.
She was barely able to hold it back.
But she did.
Because she was Lady Tina De-fucking-Silva and she could do anything.
But, of course like any tragic hero, her downfall occurred only moments later and her true destiny began.
And it was all because of Ryan.
Ryan Foxheart, the one she had trusted.
The one she had loved.
And he was betraying her.
“Because,” Ryan Foxheart said. “I don’t love Justin. My heart belongs to another.”
She screamed internally.
Outwardly, her face was a frozen mask of surprise.
“My mother,” Ryan said, “told me that I had to follow my heart in all things. I thought I was. I thought I’d done what was right. But then I looked upon the stars and I wished for the one thing I wanted more than anything else. I didn’t believe it could ever come true or ever be mine, but then I held his lightning-struck heart, given freely and without reservation. And I would gladly treasure it for the rest of my days.”
He was talking about Sam.
Sam of Wilds.
HaveHeart was real.
Everyone around her sighed.
Tina only barely stopped herself from vomiting.
It wasn’t until later when the Darks burst into the throne room that she realized that this was just a mild bump in the road. As the Darks went to battle with the people of Verania, Tina knew with all of her heart that she could fix this.
This was her calling.
She had been put upon this earth for this very moment.
This was just a bump in the road.
She could fix this.
And should would.
She canceled the next few meetings of the Ryan Foxheart Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter, only because she needed some time away from it. She knew it would be a little while before she could even think about Ryan without wanting to kill every living thing in her path, so she took a break.
Granted, it was during this break that she actually plotted murder, but it was a necessary thing. After all, it wasn’t fair that Sam of Wilds could just come in and ruin everything.
And, to make matters worse, she was beginning to see just how beloved he was.
This was not something she expected.
For all her disdain of HaveHeart, for all her annoyance at Mervin or the others bringing up Sam again and again, the truth was that she really hadn’t given him much thought. She didn’t really talk about him, she didn’t really focus on others who did. Before this whole…mess, she just blocked him out. He was a non-entity to her. Sure, other people shipped him with Ryan, but there was no accounting for taste, right? After all, she’d known that the true relationship was Rystin, because they actually had been in a relationship.
But now that Sam had become a home wrecking twat, it was like he was everywhere.
And people adored him.
She heard many tales of how villains both big and small had been utterly charmed by Sam, even as they’d been in the process of trying to capture or kill him. How mystical creatures from fairies to dragons all wanted to ravage him…sexually. How he had two parents who worshipped the ground he walked on. How he had a mentor who was one of the greatest wizards of all time. How even the head wizard, Randall himself, as begrudging as it seemed, loved Sam. The godsdamn King of Verania bent over backwards and spread his legs for a wizard’s apprentice. Even Justin was seen with Sam after the whole wedding debacle. Granted, he was always grimacing and looking extremely putout, but still. Why was he not chopping off Sam’s head? There hadn’t been a good public beheading in a long while! Tina would attend! She would attend so hard!
All in all, Tina was not pleased.
At first, she thought that maybe Sam had cast a spell, its effects far-reaching, covering all corners of Verania. There were whispers of his immense power, and she wondered if it were possible for him to have brainwashed every single person until they though he shit rainbows and sunshine. Because seriously. No one could be that well liked.
But then, if that were the case, why wasn’t she affected?
Either she had an immunity to magic, or he hadn’t cast a spell at all.
She didn’t know which depressed her more.
But the more she subtly asked around, the more she saw that from the slums to the richest part of the City of Lockes, Sam had the ear and the will of the people.
And she didn’t know how to change that.
Then she thought maybe something was wrong with her and maybe Sam was just really likeable. But then she realized that couldn’t be further from the truth, because she was amazing and Sam of Wilds ruined everything good in the world, so it obviously couldn’t be true. She felt much better after deciding that.
Four weeks after the failed wedding, she had a brief thought that pierced through the fog of anger that she’d been shrouded in. She was sitting at her desk in her room, humming quietly as she used a letter opener to scratch the eyes out of picture after picture of Sam of Wilds she had gotten her hands on. Above her desk, on a shelf, sat two dolls. Each one had a picture sewn on to its face. The one on the left was Prince Justin. The one on the right was Knight Commander Foxheart. They were holding hands. It was wonderful.
And as she took a fresh picture of Sam of Wilds and starting scraping away his eyes, Tina had that brief thought, that very real thought.
Maybe I’m becoming too obsessed with this.
She laughed and shook her head
Of course she wasn’t obsessed with Sam of Wilds.
Why, that would just be ridiculous.
She placed out a notice, advising the members of the Ryan Foxheart Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter that the meetings would resume. In a moment of weakness, she sent a note to the castle addressed to Prince Justin, asking if he would like to come to the meeting. Granted, she didn’t call it the Ryan Foxheart Fan Club in the note, because she wasn’t callous, for heaven’s sake, but she would just be over the moon if you could attend. There will be muffins. Blueberry muffins. In fact, there might be many blueberry dishes so anyone that happens to be allergic to blueberries wouldn’t be able to come within a five mile radius without having a severe allergic reaction and dying a painful and horrible death on the streets while we watch and sip our tea and enjoy the summer afternoon.
She hoped he understood her subtlety.
(It would be the perfect crime.)
The day of the meeting, she dressed with her usual care. Her makeup was flawless. Her hair was perfect. She smiled at herself in the mirror. It was really a beautiful smile, she thought to herself. Anyone would be lucky to see it. Justin would certainly be pleased by it. Maybe even more than pleased.
Today was going to be most excellent.
She arrived early at the tea shop. The proprietor smiled at her, though it came out as more of a grimace. She let him know that they would take their tea outside today. She also asked if he’d gotten her order of blueberry muffins. And scones. And donuts. And pie. And juice. And crumble. And cobbler and pancakes and jams.
He had. He also inquired why she needed so many blueberry dishes. And that she’d better be good for it. And that maybe she should start looking for someplace else to hold these meetings.
She said, “You know, my father knows the owner of the buildings on these blocks. I would be so upset if you found yourself evicted and destitute and homeless and then got stabbed by a gang in an alleyway late one night.”
He gave her a discount.
She was seated at the head of the table when the others arrived.
Deidre took her place next to Tina, looking perpetually nervous, eyes cast down at her hands.
As soon as they were seated, Tina eyed each of them in turn, wondering if any of them had known about Mervin, if any of them were in on some plot to take over the fan club.
Her fan club.
She’d made the decision previously to keep Mervin’s identity a secret, to see if she could ferret out any further moles in the group. She didn’t trust a single lady at the table, aside from herself.
She paused when she stared at Mary. Mary seemed likely to have been in cahoots with Sam of Wilds. She always did try and crawl up Mervin’s ass while he was here. Most would have probably called it just being nice, but Tina knew it for what it was.
They began to fidget.
She said, “Welcome,” in a polite, even voice. “It is lovely to see you all again.”
They sighed and relaxed.
Tina was so good with little sheep. So, so good.
“Now,” she said. “Things have been…trying, to say the least.” She looked off into the distance, allowing her eyes to fill with tears. She sniffled, just a little bit, to add to the full effect. “As I am sure you are all aware, Rystin is….” She broke off purposefully, as if the thought alone was so overwhelming, it’d robbed her of her words. And it had been. At first. But she’d had time. To plan. To scheme.
Deidre hesitated only briefly before handing over a soft and embroidered handkerchief. Tina accepted it with a watery smile and dabbed her eyes daintily.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I thought I’d had time to accept it. But it’s still so hard.”
“I’m sure it is,” Mary said slowly. “But shouldn’t we just be happy that Ryan has the person he wanted to be with?”
“No, Mary, we don’t have to be happy about that,” Tina snapped, eyes drying almost instantly. “In fact, we shouldn’t be happy about that.”
“We…shouldn’t?” Nicole asked, sounding confused.
“I thought we were happy,” Wanda whispered to Crissy, who just shrugged.
“I like Sam,” Courtney said, and Tina wondered if anyone would miss Courtney if she was found accidentally dismembered.
“I thought this was just supposed to be about Ryan,” Deloris said.
“Exactly,” Tina said. “It is about Ryan. And his best interests. Which is why I have decided that we should consider renaming the club to the Rystin Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter. Because that would have Ryan’s best interests at heart.”
They stared at her.
“That’s not exactly what I meant—” Deloris tried to say.
“Thank you, Deloris,” Tina said loudly, overriding her. “Your input has certainly already been said. No need to rehash, my gods, do you ever stop talking. Now, since this really doesn’t need to be put up to a vote—”
“But,” Deidre said, “our bylaws say that we vote on everything—”
“Since everyone already agrees and there’s no need to vote, I suggest we move onto the second part of the meeting,” Tina said, kicking Deidre underneath the table.
“I didn’t know our meetings had parts,” Nicole said, sounding nervous. “Usually, we just talk about what we think Ryan Foxheart’s nipples look like for three hours.”
“I still think they are probably like little chocolates,” Wanda said. “That would melt in my mouth.”
“No one wants to hear about your weird sexual melting nipple kink, Wanda,” Tina said. “Your perversions are weird and should be never spoken aloud.” She took a deep breath and let it out slow, trying to regain her composure. “Now. As I was saying, the second part of today’s meeting happens to be an original real person fan fiction I’ve written about our two favorite people. Ryan and Justin. I’d like to read it aloud to you, if I may.”
“Is it going to be porny?” Wanda asked. “The last fan fiction you wrote and read aloud was seventeen thousand words of porn and it made me uncomfortable when you started describing felching in great detail. For seven minutes.”
“I’m only twelve,” Deidre said miserably. “I shouldn’t even know what felching is.”
“It’s not porn,” Tina said. “It’s beautiful lovemaking and should be cherished and respected and everyone will sit and listen to it and love it, so help me gods.”
“Where’s Mervin?” Mary asked, because she was the most evil bitch. “Shouldn’t he be here—”
Tina narrowed her eyes. “Mervin responded to my invitation and told me that he had lost his legs when he tried to fornicate with a bear, now can we please focus on my story?”
“He tried to what with a what?”
“My story!” Tina said shrilly. “Is called ‘Lover’s Loving Love: Don’t Go Rystin My Heart’.”
“Ooh,” the ladies said, because regardless of where their loyalties lay, no one could resist a fictionalized account of true love between real people.
This pleased Lady Tina greatly.
And she was going to rock the shit of this.
She said, “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful—”
“Here they are,” a voice trilled. “I knew we’d find them. I can’t believe he tried to keep this from us. That bitch. Who does he think he is?”
And it grated against Tina’s bones, because who dared to interrupt her story?
They all looked out onto the street and saw the oddest sight.
Standing there, looking expectant, was a unicorn and a half-giant.
Tina frowned, because they looked familiar.
But she couldn’t quite figure it out. For one, both the unicorn and the half-giant had long, brown beards that reminded her of a certain former member of the Fan Club who she would never waste another breath on. For a moment, she thought that maybe it was the unicorn and the half-giant that hung around with that asshole, but this unicorn had a horn. Sure, it was sitting at a weird angle and looked like it was made of paper and taped to his head, but Tina had never met a unicorn with a horn before and couldn’t say if that’s what they normally looked like.
“Who are you?” she asked suspiciously.
“Who are we?” the unicorn said. He turned and butted his head against the half-giant. “Oh my gods, it worked. I am a genius.”
“You a pretty genius,” the half giant rumbled.
“Thank you, kitten. I am pretty, aren’t I? I would say that it had to do with the strict skin care regiment I have going on, but you know what? Ninety percent of that is just my flawless genetics. I can’t not look pretty. It’s hard being this fabulous all the time.”
“I fabulous too,” the half-giant said. “My face is fabulous.”
“That it is, dear heart. Every time I see it, I want to kiss it.”
“We kissing buddies.”
“That we are. Though, don’t let my better half hear you say that. He would probably ask to sit there and watch. He’s so perverted, it’s adorable.”
“Excuse me,” Lady Tina said. “Just who are you and why are you interrupting us?”
“Oh,” the unicorn said. “We’re…from out of town. Visiting. Yes, visiting for the first time. Ever. Small town visitors in the big city! Doing the touristy stuff. We heard about this magical club from…people. And we wanted to come and witness the…joy that is apparently you. I mean Ryan Foxheart. Because he is…dreamy.” The unicorn grimaced. “Or something.”
“Knight Delicious Face in my dreams,” the half-giant agreed.
“New members!” Nicole said, clapping her hands. “It’s been so long since we’ve had new members.”
“Mervin was the last,” Mary said sadly.
“Yes,” the unicorn said, sounding slightly strangled. “Mervin. Your last new member.”
“I know Mervin,” the half-giant said. “He’s—”
“The one who told us about this fan club,” the unicorn said quickly. “And how he misses all of you and wishes he could be here.”
“He did?” the half-giant. “But I thought he said we couldn’t come and you lied and said we wouldn’t and here we are.”
“Something like that,” the unicorn said.
“Something like that,” the unicorn said.
“What the hell,” Tina muttered. Then, “Fine. Whatever. What are your names?”
“Uhh,” the unicorn said, shifting his eyes side to side. “Larry. And this is my best friend…Wiggy.”
“We scope out mens,” Wiggy said.
“That is a thing we do, yes,” Larry said. “We’re all about the mens.”
“We take the matter of Ryan Foxheart very seriously here,” Tina said. “If you don’t think you can worship at the altar that is his everything, then I’m sure there are other clubs you can join, even if they’ll most likely be terrible and shameful and nothing like mine.”
“Right,” Larry said. “I take Ryan Foxheart very seriously.”
“That’s not your serious face,” Wiggy said.
“I didn’t know unicorns could grow beards,” Nicole said.
“Do you know any other unicorns?” Larry asked.
“Okay then,” Larry said. “Shut up.”
“I like him,” Nicole said to the others.
They murmured their assent.
Tina, of course, hated them on principle. It wouldn’t do to have new people thinking she was a pushover. She wouldn’t stand for any dissension in the ranks. She knew she had to rule with an iron fist to make sure the club didn’t go off course more than it already had. The disgusting tragedy that was the HaveHeart reality had already shaken the very foundation of what she stood for. If she was a lesser person, she probably would have already been plotting ways to remove the Have from the HaveHeart. Luckily for everyone, Tina wasn’t a lesser person and only plotted these plots in her head. Some of her favorite dreams were when Sam, dressed as Mervin, was mauled by a manticore and then dropped off a cliff into a lake of lava, where he died a slow, miserable, and painful death while she sat in a comfortable chair above him sipping lemonade and spectating.
Besides, she didn’t even know where she could get a manticore.
“So you decided you want to come to a Ryan Foxheart fan club meeting because of your deep and abiding love for all things Ryan Foxheart?” Tina asked Larry and Wiggy.
“Yes,” Larry said. “My deep and abiding love.”
“It’s so deep,” Wiggy said. “All the way deep.”
“It’s so deep,” Wiggy said. “All the way deep.”
“What is your favorite thing about him?” Tina asked, narrowing her eyes.
“Um,” Larry said. “There’s…so many things. I don’t know if I could pick just one.”
“Try,” Tina said.
“Okay. Um. Like. You know when he…talks? About stuff?”
“Talkin’ bout stuff,” Wiggy agreed.
“What stuff?” Tina asked.
“Like,” Larry said. “Puppies.”
The fan club sighed. “Do you remember when he helped fund the charity for the animal shelter?” Crissy asked. “He was laying on the ground and all those puppies were climbing all over him.”
“It gave me feelings,” Nicole admitted. “You know. Down there. He always gives me feelings down there.”
“It gave me feelings,” Nicole admitted. “You know. Down there. He always gives me feelings down there.”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Tina muttered, even though she agreed.
“I can’t get those feelings yet,” Deidre said, sounding sad.
“You’ll get there,” Mary said. “I, for one, can’t wait until their over. I’m stuck right in the middle of hot flashes these days. There are days I just want to sit on a block of ice and never move.”
“I would sit on Ryan Foxheart,” Wanda blurted. “If he was a block of ice. Or a person. Or anything, really.”
“Of course you would,” Delores said. “He’s just the right size to sit on.”
“And his hands,” Crissy said. “Have you seen the size of his hands?”
“I want him to spank me!” Courtney shrieked slightly, face turning red. “My husband won’t do it, but I want Ryan Foxheart to!”
“And I bet it would be a really good spanking,” Nicole said, eyes glinting. “His hands are all calloused from carrying that big sword of his.”
“Oh my gods,” Larry choked out. “This is what you guys talk about the whole time? No wonder S…uh, Mervin, loved being here so much. This is amazing.”
“Is he still creepy Mervin?” Wiggy whispered loudly.
“So creepy,” Larry said. “We have to give him so much shit for this later. This is a smut club!”
“It is not a smut club,” Tina growled. “We talk about very real issues here pertaining to Ryan Foxheart.”
“I’ve seen his abs,” Larry said.
“What?” Nicole said. “How in the name of fuck did you—no. No. You will tell me everything, or I swear to the gods—”
“And there’s the hot flash,” Mary said, fanning herself.
“My husband doesn’t have abs,” Courtney said. “He drinks too much beer and has a hairy belly button. I am disappointed with all my life’s choices.”
“Do you think he touches his abs with his hands?” Crissy wondered aloud. “Like, just…sits there with his shirt off and just…rubs his stomach?”
Deidre burst into tears as she wailed, “I will never get to see him do that!”
“How many does he have?” Wanda asked. “A six pack? An eight pack? Oh my gods, a twelve pack?”
“I want to roll around on them,” Delores announced loudly. “And maybe put chocolate on them and tell him he’s been a bad boy, a very bad boy and then I would spank him and then I would wrap him in a blanket and rock him to sleep and he would be mine forever.”
“This is so much better than I could even dream about,” Larry breathed.
“Are these all crazy ladies?” Wiggy whispered to Larry.
“Probably,” Larry said. “But that means Mervin was a crazy lady too.”
Wiggy frowned. “I can see that.”
“Mervin wasn’t about the abs,” Mary said. “Not really.”
“Oh gods,” Larry said. “Are you going to tell me he was all about Ryan’s heart or his intelligence or his charity or something gross like that?”
“Of course not,” Mary said. “Mervin likes Ryan’s ass.”
“That’s my boy,” Larry crowed.
“Everyone shut the fuck up!” Tina shouted.
Everyone flinched except for the two new people. That was okay. She’d cow them soon enough.
“Are you finished?” she asked, knowing her tone implied no one should answer that question for fear of evisceration.
“Yes,” Larry said. “So finished.”
Tina glared at him.
Larry batted his eyelashes at her as he tossed his mane.
She felt herself melting a little bit because oh my gods unicorns were so beautiful and perfect and—
She shook her head. No. She wouldn’t be so easily taken in.
“Before we were…interrupted—”
“Rude,” Larry said.
“—I was getting ready to share the original Rystin love story I wrote. Because everyone knows the world needs more Rystin.”
“What’s Rystin?” Wiggy asked Larry.
“That whole Justin Ryan thing,” Larry said.
“That’s no thing,” Wiggy said, looking slightly angry. “Ryan loves Sam.”
“Boom,” Larry said. “Truth bomb just got all up in your shit.”
Tina knew that the unicorn and the half-giant were protected by law (and also that murdering something as pure and innocent as a unicorn was an affront to the gods and nature), but she still couldn’t help but wonder what their blood would look like spilled upon the ground.
“This is why it’s fiction, dear,” Mary said.
Tina was barely able to hold back the scream. Because it wasn’t fiction. There had been a time when Ryan and Justin had been desperately in love before it’d been ruined by Sam of Wilds. Their love had burned so brightly. They had been devoted to each other. Ryan worshipped the ground Justin walked on, everyone knew that. And then a fucking wizard’s apprentice had to come along and ruin everything—
“Why is she grinding her teeth like that?” Larry asked.
“Because of the rage,” Deidre whispered, wide-eyed. “Leave before it consumes you too. It’s far too late for me. But you…you can still—”
“The story,” Tina snarled, “is called ‘Lover’s Loving Love: Don’t Go Rystin My Heart’.”
Larry’s lips twitched under his beard. “What.”
“It’s an original work about two star crossed lovers, Ryan and Justin.”
“No,” Larry said. “But seriously. What.”
“The last one was porn,” Nicole whispered to Larry and Wiggy.
“I am so down for this,” Larry said. “Wiggy, darling, we’re staying. I want to hear the story about Justin and Ryan porn love or whatever.”
“What’s porn?” Wiggy asked.
“Do I like butt sex?”
“Probably. Everyone does.”
“This is true,” Nicole said.
“I like butt sex,” Wiggy decided, and Tina almost chucked her tea cup at his head as he sat down next to the table and gathered the unicorn up in his arms and pulling him onto his lap.
“Aaah,” Larry said, wiggling until he was comfortable. “That’s so much better.” He looked at Tina expectantly.
She stared back.
“You can begin,” Larry said, as if it were obvious.
She bit the inside of her cheek so hard, she tasted blood.
But she would not be deterred.
She’d worked hard on this story.
It was a labor of love, and she was its mother, having pushed until it’d fallen out of her, gasping for breath.
She couldn’t have been more proud.
She cleared her throat and began to read.
Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Verania, there was a coffee shop called Middle of the Knight. There was a barista there by the name of Justin. Justin loved working at Middle of the Knight, because all of the knights came in for coffee.
But there was one knight that was different from all the rest.
His name was Ryan, and Justin was smitten.
The problem was that Justin was really shy and couldn’t think of a lot to say. But Justin was super smart and read many books and people loved him and thought he was a great person, better than wizards and other people like wizards.
[“Ooh,” Larry said. “This has already raised my low expectations.”]
Tina did her best to ignore him.]
But the biggest problem Justin had was that Ryan already had a boyfriend.
And his boyfriend was most evil asshole in all of Verania.
None one liked Ryan’s boyfriend, and sometimes, Justin thought maybe Ryan’s boyfriend was abusive. He certainly looked like he would be. He had little weasel eyes and a weird face and he smelled like animals that had died on the side of the road.
[“I bet I know who Ryan’s boyfriend is,” Larry said, sounding gleeful. “I didn’t know that I’d been living until this moment.”
“No spoilers!” Deidre yelped.]
And also, everyone knew that Ryan loved Justin, but they couldn’t be together because Ryan didn’t know Justin felt the same and because of his boyfriend who was awful and terrible and should have died a long time ago. No one would have missed him if he died. Like, not even a single person at all. No one would even be sad. Even his parents. They’d be happy.
One day, Ryan came into the coffee shop and said, “Hi, Justin.”
Justin, who was enamored at the sight of Ryan and all his magnificent glory (his muscles were bronzed and looked really strong and he was having a great hair day and was wearing tight pants, like super tight pants that should off how strong his thighs were and how nice his buttocks looked), tried not to blush when Ryan talked to him.
“Aww,” Ryan cooed. “Are you blushing?”
“Ryan,” Justin giggled. “Stop it.”
[“Oh my gods,” Larry moaned. “This is amazing.”
Tina, not really used to receiving compliments, scowled at the unicorn.]
“How is my favorite barista today?” Ryan asked.
“I’m your favorite?” Justin asked, shocked because he hadn’t known that. It caused tingling in his stomach and groin area.
“Yeah,” Ryan said. “You’re my favorite about a lot of things.”
“Thanks,” Justin said. “I know I’m not, like, a wizard, or anything.”
Ryan looked like he was going to be sick. “I’m glad you’re not a wizard.”
“You are?” Justin asked. “But, I’m just a barista. I can’t do magic and I am not rich or anything.”
“You’re rich in your heart,” Ryan said huskily.
[“In his heart,” Larry cried. “Wiggy! In his heart.”
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Wiggy admitted.]
There was a moment when Justin thought Ryan was going to lean in and kiss him, but cold, harsh reality set in when Ryan’s stupid boyfriend came into the shop.
“Oh no,” Ryan exclaimed. “Everything is going to be ruined now.”
And it was.
Because Sam of Wilds was here.
[“Plot twist,” Larry said, hoof/fist-bumping Wiggy. “I never saw that coming.
“We did,” Nicole said. “Because it’s pretty much every story.”
“Nicole,” Tina said, acid sweet, “maybe keep your godsdamn opinion to yourself.”
“Meep,” Nicole said.]
“Ryan!” Sam of Wilds snarled. “Why the fuck are you not at home in the kitchen where you belong! My stomach isn’t going to feed itself!”
[“That….is surprisingly accurate,” Larry muttered.
“What?” Tina said.
“What?” Larry said. “I mean, continue! This is sooo good.”]
Ryan shoulders slumped, and Justin hated the sight. Ryan should always stand tall, and not be cowed down by anyone. But especially a wizard’s apprentice.
“Hi, Sam,” Ryan said dully, the light leaving his beautiful eyes. “Please don’t be angry. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” Sam hissed, his unattractive features getting even more unattractive, if that were possible. “I came home from a hard day of doing absolutely nothing, only to find my sex den empty. I told you that you should always be waiting for me with your ass in the air and a godsdamn sandwich.”
[“Wait,” Larry said. “So. Just to be clear. Ryan should be at home in the kitchen with his ass in the air? And a sandwich? Remind me never to eat in that kitchen.”
“I don’t want ass sandwiches,” Wiggy said, petting Larry’s mane. “I like peanut butter.”]
But, you see, Justin couldn’t stand by and just watch this happen. Not anymore. He knew that Sam of Wilds was evil and shouldn’t be allowed to even be within a mile of the glory that was Ryan Foxheart. Ryan deserved to be treated like the precious jewel that he was.
Sam stalked forward as Ryan tried to step back, cowering under Sam’s raised fist. “Bwahaha,” Sam cackled evilly. “HaveHeart for life, motherfuckers!”
“No, Sam!” Ryan screamed. “You can’t!”
“I can do what I want!” Sam shouted liked a little bitch. “I’m Sam of Wilds. Everyone loves me! I put a spell on all of them to make sure they could never not love me!”
[“That would explain a lot,” Larry said. “Also, he does shout like a little bitch sometimes.”
“HaveHeart for life, motherfuckers,” Wiggy agreed.]
A spell? Justin thought. Of course that’s the reason! He knew it had to have been something nefarious. That would be the absolute only explanation, because Sam of Wilds had no redeeming qualities, looked shabby, did not dress very well, and maybe one of his eyes was lazy. He also probably smelled bad, had an offensive attitude, and literally no one in Verania could actually like him.
Justin hopped over the counter like a boss.
[“Like a boss?” Larry choked out. “Oh my gods.”
“Hey!” Tina barked. “That was good!”
“Yeah,” Larry said. “It was so boss.”]
Right when Sam was about to punch Ryan in the duodenum, Justin caught Sam’s fist and stopped it before he bruised all that prettiness.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Sam demanded incredulously. “Don’t you have any idea who I am?”
“You won’t touch him again,” Justin growled. “No one deserves to be treated that way.”
“Bwahaha!” Sam said. “He belongs to me. I can treat him however I want! He’s not a person, he’s a possession.”
“Never!” Justin cried. And then he punched Sam in the throat.
[“Whoa,” Larry said. “That seemed overkill. Sam just wanted to get back what belong to him, and Justin throat punches him? Harsh.”
“Oh no, Sam!” Wiggy cried.
“Ryan doesn’t belong to anyone,” Tina said. “He’s like a bird. He should never be caged.”
“Except by Justin.”
“They’re in true love!”
“Yikes,” Larry said.]
Sam started gagging, unable to take a breath because Justin’s mighty fist.
[“Gross,” Larry said. “That sounded like something else.”
“Like what?” Wiggy asked.
“Like what?” Wiggy asked.
“Fisting, kitten. It sounded like fisting.”
“Gross,” Wiggy said with a frown.]
Ryan clutched at the back of Justin’s shirt, whimpering. “He could hurt you,” Ryan said. “Justin, you can’t let him do that. Please, just let me go. I will deal with his unending rage. Please. Just let me go.”
“Never, baby,” Justin said, voice deep and awesome and sexy. “I could never let you go.”
Ryan’s eyes widened. “What?” he whispered. “Justin, don’t say it if you don’t mean it. My heart couldn’t take it.”
Justin turned and took Ryan into his arms. “I will always mean it when it comes to you, baby,” he said, staring into Ryan’s eyes and falling even more in love. “You make me soar.”
“Oh, Justin,” Ryan said. “I ache for you. In my loins.”
[“My gods,” Larry said. “If anyone tells you that your prose is too purple, you tell them that a unicorn said there’s no such thing. You purple the shit out of this.”
Tina wasn’t sure if that had been a compliment or not.]
“I know, baby,” Justin said. “I also ache for you in my loins. And soon, I’ll help you get rid of that ache. For life.”
Ryan’s eyes filled with tears. “For true?”
“For true,” Justin promised, and leaned over to taste those plump lips.
But before he could, he felt….the building of magic behind him!
He whirled around, heart pounding in his chest.
Sam stood, no longer gagging because of Justin’s fist.
[“You may want to revise that part,” Larry said. “If you’re taking constructive criticism.”
“I’m not,” Tina snapped.]
His hands were above his head and were glowing with an unholy and unnatural light. “If I can’t have him,” Sam shrieked, “then no one will!”
Magic shot from his hands and as the coffee shop began to crumble around them, Justin threw himself over Ryan to protect him. Because Ryan was beautiful and fragile and needed a strong man to take care of him
And then everything went dark.
[“You best not be leaving this on a cliffhanger!” Larry cried. “I will fucking cut you.”
“Yeah,” Wiggy said. “Cut you so hard.”
Tina couldn’t help but feel pleasure that her story was being so well received.]
Justin opened his eyes. He was in the hospital.
[“Oh my gods,” Larry breathed. “Of course he was in the hospital. And then Ryan is going to come in and confess his love to him! A hospital scene in a gay romance? Why, this has never been done before! So fresh and exciting.”
“Stop spoiling my story!”
“Oops. My bad. Carry on.”]
Now where was I. Right. He was in the hospital. He blinked slowly, trying to clear his head.
He felt a pressure on his hands. He turned to look.
Ryan was sitting in a chair next to him, holding his hand. He was asleep, laying hunched over onto the bed. Justin had never seen someone more beautiful.
“Hey,” Justin said softly. “Baby. Wake up.”
“Stop it,” Ryan muttered. “Tryna sleep.” He smacked his lips.
[“Aww,” the fan club sighed.
“He’s so adorable when he wakes up,” Deidre sighed.
“I bet that’s what happens in real life,” Nicole said. “He’s hard to wake up and he’s hard when he wakes up. Am I right, ladies?”]
“Baby,” Justin said again. “Open those pretty eyes for me.”
Ryan opened his eyes. Gods, they were gorgeous. Blue like the ocean. Like ice in the ocean. Reflected by stars. In the middle of winter. They were that blue.
“Justin?” Ryan whispered. “Is that really you?”
“Yeah, baby,” Justin said. “It’s me. Are you all right?”
Ryan’s eyes filled with tears. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be all right again.”
[“Ryan sure cries a lot in this,” Larry said.
“That’s because he’s sensitive,” Tina said. “He’s not afraid of his feelings and knows that Justin is the love his life and stop interrupting me, oh my gods.”
“Cries like a little bitch,” Larry coughed.
“What?” Tina said.
“Sorry,” Larry said. “Allergies.”]
“You’ll be okay,” Justin said deeply, voice masculine and attractive and, like, the best thing ever. “Because I’ll be here to make you okay.”
“You promise?” Ryan asked, a tear tracking its way down his cheek. “Because I don’t know if I can do this without you. I don’t know if I want to do this without you.”
“You’ll never have to,” Justin said. He reached up and cupped Ryan’s face, thumb brushing away the tears. Ryan nuzzled into his hand.
“Baby,” Justin said with a chuckle, “you don’t want to keep doing that.”
“Doing what?” Ryan said innocently, still rubbing his face on Justin’s hand.
“You know what, you little minx. You’re going to make me ravage you right here.”
“Maybe I want that,” Ryan said. “Maybe I want you to ravage me. Just take what you want when you want it. Do you want to take me, Justin? Just fucking rail into me?”
[“Um,” Larry said. “What.”
“This is where she gets porny,” Nicole whispered.
“Wiggy, cover your ears,” Larry said.
“But I want to get porny,” Wiggy said, pouting.
“Fine,” Larry said with a sigh. “But you do not get to come crying to me when you get an inappropriate erection.”]
“Baby,” Justin said. “I’m in the hospital. You’ve been through a trauma. You might have PTSD. I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
“You won’t be,” Ryan said, chest heaving. “And even if I do have PTSD, I just know that making love to you will cure it.”
[“I don’t know if that’s supported by medical science,” Larry said.
“I want porn,” Wiggy said with a scowl.]
Justin couldn’t argue with that. He knew that lovemaking had the power to cure even the most severe psychological disorders. “Far be it for me to argue with that,” he said, and Ryan giggled above him, light and happy.
“Come here,” Justin said. “Let me taste those luscious lips of yours.”
“Be gentle with me,” Ryan whispered as he leaned down over the hospital bed railing.
“Always,” Justin whispered.
And then their lips met for the first time. Justin thought fireworks were exploding behind his eyes. Ryan’s lips were hot and wet and when he groaned, lips parting, Justin took that as an invitation to lick into his mouth.
[“Lick into his mouth?” Larry said, sounding incredulous. “That doesn’t sound very sanitary.”
“It’s sexy,” Tina insisted.
“Riiiiight,” Larry said.]
Their tongues dueled and danced, mapping out each other’s mouths, tracing over gums and teeth. Justin tried to stick his tongue in as far as he could, wanting to taste the back of Ryan’s throat.
[“Riiiiiiight,” Larry said.]
Ryan pulled away, panting, lips slick with spit. “I’m burning up for you,” he said, voice hoarse. “I need more, Justin. I need you.”
Justin knew exactly what Ryan needed, because they were destined to be together forever and would love each other and have babies and grow old together. “You should take off your pants,” Justin said. “And let me swallow your dick.”
[Wiggy covered his ears.]
Ryan did just that, sliding his pants down his thick, hairy, muscular thighs. He wasn’t wearing any underwear, and his penis was so erect. Justin thought it had to be at least 10 inches long.
[Larry started cackling. “B-b-b-bullshit,” he managed to say.
“I don’t know if I’m supposed to be hearing this,” Deidre said.
Tina glared at her. “You will sit there and you will listen. And Larry, you better stop laughing! This is a serious thing!”
“T-ten inches my a-a-ass.”]
“Yeah,” Justin said. “That’s the good stuff.”
Ryan pushed his dick between the railing of the hospital bed and Justin just went to town on it. He sucked on it so hard and good and licked it all over. He got it really wet and Ryan’s dick was just weeping all this pre-come, and Justin could taste the bitter tang of it on his tongue. He reached down and tugged on Ryan’s balls as Ryan cried out above him, shouting Justin’s name, begging for more, saying that Justin was the best he’d ever had and no one else could do as good as him and that they were totally going to be boyfriends after this.
Justin pulled off Ryan’s dick and said, “Yeah, that sounds good to me,” and then sucked on it some more.
“I’m going to come if you keep doing that,” Ryan said.
Justin backed off, dragging his tongue on the shaft. “Don’t want that,” he said. “I don’t want you to come until I’m inside you.”
“Really?” Ryan asked, sounding breathless and super turned on. “I’ve never done that before.”
Justin hesitated. “You mean Sam never…”
Ryan shook his head. “No, Sam was a selfish lover who only took what he wanted from me. He made me top him all the time because he was a little bottom bitch. I’ve never gotten to experience the pleasure of being with a real man before.”
[“Bottom Ryan is my favorite Ryan,” Wanda said.
Larry just continued to laugh, tears streaming down his face.]
“Well, I’m glad of that,” Justin said. “I’ll be your first.”
“And my last,” Ryan said shyly.
“Yeah, baby, I’ll be your last.”
Justin pulled up his hospital gown and his penis was engorged and amazing-looking.
“How big are you?” Ryan asked.
“Twelve inches,” Justin responded.
[“How are you coming up with these measurements?” Larry wheezed.]
“Oh my,” Ryan said. “That’s so much bigger than Sam. I’m going to feel that in my intestines.”
“Yeah you will,” Justin said. “Now get up here and sit on my face and I will tongue fuck your butt and get you ready for my big dick. You can suck me and get me ready down there.”
[“Whyyyyy are you doing this?” Larry moaned.
“I need an adult!” Wiggy cried.]
Ryan didn’t waste any time as he crawled up on the bed, facing the other direction from Justin’s face. Justin reached up and grabbed dat ass, parting the cheeks. His butthole was a winking rosebud, and Justin was going to be the bee that pollinated that flower.
[“Yeah,” Crissy said. “You be that bee. You just buzz all over it. Cross-pollinate the shit out of it. Complete that ecosystem.”
[“I don’t think we should be at this meeting,” Larry said to Wiggy in a low voice.
“Happy place,” Wiggy said, rocking back and forth. “Find my happy place.”]
Justin darted his tongue out and licked Ryan’s butt. Ryan mewled through a mouthful of Justin’s dick, pressing his ass closer to Justin’s tongue. He gasped when Justin gripped his hips, holding him in place, pressing his face as far as it could go into Ryan’s ass. Justin continued to lick, face smeared with saliva. Ryan’s musk was intoxicating.
[“His musk?” Larry asked shrilly. “His ass musk? Oh, child, No, no, child. What are you doing. What are you doing.”
Tina knew what she was doing. She was a master of the erotic. She’d read enough of it by now that she knew exactly how to titillate.]
“Yeah,” Ryan said as he licked the tip of Justin’s dick. “Get your whole face up in there.” He reached behind him to the back of Justin’s head, holding him in place as he ground his ass back.
Justin was just buried in dat ass, and it was a religious experience. The love he felt for Ryan swelled his heart and penis.
Eventually, Justin’s jaw tired from all the amazing rimming. He pulled away from dat ass and said, “You need to ride me, baby boy.”
“Yes, Daddy,” Ryan said.
[“Hold up a minute,” Larry said. “Did he just say what I think he said.”
“Daddy kink,” Wiggy said, sounding forlorn. “There’s daddy kink.”
“The best kind of kink,” Deidre breathed.]
“That’s it, baby boy,” Justin said as Ryan turned himself around. “You know what Daddy likes.”
“Oh, Daddy,” Ryan said. “I love you so much. You are my everything and anyone that I was with before you or may be with in some absolutely insane alternate reality will never compare to the way you make my hole flutter with desire.”
[“Hup,” Larry gagged. “Hup. Hup.”]
“I’m going to fuck you so hard,” Justin promised. “So hard that you’ll be dripping me for days.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ryan moaned. “Put it in me. Just fucking stick that shit in my ass.”
[“That was unfortunately phrased,” Larry whispered to Wiggy, who was nodding with wide eyes.]
And that’s what he did. He stuck that shit right in Ryan’s ass. He didn’t even give his baby boy a chance to get used to it, he just put all twelve inches up in his ass in one smooth motion. Ryan keened above him, arching his neck back, riding Justin like he was a prized race horse.
[“That is so racist,” Larry hissed. “Oh my gods, how dare you.”
“There, there,” Wiggy said. “I sing for you?”
Larry looked at him with tears in his eyes.
“I sing for you,” Wiggy decided. And then remarkably, he actually started singing. “Cheeeeesy dicks and candle sticks, and broomsticks and cats and muffins and turtles—”
“I don’t think that’s how the song goes,” Larry said fondly (and also suspiciously dry-eyed).]
Ryan was writhing above him, and Justin was giving it to him hard, feet planted on the hospital bed, hips snapping up, thrusting into that previously unexplored cavern. He was spelunking into depths never before spelunked by any man.
“I am going to come in you,” Justin growled. “And then I’m going to eat it out of you.”
“Yeah, Daddy,” Ryan gasped. “And then I will lick it out of your mouth because we’re nasty, aren’t we. Daddy, we’re so nasty.”
[“Nope,” Larry said. “Nope, nope. I can’t even with this. You are one kinky fucking broad. I am blushing. Me. Gary. The queen of sexual perversion Who the fuck are you that you can make me—why are you all staring at me like that?”]
Tina’s hand’s tightened on the papers. “What did you just say?”
The unicorn rolled his eyes. “I’m just saying that you are certainly kinkier than I thought.”
“That I’m the queen of sexual perversion?”
“Um. Oh! I was blushing. Really, you should learn to listen better. Well, I don’t really care if you listen better to anyone else, just me, so—”
“After that,” Tina growled.
“What? Oh. Uh. I said…What did I say?”
“You called yourself Gary,” Wiggy said helpfully. “Even though we disguised and you told me I couldn’t call you that even though your name Gary and my name Tiggy.”
“Right,” Gary said. “I did say that, didn’t I? Kitten, we couldn’t call ourselves our real names if we were going incognito. We’re spies, for heaven’s sake. It’s all about the intrigue and—oh. Right. I see the problem here now.”
Gary and Tiggy looked at Tina.
A nice breeze came along and blew the unicorn’s horn off.
It fluttered to the ground.
Before the Rystin Fan Club Castle Lockes Chapter stood a hornless gay unicorn and a half-giant.
The hornless gay unicorn and half-giant.
Tina glared furiously at both of them, rising slowly to her feet. Spies? In her fan club?
Not. Fucking. Likely. Her hand gripped the butter knife on the table. It wouldn’t do much damage, but it would at least spill some blood. And that would be enough to start.
“Well,” Gary said. “This is super awkward. And you’re looking slightly murdery in your eyes. So. This has just been fun, right? Oh my gods, yes. So much fun. But Tiggy and I have this…thing. We have to do to. Very important. We’re just going to go. To that thing.”
Tina stood up, pulling herself up to her full height of four feet eight inches of pure, raging, sixteen year old girl.
“Oh my gods,” Gary said. “Your face. It’s so red and you look like you’re going to eep!” He choked off when she raised the knife and started stalking around the table.
“I smash?” Tiggy growled, fists clenching at his sides.
“Yes!” Gary shouted. “Tiggy smash! No, wait. Dammit. You can’t smash her. It would ruin the dress she’s wearing and do you know how expensive that thing is?”
“I smash,” Tiggy said.
But instead of smashing Tina, who was only really thinking about bathing in unicorn blood, the half-giant smashed the wooden table between all of them. All the ladies of the fan club shrieked as they fell backward. Tina was knocked off her feet, landing on a pile of Deidre, who grunted about Tina’s elbow stabbing her spleen.
“Run, Tiggy!” Gary screamed.
“GWAAAAAH!” Tiggy shrieked, hands flailing above his head as the unicorn and the half-giant ran toward the castle.
Tina listened as sound of the unicorn’s hooves against the cobblestone faded into nothing.
“Are you okay?” Crissy asked.
And Lady Tina DeSilva said, “I’m fine,” in a soft, flat voice that caused everyone within hearing distance to get goosebumps.
“Are you okay?” her mother asked her later that night.
Tina didn’t even look at her mother over the dinner table, just continued to blankly stare at the far wall when she said, “I’m fine.”
Her mother knew that tone of voice.
“Are you okay?” her governess asked her a few days later on the way to school.
Only the skin under Tina’s eye twitched when she said, “I’m fine.”
That night, the governess locked her bedroom door. It had nothing to do with the fact that Tina slept right down the hall. It was just safer that way.
“Are you okay?” a teacher asked her three days later.
Tina didn’t even looked up from her desk, where she was writing feverishly on a piece of paper. The scratch of the pen came to a brief halt and Tina said, “I’m fine.” The pen started moving again.
The teacher hurried away. Later, she would find the paper Tina had been writing on. The same thing was written over and over again.
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
RYSTIN IS FOREVER
The teacher shuddered and threw away the paper. She wouldn’t say a single word about it. She was paid enough to deal with crazy bitches.
And on and on it went.
Lady Tina DeSilva was fine.
She was fine.
She was fine.
But there was a way she could be better.
HaveHeart was just…a minor detour.
Rystin was for life.
Rystin was forever.
She couldn’t be the only one who despised the very ground Sam of Wilds walked on.
The street urchin from the slums.
The boy who’d had everything handed to him, regardless of his station.
Just because he could do magic.
And that wasn’t enough, no.
He had been given everything, yes, but he had also taken everything.
He had taken Ryan.
He had taken away from Justin.
He had taken Rystin.
He had taken away from Tina.
And that was unforgiveable.
Surely, she wasn’t alone.
She couldn’t be alone in this.
She was fine.
She decided to place an ad in the paper.
Much like the one she’d seen for the fan club.
Maybe she could find others like her.
It seemed like a shot in the dark.
But she needed to do it. Because she was fine.
The ad appeared four days later.
It was in the bottom left corner of the last page in the paper.
It was simple and neat and straight to the point.
It laid out a brief over view of the new club and proposed a date to meet the following week.
All she had to do was wait.
The day of the meeting, Lady Tina DeSilva awoke bright and early. The sun was shining. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was going to be such a lovely day.
She put on her makeup with extra care.
Her hair was curled lusciously around her face and neck.
She wore her prettiest dress. It was blue, with little white ribbons on it.
She stood in front of the mirror, making sure everything was in place.
“Perfect,” she said with the tiniest smile. She reached up and pulled off the picture she had of Rystin, from that newspaper she’d seen them in the first time so very long ago. “I’ll save you,” she whispered, running her finger along their faces. “I promise I’ll save you. Because I love you both very, very, much.”
She placed a sticky kiss against them.
She put it back on the corner of the mirror.
The morning noise on the street below rose as she closed her bedroom door behind her.
She had hoped two or three people would show up. Maybe four, if she was lucky.
Realistically, she thought maybe one, if any at all.
So imagine her surprise when she arrived at the same tea shop she’d held the fan club meetings and found a large crowd gather.
At first, she thought maybe they were all there for the tea.
But then they all turned to look at her, conversations dying down as they watched her.
Waiting for her.
There were dozens of them.
Men and women, young and old.
The rich, the poor.
The peasants and the upper class.
Everything in between.
It was glorious.
“Hello,” she said, voice raised and clear. “I believe you are all here for me. I have called you here because we are united under a common goal. You are here because you agree that this has gone on far too long. That we are supposed to trust the future of Verania in the hands of one who acts like the favored son. Who brings nothing put pain and misery down on the Veranian name. Who whispers in your King’s ears his little plots and plans, poisoning him until he is nothing but a puppet. You are here because it’s time to bring this to an end.”
Her heart was pounding.
She was out of breath.
Her palms were sweaty.
And she’d never felt more alive.
This was her calling.
These were her sheep.
She would allow them to flock around her and she would guide them with a firm hand.
“Ladies and gentlemen” she said. “You are here because of Sam of Wilds and everything he was wrought down upon us. Verania thinks him universally beloved, but you being here proves just how much of a farce he has constructed, the lies he’s told in order to usurp the throne. By being here, I can promise you that your voice will be heard, that you will be cherished for having your opinion. So. Think about what it is you want. You can leave and never speak of this again. Or, you can join me, and we can begin the first official meeting of the We-Hate-Sam-A-Lot Club Castle Lockes Chapter. I’ve brought enough muffins for everyone. They’re blueberry. Delicious, wouldn’t you say?”
The large crowd around cheered.
And Lady Tina DeSilva began to smile.