I had originally seen this book as primarily Lydia's story--the reverse changeling--the hero of her journey. Yet, the more I write, the more I discover that this is Clive's story as much as it is Lydia's. This is a part of a scene that propels Clive into the heart of the conflict.
“My Lady Titania trusts me with her own words,” Aileen said, glaring at Clive, her chin jutted forward.
“Then speak them and leave,” Clive said.
Aileen studied his face for a moment. Clive wasn't sure what she was searching for, but he kept his expression neutral, schooling himself to patience. If Aileen would let herself be used like this, there had to be a good reason.
“So be it,” she said.
Clive swallowed as a pulse of magic poured into her, transforming the emissary into the shadow of something with enough power to extinguish his. She stood taller, her blue eyes so dark they were almost black. Black hair spilled over one bare shoulder and down her back nearly to her waist. A cloak the color of midnight wine shimmered over her other shoulder.
“It has not gone unnoticed how Oberon has honored your service.” Aileen's words were clipped, precise. Clive shivered. He had never seen Titania before, but he had no doubt it was she who spoke now.
“My Lady.” Clive bowed, furiously thinking of any precedent to guide him.
She laughed and it was the music of icicles breaking. “How polite you are, Clive Barrow.”
“You are very much like your grandmother.”
Clive held himself motionless, betraying none of his shock. Titania laughed again.
“I have surprised you.”
She smiled and Clive's heart sped up. The Shadow queen was painfully beautiful, seemingly sculpted from marble and ice. A fine net of diamonds was woven in her hair. It glittered like the night sky sprinkled with stars.
“I gave her permission to leave Fey. I opened the door when Oberon refused his own kinswoman. Do you know why?”
Clive shook his head, unable to decide what words might be safe to say.
“I remembered love,” she said, shrugging. Bells sewn into her cloak chimed. “Oberon wasn't amused.” Titania reached forward and placed one finger beneath his chin and tipped his head up.
Clive froze, holding his indrawn breath.
“There is still a debt to be paid,” she said, her voice barely a whisper. “What say you?”