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       Fairest, p.20

           Chanda Hahn
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  Mina screamed as he hit the wall, but he rolled quickly to his feet and he glared at her. “Do it now! Use the book and entrap them! She is dying.”

  “I can’t!” Mina cried, tears falling freely. She crumpled to the ground and watched the dragon and giant fight. Minutes ago, she had thought Diedre was her enemy. Now she knew that wasn’t true. How could she possibly entrap the dragon for eternity in a book?

  Jared kneeled down next to Mina and grasped her upper arms, looking deep into her eyes. His grey eyes were red with tears. He shook her firmly but gently. “Listen to me. She is dying; she knows it. I know it. The Reaper knows it. If you don’t entrap them now, then once she dies, the Reaper will be free and he will kill you.”

  Dark smoke filled the hallways, and she could feel heat begin to warm her back. Jared shook her again. “If you don’t do it soon, we will all die anyway.”

  Mina looked over at Diedre and saw that her movements were slower, her bite not as aggressive, as if she was fighting just to stay on the giant. The dragon’s deep blue eyes made contact with Mina’s, and she saw the dragon nod in agreement.

  Mina reached for the book and opened it, surprised at how many pages were now filled with trapped Fae. She found a blank page and whispered to it. The book began to glow, and light sprang forth. She turned the book towards the dragon, and the giant began to panic. He roared, kicked, clawed, and fought. The dragon watched the book expectantly, hopefully, lovingly.

  The room began to spin, chairs flew, papers ruffled and both the dragon and giant began to slowly move toward the open pages. Diedre used her last ounce of strength to bite down hard on the iron giant as he fought against the pull of the book. A giant vortex formed out of the book, pulling them toward its pages. A chair entered the book, followed by a coffee table. The dragon and giant were much larger than a few pieces of furniture and so moved slower.

  Jared threw Mina to the ground covering her with his body as burning furniture whisked by overhead almost hitting them. She tried to look up, but Jared kept her head buried in the ground. She could feel flames lick her feet as it passed by her and into the book. Mina and Jared began to be pulled toward the book. Loud rushing wind, howling and screaming could be heard, until Mina realized that she was the one screaming. She had never seen the book pull this hard before, and she feared that both of them would be entrapped as well.

  One moment it felt like the hospital was about to fall down on them; the next, silence. Jared waited a few seconds before moving over and letting Mina up. But he kept his arm protectively around her. Mina barely noticed. Her attention was on the damage before them; the whole wing was destroyed. The fire had been smothered by the windy vortex. A half burned piece of paper fluttered down from the air to land on Mina’s head. Pulling it off she barely glanced at it but saw that it had Nan Taylor’s name on it.

  “Nan! Dr. Martin! We have to make sure they are okay.” She looked to Jared, but he wasn’t moving; he was staring at the book.

  Reluctantly, Mina moved away from him to grab the book. She opened it up to the last page and ran her fingers across the beautiful picture of a dragon fighting a giant. “Who was she?” Mina whispered.

  “A dragon,” Jared answered. He touched the page tenderly, almost lovingly.

  Mina touched his cheek with his hand and wiped away a stray tear. “No, who was she to you?” He wouldn’t look at her.

  “Probably the only one who ever really cared about me.” He pressed his lips together firmly and she could see that he was steeling himself, getting ready to hide behind his stony mask.

  “That’s not true.” Mina pressed her forehead to Jared’s, trying to comfort him. “I care.”

  He opened his eyes wide at her admission, and she was sucked into his beautiful grey eyes. He closed his eyes and waited on baited breath as if savoring the moment. Reluctantly, he pulled away from her and looked at the book. “She was my Nanny,” Jared admitted. “She raised me since I was a kid, until I was banished. I was like a son to her.

  “Why did she try to scare me?”

  “I think she thought you had the Grimoire, and like most Fae, she’s not real fond of the Grimms. But I didn’t even know she came to the human world, she must have come here shortly after I did. I was as surprised as you, when she came crashing through the door.”

  Mina nodded silently and stood up, pulling him up with her. She began to walk toward the stairway pulling Jared behind her. Once they were on the stairs, she realized that she was still holding hands with him. She tried to pull away, but Jared held onto her hand firmly.

  Not seeing any reason to let go, they walked hand in hand down the stairs. On the second floor they were met by firefighters who escorted them to safety. The parking lot was chaos, filled with fire trucks, ambulances, police, and hospital staff.

  It seemed the fire had been contained to the fourth floor and everyone had been accounted for. Everyone except nurse Diedre. Mina sat on a stretcher and was tended to by an EMT. Jared sat next to her, refusing to leave her side. It wasn’t until Mina saw the tour bus and a frightened Brody and Peter waiting impatiently behind a police line that she remembered them.

  She ran across the parking lot, and Brody ducked under the police tape and ran to meet her. She wasn’t prepared for Brody’s enthusiastic reception when he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly.

  “You’re okay? You aren’t hurt?” He looked at her and pulled her into another embrace. “I can’t tell you how terrifying it was to know you were in there. And when you didn’t come out with Nan, I feared the worst.”

  Looking up into his deep blue eyes, she could see the worry etched deep in them and something else. She didn’t have time to think because he leaned down and kissed her. Startled, she froze for a moment before enjoying the kiss. It was soft, tender, and beautiful.

  A loud clearing of the throat interrupted them. They broke apart to confront an angry Jared.

  “Excuse me, but Dr. Martin is awake and asking a lot of questions. Also, they are about to transfer Nan to another hospital. I think you should get over there, if you know what I mean,” Jared hinted.

  Mina grabbed Peter’s hand and dragged him toward the ambulance. She begged the staff to let them have a few moments with Nan before they transferred her. The EMT wasn’t amused, but since Nan wasn’t injured and wasn’t going anywhere, he nodded.

  Even in an ordinary hospital gown, Nan was beautiful. Of course, Mina knew it for what it truly was- an enchanted sleep. She was probably the only one who understood that her glowing skin and beautiful complexion was due to Fae magic instead of medicine.

  Peter stood before Nan, and he reached out to take her hand in his. He leaned down and whispered into her ear, but she didn’t respond. He looked over to Mina expectantly. “So what is the plan?”

  “You kiss her,” Mina answered. “Just like all of the fairy tale stories where true love’s kiss breaks the spell.”

  “Mina,” Peter laughed uncomfortably. “This isn’t a fairy tale. I care for her deeply, but we barely know each other. I would never, ever wish this on anyone, but I don’t see how a kiss is going to wake anyone from a coma.”

  “It has too,” Mina argued. She clenched her fists to her sides and felt doubt begin to rise up. “I know it will. She was madly in love with you, Peter. It’s what all of your crazy satirical songs are about. So what are you waiting for? Kiss her. If she wakes up, you’ve got a great new song to write about.”

  Brody came and stood next to Jared and watched the two argue. Finally, he chimed in. “Go ahead, I’ve never seen you balk at kissing a girl before,” he taunted his cousin.

  Sweat began to bead on Peter’s forehead; he wiped it away with the sleeve of his shirt. “Well, that’s because I’ve never kissed an almost dead girl.”

  “She’s not dead, or almost dead. Just kiss her and we can all go home.” Mina bit her lip and jumped up and down nervously. She couldn’t understand Peter’s hesitation.

  After much co
axing, he moved forward placing either hand on the side of Nan’s shoulders. He took a deep breath, leaned in, closed his eyes, and kissed her on her lips. A few seconds passed, and he broke the kiss.

  Everyone waited on baited breath for a change. There wasn’t any.

  The band members snuck under the tape and were watching the whole episode with interest. “What do you know?” Naga intoned sadly. “Beauty really is dead.”

  Chapter 25

  “That can’t be!” Mina was crushed. She looked at Jared, and he shrugged his shoulders. She motioned to speak to him alone.

  Jared nonchalantly walked over to Mina away from the Brody and the members of the Dead Prince Society.

  “What’s wrong? I gave the stupid story everything it needs for the stupid fairy tale.” She pushed him in the chest angrily. “I kept my part of the bargain. I found the Grimoire, I saved you. The Fates were supposed to give me a fighting chance to save her. I did that. I saved her and even brought a Prince in to kiss her. You can’t get a more fairy tale ending than that.” Mina began pacing and twirling her hair in nervousness.

  “You made a deal with the Fates?” Jared asked incredulous. “Both of them? What did they tell you?” He almost seemed panicked.

  “Well, just the Queen,” she answered. “But I kept my part of the bargain. She lied.”

  Jared thought for a moment long and hard and studied the five boys waiting near the gurney. Four of them seemed nervous and ashamed. Only one of them seemed curious…almost thoughtful.

  “Maybe you got the wrong Prince.” He gestured with his head toward the rest of the Princes. “After all, you’ve got three more to choose from.”

  All of the doubt and insecurities vanished, and Mina looked up in hope. Of course, she had convinced all four members of the Dead Prince Society to show up at the hospital for an impromptu serenade.

  “We can give it a try, but this time you have to do the convincing of kissing a girl in a coma.” Mina pointed her finger at Jared and motioned to the standing boys.

  “NO!” Jared reeled back in horror.

  “Yes, Jared. You, you owe me.” Mina stomped back to the group and waited on the side patiently. She kept looking at her watch as Jared did most of the talking. Was it only a quarter to one in the morning?

  Some of the Princes didn’t like the idea any more than Peter did. But, after enough convincing, Constantine leaned down and gave a very quick chaste kiss. Mina kept glancing toward Dr. Martin who was awake and having his forehead bandaged. So far, he hadn’t noticed the line of boys kissing his future stepdaughter. Naga came forward, did a slight little bow, and picked up her hand. He kissed the back of her hand first. When nothing happened, he gave her a kiss on her lips.

  One after another, they kissed her and all of the kisses failed. Peter even went up and kissed her again.

  “Well, that was a complete waste,” Naga grumbled.

  “I feel kind of weird and think we should go now,” Constantine whined and flipped his long ponytail over his shoulder. “I caught a few of the nurses looking this way, and I can see one of them talking to a police officer.” He pointed and six heads turned to look. He was right. A police officer was pointing in their direction.

  “I don’t know what else to do. I’m out of ideas. I was sure true love’s kiss would do it.” She turned her back to watch Dr. Martin come toward them. She took a step forward to explain, when Jared grabbed her elbow stopping her. He motioned with his head to look. Mina turned and felt her stomach drop.

  Brody had moved close to Nan and was holding her hand. He was telling her how sorry he was, and how it was all his fault. Regret and guilt covered his face, but so did something else…determination. Before Mina could stop him, or tell him no, Brody squeezed Nan’s hand, leaned forward, and pressed his lips to hers.

  Mina’s heart felt like it was in a vice being squeezed between hope and despair. She forgot to breathe as she counted the seconds of Brody and Nan’s kiss. It was an eternity, or at least it felt like it. One second…two seconds…three seconds…four.

  “Please!” Mina whispered unsure if she was saying ‘please, no’ or ‘please, yes’. Her eyes started to water as the familiar tingling sensation appeared telling her Fae magic was getting involved. She turned away from Nan and Brody, unable to watch true love’s kiss.

  Jared looked at her strangely and then looked to Brody, and he understood. He reached for Mina and held her as a light formed around Nan and grew brighter and brighter. They could hear bells chiming. Maybe it was just the Methodist church down the road, but Mina didn’t need to look to know that the kiss would work.

  Nan’s eyes fluttered open as Brody’s kiss continued. At first she looked confused. Then she reached up with her hand to touch his face, and the kiss deepened. His breathing had become ragged and her cheeks flushed, but neither one immediately stopped the kiss.

  Brody finally pulled away, his breath shaky. A small smile appeared at the corner of his mouth. Nan smiled back.

  Until she noticed the night sky and her audience. Nan blushed beet red and tried to sit up but was a little weak. Brody was immediately helping her sit up.

  “Why are we outside? Why do I smell smoke? Mina? Did you catch the apartment on fire?” She looked around her surroundings, at the hospital and fire trucks. “Oh, my bad, you just caught the hospital on fire,” Nan joked, not knowing how close to the truth she had come.

  Mina was crying. She wiped her nose on her sleeve and tried to bestow a happy smile on her face. “Hey, sleepy face. Did you have a nice nap?” Her lips quivered with hidden emotion.

  Nan scrunched up her nose. “No, I had this weird dream of getting kissed by a bunch of boys.” She pointed to Naga, Constantine, and Magnus. “And you were in it, and you were in it, and you were in it.” She teased doing a replay of a popular scene from The Wizard of Oz. The smile died on her lips when she saw Peter.

  Peter walked up to Nan but kept looking at his expensive black shoes. “Hey, you,” he greeted nervously.

  “Hey, you back,” Nan answered softly, not being able to meet his eyes either. She tried to listen to Peter but her gaze kept drifting back to Brody. They talked quietly.

  Suddenly, Mina felt extremely tired. The police officer and Dr. Martin came over and weren’t angry at the impromptu concert, which they blamed for Nan’s remarkable recovery. Dr. Martin was ecstatic and immediately called Veronica. Since they had plenty to talk about, Mina decided it was time to leave.

  Her tired and sore feet had carried her across the parking lot and to the parking garage when she realized her dilemma. She had come with Brody to the hospital, but she didn’t have the strength or courage to get a ride home with him. Not after witnessing their magical and awakening kiss. Collapsing on a cement parking bumper, Mina rested her head in her hands.

  She pulled out the black leather book and opened it to its newest page. It was a picture of Nan sleeping on the gurney, while Brody, the four band members, Jared, Mina, and Dr. Martin gathered around her outside of a glass hospital. Mina felt her lips pull up into a wry smile. When she counted the heads out loud, she came to seven, plus a prince. She was even more surprised when she turned the page and saw another picture of Brody and Nan kissing, proving that she had completed Sleeping Beauty’s as well.

  Her skin started to tingle, and a shiver of power ran up her spine. The smell of gardenias encompassed Mina, a sure sign that a Fae was opening a gate. Mina had a feeling she knew which one was coming over. A flash of light appeared and quickly dissipated. Mina refused to look. The smell of gardenias perforated the area.

  “Two birds with one story,” Mina said out loud to no one in particular. “It could have been a disaster, if it weren’t for Diedre’s sacrifice.”

  “Yes, it could have been, but sometimes one must sacrifice a pawn.” A woman’s voice spoke out of the darkness.

  Mina turned toward the sound, but she was too exhausted to stand or give the Queen a curtsey. Maeve came and stood before Mina and raise
d her eyebrow at Mina’s lack of respect. Her dress was a beautiful dark blue with gold macramé overlay.

  “I see you have kept your part of the bargain and reclaimed the Grimoire once again,” Maeve’s voice had a distinct royal undertone in it.

  Mina found herself snorting in disdain. “No thanks to you. In fact, I was half a mind to ignore our bargain and leave the Grimoire in the room to burn. It would have saved us all a whole lot of trouble. Your kind wouldn’t be trapped anymore; I wouldn’t have to finish the stupid quests--”

  “Don’t even joke about such things. You have no idea of the power of the Grimoire.” She stepped forward, and her voice rose in pitch but her face stayed impassive.

  Fed up, Mina stood to confront the Queen, her anger spilling out in waves. “Don’t play me. I’m not dumb. He’s your son,” Mina yelled.

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