er Beauty Within was originally published by Still Moments Publishing. When they were absorbed into another company, I received my rights back with no strings attached. I then had it published by the now defunct Breathless Press. Getting it out there for publishing again is just not an option. It’s a short and sweet story that two great editors helped me make better–A. J. Nuest and Leona Bushman.
So, I present to you–in four parts during my NaNo blitz–the story for free.
Before you go on, here is the link(s) to previous chapters:
Adele slowly opened her eyes. The heat of Jareth’s body pressed against hers. His arm held her close. She laced her fingers through his, enjoying the moment. They were mated to each other, she was sure of it. Nothing else could explain the elation lingering in her very core.
The soft padding of feet made her turn her head.
Honeysuckle smiled. “Now you understand.”
“Oh, yes.” Adele grinned widely. “Thank you, Honeysuckle, for everything.”
She removed Jareth’s arm from around her waist and lightly kissed his cheek, not wanting to wake him.
“I’ll never be able to repay you for showing me how selfish I was.” She bowed to Honeysuckle, showing the Council of Eight Elder the respect she deserved.
“You realizing the wrong in your behavior is all the payment I need.” Honeysuckle waved her arms and glittering dust filled the air. It circled Adele, and she spread out her arms, marveling how the particles stuck to her skin. The dark hue of her flesh lightened. A gasp escaped her lips as the heavy weight of her wings returned and her dress turned a fluorescent pink.
Honeysuckle nodded. “You may return to the life you had.”
“Thank you so very much.” Adele waved as Honeysuckle took flight. She skipped and flew up briefly before landing back on her feet. Joy swept over her as Jareth stood from their sleeping place.
“Jareth!” She squealed and embraced him. “Honeysuckle changed me back? Isn’t it wonderful? Now we can travel any levels we wish.”
He stiffened in her arms, and she stepped away. His eyes brimmed with tears as he withdrew.
“You’re the one that sent me down here in the first place.” He pointed at her, his voice and body shaking. “You’re one of them. Was this part of your plan? Trick a sprite into sharing their secrets so you could tell the other pixies?”
“No, Jareth. I wouldn’t do that. Please, just please, listen to me.” She clasped her hand to her heart, a slow ache building inside. “I love you.”
“Stay away from me.” Jareth leapt to the tree and vanished within.
Adele ran after him, but as she dove to follow, her body bounced and scraped along the jagged bark. Pixies couldn’t use Mother Oak to travel the levels. Everything she’d learned under Jareth’s tutelage meant nothing in her original form. Sobbing, she took to the air. The ugliness she’d shed living a humble life paled in comparison to losing the bond she gained with Jareth. Her heart raced, and a warm glow grew in the pit of her stomach, pointing the way as she searched out her love. They were destined to be one. Jareth’s spirit had joined with hers. No matter where he ran, she could seek him out by listening to the thrum of her soul. He couldn’t reject her. She’d wither and fade without him.
On the upper level, she raced along the streets, but in the lively activity of fireflies and chattering pixies, the invisibility of one sprite came clear. His drab, brown, sprite clothes blended in too well with Mother Oak. Her wings dusted the area with dull blue particles in her sadness, and she flew home, dejected. Uncaring of what the salt in her tears would to do her complexion or the disarray of her hair, she curled up on her bed, alone.
* * *
Wearing a simple pink dress, Adele walked the main thoroughfare of the upper levels. Her wings were folded behind her and she didn’t join in the song the other pixies sang to praise their blessed unions. Ahead, her old friends stood tall with their mates. Brynne met her gaze, and then cast her eyes away from Adele. Thoughts of Nimsy and the other sprites helped her keep going. Adele had no friends among her kind, but down in the depths of Mother Oak’s shade she’d found true love and friendship.
“I’m sorry, my dear.” Honeysuckle walked up beside her, offering a comforting hug.
“No, I deserve to be shunned. I was cruel for much of my life.” Adele sniffed. “I just wish… Oh Honeysuckle, I want to go back. I miss him so much.”
Honeysuckle lifted Adele’s chin with the tip of her finger. “Did you give up before? When you thought you lost everything?”
“But…” Adele frowned. Honeysuckle angled Adele’s face to the middle of the street. Laden with packages, Jareth weaved between the many pixies who walked without care.
Adele broke free of Honeysuckle and ran toward Jareth. Her heart soared, but she faltered when his gaze met hers. He turned and hurried away in the opposite direction.
She stumbled to a stop, the bond between them ebbing. Tears brimmed and she balled her hands into fists. “Jareth, I command you to stop!” she screamed.
His body jerked and the packages tumbled to the ground, just as they did the first time they met. Adele strode to him and faced his cool, dark eyes.
“Come to banish me again, Princess?” he whispered.
His words stung, but she stood firm and cleared her throat. “Jareth, I claim you as my mate, to live within Mother Oak and share my hopes and dreams. I shall bear your offspring and raise them in the sunshine of our happiness. No other shall ever claim my heart.”
Silence reigned on the streets. For a pixie to speak the words of a marriage ceremony to a sprite, had stolen the joyful noise from their throats. Adele ignored the indignant and haughty stares. Only Jareth mattered, and the tenderness growing in his eyes.
“Please, Jareth. I’ve never been so sure of something in all my life.” Tears welled in her eyes. Would he accept her?
“Adele, I claim you as my mate, to live within Mother Oak and share my hopes and dreams. I shall give you offspring and help raise them in the sunshine of our happiness. No other shall ever claim my heart.” He brushed the side of her face with his thumb, gliding it over her trembling lips.
Without regard for anyone else, they kissed, deeply and passionately. The space between them shimmered in one final blessing from Mother Oak. Adele opened her eyes and gazed at a transformed Jareth. Wings stretched behind him, fluttering and showering a rainbow of dust into the air. His skin brightened to pure alabaster and his hair curled into long, auburn locks, but his eyes were still the warm, rich brown that drew her in. She giggled.
“I was hoping I’d go back to being a sprit,e and we could ride the waves Mother Oak allows us.” She rested her head on his shoulder.
“It was you all along. My mate.” He pressed his lips to her temple. “I never thought that.” He paused, his mouth seeking hers again. She giggled with joy.
“Let’s go home, Jareth. I’ll teach you to fly again.” She grabbed his hand and led him running down the street before launching into the air. She dove down, racing through the dark green foliage of Mother Oak. Jareth’s face bore a mixture of fright and excitement. She laughed as he worked his wings in a frenzy of motion.
“You’ve got it!” She landed at the bottom of the tree and tackled him for a taste of his lips. He responded with vigor, and the binding they shared but a few nights before came to them again.
Adele sighed against his chest and offered a prayer to Mother Oak. Already the quickening of a new life fluttered within her…one of many to come in her new life.