flesh. Eliza would forget him, and once again he would become little more than a nightmare brushed aside like a cobweb in the daylight. “And you would be?” the policeman asked. “Eliza Coulter.” Eliza Coulter. Roan let her name form on his lips. He had never forgotten the child who had reminded him to be human. He wouldn’t forget the woman who had reminded him what it was to be a man, if only for a moment. Maybe he would’ve been a better man if he hadn’t been king.
Eliza eased back on the flat pillow. The bed was too firm, designed to throw the hospital’s patients out sooner, rather than later. Her body refused to rest. Her eyes darted to every shadow, searching for a movement that didn’t belong or a darkness that couldn’t be explained. She could bring him here, but the words wouldn’t form on her tongue to breathe the nightmare into life. She’d lied to police. Claimed she had no recollection of where she’d been for three days. They’d scraped under her nails, taken her clothes, taken blood, taken photos. There was no glass in her feet. The cuts on the soles were too well healed for only three days’ absence. But she hadn’t spent even one day with Roan. Already her memories of him were fraying around the edges. Each time she tried to find a detail it became harder to grab the thread. She closed her eyes. Her skin remembered his touch, cool skin, palms roughened from the sword. The way his lips crushed hers and the way his body pressed hard against hers. She bit her lip. In those few minutes she’d been more alive than she’d been in years. Since Steve had put the ring on her finger. She gritted her teeth and tried to force sleep, staring up at the ceiling, knowing that the real nightmare would begin soon. Her stomach became heavy and her first meal in three days sat like a sunken ship, listing with the currents but going nowhere. Steve would visit and make sure she paid for every inconvenience her absence had caused. No one could save her from the trap he had made. After all, she’d filed the paperwork and she’d signed off on his embezzlement, not that she’d known it at the time. If she didn’t go through with the wedding, Steve would make sure she went to jail. With Roan she had tasted freedom, and the edge of excitement, sharper than a sword, had pierced her heart. She wanted to feel it again—kiss Roan again. Her eyes flicked open, her body rigid with fear. What if he’d become goblin? Would kissing turn him goblin? Wasn’t a kiss supposed to break the curse? Or was that a lie created by fairy tales because they’d kissed and nothing had changed? Her mouth opened to call for him so she could make sure he was okay. She stopped, the words caught in her throat. She hadn’t abandoned him. He had thrown her out of his world, out of the Shadowlands. A lucky escape that felt more like a farewell to a friend and an ache that wouldn’t dull as time passed. She shouldn’t care. Roan was a heartless goblin, a monster who wore the skin of a man when it suited him. So how did he burn with such intensity that she couldn’t touch him without catching alight? It had been so easy to get swept up and believe he was more than goblin. To her he’d always been more than goblin. He’d been the warrior who’d saved her. And for a moment she’d thought she could return the favor and set him free. She touched her lips. She was a fool. He didn’t want her. He wanted a queen. He’d returned her, and she should be grateful she had escaped unscathed. But the fate of the Goblin King consumed her thoughts. A breeze lifted her hair, when none should stir in the sterile room. Eliza sat up. Were the shadows a little darker in one corner? She squinted, sure something or someone moved. “Roan?” The sound of tinkling beads echoed through the room. Then the darkness lifted, leaving her alone with her heart, longing for the shadows. ***