As Jennifer Carter recovers from her grandmother Lily’s death, she is told that her grandmother had fairie blood—by none other than the king of the fairies himself—and that he wants her to become the new guardian of her grandmother’s rose garden, which protects a mound of fairie magic. Asyan immediately feels that he and Jennifer are perfect for one another, and he is determined to convince her that they can overcome being from such different worlds, despite all of her doubts and worries. A little stray magic helps them along as Asyan’s well-meaning but meddlesome family decides to push this couple toward their happily ever after.
NOTE: This is a previously published work. The work was deeply edited for TEP.
Asyan stared at the floor, wondering how he had let himself lose control of the situation. He’d never had problems with diplomacy, and mortals had never given him the slightest trouble. He supposed it was because this meant so much to him. Jennifer had been Lily’s favorite grandchild, and Lily had left the house to her because she knew Jennifer was up to the responsibility of taking over as caretaker.
Lily had also known Asyan had an interest in Jennifer. His gaze always lingered on pictures of her for a moment or two too long, and he always asked more questions about her. She’d never stooped to matchmaking, but she had made a point of inviting Jennifer to charity dinners and other events she’d known he would be at. She’d never shown up, and Lily had always just shaken her head and shrugged her shoulders. Then she’d launch into how successful and busy Jennifer was, as if making excuses, which was something Lily had never done for anybody or anything.
He sighed. It would have been much easier if Lily had chosen to inform him that Jennifer was completely clueless as to the real nature of the rose garden. All caretakers knew digging was off limits, so when she’d chunked that shovel down on the ground, Asyan had realized Lily had told Jennifer nothing. He wondered briefly if she’d planned it that way. She loved to challenge him, but he didn’t think she’d really have done something so drastic just for the sake of challenging him.
He’d had their meeting all planned, and then he’d suddenly been faced with the reality that, if he introduced himself, Jennifer would have either laughed in his face or run into the house to call the police. He remembered very specifically that Lily had shared stories with Jennifer. He’d heard her telling one once when he’d popped in hurriedly and found her tucking Jennifer in. She’d been about eight, and now that he recalled the event, she hadn’t been that interested in the story.
He felt another moment of doubt, but he reminded himself that Lily had left the house to Jennifer. If she’d felt someone else would have been better to take over as caretaker, she’d have made arrangements in her will for the house to be sold and he would have made sure the right candidate was on hand to buy it.
Jennifer stirred in her sleep. Asyan knew he had to get things straight in his mind. But his mind was a blank. He had no idea how to make her believe him, make her trust him. His only hope was to explain everything to her again, trying to figure out her pace. If she became too overwhelmed, she’d lock him out and he’d never get through to her. But if he could gain her confidence in some way, then the whole transition would be much smoother.
At first, it surprised him that he was more concerned about Jennifer than the garden. But the garden, he knew, could take care of itself for a while. He looked at Jennifer again. She had rich brown hair, and her skin had a warm glow. Though her eyes were closed, he remembered what a pretty brown they were. He shook his head. He needed to focus on the business at hand, but he couldn’t help admiring her beauty.
He wished he could talk to Lily again. She’d talked about Jennifer constantly, so he couldn’t help feeling he’d known her all her life. Whether Lily had really meant for him to or not, he had developed a very tender love for Jennifer. He remembered her as a little girl playing amongst the roses. She’d always loved them, and he knew that was a good sign. And now that she was grown up, his feelings were developing in ways he’d been guarding against. He’d fought to keep silly romantic notions out of his head, and letting anyone outside his family in had been a challenge lately. Yet this girl who thought he was crazy and potentially dangerous was forcing him to open up. This troubled him.
He sighed again. The challenge, of course, was convincing her that all the “crazy” stories he’d been telling her were real and they were a very special part of her inheritance from her grandmother.
As Jennifer stirred again, Asyan rang for a servant. He hoped that something mundane like having a cup of tea would help Jennifer ground herself in reality and accept what he was saying as real. It was his only hope of keeping her in his life.