By Cassandra Hamm
No flower could ever be prettier than Ederra. She stands underneath a kukka tree, rimmed by violet blossoms.
Stop staring, Zoran.
Hands sweating, I eye the buffet spread on the reception table. A plate of berry-topped taikinas makes my mouth water, but I’d rather not deal with cheek swelling and mouth burning today.
I skip over more pixie dust-filled desserts and finally settle on a kuorrutus. The fluffy purple icing matches the kukka blossoms, and it’s only lightly sprinkled with pixie dust. I can have one without making a fool of myself.
A field of dancing faeries and pixies––including my annoying healer sister, Seana––separates me and Ederra. I snag a plate and two kuorrutuses, take a deep breath, and begin skirting the wedding guests. The pixies’ high-pitched song about the joys of true love is definitely not helping my nerves.
As I get closer, I notice silvery pixie dust sparkling in Ederra’s lavender hair. Her eyes, golden as marja berries, meet mine.
Being with her makes me feel like I’m having an allergic reaction, like my tongue is swelling and I can’t think or breathe and I’m hot and fluttery all over. But in a good way.
“Zoran!” Ederra’s cheeks flush the light pink of krydderi grain. “I didn’t know you’d be here.”
“Yeah, well, I’m here.” Smooth, Zoran. Real smooth. I clear my throat. “Um, I thought you might like a kuorrutus.”
She ducks her head, smiling. The freckles dotting her nose and cheeks make her even more adorable. “You’re so sweet, Zoran.”
Heat floods my cheeks. She thinks I’m sweet?
I’d do anything to keep her smiling like this. Maybe even give up pixie dust. Or ask her to dance.
The words hover on the edge of my tongue. Do you want to dance? I mean, it’s not like you have to, but like, if you want to, I would do it. Um.
Ederra takes a bite of the kuorrutus. Crumbs cling to her mouth.
I tear my eyes away from her lips––because if I stare at them much longer, I’m totally going to kiss her––and bite into the soft dough of my own kuorrutus. Purppura icing melts against my tongue, and the pixie dust adds only the slightest sting.
This is probably how I should do my dust intake––just a little so I don’t need healer attention. Though of course Seana would tell me not to have any at all because who knows what it’s doing to my body? Blah, blah, blah.
“Thank you.” Ederra’s voice is wispy, her skin ghostly. Blood trickles from her nose.
Ederra wobbles. Her eyes roll back, and the pastry slips from her hand as she collapses into my arms.
I catch her with a grunt, my hands settling on her waist. She sags against me. Did she seriously just pass out? Wait—
I would bang my head against a tree if I wasn’t doing the very important job of holding her up. Zoran, you idiot! At Carys and Khan’s engagement party, she told me about her allergy to krydderi—and I bet it’s in the pastry I gave her.
The pixie harps drown out my shout, and the guests move too quickly for me to recognize individuals—even my own sister.
“Seana, if you don’t help me, I swear I’ll tell everyone who you like!”
Once again, drowned out by the pixies.
I take a step toward the dancers, grunting under Ederra’s weight. She almost slips from my grip, and I yelp, readjusting my grip and cradling her head against my shoulder.
This is all my fault. If I hadn’t given her the stupid kuorrutus…
I kick the fallen purple pastry as hard as I can. It almost knocks a nearby pixie to the ground. He yelps, lilac-colored wings buzzing to keep him midair.
“Sorry!” I cry.
The tiny creature glares at me. Then his eyes find the unconscious Ederra. With a squeak, he flits through the clouds of pixie dust and dancing couples.
“Get out of my way!” Seana’s voice cuts through the chatter. She pushes her way toward the kukka tree, the pixie floating beside her. “Zoran, what did you do?”
I study the crumpled kukka petals on the grass.
Seana places her hands on Ederra’s pale face. Silver energy flows from her fingers into Ederra’s skin. “First the engagement party, now the wedding.” Seana huffs. “You just can’t let Carys get married in peace, can you?”
“I didn’t mean to, I swear!”
“Sure.” She rolls her eyes. “You’re lucky I was here.”
But I’m done paying attention to my sister because Ederra’s eyes are open and fixed on me. I’m suddenly very aware that my hands are still on her waist. But if I let go, she’ll fall.
“Sorry,” I blurt. “I should’ve remembered you were allergic to krydderi––”
“Oh.” Her voice is scratchy. I want to wipe away the blood and icing smearing her nose and lips. “Is that what happened?”
I bite my lip hard and nod. “Are you all right?”
She nods back. I remove my arms. She sways but keeps her footing.
“It’s my fault,” she says. “I should’ve remembered kryderri was one of the ingredients.”
“I gave it to you.”
“As cute as this blame-fest is,” Seana interrupts, “someone needs to show the rest of the guests that everything is fine now so they can get back to dancing.” She stares pointedly at me.
Oh. Has everyone stopped—? I glance at the field. Dozens of faery and pixie eyes are fastened on us.
Face hot, I look back at Ederra. Her wide, golden eyes make me think maybe… she wants me to ask her.
I grab a fallen kukka blossom and hold it out. Cheeks krydderi-pink again, she takes the violet flower in her dainty fingers.
My words come out in one connected string. “Would-you-like-to-dance-with-me?”
“I’d love to.” Her smile is sweeter than pixie dust.