Nearly a thousand miles away from Ava and Malachi, Jaron sat in a corner of the cell, staring at the woman with tangled hair. Like all her kind, she possessed an ethereal beauty. Her unlined skin was the color of sunset over the desert. Her hair was black and streaked with ribbons of red and gold. When it wasn’t tangled, it lay in sumptuous waves over her shoulders. Her lips were the color of ripe berries, and her gold eyes were rimmed by thick, curling lashes.
The woman in the cell knew none of her own beauty. Not anymore. She was lost in her mind.
The humans didn’t call it a cell, but that’s what it was. They’d given her paints with no brushes, because she would use the brushes as weapons if she could. But she’d used the paint to decorate the bleak walls with the visions that still came to her. Vivid hues surrounded her even though her clothes were an offensive white.
At one time she would have scoffed. As a child, she’d hated any dull color, and he had indulged her.
He’d indulged her audacity, and it had led to this.
She blinked her eyes open in a moment of lucidity and stared at him. “You.”
She spoke in the familiar language of her childhood, but her voice was hoarse from disuse. Jaron hadn’t visited in a long time.
She closed her eyes and let out a sigh of relief. He assumed it was difficult to distinguish reality from fantasy. But then, fantasy had always been real to her.
He felt the energy before she started to hum, and he flashed to her side, putting a finger over her lips.
“Shhh,” he soothed. He put an arm around her waist and pulled her to his side. “No singing, remember?”
“Why not?” Her voice held the petulance of youth.
She laughed, but there was no joy in it. It was a dark laugh. Strange and frightening. If Jaron had been human, he imagined it would chill him to his bones.
“I sing sometimes when you’re not here,” she said, taunting him.
“But I do.” She kept giggling until the laughter turned to tears, and she was rocking back and forth with it, knees pulled up to her chest.
“Quiet,” he whispered. “No more tears. If they come, I will go away.”
She sighed again and curled into his chest. “Tired.”
He put a hand on her head and held the woman to his chest. Jaron held many powers, but the ability to heal her broken mind still eluded him. The injustice raked his pride, but he put it aside, knowing the feeling would disturb her.
“No dreams,” she murmured. “Don’t want to dream about him.”
“Sleep, Ava.” Jaron sent a calming wave of power over her, and her twitching limbs fell still. “I’ll keep the dreams away.”