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There were two things Claire noticed as she made her way around the hotel – it was empty of guests, and it was far bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. Knowing the fae the latter was to be expected, but the former was unsettling. Earning a living from something like a hotel meant having guests, although it was possible Bran’s death… the story he’d told her wasn’t easy to believe, and yet it was one she’d heard so many times. People who’d never thought for a moment they might have fae blood were finding that, actually, something had happened in the past that had led to that being a possibility. Sighing, she raked a hand through her hair. Her blood meant she was the one to inherit the hotel. Her blood meant she was probably going to be stuck with the place until she died.


If the hotel really was hers, and Claire had no reason to think it wasn’t, she was going to be making some changes. As she thought that Bran appeared, standing just in view. “Was I doing something wrong?”


Bran shook his head, looking almost amused. “The place is yours, to do with as you will, but you don’t want to be using your energy without thinking about it. Your magic is connected to the hotel. Even thinking about what changes you want to make can have an effect. Considering the fact the rest of the family won’t be best pleased you were the one to inherit I think you might want to be careful.”


“You didn’t think to mention that before?”


“What they want doesn’t matter, and I can teach you how to keep them out. I made the decision. The hotel was mine long before they ended up on Earth. Letting one of them inherit the place would have been a huge mistake.”


“So you left it to a niece who didn’t even know you existed?”


“After going through the options I had that seemed like the best one. I don’t believe I was wrong about that.” Bran studied her. “Claire, I can’t imagine you ever thought something like this could happen to you, but it has. Talking to your mum might help you come to terms with what you’re learnt. In the end that’s up to you. What I do know is that you are the best person for the job, because you aren’t fully fae.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I’m sure you know how dismissive the fae are of those who aren’t ‘pure blood’.”


Claire nodded. “It’s impossible not to have heard some stories at least.”


“No fae is truly pure blood any longer. You see, niece, the problem with my people is that they’ve lost their history. They’ve forgotten the lives they led before. I haven’t. I know who I was before, and I know what we did. That’s why I made the decision to walk away, instead of trying to pretend I was one of them, and when they found their way here…” He shook his head. “I have to admit I was disappointed. I was hoping I was never going to have to deal with them again, but sometimes the unexpected happens. Willow is the one who asked me to change things. This became a sanctuary, for those who had nowhere else, only they left when I died, scared that the wrong person might end up here. It was possibility. Fortunately Willow stepped in right when I needed her to. She’s the reason you were the first one to arrive.”


“I’m also the reason the rest of the family is currently having some difficulty finding their way here.” Claire found herself looking at the Queen of the fae. “Hello, Claire. You and I have a lot to talk about.”


“Do we?”


“Unfortunately there are times when the decision as to what to do next is taken out of our hands.” Their eyes met for a moment. “I know you aren’t happy about this situation. I don’t think many people would be, but we need you. Bran and I spent hours going over the family tree when we realised what was coming, to find the right person to take over the hotel, because we knew we couldn’t let it fall into the wrong hands. There are too many people who need this place to be a sanctuary.”


Slowly, Claire looked between the two of them. “Are you related in some way?”


“Fae families are complicated, to say the least.” Willow brushed a hand through her hair. “Most of the families who survived are related in some way, even if that is just by marriage, but it doesn’t matter right now. You’ll find your own place, and I don’t want who you could have been to affect that.”


“Who I could have been?” Claire shook her head. “Are you saying I could have been fae royalty?”


“Yes, you could, or at the very least nobility. It doesn’t change anything now. The Council is even less accepting of those who are different than they were before, thanks, at least in part, to Esra’s insistence on helping all of her many siblings.”


For a moment Claire was silent, trying to remember who Esra was. “Your sister-in-law, right?”


Willow nodded, smiling in a way she hadn’t done before. “Esra is a wonderful person, and when she found out she had siblings on Earth the first decision she made was that she had to help them, which is something I will always be grateful she did. It helped us all to see how many people had truly been affected by the choices the fae, and others, had made in the past, but it hasn’t helped those of us who are older to see that we need to make changes. They are clinging on to the past, because that is so much simpler than accepting how much things have changed.” The smile faded, leaving her looking more disappointed than anything. “I’ve done what I can to help those who need it. I’m always trying to find places those who are on the outskirts can find a home. I have the school. I’ve got a couple of other hotels. I’ve got a couple of coffee shops. Everything I’ve done has been an attempt to fix the damage my people caused. To fix the damage I caused by bringing us here. If there had been any other choice…” She shook her head. “I know there wasn’t. Alder and I have gone over it multiple times, and this was our only option.”


“If you hadn’t come to Earth my blood wouldn’t have mattered.”


“No, it wouldn’t, and all I can do is apologise for being the one to have caused this. I wish things were different, Claire, but things are, so I have to make the best of what I have available to me. You are someone who can help with that, although it’s not something either of us will force you to do. Should you want to you can pass the hotel on to someone else.”


“That someone else would be one of the people you didn’t want to inherit?” Claire looked at Bran, then back at Willow. “You went to all this effort to keep the hotel out of the hands of the wrong people, but you’re still willing to give me a choice.”


“Trapping you here wasn’t my intention. I want you to make the choice.” Willow glanced at Bran. “I think we both do.”


Bran nodded. “You can walk out that door any time you want, Claire, but if you make that choice there’s no taking it back.”


Sighing, Claire brushed a hand through her hair. The hotel, from what Bran said, had been home to those who’d never had a place to call home, and if she walked out the door they’d have lost that. Everything she’d been told made it obvious whoever inherited the hotel from her wouldn’t be willing to let those people stay. They were pure blood fae, or at least they believed they were. They were the sort of people she’d always disliked, even when she hadn’t known she was fae. Nibbling on her bottom lip she thought about the life she’d been leading before she’d received the letter to say she’d inherited a hotel. It wasn’t the life she always thought she was going to live. Taking control of something like a hotel wasn’t exactly something she’d ever wanted to do, but she couldn’t leave either. Not knowing what she did.


“Is there a difference between walking away from the hotel and leaving it?”


“Yes, there is.” Bran’s eyes met with Claire’s. “Before you can leave you have to claim the hotel as yours.”


“How, exactly, do I claim it?”


“A small spell, but you don’t have to cast it now. You do still have time to make the decision, if you need it, and I would still suggest you make that call to your mum.”


Claire shook her head. “I don’t need time. My decision’s made, Bran. I’m not going to walk away.”

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