Wicked Lovely Page 14

Keenan took a steaming cup of chocolate. The warmth felt wonderful in his hands, even better on his throat. "Just tell me who she is," he said.

When Beira didn't respond, Keenan continued, "We can compromise. Divide the year, divide the regions, like it used to be with Father." He finished the cup and picked up another, just to feel the heat in his hands.

She laughed then, setting a tiny snow squall spiraling around the room. "Give up everything? Wither like a hag? For what?"

"Me? Because it's right? Because…" He swung his feet to the floor, wincing when they sank into a small snowdrift. Sometimes the old traditions were the worst, lines they'd exchanged like a script for centuries. "I have to ask. You know that."

Beira took the needle back in hand, jabbing it into the cloth. "I do. Your father always asked too. Followed every rule right down to the line. He was like that" — she scowled and picked up another patch from the basket—"so predictable."

"The mortals starve more every year. The cold…crops wither. People die." Keenan drew a deep breath and coughed again. The air in the room was frigid. Now that he was weakened, the longer he stayed in her presence, the longer it'd be until he recovered. "They need more sun. They need a proper Summer King again."

"That's really not my concern." She dropped her quilting in the basket and turned to leave. She paused at the door. "You know the rules."

"Right. The rules…" Rules made in her favor, rules he'd been trapped by for centuries. "Yeah, I know the rules."


The sight of a soutane priest's cassock, or the sound of a bell, puts [the faeries] to flight.

— The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley (1870)

On Monday Aislinn woke before the alarm went off. After a quick shower, she dressed in her uniform and went to the kitchen. Grams was at the stove, fixing eggs and bacon.

Leaning over to give her a peck on the cheek, Aislinn asked, "Special occasion?"

"Brat." Grams swatted at her. "I just thought I'd cook you a good breakfast."

"Are you feeling okay?" Aislinn put a hand on Grams' forehand.

Grams smiled wanly. "You seem tired lately. Thought you could use something other than yogurt."

Aislinn poured a small cup of coffee from the half-full carafe and added a couple generous spoonfuls of sugar before she came to stand beside Grams.

"SATs are coming up soon, didn't do as well as I wanted on the last English essay" — Aislinn rolled her eyes as Grams shot her a disbelieving frown—"well, I didn't. I'm not saying I did badly, just that I could've done better."

Grams scooped the eggs onto the waiting plates and went to the tiny table with them. "So it's a school thing?"

"Mostly." Aislinn sat down and picked up her fork. She pushed the eggs around, staring at the plate.

"What else?" Grams asked in that worried tone. Her hand tensed on her coffee mug.

And Aislinn couldn't tell her. She couldn't say that court faeries were following her, that one of them had donned a glamour to talk to her, that it took everything she had not to reach out toward him when he stood beside her. So she mentioned the only other person that made her feel so tempted. "Umm, there's this guy…"

Grams' grip on the cup relaxed a little.

Aislinn added, "He's wonderful, everything I want, but he's just a friend."

"Do you like him?"

Aislinn nodded.

"Then he's an idiot. You're smart and pretty, and if he turned you down—"

Aislinn interrupted, "I didn't actually ask him out."

"Well, there's your problem." Grams nodded with a self-satisfied look. "Ask him out. Stop worrying. When I was a girl, we didn't have the sort of freedom you do, but…" And Grams was off, talking about one of her favorite subjects—the progress in women's rights.

Aislinn ate her breakfast, nodding in the right places and asking questions to keep Grams talking until it was time to leave for school. Far better to let Grams think that boys and school were the source of her worries. Grams had faced enough worries in her life: Grandpa had died when she was still a young mother, and she'd had to raise a daughter and then a granddaughter with the Sight on her own. And if Grams found out how strange the fey were acting…well, any chance of Aislinn keeping her freedom would be quickly quashed.

By the time Carla knocked on the door to walk to school, Aislinn and Grams were both smiling.

Then Aislinn opened the door and saw three faeries standing in the hallway behind Carla. They kept their distance from the door—no doubt uncomfortable because of the wrought-iron curlicues that covered the outside of the door. Grams had needed special permission to install the new door, but it was well worth it.

"Wow," Carla quipped when Aislinn's smile faltered. "Not trying to ruin your mood."

"Not you. It's just" — she tried to rein in the force of her scowl—"Monday, you know?"

Carla looked to be sure Grams wasn't in earshot and asked in a soft voice, "You want to ditch?"

"And get further behind in Calc?" Aislinn snorted. She grabbed her bag and waved to Grams before stepping into the hallway.

Carla shrugged. "I'll tutor you if you want. There's a sale down at the electronics shop…"

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