Wicked Lovely Page 16

"Not now." Rianne stepped off the curb into the street and blew a kiss to him. "See you tomorrow, Father."

Father Edwin tugged his Roman collar, his version of clearing his throat. "Try to stay out of trouble."

"Yes, Father," Leslie said obediently. Then she lowered her voice. "So are you coming, Ash?" She didn't pause, walking toward the corner, expecting everyone to follow her.

Aislinn shook her head. "I'm meeting Seth at the library."

"Now, he's yummy." Rianne gave an exaggerated sigh. "You holding out on us? Les said that's why you bailed the other night."

Across the street, listening to everything they said, was Deadgirl. She followed them, her wolf loping down the street, keeping pace with them.

"We're friends." Aislinn blushed, feeling more embarrassed than usual with the faery eavesdropping.

Aislinn stopped, bent down, and pulled off her shoe as if there were something in it. She glanced back: Deadgirl and her wolf lingered in the shadows of the alley across the street. Humans walked past—oblivious as always—talking, laughing, completely unaware of the unnaturally large wolf and its feral rider.

"Bet you could be more! Rianne linked her arm through Aislinn's and urged her forward. "Don't you think, Les?"

Leslie smiled, slowly and deliberately. "From what I hear, he's got enough experience to be a prime candidate for the job. Trust me: for your first, you want someone with finesse."

In a throaty voice, Rianne said, "And I hear Seth's got finesse."

Carla and Leslie laughed; Aislinn shook her head.

"Sheila said that when she was in Father E.'s office, she saw the new student who's coming this week, some orphan," Carla said as they stood at the crosswalk. "Said he's definitely a hi-cal dessert."

"Orphan? She really said orphan?" Leslie rolled her eyes.

Glad the conversation had drifted away from her, Aislinn only half listened, more concerned with her faery stalker than new students. The faery stayed precisely even with them as they walked. From the way the faeries that passed treated Deadgirl, she was special. None of them approached her. Some bowed their heads as she passed. She, however, didn't acknowledge any of them.

At the corner of Edgehill and Vine, where they usually split ways, Carla asked again, "You sure? You could bring him."

"What?" Aislinn shook her head. "No. Seth's helping me study, umm, for government. I'll call you later." The light changed, and she started across the street, calling back, "Have fun."

Deadgirl didn't follow. Maybe she went away.

"Hey, Ash?" Leslie called, once they were far enough apart that she had to yell, far enough that everyone would hear. "You do know there's no test in there this month." Rianne shook her finger. "Naughty, naughty."

The people walking by didn't pay any attention, but Aislinn's face still burned. "Whatever."

Aislinn cut across the park toward the library, thinking about Seth, about Deadgirl following her. She wasn't paying much attention to her surroundings until someone—a human someone—grabbed her arm and pulled her against his chest, holding her securely immobile.

"Well, if it isn't a nice little Catholic girl…Nice skirt."

He tugged her pleated skirt, and the other two guys with him laughed. "Whatcha doing, baby?"

Aislinn tried to kick him, but her foot made little impact on his leg. "Stop it."

"Stop it," his friends mocked. "Oh no, stop it."

Where is everyone? The park wasn't usually deserted this early. No people, no faeries, no one at all was in sight.

She opened her mouth to scream, and he clamped his other hand over her jaw, his index finger between her half-open lips.

She bit down. It tasted like old cigarettes.

"Bitch." But he didn't remove his hand. He squeezed tighter until the inside of her cheek was pushed so tightly against her teeth that it bled.

The guy to her right laughed. "Guess she likes it a little rough, huh?"

Aislinn felt tears in her eyes. The arm around her was bruisingly tight. The hand over her mouth squeezed again, and she could taste fresh blood in her mouth. She tried to think, to remember what she knew about self-defense.

Use whatever you can. Scream. Go limp. She did, letting her weight droop.

He just shifted his hold.

Then she heard a growl.

Beside her was Deadgirl's wolf, teeth bared. He looked like a big dog, but Aislinn knew what he was. Plainly visible to everyone and looking deceptively human, Deadgirl stood holding the wolf's leash, letting him close enough to the three losers that it wouldn't take much of a lunge to draw blood.

Her voice was frighteningly calm. "Remove your hands."

The two guys who weren't holding Aislinn backed away, but the one holding her said, "Not your business, blondie. Keep walking."

The faery waited for a moment, and then she shrugged and let go of the leash. "So be it. Sasha, arm."

The wolf—Sasha—ripped a gash in the guy's wrist.

He shrieked and let go of Aislinn, clasping his bleeding arm. She dropped to the ground.

Without another word they ran, all three of them. The wolf sprinted behind them, nipping at their legs as they went.

Deadgirl crouched down. Her expression was unreadable as she asked, "Are you able to stand?"

"Why did you…" Aislinn flinched away as Deadgirl reached out toward her chin. "Thank you."

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