Wicked Lovely Page 19

"Maybe." He paused, swished water around in the teakettle. "At the library there was something…Tell me about before, first—about that." He gestured toward her bruised face.

So she told him. She told him about the guys outside the library, about Donia's rescue and fury afterward when she talked to the bone-girl. She let her words tumble out, not holding back anything.

For several tense moments he stood there. His voice was strained when he asked, "You okay?"

"Yeah. Nothing happened, not really. Just scared me. I'm good." And she was.

Seth, however, looked like he was struggling to stay calm. His jaw was clamped tightly shut; his features were tense. He'd turned away from her while he tried to relax, but she knew him too well for it to work.

"Seriously, I'm fine," she assured him. "My face hurts where he grabbed me, but it wasn't a big deal."

Once when she was younger she'd seen a group of faeries drag a delicate-looking faery into a copse of trees in the park. The faery had screamed, awful shrieking sounds that echoed in Aislinn's nightmares for months. Being grabbed and held against her will for a few short minutes wasn't anywhere near what could happen.

"Donia saved me before it could turn into something bad," she told him again.

"I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you…" He broke off, an unfamiliar panic in his eyes.

"It didn't, though." She wished she could erase his worry, so she changed the subject, "Now, about your faery encounters…"

He nodded, accepting her implicit need to change the topic. "How about we both write down what happened?"


"So I know it's not my imagination or your suggestions." He seemed unsure, and she couldn't blame him. She couldn't avoid the fey; he could. He had a choice, something she'd never had with them.

She took the pen and pad he offered and wrote: Pinched ass, library. Patted cheek, library. Licked neck, corner of Willow Ave. Poked, prodded, and tripped, Sixth Street, Joe's Deli, crosswalk by Keelie's house, under bridge. She looked up. Seth was staring at her growing list.

He flipped his paper over so she could see it: Pinched at the library. Shoved (?) outside the deli. Stumbled under bridge?

She let him take her—still unfinished—list.

"So faeries, huh?" He smiled, but not like he was happy. "How come I felt it?"

"Maybe because you're aware of the possibility now? I don't know." She took a deep breath. Knowing she should tell him to get away before they focused on him too much was one thing; going back to being alone in this was something totally different. He deserved it, though, the chance to get away from the awfulness of the faeries while he could. "You know you can still tell me to go away, pretend none of this happened. I'd understand."

He poked his tongue at the silver ring in his bottom lip. "Why would I do that?"

"Because they're touching you." She blew out her breath in a huff and scooted further back on the counter. "You know it now. You felt them."

"It's worth it." He picked up the teakettle, but he didn't fill it. He just looked at her. "Thought they did stuff like that anyhow."

"Yeah, but you felt it more…and they were all staring at you. Something’s changed now that those two are following me." She didn't try to hide the worry or the fear in her voice. If he was going to know about them, he deserved the truth of how afraid she really was.

He filled the teakettle and came over to stand in front of her.

She wrapped her arms around him.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there earlier," he whispered, holding her tightly to him.

She didn't say anything. She didn't know what to say. If she told him about the things she'd seen over the years, it would make him worry more. If she let herself think about what could have happened, she might freak out. She didn't want to think about it, about what could've happened, about why they grabbed her.

Finally she pulled back a little and told Seth about the faeries at the library who'd been circling her and talking about him. Then she asked, "So what do you think?"

He wrapped a long strand of her hair around his finger and stared at her. "About tongue rings?"

"About the faeries' comments," she corrected, blushing. She slid forward like she was going to hop off the counter. "They seem to know what's going on. Maybe you could see if there's anything about groups of Rianne-like faeries? You know, ones that are overly shallow and, umm, Seth…"

"Mmm?" Instead of moving back to give her room, Seth had stepped forward, pushing slightly against her knees.

"You need to move if I'm going to get down from here." She sounded breathless, not at all like herself, and it felt good—much better than the worries she had been trying to avoid, much better than thinking about the bad thing she'd avoided, or the faery that saved her, or them noticing Seth.

Seth ignored her comment, staying perfectly still.

She didn't move or push him back. She could've. Instead she asked again, "What do you think?"

He lifted one eyebrow, staring at her as he did. "Can never have too many piercings."

She opened her knees, putting one on either side of his ribs, thinking thoughts she shouldn't— couldn't —about him. "That's…"

"What?" He didn't move any farther, didn't close the distance between them. He might tease, flirt, but he didn't pursue her. It was her choice. In a world where so many choices weren't hers, it was a wonderful feeling.

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