Wicked Lovely Page 2

"You know how it is—got to get home before the shoe falls off." She lifted her foot, clad in a battered tennis shoe. "No sense tempting any princes."

He snorted and turned back to the table.

A doe-eyed faery eased across the room; bone-thin with too many joints, she was vulgar and gorgeous all at once. Her eyes were far too large for her face, giving her a startled look. Combined with an emaciated body, those eyes made her seem vulnerable, innocent. She wasn't.

None of them are.

The woman at the table beside Aislinn flicked a long ash into an already overflowing ashtray. "See you next weekend."

Aislinn nodded, too tense to answer.

In a blurringly quick move, Doe-Eyes flicked a thin blue tongue out at a cloven-hoofed faery. The faery stepped back, but a trail of blood already dripped down his hollowed cheeks. Doe-Eyes giggled.

Aislinn bit her lip, hard, and lifted a hand in a last half wave to Denny. Focus. She fought to keep her steps even, calm: everything she wasn't feeling inside.

She stepped outside, lips firmly shut against dangerous words. She wanted to speak, to tell the fey to leave so she didn't have to, but she couldn't. Ever. If she did, they'd know her secret: they'd know she could see them.

The only way to survive was to keep that secret; Grams taught her that rule before she could even write her name: Keep your head down and your mouth closed. It felt wrong to have to hide, but if she even hinted at such a rebellious idea, Grams would have her in lockdown—homeschooled, no pool halls, no parties, no freedom, no Seth. She'd spent enough time in that situation during middle school.

Never again.

So—rage in check—Aislinn headed downtown, toward the relative safety of iron bars and steel doors. Whether in its base form or altered into the purer form of steel, iron was poisonous to fey and thus gloriously comforting to her. Despite the faeries that walked her streets, Huntsdale was home. She'd visited Pittsburgh, walked around D.C., explored Atlanta. They were nice enough, but they were too thriving, too alive, too filled with parks and trees. Huntsdale wasn't thriving. It hadn't been for years. That meant the fey didn't thrive here either.

Revelry rang from most of the alcoves and alleys she passed, but it wasn't ever as bad as the thronging choke of faeries that cavorted on the Mall in D.C. or at the Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh. She tried to comfort herself with that thought as she walked. There were less fey here—less people, too.

Less is good.

The streets weren't empty: people went about their business, shopping, walking, laughing. It was easier for them: they didn't see the blue faery who had cornered several winged fey behind a dirty window; they never saw the faeries with lions' manes racing across power lines, tumbling over one another, landing on a towering woman with angled teeth.

To be so blind …It was a wish Aislinn had held in secret her whole life. But wishing didn't change what was. And even if she could somehow stop seeing the fey, a person can't un-know the truth.

She tucked her hands in her pockets and kept walking, past the mother with her obviously exhausted children, past shop windows with frost creeping over them, past the frozen gray sludge all along the street. She shivered. The seemingly endless winter had already begun.

She'd passed the corner of Harper and Third— almost there —when they stepped out of an alley: the same two faeries who'd followed her almost every day the past two weeks. The girl had long white hair, streaming out like spirals of smoke. Her lips were blue—not lipstick blue, but corpse blue. She wore a faded brown leather skirt stitched with thick cords. Beside her was a huge white wolf that she'd alternately lean on or ride. When the other faery touched her, steam rose from her skin. She bared her teeth at him, shoved him, slapped him: he did nothing but smile.

And he was devastating when he did. He glowed faintly all the time, as if hot coals burned inside him. His collar-length hair shimmered like strands of copper that would slice her skin if Aislinn were to slide her fingers through it—not that she would. Even if he were truly human, he wouldn't be her type—tan and too beautiful to touch, walking with a swagger that said he knew exactly how attractive he was. He moved as if he were in charge of everyone and everything, seeming taller for it. But he wasn't really that tall—not as tall as the bone-girls by the river or the strange tree-bark men that roamed the city. He was almost average in size, only a head taller than she was.

Whenever he came near, she could smell wildflowers, could hear the rustle of willow branches, as if she were sitting by a pond on one of those rare summer days: a taste of midsummer in the start of the frigid fall. And she wanted to keep that taste, bask in it, roll in it until the warmth soaked into her very skin. It terrified her, the almost irresistible urge to get closer to him, to get closer to any of the fey. He terrified her.

Aislinn walked a little faster, not running, but faster. Don't run. If she ran, they'd chase: faeries always gave chase.

She ducked inside The Comix Connexion. She felt safer among the rows of unpainted wooden bins that lined the shop. My space.

Every night she'd slipped away from them, hiding until they passed, waiting until they were out of sight. Sometimes it took a few tries, but so far it had worked.

She waited inside Comix, hoping they hadn't seen.

Then he walked in—wearing a glamour, hiding that glow, passing for human—visible to everyone.

That's new. And new wasn't good, not where the fey were concerned. Faeries walked past her—past everyone—daily, invisible and impossible to hear unless they willed it. The really strong ones, those that could venture further into the city, could weave a glamour—faery manipulation—to hide in plain sight as humans. They frightened her more than the others.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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