Wicked Lovely Page 24

Donia laughed, coldly, sounding every bit Beira's creature in that moment. "Where were you when I needed that advice? I've already gone out with the biggest mistake a girl can make."

"Be sure to point him out if you see him around." Aislinn stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder.

And with that, Seth was already returning, attentive to Aislinn's every move.

Donia smiled at them, wishing someone waited for her like that—the way Keenan once had.

"Thanks again for the save." Aislinn nodded then and walked off, headed straight toward the cadaverous Scrimshaw Sisters, who were gliding over the ground with their usual macabre beauty.

She'll swerve if she can see them.

She didn't. She kept walking forward until one of the Scrimshaw Sisters drifted out of her path at the last possible second.

Mortals don't see the fey. Donia smiled wryly: if they did, Keenan would never have convinced any of them to trust him.


Sometimes they contrived to induce, by their fair and winning ways, unwary men and women to go with them.

— Notes on the Folk-Lore of the North-East of Scotland byWalter Gregor(1881)

By the time she was far enough away from the fountain to feel comfortable stopping, Aislinn thought she was going to be sick. She leaned into Seth, knowing he'd wrap his arms around her again.

His lips were against her ear when he asked, "More than meets the eye?"


Seth held on to her, but he didn't say anything else.

"What would I do without you?" She closed her eyes, not wanting to see the vine-girls—or any of the other faeries—who stood watching them.

"You'll never need to find that out." He kept an arm around her shoulders as they started walking, past the place where the guys had grabbed her, past the omnipresent faeries with their crackled skin.

Being more assertive sounded good in theory, but she'd need to learn to relax a lot more if she was going to be able to talk to faeries. Donia might have rescued her once, but that didn't change what she was.

When they got to her building, Seth slipped money into her hand. "Take a taxi tomorrow."

She didn't like accepting money from him, but she couldn't ask Grams for it without making her suspicious. She tucked it into her pocket. "You want to come up?"

He lifted both eyebrows. "Pass."

Aislinn went up the stairs, hoping Grams was asleep. Right now, avoiding those too-observant eyes seemed like a good plan. She went inside and tried to walk past the living room.

"You missed dinner again." Grams didn't take her eyes off the news. "Bad things out there, Aislinn."

"I know." She paused in the doorway to the living room, but she didn't go in.

Grams sat in her bright purple lounger, feet propped up on the stone and steel coffee table. Her reading glasses hung by a chain around her neck. She might not be as young as she was in Aislinn's childhood memories, but she still looked as fierce as she had then, still thin and healthier than many women her age. Even when she spent the day at home, she was dressed for the possibility of «callers» — her long gray hair coiled up into a simple bun or contained in an intricate plait, dressing gown traded in for a sedate skirt and blouse.

Grams wasn't staid or sedate, though: she was uncommonly forward-thinking, and entirely too clever when she paid attention. "Something happen?"

It felt like a normal question, and if anyone heard, it'd sound like it too. Always careful, that's the key to surviving among them. Still, Grams' strong voice had more than a thread of worry in it.

"I'm fine, Grams. Just tired." Aislinn went in, leaned down, and kissed her. I need to tell her, just not yet. She already worried too much.

"You're wearing new steel." Grams eyed the necklace Seth had given Aislinn.

Aislinn stood there—wavering. How much do I say? Grams wouldn't understand, or approve, of Aislinn taking an active approach to finding out what they wanted. Hide and look away: that was Grams' credo.

"Aislinn?" Grams turned up the volume on the news and grabbed a piece of paper. She wrote: Have They done something? Are you hurt? and held out the paper.


With a stern look, Grams pointed at the paper.

Sighing, Aislinn took the paper and pen. Using the coffee table as a desk, she wrote: Two of them are following me.

Grams sucked in her breath, quietly gasping. She snatched the paper. I'll call the school, fill out papers to homeschool, and…

"No. Please," Aislinn whispered. She put her hand over Grams' hand. She took the pen and wrote, I'm not sure what they want, but I don't want to hide. Then she said, "Please? Let me try it this way. I'll be careful."

At first Grams stared at Aislinn, as if there were answers hidden under the skin that she could see if only she looked carefully.

Aislinn willed herself to look as reassuring as possible.

Finally Grams wrote, Stay away from them as much as you can. Remember the rules.

Aislinn nodded. She didn't often try to hide things from Grams, but she wasn't going to admit that she'd tried to follow them or tell her about Seth's research.

Grams had always insisted that avoidance was the best and only plan. Aislinn no longer thought that was a good answer—if she was honest, she'd never thought it was.

She simply said, "I'm being careful. I know what's out there."

Grams frowned and gripped Aislinn's wrist briefly. "Keep your cell phone in your pocket. I want to be able to reach you."

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