Wicked Lovely Page 27

A flare of anger flashed over his too-beautiful face, but he said nothing. He just walked away.

She wanted to believe she'd get rid of him by her refusal to be drawn in by his attention. I can hope. Because if not, she didn't know what she would do. He was compelling, pulling her attention away from all that she knew as wise and good.

At the far side of the cafeteria, Rianne had left her spot in line and was talking to him. They both looked over at her: Rianne smiling conspiratorially, Keenan looking pleased.

Great. Aislinn unpacked part of her lunch, pulling out a yogurt and spoon. Stalker-faery has a new ally.

While she was alone, Aislinn made a quick phone call to request the cabbie she and Seth had met at the tat shop a few months ago. The cabbie had told them how to get dispatch to send him specifically and assured them that he'd be on time or get a friend to be there if they requested him. So far he'd been as good as his word.

She kept her voice as low as she could in hopes that Keenan's guards wouldn't hear.

One of them was already moving closer to her.

Too late. She hid her brief smile—any success against them was a pleasure—as she disconnected.

She stirred her yogurt and wondered yet again why Keenan had singled her out. She knew it wasn't about the Sight; she'd lived by the rules, done everything right.

So why me?

All day girls had tried to talk to him, offered to show him around. He was polite but adamant that he needed Aislinn to show him around, not them.

Pretty girls, cheerleaders, geek girls, everyone was lusting on him. It felt good to be the one they all looked at with envy for a change. It'd feel better if he were a normal guy, like Seth.

Along with half the students at school, Keenan's faeries watched them, unabashed as the fey always were. They seemed tired, shifting in and out of the school in small groups. Although the metal-laden building must be painful for them, they stood alert and observant, keeping Keenan in their sight at all times. They treated him reverentially. Why wouldn't they if Keenan is a faery king?

She thought, for a heartbeat, that she was going to be sick from the flood of fears and horrible images that came rushing over her. A faery king…and he's stalking me.

With no small effort, Aislinn managed to push down the rising worries as Leslie and Carla headed her way. Panic wouldn't help. A plan was what she needed; answers were what she needed. Maybe if she had answers, if she knew why he'd fixated on her, she could find a way to get rid of him.

As she watched Keenan walk toward her, Aislinn saw a fleeting image of sunlight rippling over water, bouncing off buildings, strange flickers of warmth and beauty that made her want to run toward him. He looked at her, smiling invitingly, as he followed Rianne through the crowded cafeteria.

Rianne was chattering animatedly to him, looking for all the world like they were long-lost friends. Leslie laughed at whatever Keenan said, and Aislinn realized that her friends had all accepted him.

And why wouldn't they? As much as she wished they would ignore him, there was nothing she could say. She couldn't explain why she wanted him gone. She couldn't tell them how very dangerous he was. It wasn't a choice she had. Sometimes that lack of choices, the pressures of dealing with the fey, made her feel like she was smothering, like the secrecy was a physical weight bearing down on her. She hated it.

After her traitorous friends brought him to the table, she tried to ignore him. It worked—for a while—but he kept watching her, directing most of his comments to her, asking her questions. All the while he sat on the opposite side of the table staring at her with those inhuman green eyes.

Finally he pointed at over-steamed green beans and asked something inane and she snapped, "What? Too common for someone like you?"

Where's my control? More and more, her lifetime of emotional control seemed to be faltering, sliding away.

He was frighteningly still. "What do you mean?"

She knew better than to provoke a faery, especially a faery king, but she barreled on, "You'd be surprised at what I know about you. And you know what? None of it impresses me. Not one little bit."

He laughed then—joyous and free, like the anger that'd flared in his eyes hadn't existed. "Then I shall try harder."

She shivered in foreboding, in sudden longing, in some uncomfortable mixture of the two. It was worse than the simple compulsion she'd felt to reach out toward him: it was the same disquieting tangle of feelings she'd felt at Comix when he'd first spoken to her.

Leslie whistled softly. "Give him a little something, Ash."

"Drop it, Les." Aislinn fisted her hands in her lap under the table.

"PMS." Rianne nodded. Then she tapped Keenan's hand and added, "Just ignore her, sweetie. We'll help you wear her down."

"Oh, I'm counting on that, Rianne," Keenan murmured. He was glowing—like a bright light radiated from inside his skin—as he spoke.

Aislinn could taste rose-heavy air, could feel the too-tempting warmth from him.

Her friends stared at him as if he were the most amazing thing they'd ever glimpsed. I am so screwed.

Aislinn stayed silent until it was time to go to afternoon classes, her fingernails digging small half circles— like slivers of the sun —into her palms. She concentrated on the pain of those suns, only partially visible in her skin, and wondered if she had any chance at all of escaping from Keenan's attention.

By the end of the day, Keenan's proximity had grown intolerable to Aislinn. A strange warmth seemed to permeate the air when he stood close to her, and after a few moments, it was near painful to resist touching him. Her mind told her to, but her eyes wanted to drift shut; her hands wanted to reach out.

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