Wicked Lovely Page 28

I need space.

She'd learned to deal with seeing the fey. It was awful, but she did it. She could do this, too.

He's just another faery.

She concentrated, repeating the rules and warnings in her mind like a prayer, a litany to keep her focused. Don't stare, don't speak, don't run, don't touch. She took several calming breaths. Don't react. Don't attract their attention. Don't ever let them know you can see them. The familiarity of the words helped her push back the edge of desire, but it wasn't enough to make it anywhere near comfortable to be around him.

So when they walked in to Lit class and one of the cheerleaders offered him an empty seat—a seat gloriously far away from hers—Aislinn gave the cheerleader a big smile. "I could kiss you for that. Thank you."

Keenan flinched at the phrase.

The cheerleader stared back at Aislinn, not sure if it was a joke or not.

"Seriously. Thank you." Aislinn turned away from the less-than-pleased Keenan and slid into her seat, grateful to have a respite—however brief it was.

A few minutes later Sister Mary Louise came in and passed out a stack of papers. "I thought we'd take a Shakespeare break today."

Appreciative murmurs greeted her, quickly followed by groans when people saw the poetry on the handouts. Ignoring the grumbling, Sister Mary Louise scrawled a title on the whiteboard: "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." Someone in the back muttered, "Poetry and French, oh joy."

Sister Mary Louise laughed. "Who wants to read about the 'Beautiful Woman Without Pity'?"

Utterly unself-conscious, Keenan stood and read the tragic tale of a knight fatally entranced by a faery. It wasn't the words that had every girl in the room sighing: it was his voice. Even without a glamour, he sounded sinfully good.

When he was done reading, Sister Mary Louise seemed as stunned as the rest of them. "Beautiful," she murmured. Then she pulled her gaze away to drift over the room, pausing on the typically vocal students. "Well? What can you tell me?"

"I've got nothing," Leslie murmured from across the aisle.

Sister Mary Louise caught Aislinn's eye expectantly.

So after yet another steadying breath, Aislinn said, "She wasn't a woman. The knight trusted something inhuman, a faery or a vampire or something, and now he's dead."

Sister Mary Louise prompted, "Good. So what does that mean?"

"Don't trust faeries or vamps," Leslie muttered.

Everyone but Keenan and Aislinn laughed.

Then Keenan's voice cut through the laughter, "Perhaps the faery wasn't at fault. Perhaps there were other factors."

"Right. What's one mortal's life? He died. It doesn't matter if the faery, vamp, whatever it was felt bad or didn't mean to. The knight is still dead." Aislinn tried to keep her voice calm, and mostly succeeded. Her heartbeat was another matter entirely. She knew Keenan watched her, but she stared at Sister Mary Louise and added, "The monster's not suffering, is she?"

"It could be a metaphor about trusting the wrong person, right?" Leslie added.

"Good. Good." Sister Mary Louise added several lines to the scrawl on the board. "What else?"

The discussion veered onto several other topics, until Sister Mary Louise finally said, "Let's look at Rossetti's 'Goblin Market' for a moment and then we'll come back to this."

Aislinn was unsurprised that Keenan volunteered to read again; he had to know how his voice sounded. This time he stared straight at her as he read, barely glancing at the words on the page.

Leslie leaned toward Aislinn and whispered, "Looks like Seth has competition."

"No." Aislinn shook her head and forced herself to hold Keenan's gaze as she answered, "No, he doesn't. There's nothing Keenan could offer me that I want."

Her voice was low, but he heard her. He stumbled briefly, confusion flitting across his too-beautiful face. He stopped mid-poem.

Aislinn looked away before he could see how tempted she really was, before she admitted to herself how much she wanted to ignore all reason.

Sister Mary Louise stepped into the silence. "Cassandra, please continue from there."

Please. Let him go away.

Aislinn didn't glance his way once for the rest of the class. Afterward she all but ran from the room, hoping the taxi would be waiting as promised. If she had to face much more of Keenan's attention, she was afraid of what she might do.


Folks say that the only way to avoid their fury is to hunt a branch of verbena and bind it with a five-leaved clover. This is magic against all disaster.

— Folk Tales of Brittany by Elsie Masson (1929)

When Donia walked into the library, she saw Seth. Aislinn's friend, the one who lives in the den of steel walls. It wasn't quite late enough to see Aislinn, but if Seth was here, perhaps Aislinn was meeting him again.

He didn't seem to notice anyone around him, despite the mortals and faeries who were all noticing him. And why wouldn't they? He was lovely, tempting in ways so different than Keenan: dark and still, shadows and paleness. Don't think of Keenan. Think of the mortal. Smile for him.

She took her time, moving slowly and carefully with a casual hand for support on the vacant tables she passed, a moment's pause to catch her breath at the new book display.

He watched.

Let him speak first. You can do this. Her gaze—hidden behind dark glasses—lingered on him for a breath or two. He sat at one of the handful of computer terminals, a pile of printouts beside him.

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