Wicked Lovely Page 31

The birdlike faery skittered over, sniffing Seth and wrinkling his nose.

"Answer your phone next time. Please?" Aislinn poked Seth in the chest. "Where were you?"

He nodded and followed her inside, closing the steel door in the faery's face. "I was talking to Donia."

"What?" Aislinn felt like her throat was closing.

"Not terribly friendly, prettier than I realized, though." Seth smiled, calmly, like he hadn't just told her that he'd been chatting up one of Them. "Not so pretty that I didn't tell her to watch her step. But still, she's almost as pretty as you."

"You did what?" Aislinn shoved Seth—gently, but he still winced.

"Talked to her." He put a hand on his chest where she'd touched when she shoved him. He pulled his shirt away and looked. A puzzled expression on his face, he said, "That stung."

"She might seem nice, but she's still one of them. You can't trust them." Aislinn turned to stare at the faeries loitering outside. One of them—the girl in the suit—was sorting a handful of leaves, folding them like origami.

Seth came up behind her and rested his chin on her head. "How many are out there?"

"Too many." She turned so she was facing him, chest to chest, too close to glare up at him. "You can't do stuff like that. You can't risk—"

"Relax." He caught a length of her hair in his hand, letting it slowly sift through his fingers. "I'm not an idiot, Ash. I didn't say, 'nasty faery, stay away. I thanked her for her help the other day and mentioned that it would be bad if anything happened to you. That's all."

He stepped back so he could look down at her upturned face. There were dark circles under his eyes. "Trust me, okay? I'm not going to do anything that could put you in more danger."

"Sorry." Feeling guilty for yelling, for doubting, for the shadows under his eyes, she took his hand and squeezed. "Sit down. I'll make tea."

"I made some progress in the research on faery sight and faery defense. Not a lot, but some." He settled into his favorite chair and pulled out a sheaf of papers.

When she didn't answer, he laid the papers in his lap and asked, "Or do you want to tell me what's got you spooked first?"

She shook her head. "No. Not now, at least."

All the talk of faeries, research on faeries, avoiding faeries. How fair is that to him? "I thought we could try talking about something else for a while. I don't know…"

He rubbed his eyes. "Okay. Do you want to tell me about school?"

"Umm. Definitely not school if we're trying to avoid discussing faeries." She filled up the teakettle and opened the chamomile tea on the counter. Holding it up, she asked, "Does this taste awful?"

"I don't think so, but there's honey in the bottom cupboard if you want it." He stretched, exposing bare stomach where his shirt lifted, flashing the black ring in his navel. "We could talk about after, when life gets back to normal. I was thinking we should go out to dinner when this is all over."

She'd seen him without a shirt before, seen him in his shorts. They'd been friends for a while. What did he say? Dinner? Dinner with Seth. She stood in his kitchen, watching him toy with the ring in his lip. It wasn't quite that he was biting it, but sucking it into his mouth. He did that when he was concentrating. It isn't sexy. He's not sexy.

But he was, and she was staring at him like a fool. "Wow," she whispered.

She looked away, feeling stupid. We're friends. Friends go to dinner too. It doesn't mean anything. She opened the cupboard. The bottle of honey sat next to an odd assortment of spices and oils. "Dinner, right. Carla wants to go to the new place over on Vine. You could…"

"Wow, huh?" His voice was low, husky. His chair creaked as he stood. His footsteps seemed strangely loud as he closed the couple yards between them. Then he was beside her. "I can work with wow."

She turned away, quickly, squeezing the bottle and squirting honey on the counter. "I didn't mean anything. Too much flirting lately, and that call, and…I know you probably have a dozen girls waiting. I'm just tired and…"

"Hey." His hand was on her shoulder, trying to turn her to face him. "There's no one else. Just you. No one for the last seven months."

He tugged gently on her shoulder again. "There's no one but you in my life."

She turned, and they stood there. She stared at his shirt; there was a button missing. She clutched the bottle of honey until he pulled it out of her grasp and set it down.

Then he kissed her.

She stretched up on her tiptoes, tilted her head, trying to get even closer. Seth slid a hand around her waist and kissed her like she was the air, and he was suffocating. And she forgot about everything: there were no faeries, no Sight, nothing—just them.

He lifted her onto the counter where she'd sat and talked to him countless times. But this time her hands were in his hair, wrapping her fingers in it, pulling him closer.

It was the most perfect kiss she'd ever had until she realized, Seth. This is Seth.

She pulled away.

"Definitely worth the wait," Seth whispered, his arms still around her.

Her legs were on either side of him; her ankles crossed behind him. She rested her forehead on his shoulder.

Neither of them said anything.

Seth doesn't date. This is a mistake. It'd be weird after: she'd been telling herself that for months. It hadn't made her stop thinking traitorous thoughts.

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