Wicked Lovely Page 33

He stepped closer, watching her predatorily, his mood shirting rapidly once more. "Honestly? I don't know. There's something about you. From the first time I saw you, I just knew."

He took her hand.

She actually let him. Play along. It wasn't just playing, though: she'd been resisting the need to reach out to him since they first met. It wasn't logical, but it was definitely there.

At his touch, her Sight sharpened. It appeared as if the faeries around them had all donned human glamours simultaneously.

No one in the classroom reacted; no one screamed. Obviously, the faeries hadn't suddenly become visible.

What happened? She trembled.

Keenan was staring at her, too intently for comfort. "I don't know why certain people shine for others. I don't know why you and not someone else." He gently pulled her forward and whispered, "But it's you I think of when I wake each morning. It's your face in my dreams."

Aislinn swallowed. That would seem odd even if he were normal. And he wasn't. What he was—unfortunately—was completely serious.

She shivered. "I don't know."

Keenan stroked her hand with his thumb. "Give me a chance. Let's start over."

Aislinn froze. Years of Grams' warnings tumbled through her mind, a symphony of wisdom and worry. She heard her own voice telling Seth that the way things were done wasn't working. Try something new. She nodded. "Start over. Sure."

And he smiled at her, truly smiled—wicked and lovely and so tempting that the stories of faery kidnapping came crashing into her mind. Kidnapping? Following by choice is more like it. She all but collapsed into her chair. He's a faery. Faeries are bad. But if I can find out what they want…

Class was half over before she realized she hadn't heard a word of the lecture or—she glanced at the notebook she didn't remember opening—written any of it down.

Afterward, still in a daze, she walked beside Keenan to her locker.

He was talking, asking her something, "…carnival? I could pick you up or meet you. Your choice."

"Sure." She blinked, feeling like she was sleepwalking in someone else's dream. "What?"

The faery guards exchanged knowing looks.

"There's a carnival tonight." He held out a hand for her books.

Stupidly she started to hand them to him, but stopped herself. "What about your big plans?"

"Just say yes." He waited expectantly.

Finally she nodded. "As friends."

He stepped back as she closed her locker. "Of course. Friends."

Rianne, Leslie, and Carla came over then.

"Well?" Rianne prompted. "Did she say yes?"

"She shot him down, didn't you, Ash?" Leslie patted Keenan's arm consolingly. "Don't worry. She turns everyone down."

"Not everyone." Keenan looked entirely too pleased with himself. "We're going to the carnival."

"What?" Aislinn looked from Rianne to Keenan. They knew?

"Pay up." Rianne held a hand out to Leslie, who grudgingly pulled a crumpled bill out of her pocket, and then turned to Carla. "You too."

"Pay up?" Aislinn echoed, following them toward the cafeteria.

Behind her, she heard several guards laughing.

"I told them he'd be able to get you to go out." Rianne folded her winnings and tucked the bills into her blazer pocket. "Look at him."

"He's right here, Ri," Carla murmured, shooting Keenan an apologetic look. "We've tried to teach her manners, but…" She shrugged. "It's like housebreaking a dog. If we'd had her when she was still a puppy, maybe."

Rianne smacked her on the arm, but she was grinning. "Woof, woof."

Turning to Aislinn, Carla lowered her voice. "When we saw you two talking, she wouldn't let us come over until she was sure he had asked you. She actually grabbed Leslie."

"It's not a date," Aislinn muttered.

"Right. We're just going to talk, get to know each other," Keenan agreed. He paused, looking at each of them, glowing just a little as he did it. "In fact, you can join us if you want. Meet some of my old friends."

Aislinn's heart sped. "No."

"Sounds like a date to me. Don't worry. I'm not coming on your date, Ash." Rianne sighed, like something wonderful had just happened, and turned to Carla. "What do you think?"

Carla nodded. "Definitely a date."

"Aislinn is accompanying me as a friend," Keenan said with a contented look. "I'm simply honored that she's joining me at all."

Aislinn looked at him, at her friends who were staring at him adoringly.

He caught her gaze and smiled.

She didn't speed up as he kept pace with her. Now that Keenan seemed pleased, the compulsion she'd been feeling had faded to barely a whisper.

I can handle this.

But as he pulled out her chair with an unusual courtly gesture, she saw her reflection in his eyes, surrounded by a tiny halo of sun.

I hope.


They live much longer than we; yet die at last, or [at] least vanish from that State.

— The Secret Commonwealth by Robert Kirk and Andrew Lang (1893)

When Donia returned home from her evening walk, Beira was waiting on the porch, reclining in a chair fashioned of ice.

Almost idly the Winter Queen sculpted screaming faces on a sheet of ice beside her. It looked like the faeries in the sculpture were trapped alive, writhing and shrieking.

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