Wicked Lovely Page 38

She lifted the bowl in greeting, but she didn't say anything. Her lips were tender; her hair felt like it was a mess. It had to be obvious they'd interrupted something.

Keeping her attention on the salve was easier than dealing with them. She poured the powdered herbs into an empty bowl, added more, and kept grinding them.

Jimmy nudged Seth. "What happened to the 'only friends in the house' rule?"

"Ash is a friend." Seth narrowed his eyes at Jimmy and added, "The only one who has an open door here."

Still grinning, Jimmy came over and looked at the bowl Aislinn clutched. "Well, this is interesting. What you got?" He picked up the bowl of already pulverized Saint-John's-wort and sniffed. "Nothing I've smoked."

He was a loudmouth; Mitchell was even worse, especially since Leslie had told everyone who'd listen that he was a lousy lay. He set a six-pack of beer on the counter.

The girls were over by Boomer, staring at the boa, but not getting too close. All three were dressed in clothes that meant they would be freezing outside—tight skirts, cle**age-baring shirts—the sort of thing that'd be uncomfortable even if it weren't autumn. Three? She looked over at them, looked at Jimmy, who was making himself at home, picking at the leftover pasta.

"Thought I asked everyone to let me have a few days to myself." Seth poured the first bowl of crushed herbs into the boiling water and set a timer. "Ash, can you grab the olive oil when you finish those?"

She nodded.

"Time to yourself, huh?" Mitchell grinned. "You don't look like you're by yourself."

"We were." Seth raised his eyebrow and inclined his head toward the door. "We still could be."

"Nope." Mitchell popped the top on a can.

Seth took several deep breaths. "If you're going to be here for a while, turn on some tunes."

"Actually, we thought you might want to go out," the girl who'd been clinging to Jimmy said.

One of the other girls—the one watching Seth—moved to the side, just a little, and Aislinn caught a glimpse of tiny horns poking through her hair, of leathery wings curled behind her.

How did she walk in here? Looking like that? Only the strongest of the fey could be surrounded by this much steel and hold on to a glamour. That was one of the rules that had given Aislinn the most comfort over the years.

The winged girl moved toward Seth slowly, like each step took a lot of concentration. "We can't really stay long. Come with us? There's supposed to be a good band down at the Crow's Nest." She offered Aislinn a catty smile. "I'd invite you, too, but they're being strict about the age thing after the raid. Eighteen only, you know?"

Slowly Aislinn set the bowl down and went over to stand in front of Seth, between him and the faery. "Seth isn't available."

Seth put his hands on her hips, touching her but not restraining her.

Glaring at the faery, Aislinn leaned back against Seth. How dare she come here? Who sent her? The idea of Seth being vulnerable to them made her almost violently angry.

"Well, this is fun," Mitchell said.

Nodding, Jimmy sat down with the pan of half-cold pasta and a fork. "My money's on Ash."

The faery kept coming toward the kitchen.

Aislinn put her arm out in front of the faery. "I think you need to leave."

"Really?" She wrinkled her nose.

"Yes." Aislinn put a hand on the faery's wrist, not gripping it, but resting her fingers there. Just like at school, contact with the faery made Aislinn's Sight clearer.

Aislinn pushed, gently.

The faery winced and stumbled. Her eyebrows shot up as she gave Aislinn a strange look.

Recovering quickly, the faery murmured, "Another night, then."

"No." Seth slid his arms around Aislinn's waist. "I'm exactly where I want to be."

Jimmy and Mitchell exchanged another goofy grin.

"Man, you need to share your secrets." Mitchell got up and picked up his beer. At a quick glance in his date's direction, she came over to stand next to him.

Mitchell continued, "Not like you ever have trouble getting—" He cleared his throat, and his date smacked him on the arm. He grinned.

"All I'm saying is whatever he's doing" — he inclined his head toward the back of the train where Seth's bedroom was—"must work. Ash hardly ever even speaks. He's got her ready to start a fight over him."

The faery hadn't moved. She trailed her fingertips down her cle**age, slowly. "You'd have fun. More than you'll get here."

Aislinn stepped away from Seth. She wrapped her fingers around the girl's wrist and walked over to the door, tugging the faery behind her. For such a strong faery, she was unbelievably easy to drag along. Maybe she's weak from all the steel.

"Go." Aislinn opened the door and shoved the faery forward. "Stay out."

The faeries outside were all watching. Several giggled gleefully.

The vine-girl in the suit was there again. She looked up from her newest menagerie of origami animals—which were now walking around as if they were alive. "Told you, Cerise," she said, and went back to folding more leaves. "That sort of approach doesn't work if they're already in love."

Aislinn let go of the encroaching faery. "Stay away from him."

"For the night" — the faery looked back inside, her wings opening and closing behind her, slowly, like a butterfly at rest—"but really, I think he could do so much better."

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