Wicked Lovely Page 4

"Keenan," Donia snapped, a cloud of frigid air slipping out with her voice. "She doesn't like you."

"She will." He stepped outside and shook off the glamour. Then he said the words that'd sealed so many mortal girls' fates. "I've dreamed about her. She's the one."

And with that Aislinn's mortality began to fade. Unless she became the Winter Girl, she was his now—for better or for worse.


The Sleagh Maith, or the Good People, are terrifyed by nothing earthly so much as by cold Iron.

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

As freaked as she was by the faery approaching her, Aislinn couldn't go home. If everything seemed calm, Grams didn't put many restrictions on her, but if Grams suspected trouble, that leniency would vanish. Aislinn wasn't about to risk that, not if she had a choice, so she needed to keep her panic in check.

And she was panicked, more than she'd been in years— enough that she'd actually run for a block, attracting faery followers. Several gave chase at first, until one of the lupine faeries snarled at the others and they'd dropped off—all but one female. She loped alongside Aislinn on all fours as they ran up Third Avenue. The wolf-girl's crystalline fur chimed with an eerily appealing melody, as if it would lull the listener to trust.

Aislinn slowed, hoping to discourage her, wanting to stop that chiming song. It didn't work.

She concentrated on the sound of her feet hitting the pavement, the cars that drove by, a stereo with too much bass, anything but that chiming song. As she rounded the corner onto Crofter, the red neon sign for the Crow's Nest reflected on the faery's fur, emphasizing holly-red eyes. Like the rest of downtown Huntsdale, the building that housed the grungy club showed how far the city had fallen. Facades that were presumably once attractive now bore telltale signs of age and decay. Scrubby weeds sprouted from cracked sidewalks and half-abandoned lots. Outside the club, near the deserted railroad yard, the people she passed were as likely as not looking to score—seeking something, anything, to numb their minds. It wasn't an option she could indulge in, but she didn't begrudge them their chemical refuge.

A few girls she recognized waved, but didn't motion for her to stop. Aislinn inclined her head in greeting as she slowed to a normal walking speed.

Almost there.

Then one of Seth's friends, Glenn, stepped in her path. He had so many bars in his face, she'd need to touch them to count them all.

Behind her, the wolf-girl paced, circling closer until the pungent scent of her fur was chokingly heady.

"Tell Seth his speakers came in," Glenn started.

The wolf-girl, still on all fours, nudged Aislinn with her head.

Aislinn stumbled, clutching Glenn's arm for balance.

He reached out when she tried to step back. "You okay?"

"I guess I just ran too fast" — she forced a smile and tried to look like she was winded from her run—"trying to keep warm, you know?"

"Right." The look he gave her was a familiar one: unbelieving.

As she started to walk past him, to reach the shortcut to Seth's, the door to the Crow's Nest opened, letting out discordant music. The thump of the drums beat faster even than her racing heart.

Glenn cleared his throat. "Seth's not good with you going through there" — he gestured toward the shadowy alley alongside the building—"alone. He'd be upset, you know, if you got messed up."

She couldn't tell him the truth: the scary things weren't the guys smoking in the alley, but the lupine fey growling at her feet. "It's early." Glenn crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head.

"Right." Aislinn stepped away from the mouth of the alley, away from the shortcut to the safety of Seth's steel walls.

Glenn watched until she turned back to the street.

The wolf-girl snapped at the air behind Aislinn's ankles until she gave in to her fear and took off jogging the rest of the way to the railroad yard.

At the edge of Seth's lot, Aislinn stopped to compose herself. Seth was pretty together, but he still freaked out sometimes when she was upset.

The wolf-girl howled as Aislinn walked the last couple yards up to the train, but it didn't bother Aislinn as much, not here.

Seth's train was beautiful on so many levels. How could I be upset here? The outside was decorated in murals that ran the gamut from anime to abstract; beautiful and unexpected, they faded into one another like a collage that begged the viewer to make sense of the images, to find an order behind the colorful pastiche. In one of the few warmer months, she'd sat with Seth in his odd garden studying the art and realized that the beauty wasn't in the order, but in the unplanned harmony.

Like being with Seth.

It wasn't just paintings that decorated the garden: sprouting like unnatural trees along the perimeter was a series of metalwork sculptures Seth had made over the past couple years. Between those sculptures—and in some cases twining around them—were flowering plants and shrubs. Despite the ravages of the lengthy winter months, the plants thrived under Seth's watchful care.

Heartbeat calm now, Aislinn lifted her hand to knock.

Before she could, the door swung open, and Seth stood in the doorway, grinning. The streetlights made him look a bit intimidating, illuminating the bars in his eyebrows and the ring in his lower lip. His blue-black hair fell over his face when he moved, like tiny arrows pointing to pronounced cheekbones. "Starting to think you were going to bail on me."

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