Wicked Lovely Page 45

She put her hand over his mouth. "Convince her."

She pulled her hand away and—lips firmly closed to keep the icy air from his mouth—kissed him. "Then kill Beira."


Faeries are partly human and partly spiritual in their nature…

Some of them are benevolent…

Others are malevolent…

abducting grown people, and bringing misfortune.

— The Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man by A. W. Moore (1891)

Keenan was shaken when he left Donia; he walked aimlessly through the city, wishing, wanting an answer. There wasn't one. Unless Aislinn was his missing queen and he was able to convince her to trust him, to accept him, there was nothing he could do. He simply wasn't strong enough to stand against Beira.

If I were… He smiled at that thought: stopping Beira, maybe in time to save Donia. That was the only recourse they had.

But if Aislinn's Sight was that thing which the Eolas spoke of—and that would be in their nature—it was all for nothing. Donia would die, and he would still be bound. The small trickle of summer that he could call was nowhere near enough to stand against Beira.

He rested his head against an oak tree, eyes closed. Breathe. Just breathe. Aislinn was different, perhaps different enough; perhaps she was the one.

But she might not be.

The Eolas' proclamation—which the fey had heard as a herald of the Summer Queen's discovery—could be nothing more than a revelation that she was Sighted. She might not be the one.

He'd just turned toward the greener part of the city when he heard Beira's hags approach. They followed at an almost respectful distance until he reached the river.

At the river's side, he sat—feet on the soil, sun on his back—and waited.

Better here than at the loft.

The last time she'd visited, Beira had frozen as many of his birds as she could when he left the room. He'd returned to find them dead on the ground, or affixed to branches, hanging like awful ornaments at the tips of icicles. Unless he could stop her, one of these times it could be the Summer Girls or his guards who felt her temper.

Beira stood in the shadow of a garish awning held over her by several of her nearly-naked guards—Hawthorn-people and one slick-skinned troll, all sporting fresh bruises and frostbitten skin.

"What, no hug? no kiss?" Beira held out a hand. "Come here, dearest."

"I'll stay out here." Keenan didn't bother getting up; he just glanced up at her. "I like the warmth on my skin."

She wrinkled her nose and made a little moue of distaste. "Nasty stuff, sunlight."

He shrugged. Talking to her now—after seeing Donia, after all the doubts about Aislinn—was the last thing he wanted.

"Do you know that there's a market these days for SPF cloth?" She sat back on a blindingly white chair that the hags dragged up for her. "Mortals are such strange beasts."

"Do you have a point, Beira?" He never enjoyed her presence, but she'd threatened Donia—feigning civility was more of a struggle than usual.

"Is it so hard to believe I just wanted to visit with you? Chat with you?" Without looking behind her, she held out a hand; a collared wood-sprite slipped an icy drink into her outstretched fingers. "You so rarely visit."

Keenan reclined on the grass, relishing the strength of the earth's warmth seeping into his body from the soil. "Perhaps because you're vicious and cruel?"

She waved her hand as if brushing away his comment. "You say potato; I say potahto…"

"I say integrity; you say deceit."

"Well, it's such a subjective idea, integrity." She sipped her drink. "Can I offer you a refreshment, dear?"

"No." He ran his fingers over the soil, sending his warmth down to the resting bulbs. Small flower sprouts rushed out toward his touch; delicate shoots poked up between his opened fingers.

"I hear you shared quite a bit of refreshment with the new Summer Girl. Poor dear was dizzy with it." She tsked at him with a censorious look. "Haven't I taught you better? Getting the poor lamb intoxicated to convince her to you know"

"That wasn't what it was," he snapped. "Aislinn and I danced and celebrated her new life. It wasn't a seduction."

She stepped out from under her awning, sending her guards scurrying to keep it over her as she moved. If they failed, they'd suffer, regardless of whose fault it was.

As the shade blocked his comforting rays, Keenan was torn between waiting and simply setting the awning to flame. He stood to face her.

"Well, if you want my opinion, a mother's wisdom, I say she's not worth it." She glanced at the flowers; they froze in her sight. She stepped forward and—with a grating noise— ground them under her boot. "Poor Deborah shouldn't have any trouble convincing her to stay away from you. You didn't ask her to go easy on the mortal, did you?"

"It's Aislinn's choice. She'll either take up the staff or not." He wanted to tell her that threatening Donia wouldn't change anything, but he couldn't. "I spoke to Donia—which you so obviously know—about the Eolas' announcement."

"Oh?" She paused, wide-eyed as if she were surprised. "What announcement?"

"That Aislinn is special."

"Of course she is, sweetling. They're all special—at least the first few nights. After that, the" — she looked back at a cowering sprite—"novelty just isn't there, you know?"

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