Wicked Lovely Page 46

He forced a laugh.

"Poor Delilah, I imagine she's bitter. It wasn't so long ago that she was the one dancing with you." Beira swayed as if she were dancing with an invisible partner, looking elegant even though she was alone. "Mortals are such fragile things. Just tender feelings walking around exposed in their delicate shells…Easy to crush."

His heart sped. The rules prevented her from contacting the mortal girl, and until now Beira'd never broken that rule—to the best of his knowledge—but she was already breaking other rules. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing, love." She stopped and curtsied to him, pulled out a fan, and fluttered it in front of her face, sending cold air toward him. "I'm just wondering if you should pick another girl for the game; let this one join the rest of the other discarded girls. I'll even go girl-watching with you. We could pick up Delia and make a bonding experience of it."

He let all the bitterness he felt show in his voice and said, "Well, at the rate Donia's going, I may need to. Aside from one drunken dance, I'm getting nowhere."

"There'll be other girls, darling." Beira sighed, but her eyes glimmered with a sheen of ice—a sure sign she was pleased.

But they aren't the Summer Queen, are they?

"Perhaps I just need to try harder," he said as he sent a hot breath toward Beira's awning—catching it on fire— then he walked away, leaving her there shrieking at the guards to keep the sunlight away from her.

Someday I'll truly be able to stand against her.

For now, he took pleasure in the moment.

Keenan wandered the city, up Fifth Avenue away from the river until he got to Edgehill, following it until he reached the seedier shops. The din of the city was a welcome buzz, reminding him of the mortals who thrived where his kind could not.

That's what this is all about: these mortals and his summer faeries.

"Keenan?" Rianne stepped out of a music store and all but ran into him. She gaped at him. "What's up with your hair?"

In his distraction, he had been walking around plainly visible, his hair its normal shade, reflective copper.

"Dye." He smiled at her, lightening his hair until the metallic glimmer was gone.

She reached out and caught a few strands, holding it up to the sunlight, moving it from side to side. "For a minute it almost looked like strips of metal."

"Hmm." He pulled back, freeing his hair from her hand. "Have you seen Aislinn today?"

She laughed. "Nope. Thought maybe she was still with you."

"No." He looked beyond Rianne, to where several of the Summer Girls were flirting with an off-duty rowan-man. "I escorted her home this morning."

"Morning, huh?" She shook her head, still smiling. For all of her posturing, she smelled like innocence to him, untouched and sweet. Her words were at complete odds with her attitude. "I knew you were a good bet."

"We were just dancing."

"It's a start, right?" She glanced around, looking down the street and back inside the shop. For a moment her illusory lasciviousness vanished, and her genuine personality slipped through. "Between you and me, Ash could use a bit more fun in her life. She's too serious. I think you'll be good for her."

Keenan paused. He hadn't thought about that very much; all that mattered was that she was good for him, for the summer fey.

Was he good for her? Between the sacrifices she'd need to make and difficulty of what stood before them if she were the true queen, he wasn't sure. Probably not. "I'll try to be, Rianne."

"You've already got her out till dawn dancing: sounds like a good start to me." Rianne patted him on the arm, consoling him for something she couldn't begin to grasp. "Don't worry so much."


After she walked away, Keenan faded back to his normal state—invisible to mortals—and resumed walking to the loft. If there was ever a time when he needed the wisdom of his advisors, this was it. Keenan felt the music before he even walked into the loft. He took a deep breath and stepped inside, a false smile on his face.

After only a cursory glance at him, Tavish removed Eliza's arms from around his neck and went toward the study. "Come."

At times like these, Keenan felt as if having Tavish's presence was almost like having a father. The older faery had been the last Summer King's advisor and friend; he'd been there waiting when Keenan had come of age and left Beira's household. While Tavish would never presume to act like a father, he was far more than a servant.

Noticing their movement, Niall opened his mouth.

With a brief shake of his head, Keenan said, "No. Stay with the girls."

"If you need me…"

"I do. Always." Keenan squeezed Niall's shoulder. "Right now, I need you to keep everyone out here."

This wasn't the place to talk. If word got out that he suspected Beira of trickery or maliciousness, if rumors spread that Aislinn had the Sight, it could go badly for all of them.

As he wound his way through the room—embraced by the Summer Girls who were spinning dizzily with off-shift guards—Keenan kept his face clear of any doubt. No hint of problems. Smile.

By the time he reached Tavish, he was ready to bar the door for the rest of the day. He believed the girls and his guards were trustworthy, but one never knew, not really.

Tavish poured a glass of wine. "Here."

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