Wicked Lovely Page 49

Cerise shrieked, the mere touch of cold sending her fluttering backward.

Donia started to smile: there weren't enough good moments lately. Then she realized that Aislinn had jumped at Cerise's outburst. Seth hadn't moved, hadn't heard it: faeries could raise such a cacophony that mortals' heads ached, but they didn't respond in any other way, didn't hear it.

The exclamations behind her confirmed that the others had seen Aislinn's reaction as well.

Donia looked at Aislinn. "You can see them."

Aislinn nodded.

Cerise trembled behind a rowan-man. The Summer Girls gaped.

"I see faeries. Lucky me," Aislinn added, sounding as weary as she looked. "Can you come in here or is there too much iron?"

Donia smiled at the girl's bravado. "I'd rather walk."

Nodding, Aislinn lifted her gaze to the head guard and told the rowan-man, "Keenan already knows, and now Donia does too, so if there's anyone else you need to scurry off and tell, now's your chance."

Donia winced. Not bravado, recklessness. She would be a good match for Keenan.

Before anyone could respond, Donia walked past the Summer Girls and stood before the rowan-man. "If anyone here tells Beira, I'll find you. If loyalty to Keenan isn't enough to keep your lips sealed, I'll seal them for you."

She stared at Cerise until the demi-succubus growled, "I would never betray the Summer King."

"Good." Donia nodded. Then she returned to Aislinn's side.

Only the sound of Cerise's wings flapping madly broke the silence until Donia asked, "Shall I tell you about Keenan's infidelity, about his lasciviousness, about how foolish it'd be to trust him?"

Blanching even more, Aislinn looked away. "I may already know."

Donia said softly to Seth, "You say you aren't her beau, but she needs you. Maybe we can talk about herbs as well?"

"Hold on." Seth pulled Aislinn back inside to talk for a moment, closing the door on Donia.

As she waited outside for their inevitable agreement, she gave the Summer Girls her coldest smile, hoping it was enough, hating the game she had to play.

I gave my vow.

From behind the rowan-man, Cerise hissed at her.

"Why?" one of the youngest Summer Girls—Tracey— asked, coming far closer to Donia than the others usually did. "He still cares for you. How can you do this to him?" Tracey looked genuinely confused, a familiar frown on her face.

With her reed-thin body and soft voice, Tracey was one of the ones Donia had tried hardest to convince not to risk the cold. She was too fragile, too easily confused, too gentle to be either Winter Girl or Summer Queen.

"I made a vow." Donia'd tried to explain it often enough, but Tracey's view was black and white. If Keenan was good, Donia must be bad. Simple logic.

"It hurts Keenan." Tracey shook her head, as if she could make the troubles go away by saying no.

"It hurts me, too."

The other girls pulled Tracey back to them, trying to distract her before she began weeping. She never should've been chosen. Donia still felt guilty for it; she suspected Keenan did too. The Summer Girls were like plants needing the nutrients of the sun to thrive: they couldn't be away from the Summer King for long, or they'd fade. Tracey, however, never seemed to thrive, even though she stayed with Keenan year-round.

The door opened again. Seth stepped outside; Aislinn followed close behind him.

"We'll come." Aislinn's voice was stronger, but she still looked far from well. There were dark hollows under her eyes, and her face was almost as pale as Donia's. "Can you tell them they can't follow us?"

"No. They are his, not mine."

"So they'll hear everything?" Aislinn looked like she needed someone to help her make decisions, not like her usual self at all.

What didn't Keenan tell me?

"They can't come into my home. We'll go there," Donia offered before she could think it through. Then, before she had to hear the comments that followed the gasp of surprise, she walked away, leaving Aislinn and Seth rushing to catch up with her.

More strangers in my home. She sighed, hoping it wouldn't soon become Aislinn's home, hoping that Keenan was right. Let Aislinn be the one.

At the edge of the yard where they came upon the natural barrier that protects a fey domicile from mortal intrusion, Seth's eyes widened, but Aislinn didn't flinch. Perhaps she'd always been immune; perhaps it was only her Sight that made her oblivious to it. Donia didn't ask. Instead she whispered the words to ease Seth's aversion and led them—still silent—into her home.

"Are we the only ones here?" Seth looked around the room, although his mortal eyes would see nothing if the three of them weren't alone. He still held Aislinn's hand and made no move to let go anytime soon.

"We are." Aislinn's gaze lingered on the simple natural wood furnishings in the small room, the massive fireplace that took up most of one wall, and the gray stones that finished out that wall. "It's just us."

Donia leaned against the stones, enjoying their warmth. "Not quite what you pictured?"

Aislinn leaned on Seth; they both looked thoroughly exhausted. She crooked her mouth in a half-smile. "I don't think I pictured anything. I didn't know why you were talking to me, still don't. I just know it's got something to do with him."

"It has everything to do with him. Beyond here, to those who wait out there" — Donia motioned to the door—"what he wants is the most important thing. Nothing else matters to them. You, me, we are nothing in their worlds other than what we can be to him."

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