Wicked Lovely Page 50

Leaning her head against Seth's arm, Aislinn asked, "So what about in here?"

Seth wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to the sofa, murmuring, "Sit down. You don't need to stand to talk to her."

Donia came closer then, standing across from them, gazing at Aislinn. "In here, what matters is what I want. And I want to help you."

Trying to contain her emotions, Donia paced through the room; she paused periodically, but she made no move to continue the conversation. How do I say what needs saying? They were weary, and she couldn't blame them for it.

"Donia?" Aislinn curled into Seth's arms, half asleep and lethargic. She was vulnerable from whatever Keenan had done.

Donia ignored her. Turning instead to the shelf that held the mortal- and faery-authored books that the Winter Girls had collected over the past nine centuries, she ran her fingers over some of her favorites—Kirk and Lang's The Secret Commonwealth, the complete collection of Tradition of the Highest Courts, Keightley's The Fairy Mythology, and Sorcha's On Being: Faery Morality and Mortality. She slid her fingers past these, past an old copy of The Mabinogion, past a collection of journals the other girls had kept, past the tattered book holding letters Keenan had sent them over the centuries—always in that elegant script of his, even if the language wasn't always the same. There she stopped.

Her hand lingered on a well-worn book with a torn green cover. In it, handwritten in the strangely beautiful words of an almost lost language, were two recipes known to give the Sight to a mortal.

It was forbidden to allow those recipes to be read by a mortal. If any of the courts learned that she'd done so, Beira's threat would be a minor worry. Many fey had grown fond of being a hidden people; they'd be loath to lose that should mortals begin to see them again.

"Are you okay?" Seth didn't come toward her, staying protectively at Aislinn's side, but his voice held worry.

For me, a stranger.

He was worthy of protection. She knew fey history well enough, having spent long hours poring over these books. Once the courts might have given him a gift for what he did, defending the one who would be queen. "I am. I am surprisingly fine."

She pulled the book out. After sitting down across from them, she rested the book in her lap and gingerly flipped the pages. Several slid loose of the binding, coming free in her hands. She spoke barely above a whisper but she said it, "Write this down."

"What?" Aislinn blinked and straightened up, pulling away from the circle of Seth's arms.

"It's a crime with the most serious of punishments if they learn I've given you this. Keenan may look the other way if no one else knows, but I want him" — she inclined her head ever so slightly at Seth—"to stand a fair chance in what will follow. To leave him defenseless and blind…it would be wrong."


She cut him off, "No. Those are mortal words, made empty by casual use. If you are to walk among our kind, remember that: they are an insult of sorts. If one does you a good turn, an act of friendship, remember it. Do not lessen it with that shallow phrase."

She told him then, gave him the words that would let him make the salve to see.

He raised an eyebrow as he wrote it down, but he did not ask questions until she'd closed the book and returned it to its place on the shelf. Then he asked only, "Why?"

"I've been her." Donia looked away, staring at the spines of the worn books on her shelves, feeling shaky as the weight of what she'd just done settled on her. Would even Keenan forgive her? She wasn't sure, but—like him—she believed Aislinn truly was the Summer Queen. Why else would Beira be so adamant that she stay away from the staff?

Donia pulled her gaze from the shelves and looked at Aislinn as she said the rest: "I was a mortal. I had no idea what he was; none of us ever do. You're the first one to see him, see any of them for what they are. What I am now."

"You were mortal?" Aislinn repeated shakily.

Donia nodded.

"What happened?"

"I loved him. I said yes when he asked me to choose to stay with him. He offered me forever, love, midnight dances." She shrugged, unwilling to think too long about dreams she had no right to still have, especially with Aislinn looking back at her. Someday Seth would fade away, but Keenan would not. If Aislinn were the Summer Queen, it was merely a matter of time until she fell in love with Keenan. Once she saw his true nature—the person he could be…

Donia shook her head and added, "There was another girl who tried to talk me out of it, a girl who had believed in him once."

"Why didn't you listen?" Aislinn shivered, moving closer to Seth.

"Why does Seth sit here?"

Aislinn didn't answer, but Seth did. He squeezed Aislinn's hand and said, "Love."

"Choose wisely, Aislinn. For Seth, he can choose to leave you, choose to walk away—"

"I won't," Seth interrupted.

Sparing him a smile, Donia said, "But you could. For us, if we choose Keenan, there's no walking away. If we don't—"

"It's not a problem then. I don't want Keenan." Aislinn lifted her chin, looking defiant despite her trembling hands.

"You will, though," Donia said gently.

Donia remembered the first time she'd seen him as he truly was, in the clearing when she stood waiting to lift the Winter Queen's staff. He was so incredibly perfect that she had to remind herself to breathe. How could any mortal deny him when he could be himself?

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