Wicked Lovely Page 53

She gasped, feeling like her heart would burn out from racing so fast. The warmth rolled across her skin, until she was almost as dizzy as she'd been when she danced with him.

Then he stopped it, like turning off a faucet. There were no breezes, no waves, nothing but his voice. "I promised you I would do anything you asked of me within my power. What you ask is not within my power, Aislinn, but there is much that is."

Her knees felt like they'd give out; her eyes wanted to close. She had the awful temptation to ask him to do that— whatever it was—just once more, but she knew that didn't make sense.

She shoved him away, as if distance would help. "So you lied."

"No. Once a mortal girl is chosen, she cannot be unchosen. At the end you may reject me or accept me, but your mortal life is behind you." He cupped his hand in front of her, scooping the empty air and coming up with a handful of creamy liquid. Swirls of red and gold shivered in it; flecks of white floated among the other colors.

"No." She felt her temper—her lifetime of anger at faeries flare up. "I reject you, okay? Just go away."

He sighed and poured the handful of sunlight out, catching it in the other hand without looking. "You're one of us now. Summer fey. Even if you weren't, you'd still be mine, still belong with us. You drank faery wine with me. Haven't you read that in your storybooks, Aislinn? Never drink with faeries."

Though she didn't know why, his proclamation made sense. Somewhere inside she'd known she was changing— her hearing, the strange warmth just under her skin. I am one of them. But that didn't mean she had to accept it.

Despite her growing anger, she paused. "So, why did you let me go home?"

"I thought you'd be angry if you woke up with me, and" — he paused, mouth curled in a sardonic half-smile— "and I don't want you angry."

"I don't want you at all. Why can't you just leave me alone?" She fisted her hand, trying to restrain her temper, a thing that she was finding more and more difficult the past week.

He took a step closer, letting the sunlight drip onto her arm. "The rules require you to make a formal choice. If you don't agree to the test, you become one of the Summer Girls—bound to me as surely as a suckling child to its dam. Without me, you'll fade away, become a shade. It is the nature of the newly-made fey and the limitation of the Summer Girls."

Her temper—so well controlled after all these years— beat against her like a cloud of moths pushing against her skin, aching to be set free.

Control. Aislinn dug her fingernails into her palms to keep from slapping him. Focus. "I will not be a faery in your harem or anywhere else."

"So be with me, and only me: it's the only other choice." Then he bent down and kissed her, lips open against hers. It was like swallowing sunshine, that languorous feeling after too many hours on the beach. It was glorious.

She stumbled back until she bumped into the window frame.

"Stay away from me," she said, letting all that anger she'd been feeling show in her tone.

Her skin began to glow as brightly as his had. She stared down at her arms, aghast. She rubbed her forearm, as if she could wipe it away. It didn't change.

"I can't. You've belonged to me for centuries. You were born to belong to me." He stepped closer again and blew on her face as if he were blowing the head off a dandelion gone to seed.

Her eyes almost rolled back; every pleasure she'd felt under the summer sun combined into one seemingly endless caress. She leaned against the rough brick wall next to them. "Go away."

She fumbled in her pocket for the packets of salt Seth had given her and cracked them open. It was a weak throw, but the salt sprinkled over him.

He laughed. "Salt? Oh my lovely, you're such an exquisite prize."

It took more strength than she thought she had, but she pushed away from the wall. She pulled out the pepper spray: it worked on anything with eyes. She flicked the safety off, exposing the nozzle, and aimed it at his face.

"Courage and beauty," he whispered reverently. "You're perfect."

Then he faded away, joining the rest of the invisible faeries walking down the street.

He paused halfway down the block and whispered, "I'll allow this round to you, but I shall still win the game, my beautiful Aislinn."

And she heard it as clearly as if he were still beside her.


Their gifts usually have conditions attached, which detract from their value and sometimes become a source of loss and misery.

— The Science of Fairy Tales: An Enquiry into Fairy Mythology by Edwin Sidney Hartland (1891)

Donia knew who it was before she reached the door. No faery would dare pound on her door like that.

"A game?" Aislinn stormed into the room, her eyes flashing. "Is that what this is to you too?"

"No. Not in the same way, at least." At Donia's side Sasha bared his teeth and laid his ears back, welcoming Aislinn as he'd once welcomed Donia. He knew that—despite the waves of anger flowing off Aislinn—she meant no harm.

She stood there, glimmering as Keenan did when he was angry, and prompted, "How then?"

"I am a pawn, neither king nor queen," Donia said with a shrug.

Anger gone as quickly as it'd come, Aislinn stopped.

As volatile as he is too.

Aislinn bit her lip, silent for a moment. "One pawn to another, will you help me?"

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