Wicked Lovely Page 57

But when she glanced away from the cubs—compelled to look at his glowing face—she stopped smiling. Her pulse beat in her throat like a trapped thing. Her gaze skittered away from him; she swallowed several times.

It isn't the cubs that make her blood race, that make her face flush. It's me. Us.

The cubs sat their trays on the table: ice cream, cakes, and coffees; desserts from local bakeries and sweet drinks with no alcohol in them. They snarled at each other as they pointed out delicacies.

"Try this."

"No, this."

"She'll like this better."

Finally Tavish came over to the table with one of the guards to remove them. "Go away."

Aislinn watched silently. Then, with visible decisiveness, she turned back to Keenan. "So let's talk about your little game. Maybe there's an answer we can find that'll let us both get back to our lives."

"You are my life now. This" — he waved a hand dismissively around him at the club—"the fey, everything, it all falls into place once you accept me."

None of it mattered without her beside him. If she says no, they all die.

He whispered, "I need you."

Aislinn clenched her fists. This wasn't working. How was she to reason with him when he sat there shining like a celestial object? He wasn't threatening her, wasn't doing anything but tell her things that should sound sweet.

Is it so awful? She wavered as he looked at her so intently—seeming for all the world like he was a good person.

He's a faery. Never trust a faery.

His harem stood behind her, other girls who'd been where she was. Now they mingled in the crush of bodies around her, faeries themselves. It wasn't a life she wanted.

"That's not the sort of answer that helps." She took a deep breath. "I don't like you. Don't want you. Don't love you. How can you think there's any reason to…" She tried to find the right words. There weren't any.

"To court you?" he prompted, half smiling.

"Whatever you call it." The smell of flowers was overwhelming her, dizzying. She tried again. "I don't understand why you're doing this."

"It's already done." He reached out.

She pulled away. "Don't."

He leaned back in his seat. The blue lights of the club heightened his inhuman appearance. "What if I told you that you were the key—the grail, the book—that one object that will rescue me? What if I said you were what I need to defeat one who freezes the earth? If your acceptance would save the world—all these faeries, your mortals, too—would you do it?"

She stared at him. Here was the answer that they'd been hiding from her. "Is that what this is about?"

"It might be." He walked around the table, slowly enough that she could've stood and put the chair between them.

She didn't.

"There's only one way to find out, though." He stepped just close enough that she'd need to shove him away to stand. "You have to choose to stay with me."

She wanted to run.

"I don't want to become one of them" — she motioned to the Summer Girls—"or some ice faery like Donia."

"So Donia told you about that." He nodded, as if this too were normal.

"The detail you didn't mention? Yeah." She tried to sound reasonable, as if being told her options were harem girl or ice faery was an average thing. "Look. I don't want to be one of your playthings, and I don't want to be what Donia is."

"I don't think you will be either of those. I told you earlier. I want you to choose to be with me." He pulled her to her feet, leaving her standing far too close to him. "If you are the one—"

"Still not interested."

He looked weary then, as unhappy as she felt. "Aislinn, if you're her, the key I need, and you turn away, the world will continue to grow colder until the summer fey—including you, now—die of it, until mortals starve." His eyes were reflective, like an animal's eyes under the weird lights of the club. "I cannot allow that to happen."

For a moment Aislinn stood there, unable to find a word to say. Donia had been wrong: she wasn't able to talk to him, try to reason with him. He wasn't reasonable.

"I need you to understand." His tone was frightening, the warning growl of a predator in the dark. Just as quickly, he sounded desperate as he added, "Can't you at least try?"

And Aislinn felt herself nodding, agreeing that she'd try, desperate to end his unhappiness.

Focus. That wasn't what she came here to do. She gripped the edge of the table until it hurt.

Seeing him, knowing that he was real, knowing what the world he was offering her truly looked like—it wasn't making it any easier to resist. She'd thought it would, thought the horrible things she'd seen would make her stronger, more resolute. But as he stared imploringly at her, all she could think of was the desire to give him what he wanted, anything to make that sunlight flare over her again.

She tried concentrating on the faeries' awfulness, thinking about the cruel things she'd seen them do. "Your faeries aren't important enough to be worth me giving up my life."

He didn't answer.

"I have seen them. Don't you understand? The ones here" — she lowered her voice—"I've seen them groping girls, heard them, watching them pinch and trip and mock. And worse. I've heard them laughing at us. My whole life, every day, I've seen your people. I don't see anything worth saving."

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