Wicked Lovely Page 61

Seth was stretched out on his sofa, his hands over his head, his feet dangling over the arm. He didn't seem alarmed or even surprised by her panicked arrival.

Do I look different to him now?

She thought, invisible, and walked over to him. He didn't get up, didn't look at her, or speak.

He really can't see me.

She ran her fingers over his arm, pausing on his biceps.

"Is it easier to be aggressive when you're like that?" He looked right at her.

She yanked her hand away. "What? How…"

"The stuff in Donia's recipe. You're all shadowy, like the faeries outside, but I still see you." He didn't move, staying exactly as he had been when she walked into the room. "I don't mind, you know."

"I'm already as bad as them."

"No." He rolled onto his hip so there was room on the sofa for her too. "You weren't touching some stranger on the street. It's me."

She sat down on the far end of the sofa. He wrapped his legs around her—one behind her back, the other resting on her lap.

"Keenan is convinced I'm the Summer Queen."

"The what?"

"The one who can give him back the powers he lost. If he doesn't find his queen, it'll just keep getting colder. He says everyone, humans too, will die. That's what this is all about. He thinks I'm her, this queen who'll change it all." She leaned forward just a little so Boomer didn't get tangled in her hair as he made his way across the back of the sofa. "They made me a faery. I'm one of them."

"I got that when you did the invisible thing."

"They did this to me, changed me, and I'm…I don't want to be their freaking queen."

He nodded.

"I think I am, though…I don't know what to do. I met the other one tonight—the Winter Queen." She shivered, thinking of the terrible cold, the ache of it. "She's awful. She just walked up and attacked Keenan, and I wanted to hurt her. I wanted to bring her to her knees."

She told him about the ice that Beira left in her wake, the hags, the kiss that made everyone so convinced that she was their queen. Then she added, "I don't want this."

"So we find a way to undo it." He used his legs to pull her toward him so she was lying on his chest. "Or we figure out how to deal with it."

"What if I can't?" she whispered.

Seth didn't answer; he didn't promise it would be all right. He just kissed her.

She felt herself warming up, like a small glow starting somewhere near her stomach, but she didn't think anything of it until Seth pulled back and stared at her.

"You taste like sunshine. More and more every day," he whispered. He ran his fingertip over her lips.

She walked away, wanting to weep. "Is that why things changed with us? Me becoming something else?"

"No." He was calm, slow, like approaching a frightened animal.

"Seven months, Ash. For seven months, I've been waiting for you to see me. This" — he picked up her hand, which glowed like Keenan had earlier—"is not why. I fell in love with you before this."

"How was I to know?" She twisted the edge of the stupid blouse Donia had given her. "You didn't say anything."

"I said lots of things," he corrected gently. "You just didn't hear them."

"So, why now? If it's not this, why?"

"I waited." He undid the bow on net blouse, twirling the ribbon around his finger. "You kept treating me like a friend."

"You were my friend."

"Still am." He put one finger in the topmost lace and tugged the ribbon looser. "But that doesn't mean I can't be other things, too."

She swallowed hard, but she didn't move away.

He pulled the next cross of ribbon free.

"He didn't. We didn't, I mean," she stammered.

"I know. You wouldn't have gone there looking like this if you had." He looked at her, slowly letting his gaze travel up over the vinyl pants and slightly gaping blouse, until he was looking at her flushed face. "Unless you want him. If you do, Ash, tell me now."

She shook her head. "No. But when he, it's not him, it's some faery thing…"

He tipped her head up. "Don't give up. Don't leave me before you're even here."

"If I, if we…" She took a deep breath and tried to keep her words from tumbling over each other as she said, "If I wanted to stay here, be with you tonight?"

He stared at her for several seconds. "This stuff with them, it's not the right reason."

"Right." She bit the inside of her lip, embarrassed.

But like an echo, she heard Keenan's silence earlier at Rath and Ruins, his careful avoidance of her questions when she asked about faeries and mortals. There was a chance that if she was their queen, she'd lose Seth. She closed her eyes.

"Ash, I want to. I want you, but because of us, not because of something they do or don't do."

She nodded. He was right; she knew it. It didn't feel fair, though. None of it felt fair or right. The only thing that felt right was Seth.

"That doesn't mean you can't stay. Just no sex." He spoke softly, like he'd done the other morning when she was freaking out. "That still leaves a lot open."

Seth took Aislinn's hand as they walked back to the other train car, the one that he'd turned into a bedroom, but he barely held on. If she wanted to, she could turn and go the other way. She didn't. She wrapped her fingers around his so tightly it probably hurt him.

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