Wicked Lovely Page 64

"What if—"

She cut him off. "No. I bought you a couple days at most. Beira thinks I'll do her bidding—kill Ash—but it won't take long for her to realize I'm not hers to control."

Before he could answer, she raised her voice, to be heard over the clatter of the ice that rolled off her where Keenan's raindrops touched her skin: "If you don't win Aislinn, she'll lose her life. Make her listen, or everyone loses."


Citizens of Faery have one supreme quality in common— that of single-mindedness.

— Fames by Gertrude M. Faulding (1913)

When Aislinn woke the next morning—still curled in Seth's arms—she knew it was time, past time really, to tell Grams the whole truth. How? How do I tell her any of it?

Aislinn had checked in last night, a brief call to ease her grandmother's worries. Grams hadn't objected to Aislinn staying at Seth's place, only reminded her to be careful, to "use precautions and good sense." And Aislinn realized that her grandmother knew why Aislinn was staying. Despite her age, Grams was a believer in all sorts of women's equalities—a detail that had been shockingly apparent in her "birds and bees" talks not too many years ago.

Aislinn slipped out of bed for a quick bathroom trip. When she returned, Seth was propped up on one arm.

"You okay?" There was obvious worry in his voice. "With us?"

"Very." She climbed back onto the bed and snuggled close to him. Being with him was the one thing she truly felt right about. "I still need to go soon."

"After breakfast…" His voice was low, almost a growl, as he slid his hand under the edge of the T-shirt she was wearing, the one he'd had on last night.

"I should go. I need to talk to Grams about things and…" She swallowed as he pulled her onto his chest and sighed against her throat.

His breath was warm on her skin, tickling her. "You sure? It's early still."

She let her eyes drop closed again, let herself relax in his arms. "Ummm…just a few minutes."

His laugh was dark, different in a way she couldn't have imagined, filled with unspoken promises. It was wonderful.

Almost an hour later, she got dressed and assured him she didn't need him to walk her home.

"Come back later?"

"As soon as I can," she whispered.

I will, too. She wasn't giving Seth up. It wasn't an option. If I'm really their queen, who has the right to tell me what to do?

She was still smiling when the faeries outside bowed to her. Several of the ones who seemed to be guards followed her as she walked across the city, keeping a slight distance, but undeniably there. Behind them trailed the scarred faery who'd posed as Keenan's uncle at school.

In the bright morning light—after a long night with Seth—it seemed somehow less awful, not easy, but possible. She just needed to talk to Keenan, tell him she'd take his test if she could still keep her real life, too. The other option—giving up her mortal life to be either a Summer Girl or the Summer Queen—didn't work. Now she needed to figure out how to tell him and where to find him.

But she didn't need to find him: he sat in the hallway outside her apartment—invisible to her neighbors.

"You can't be here," she said, more irritated than fearful.

"We need to talk." He had a weary look on his face, and she wondered if he'd slept at all.

"Fine, but not here." She grabbed his arm and pulled. "You need to go."

He got to his feet, but he didn't leave. He glowered at her. "I've waited most of the night, Aislinn. I'm not going until we talk."

She pulled him away from the door, away from Grams' home.

"I know, but not here." She folded her arms over her chest. "This is my grandmother's house. You can't be here."

"So walk with me." His voice was quiet, filled with that desperation she'd heard at Rath and Ruins.

She'd worried that he'd be angry after she ran, that he'd be unwilling to compromise, but instead he looked as overwhelmed as she felt, if not more. His gleaming copper hair looked dull, as if the shine had vanished. He scrubbed his hands over his face. "I need you to understand. After last night—"

Grams opened the door and stepped outside. "Aislinn? Who are you talking—"

Then Grams saw him. She moved forward as quickly as she could, grabbed Aislinn, and pushed her backward. You.

"Elena?" Keenan started, eyes wide, hands held open in a nonthreatening way. "I mean no harm."

"You are not welcome here." Her voice shook.

"Grams?" Aislinn looked from the near-panic in Keenan's eyes to the fury in Grams'. This wasn't going well.

Grams pulled Aislinn through the open door and started to push it shut.

Keenan stopped the door with his foot as Grams shoved on it with all her strength.

He stepped inside and pushed the door shut behind him. "I'm sorry about Moira. I wanted to tell you before…"

"Don't. You have no right to even say her name. Ever." Grams' voice cracked. She pointed at the door. "Get out. Get out of my home."

"In all these centuries, I've never walked away for another, only for her. Only Moira. I offered her time." Keenan reached out as if he'd take Grams' hand.

Grams slapped his hand away. "You killed my daughter."

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