Wicked Lovely Page 68

He wanted to reach out to her, but he didn't. She was as unapproachable as when he'd first met her—not out of fear, but out of determination. "Tell me what you want that I can give you. I need you to rule alongside me, Aislinn."

She bit her lip again and then—so softly it was almost a whisper—she said, "I can do that. It's not what I want, but I don't see how I can turn away if it really is what I am."

"You're saying yes?" He gaped at her.

She stopped walking and caught his gaze—the fierce look back on her features. "But I will not live with you or be with you."

"You'll still need a room at the loft." He didn't say "when trouble arises," but there'd be time to address that later. Royalty could be murdered: his mother had proven that. "There will be times that meetings may run late or—"

"My own room. Not with you."

He nodded. He could afford to be patient.

"I will not stop going to school either," she added.

"We could arrange tutors—" he began.

"No. School, then college." She sounded determined, fierce.

"College. We shall find one that suits you then." He nodded. He might not like her insistence on independence—when he had first begun to search for her, women were more docile—but clinging to the mortal world wasn't unreasonable in her circumstances. It might even benefit their court.

She rewarded him with an almost friendly smile then, looking deceptively cooperative. "I can do this if it's a job, you know?"

"A job?" he repeated.

"A job." She had a strange tone in her voice then, like she was musing on it as she said it.

He didn't say anything to fill in the silence that hung at the end of her words. A job? His consort viewed their union as a job?

"I don't know you. You don't know me." She gave him another strangely intimidating look. "I can work with you, but that's all I can be. I'm with Seth. That isn't going to change."

"So you're asking to keep the mortal?" He tried to keep his voice even, but it hurt. He knew she was implying it earlier, but to say it made it seem so much more real. His queen—his destined partner—was planning to be with another, with a mortal, not him.

She lifted her chin again. "No. I am keeping him. There's no asking involved."

He didn't argue, didn't point out how finite mortals were. He didn't tell her that he'd waited for her, her alone, for his whole life. He didn't remind her of how they'd laughed and danced at the faire. None of that mattered. Not now. All that mattered was that she was saying yes.

"Is that all?" he asked gently.

"For now." Her voice was thin then, no longer filled with temper or aggression. She seemed lost for a moment, and then, hesitantly, she asked, "So?"

He wanted to rejoice, to sweep her into his arms until she recanted her terms, to weep that she was saying no at the same time as she said yes. Instead he said, "So, my queen, we find Donia."

He pulled out his cell and punched in Donia's number. She was out—or ignoring him—so he left a message to call him.

After he disconnected, he sent guards to find her.

"I know where she lives," Aislinn murmured. "I can meet you there. You could call me and—"

"No. We'll wait together." Now that she was here beside him, Keenan was utterly unwilling to let her out of his sight until it was done. He wasn't sure he'd ever be willing to let her out of his sight. "Whether you see it as a job or not, you are my queen, the one I've waited for. I will be by your side."

She crossed her arms over her chest, hugging herself. "Remember how you asked about starting over" — she glanced nervously at him—"can we for real this time? Try to be friends, then? It's going to be a lot easier if we try to get along, right?" She held out her hand as if she were going to shake his hand.

"Friends," he said, taking her hand in his. The absurdity of it struck him then—his destined queen saw their reign as a job shared by friends. In all his dreams of finding his queen, of finally reaching this point, Keenan hadn't ever imagined it would be a strained attempt at friendship.

After she pulled her hand free, they stood awkwardly for a moment until he asked, "So where would you go if I weren't with you?"

"To Seth's." She blushed, lightly.

Keenan had expected as much; Aislinn seemed to turn to her mortal— to Seth, he corrected himself—more and more. Keenan gave her what he hoped was an encouraging smile and announced, "I would like to meet him." I can do this.

"Really?" She looked more suspicious than surprised. Her forehead creased in a small frown. "Why?"

He shrugged. "He is a part of our lives now."


"So I should meet him." He walked away so she couldn't see his face, pausing as he turned the corner to ask, "Shall we?"


Their favourite camp and resting-place is under a hawthorn tree…[which is] sacred to the fairies, and generally [stands] in the centre of a fairy ring.

— Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland by Lady Francesca Speranza Wilde (1887)

Aislinn stood motionless as Keenan walked on. Some of the guards waited behind her; others shifted in front of Keenan, like a moving fence around them.

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