Wicked Lovely Page 69

"Introduce you to Seth," she tested the words on her tongue. It made a certain amount of sense to introduce them. At least that's what she tried to tell herself, hoping it would loosen the tightness in her chest.

They walked like that—in tense silence—until they were almost at the railroad yard.

"He's a good person, your Seth?"

"He is." She smiled to herself; she couldn't help it.

Several of the guards pulled back with pained expressions as they stepped into the railroad lot.

Keenan had a strange, half-bemused smile as he murmured, "I've not spent much time around mortal males. The ones I've known haven't seemed very friendly when I've courted the other girls."

She choked on a laugh. "You think?"

"What?" Suspicion crept into his voice.

"Keenan, you're gorgeous. You've got this whole" — she gestured at his khakis and dark green pullover, casual on most people, stunning on him—"drop-dead amazing thing going for you. Most girls probably trip over themselves to talk to you."

"Most, but" — he paused to give her a wry smile— "not all." She glanced at Seth's still-closed door before saying, "I still noticed how you looked."

"Of course. You're mortal." He shrugged as if her admission was to be expected.

And she supposed it probably was. Seeing him without his glamour was like looking at a perfect sunrise over the ocean, like seeing a meteor shower in the desert, and then having someone ask if you wanted to keep it for your very own.

She bit her cheek to stop from laughing at the idea of him trying to befriend Mitchell or Jimmy or almost any of their friends. They weren't anywhere near secure enough to go out in public with Keenan—even if he wore a glamour to look common. A half-swallowed laugh slipped out, and he frowned briefly at her.


"Nothing," she said with only a trace of laughter. Then she had another thought. "Do the faeries treat you like that too?"

"I am the Summer King." He frowned again, looking confused.

Aislinn did laugh then, a full-out belly laugh.

"What?" he asked yet again.

Still trying to quell her laughter, Aislinn motioned to Niall.

Hesitantly he said, "My queen?"

"If you approach a faery, a girl, does she, umm, always reciprocate your interest?" Aislinn watched his face grow as confused as Keenan's had.

"I am the king's advisor. The Summer Girls have desires—" He glanced at Keenan, as if seeking approval. Keenan shrugged. "Our king has only so many hours to relax. The guards and Tavish and I do our best to keep the girls content."

Her laughter fled.

Turning from one faery to the other, she asked, "How many girls are there?"

Keenan lifted a hand in a waiting gesture. Then he looked at Niall and said, "No more than four score now?"

Niall nodded.

Keenan added, "They are far too numerous to care for without help."

Aislinn asked incredulously, "So no one says no?"

"Of course they do—not to Keenan—but to us." Niall gave her a look that said he clearly found her questions as baffling as Keenan had. "But then one of the others is there. They are Summer Girls, my queen. Summer is for the pleasures, the frivolity, the—"

"Got it," she interrupted. "So your court—"

"Our court," Keenan interjected.

"Right. Our court is rather affectionate?"

It was Keenan's turn to laugh. "They are…. But they also crave the dance, music, laughter…" He grabbed her and spun her in a circle, letting his glamour drop for a moment so warm sun spilled over her. "We are not cold as the Winter Court or cruel as the Dark Court. We are not restrained as the High Court is, hiding away in their otherworld."

Aislinn caught the guards smiling at them, looking happier as Keenan laughed. She felt happier too, and she wondered if it was because she, too, was one of the Summer Court now.

She shook off the languor and asked, "So the faeries that hurt people aren't ours?"

Keenan's smile faded as quickly as it had come.

"Many are not, but some still are. Once we are strong" — he paused and took her hand and stared at her so intently she had to fight not to run—"we can do more to stop them. The Summer Court is the most volatile of the courts, passionate. Without the guidance my father gave them, not all have limited their passions to honorable pursuits. We have much work to do."

"Oh," Aislinn said. The enormity of what she'd agreed to undertake suddenly settled on her, seeming impossibly daunting.

Keenan must have seen the worry in her expression, for he quickly added, "But we shall relax as well. The Summer Court is a place of dance and desire. To only work would be as untrue to our nature as it would be to allow the darker things to go unpunished."

"It's pretty huge, what I'm agreeing to do. Isn't it?" She clenched her hands in tight fists to keep them from shaking.

His voice was cautious as he agreed, "It is."

"What do I, I don't know, do?"

"You rouse the earth when the winter needs to loosen its grip; you dream the spring with me." He took her hands— unfolding her fingers so that her palms lay open atop his— and said, "Close your eyes."

She trembled, but she did as he asked. She felt his breath on her face as he spoke in soft whispers.

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