Wicked Lovely Page 70

He said, "And they dreamed slender roots sinking into the soil and furred creatures stretching in their dens, dreamed fish racing the currents, field mice weaving through the grasses, and serpents basking on the rocks. Then the Summer King and Queen smiled at the new life they'd called to wake."

And she could see it—the world stretching like a giant beast too long asleep, shaking off the snow that had kept it dormant too long. She felt her body glowing, knew that she was glowing, and she didn't want to stop. She could see the white willow that she'd heard rustling in the breeze when she'd first seen Keenan; she could taste that fragile scent of spring flowers. Together they would stir the creatures, the earth itself. They would look on the waking world and rejoice.

As she opened her eyes to look at him, she realized that she was weeping. "It's so…huge. The things that need to start to live again…How will I? We? What if I fail?"

Keenan cupped her cheek in his hand briefly. "We won't."

"And the rest? The court stuff?" She wiped her cheeks, trying not to flinch as she saw that the tears were golden. Hurriedly she tucked her hands into her pockets and resumed walking. "I don't know how to rule anyone."

He shrugged when he strode up alongside her. "So you learn. I'll be there. I do know how to rule. But today we don't think about all that. That's the beauty of summer as well. There are balls to have and dancing to be done. If we rejoice, our court will, too. It is as much a duty as waking the earth."

"Right, sounds like an easy job. Wake the earth, rule the unruly, repair the broken stuff, and party." She swallowed with difficulty as they stepped into Seth's lot, anxious both at the enormity of the task and at the strangeness of telling Seth. "I guess anyone could handle that little list?"

"No, but the Summer Queen can," Keenan assured her; then he favored her with one last blinding smile before he turned his attention to the opening door and said, "Today, though, we begin with only the first step. I meet my queen's beloved and try to befriend a mortal, yes?"

"Yeah. That one is doable." She shook her head as if to shake away the stress, but then she looked up.

Seth stood waiting as patiently as he did any other day. The rest of her worries, her changes, the world itself faded. How will Seth feel?

She had a flash of worry that things would seem weird after last night, that he wouldn't still want her, that he'd be angry that she brought the faeries to his home. But he wasn't freaking out—about them or the faeries all around her. Aside from her and Keenan, they'd all stayed invisible, but she knew Seth could see them and that he was pretty aware of who it was that stood beside her.

Seth's expression was unreadable, but he held out a hand and said, "Hey."

Then the court, Keenan, Niall, the guards—it was all forgotten as she slipped into Seth's arms.

After watching Aislinn's and her mortal's faces, Keenan found it much easier to believe that his queen was making the only choice she could. He knew that look, had seen it in the eyes of several girls, had seen it in Donia's eyes.

"Come on." Seth motioned for him to follow. Then he stopped and looked at Aislinn. "If he…"

She paused. "Umm. Can you come in here?"

"I can." Keenan exchanged a brief look with Niall at Seth's obvious awareness of what he was and of the fey aversion to steel.

What else has she said to him? His curiosity piqued, he added, Cold iron doesn’t harm a monarch.

Seth didn't miss a beat. He quirked his eyebrow and said, "Guess that means you're Keenan."

Aislinn winced. Niall and the guards froze. Keenan laughed. Here's a brazen one. "I am."

"Well, since the house won't make you sick…" Seth let his words fade away as he led Aislinn inside.

Keenan followed them into the dim interior. It was tiny, but well kept. His first thought was that Donia would find it appealing—if not for her inability to be around so much steel.

"You want anything?" Seth was in his small kitchen area, putting some sort of rice dish in his microwave. "Ash needs to eat."

"I'm fine." She blushed.

"Did you eat yet today?" Seth waited briefly, and when she didn't answer he turned back to his cupboards and began getting out dishes.

Keenan's positive opinion of Seth increased.

"I'm, umm, going to do it. The queen thing," Aislinn said in a shy voice. She sat down on one end of the sofa.

"Figured that when you brought him." Seth tossed a bottle of water to Aislinn and looked expectantly at Keenan.

He held a hand out and caught the water Seth tossed to him.

The microwave dinged. No one spoke for a moment while Seth gathered the food.

Then he asked, "So what's that mean for us?"

"Nothing, I don't think." Aislinn glanced at Keenan. "It was one of my terms for taking the job."

Keenan settled on one of the garish chairs and waited.

"School?" Seth handed her a bowl of food as he sat beside her. Some slight tension left him as Aislinn put her legs up and leaned back against him.

"That's good too," she said.

Seth was handling the situation with considerable aplomb, but Keenan didn't miss the mortal's possessive gestures—the casual touches that announced a physical connection to Aislinn.

Once he'd given Aislinn her meal, Seth turned to Keenan. "So now what happens?"

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