Wicked Lovely Page 76

When she pulled away, Keenan wept, his tears like warm rain hissing as they fell on her face.

Then Aislinn pulled Keenan away and held on to him as the hags helped Donia over to Beira's body.

Black clouds gathered and ripped open, drenching them all, as Keenan's emotions grew more volatile.

Grasping the staff, Donia pressed her mouth to Beira's still body and inhaled. The rest of the Winter Queen's cold flowed into her, rolling through her like an icy wave, churning until it suddenly stopped and lay quiet—a fathomless frozen pool surrounded by ice-laden trees and unmarred white fields.

The words came to her from the white world, sliding through her lips like a winter wind, "I am the Winter Queen. As those before me, I will carry the wind and ice."

And she was healed, stronger than she'd ever been. Unlike Beira, Donia did not trail icy shards in her path as she went over to Keenan.

His sun-kissed tears shimmered as they fell into the puddles on the floor.

She reached up to pull him to her, careful to keep her chill contained, thrilled that she could do so now. Then she whispered, "I love you. I have always loved you. This doesn't change that."

Eyes wide, he stared at her, but he didn't speak. He didn't repeat the words.

Then Donia lifted Beira in her arms, and with the hags trailing behind her, went to the door. Pausing on the threshold, she caught Aislinn's gaze and said, "We will speak soon."

After a quick glance at the still-speechless Keenan, Aislinn nodded.

Then—eager to be out of their brightness—Donia wrapped her fingers around the staff and walked away from the Summer King and Queen.


First Snow

Clutching the silk-smooth wood of the Winter Queen's staff— my staff- —Donia walked out of her cottage and into the shadow of the barren trees.

Outside, her fey waited; Keenan's guards were gone—all but Evan, who'd stayed on as the head of her new guard. There were grumblings over that one—a summer fey heading the new Winter Queen's guard—but it wasn't anyone's right to challenge her choices.

Not anymore.

She wound her way toward the riverside, trailed by six of the guards Evan had chosen from among the winter fey as the most trustworthy. They didn't speak. The winter fey weren't a chattering lot, not like the insipid Summer Girls.

As if she had always done so, Donia tapped the staff as she walked the earth, sending freezing fingers into the soil, the first taste of the winter that would soon follow. Beside her, Sasha loped.

Silently Donia stepped onto the now-frozen surface of the river. Looking up at the steel bridge that crossed the river—no longer poisonous, not to the Winter Queen—she tilted her face to the gray sky and opened her mouth. Winds shrieked from her lips; icicles gathered on the metal of the bridge.

On the bank of the river, Aislinn stood, wrapped in a long cloak. She was already changed, looking more like what she now was every time Donia saw her. The Summer Queen lifted a hand in greeting. "Keenan would be here if he could…He was worried about how you were feeling about all of this." She gestured at the ice.

"I'm fine." Donia slid across the frozen water, graceful as she'd never been as the Winter Girl. "It's familiar, but not."

She didn't add that she was still lonely: that wasn't something to share with Keenan's queen.

They stood quietly, snowflakes hissing as they landed on Aislinn's cheeks. She pulled a fur-trimmed hood up, hiding her newly gold-streaked hair. "He's not all bad, you know?"

"I do." Donia held out her hand, catching snowflakes like a handful of white stars. "I couldn't tell you that, though, could I?"

Aislinn shivered. "We're learning to work together. Most of the time." She rubbed her arms, finally wearing out under the cold. "Sorry. I can still go out, but I guess I can't stay too long near both you and the ice."

"Another time perhaps." Donia turned away.

But then Aislinn said the last thing that Donia could imagine the Summer Queen, could imagine anyone, saying: "He loves you, you know."

Silently Donia stared at her, the faery who shared the throne with Keenan.

"I don't know…" Donia stopped herself, trying to quell the confusion inside. Maybe he did, but if so, why hadn't he answered her when she told him that she still loved him? That was a conversation she wasn't ready to have with Aislinn.

Donia had no true understanding of how much Keenan had changed when Aislinn freed him, how connected they were, how much she truly knew of him; most days, she didn't want to know. Their court was not her concern, not now.

She had enough trouble sorting out her own court. They might not be a loquacious group, but they still grumbled— over her former mortality, over her insistence that order be restored, over her curtailing their cavorting with the dark fey.

That's a trouble I'm not eager to face. The king of the Dark Court was pushing already, testing the boundaries, tempting her fey. Irial had been too long aligned with Beira to back away gracefully. Donia shook her head. Snow fell around her face, an almost-electric touch as the flakes landed on her skin. Focus on the good. There would be time enough to deal with Irial, with Keenan, with her fey.

Tonight was hers.

As quietly as the snow falling around her, Donia turned back to the frozen night and skated across the river, spilling her handful of snow like glitter on the ice.


Aislinn and Seth stood in the common room of Seth's train with Keenan while he struggled to recover from the brief excursion in the cold.

Source: www_Novel22_Net

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