Wicked Lovely Page 8

"Come on, I'll walk you home," Seth said.

"You don't need to."

He crooked his eyebrow and held out his hand.

"But you can." She took his hand.

Seth led her through the streets, as unaware of the fey as everyone else they passed, but just having his arm around her made it seem less awful.

They walked silently for almost a block. Then he asked, "You want to stop at Rianne's?"

"Why?" Aislinn walked a little faster as the wolf-girl who'd given chase earlier started circling predatorily.

"Her party? The one you told me about?" Seth grinned, acting like they were okay, like the whole faery conversation hadn't happened.

"God, no. That's the last thing I need." She shivered at the thought. She'd taken Seth to a couple parties with the Bishop O.C. crowd; by the second one it was pretty clear that the mixing of the two worlds was typically a bad plan.

"You need my jacket?" Seth pulled her closer, attentive as always to the slightest detail.

She shook her head no, but leaned closer to him, enjoying the excuse to be held by him.

He didn't object, but he didn't let his hands brush anywhere they shouldn't, either. He might flirt, but he never made a move that was anything other than just-friends.

"Stop at Pins and Needles with me?" he asked.

The tat shop wasn't out of the way, and she wasn't in any hurry to be away from Seth. She nodded, and then asked, "Did you finally pick something to get?"

"Not yet, but Glenn said the new guy started this week. I thought I'd see what his work looks like, what styles, you know."

She laughed. "Right, wouldn't want to get the wrong style."

Mock scowling, he tweaked a strand of her hair. "We could find one we both like. Get a matched pair."

"Sure, I'll do that—right after you meet Grams and convince her to sign a consent form."

"So, no ink for you then. Ever."

"She's nice." The argument was an old one, but she hadn't given up yet—or made any progress.

"Nope. Not going to risk it." He kissed her forehead. "As long as she doesn't meet me she can't look at me, and say, 'Stay away from my girl.»

"Nothing wrong with how you look."

"Yeah?" He smiled gently. "Would she think that?"

Aislinn thought so, but she hadn't been able to convince Seth of it.

They continued in silence until they reached the shop. The front of the tat shop was almost all windows, making it seem less intimidating to any curious ink seekers, but unlike the tattoo parlors she'd seen when they went up to Pittsburgh, this was not a glossy shop. Pins and Needles retained some of the grit of the art, not catering to the trendy crowd—not that Huntsdale had much of a trendy crowd.

The cowbell on the door clanged when they walked in. Rabbit, the owner, peeked out of one of the rooms, waved, and disappeared.

Seth went to a long coffee table against the wall that had portfolios piled on top of it. He found the new one and sat down with it. "You want to look with me?"

"Nope." Aislinn went up to the glass case where bars, rings, and studs were laid out. That's what she wanted. She only had a single hole in each ear, but every time they came in, she considered getting a piercing. Nothing in her face, though, not this year: Bishop O'Connell High School had strict rules about facial piercings.

One of the two piercers stood up behind the cabinet. "You ready for a labret yet?"

"Not till I graduate."

He shrugged and went back to cleaning the glass.

The bell clanged again. Leslie, a friend from school, walked in with a heavily inked guy, far from the sort she dated. He was beautiful: close-cropped hair, perfect features, blue-black eyes. He was also fey.

Aislinn froze, watching him, feeling the world tilt under her. Too many faeries wearing human faces tonight. Too many strong fey.

But this faery barely looked her way as he went to the back room, trailing his hands over one of the steel-framed jewelry cabinets he passed.

She couldn't look away, not yet. Most faeries didn't walk downtown; they didn't touch iron bars; and they sure as hell didn't walk around able to hold a glamour while touching poisonous metal. There were rules. She'd lived by those rules. There were a few exceptions—the rare strong fey—but not this many, not at the same time, and not in her safe spaces.

"Ash?" Leslie reached her hand out. "Hey. You all right?"

Aislinn shook her head. Nothing is right anymore. Nothing.

"I'm good." She looked toward the room where the faery waited. "Who's your friend?"

"Tasty, isn't he?" Leslie made a noise somewhere between a moan and a sigh. "I just met him outside."

Seth put the book down and crossed the room.

"You ready to go?" He slid a steadying arm around Aislinn's waist. "I can—"

"In a sec." She glanced at the faery with Rabbit; their voices were barely more than a whisper. Forcing her paranoia aside, she turned her attention to Leslie. "You're not taking him to Ri's, are you?"

'Trial? What, you don't think he'd be a hit?"

"He's certainly different than your usual" — she bit her lip and tried to act like everything was normal—"vie—…I mean, partners."

Leslie shot him a longing look. "Unfortunately he doesn't seem interested."

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