Wicked Enchantment(2)

By: Anya Bast


“Really potent,” Carina answered. “That man’s magick is so strong that even standing in his wake a woman feels a little intoxicated, but it’s false.” She turned and embraced Drem. “My attraction to you is completely real.” Her voice, low and honey soft, convinced everyone within hearing range of her honesty.

“Do you think he’s ‘potent,’ Aislinn?” Drem asked, curving his thin lips into a teasing smile.

She watched the man disappear through the ornate gold and rose double doors leading into the throne room at the end of the hallway. The last thing she saw was the trailing edge of his coat. Behind him scurried a cameraman and a slick, well-heeled commentator from Faemous, the annoying human twenty-four-hour “news” coverage of the Seelie Court that the Summer Queen found so amusing. “A woman would have to be dead not to see his virility, but if he’s got any special sex magick, it’s not affecting me.”

Drem shifted his green eyes from her to stare at the end of the hallway where the man had disappeared. “So detached and cool, Aislinn?”

She shrugged. “He doesn’t make me hot.”

“You’re the only one,” Carina muttered. Her husband gave her a playful swat on her butt for punishment. She gasped in surprise and then laughed. “Look over there. He’s the reason no men are making you hot right now.”

Aislinn followed Carina’s gaze to see Kendal in all his glittering blond glory. He stood with a couple of friends—people who used to be her friends—in the meet-and-greet area to socialize outside the court doors.

Ugh.

Kendal locked gazes with her, but Aislinn merely looked away as though she hadn’t noticed him. She’d wasted too much time on him already. She could hardly believe she’d ever thought she’d loved him. Kendal was a social climber, nothing more. He’d used her to further his position at court, for the prestige of dating one of the queen’s favorites, and then tossed her aside. It had worked for him, too. That was the truly galling part.

“I have nothing to say to him,” Aislinn said in the coolest tone she could manage.

Carina stared at him, her jaw set. “Well, I do.” She began to walk across the corridor toward him.

Aislinn caught her hand and squeezed. “No, please, don’t. Thank you for being furious with him on my account, but that’s what he wants. The attention feeds his ego and Kendal doesn’t deserve it.”

“I can tell you what that weasel is deserving of.”

Aislinn laughed. “You’re a good friend, Carina.”

The doors at the end of the corridor opened and a male hobgoblin court attendant stepped out, dressed in the gold and rose livery of the Rose Tower. “The queen requests the presence of Aislinn Christiana Guinevere Finvarra.”

Aislinn frowned and stilled, looking toward the doors at the end of the corridor through which Gabriel Cionaodh Marcus Mac Braire had recently disappeared. Why would the queen wish to see her?

Carina pushed her forward, breaking her momentary paralysis. Aislinn moved down the corridor amid the hush of voices around her. She’d grown used to being the topic of court gossip lately. The Seelie nobles didn’t have much to do besides get into each other’s business. Magick wasn’t a valuable commodity here, practiced and perfected, like it was in the Unseelie Court.

She entered the throne room and the heavy double doors closed behind her with a loud thump. Caoilainn Elspeth Muirgheal, the High Royal of the Seelie Tuatha Dé Danann, sat on her throne. Gabriel stood before her, his back to Aislinn. The Imperial Guard, men and women of less pure Seelie Tuatha Dé blood, lined the room, all standing at attention in their gleaming gold and rose helms and hauberks.

It always gave her shivers to stand in the throne room before the queen. Arched ceilings hand-painted with frescoes of the battle of Cath Maige Tuired, depicting the Sídhe taking over Ireland from the Firbolg, who were humans in their less evolved and more animalistic form, instilled a sense of awe in all who entered. Gold-veined marble floors stretched under her shoes, reaching to rose quartz pillars and walls. It was a cold place despite the warm colors, full of power, designed to intimidate and control.