Wicked Enchantment(3)

By: Anya Bast

The Unseelie, Gabriel, seemed utterly unaffected. In fact, the way he stood—feet slightly apart, head held high, and a small, secretive smile playing over his lips—made him seem almost insolent.

The Faemous film crew had been allowed within. They stood near a far wall, the light of the camera trained on the Summer Queen and Gabriel. Though now the camera turned to record Aislinn’s entrance. The silver-haired female commentator—Aislinn thought her name was Holly something—whispered into her mike, describing the goings-on.

Ignoring the film crew, as she always did, she halted near the incubus, yet kept a good distance. The last thing she was going to do was fawn like most women. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him do a slow upward appraisal of her, the kind men do when they’re clearly wondering what a woman looks like without her clothes. He wasn’t even trying to hide it. Maybe he was so arrogantly presumptuous that he felt he didn’t have to.

Aislinn was seriously beginning to dislike this man.

She curtsied deeply to the queen, difficult in her tight Rock & Republic jeans. If she had known she was going to be called into court, she would have worn something a little looser . . . and a bit more formal. Today she was wearing a gray V-neck sweater and wedge-heeled black boots with her jeans. She’d twisted her hair up and only dashed on makeup. This was not an event she’d planned for.

The queen, as always, was dressed in heavy brocade, silk, and lace. Today her color theme was a rich burgundy and cream, her skirts pooling at her feet like a bloody ocean. The royal’s long pale hair was done up in a series of intricate braids and heavy ruby jewelry glittered at her ears and nestled at the base of her slender, pale throat. She wore no makeup because she didn’t need it. Her beauty was flawless and chilly. Her style, as ever, old-fashioned. It worked for her.

Caoilainn Elspeth Muirgheal gestured with a slim hand, the light catching on her many rings. “Aislinn, please meet Gabriel Mac Braire. He is petitioning the Seelie Court for residency, in case you hadn’t already heard. It seems word has spread through court about it. I am still considering his case. As you know, we don’t often grant such requests.”

Yes, but there were precedents. Take Ronan Quinn, for example. He was a part-blood druid and Unseelie mage. He’d successfully petitioned the Summer Queen for residency in the Rose Tower over thirty years ago because he’d fallen in love with Bella, Aislinn’s best friend. Not long after his residency had been granted Ronan lost Bella and consequently fell into a state of reckless despondency that had lasted for decades. Last year he’d pulled some mysterious job for the Phaendir that had nearly gotten him beheaded by the Summer Queen. In the end, Ronan had retained his life and won Bella back—but both had been banished from the Rose Tower as punishment for Ronan’s transgressions. Aislinn didn’t know where they were now.

She missed Bella every single day. Bella had been the only one to know her deepest and darkest secrets. Without her presence, she felt utterly alone.

That entire story aside, Ronan Quinn was one example of an Unseelie male who’d managed to find a place in the Rose. Gabriel, like Ronan, was exceedingly good-looking. That would weigh heavily in his favor. The queen couldn’t resist a virile, highly magicked man.

“He’ll be staying here for the next week and I have decided you shall be his guide and general helpmeet while he’s here.”

“Me?” Aislinn blinked. “Why me?” The question came out of her mouth before she could think it through and she instantly regretted it. One did not question Caoilainn Elspeth Muirgheal; one simply obeyed.

The Summer Queen lifted a pale, perfectly arched brow. “Why not you?”

“With all respect due you, my queen, I think—”

“Do you have a problem with my judgment?”

Oh, this was getting more and more dangerous with every word the queen uttered. The room had chilled a bit, too, a result of the Seelie Royal’s mood affecting her magick. Aislinn shivered. “No, my queen.”

Gabriel glanced over at her with a mocking smile playing on his sensual, luscious lips.

Nope, she didn’t like him one bit even if he did have sensual, luscious lips.