Wicked Enchantment(4)

By: Anya Bast

“That’s a good answer, Aislinn. Do you have a problem with Gabriel? Most women would kill to spend time with him.” The queen gestured airily with one hand. “I thought I was doing you a favor after your . . . unfortunate incident with Kendal.”

Oh, sweet lady Danu. Aislinn gritted her teeth before answering. “I don’t have a problem with him, my queen.”

The queen clapped her hands together, making Aislinn jump. “Good, that’s all settled then. You’re both dismissed.”

Aislinn turned immediately and walked out of the throne room, Gabriel following. She didn’t like having him behind her. It made her feel like a gazelle being stalked by a lion. He’d soon find out this gazelle had fight. There was no way she was going to lie down and show him her vulnerable, soft stomach . . . or any other part of her body.

They exited into a corridor thronged with curious onlookers. Carina, partway down the hall with Drem, made a move to walk to Aislinn, but Aislinn held up a hand to stop her. All eyes were on her and Gabriel. She didn’t want to linger here and she really didn’t want anyone listening in on their conversation and using it to weave rumor. They could watch Faemous for the juicy details, just like everyone else.

Falling into step beside her, Gabriel surveyed the scene and ran a hand over his stubble-dusted, clefted chin. “Is it always like this over here?” His voice, deep and low, reminded her of dark chocolate.

“Like what?” she snapped in annoyance.

He encompassed the corridor with a sweep of his hand as they made their way down. “All the Seelie nobles standing around and gossiping.” He glanced at her stern expression and sobered. “Never mind. Forget I mentioned it.”

“Insulting my home is not a good way to start things off, Mac Braire.”

“Call me Gabriel, and I wasn’t insulting it. I was making an observation. I want this to be my home, too, remember? That’s why I’m here.”

“Sounded like an insult to me,” she muttered, hightailing it away from the clumps of Seelie nobles doing exactly what he’d just accused them of. Although he walked faster than she did. She had to fight to keep up with the strides of his longer legs.

“I apologize.”

“How does the Shadow King feel about your defection from the Black? He can’t be very happy.”

Gabriel gave a low laugh. “He’s not. I’m taking a huge gamble. If the Summer Queen rejects me and I lose the protection of the Seelie Court, I may lose my head, too.”

“You don’t seem all that nervous about it.”

“I don’t live my life in fear. Anyway, I’ve lived so long that I’m a thrill seeker. Anything to break up the monotony. Anything for change, Aislinn.”

The way he pronounced her name sent a shiver down her spine. He rolled it on his tongue like a French kiss, smooth and sweet as melting candy.

It made her miss a step and deepened her annoyance.

She picked up her pace and matched his strides once more. “Listen, I don’t know why the queen selected me for this job, but the last thing I want to do right now is babysit you.” Ouch. That had been harsh. She winced as the words echoed through her head. He hadn’t done anything to her and she wasn’t sure why she was feeling so hostile. It had to be because of her recent breakup with Kendal. Gabriel reminded her of him.

Every man reminded her of him.

She still felt so raw and vulnerable. She needed time alone to lick her wounds and heal. The last thing she wanted was to be forced into spending time with an obvious womanizer who could wield sex as a weapon. Literally. Perhaps she was using this man as a scapegoat for her wounded pride and broken heart. If so, that was wrong . . . yet she couldn’t seem to help herself.

He halted, hand on her elbow. “Whoa. Look, Aislinn, if you feel so strongly about it, I’m sure I can find someone else to ‘babysit’ me.”

She winced again, turning to face him. She was being a bitch and needed to rein it in. Regret pinched her and she opened her mouth to apologize.

“It’s too bad you don’t want to spend time with me, though, since I have news of Bella and Ronan. They’ve been anxious to get back into contact with you.”