Wicked Enchantment(9)

By: Anya Bast


There were the tall, spindly goblins who appeared so frail but were actually incredibly strong and vicious when prompted to be. Some of them lived and served in the Black Tower, but most lived in Goblin Town, a distance away from Piefferburg Square. There were the poweries, huge, hulking men and women also known as red caps, who needed to kill periodically to survive—luckily, “periodically” was every few hundred years, and they kept their restorative murdering to their own kind in elaborate gladiator-like tournaments that all the fae turned out to see. There were alps, tiny, squat German fae who sat on the chests of their victims and caused nightmares bad enough to cause permanent psychological damage. There were the crossbreeds, too—large brutish hunchbacks that twisted the mind a bit and shorter elflike creatures with postnasal drip. The Unseelie took in all, no matter their appearance.

There were plenty of the nonmonstrous in the Black, too. The Unseelie Tuatha Dé Danann, men and women who looked just like Gabriel but who, unlike their shining Seelie counterparts, could kill or maim with their magick. They were perhaps the most dangerous of all the members of the Black Tower. Deceptively deadly at times.

After spending a day at the Seelie Court with all its glittering pretensions, Gabriel knew he preferred monsters and mayhem to gilt and gossip.

He couldn’t wait to get home.

He waded further into the darkness of the other half of Piefferburg Square, under the shadow of the tall black crystal tower that mirrored the Seelie Court’s rose one. The doors opened for him immediately and he entered the black marble foyer.

“Gabriel,” said Hinkley, chief adviser to the Shadow King and majordomo of the Black Tower. He was a thin, balding, knobby man with a permanent stoop. He peered up at Gabriel through wire-rimmed glasses perched on his long, crooked nose. “He’s been asking for you. You said you’d return much earlier than this.”

There could only be one he Hinkley could be referring to.

Gabriel handed him his now-empty champagne bottle and strode past him, making Hinkley’s short legs work to catch up. “I couldn’t get here any quicker without raising suspicion. I spent almost all yesterday and this evening with Aislinn Christiana Guinevere Finvarra. There was a ball tonight I couldn’t get away from until now.” He shrugged and grabbed a shiny red apple from a bowl of fruit near a sofa. “I was working.” He snapped out a bite.

“So I trust she’s already under your spell?” asked Hinkley with his brows raised in a smarmy way that made Gabriel shudder for any female he might turn his attentions toward. “I’m sure you’ll have the matter put to rest within a couple nights’ time.”

Hardly.

When Gabriel had first arrived at the Rose yesterday, he’d seen Aislinn as he’d passed her in the corridor on his way to see the Summer Queen. She’d watched him with cool gray eyes set in a heart-shaped face. The coolness and detachment in her gaze and on her face was the first thing he’d noticed about her—coolness wasn’t usually a quality most females displayed where he was concerned. The second thing he’d noticed was how attractive she was. What the Shadow King had sent him to do wouldn’t be a hardship at all. For once.

No, Gabriel would love seducing sweet, luscious Aislinn Finvarra of the beautiful silver blond hair and succulent, small, curvy body. In fact, he couldn’t wait. But it looked like he’d have to wait, for he’d noticed something else about Aislinn—she was not affected by his particular “charm.”

Not at all.

Out of all the women the Shadow King had ordered him to seduce to the dark side, it was the one woman who seemed immune to him.

Normally women weren’t much of a challenge for him, but sometimes he found one who could resist him. It had never troubled him much; after all, there was always a willing one nearby and Gabriel wasn’t all that picky. As long as they were pretty and adventurous in bed they’d do. But he had to seduce this unwilling one if he was to stay in the Shadow King’s favor.

And Gabriel very much wanted to stay in the Shadow King’s favor.

He enjoyed high status in the Black, a nice apartment, good food, and other little perks. He had no family fortune to fall back on, coming, as he did, from abject poverty and a dark, twisted history of doing what he had to do in order to survive. The king asked little of him to maintain his high status. He couldn’t fail the royal in this.