Home > Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1)

Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely #1)
Author: Melissa Marr



Wicked Lovely series
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Acknowledgments

 

 

I've been lucky enough to have some pretty wonderful people keeping me steady along the path: my lovely and fierce agent, Rachel Vater; my insightful and passionate editors, Anne Hoppe and Nick Lake (as well as the whole amazing Harper team, including Camilla, Alison, and Tasha); my readers— Anne Gill and Randy Simpson; my dear friend, Kelly Kincy; and my mentors and friends—Michael Grimwood and Tony Harrison. I am humbled by the faith and enthusiasm you've shared with me along this journey.

And to those who have inspired and encouraged me throughout my life—John and Vanessa Marr, for teaching me about believing, about courage, about the things beyond our sight; Dylan and Asia, for reminding me every day that the impossible can come true; and Loch, for showing me that true bliss is possible on this side of the veil. Without you, there'd be nothing.

 

 

Prologue

 

 

The Summer King knelt before her. "Is this what you freely choose, to risk winter's chill?"

She watched him—the boy she'd fallen in love with these past weeks. She'd never dreamed he was something other than human, but now his skin glowed as if flames flickered just under the surface, so strange and beautiful she couldn't look away. "It's what I want."

"You understand that if you are not the one, you'll carry the Winter Queen's chill until the next mortal risks this? And you'll warn her not to trust me?" He paused, glancing at her with pain in his eyes.

She nodded.

"If she refuses me, you will tell the next girl and the next"—he moved closer—"and not until one accepts, will you be free of the cold."

"I do understand." She smiled as reassuringly as she could, and then she walked over to the hawthorn bush. The leaves brushed against her arms as she bent down and reached under it.

Her finger wrapped around the Winter Queen's staff. It was a plain thing, worn as if countless hands had clenched the wood. It was those hands, those other girls who'd stood where she now did, she didn't want to think about.

She stood, hopeful and afraid.

Behind her, he moved closer. The rustling of trees grew almost deafening. The brightness from his skin, his hair, intensified. Her shadow fell on the ground in front of her.

He whispered, "Please. Let her be the one. …"

She held the Winter Queen's staff—and hoped. For a moment she even believed, but then ice pierced her, filled her like shards of glass in her veins.

She screamed his name: "Keenan!"

She stumbled toward him, but he walked away, no longer glowing, no longer looking at her.

Then she was alone—with only a wolf for companionship—waiting to tell the next girl what a folly it was to love him, to trust him.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

SEERS, or Men of the SECOND SIGHT,…have very terrifying Encounters with [the FAIRIES, they call Sleagh Maith, or the Good People].

— The SecretCommonwealthby Robert Kirk and Andrew Lang (1893)

 

 

"Four-ball, side pocket." Aislinn pushed the cue forward with a short, quick thrust; the ball dropped into the pocket with a satisfying clack.

Her playing partner, Denny, motioned toward a harder shot, a bank shot.

She rolled her eyes. "What? You in a hurry?"

He pointed with the cue.

"Right." Focus and control, that's what it's all about. She sank the two.

He nodded once, as close as he got to praise.

Aislinn circled the table, paused, and chalked the cue. Around her the cracks of balls colliding, low laughter, even the endless stream of country and blues from the jukebox kept her grounded in the real world: the human world, the safe world. It wasn't the only world, no matter how much Aislinn wanted it to be. But it hid the other world—the ugly one—for brief moments.

"Three, corner pocket." She sighted down the cue. It was a good shot.

Focus. Control.

Then she felt it: warm air on her skin. A faery, its too-hot breath on her neck, sniffed her hair. His pointed chin pressed against her skin. All the focus in the world didn't make Pointy-Face's attention tolerable.

She scratched: the only ball that dropped was the cue ball.

Denny took the ball in hand. "What was that?"

"Weak-assed?" She forced a smile, looking at Denny, at the table, anywhere but at the horde coming in the door. Even when she looked away, she heard them: laughing and squealing, gnashing teeth and beating wings, a cacophony she couldn't escape. They were out in droves now, freer somehow as evening fell, invading her space, ending any chance of the peace she'd sought.

Denny didn't stare at her, didn't ask hard questions. He just motioned for her to step away from the table and called out, "Grade, play something for Ash."

At the jukebox Grace keyed in one of the few not-country-or-blues songs: Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff."

As the oddly comforting lyrics in that gravelly voice took off, building to the inevitable stomach-tightening rage, Aislinn smiled. If I could let go like that, let the years of aggression spill out onto the fey…She slid her hand over the smooth wood of the cue, watching Pointy-Face gyrate beside Grace. I'd start with him. Right here, right now. She bit her lip. Of course, everyone would think she was utterly mad if she started swinging her cue at invisible bodies, everyone but the fey.

Before the song was over, Denny had cleared the table.

"Nice." Aislinn walked over to the wall rack and slid the cue back into an empty spot. Behind her, Pointy-Face giggled—high and shrill—and tore out a couple strands of her hair.

"Rack 'em again?" But Denny's tone said what he didn't: that he knew the answer before he asked. He didn't know why, but he could read the signs.

Pointy-Face slid the strands of her hair over his face.

Aislinn cleared her throat. "Rain check?"

"Sure." Denny began disassembling his cue. The regulars never commented on her odd mood swings or unexplainable habits.

 

 

She walked away from the table, murmuring good-byes as she went, consciously not staring at the faeries. They moved balls out of line, bumped into people—anything to cause trouble—but they hadn't stepped in her path tonight, not yet. At the table nearest the door, she paused. "I'm out of here."

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