Maeve came to a stop in front of a large, expensive looking building and looked down at the piece of paper in her hand and then back up. This was where Ash lived now? Being Summer Queen really did have its perks. She was a bit surprised when Ash messaged her rather suddenly, inviting her over. But Maeve did want to work on rebuilding her relationship with her cousin and this seemed like a good opportunity to do just that.
She slid the paper into her purse and jogged up the steps reaching out to ring the bell to be let in. But before she could press the button, the door opened and a grinning young man with copper hair appeared. Maeve's eyes widened as she jumped slightly and then stepped back, the heat rolling off him in waves. It was as though she were standing on the beach looking out at the ocean as she gazed into his bright blue eyes.
"Maeve," he said warmly.
"Yes… and you are?" she asked, though part of her already knew that he must be the Summer King.
"Keenan. Summer King," he said. "And you're Aislinn's cousin." He held his hand out. Maeve studied it a moment before shaking it. Thankfully, it didn't send her into an instant panic attack. "We're having a little shindig across the street in the park. Ash is going to meet us over there."
He stepped out of the building and shut the door behind him, motioning for Maeve to follow him. She looked back at the door, for a moment wondering why Ash didn't tell her there was a party.
"It's fine. She'll be down in a couple minutes," he said.
Maeve looked back over at him and then moved to follow him across the street. As soon as they stepped into the park, she stopped her eyes wide. Summer fey were everywhere, laughing, dancing, drinking. Loud music was playing. Her eyes were drawn back to a group dancing around a fountain and she unconsciously took a step towards them. She had never seen dancing like that before. Part of her wanted to join them.
But then she stopped, remembering herself. She looked at the ground and then back over at Keenan, who was smiling at her.
"Ash tells me that you were once a dancer," he said, his tone friendly.
"Yea, I was," Maeve said. Though she remembered that now that Niall had healed her leg, she could once again dance as she used to. But for the time being, she wasn't sure she wanted to join in. Best to wait for Ash.
She looked back at him, finding him now holding out a goblet to her, another in his other hand. She took it and looked into it, finding it was some sort of gold liquid. She looked up at Keenan, her eyes questioning him. He only laughed.
"It's fine. Faery wine. You're half-fey so it'll be okay," he said. He clinked his against hers and took a drink, motioning for her to do the same. Maeve sighed and lifted it to her lips as she looked around the park again. She found it sweet, but remarkably good.
"Damn… this is what I've been missing out on?" she asked, looking back down into the goblet. Keenan only laughed and took her arm, gently guiding her forward.
"Come on, I'll introduce you around," he said. Maeve glanced back towards the entrance to the park, once again wondering where Ash was. "It's fine. I told you she'll be here soon."
Maeve laughed as she pulled at her scarf, finding herself all too overdressed for the weather in the park. She thought about taking it off but stopped. She took another drink, only to realize that her goblet was empty.
"Allow me," Keenan said, taking it from her and holding it out.
Another faery with a jug appeared and poured more of the gold liquid into it. He then handed it back and Maeve immediately took a large gulp. In the back of her mind, she thought that she should take it easy, but she was having such a good time that she didn't care. Keenan had introduced her around to some of his court and they were now talking to a Rowan named Cian. He was funny and had kept her entertained. She had the feeling that there was something she was supposed to be doing, but she couldn't quite remember what it was.
She wasn't drunk, she knew that. But a delightful buzz had settled in that had her feeling lighter than she had in days. She once again adjusted her scarf.
"You seem a bit warm. Why don't you take your scarf off?" Cian said. She looked over at him with wide eyes.
"I… no. It's fine," she said. Even though she had shed her coat and purse some time ago - she wasn't sure where they were, but Keenan had someone take them somewhere so surely they were fine - she still wore a long sleeve shirt and her scarf.
Her eyes once again fell on the circle of women dancing, their vines twisting and turning around their bodies. And once again, the desire to join them started to come over her.
"Are you sure you don't want to join them?" Keenan asked. Maeve looked over at him. "I heard that you're quite good."
Maeve blushed slightly as she took another drink.
"Oh, I don't know… compared to full fey, I'm not sure I'd be that good," she said. They were spinning around impossibly fast.
"I, for one, would love to see you dance," Cian said, stepping closer to her. She looked over at him. Despite the bark-like skin, she had to admit that he was still attractive.
"Please! Come dance with us!"
Maeve looked forward, seeing that two of the vine girls were now in front of her.
Before she could say anything else, one pulled off her scarf and while the other took her goblet out of her hand. She felt hands at the back of her neck, and she looked over in shock, seeing Keenan.
"You're among your kind. You don't need this," he said as he undid her necklace and pulled it off. "I'll keep it safe."
The vine girls now had each of her arms and were starting to pull her towards the fountain. She dug in her feet, stopping them. They looked at her with questioning eyes. She then sighed and grabbed her goblet back.
"If I'm going to do this, I need fortification," she said before emptying it.
The girls squealed in delight as she then followed them to the fountain. Once there, she closed her eyes, listening to the music. She started swaying in time with it, allowing the bass to thump through her body. Her body then fell in tune with the beat, first starting with her shoulders and then moving down.
Maeve had never encountered music like this. That she could feel all the way down to her bones. Her eyes flew open as her movements became bigger and she started moving around. The others backed away, allowing her more space. A smile came over her as she forgot about everything around her, allowing the music to take over her body. She could feel the sweat beginning to form and without thinking pulled her shirt off, now dancing around in her jeans and a tank top.
Everything around her became a blur as the only thing she focused on was the music and the way it made her want to move.
Aislinn stomped across the street to the park. She had been messaging Maeve for a good hour with no response. Once she finally looked out the window and saw the party going on there, she immediately knew where she must be. She was going to let Keenan have it. Tonight was supposed to be about her and Maeve reconnecting.
Damn him and damn his meddling. If he gave her faery wine, she'd never forgive him. She didn't know what it would do to Maeve considering she was half-faery, half-human, but she didn't want to risk finding out.
She stopped for a moment as soon as she entered the park, seeing that everyone was transfixed watching something. Frowning, she started walking again, wondering just what it was they were looking at. It didn't take long for her to find out.
Aislinn's mouth dropped open as soon as she saw Maeve. She was dancing near the fountain much like she had before the accident, doing moves and leaps that Aislinn didn't think were possible anymore. But that wasn't what shocked her.
What shocked her was the scarred and discolored skin that covered the right side of her body, running from her neck down across her chest and down her arm. She knew that Maeve had been burned in the accident. But she hadn't realized just how badly until now. For what it was worth, Maeve didn't seem the slightest bit bothered, a look of pure bliss on her face as she danced.
Aislinn tore her eyes away from her cousin, and found Keenan standing next to one of his guards, Cian. She narrowed her eyes as she stomped up to him.
"I promise you… once we get her to join our court, she's all yours," Keenan said. Aislinn stopped, her anger flaring up even more. She then continued on, grabbing Keenan's shoulder and spinning him around.
"Just what do you think you're doing," she hissed. He looked shocked to see her, but then covered it with a smile.
"Thought it would be good for Maeve to meet the rest of the Summer Court," he said warmly, though he winced slightly at the blast of heat that rolled off Aislinn. She looked back over at Maeve, the realization hitting her. She turned back to Keenan, her eyes now full of flames.
"What did you give her?" she asked, her voice soft.
"Just some wine. She's fine," Keenan said.
"We don't know how it'll affect her. She's still half human," Aislinn retorted.
"Yes, but… wouldn't you like for her to be full fey? To be with the Summer Court forever?" he asked. Aislinn's eyes widened as she took a step back from him. "I don't understand why you're upset. I did this for you. Won't you be happier once she's with us?"
"Yes, but only by her choice. Not yours!" Aislinn yelled. "Christ, Keenan, have you learned nothing?!"
"I did this for you," he repeated. Aislinn rolled her eyes. She then saw Maeve's charm in his hand. She reached out and grabbed it back.
"You idiot. I didn't want this! I mean, not like this!" she shouted. She looked back at Maeve.
"But… she's happy," Keenan said.
"Because she's drunk on faery wine," Aislinn retorted. "Shit…"
Niall felt slightly uncomfortable walking into the Summer Court's park but pushed it aside. There were more important things to focus on. Like making sure Maeve was okay. He looked around, noticing that everyone was looking at something and whispering together. In fact, no one seemed to have noticed his arrival. He wandered around until he finally found what they were looking at.
His mouth dropped open as he saw Maeve execute a perfect leap through the air and then land and spin into another move. The Summer Girls were dancing around her, but even they were still watching her. She looked happy. But at the same time, he felt as though something was off. And he had a feeling that it had something to do with Keenan. He looked around, his eyes finally falling on the Summer King and Queen. Aislinn was glaring daggers at Keenan as she wrenched something from his hand.
Niall walked up to the two, anger starting to course through him.
"What did you do?" he seethed, coming face to face with Keenan. Immediately, the Summer King's look of surprise switched to anger.
"What are you doing here? You're not part of our court anymore," Keenan shouted, gathering attention from some of the others around them. Immediately, his guard fell in behind and around them.
"I'm here to look out for Maeve," he said. He looked back over at her, his eyes widening. "Shit. Did you give her wine?"
"So?" Keenan asked. Niall turned his fury back to Keenan.
"She's half human!" he shouted.
"Yes, and so?" Keenan pushed.
"Did you even tell her what it does?" Niall shouted. Keenan narrowed his eyes.
"Does it matter?" he asked. "She's one of ours. Would fully embrace her fey side anyway."
"Yes, but not by force!" Niall roared, pulling his arm back to punch Keenan. Before he could, he felt someone pulling him back. He looked over, seeing Aislinn.
"We need to get her out of here," she said firmly. Niall knew she was right, but for a moment, he contemplated pushing Aislinn aside and releasing his full fury on the Summer King. "Please, Niall…"
He lowered his arm but shot one more glare at Keenan before following Aislinn over to Maeve.
"I didn't know he was doing this," she said as they walked. Niall glanced at her and then back at Maeve.
"Let's just get her home," he said.
"Maeve!" Aislinn called out. Maeve stopped mid-turn, her face lighting up as she saw Aislinn. She squealed and ran over to her, throwing her arms around her neck.
"Oh my god! Feels like I've been waiting forever for you to show up!" she shouted. She then let her go and started pulling Aislinn with her. "Come on! Let's dance!"
"Maeve, you need to get home," Aislinn said, jerking her to a halt. Maeve looked at her, her mouth falling open.
"But… I'm having so much fun. Come on. Let's just dance a bit. Or get a drink? Yes, let's do that," Maeve said, looking around.
"Maeve, we're going home," Niall said firmly, stepping up to her. She looked over at him, her eyes wide. She then grinned.
"I didn't know you'd be here too," she gushed. Niall looked over at Aislinn, who just sighed and nodded. As she bent down to pick up Maeve's discarded shirt, Niall walked over and picked up Maeve, tossing her over his shoulder. She whooped and then laughed loudly. "You know, all you gotta do is ask, if that's what you want."
Niall kept from rolling his eyes as he turned and walked through the surprised Summer Court to the entrance of the park.
"Just… let's get you home…"
Niall deposited a giggling Maeve into her bed. She rolled over and then looked up at him, still grinning.
"So, you joining me?" she asked.
"No," he said, turning towards the stairs. "You should sleep."
"But I'm not tired!" Maeve whined.
He huffed and stopped, turning to her. She had crawled out of bed and was now undoing her jeans, starting to pull them down. She grinned at him, then stopping, yawning loudly.
"Get some sleep," he said softly before turning and making his way downstairs. Aislinn was pacing around the kitchen, but once he walked towards it, she stopped.
"Look, I only invited her to the loft so we could hang out. I didn't know Keenan had planned the party," she started.
"Relax, I know," Niall said. Aislinn nodded and then a stormy look came over her face as the temperature in the kitchen rose exponentially.
"I can't believe he did that," she fumed. "God, and he claims he thought it would make me happy." Niall frowned.
"What would?" he asked. Aislinn met his eyes.
"He thought if he got her to drink enough, she would go full faery and join the Summer Court," she said. "I mean, I want her to, but I want it to be her choice."
Niall sighed and looked towards upstairs. It was just the underhanded sort of thing he expected from Keenan. All in the name of making his queen happy. He then looked back at Aislinn, finding her studying him intently.
"What do you want with Maeve?" she asked bluntly. His eyebrows rose.
"I… I care for her," he said. Aislinn motioned for him to continue, apparently not satisfied with that answer. He gulped then spoke again. "I think I'm falling for her."
Aislinn's eyes widened in shock. Hell, even Niall was shocked with his admission. Hadn't he just told Seth hours ago that he wasn't sure what this was?
"I mean… this is… it's crazy. But I feel… there's a connection with her… I've never felt something like this before," he admitted.
"What about Leslie?" she asked.
"I… I still care for her. Want her to be happy. But this is… something completely different," he said. "All I want is for Maeve to be safe and happy. I want it to be with me, but she's her own person and can decide for herself. And I know she's been through a lot. That it will take time for her to fully trust me. I'm willing to wait."
Aislinn studied him for a moment and then sighed, running her hands through her hair. She then looked at him again.
"Okay," she said softly.
"Okay, what?" Niall asked.
"I won't stand in your way. But know this, she is my family. I love her fiercely. You hurt her, and I will come after you. I will start a war without a moment's hesitation," she said seriously.
"The last thing I want to do is to hurt her," he said.
"I know," Aislinn replied. She looked towards the ceiling and back at him. "Honestly, it's all I want for her as well. Whether she chooses the Dark Court or the Summer Court, as long as she's happy, I'll accept it." Niall smirked.
"Didn't seem so keen on that idea before," he said. Aislinn rolled her eyes.
"Yea, well, it's not like you have the best track record with humans," she retorted. Niall winced. "Sorry."
"It's true, though. But Maeve's different," he said solemnly. Aislinn nodded. She then hugged herself, suddenly appearing a bit nervous.
"So… how's Seth?" she asked softly, glancing up at him.
"He's good," Niall said. She looked up at him. "Misses you." She nodded and looked away.
"I miss him too," she admitted. She then straightened up. "I should get back… I have some things to take care of with Keenan."
"Go. I'll look out for Maeve," Niall replied. Aislinn narrowed her eyes at him. "Christ, Aislinn. You can trust me with her.".
"Okay," she said. She then turned and left. Niall sighed and looked up at the ceiling, not hearing anything. He figured he should make sure that she was still breathing before making himself comfortable on the couch.
He made his way back upstairs, seeing Maeve fast asleep. He walked up to the bed and leaned over, relieved to find her breathing steadily. He started to turn away when she reached out and grabbed his arm.
"Stay here," she breathed. He looked down at her hand on his arm and then back at her.
Sighing, he straightened up and started pulling off his jacket.
"Okay," he said. She let go, her eyes still closed. He undressed down to his boxers and then walked to the other side of the bed, crawling in. Sensing him there, Maeve rolled over and snuggled up to him.
"Goodnight," she whispered.