Aislinn stormed into the loft, hurricane like winds following in her wake as her eyes blazed with the heat of the Sahara. She didn't stop until the doors to Keenan's study flew open and she stomped in. He looked up from his desk, having the audacity to appear shocked at her tempestuous entry.
"What the hell, Keenan!?" she shouted as she came to a stop, the wind still whirling around her, knocking over plants around the room and pulling papers on his desk up into the whirlwind. He stood and started towards her, his hands out.
"I told you! I only did it to make you happy!" he shouted over the wind and crack of thunder that reverberated through the room.
"It was completely unfair to Maeve! Have you learned nothing?!" Aislinn shouted. "She should be allowed to make her own choices regarding her life!"
"But don't you want her here with us?" he asked. "Wouldn't that make you happy?"
"Enough with this stupid, making me happy shit! What would make me happy is that Maeve's happy!" Aislinn returned, a blast of heat shooting out of her and towards Keenan. "And if that means she chooses the Dark Court, then so be it!"
Keenan didn't respond, only stared at her in shock. Surely, she didn't mean it. That she would rather her cousin - her family and blood - join the Dark Court over the Summer Court. Didn't she care about Maeve's safety? Had Aislinn already forgotten what had happened to her friend, the human Leslie? She had been furious and upset once she had realized what was going on. That she was being used by Irial. Who's to say the same thing didn't happen to Maeve? Why else would Niall be so interested in her. Keenan was positive it had nothing to do with what was good for Maeve and everything to do with some sort of underhanded plan.
Perhaps he was planning to use her to cow Aislinn into submission. To hold it over them and temper the Summer Court's power. That sounded more like Niall. He had forced Aislinn on her knees before him only to deny her information on Seth for his own sick pleasure.
The Dark Court couldn't be trusted.
Not to mention, what would this do to the tentative peace and balance between the two courts? Maeve was only half-faery, but still. Any increase in the Dark Court's numbers needed to be watched. And she would only retain her humanity for so long. It was a matter of time before the transition was complete.
"Why would you want that for her?" he asked, feeling his own anger starting to whirl. His own storm poured out of him and clashed with her own. "We both know that she won't be safe with Niall. You know what he's capable of."
"Oh, don't even go there, Keenan. We both know that you told him to get close to Leslie," Aislinn retorted. "You weren't completely innocent then. And you're certainly not this time." She narrowed her eyes at him. "You wanted to change her. Without telling her. Like you tried with me. And I am for damn sure going to make certain that she gets a choice."
"But she's not even completely human!" Keenan shouted back. "And she knows that! Has known it her whole life!"
"Exactly! She should get to decide what world she wants to be in!" Aislinn shouted, her hair whipping around her. "She's had it hard enough, Keenan. Too many things have happened out of her control. She should at least get to decide about this!"
The two Summer monarchs glared at each other, both of them seething as the storm continued to rage in the study around them.
"You honestly think that being with Niall - joining the Dark Court - that's what is best for her? After what happened to Leslie?" he asked, his voice low. Aislinn felt her anger roar throughout her and pour out in an arid desert wind.
That was a low blow and he knew it.
"This is different," she said. "Maeve knows what she's getting into. Hell, her father was part of the Dark Court, whoever he was."
"And at least Niall's willing to let her choose what to do with her life. And only wants what is best for her - whatever she chooses," she hissed. She then spun around and stormed out of the room.
Keenan stared after her a few moments and then roared in anger, shoving everything left on his desk to the floor. He ran his fingers through his hair as a couple of his guards rushed in.
"What is it, my king?" the first asked.
"Nothing. It's fine," he said, starting to pace. He then stopped as he looked over at them. "But there's something you can do."
"Anything," the second said.
"Keep a closer eye on Maeve and Niall," he ordered. He then started out of the study, walking passed them.
"Where are you going?" the first asked. He stopped for a moment and looked back at them.
"Going to talk to someone who can… distract Niall," he said. "She will be part of the Summer Court." He then turned and stormed out, leaving the two guards confused.
Maeve groaned slightly as she came to. She didn't dare open her eyes yet, knowing that if it were daylight, it would only add to the pounding in her head. However, as soon as she realized that she wasn't alone in her bed, her eyes flew open. She looked up, seeing the outline of Niall's jaw. She froze, taking stock of everything. She still had clothes on - her tank top and underwear - meaning they hadn't slept together.
That was one blessing.
But his arms were around her and she was curled up to his side. And she couldn't remember clearly how she had gotten there. Still a bit blurry, she started going through everything she remembered from last night.
She went to the loft - was supposed to hang out with Ash. Keenan stopped her and took her to the park. There was a party. Incredible wine. Even more incredible dancing. She had gotten drunk. Started taking her clothes off and dancing around a fountain. Maeve winced, remembering how she had acted when Ash and Niall had arrived. He had to literally throw her over his shoulder to get her home.
Then she had asked him to stay with her before passing out.
Her face heating up in embarrassment, Maeve slowly extracted herself from Niall's arms and sat up, looking around the room. She saw a shirt laying near the bed and leaning over, grabbing it. She then started to pull it on. Maybe she could get downstairs and make some coffee before he woke up. Attempt to ward off some of what was sure to be an awkward morning after moment.
"You don't have to do that."
She froze. So much for making a quick escape, she thought ruefully before slowly looking over at him. He had propped himself up slightly, though was still covered by her gray comforter, a warm expression on his face and sincerity in his dark eyes.
One shadow was lounging on his other side, while the second was stretched out at his feet, the both of them directing their attention at her. Maeve wondered if they ever left his side. This moment would be a whole lot less awkward without the audience. But then, they were extensions of him - the Dark King.
"You don't have to cover up your scars," he said softly. "Not in front of me."
She didn't move, only continued to stare at him as she held the shirt tightly to her chest. His eyes roamed over her body, moving down her right side to her leg where he could see they continued, reaching down to her ankle.
He then sighed and sat up, the comforter falling away from him and revealing his chest. Maeve's eyes widened as she saw the many scars criss-crossing it and his arms and shoulders. She didn't speak or move for a moment before she met his eyes.
"How?" she asked, her shirt discarded and forgotten on the floor as she stepped closer to the bed.
"It was a long time ago… a lifetime ago," he said, rubbing his face and then leaning back against the headboard. Maeve sat back down on the edge of the bed, facing him. "Remember when I told you that I had spent several years with the Dark King before? We did whatever we wanted. Whoever we wanted. And then he revealed to me what I was and what I was truly doing to those poor humans…"
Maeve furrowed her brow as she watched him, Niall unable to look at her. She found herself moving closer across the bed.
"I… gave into the pleasure of it all, happy to be with someone else. I had spent a long time on my own - I was solitary," he said. "I lost myself. And then I found out that the king… he knew all along what I was. What I was doing. And he didn't tell me. Not until…" He closed his eyes. "He gave me a choice. The humans that had become addicted to me - had gone mad - kill them or take the torture myself and they would be spared."
Maeve's hand flew to her mouth as her eyes traveled down his body again. She started to reach out to touch him but stopped.
"How could someone do that?" she whispered. "How could someone be so cruel?"
He looked up at her, his dark eyes meeting hers.
"That's the Dark Court. Or what his court was like. I'm not like him, but… I am capable of being cruel when necessary… My court is ruthless. You know that we need chaos, violence, lust, pain - all of it - to survive," he said.
Maeve gulped slightly. Of course, she knew this, but it was something to see the ramifications of it herself.
"You aren't the only one carrying darkness with you."
Maeve dropped her hands into her lap and returned to studying his scars. She then cautiously reached out and gently ran her fingertips over the ridges. He shuddered slightly at her touch.
"I am darkness, Maeve," he said. "My court is darkness. Are you sure this is what you want?"
She looked back up, meeting his eyes.
She knew what he was telling her. And yet, she wasn't frightened. Not anymore. She felt as though she understood him more. And that they weren't so different. More than that, she was beginning to think that perhaps her place was in the Dark Court. She had long carried her own darkness inside her. Knew how cruel the world was.
But now rather than wanting to run away from it, she found herself wanting to embrace it.
Her fingers drifted up, running up his neck to his jaw and then the scar on his cheek. He leaned into her hand, his eyes not leaving hers.
"You took on all that pain to spare them," she said softly. "I'm not afraid of the dark. Not anymore."
She then slowly leaned forward. Niall's eyes widened as his breath hitched slightly. Maeve pressed her lips gently, but firmly, against his, her other hand coming to rest on his chest. Niall reached up and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her down to him as he deepened the kiss.
She could feel the warm tingling slowly spread throughout her body, starting to build. It grew much more slowly this time, lazily running through her veins and as it filled every artery and cell. And Maeve found that she wasn't terrified of it. She sighed into the kiss, finally letting go.
Niall's hand found its way to the back of her head as the other slid up her back under her tank top, pulling her flush against him. After a few moments, Maeve sat up, staring down at him as she reached down and pulled off her tank top over her head and then tossed it aside. Niall slid his hands up and down her sides before she bent down and kissed him again, starting to move against him.
Niall sat up, moaning softly against her lips as his fingers ran over her back, her scars, then down, squeezing her ass. Maeve couldn't help as she bucked against him, her own moan leaving her lips. His hands stayed there, urging her to keep moving.
She tossed her head back as his lips moved to her neck, alternating between kissing and licking her skin, his teeth barely grazing her. Maeve fell into a steady rhythm, moving against him as heat began to build.
She looked back down at him, meeting his eyes once more and she was falling deep into their dark depths, freefalling.
"Maeve… you're so beautiful," he whispered, and she bent down, meeting his lips again, this time in a hungry kiss.
She could feel something continue to build inside her. At first it was a jumble of heat and pleasure, but as their movement took a frenzied pace, there was something more. A pressure settled in her stomach and began to uncoil itself slowly, like a large snake.
At first, she grasped onto it, reveling in the pleasure of it. But then it grew stronger, spreading throughout her body. It was like nothing she had ever experienced before. Not with her previous hookups. Not with Christopher.
At the back of her mind, there was a fleeting thought to stop before it went too far. Before it completely took over, but Maeve didn't want to stop. In fact, she was of the mind that she wanted to get rid of the one last boundary between her and Niall.
Just as it was starting to reach a peak, suddenly Niall pushed her off him, his eyes wide, but completely dark. At first, Maeve was confused. Had she done something wrong? Did he not want this? Just a moment ago, it seemed like he had.
But she met Niall's eyes and saw a tinge of fear and she quickly sobered up, the high from their heated session quickly flowing away. As the feeling began to recede, Maeve was left shaking on the bed, wrapping her arms around herself.
She couldn't help but feel as though they had just stopped something incredibly big from happening. She didn't know what it was and that worried her. Almost as much as how easily she had been willing to give into it. This was different than the other times that she and Niall had kissed. This was far more consuming and was more than just pure lust.
This felt like pure power had been coursing through her veins.
"What was that?" she asked breathlessly. "Is it… is it normally like that?"
Niall shook his head and then rubbed his face, leaning over.
"No. I don't know what that was," he admitted. "I've never experienced something like that before."
"So, it wasn't just me that felt it..." Maeve murmured. He nodded and then looked over at her, his eyes returned to their normal state.
"You… changed… your eyes," he said, his brow furrowed. Maeve touched her cheek just under her eye, her eyebrows raised. "They had gone completely black."
"What… what do we do?" she asked. He sighed and looked away.
"I don't know what that was, but… I think I know someone who can tell me," he said, already getting out of the bed and starting for his clothes. Maeve jumped up, though she was still a bit wobbly, and started to do the same. "What are you doing?"
"I'm going with you," Maeve said, hopping on one foot as she tried to pull her jeans back on.
"No, you're not," Niall said firmly. Maeve stopped and looked over at him, frowning. "I need to go speak to him alone… stay here."
"Trust me, on this, Maeve. You don't want to have anything to do with him," Niall said. There was something in his voice that stopped her from making a retort. He was being very serious. Instead she just nodded.
"Okay," she said.
Niall quickly dressed and walked up to her, pressing a soft kiss on her lips.
"Trust me. I'll come back. And hopefully with answers," he said, caressing her cheek.
"And what does the Kingling want with me?" Irial asked, lazily blowing a stream of smoke into the air. He was leaning against the wall of an alley in the heart of a long-forgotten industrial section of the city.
It had intrigued him, to say the least, to get a message from Keenan, asking to meet. The Summer King had never hidden his disdain, which is why it was very curious that he had wanted to speak to him. Irial couldn't help but wonder if this had to do with the half-fey that was currently being courted by Niall. She was related to the Summer Queen, but outside that, Irial couldn't understand why Keenan would care so much.
He rarely cared for anything unless it was for his own gain or his court's gain. Irial didn't fault him in that, he was much the same in that regard. Save for a few exceptions.
And there was no way Keenan could possibly know who she truly was.
Keenan looked around the alley, his disgust clear on his face, but then turned back to Irial, forcing himself to focus on why he came.
"I need you to do something," Keenan said. Irial chuckled.
"I don't make deals with the Summer Court. Unless… I get something out of it," he said, tossing the cigarette to the ground and straightening up. "So, tell me, Kingling, what's in it for me?"
"Distract Niall," Keenan said, though for a moment, he appeared slightly conflicted. Irial's eyebrows rose.
"Why?" he asked.
As much as he loved to play with Niall, he was intentionally staying away from the Dark Court, not wanting to mess things up for the new king. So far things seemed to be going smoothly. And well, especially with how things were currently going with Maeve. Irial was not about to step into the middle of that.
"Because… I need the half-faery to choose the Summer Court and he's getting in the way," Keenan replied. Irial chuckled.
"Since when did you care about little halflings," Irial asked, curious to hear the Summer King's answer. Keenan frowned slightly, as though he was wondering just how much Irial knew about the woman and what was going on.
"She's Ash's cousin. It would be in her best interest if she joined the Summer Court," he said. "It's an even deal - we get the half-faery and you get Niall."
"You mean… it would make your queen happier if the halfling were with you. And a happy queen is easier to woo. Does the queen know you're here?" Irial replied. Keenan didn't respond, just scowled, causing Irial to chuckle again. "I'm not interested in the deal."
"Why not? Aren't you still in love with him?" Keenan asked. Irial shrugged, sliding his hands into his pockets.
"More so... I'm not so inclined to fuck around with fate," he said casually.
"Fate?" Keenan asked. "What do you mean by that?"
"Yes, Irial, what do you mean by that?"
The two men turned, seeing Niall storming up to them, his shadows swarming angrily around him. He tossed a glare at Keenan, but then turned his attention back to Irial.
"What do you mean by fate?" Niall asked again, his voice almost desperate.
This was interesting. Something must have happened with Maeve, Irial thought. It was already starting. He smirked as he shrugged again.
"Like calls to like, Niall," he said lazily. "It would seem that Maeve is your perfect match… in so many, many ways."
Both Niall and Keenan looked rather confused at the statement.
"Stop speaking in riddles, Irial," Niall spat, his shadows now hovering at his sides, waiting for him to command them. "Is it to do with her being half-Gancanagh?"
Irial laughed as Keenan appeared slightly shocked. Ah, the Kingling must not have figured that out yet.
"No, though I suppose it could. Or her being half-human," Irial replied. "Though really, whether she was half or full faery, you two would still be drawn together… At least that's my opinion on the matter…"
"Spit it out, Irial," Keenan shouted, heat starting to waft off him in irritation.
Irial looked at him and then turned his amused gaze to Niall.
"It's because she's my daughter."