Maeve couldn't help as she paced around her apartment. Aislinn would be there in a few minutes. She had gone over and over what she would say to her nearly all day as she cleaned and rearranged the place, too nervous to sit still or relax.
This was Ash, she kept reminding herself. Even if she was the new Summer Queen, that didn't mean that anything had to change between them. They had been close when they were younger. Told each other their secrets- well, most of them, anyway. Even with the shock of finding out that Aislinn was no longer human, Maeve still held a fondness for her. This would be okay. Ash wouldn't turn away from her just because she was half-faery. Even if the person responsible for that half had been part of the Dark Court.
Maeve froze as there was a knock on the door. She quickly rushed over, pausing to glance in a mirror and double-check that her scarf was in place. She then turned to the door and pasted a smile on her face as she opened it.
"Maeve," Aislinn said with a smile as she stepped forward and hugged her. Maeve tried hard not to look at the guards that were just behind her. All those years of pretending that they weren't there and now she was about to slip up. Though in the big scheme of things, it probably didn't matter. The whole point of today was to tell her the truth.
"Come on in," Maeve said, trying to ignore the temperature of Aislinn's skin and where it took her mind.
Intense heat. Flames licking at her skin. Her own shrieks of pain as she shouted for Christopher to wake up. For someone to help them.
"This place looks great," Aislinn said, looking around at the apartment. "Seriously."
"Thanks," Maeve said, going to the kitchen to retrieve the tea she had made. She took a few moments to get her heart and breathing under control. It wasn't Ash's fault that she reacted this way to her. She was Summer incarnate and not like she knew what memories that heat would dredge up in Maeve's mind.
She walked into the living room, two mugs in her hands as Aislinn stood at the windows, looking out at the street below.
"Great view, huh?" Maeve said, stepping up to her side. Aislinn looked at her and nodded, accepting the mug. Maeve looked down, seeing more faeries loitering than usual. Probably because Aislinn was there and she was bound to attract attention. She then turned and walked over to the sofa, sitting. "Sorry I ran out the other day… I…"
Maeve stopped, forgetting whatever excuse she had come up with earlier. She had spent a rather long time thinking of it. But just as she was about to say it, it fluttered out of her head.
"It's okay," Aislinn said as she sat next to her, putting her mug down on the coffee table. "I think I can understand why." Maeve's eyes widened. Shit. Did Aislinn already know? "How long have you been able to see faeries?"
Maeve breathed a sigh of relief and chuckled, shaking her head.
"Always," she admitted. "But… Mom said I couldn't tell anyone." Aislinn reached out and squeezed her hand.
"I get it. Grams told me the same thing," she replied.
"Yea, I wasn't always. This happened about a year ago," Aislinn said, motioning to her hair. "Apparently I'm some long-prophesized Summer Queen." Maeve was slightly taken aback by how flippant she was about it. From the way Seth spoke, it seemed like it was a lot more trouble and work than she was making it out to be.
"That must have been a shock," Maeve said carefully. Aislinn nodded.
"But it's nice that I don't have to keep it a secret from you. I've missed you," Aislinn said, smiling sadly at her. "I'm sorry that… that I lost touch." Maeve shook her head.
"It's fine," she said. "And obviously you had your own things going on."
"It's not okay, Maeve. You were hurt. In and out of the hospital. I should have been there for you," Aislinn said, her face turning serious. The temperature in the room started to rise slightly and Maeve fought off the urge to fan herself.
"As you can see… I survived," she said, still trying to keep the smile on her face.
"Yea… but you shouldn't of had to do that on your own," Aislinn said, a pained expression on her face.
"Look… what's done is done. I don't blame you for anything. Christ, you were just a teenager. And I wasn't exactly taking your calls and texts when they did come," Maeve said with a sigh. "But I'm here now. Back. Not going anywhere. We can make it up to each other." She patted Aislinn's leg and gave her a genuinely warm smile. The smile started to return to Aislinn's face.
"Good," she said. "Though, well, perk of being my cousin - you now get protection." Maeve stared at her a moment.
"From what?" she asked, her thoughts going back to everything that she had spoken to Seth about.
"From the other courts… I am the queen and I would breathe a bit easier if you had guards, just in case. There are a lot of bad faeries out there who might try to get to me through you," Aislinn said. Maeve took a deep breath and slowly let it out. That she hadn't thought about.
But she figured now was probably a good time to tell her.
"About that," she started. Aislinn jumped slightly and then rolled her eyes, pulling her phone out from her pocket. She groaned in frustration.
"I told him not to bother me," she grumbled.
"The king?" Maeve asked, an amused smile on her face. Aislinn nodded and stuck the phone back in her pocket.
"It can wait. You're more important right now," she replied.
"Okay. So, as I was saying-" Aislinn groaned again, reaching back into her pocket. "Seems important…"
"With Keenan everything is important. Even when it's not," Aislinn muttered. She then looked up at Maeve. "I should go see what he wants. I'm sorry." Maeve shook her head, waving her hand in the air.
"It's fine. You're a faery queen now… sure that takes up a lot of your time. Like I said, I'm not going anywhere," Maeve said. Aislinn leaned over and hugged her tightly.
"I'm happy that you're back. And I promise you - one girls' night with no distractions so we can talk about everything," she vowed.
"I'd like that," Maeve responded as they stood, and she led her cousin to the door. "See you next time."
"Love you, Maeve," Aislinn said, hugging her one more time.
"Love you, too, Ash."
And then she was gone, though the guards studied Maeve a bit before they followed her out. Sighing, Maeve shut the door and turned to look around the now empty apartment. She glanced down at her mug and decided she didn't really want tea at the moment. She walked it to the sink and then reached for a wine glass and filled it.
Sipping it, she walked over to the window, the street outside now bathed in twilight. Most of the faeries from earlier had moved on, though she could see a few Summer faeries standing and scanning the street. Likely her new security detail.
"This should be fun," she muttered to herself as she walked back to the living room.
Well, that was one big thing out the way. Almost. She still hadn't told Ash the full truth. Part of her felt as though she should tell her before she went to Niall. Ash was family, after all, and deserved to know the truth first. She had already given Maeve guards. Maybe they would even be okay with letting her be a part of her court. While she felt comforted around the Dark Court, Maeve still wasn't sure she wanted to be completely in their fold. And Ash would probably expect her to join the Summer Court just because they were family.
Her eyes fell on the photographs and the familiar pain and guilt welled up within her. Who was she kidding? Even if Ash accepted her, she didn't belong in the Summer Court. She was a creature of darkness. Always had been, even if it was diluted by her mother's blood. Despite all her good intentions and fighting it, she still couldn't suppress her dark nature.
Swallowing, Maeve looked away from Christopher's smiling face, wishing for once she could turn off her feelings and escape them for just one night. For whatever reason, the first face that filled her mind was that of Niall. She took a large drink of her wine, wondering why she would think of him.
But now that he was in her thoughts, she couldn't shake him off. Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to go find him. He had said that he and Seth would be at the Crow's Nest tonight. It was a Friday night. There would be a band. Perhaps some of her old friends would be there. If anything, she could get out and have some fun.
Forget about the guilt, Dark Court, Summer Court and everything else for just a bit.
Maybe Niall could help her to forget for just a bit. Maeve started at that thought. What the hell? Sighing, she drank a bit more. Right. Dark King. Of course, he would evoke those feelings in her. She was part mortal after all, though she was sure he could do it just as easily with any faery. Especially those that were weaker than him. Which was just about everyone, she supposed.
She walked over to the kitchen and put the glass on the counter, silently debating what she wanted to do. Stay in or go out? Drink another bottle of wine alone or surround herself with others?
She had cut herself off for the last two years. That was long enough, she finally decided.
The bar was far more crowded tonight than it had been last time she was there. For a minute, Maeve was overwhelmed by the sounds, the lights, the bodies pressed up against each other.
The heat - both literally and otherwise.
There were far more faeries there that night, though more of them were from the Summer Court, which made Maeve slightly tensed out of habit, though she knew that none of them would hurt her. Especially when she came with a couple of guards. They didn't speak to her, rather kept their distance. And she was more than happy to ignore that they were there.
But standing in the crowded bar, she felt her heart start to race slightly as her eyes searched for a familiar face.
Instantly, her anxiety slid away at the sound of his voice. She breathed a bit easier as she turned and saw Niall standing behind her, two beers in his hands and a pleasantly surprised look on his face.
"Hey," she said, smiling in return. She saw the two summer guards frown, obviously not happy with being in the near vicinity of the Dark King. But they were invisible to humans; Maeve continued to pretend that they weren't there, following Niall over to a table where Seth was already sitting, tapping his foot in time with the band.
"Look who I found," Niall said. Seth looked over, his eyebrows rising as he saw Maeve. She waved slightly as he stood and hugged her.
"So… not yet?" he whispered in her ear.
"I tried. Got interrupted," she muttered in reply. He nodded and stepped back as she sat down.
"Let me get you something to drink," Niall said, seeming more at ease tonight than he had been when he randomly dropped by her place yesterday.
"Thanks," Maeve replied with a smile. There were a few other dark faeries around them, and she found herself a bit more comfortable than when she first walked in, though she could see the Summer guards watching her closely from a distance.
"Take it you spoke with Ash," Seth said, glancing over at them.
"Yep. Though, before I could get to the big reveal, we got interrupted," Maeve replied. "God, it's like now that I've decided not to keep the secret, everything is stopping me." Seth chuckled and reached for his beer. "But honestly… I don't want to think or talk about it tonight…" She looked over at the band and started bobbing her head in time with it.
"So… letting loose. That's the goal?" Seth asked.
"Yep," Maeve replied.
Soon enough, Niall was back with another beer. Maeve thanked him as she took the glass from him and started sipping at it. She started moving a bit more, dancing in the chair as she closed her eyes and focused on the music. The band wasn't anything amazing, but she loved any and all music.
What she didn't see was Niall watching her, a half smile on his face. Or Seth chuckling at Niall.
"Let's dance," she heard in her ear. Maeve's eyes popped open and she turned, not realizing that Niall had moved to her side. He already had her hand and was guiding her up from the chair and out to the dance floor. She could sense her security team tensing slightly, but yet none of them moved to stop them.
Maeve smiled as she felt Niall place his hands on her waist, guiding her to move with him and the beat. She was locked in his gaze, forgetting everything around them as she fell into his eyes, letting the darkness envelop her completely. Rather than being terrified, she found herself feeling things that she hadn't felt in two years.
Wherever he touched her, it was as though electricity was coursing through her. And she didn't want it to stop. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she pulled him closer.
"Careful there," he said softly, a cautious note in his voice. Though he was still smiling, there was a sense of worry in his eyes.
"Or what? You'll seduce me?" she quipped in return, not sure where that had come from. He winced, something that didn't go unnoticed. "Trust me… you don't have to worry about me." With a wink, Maeve let go of him and sauntered towards the bar. She wasn't sure just what had come over her, but she liked it.
Again, maybe it was finally being surrounded by her kind. Or maybe it was Niall drawing out her darker side. But she didn't want to stop. She felt alive in a way that she hadn't felt in years. In a way that she normally only felt when she was dancing. In a way that had stopped after the accident. Even though somewhere in her mind an alarm was going off, she chose to ignore it.
Maeve ordered a shot and quickly drank it, then ordered another.
"And just what are you doing?" Niall asked, his voice low in her ear as his hands came to rest on her waist.
"Having fun. You know how to do that, right?" she asked, without looking at him. When he didn't reply, she reached for the second shot and turned slightly, looking up into his eyes. "Let's see how much fun we can get into tonight." Tossing back the second shot, she then turned and started back to the dance floor, pulling Niall with her.
Once again, they were close, their bodies brushing up against each other. His hands roaming up and down her sides. A sultry smile appeared on Maeve's face as she looked up at him through hooded eyes. She quickly lost track of how many songs had passed. How long they had been dancing, though somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought it strange that her leg hadn't started hurting yet. Usually she couldn't go that long without pain shooting up it.
Niall had just spun her and pulled her close to him again, staring down into her eyes. He reached up and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, his lips moving closer towards hers as his other hand ran down her side.
Just as he was about to kiss her, there was jolt through Maeve's body as she felt his fingers on her skin. She froze, putting both hands on his chest and stopping him from moving any closer to her as she shut her eyes. Quickly, Niall let go of her.
"I'm sorry… are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine," Maeve said. "Just give me a moment."
"Is everything okay? What did you do to her?"
"She's okay. This is none of your business."
Maeve felt his tight grip on her arm as she opened her eyes and looked over, seeing one of the Summer Guards. A rowan.
"She's the Queen's cousin. You'd do well to remember that," the guard said.
"Yea, and I'm the Dark King. You'd do well to remember that," Niall said, glaring at him. A look of confusion then came over his face as he glanced at Maeve.
"Yes, I know about Ash. Both of you stop this. I'm fine. I just need some air," Maeve said, looking back and forth between the two. She then pushed away from Niall and stumbled outside of the bar, taking long, deep breaths. She bent over, dropping her hands on her knees.
What was that? She had never felt anything that intensely. Outside of the pure lust she had going for Niall, it was like raw power was coursing through her veins. Perhaps the Dark Court called to her more than she wanted to admit. But then as soon as he touched her scar, everything came crashing down and she was jolted back into reality.
"Are you really okay?"
She looked over, seeing the guard had followed her out, a look of concern on his face. She chuckled.
"Seriously, it's okay. You don't need to worry about me," she said straightening up. "Honestly, I think I just need to get home-"
"I'll escort her," Niall said, walking out from the bar. Maeve couldn't help but roll her eyes as the Summer guard turned to glare at him. Great. A testosterone battle.
"The Summer Queen said that we were to make sure she is kept safe," he retorted. "That includes from you."
"I'm not going to hurt her," Niall growled as he narrowed his eyes at the faery. "And I don't take orders from the Summer Court. Not anymore."
"Really, guys, you don't need to do this," she said, starting towards them. Heaven forbid they resort to actual blows.
"I'm under orders-"
Before he could finish, Niall pulled his fist back and punched him, the faery stumbling a few steps back.
"Shit! NIALL! STOP!" Maeve shouted, already moving to make sure that he hadn't broken the rowan's nose. The guard reached for her, but stumbled again, grabbing at the front of her sweater. Maeve felt the leather strap around her neck snap, but before she could stop the charm from being pulled off, the rowan faery was on the ground, the charm still in his hand.
It was as though time froze for a moment. She heard the quick intake of breath and knew that Niall saw her for who she truly was. The rowan faery had yet to look up at her, but anyone out on the street would know.
Maeve looked over, meeting Niall's eyes, which were wide.
"Surprise?" she said weakly.
Both of them looked over, seeing the rowan push up to his feet, his own eyes wide in shock.
"Yep. Faery. Or half, if we're being technical," she said wryly. He looked down at the charm in his hand then back up at her, throwing it to the ground. He then turned and ran off before either Maeve or Niall said anything. "Well that's not exactly how I wanted things to go…"
Niall bent down and picked up the charm, then held it out to her.
"Put that back on for now. We're going somewhere to talk."