Service chic. Everything about him, including his assessing scan of the classroom, screamed bodyguard, which made me even more curious about the mysterious Fae Goth girl. Her bodyguard narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Finn. Finn didn’t exactly look at ease, either, though he remained in his seat and didn’t in any way act like I was under threat.

The Goth girl started down the center aisle, not in any hurry to take her seat even though she was late. As she approached, I felt the prickle of magic against my skin. My body instantly went on red alert, my pulse speeding, my muscles tense and at the ready. Most of the time I’d been in the presence of magic, bad things had happened, and I seemed to be having a Pavlovian response to its approach. At least that was how I explained my sudden discomfort to myself. The fact that I practiced self-defense twice a week with a Fae who used magic to shield himself—and whose magic didn’t make me the least bit uneasy—made my

explanation a bit suspect.

My sense of unease heightened when she stopped at my row and worked

her way around the people sitting near the aisle. There were two seats between me and the next person on that side, and though I’d been hoping for someone to sit next to me, I had the brief hope that the Goth girl would take the farther seat. But, of course, she dropped into the seat right beside me.

The professor started to talk, but his words all seemed to run together in my mind as the Goth girl’s magic swept over me, making me squirm in my chair. How the hell was I supposed to pay attention to a lecture when I felt like I had little stinging ants crawling all over me?

The Goth girl swung the desk arm into place, set a spiral-bound notebook and a pen on it, then turned to me and smiled.

“Hi,” she said in a low voice. “I’m Althea Mabsdotter. But my friends call me Al.” She stuck out her hand for me to shake, which was an awkward gesture in the cramped seats with the desk arms.

“Um, hi,” I said, reluctantly shaking her hand. I felt kind of rude introducing myself while the professor was talking, but I would have felt even more rude if I hadn’t. “I’m Dana Hathaway.”

She had a handshake like a guy’s, firm almost to the point of being painful.

Or maybe that was just the continued discomfort of her magic. It took me a second to fully absorb her introduction.

“Mabsdotter?” I murmured, a chill traveling down my spine. I was sitting close enough to her now that I could see the tiny red roses—the symbol of the Unseelie Court—dotting the placket of her camisole. Put that together with her last name—which she’d probably made up, since the Fae who aren’t Avalon natives don’t use last names—and her Knight bodyguard, and I came to an uncomfortable conclusion. “As in Mab’s daughter?”

“In the flesh,” she confirmed, blue eyes sparkling with amusement.

Was it a coincidence that she’d just happened to pick the seat next to me?

Or did she know who I was? And if she did know who I was, was she here on some unpleasant mission from her mother? I resisted the urge to look over my shoulder at Finn. I suspected he had recognized Mab’s daughter on sight—and had probably been expecting her, because he’d likely looked over the class roster before letting me set foot in the room. If he’d thought she was a threat, I wouldn’t be here.

“You’re the Faeriewalker, right?” Al asked, picking up her pen and doodling in her notebook.

Definitely not a coincidence that she’d sat next to me, then.

The professor was writing something on the whiteboard, and I figured I should probably be taking notes. Too bad I still hadn’t heard a word he’d said, nor did I have the concentration to read what he was writing. Not while sitting next to a genuine Faerie princess who bristled with magic and might wish me dead.

“Yeah,” I responded, because there seemed to be no point in denying it.

“You’re not here to kill me or anything, are you?”

She laughed, drawing a couple of annoyed glances from students who were actually paying attention to the class.

“You’re direct,” she said, still grinning. “I like that. And I’m here to go to school, nothing more. I’m a sophomore. I’ve been a student here since before you arrived in Avalon.”

A human girl in front of us turned around and glared. The Fae boy sitting next to her nudged her with his elbow, then bent and whispered in her ear. She turned to face front hastily, sinking low into her seat. Al smiled with smug satisfaction, and I decided immediately that I didn’t like her. She struck me as the kind of person who used her status to bully those around her, and I’ve never had much patience with bullies.

I forced myself to begin copying down the professor’s notes, although I was too distracted to absorb the words I was writing. Maybe if Al saw me taking notes, she’d start paying attention to the class and leave me alone. I was auditing a class mostly to escape the safe house and be around other people, but I did genuinely want to learn, too. I had a feeling Al’s presence would be a massive distraction.


Much to my relief, Al didn’t talk to me throughout the rest of the class. I didn’t think she was paying much attention, either—her notebook was covered with doodles, but no actual words—but at least she wasn’t actively trying to distract me or annoy the people sitting around us.

That didn’t mean I got a whole lot out of the class, however. Al’s magic continued to prickle my skin throughout the entire lecture. It wasn’t painful, exactly, but it wasn’t a pleasant sensation, either. I wondered what kind of magic it was, and what she was doing with it. The only other Fae I’d met who had a buzz of magic to him constantly was Lachlan, a troll who wore a human glamour so he could fit in with the humans and Fae in Avalon. I glanced at Al out of the corner of my eye, wondering if she was really who she appeared to be, or if she was wearing some kind of glamour-fueled disguise.

Whatever she was doing, I wished she would stop so I could concentrate. I wondered how the other Fae students could stand it, but I seemed to be the only one uncomfortable. I knew that the Fae could sense each other’s magic like I could, but perhaps the sensation felt different to them, or they were so used to it that it didn’t bother them like it did me.

After having looked forward to this day for weeks, I could hardly wait for class to end so I could put some distance between myself and Al’s magic. When the professor finally stopped talking, I packed up my bag in record time. I was actually eager to get back to the safe house. This was the longest, most sustained contact I’d ever had with magic, and I’d had more than enough. Al, however, had other ideas.

“Would you care to join me for lunch?” she asked, smiling at me hopefully.

“There’s a sandwich shop on the quad that serves pretty decent food, and it’s a beautiful day.”

She gestured at the windows, which showed a perfectly blue sky with only the occasional wisp of white cloud. Even in the summer, it was rare to have such a clear blue sky in Avalon, and I’d heard the weather was even gloomier in the fall and winter. It seemed a shame to retreat into the darkness of the tunnel system beneath the city, where my safe house was located. Which did I want more? To get away from the prickle of Al’s magic, or to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather?

Of course, I could enjoy the weather without having to eat lunch with Al. It was on the tip of my tongue to say “thanks, but no thanks,” when Al added an almost plaintive-sounding “Please?” She sucked her entire lower lip, piercing and all, into her mouth, in what looked like a nervous gesture.

Call me a total sucker, but I couldn’t say no when she looked so hopeful.

She’d struck me as a bit of a bully early on, but maybe I’d misjudged her. I imagined being the daughter of a Faerie Queen meant Al’s life was even further from normal than mine was, and that maybe the reason she’d seemed kind of bitchy was because she was fronting to cover up feeling isolated. After all, we were the only two kids in class, probably the only two kids in the entire university, who had bodyguards. Maybe I should cut her some slack.

“Sure,” I said, against my better judgment. “I’d love to.”

Covering up for my mom’s alcoholism had taught me to be a really good liar, and Al beamed at me. I assumed that meant I’d done a good job of hiding my reluctance.

“Great!” she said with obvious enthusiasm. “It’ll be my treat.”

I shook my head as we headed up the stairs toward our bodyguards. “No it won’t,” I said, possibly being a little more blunt than was wise. When I was living with my mom, we’d always been strapped for cash because she couldn’t hold a job, but my dad didn’t have that problem. I’m sure Al’s mother was richer than my father, but I certainly wasn’t in the need of charity. “You don’t have to bribe me to have lunch with you.”

Al looked over her shoulder at me and frowned. “I didn’t mean it that way.

Вы читаете Girls' Night Out
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату